Mica Died on This Date

November 22. The date is forever associated with President John Kennedy, who was assassinated on that date in 1963.

I think also of Mica Kindman who died on that date in 1991.

I was honored to work with Mica as his editor while he wrote his autobiography, My Odyssey through the Underground Press. The book recalls Mica’s adventures working primarily with two underground newspapers during the sixties and seventies: The Paper, in East Lansing, Michigan, and Avatar, in Boston. The underground press was the independent, noncorporate, dissident press of the Vietnam era. His story was one of two dozen insider histories that I compiled, edited, and published in what became my four-volume Voices from the Underground Series.

Muckraking at The Paper

To his friends in East Lansing in the sixties, he was Michael Kindman. In 1963, Michael was one of some 200 honors students from around the country who had been awarded National Merit Scholarships, underwritten by Michigan State University and usable only there. Together, they represented by far the largest group of Merit Scholars in any school’s freshman class. At MSU? The nation’s first agricultural land grant college?

Two years later, he founded the legendary The Paper, the Lansing area’s first underground newspaper and one of the first five members of Underground Press Syndicate, this country’s first nationwide network of underground papers during the Vietnam era.

The Paper connected the emerging radical campus community of Michigan State University with the activists of the East Lansing community. It is best known for its work with Ramparts, the premier left-wing glossy magazine of the era, in exposing MSU’s role as the number one CIA front organization in Vietnam in the sixties. The bureaucrats, academics, and police who built the infrastructure of oppression in Vietnam that forced the Vietnamese peasants from the villages into the cities, carded them, and forced their daughters into prostitution, then bombed their homes anyway, received salaries from the CIA that were filtered through an account at MSU. Most of these “professors” never actually showed up on campus.

Through Underground Press Syndicate, underground papers around the country exchanged subscriptions with each other to spread the word and build solidarity. One of those papers was Avatar, a paper out of the Boston area whose poems and essays explored a mystical dimension that attracted Michael’s attention.

Getting Sucked into Avatar

So in 1968 he left The Paper, headed east, and joined the staff of Avatar, unaware that the large, experimental commune that controlled the paper was a charismatic cult centered on a former-musician-turned-guru named Mel Lyman, whose psychic hold over his followers was then being strengthened and intensified by means of various confrontations and loyalty tests. Michael got sucked right in, not surprisingly. He was bright and might have posed a perceived threat to the leadership so they worked on him with mind control games and punishments.

It took him five years to escape, which he did from the commune’s rural outpost in Kansas. He headed west, eventually settled in San Francisco, worked as a carpenter, came out as a gay man, and changed his name to Mica.

By the time I caught up with him, he was working as a home-remodeling contractor, a key activist in the gay men’s pagan spiritual network Radical Faeries, and a student. He was also dying of AIDS.

I worked with him for two years on his autobiography. He died peacefully on November 22, 1991, two months after submitting the final draft. I got the call from his partner, Tony. I believe he lived as long as he did because he was inspired to complete his book.

Mica Press

Meanwhile, after receiving multiple publisher rejection letters from my agent that told me they loved the concept but didn’t want to touch the content (one gave me a “rave rejection”), I realized I wasn’t going to find a commercial press to publish my collection or an agent to represent me. I knew I would have to create my own press to tell the story of the underground press. With the help of Joe Grant, one of the other contributors, we created Mica Press.

In its Mica Press iteration, Mica’s story appeared as one piece – by far the longest – in a 600-plus-page, 2-column anthology. Twenty years later, Michigan State University Press worked with me to divide the anthology into four separate volumes, known as the Voices from the Underground Series. Mica’s story is all of volume 2.

The below image shows Mica’s patch on the famous AIDS Memorial Quilt.

Ken Wachsberger is a book coach, editor, and author of the upcoming You’ve Got the Time: How to Write and Publish That Book in You.

Everybody Reads to Celebrate Release of Michael Kindman Bio

Former Lansing resident and veteran of the Vietnam era underground press Ken Wachsberger will lead a celebration of the life of Michael Kindman at EVERYbody Reads, 2019 East Michigan Avenue, Lansing, 7 p.m. Thursday February 2, 2012.

The event marks the release of My Odyssey through the Underground Press, the riveting, at times chilling, ultimately inspirational, and always captivating autobiography of Kindman, one of the local and national legends of the Vietnam era underground press. Kindman’s story is volume 2 of Wachsberger’s classic Voices from the Underground Series (published by Michigan State University Press).

Wachsberger spoke to a standing-room-only crowd at EVERYbody Reads on March 3, 2011 to celebrate publication of volume 1 of Voices from the Underground. Both volumes will be available for purchase.

My Odyssey begins in September 1963, when Kindman entered Michigan State University as one of nearly two hundred students from around the country who had been awarded National Merit Scholarships, underwritten by MSU and usable only there. Together, they represented by far the largest group of Merit Scholars in any school’s freshman class.

They arrived, brilliant minds all, expecting to find a vibrant cultural and academic oasis. They didn’t, not at the nation’s first agricultural land grant college, so they were forced to look elsewhere. The Vietnam War was raging, though it hadn’t yet entered the general public’s consciousness. But the raging inner-city ghettoes already had brought civil rights to the forefront of the country’s imagination. In East Lansing, open housing crystallized a small portion of a latent radical community. Kindman joined that community, first as a reporter for the State News, MSU’s student paper, then  as the founder of The Paper, East Lansing’s first underground newspaper and one of the first five members of Underground Press Syndicate, this country’s first nationwide network of underground papers.

In early 1968, he was drawn to a paper from Boston, Avatar, that spoke often in poetry, always in spiritual and mystical terms, and he headed east to check it out. Kindman was welcomed by the staff, dug in as a member, and discovered too late that the large, experimental commune that controlled Avatar was a charismatic cult centered on a former-musician-turned-guru named Mel Lyman, whose psychic hold over his followers was being strengthened and intensified by means of various confrontations and loyalty tests.

Five years later, Kindman fled the commune’s rural outpost in Kansas and headed west, where he settled in San Francisco, came out as a gay man, and changed his name to Mica. When Kindman wrote this important journey into self-discovery, he was a key activist in the gay men’s pagan spiritual network Radical Faeries, a student, and a person with AIDS. He died peacefully on November 22, 1991, two months after submitting the final draft of his story.

Forewords are by legendary sixties-era author and satirist Paul Krassner, who is often considered the father of the underground press; and Tommi Avicolli Mecca, author, gay activist, and long-time veteran of the gay press.

Michael Kindman’s revealing memoir … will take you through his adventures and misadventures in the larger context of an evolutionary jump in consciousness, from hippie to the New Age, from a control freak’s cult to individual freedom, from sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll to a spiritual revolution. Ultimately, this book will serve as a multi-faceted slice of countercultural history.—Paul Krassner

Mica’s recapitulation, as he calls it, is a record of an era long past, a time when idealism wasn’t a bad word and questioning was a rite of passage for many of America’s young people. Recapitulations such as his can only help us better understand the strengths of the struggles of the past and how to avoid the mistakes that were all too often made.—Tommi Avicolli Mecca

The 4-volume Voices from the Underground Series is a collection of histories of underground papers from the Vietnam era as told by key people on each of the papers. The underground press was the independent, antiwar press of the Vietnam era that told the true story, which the corporate papers suppressed, of what our government was doing behind our backs to the Vietnamese people in our name and with our tax dollars, while giving voice to the liberation movements of the period.

Stories in the series represent the gay, lesbian, feminist, Black, Puerto Rican, Native American, military, prisoners’ rights, socialist, new age, rank-and-file, Southern consciousness, psychedelic, and other independent antiwar voices of the era as never before told.

Voices from the Underground was called “the most important book on American journalism published in my lifetime” by In These Times when it appeared in an earlier version in 1993. The Los Angeles Times said it “comes closer than anything I’ve yet read to putting the sights, sounds and texture of the ‘60s on paper.”

Editor Ken Wachsberger is a long-time author, editor, educator, political organizer, public speaker, and consultant who has written, edited, and lectured widely on the Vietnam era, the Holocaust and Jewish resistance during World War II, the First Amendment, writing for self-discovery, and other issues.

Volumes 3 and 4 both are due out in 2012. Ken may be reached at ken@voicesfromtheunderground.com for interviews and speaking invitations.

VOLUME 2 OF LANDMARK VIETNAM ANTIWAR OPUS HOT OFF THE PRESSES

Volume 2 of Ann Arbor author-editor Ken Wachsberger’s 4-volume Voices from the Underground Series (Michigan State University Press, 2011) is now available for purchase. Learn more about it at www.voicesfromtheunderground.com and see why I encourage you to order your copy now.

Volume 2, My Odyssey through the Underground Press, is the riveting, at times chilling, ultimately inspirational, and always captivating story of Michael “Mica” Kindman, one of the legends of the Vietnam era underground press.

In September 1963, Michael Kindman entered Michigan State University, eager about the possibilities that awaited him as one of nearly two hundred honors students from around the country who had been awarded National Merit Scholarships, underwritten by MSU and usable only there. Together, they represented by far the largest group of Merit Scholars in any school’s freshman class.

At MSU? The nation’s first agricultural land grant college?

They arrived, brilliant minds all, expecting to find a vibrant cultural and academic oasis. It wasn’t there so they were forced to look elsewhere. The Vietnam War was raging, though it hadn’t yet entered the general public’s consciousness. But the burning ghettoes already had brought civil rights to the forefront of the country’s imagination. In East Lansing, open housing crystallized a small portion of a latent radical community. Kindman became part of that community, first as a reporter for the State News, MSU’s student paper, then, two years after arriving at MSU, as the founder of The Paper, East Lansing’s first underground newspaper and one of the first five members of Underground Press Syndicate, this country’s first nationwide network of underground papers.

In early 1968, he was drawn to a paper from Boston, Avatar, that spoke often in poetry, always in spiritual and mystical terms, and he headed east to check it out. Kindman was welcomed by the staff, dug in as a member, and discovered too late that the large, experimental commune that controlled Avatar was a charismatic cult centered on a former-musician-turned-guru named Mel Lyman, whose psychic hold over his followers was being strengthened and intensified by means of various confrontations and loyalty tests.

Five years later, Kindman fled the commune’s rural outpost in Kansas and headed west, where he eventually settled in San Francisco, came out as a gay man, and changed his name to Mica. When Kindman wrote this important journey into self-discovery, he was working as a home-remodeling contractor, a key activist in the gay men’s pagan spiritual network Radical Faeries, a student, and a person with AIDS. He died peacefully on November 22, 1991, two months after submitting the final draft of his story.

Forewords are by legendary sixties-era author and satirist Paul Krassner, who is often considered the father of the underground press (a charge he disputed by demanding a blood test); and Tommi Avicolli Mecca, author, gay activist, and long-time veteran of the gay press. The preface is by series editor Ken Wachsberger.

Michael Kindman’s revealing memoir … will take you through his adventures and misadventures in the larger context of an evolutionary jump in consciousness, from hippie to the New Age, from a control freak’s cult to individual freedom, from sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll to a spiritual revolution. Ultimately, this book will serve as a multi-faceted slice of countercultural history.—Paul Krassner

Mica’s recapitulation, as he calls it, is a record of an era long past, a time when idealism wasn’t a bad word and questioning was a rite of passage for many of America’s young people. Recapitulations such as his can only help us better understand the strengths of the struggles of the past and how to avoid the mistakes that were all too often made.—Tommi Avicolli Mecca

Kindman’s story will be of particular interest to veterans of the Vietnam era, their children and grandchildren, alumni of Michigan State University, journalists, historians, teachers of writing for self-discovery, members of the gay and lesbian community, therapists with clients who are cult survivors, and anyone who has lost family members to cults, as well as anyone who is interested in reading a compelling autobiography.

The Voices from the Underground Series is collection of histories of underground papers from the Vietnam era as told by key people on each of the papers. The underground press was the independent, antiwar press of the Vietnam era that told the true story, which the corporate papers suppressed, of what our government was doing behind our backs to the Vietnamese people in our name and with our tax dollars.

Stories in the series represent the gay, lesbian, feminist, Black, Puerto Rican, Native American, military, prisoners’ rights, socialist, new age, rank-and-file, Southern consciousness, psychedelic, and other independent antiwar voices of the era as never before told. Volume 1, Insider Histories of the Vietnam Era Underground Press, Part 1, was released earlier this year. Forewords in volume 1 are by Chicago Seed veteran Abe Peck, attorney William Kunstler, and Markos Moulitsas, founder of dailykos.com, one of the most important progressive blog sites of today’s new media.

Voices from the Underground was called “the most important book on American journalism published in my lifetime” by In These Times and was named one of the five most important books in the field of communication for 1993 (Choice) when it appeared in an earlier version in 1993. The Los Angeles Times said it “comes closer than anything I’ve yet read to putting the sights, sounds and texture of the ‘60s on paper.”

Editor Ken Wachsberger is a long-time author, editor, educator, political organizer, public speaker, and consultant who has written, edited, and lectured widely on the Vietnam era, the Holocaust and Jewish resistance during World War II, the First Amendment, writing for self-discovery, and other issues.

To learn more about the Voices from the Underground Series, read many more testimonials, view the entire four-volume table of contents, and get pricing information, go to www.voicesfromtheunderground.com. Then order your copies of volume 1 and 2 today—and spread the word.

Manuscript Arrives for Life of Michael Kindman, Underground Press Legend

I got the word from MSU Press that the edited manuscript of volume 2 of the Voices from the Underground Series is ready for my review.

Volume 2 is the story of Michael Kindman, one of the legends of the Vietnam era underground press. Michael started school at Michigan State University in September 1963 as one of nearly two hundred honors students from around the country who had been awarded National Merit Scholarships, underwritten by MSU and usable only there. Together, they represented by far the largest group of Merit Scholars in any school’s freshman class.

The irony was not lost on the academic community, as MSU, the nation’s first agricultural land grant college, was busy under President John Hannah trying to shed its reputation for being a cow college. Those years immediately followed a period of tremendous expansion on the MSU campus, for reasons that became clear later. But for Michael the first two years were academically bleak for a brilliant mind that was looking to expand.

To do that he had to change his environment. So, two years after coming to MSU, he dropped out of school—despite being in line to become editor in chief of State News, MSU’s student newspaper, and instead founded The Paper, East Lansing’s first underground newspaper and one of the first five members of Underground Press Syndicate, this country’s first nationwide network of underground papers. It was The Paper that helped Ramparts magazine expose MSU’s role from the mid-fifties until 1962 as the CIA’s number one front organization for the government’s war against the people of Vietnam. CIA agents—actively training the South Vietnamese police, “pacifying” the South Vietnamese countryside by pushing peasants into the cities, instituting ID programs, and more—were all the while publicly identified as faculty members at MSU (some actually were MSU faculty even before the CIA involvement, and, in their defense, some were well intentioned and only later became disenchanted). Meanwhile, MSU was being secretly reimbursed through CIA funds that were laundered through the MSU budget.

One of the first articles I ever wrote for the underground press years later was about the return to MSU of Wesley Fishel, publicly identified during those years as an MSU assistant professor but in reality the person who introduced then-exiled Ngo Dinh Diem to powerful U.S. government officials who helped bring him back to power as prime minister of South Vietnam in 1954. Fishel became head of the MSU Group, the program that guided many of these activities. My article appeared in Joint Issue in 1971, about a campus protest that greeted Fishel’s return to the MSU campus after two years of heading the Center for Vietnamese Studies at Southern Illinois University, where he was likewise hounded by protestors.

In early 1968, Michael moved east, settled in Boston, and joined the staff of Boston’s Avatar, unaware that the large, experimental commune that controlled the paper was a charismatic cult centered on a former-musician-turned-guru named Mel Lyman, whose psychic hold over his followers was then being strengthened and intensified by means of various confrontations and loyalty tests. Five years later, Michael fled the commune’s rural outpost in Kansas and headed west, where he eventually settled in San Francisco, came out as a gay man, and changed his name to Mica. When Mica wrote this important journey into self-discovery, he was working as a home-remodeling contractor, a key activist in the gay men’s pagan spiritual network Radical Faeries, a student, and a person with AIDS. He died peacefully on November 22, 1991, two months after submitting the final draft of his story. I never met him personally but—because his underground press activity in East Lansing preceded my activity by two generations of underground papers—I considered him my spiritual grandfather.

His story is a major first-person document of the period and joins three other volumes of major first-person documents in the Voices from the Underground Series.

I received the Mica electronic files as 34 attachments—including frontmatter, backmatter, and main text—plus the style guide in four separate email messages. Not that I’m superstitious but my lucky number is 34. (That also was the number of chapters in my first published novel but the number goes back to my childhood.) My comments are due back by October 28.

On one hand, the announcement couldn’t have come at a worse time as I’m fighting about six other deadlines.

On the other, I look forward to reading the files. I’ll use my best time management skills with a major dose of hyperactivity and I’ll get the job done probably early. I’m especially pleased that MSU Press got them to me early thanks to, obviously, expert time management on the part of the MSUP editorial team. So I owe them no less.