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Monday, February 6, 2017

Scott Apel on Robert Anton Wilson

This is one of the longer interviews I  have published on this website, and probably one of the most interesting. D. Scott Apel was a longtime friend of Robert Anton Wilson, and collaborated on Wilson's newsletter, "Trajectories," and published Wilson's book, Chaos and Beyond. 

Apel is a writer and film critic. He is worried about his privacy, as you can see from the first question and answer, so I'm not going to publish where he lives or run a photograph of him. But although he may be reticent in talking about himself, as you can see, he opened up when I tracked him down and asked about Robert Anton Wilson. I hope you enjoy the interview. — The Management

RAWILLUMINATION.NET: Can you tell my readers a little bit about yourself?

SCOTT APEL: I could, but I won't. I value my privacy and am perhaps the only Buddhist you'll ever meet who simply hates people. (Some alarmists are predicting the imminent extinction of Humanity; my response is that might not be the worst thing that could happen.) Following in the footsteps of J.D. Salinger and Thomas Pynchon, my goal in retirement is to read, write, and be left alone. If only I could convince my wife that that's a viable lifestyle!

RAWILLUMINATION.NET: How did you meet Robert Anton Wilson, and how did he become your friend? 

SCOTT APEL: I read the Illuminatus! trilogy in 1975, and urged my friend Kevin C. Briggs to do the same. We determined that we simply had to meet this Wilson guy, and get the inside scoop on the mysterious and mythical "missing chapters." We thought that given the amount of esoteric data included in the novel, the excised material must be even more revelatory. Through a series of coincidences or synchronicities, I came across RAW's phone number in January 1976. I called him and asked if we could come up and discuss the missing material. He invited us to his Monday night "salon," where he hosted a loose group of Berkeley scholars, students, hippies and avant garde for wide-ranging conversation and the sharing of information, opinions, insights and, of course, the chronic. When I commented one evening that we were going to miss "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" because it took an hour to drive home to Silicon Valley, he and Arlen invited us to stay and watch with them. That was the beginning of our personal relationship, which quickly expanded into dinners out, dinners in, movies, and even a memorable May Day picnic with the Wiccans in Stern Grove.

Bob was always hesitant about personal relationships — not paranoia, just a certain standoffishness to protect himself psychologically. He was often approached by weirdoes, and wanted to make sure he and his family were safe. So even though we spent a lot of time together, it took a long, long time before I could claim him as a "friend." Even though I spent an evening with him, or him and Arlen, or him and Arlen and others, literally once a week, on and off, for decades, it wasn't until the '90s that I began to consider him a "friend." We spent about a decade in a master/intern relationship, then about a decade in a business partner relationship, then about a decade as friends. But we never once had a cross word. And considering that he had a tendency to just cut people off who disagreed with him, I was, I believe, his longest-term friend, a claim of which I am very proud.

RAWILLUMINATION.NET: How did Trajectories begin, and how did you and Wilson divide up the work for the publication? 

SCOTT APEL: I knew Bob was always hurting for money, so I determined to find some way to make him some money. Sometime in 1987, I drove Bob and Arlen down to the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, where Bob was doing a weekend workshop. We sat around in the natural splendor of Big Sur and I pitched him the idea of a newsletter. I knew he'd had one over a decade earlier, and pointed out that desktop publishing could make reviving it a profitable endeavor. We estimated his hardcore worldwide fan base at about 5,000 people, and decided that if even 10 percent subscribed to a quarterly newsletter for $20 a year, we could turn a profit and supplement his income by nearly as much as the pitiful advances he was getting for his books. He was interested, and Arlen was enthusiastic. We cobbled out the details, which boiled down to the three of us being the "board of directors," and splitting profits 3 ways. That way, the Wilsons would get two-thirds of the profit, which was fine with me. The division of labor was very simple: Bob would supply the content, and I'd do everything else — editing, formatting, printing, mailing, banking, etc. Bob would hand over a floppy disk with the contents, I'd lay out the newsletter and run a sample by him and Arlen, then we'd print it and ship it. One of Bob's other job functions was to take flyers to every lecture to spread the word about the newsletter. He named it Trajectories, after his previous newsletter, and later added the subtitle "The Journal of Futurism and Heresy."

The first issue of Trajectories, which was only 12 pages, is dated “Summer, 1988,” altho we worked on the details for months before its release. After refining the concept with Bob, in my editorial I stated that the newsletter was dedicated to “sane futurism,” and was “for people more interested in creating the future than in worrying about it.” The issue featured an interview with Dr. Linus Pauling. Bob was not able to perform the interview and asked me to do it in his place. He had three questions he wanted Dr. Pauling to address, and I had a few myself. It was my pleasure — and honor — to perform the interview. Dr. Pauling, in his ‘80s at the time, proved to be a genial and gracious host, as well as a wealth of intelligence.

(Material you might not want to use, because you’re writing about Bob and not me, include that Dr. Pauling suggested I take 5,000 mg of Vitamin C a day, which I’ve done now for nearly 30 years. When my own doctor asked during one checkup why I was taking so much Vitamin C, I said, “Because Linus Pauling told me to.” He couldn’t argue with a reference like that. I also got Dr. Pauling to autograph a bottle of Vitamin C, which I still have. “No one’s ever asked me to autograph a bottle of Vitamin C,” he said, eyeing me suspiciously. I just smiled and said something like, “Well, you’re never too old to experience something new.”)

This first issue also included Bob’s take on some science news items, a poem by Arlen, and a few ads from RAW-oriented vendors, including the Church of the Subgenius and audio and videotapes from Sound Photosynthesis. All of these items would become staples of the newsletter.

Issue #2 is dated “Autumn 1988” and ran 16 pages — and was stapled! It featured an original piece by Dr. Timothy Leary, an interview with science fiction author Norman Spinrad, and a letters column including feedback from physicist Nick Herbert, author Tom Robbins, and psychiatrist Robert Newport.

Issue #3 (“Back to the Future – Special Futurism Issue”) featured a RAW article, “The Future of the Future,” and a piece by me about Walt Disney as a forgotten futurist – along with the usual features, like a poem by Arlen. Issue #6 was the first to include Bob's subtitle: "The Journal of Futurism and Heresy."

And so on. Over the next few years, thanks to Bob’s celebrity friends, Trajectories would publish original pieces by Dr. Leary, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Peter Russell, and other counter-culture celebs. Bob wrote extensively about the history of Gaia, about experiencing virtual reality (in 1990!), about jury nullification, and about a plethora of other subjects (like book reviews, and — at my insistence — his Top Ten Movies list). The best of the first ten issues of Trajectories was collected in a book we published through my Permanent Press, Chaos and Beyond: The Best of Trajectories.

Our typical production process was that Bob would collect news items he felt worthy of commenting on, and would write one or two major articles for each issue. When I (gently) reminded him of our production schedule, he’d hand me a floppy disk (we both used Macs) a week or two later containing his contributions. I’d format them, lay out the next issue, and fill the gaps with my own material (an editorial, or an occasional humor piece) and ads from our friends and supporters, like Magical Blend magazine. The rest of my involvement is totally boring — production and business details. I’d deal with a printer,for instance, schlep boxes of finished product back to my house, and spend a day or two printing out mailing labels, stuffing issues into envelopes, and organizing the bulk mailing according to the Post Office’s bizarre, labyrinthine and arcane requirements. (I guess I was absent on Career Day when they informed kids that being a publisher often involved an enormous amount of heavy lifting.)

Regarding Bob's contributions: One of the highest compliments I’ve ever received was from my editor at the San Jose Mercury News, where I was the video columnist and wrote monthly feature articles for over a decade. He once told me that my writing rarely needed editing, since “your stuff comes in clean.” As a writer, Bob was a total professional, and his “stuff” always came in clean. I rarely had to edit his material, except to fix a typo or correct the occasional misspelled word. I never cut his material and never altered it. Not only was there no need, but Trajectories was his forum, and I wanted to make sure he knew that he had the freedom to say whatever he wanted, in whatever way he wanted, and that I would publish it exactly as he intended. It was his one forum without censorship, and I’m proud that I was able to provide him with that platform.

Sometime in 1992, for reasons lost to memory, we were having trouble pulling together the next issue. I suggested to Bob that since his fans — the most hardcore of which were Trajectories subscribers — were clearly flexible and open to new experiences, there was no need to restrict ourselves to a print edition. I’d done my “due diligence,” and discovered that it was no more expense to duplicate and mail an audiotape than it was to publish a print edition. (Keep in mind this is 1992, when the Sony Walkman was widely in use, and audio cassettes were king — CDs were only just beginning to gain popularity, and this was nearly a decade before the digital notion of “podcasts” was invented.) Bob readily agreed, and we recorded Trajectories #11 (later offered as “An Hour With Robert Anton Wilson”). I further suggested we produce every other issue as an audio issue, and Bob was enthusiastic — it meant far less work for him (but, unfortunately, not for me). On one occasion, I brought him a CD of sound effects that I thought we might integrate into the audio editions. This resulted in one of the most unusual and controversial audio issues of Trajectories, as Bob decided to fill the first 15 minutes of the tape with nothing more than the sound of people laughing. I was a bit confused at this, until I realized he was illustrating his own philosophy by subverting people's expectations that the audiotape would be an hour of him talking — instead, he virtually rubbed their noses in “laughter yoga” (which came to public attention in the early ‘90s, so RAW can legitimately claim to be an originator of this practice, or at least an early proponent). To this day, I can’t listen to that recording without at some point laughing along—not only at the sound of laughter on the recording, but at Bob’s chutzpah, and the absurdity of his decision.

Trajectories ran something like 23 issues. (I’ll maintain that it ran 23 issues, just to fulfill the ubiquitous Wilsonian “23” mythology.) We produced it on an irregular basis until RAW was just too busy with more important issues, like being the primary caregiver to Arlen. He simply had no time for Trajectories anymore. But during its run, we published some great stuff by Bob, much of it included in the book Chaos and Beyond: The Best of Trajectories, which we published through my small press, The Permanent Press, in 1994.

Issue #14, dated Spring 1995, included an excerpt from RAW’s then-upcoming book Cosmic Trigger 3: My Life After Death, as well as something that is a real collector’s item: the first four chapters of a sequel to Illuminatus!, tentatively titled Bride of Illuminatus. Even though his original Illuminatus! co-writer, Robert Shea, was not involved in the project, Bob lost interest in this work after Shea died in March of ’94 (Chaos and Beyond is dedicated to him), and to the best of my knowledge, these few chapters are the only portion of this novel to survive.

One of the final issues of Trajectories was a videotaped interview of RAW that we produced as an episode of a public access cable TV program a friend of mine had been running for 16 years. With Bob’s blessing, I took the original video, had a new intro and new credits added, and shipped it out as an issue of Trajectories, assuming that few Wilson fans had seen the local Silicon Valley broadcast, but that it would be of interest to them. That taping is memorable in my mind. I wanted to provide Bob with a great experience, and rented a luxury car, picked him and Arlen up in Capitola and drove them to the studio, then took them to dinner at Red Lobster afterwards. (Bob and Arlen loved Red Lobster. When they lived on Brommer St. in Capitola in the early ‘90s, they lived within walking distance of a Red Lobster in the Capitola Mall, and dined there at least once a week. In the final years of his life, when Cathy and I spent every Saturday night with Bob, the SOP was to stop at a Red Lobster in San Jose and order up several carry-out meals for him on our way to Capitola. We became close with the manager who took our order, and when she found out the food was for Robert Anton Wilson, we discovered she was a fan and started adding extra food to our take-out order, free of charge. Bob inspired that kind of love and generosity.) In the years since then, Cathy and I have always referred to the chain as “Red Bobster.” Clips from this interview were included in Lance Bauscher's documentary, Maybe Logic.

Something that might be of interest to you (or not; your call) are the projects RAW and I discussed but never got around to accomplishing. I wanted to stage the existing chapters of Bride of the Illuminati as a kind of “radio play,” for instance, getting some of my actor friends to perform the dialog and narration, and releasing the result as an audio recording — one step beyond the standard “audio book.” But once Bob lost interest in the novel, he wasn’t interested in doing anything with it, and gave the project a “thumbs down.” Another project hinged on the idea that the Wilsons lived only a couple miles from the famous Santa Cruz Beach & Boardwalk (where we would ultimately hold his “Meme-orial” in early 2007). I suggested that Bob write a lecture in which his ideas could be illustrated by the amusement park rides on the Boardwalk (the “reality tunnel” as a hall of mirrors, for instance), and then we’d videotape him delivering the lecture “on location.” Arlen nixed this idea, telling me in no uncertain terms that she would never allow me to put Bob on the roller coaster!

 One additional project did come to fruition, although not in the manner I’d imagined. Sometime around 1989 or 1990 I discovered a list of movies and TV show episodes available on video in which the copyright had expired, and so fell into the public domain. Essentially, this meant that anyone was free to do anything they wanted with these videos. There were enough of these public domain titles that several video companies (Kino Video, for one) were established solely to duplicate and sell them. Although most of these films were unknown old grade Z movies, there were a handful that were surprisingly recognizable. Frank Capra’s Christmas classic, It’s A Wonderful Life is perhaps the best-known title, but there were also a couple Orson Welles films and a couple Mickey Mouse cartoons, among many other treasures. I suggested to Bob that he write a script based on his ideas and philosophy, then we would comb through the list and chose scenes that illustrated these ideas, under his voiceover narration. Although we never moved forward on this project, he did write and in 1992 published Reality Is What You Can Get Away With: An Illustrated Screenplay, based on this idea. (As a text work, he could refer to scenes from copyrighted films for which we could never have legally obtained the rights to use clips, including King Kong, Betty Boop, Chinatown, The Maltese Falcon, and the Zapruder film. I was only mildly disappointed that he did not credit our original project with the inspiration for his book.)

Again, something you might be interested in, or not: We continued accepting subscriptions for Trajectories up until the final issue — which neither of us knew would be the final issue. So there might still be some irate subscribers out there who feel ripped off because they only got one or two issues for their $20 “4 issue” subscriptions. I’d like to assure them that every penny of their subscription money went to helping the Wilsons in their time of need — mostly providing for them during Arlen’s final months, at a time when Bob couldn’t work because he was caring for her full time. I never got a chance to explain to our subscriber base where their hard-earned dollars were going, but literally all money generated through my joint ventures with RAW went directly to him and Arlen. It was precious little, but I like to think it made some contribution to assisting a great artist in his hour of need — even if that’s not what our subscribers signed up for.

While on the topic of ideas that never came to fruition, I approached Bob one time about collecting the best of the numerous articles he’d written over the years for various men’s magazines that had long since gone out of business — magazines with titles like Jaguar, Cheetah,and Cavalier. (My actual first encounter with RAW was in 1974, when Briggs was so impressed by a story entitled “A Finger in My I” in one of these mags that he handed it to me to read. This was at least a year before Illuminatus! was published. We had no way then of knowing how close an association we’d soon have with the author of this mind-bending story.) I suggested to Bob that we could publish an anthology of this early work since the copyrights no doubt had expired with the magazines. But I was shocked when he told me he never kept copies of anything he’d written over the years. I was expecting he’d lead me to a file cabinet that we could turn into a treasure chest, but there was no filing cabinet — and no copies. Plan B was to “debrief” Bob about what he remembered publishing—when and where—and conscripting Trajectories subscribers to participate in a treasure hunt (not a scavenger hunt, you understand) for these old magazines and the lost Wilson writing — something that would be much easier to accomplish if the Internet had existed. Alas, this project, too, fell into the black hole of unfulfilled ideas.

At one point I suggested to Bob that we branch out to create a separate publishing company specifically for his work. We debated several imprint names and eventually settled on “Ho House,” with a picture of a fat laughing Buddha as the logo. I filed the paperwork so we could do business under this name, but it was soon after that that things sadly started to unravel (Arlen’s illness, our move from the Bay Area, and so on), and we were never able to launch his own small press publishing company.

When I think back on the Trajectories experience, I have nothing but fond memories. RAW was a perfect partner, and it always delighted me to write him a check every quarter for his share of the profits from the newsletter and the audio and videotapes we produced through The Permanent Press.

RAWILLUMINATION.NET:  I think "Chaos and Beyond" is an underrated book in the RAW  canon. Were you happy with the book? Are you disappointed it was allowed to go out of print?

SCOTT APEL: Collecting the best content from the first ten issues of Trajectories into a book was my idea, I’m proud to say, although RAW coined the title Chaos and Beyond. (Chaos theory was a hot topic in those days, and fit right into his reality tunnel.) Bob personally selected the material for this anthology and wrote 1994 updates to his articles when appropriate. As with the newsletter, I did all the design and production work on a Mac Quadra, arranged the printing, and so on, through my small press, The Permanent Press. We promoted the book through Trajectories and in several publications sympathetic to RAW’s work, such as Magical Blend magazine, and placed it in a number of specialty bookstores around the country. We split the copyright attribution, and Bob dedicated the book to Robert Shea, who’d passed away a year earlier.

 From the start we never considered this a “big” RAW work of the caliber of Illuminatus! or Cosmic Trigger, but it was a way to leverage existing material into a bit of extra cash for the Wilsons without extensive effort on their part. Chaos and Beyond was always aimed at hardcore Wilson fans rather than newbies, so we expected minor sales. The book was reprinted twice, however, with 1,000 copies in each printing, so it did better than either of us ever expected.

 I’m not sure Chaos and Beyond has much relevance anymore except perhaps to RAW “completists”; much of the material is contemporary to its time —1988-1994 —which is fine for a newsletter but feels dated by now. It’s not likely that anyone wants to read about California’s medfly problem, for example or reviews of “brain machines” now long obsolete. Bob even ended his Introduction by saying, “Needless to say, most of what you shall read here almost certainly will appear ridiculously old-fashioned in about five years” (i.e., 1999), so you can perhaps get some sense of how “ridiculously old-fashioned” the material might seem in 2017. The book served its purpose at the time, however, and does, I believe, contain some timeless material (Arlen’s poems, a couple pieces by Dr. Leary, Bob’s extensive “Future of the Future” essay and his Introduction, “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Chaos”). Christina Pearson has expressed an interest in republishing Chaos and Beyond as an ebook, and I’ll be turning over all the copyrights to her whenever she’s ready for that.

RAWILLUMINATION.NET: If you don't want to tell me anything about yourself, do you want to tell me something about the late Kevin Briggs, your collaborator in the book of interviews with SF writers, including Robert Anton Wilson?

SCOTT APEL: Kevin C. Briggs (1952-2007) was a friend, collaborator and ex-roommate from our college days and a couple years after. Here’s a description of him I wrote in my mystery novel, The Uncertainty Principle?, in which he (and Bob and Arlen, and Phil Dick, among other people) appear as characters:

            “You!” a deep voice growled nearby. A barrel-chested guy in his late 20’s was striding toward me, glaring. His full beard was unkempt and his black hair tousled carelessly. In his rumpled tan corduroy suit and tiny cowboy boots, he looked like a satyr trying to pass as a salesman.

            “You must be the reporter,” he said, eyeing my pad and pen.

            Like tumblers opening a safe, that voice forced an impression into focus: Gypsy. The curly raven locks, the round face accentuated by round rosy cheeks, the dark eyes filled with larceny and suspicion... Yeah, you could put a gold earring on this guy and wander unchallenged through any Rom camp in the world. Right now, though, he looked worried. And more than a touch pissed off.

 Throughout my life I’ve been accused of being “polarizing,” but Briggs was the original polarizing character among our college crowd: people either loved him or hated him, and no one from either camp wanted to have anything to do with anyone from the other camp. If you weren’t a friend of Kevin’s, you simply weren’t worth any attention. He was brilliant, sarcastic, supremely confident, and intimidating to people who couldn’t stand being one-upped by someone who’d read everything and had an opinion about everything (and everyone). He was also a published poet and an excellent writer, mostly in a Hemingway style of simple, powerful prose. His one failing is that he never followed through with anything, including a couple novels he’d begun and which I read and encouraged him to continue.

We hung out with RAW for years, often with weekly visits. Highlights include a period when we read portions of Finnegans Wake out loud and discussed/analyzed them (which went on weekly for months, in about ’77 or ‘78), and accompanying Bob to Seattle for a 1978 New Year’s Eve day performance of the 12-hour production of Illuminatus! But over the years, as our situations and locations changed, and I lost touch with Briggs except through friends.

RAWILLUMINATION.NET: In your interview with RAW in Science Fiction: An Oral History, you state that The Illuminati Papers contains material cut from Illuminatus! Can you tell me your source for that statement? I've never seen that anywhere else.

SCOTT APEL: The answer is simple: RAW himself mentioned that The Illuminati Papers contains material cut from Illuminatus! He states in the interview that Dell wanted to cut the book down and he and Shea decided they'd rather have a truncated novel published than the full novel unpublished. It's pretty clear that "Papers" includes more than just this cut material (like some interviews with RAW, and articles he wrote for magazines like Oui), but he did rework some of the cut material and added it to Papers. (Several of the articles are attributed to Hagbard Celine or Simon Moon, for instance.) I can't give you a more specific reference, but he did verify this to me verbally on a couple occasions.

FYI, in November 1980 he autographed my copy of The Illuminati Papers thus: "To Scott — Avoid the poor house — Don't become a writer."

RAWILLUMINATION.NET: I liked the Red Lobster story. Can you tell me a little more about what Robert Anton Wilson liked to eat? I know he liked Chinese restaurants, but did he like "American Chinese" food, or the sort of Chinese restaurants that mostly attract Chinese diners? Did he particularly like lasagna?

SCOTT APEL: Well, I have to admit, this question made me LOL, and for several reasons. First, in all the years I’ve done interviews and been interviewed, no one has ever asked about food, and I must admit I never thought about asking a question like that. But you can tell so much about people by what they eat and like to eat! It’s a natural question to ask, but no one ever has asked it before in my interviewing experience. Kudos to you for being original!

When it came to food, Bob was never particularly picky. Early in our association, he seemed pleased when we showed up with KFC, for instance. Briggs and I used to say that the old joke about an Irish 7-course meal (a potato and a six-pack) applied to Bob. But this is not to imply that he was without taste — he knew a great meal from junk food, and preferred the former. But I can’t recall ever hearing him complain about food.

I know he loved Guinness and Jameson’s Irish whiskey, although I rarely saw him drink to excess (a couple examples below). And man, did he love coffee! Giant cans of Trader Joe’s French Roast were a constant fixture in his homes.

Bob loved going to restaurants (as do I), and over the years he had several favorites. I mentioned Red Lobster; when he and Arlen were living in Capitola, they were within walking distance of a RL in the Capitola Mall, and he told me they went at least once a week.

There was a time in the early ‘90s when their daughter Alex was spending a lot of time with them, and the four of us went to dinner regularly. I was always very fond of Alex, who had Bob’s brain and Arlen’s boldness (as well as her red hair). Bob once took us to a pricey dinner buffet at Chaminade, a resort and restaurant in the Santa Cruz area. When they started bringing out baking sheets of crushed ice and dozens of oysters on the half shell, I was convinced I’d died and gone to heaven. Bob got quite a kick out of the fact that with all the buffet had to offer, all I went for was one plate of oysters after another — but eventually decided he was going to do exactly that next time they came.

Another place Bob loved was Aragona’s, an employee-owned restaurant in nearby Soquel. (One of the owners was the illegitimate grandson of W.C. Fields, which made the place that more attractive to us both.) We went there frequently in the late ‘90s. There was a bartender named Bear who Bob claimed made the best martini in the world. He’d usually have two and would stagger out to my car ... and when he had three, Cathy and I would nearly have to carry him out to the car, which we all thought was hilarious. We went to Aragona’s so often that one time when we were seated I said, offhand, “Well, I’m gonna have the Chicken Piccata, and Bob, you’re no doubt gonna have a couple martinis and the spaghetti and meatballs.” He just stared at me, wide-eyed, and exclaimed, “My Gawd! Am I that predictable?” (Only at Aragona’s, I assured him.)

In 1999, when Arlen was bedridden and Bob was her main caregiver, Cathy and I would drive from San Jose to Capitola every Friday night (after I got off work) and spend anywhere from 24 to 48 hours with them. Cathy tended to Arlen, giving Bob a much-needed “day off.” On Saturday afternoon I’d take Bob to The Crow’s Nest, a pier-side restaurant in Santa Cruz, for sandwiches and several pints of beer or Guinness. After Arlen passed in May of 1999, Cathy and I continued to visit Bob every Saturday. We’d cook, or bring take out, or go out to dinner. He had a couple favorite restaurants, including the Golden Buddha in Soquel. We all loved their Chinese food, and often ordered takeout to eat at Bob’s place. (It must run in the family—we ran into Christina and Rex there one night, also picking up takeout.)

I brought my homemade spaghetti sauce to his house one time and we got into a (joking) pissing contest about who made the best sauce. The next week, he cooked his spaghetti sauce, and I had to admit, it was quite good. The secret ingredient, he confided, was tiny shrimp. I never knew Bob to cook anything — he could barely make coffee — but he was proud of his spaghetti sauce. (But I can't recall ever seeing him eat lasagna ... )

 One thing I know for sure is that Bob loved seafood. I mentioned Red Lobster, for instance. When we were in Seattle, we went to the restaurant at the top of the Space Needle and I watched him consume several buckets of shrimp. And when Cathy and I moved to Santa Cruz from L.A. in 2003— specifically to be near Bob, whose legs and health were failing — we re-instituted our weekly Saturday night dinners, and often went to a place on the pier near the Santa Cruz Boardwalk —Stagnaro Bros. Seafood, I believe. We’d load his collapsible wheelchair in the trunk of my vintage (i.e., old) Jaguar and take him there, where he usually got some sort of fish, or lobster. When he got too frail to take out, we’d bring him oysters from a nearby Mexican restaurant in Capitola, El Toro Bravo. He told me he’d had oysters all around the world, and El Toro Bravo made the best he’d ever tasted. (I believed him, because I knew they made the best enchiladas I’d ever had.)

 Sometime around 2002 or ’03, RAW had a lot of dental work, and had all his teeth pulled. He had dentures, but rarely wore them (he said they were uncomfortable). This severely impacted his ability to eat solid foods. He was stoically resigned to a life of soups and puddings when we discovered the miracle of pureeing food. He got a high-powered food processor and we tested most of his favorite foods in it, including steak and, of course, lobster. He was extremely pleased with the result, and even told us that he now preferred his food pureed — he felt it was more flavorful, since there was more surface area exposed to the taste buds.

 From that time on, we spent virtually every Saturday night with Bob. Our SOP was to drive from San Mateo to a Red Lobster in San Jose, where we’d pick up dinner for ourselves and 3 or 4 dinners (mostly lobster) for Bob, then head on to Capitola and have our feast and our evening of conversation and laughs. Cathy prep’d several days worth of meals in the food processor, so all Bob had to do was toss ‘em in the microwave and eat.

 Finally, the recent passing of Carrie Fisher reminded me of this RAW restaurant anecdote: Bob was fond of telling a story (that must have taken place in the early ‘80s when he lived in L.A.) about when Dr. Leary took him out to dinner with Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford. He said they were all tripping, and at one point he looked across the table and realized, “My Gawd, I’m having dinner with Princess Leia and Han Solo!”


Oz Fritz said...

Great interview! I enjoyed hearing of RAW's dining habits. Used to love receiving Trajectories. I saved the cancelled check for the subscription that had RAW's autograph.

Eric Wagner said...

Thanks for the great interview. I loved Trajectoies and Scott's Phil Dick book.

michael said...

This is a really wonderful contribution for Wilson scholars, Tom.

How you found D. Scott Apel I have no idea.

The part about Scott being surprised that RAW hadn't kept files of old articles he'd sold further confirms our sadness/frustration about this. CoincidAntally, I just wrote the Intro to the Hilaritas Press ed of Email To The Universe, and I cover my memories of how half of the book was resurrected by old denizens of alt.ran.rawilson. The amount of money Gathers and I spent on eBay copies of men's magazines from the 1960s-70s!

Terrific interview! Thanks!

Jesse said...

Sam Konkin once told me that when the Wilsons lived in L.A., he used to go out with them to a Cajun place that featured live music. Apparently Arlen really liked the music and Sam was really into the food. Alas, I didn't ask him which was more interesting to Bob.

Jesse said...

P.S. Have any of those audio or video issues of Trajectories been posted online?

Neil_in_Chicago said...

Thank you especially for your service to Arlen. My litmus test for someone who says they knew Bob is whether they mention Arlen. She seemed to me at least his equal. I'm not sure whose conversation I miss more.
Living in Chicago, I only got to visit the Wilsons in their various Bay area homes rarely. In '76 or '77 They were in a gigantic house up in the Berkeley hills north of campus with a total of something like eleven people. That was where Bob told me about Bell's Theorem, which I'd never heard of. (He loved Irishmen who blew apart British orderliness.) There's a book which came out just a couple of years ago called How the Hippies Saved Physics, about the Fundamental Fysiks Group et al. Just before the book came out, the author gave a one hour summary talk (at MIT?) which I saw on youtube. Somewhere in the middle he did the now conventional thing of measuring the influence of Bell by counting paper citations. The graph over time is the expected hockey stick curve. But he mentioned one odd outlier. There was an article about Bell's Theorem in (if memory serves) the March 1973 issue of Gallery. That jolted me, and it was searchable, so I did: it was by Bob. There's a fun bit for your bibliography.

And if you were involved with the last-minute web appeal of the last days, thank you again. I suggested something like that, but I was two time zones away.

Monocolour said...

Absolutely brilliant interview, thank you.

Martin Wagner said...

Trajectories #15
Trajectories #13
Everything Is Under Control: Robert Anton Wilson in Interview

Too bad the Impermanent Press closed its doors back in 2010 and the other stuff on this list is LOST FOREVER
The Trajectories Catalog

Thank you for the great interview, Tom

Bobby Campbell said...

Such an awesome interview! Great to hear from D. Scott Apel!

Jesse said...

Thanks, Martin.

Rarebit Fiend said...

Wow. I can't say how enjoyable and exciting I found this interview.

I've always enjoyed Chaos and Beyond for Arlen's poetry,"Our Lady of Outer Space" is my favorite, and as something to pick up off the shelf and dip into every so often. I actually have been taking vitamin C, though not 5000mg, everyday since reading Dr. Pauling's interview, and just this past month read RAW's "High Weirdness: UFO Update" to a friend over the phone. which Does anyone have those four chapters from Bride? I didn't know that those existed, or if I did it completely slipped my mind. I don't know when I'm going to stop this feeling of being robbed after hearing about the magnificently titled "Finger in My I." Goddamnit. First William Blake porn paintings and now this all lost to history.

And I don't know if this means anything but I rather like the "dated" nature of Chaos and Beyond. The late eighties/nineties seemed like a really interesting time in RAW's life. Atmospherics like the Nardwuar interview or his appearance on the Bill Maher show where he talks about Leary and LSD make me nostalgic for a time that I wasn't really around. But it's nice. Hearing the detail about Mary Hartman Mary Hartman and feeling that tug towards the late seventies was neat. I guess everything gets stuck in its time.

"He looked like a satyr trying to pass as a salesman"- I'll have to find The Uncertainty Principle.

This is secondhand story concerning drinking from my former psychosynthesis instructor who had known RAW in the seventies. He told me about meeting him once when RAW drank a bottle of whiskey in an hour with no ill affects. I don't know if Apel's testimony puts that in a dubious light or if it was just an odd night out. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Thank you! I have so much to think about now.

Unknown said...

Thank you all for your very complimentary comments. I should have known there are no trolls in the RAW-verse! I'm humbled by the response to these essentially random recollections of my 30+ year association with Bob and Arlen. To give a very general answer to a couple questions, not all the Permanent Press RAW stuff is lost forever... Christina is planning to republish "Chaos and Beyond" through Hilaritas Press at some point, for example, and I'm still considering what to do with the audio and video material. And just to prove what an insensitive, narcissistic self-promoter I am (I was once dubbed "The Total Media Whore" by a Bay Area film critic, and I'm proud of it), allow me to remind FOB (Fans of Bob) that he and Arlen (and Phil Dick, and others) appear as characters in my mystery novel, "The Uncertainty Principle?" which is available on Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, etc. Again, my sincerest thanks for your comments.

The Fool said...

What a wonderful interview this was. I remember Scott Appel from his KTEH days in the late 80s and early 90s. His analysis of The Prisoner and general commentary on science fiction were the highlight of my week. So good to see him showing so much kindness to a dear friend. And how heartwarming it was to hear the names of places I used to hang out in...Santa Cruz, Capitola, San Jose, and The Crows Nest! Well done Scott.
Thom Pintello