Mark Schneider


Since 1997, I've been selling books over the internet at www.MayDayBooks.com and by occasional mail-order catalogue.

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photo by Ann Mason

Here's a map I've been playing with.

Mark's Tower
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photo by Court Tefft

MARK AT HOME
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photo by Neil

Beginnings

sputnik2.jpegIt's always hard to know beginnings; the chicken and egg problem. But I remember watching Sputnik, the first artificial satellite, as it moved across the sky. My whole family gathered in our Compton backyard for that October 1957 event, having been alerted by radio that the satellite would be visible at a certain hour.

u2.jpegAnd I remember the headlines after my tenth birthday when Gary Powers was shot down while flying over Soviet airspace in a U-2. The Eisenhower administration had been caught in a lie because they had claimed publicly that we had no spy planes flying over the USSR.

In the summer of my 13th year I watched Martin Luther King, Jr. give his “I have a Dream” speech on TV. I was so stirred and thrilled by his words. I thought a new world was indeed possible.

So by the time I was 18, and required to register for the draft, it seemed only natural to have my 18th birthday party at the draft board---complete with balloons---where I refused to register.

And so it was I fell in with this anarchist-pacifist draft-resisting crowd. The LA Draft Resistance was full of heroes: e.g., Joe Maizlish, Paul Barnes, Rich Profumo, all of whom spent time in the federal pen for draft resistance; Profumo refused to cooperate inside Lompoc and was left to rot in solitary until the prison stopped his correspondence with Harry Pregerson, the judge who tried and sentenced him. Pregerson, when he found out, visited him at Lompoc and then sprung him.

I lived for a year with others in a two-story house near 8th and Vermont in downtown LA we named the Omega House. We did lots of organizing work: leafleting, speaking at college campuses, draft counseling, etc. But I recently intercepted an email exchange which focused on another side to our counterculture.

David Harris, often accompanied by Jeffrey Shurtleff, would tour the southland from time to time speaking out against the war and the draft. Harris was a tremendous speaker and moved many. Shurtleff played guitar, sang and had the voice of an angel.

I visited Struggle and The Land several times before I came to live here. The very first place I saw was Jeffrey Shurtleff's hand-hewn cabin below the upper parking lot at Struggle. We sat and watched the view and smoked some herb in what seemed perfect peace. I remember talking politics while sitting around Struggle's grand high table, made by Robert Stege. Then it was off to The Land, no backlands yet, but a garden had been started in the frontlands and there were naked women tending it.

How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is!
O brave new world,
That has such people in it!

In the fall of 1971 I traveled with pied piper Bill Garaway, his partner Winter Dellenbach, and my best friend Billy Bonzini up from Venice, California to The Land. A new community was forming. Winter and Bill had moved in across the street in a treehouse they had built, but Earth Ranch (in their Turtle Bus) had landed at The Land and were beginning to create a community in the backlands.

Billy and I were the twelfth and thirteenth among a backland's crew that included Steve Bush, Kim, Juanita, Mary Jo, Flu-Ellen and Fred, Purusha, Fran, Gay, Paul Fox and Jim Kerr. Everyone was abuzz with talk of the Halloween party held in the Barn a few days earlier. It was an event so successful that Struggle has hosted it ever since. I paid some dues, among other ways, by dragging Purusha's tipi poles down to his meadow. Steve gave me my first few lessons in carpentry and I began building my tower. That winter the bulk of the backlands' residents went off with Purusha to Wolf Creek leaving myself, Billy and a few other bedraggled souls to carry on. It was tent living that first winter and everything was damp, damp, damp. Fortunately, belying their fierce reputation, Judy and Rain and the rest of the frontlands were warm and welcoming and that made all the difference. There's nothing quite like a hot shower, drying off in front of a warm fire and sharing a cup of tea with friends while the storm rages outside.

More Later...