"I was in elementary school when my well-meaning parents took me to see a movie at church. I forget the title but I'll never forget the imagery. There were half-naked hairy people flailing all over the rickety tripod projector screen, which was placed near the altar in the little sanctuary. The few that were clothed were in reds and pinks. Some wore blindfolds, others just clenched their eyes shut. They writhed on the ground while a voiceover spoke about demon possession. This was the New Age Movement of the mid-1980s. Satan had thrown away his pitchfork and now sat in the lotus position with crystals around his neck. Somehow this image gave me even more nightmares than the cackling-skulled Grim Reaper of the 70s.
Fast forward a few decades: After spending 25 years of my life in Portland Oregon, I was packing up my family and life's possessions and moving to the more affordable Louisville, Kentucky. More specifically, to a dilapidated but reviving neighborhood of Louisville called Portland. The Portland-to-Portland thing had a nice ring to it.
During the move I was working with Dave & Bryan on our second Pfarmers record. I wanted it to be conceptually about Oregon somehow. My last northwestern hurrah. I wasn't sure of the angle though. What were my first impressions of Portland as a kid? The city seems so overexposed now. What could I possibly say about the place that hasn't already been exploited in popular culture a million times over?
The Rajneeshpuram residents popped back into my mind. Revisiting their story as an adult felt way more tragic than scary. I could identify with these folks. They were the creatives, the hipsters, the intellectuals, the enlightened folks of their era building their utopia off the grid in rural Oregon's fertile soil. Most of them were completely blindsided by the corruption within the compound's leadership, yet all of them were thrown under history's bus in the end.
Or should I say, thrown on the bus. The most heartbreaking story to me was of all the homeless people, corralled onto yellow school buses from various cities around the country with the promise of a new life at Rajneeshpuram. Turns out, the leaders were merely trying to pack the compound with bodies to influence the local city council vote. When the poison scandal broke (the leaders were convicted of bioterrorism after sprinkling salmonella into the salad bars of the neighboring towns in an attempt to keep potential voters sick at home on election day), the homeless vote was nullified and the transients were loaded back onto the buses and randomly dropped off on the streets of surrounding cities. Homeless again, but this time in a completely foreign environment.
It wasn't until Our Puram was finished and I was in a different Portland 2500 miles away that I started noticing the parallels to my own life. I was initially writing from the point of view of a Rajneeshee leaving the compound. In retrospect, I realized I was subconsciously writing about my own exodus from my homeland.
As Bhagwan Osho said, "Die in each moment so that you can be new each moment". Namasté." - Danny Seim