Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Krishna, Party of One

The Lone Krishna


A few years ago while visiting Hilo, we noticed a lone krishna follower downtown.  He was dressed in a t-shirt and robes and sometimes would carry a drum and chant.  Eventually, he had a small group of followers that would sing and march with him throughout downtown.  It made for quite a parade on Saturday mornings.

When we moved to Hilo last fall, we noticed he was back again to being the Lone Krishna. I always smile a little bit when I see him.  He brings back memories from my childhood.

If you were around in the 1970's, you might recall the krishna religion was growing and followers were often found in airports handing out flowers or on street corners singing and dancing.  

If you have ever seen the moving Airplane, you have seen a satirical version of an encounter with krishnas at the airport.  Of course, that is pre-9/11, when anyone could walk out to the gates without any security checks and the krishna would hang out in groups near the gates or by the baggage pickup.

In the early 1970's, my uncle joined the krishnas in San Francisco.  He gave up all of his worldly goods, shaved his head (except for a small ponytail) and donned saffron robes.  I have a vivid memory of a photo taken of my uncle sitting on the floor in front of the fireplace at Christmas in his robes.  He visited every Christmas and we received incense for our presents.  During those years, he always smelled of incense.  He stayed with the cult for nearly ten years.  I recall how odd it was to see him in street clothes and with curly hair after he left.

A few times we visited my uncle at the temple in San Francisco.  As a young child of seven, my memories are of boredom, awful food (lentils and curry), overpowering incense, and much chanting and banging of cymbals.  I recall being shushed often as I attempted to (repeatedly) communicate to my parents how I felt about being there.  It seemed to me if they would just listen to me lay out my case, they would understand and let me go home.

I do recall enjoying looking through the gift shop and always begged to go in there (shush!) to look at all of the shiny brass.  I remember it was during this time my uncle introduced me to Cost Plus as back then they imported many items from India, but I think that was after he left the religion.

As in the movie Airplane, my uncle must have spent a great deal of time proselytizing.  He appeared in the movie The Laughing Policeman (1973) with Walter Matthau, which was filmed in San Francisco. I watched the movie again a few years back, and it is indeed my uncle handing Mr. Matthau a pamphlet on the street corner in his krishna garb.

My memories now are rather fond ones.  Not many people had the experience I did and the uniqueness of it is special to me.

When we were shopping in town today, we noticed The Lone Krishna once again has a follower. 

Krishna, party of two!

Movie Recommendation:  The Laughing Policeman. I would call it a typical 70's dark cop movie.  There are great shots of San Francisco in the early 70's when the Embarcadero Freeway bathed much of the downtown and waterfront areas in shadow.  Buildings were so close to that freeway, it seemed like you could reach out and touch them as you drove by.  Worth a watch for the city scenes alone.

Music Recommendation:  Slow Down Krishna by The Bobs

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