Skip to Main Content

Al had a wicked sense of humor, that could alternately be extremely witty and erudite or totally absurd and nonsensical. Sometimes he came out with witticisms that one would need a college degree to understand. On the other hand, among friends or even for unsuspecting waitresses, passersby or store clerks, he would suddenly come out with some off-the-wall, nonsensical remark, or suddenly raise his voice and start speaking Russian which would leave people either scratching their heads or bursting out in laughter. On Halloween he would have us dress up in costumes and go out to dinner, where we would play the roles, grinning ear-to-ear at each other the whole time. Once when we visited a pumpkin patch with a huge hay bale pyramid, Al bounded up to the top and just stood there for a long time in his all-black preacher’s costume and hat with his arms raised and his eyes looking upward. It was quite a sight to all. Bear in mind, all of this was when he was in his 80’s.

Al was active in an Episcopal Church and a Budddhist Sangha, and attended monthly Shamanic gatherings. He would say he belonged to all religions, and to none. He found the value in everything. Even when Jehovah’s Witnesses knocked at his door, though he found many shortcomings in the teachings, he would invite them in to patiently listen and have conversations which often lasted hours. When I had the opportunity to attend a yearlong Buddhist retreat, he enthusiastically threw his support behind it, even though it would mean much inconvenience for him. “You’ll be in good hands”, he said. And I knew exactly what he meant — on all the different levels. Al always understood the bigger picture.

Al loved the finer things in life. He introduced me to the best restaurants and the most beautiful wineries and tasting rooms Napa County has to offer. We would go to import shops where he would pick up exquisite pieces. Yet he wouldn’t spend any money on fixing up his house, which, though there were many beautiful pieces of furniture and art, was rather dark and dreary and worn. Things just meant for utility were best left alone. To him, the aliveness of the place came from the exquisite and luminous ideas and imaginings that animated themselves all around him there.

Al had a deep and profound love of nature. He would spend time at the nearby Laguna just watching the egrets which were kindred spirits to him. He would take daily walks in nearby parks where he came to know the trees and the animals and the birds. He knew in detail all of the many hills in this area of Northern California, and we would drive once a week to spend time walking around them and basking in the glorious beauty, peace and spaciousness of it all. For him, nature had a depth to it he could only begin to travel.

Dinners with Al:
Al and I would go out to dinner every day. At first I thought this was going to be a social time, but I soon got used to the idea that he had something very different in mind. As soon as the food was ordered, his pen and notepads would come out. Then it began…… he would start drawing diagrams covered in math and start explaining things I had no comprehension of. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Then he would try and explain it again in a way that might be simpler which would lead to other questions which would lead to other topics which would lead to other questions that would lead to other topics….. And at the end I would feel like I’d just been on a mental roller coaster ride. And all around me I’d see people laughing and making small talk. He was always trying to draw me deeper into his universe — so that I could reach further into mine.

For as long as I knew him, Al’s diet was the same. Just a few spoonfuls of dinner, no matter how fabulous it was. “No appetite”, he would say. Then would come time for dessert and he’d eat huge amounts of it — especially anything chocolate. I was just the opposite, so I would finish his dinner and he would finish my dessert. That’s how we were in every way together — sweet/savory, male/female, science background/arts background, yin/yang. A microcosm of the duality of the world. But then Al would say: “beyond the dyadic is the quadric. Schrodinger’s cat is not dyadic.” His stance of either/or/both/neither, which he carried to brilliant heights, was also very much played out in our lives together. That’s just how the universe works.

Bike Rides:
When I first moved here, Al bought me a bike so I could go on rides with him.  We would often load them up and take them on our visits to the incredible hills of  northern California.  At first I wondered how this 80-year-old man was going to manage.  I soon discovered that his endurance far surpassed mine, and if we had to stop for a rest it was for me, not him.  For us it wasn’t the exercise that mattered though — it was the experience.  We would feel like children as we sailed free and giddy through the breathtaking vistas in  some glorious, timeless moment of Now.

Bucking the System:
When Al was Director of the Lowell Observatory he was informed that there was a budget crunch and he needed to fire somebody.  He thought about the terrible options before him for quite a while, and then he decided that the person he would fire would be himself.  (I think this is true.  I don’t think it was RAND.  Do you know?You may not want to include this.)

Al loved playing his organ, and was quite good at it.  He mostly preferred Russian music.  The minor keys and the deep tones connected him with a country he considered in some way his Motherland.  Not the politics, but in the richness of the people, the land,  the historical  achievements, the architecture and the religious iconography.  One of his most notable experiences began on a visit there and can be found in the story of “The Gingko Leaf” elsewhere on this website.

When Al retired, he left behind an illustrious career, but also the obligations and institutional meanness and closed-mindedness he had often witnessed.  In this home in Northern CA, surrounded by 3 acres of beauty, he found he could  truly be liberated

and spend all his time on the things he loved.  He quickly amassed a huge number of friends, in many walks of life. And he treated them, and everybody, with kindness and generosity.  He opened his house and his heart, and all were welcome.  He had a tradition of greeting everyone (friends and strangers alike) with a small bow and saying:   “Arigato” or the Greek “Efharisto”.  Roughly they mean “thank you”.   Every person he met was touched by his love and  light in some way.

Al was never without his 3×5 cards, on which he would scribble notes whenever an idea came to him.  Sometimes, in the middle of an ordinary conversation, he would excuse himself, and pull out his cards to add something that suddenly popped into his head. The notes spanned a wide variety of topics.  Many times he would call me over to help him organize them.  Seated around a big octagonal table, he would pull out a large box of them.  On the table were the labeled folders with all types of subjects.  And then he would take one out and read it.  We would both shake our heads.  It could go into one, and just as well into another or several.  Such was the nature of many of his ideas — full of multiple layers and contexts.   Most often it would go in the “Miscellaneous” file, to be dealt with  later.  Such was the scope of his ideas which reflected the joy he found in the variety and complexity of all things.

Open Houses
Al enjoyed going to open houses, and we were fortunate to have so many gorgeous homes with spectacular views in the area.  He also knew quite a bit about architecture and would explain the finer points to me.  And we would walk around and compare notes on the Feng Shui.  How did things feel?  How did the energy flow?   How did the light filter in?  That’s how he navigated life — working with the energy, moving like a skilled Ninja through the flux and flow and the highs and lows.  Around the immovable barriers into the breathing spaces and lightness where his Sky Dancer resided — in the free and endless flow and flowering of possibility.

Books and Bookshelves:
Al was an avid woodworker, and converted his large garage into a shop filled with a lathe, various saws, drills, and tools.  His work was meticulous and quite beautiful.  He made ornate columns, candleholders, small pieces of furniture, and elaborate signs, including a large one for his deceased wife’s bookstore that said “Books”.  But mostly he made bookshelves to house his own collection of over 5000 volumes which never stopped growing.  His appetite for them was endless, and they included a vast array of subjects.  He often talked about “The Fourth Quadrant” where there lies “The Unknown” — the space of all potential — which, like a black hole, inexorably draws us in.  Books, to him, were like small pieces in an evolving jigsaw puzzle in this vast domain.  What changes the overall picture?  What fills in the gaps?  What needs to be discarded?  What needs to be added?   What is creating it? Why?

Al delighted in the mystery of all things, whether in the realm of ideas or in the physical world.  He once built a Japanese torii for his former home, and we not only visited Japanese gardens, but looked for natural toriis everywhere — those gateways and portals  where there would be a mass of foliage with a small opening, a gate in the landscape, or an unexpected turn that would reveal something entirely new beyond it.  In his later years, when his own physical body was being ravaged by cancer, he bravely faced another one.  Up until his last days, he continued to write down the insights that kept coming to him.  And close to the end, when he was moving in and out of consciousness,  he (for the last time with me) woke up and began speaking about an opening that was beginning to appear to him —  something wondrous beyond our understanding.  And I felt a joy cutting through the deep grief over the loss of this great man and my dearest friend.  “Efharisto, Al”, I said to myself.  “Efharisto”.  “You’re in good hands now.”

Above all, Al was a man way ahead of his time.  In many ways, the world is just beginning to catch up with him.  I find it interesting that he left the world in 2012 — the very year many predictions and prophecies declared that we would be entering a Great Shift from one paradigm into another. (Also the year the  God particle {Higgs-Boson} was discovered and revealed the cosmic harmonies of vibrating space.)  Many of the ideas he presciently outlined in his “60 years” booklet (which can be found on this website), are now being embraced, discussed and implemented in many corners of the world in this shifting vibration — by leaders such as the Dalai Lama in a great mingling of ancient wisdom and modern science,  by new organizations popping up all over, new healing modalities coming about at a rapid rate,  new technologies beginning to appear,  new forms of music, and by younger generations  who are showing  abilities and interests for things beyond our current imagination.   Beneath the chaos, turmoil,  misinformation and dysfunctional systems and technologies there is a great expansion of ideas and experiences and talents and possibilities.  Beyond the outer world there is a new “inner space” exploration and communication with the many multidimensional intelligences that reside in that vast vibrating universe.   Behind the egoistic depravity of many of the leaders, there is a growing selflessness and awareness in humanity and search for greater meaning.  But then — Al knew all that.

Site Map