The Lyman Family's Holy Siege of America
by David Felton
Hello Boys - A Visit From the Karma Squad

On the afternoon of August 12th, 1971, Jim Kweskin and two hefty associates, David Gude and Owen "O.D." deLong, paid a visit to our reporter in his San Francisco office. The ostensible reason for the meeting was to finish an interview begun earlier with Kweskin. But as it turned out, the three visitors did most of the questioning. They had heard rumors, they said. Some very strange people had been questioned - they mentioned Kay Boyle and Phil Sawyer - and they were worried about the reporter's attitude toward Mel Lyman. The following is an edited, taperecorded transcript of that encounter. It begins as Kweskin, Gude and deLong are seated in front of a desk occupied by the reporter.

Jim Kweskin (he speaks slowly, soberly, a little nervous at first): We've been misrepresented so many times, and obviously you have delved deeper than any other person from the outside. And that doesn't bother me. What bothers me is, one of the things that I'm concerned about, is how truthful, how honest you can be. I don't feel like you really feel anything from us yet. I think it's still all in your mind.

David Gude: In other words, from what feedback we're getting, we're getting a very opinionated feeling. That is, that you already have a feeling. That is, that you already have a feeling, that you're no longer open. You know, we've opened ourselves completely to you, and now we're getting a very funny feeling back again, and it's weird and...

Kweskin: Now maybe the kind of questions that you're asking people are setting them up.

Reporter: My questions do not go in the story, the answers go in. And if this is to be a truthful story and an open story, it's your answers which will determine that, not how I go about getting it. I wouldn't be worrying too much about the questions I ask. I'd worry about the answers.

Gude: You're still not digging what I'm saying. What you write, contradictions, negative things, positive, doesn't matter. All we're really interested in now is you. (Pauses dramatically.) Now a lot's been given to you, a lot of information, a lot of trust. Our life is hard enough without giving to somebody things that can make our life more difficult. It's just a question now whether we want to go any further with you. At the moment we're feeling a little distrustful of you - not because of what you're going to write, it has nothing to do with that, strictly you as a person. I mean, you know where we all live, you know so much about us now.

Reporter: When we talked before, you said that if you haven't experienced Mel Lyman you're missing something. And I agree. I agree. And I don't think until I do meet him I'm going to know what you're talking about.

Kweskin: Well, that's not true. That may be true, but that shouldn't be true. Because what happened to you on the Vineyard, what happened to you on the hill - being with David Gude, being with George Peper - that is Mel Lyman. If David felt like you truly felt him, or George Peper or any of us felt like we had truly made some personal impression on you, then we would be open to having you meet Mel. But your personal life, your personal self, we have gotten none of that from you.

I mean, I truly don't feel like you want to be my friend. I feel like you want to ask me a bunch of questions, but you have no desire to be my friend whatsoever. I want to tell you something, man. You want to write an article about Fort Hill? You want to know what that other thing is? What it is that you don't know about yet? What it is that will get you to Mel Lyman? That's what it is. Human feeling. And until you have some, until you express some, until you are that person, you're not going to find out any more.

Gude: Our goings on are no mystery. I mean, we're published in newspapers, we're doing everything we can to broadcast everything about ourselves, all the time. And you know, I personally can't even talk anymore about KPFK or anything. I mean, there's this kind of mistrust and this kind of feeling, these morality judgments that...

Reporter: I'm not making any morality judgments...

Gude: You are. You're making us stand on our heads to try and explain ourselves and I'm sick of it, because we're doing - all the time - everything we can for the sake of art and for the sake of promoting things and helping people.

Reporter: Nobody doubts your sincerity or high purpose. Nobody I've talked to. But it's simply that you have a habit of, as they say, laying your trip on somebody else.

Gude: That is a fucking lie, and you believe it just like all the rest. (shouts) It's a figment of your imagination, and you're pursuing it.

Reporter: I'm only pursuing your answer to that.

Gude: No you're not. You're pursuing it for yourself. Don't lay it all on the fact of trying to make it like some article you're writing. You're writing it for yourself. You are learning, you are seeking Mel Lyman in every way possible. (speaks more slowly.) And I'll tell you something else, the people who can understand us are working with us. There are a lot of people in the world who are just sick of dealing in the way that Maynard Solomon does, in the way that even Lisa is trying to make us deal with her. We don't live that way any more, we don't live by those rules. We simply produce from the heart. (speaks bitterly, almost gagging.) And to hell with all those ass-wiping motherfucking businessmen who do nothing but strangle you and just want the bucks, and don't give a shit about God or love or art or anything. And you can put us down for not dealing on their level, but fuck them and fuck you too. If you don't understand it and you can't see

Reporter: One thing that puzzles me, David, is you're so defensive.

Gude (shouts): I'm not defensive! I'm tired. We've been working well over 24 hours, and I've got a very, very tight schedule. And I see nothing but more of the same kind of misunderstanding and you with these same kind of questions. It's going nowhere, so I've got to put a stop to it.

Kweskin: The only people we lay any trip on are people who are obviously not even trying to do anything in this world, like the people at KPFK, who let their records run for five minutes on the end of a thing - shew, shew, shew - over and over again who don't give a shit about their listeners, who don't give a shit about their station...

Gude: Who fucked up our tapes when we gave them to them in great trust. That's why we went down there.

Kweskin: And I'll tell you - anybody in this world, who believes in anything, who is strong and believes in what they're doing, is accused of laying their trip on somebody. It's true of every great politician that's ever existed, of every great religious leader that's ever existed. Mohammed laid his trip on everybody, laid his trip on ten billion people.

Reporter: Against their will?

Kweskin: Sure, yes. Read your Bible. Christ, man, laid his trip on people. He said, "Dig God, man. If you don't dig God, you might as well pack it up and forget about it."

Reporter: That's not really the same thing is it?

Kweskin: Yes, it's exactly what we do. Exactly what we do.

Gude: Absolutely. At KPFK that is the entire story, it's the story of the crucifixion. They crucified us down there.

deLong: Look at people like the great musicians of the past. I mean, you could ask that very same question to Bach. "Why don't you produce something that the public could get into? Why are you producing these things that nobody likes? Don't you want to reach people?" You know what creation is? You can't help yourself. There's nothing you can do about it. God gives you the ability to create, and if you don't follow what he gives you, you die. No matter what your faults are, no matter what you think you should be doing, no matter what you think other people might want, no matter what you think other people might think of you, it doesn't matter. It comes from your guts, it comes from your heart, and comes from your soul. And it's called creation.

Reporter: But if Bach had done a little bit more than that, if he had, say, gone up and forced people to listen to it...

Gude: Hey, man, he was an Aries, and he damn well might have. If someone came along and fucked him over, he goddamn well might have slugged him right in the teeth. I mean, Hitler was a creator. Is this your whole problem? You never have been able to understand the whole concept of violence?

Reporter: I'm really not talking about violence so much as forcing people to accept against their will.

Gude: You're stretching it now. I mean, what does that have to do with creation, whether one person is forced to or not?

Reporter: It depends what your ultimate purpose is. Is it just to create, to entertain yourselves? Or is it to try to spread the word, to try to make people realize what Mel Lyman is like? If in the process of doing that, you turn them off by the methods you use, are you accomplishing that? That seems to be a logical question. Or is that not a concern of yours?

Gude: A lot of people are turned off, but they'd be turned off anyway. They were already turned off. We just gave them something to say they were turned off about.

Kweskin: We've won a lot of people. Reporter: How many, do you know?

Kweskin: Millions, I'm not just talking about the people who live with us. I'm talking about the people who have felt something, and it has affected their lives, positively or favorably. Millions.

Reporter: How do you know?

Kweskin: I know. I know by the amount of people that come to see me in clubs, what they say about me and about Mel Lyman. Strangers from all over the country. I can tell by the things they say. I can tell by what they do from the audience. Right now the performances that I've been doing in the clubs have been higher than any church that anybody's been in. God has come into the room. Several times. And those people may have thought I was demanding, and maybe I was demanding, but it happened and there were a lot of people who felt it. And there are a lot of people who come up to me afterwards with nothing but love in their faces. (At this point David Gude stands up and starts slowly pacing about the room. Actually, he is swaggering, his body swaying back and forth, his heels hitting the floor hard as he casually examines the walls, the ceiling, the full-length window of the small, fourth-story room. Gradually he circles closer to the reporter.

Reporter: What are you going to do next, do you know? After this album do you have any plans?

Gude (with mock toughness): Yeah, we're going to tie you up in the chair and beat you till you understand. We might dangle you out the window by one leg. Perhaps knuckle you around the room a little bit. (Everyone laughs.)

Kweskin: Are you scared of us?

Reporter: No.

Kweskin: In any way whatsoever?

Reporter: No.

Kweskin: Why not?

Reporter: (aside to Gude who now stands directly behind the Reporter, gloating down on him): I've heard some stories about you.

Gude: I have quick hands. (More laughter.)

Kweskin: Why not?

Reporter: I believe you respect the truth. Don't you?

Kweskin: I'm not sure you can tell the truth.

Gude: (returns to his seat, in his own way gets serious). If you got something to be afraid about, then, you know, that's the reality that perhaps will have to come to be. I don't know. I mean, as far as you go with us, that's what you'll get back. But it's really whatever you want, whatever you want, whatever you create. As a person.

Kweskin: The important part of this whole story, the personal part, the part that matters to me, the part that matters to all of us, you're never gonna get. 'Cause you're too impersonal.

Reporter: But don't you think with quotations from Mel's book and other writings and with what all of you have said, that that part, that feeling, will come through no matter what I do?

Kweskin: In other words, you are saying that the feeling of Mel Lyman is going to come through in spite of you.

Reporter: Exactly.

Kweskin: Well, we want the feeling to come through because of you.

deLong: Because of you.

Kweskin: That's what we want.

deLong: That should be a quote, by the way.

Reporter: So what you really want me to write is "What Mel Lyman Means to Me."

Kweskin: Or I should say, the truth will come through in spite of you. That's the quote. If you want to quote me, that's what you can say. The truth will come through in spite of you. I would like the truth to come through because of you.

Reporter: But you already have your mind made up that it can't.

Kweskin: Yes.

Reporter: Because of the questions I've been asking.

Kweskin: Because of the look in your eye. Because of the way you've been talking. Because of the feeling I get from you. Because of the questions you've been asking. I want you to have a heart, man, I really do. (During this, David Gude's expression has changed noticeably. His face is drawn tight against his cheek bones. His eyes are narrow, his mouth thin and bitterly straight. He appears almost delirious with rage. Now he stands, his fists clenched, and shouts.)

Gude: There's a little bit more to life than just your fucking newspaper!

Reporter: I know that.

Gude: I don't think you do. I think you're a vicious con man and a killer. You kill us. You kill the spirit - you and a million people like you.

Reporter: How are you going to change me? And a million people like me?

Gude: We've been trying for a long time now, haven't we! What's it gonna take? (Gude leans over the desk and, with a huge, violent sweep of his right hand, smashes the tape recorder, knocking it to the floor several feet away. Nonetheless, the sturdy little fucker keeps recording.)

Reporter: Get out, all of you.

Gude: You feel anything?

Reporter: You want me to be afraid of you.

Kweskin: I want you to feel something, that's all. We've been sitting here for hours trying to make you feel something, something good. But you won't.

Gude (continues screaming): You refuse to feel a goddamn thing. You refuse me as a person. You refuse him as a person. You hate his guts as a person. And we've been putting ourselves out and putting ourselves out. And you're making money from it.

Reporter: I'm not doing it for the money.

Gude: What are you doing it for?

Reporter: I think it's an important story, as I've said from the start.

Gude: What is important, man? (hits desk with fist) Am I important? I wish you would make me feel it. What do I gotta do to make you feel me - David Gude? (Reporter walks to the door, opens it.)

Gude: That's what you feel from me - throw us the fuck out right? I'm hurtin' inside and you're throwing me the fuck out. 'Cause you're scared.

Reporter: I'm not scared.

Kweskin: Then why you throwin' us out?

Reporter: This is not the way I work.

Kweskin: You want to know what Mel Lyman is? I'm going to tell you what Mel Lyman is. Mel Lyman is the person who made me want to feel people. He made me feel something. And now I can't live without it.
Gude: He made us care.

Kweskin (now also starts to scream): That's what life is all about. Feeling. And I don't feel you. And if you do, I want to see it. And if you don't know how, why don't you ask? And I don't mean with words.

deLong: What do you think God wants from you? If you express your feeling, it's not gonna jeopardize your story. We can go on from here and create a greater story.

Kweskin: You want to write an article about Mel Lyman? You're going to have to show us your feelings or you're not gonna get your story.

(Exit Kweskin, Gude and deLong.)

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( Links to the complete original articles: - HOME Intro 1 2 3 4 Karma 5 6 7 Epilogue )