Of Colleges and Cohorts – A US Diary by Bill Taylor

Bill Taylor, our School Co-Principal is currently on a trip in the US to firstly visit colleges which may create links that could assist Brockwood students wishing to study there, and second to make contact with Alumni. This is his entry after the first week there.

All quotations are taken from the ‘Whole Movement of Life is Learning’ by Krishnamurti.

3rd March

“Intent is far more important than to achieve a goal, an end.”

The flight to the US crosses Iceland and the edge of the Arctic Circle and the weather is good enough to be able to see the endless frozen landscapes and fractured, desolate ice-flows. On arrival in LA I discover a celebrity is onboard, in keeping with the destination. Jordan is the one in the mink coat, with large sunglasses and the doting entourage and she must be the reason for the 40 or so paparazzi lined up in the arrivals lounge, lenses poised ready to shoot as you wander through the door, but I’m not the target and slip through unhurt, anonymity intact, only to hear the explosion behind me as she gets hit.

In the Hollywood Hills I find the remarkable house of former student, Michael Rogers, dug into a hillside, part bunker, part precipitous lookout tower, with a sheer East Face that greets the Californian sun each day. Inside it is equally surprising, a repository of artifacts from many journeys around the world and mementos of a life spent in the music industry and showbiz. But the wall that really stops you in your tracks is the one that greets you on entering the sitting room: twenty foot high and covered completely with framed photographs of Krishnamurti in his youth and early years. Michael knows a real celebrity when he meets one!

I met Michael for the first time when he came to the 40th Reunion at Brockwood, hauling his steel drums halfway around the world for the event. He was one of the small group of alumni musicians who chose to forgo many of the pleasures of the Reunion to prepare and present for us a variety of live music, including that which fueled the foot-stomping, body-shaking, head-spinning Saturday night Dinner Dance. He is an excellent musician and proves to be a generous, affable and entertaining host. I meet his girlfriend Brenda, his small son Zion and Tesla the Chihuahua, before turning in at 3.00am GMT. It is 3.00am West Coast Time when I find I can no longer sleep.

4th March

“The vital flame of intent is to bring about a good, intelligent extremely capable, free human being.”

Out the door early for Michael’s daily walk to the top of the Hollywood Hills. As we go he unashamedly name-drops about the various celebrity neighbours and his contact with them over the years. The houses and cars speak loads of money, but when we get to the reserve at the top of the hill that disappears and there is a spectacular uninterrupted view of the San Fernando Valley with mountains in the distance. There are numerous young pepper trees lining the ridge and the day is cool and bright, the air filled with the scent of wild sage.

After lunch I manage to get lost in central LA forgetting that streets can be ridiculously long in this country and allowing the Sat-nav to take me in circles at the wrong end of town looking for the University of Southern California. When I finally figure out my mistake there is still time enough to spare before my appointment with the Dean of Admissions for International Students. The USC is a large, very well endowed, extremely well resourced, insanely expensive university. It has 35,000 students and admits one in four applicants. It has more international students than any other American university, but scholarships are few and far between for such students and it would probably therefore not be of much interest to most Brockwood students, unless they have parents who can afford it. It is cutting edge for filmmaking, having recently completed the $170 million dollar George Lucas building with facilities which allow full-blown feature films to be made on site.

Later as a smartly dressed, fast-talking, university freshman shows me, and a group of guests, around the impressive campus, she walks backwards the entire time apparently under instructions always to face the group. It is strangely off-putting and leaves me feeling that management concerns for customer relations has overstepped the boundary of common-sense. You spend more time on the tour being concerned for her safety in the face of speeding students on bicycles, lamp-posts and curbs than you do looking at the sights.

5th March

“You cannot escape from this intention. You are involved in it as much as I am. You may shy away from it, disregard it, neglect it, but you are as much responsible as I am.”

A bug seems to have found it’s way into my slideshow and instead of the photos appearing and disappearing on cue, some are fast and some are slow. Brenda, who has been a tremendous help sorting out the sound issues, now tries to solve the problem but it is beyond even her powers. Michael, who is accustomed to having all of the technical issues sorted well in advance of any gig can’t believe that I’m still fiddling around with the computer half-an-hour before the guests arrive. In the end nine guests role in, five of whom are former Brockwood students:

Clay Mantley    1971-1972

Marisa Nawir   1973-1975

Pierre Briatte   1973-1975

Kris Jones    1975-1979

Alec Smith    1999-2001

plus our host Michael Rogers 1976-1977

Meeting in LA on 5th March / Front Row left to right: Pierre, Marisa, Michael / Standing left to right: Bill,  Clay, Alex, Kris
Meeting in LA on 5th March / Front Row left to right: Pierre, Marisa, Michael / Standing left to right: Bill, Clay, Alex, Kris

We have introductions all around, I say a few words about the idea behind arranging these meetings and we sit together and watch the slide show. It begins with early photos of the school: Jim Fowler taking students horse-riding with the school in the distance; Dorothy in one of her customary trouser-suits standing in a pool of warm evening light; Krishnaji talking to students in the sitting room, his hands raised in front of his face as if cradling a small world before him and while the slides run Alan Rowlands is heard playing Debussy’s, Claire de Lune, in the background. Afterwards we exchange stories and talk about how Brockwood is fairing now.

Michael is fired up about the idea of trying to get a film made about Krishnamurti, as a means of bringing a new audience to the teachings. He’s living in the right part of town to make it happen and may just know the people who know the people. A few guests drift away; I turn in around twelve, but an intrepid core are still there at 3.00am figuring out how to get K onto the big screen.

Michael with Tesla in front of his unique tail-finned Jaguar
Michael with Tesla in front of his unique tail-finned Jaguar

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