The Spirit Within
I thought I would share a funny experience that I had some time ago, while walking on Vancouver’s east side. It had a touch of the mystical to it, the kind of experience so many seekers look for in the counter-culture.
As I walked thru a rather busy section of town I noticed that a plant shop I was familiar with had been shuttered. When it was open it was operated by Ken Hayes, a Californian I had known, who was living as a political refugee in Canada. The name of the place was The Spirit Within and although I no longer indulge in the consumption of such substances, I was saddened to see the shops closure. It was indeed the most lovely and well managed store of its kind. I had not seen anything like it in over thirty five years. Books and pamphlets and tracts on the subject,written by many authors I had read some thirty or even forty years earlier and the widest variety of South and Central American products- all for sale in this little comfortable shop. The staff who were fully educated on the subject, would gently explain to each customer the usage instructions and warnings before any sale could proceed. It was great! So, while I knew the fellow running the shop was on very thin ice with the Canadian authorities, I was still somehow shocked by the shops closure and decided to find out just what had happened to the place.I would enter the new establishment now occupying the address, and ask those in charge if they could explain to me, just what had happened to The Spirit Within? As I crossed the street to enter, I noted that the beautiful sign that once adorned the building had been spray painted out, and in the most ugly and haphazard way. I was not pleased . As I entered the place I was stunned! The shop, once so beautiful a jungle like scene, had been repainted a devilish red, with golden facial masks with horned heads hanging from the walls and ceiling. Everywhere there where signs that read – THIS IS NOT THE SPIRIT WITHIN ………………..
&…………………………….. THERE ARE NO ILLEGAL SUBSTANCES FOR SALE IN THIS SHOP! It was then that I began to feel rather odd, an eerie feeling, sort of like trying on one of Charles Manson’s vests. There were whips for sale and black leather clothing and candles designed for wican’s only and a lot of very strange looking Gothic underwear for women? It pained me that such a place had replaced the jungle beauty of The Spirit Within . My pain probably showed on my face, for soon after my entry , one of four staff members, all female blond rasta witches, began to approach me and the expression on her face was get out, get out, get out! There I was, feeling sad about the loss of a great place. and now I was about to be harrassed for it As she got closer I knew I was in trouble and then she said, pardon me sir, is there something wrong? I gasped for relief, she had given me an opening. Yes I said, as a matter of fact, there is something wrong! You see, I have been here before, when it was The Spirit Within and I am very, very sad that it is gone. Yes she said, it is a terrible thing that they had to go, and without a reason ever being given? She knew nothing more and seemed relieved by my answer, so I wished them all the best of luck and left the place to catch my bus out of Vancouver and back to the United States. As my bus tooled thru the city traffic, I began to get this twitchy sort of ache in my knee. A nervous reaction that in the past would only happen while on an assignment, when something was not quite right, when something was missing, when there was to borrow an expression,
“a part left out”.
Soon the other knee started to ache and I knew then , I would have to get off the bus and head back to that shop. The Greyhound driver was not happy with my request, but eventually he let me exit. As I started to hobble back thru the streets of Vancouver, the closer I got to the shop, the less my knee’s would ache, and then it began to hit me. The plants they had for sale at The Spirit Within were traditionally used by tribal people in mystical ceremonies, supervised by tribal wise men, by shamans, or witch doctors. WITCH DOCTORS? Of Course! Of Course! I roared with hysterical laughter as my faster and faster walk became a sprint back to the shop. I just had to get back in time, before the place disappeared into a puff of smoke. You see, I just had to get back there and find out if I was right ? Soon I was in front of the shop and it was still open. I was in time, I had not lost the thread, and now I would go into the place and have my showdown with those four blond rasta wicans! As I entered, all at once, all four of them became aware of my presence and surrounded me. One of them asked, did you forget something sir? At which point I answered with a quiet although firm tone, why yes, I forgot to ask a question of you earlier.The signs all over your shop say that this is no longer The Spirit Within, but what I would like to know is this- -does the Spirit still live at this address? All of a sudden, the four of them began squealing with laughter as young female witches do. As they all squealed on, one of them grabbed my arm and started pulling me over, closer and closer to the cash register. No I said, I do not want to buy anything,I am not here to make a purchase. At which point the youngest of the lot pointed below the cash register to the contents of a glass display case. There, neatly wrapped for sale, was a freeze dried version of every product The Spirit Within had ever offered for sale.
WOW I said, just another seamless transformation, brought to us, by a united counter-culture.
The wicans squealed on. After leaving Canada, Ken went into hiding in eastern europe and elsewhere, for ten more years. While in Romania, Ken studied medicine….lol..