From Cab Driving to Group House
During part of his lengthy stay in New York, Tom followed a long-held urge and spent 2 ½ years driving a cab. I asked him what that was like.
Tom–I loved the city. I was studying with an Infinite Way teacher at the time and she told me that if you really love something (and it doesn’t have to be a person necessarily) it would open up its secrets to you. And she said, “You have a very special feeling about New York. Any time anyone talks to you about it, you can tell right away that it’s unusual. Just be conscious of the fact that you love the city, and it will show an aspect of itself to you that few see.”
And so that was the basis of my taxi cab driving.
I never had any difficulties. I was always willing to take people wherever they wanted to go. [Some of] the taxi cab drivers wouldn’t take people to certain parts of Brooklyn, and to Harlem, and to certain parts of the Bronx. I sort of felt that if you weren’t afraid, and if you loved the city, how could you get in trouble? It was wonderful, Robert. It was quite an experience!
After leaving New York, Tom spent a year in Missouri as part-owner of a health food store. Then, having been invited to participate in a six-month work/study program at the A.R.E. (the Edgar Cayce foundation), he moved to Virginia Beach.
Tom–The people who were in the work/study program lived and worked at the Marshall’s hotel, next to the A.R.E. We did all the work—ran the cafeteria, fixed the rooms, and so forth. In addition to that, we had a meditation together morning and evening and then twice a week we had a Search for God study group.
Robert–This was your first experience living with other people?
Robert–Were you the oldest person in the program?
Tom–I was. There was one woman who was 50 and another about 45. And I was 60. Then at the other end of it there was a girl who was 18. I was perfectly welcomed by everyone in the work/study program. None of them had any reservations about my age at all.
There was, however, initial resistance from some of the staff at the Cayce foundation. I asked Tom where this resistance came from.
Tom–Just an idea. They had an idea about an upper age limit of 30 that hadn’t been translated to Bob [who was running the program]. He wanted as wide a range in age as possible.
Robert–Why was that?
Tom–He just thought it would be a good idea for the younger people to have the experience of a close relationship with older people. And he was pleased that it came out the way it did. Almost everybody in the program had a feeling that it worked well. And I think some of the staff people even relaxed a bit as the program went on.
During a second work/study session, a woman joined us who was a real advocate for modern intentional communities. She started talking to us about the possibility of forming a community, either on the land or in a house someplace.
Nine of them moved into a group house in Virginia Beach, which they called Harmony House.
Tom–Again, you know, I was the old one. [Laughs] The next oldest in the group was 30, and below that they were all in their twenties and teens.
Robert–How did they feel about having someone your age in the house with them?
Tom–The kids didn’t mind at all. In fact, they sort of liked it. And we did try to work together and learn together. We were open to whatever somebody brought along, as a matter of discussing it and seeing if we could fit it into the framework we were working in. It was really, I thought, a very, very fine experience.
We all worked around town. We had to support ourselves and get enough money to make the place go. We ate at a communal table once a day. We hired one of the people in the group as a cook. We had only one prepared meal for the day—the evening meal.
I’d never experienced any of that kind of lifestyle. [Laughs] We’d have two meetings a week, at night. One meeting was a general house meeting; sort of a business meeting, where we’d thrash out things like whether we were being fair to the cook, giving her enough money. There were a myriad of things like that that needed to be taken care of.
The other meeting was a “share” meeting—arts and crafts, books that people found, tape recordings. That’s when we found The Comforter [later republished under the title The Kin of Ata Are Waiting For You]. That had a real impact on us.
Robert–What was that book about?
Tom–It was about dreams. The people on Ata lived their dreams. They woke up in the morning and shared their dreams. Then they worked together during the daytime, and at night they ate communally and they fed one another.
Tom–Literally. They said that it had come to them through a waking dreamer who told them that if they would do this (if they would feed one another), they ‘d never be without food; they’d never lack.
We were so impressed that a couple of times we tried Ata dinners. Boy, I’ll tell you, you learn a lot of things from them—what people like, and how you approach them when you’re trying to feed them something. It was quite an experience.