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faqs :: PB - Recollections of Him
4. PB's Appearence
Images of how PB looked and his lifestyle
First of all, I knew PB only as an elderly man, and briefly at that - from 1974 until his death; that leaves a lot of room for other impressions. I also noticed that almost everything about his appearance and behavior was mobile - he didn't so much 'adapt' to circumstances and personalities, as meld with them.
Images of PB from my stays and visits:
First, PB was a slight and short man, barely topping 5 feet. He was very agile and usually quite graceful in his movements and mannerisms. His voice was usually as soft as a whisper, and as penetrating as a wonderful perfume or incense. He was not hard to hear; I often felt that he had to keep his voice so gentle and soft-spoken, as even at ordinary volume the power within him would break glass and burst minds. His demeanor was: arctic impersonal; jauntily casual; wittily literary; silent; receptive; Cockney; elderly; wry; remote; 'on safari;' beatnik; gentlemanly; noble; magical; fragile; old; ancient; human, and Light.
Whenever He greeted me at the door, I never knew what I would see from one day to the next.
Our first meeting: PB was wearing a red bolo tie, short-sleeve faded Hawaiian shirt, a gold lame vest, disco bell-bottoms, and open sandals. He had a three day beard, and leaned bohemian style against the door jamb as he talked with me.
The next day: PB was wearing what I thought of as his Author's clothes - a comfortable colored shirt, a cardigan sweater, grey slacks, quality shoes. This was the most common attire he wore, especially during my second (and longer) stay with him.
Moroccan: sometimes he would wear a little Moroccan cap (sort of a squared-off skull cap), a warm shirt and loose-fitting pants that somehow felt more Mid-eastern than European, and oriental slippers.
Old Man: sometimes when we went out shopping it seemed to me that he literally disguised himself as a frail old man: he would wear oversize galoshes, a heavy and oversize overcoat, carry a cane, and wear a battered old Fedora. He didn't look like a homeless person so much as someone about 100 years old being led around the block by their great grand children. In this outfit he would stumble and waver on his feet, giving me all the cardiac exercise I would ever care to have.
On Safari: Other times when we went to Lausanne (a day trip by train), he would wear all khaki, a sensible hat for sun or rain, and a light rain coat should the weather warrant. In this ensemble one became aware that here was a man who had trodden on many, many remote pathways of the outer as well as the inner world. He didn't look affected in this outfit at all, nor emit a gung-ho sort of 'vibe', so much as radiate the attitude of an explorer more at home in the mountains than the towns, and not caring who knew it.
My Lord: Sometimes he would wear the most dignified and tailored clothes I have ever seen on a Western man: a navy blue silk suit with real gold buttons, a perfect white shirt with gold cuff-links (given to him, he said, by Comte de St. Germain [this might have been the truth or him pulling my leg; he was capable of both]), polished black diplomat's shoes, & a silk top hat (on the short side, to match rather than mock his stature). He also had the same sort of ensemble in 'grey flannels.' He only wore these clothes when genuine royalty or other European dignitaries visited him (which happened about once a month). When PB wore these clothes, his own inner dignity and, if I may say so, Glory, absolutely shone forth, intensifying the ongoing awareness of his Presence that at times was addictively, terribly, unbearable.
I would be surprised if others who knew PB far better than I would completely disagree with these impressions: it was so obvious that His nature was responding/revealing as much as I could handle and comprehend, which was and is a long way from His Truth.
Lifestyle of a Retired Author Expat. PB lived quite simply, but not stringently. He shopped for his food (or had a visitor do so) practically every day in the local markets. At the time, that was the norm for everyone in the area; few apartments had full-sized refrigerators. He saved his paper sacks for reuse, but threw them out when they were worn out, and had a compact little collection of various sized sacks and bags: the rest he recycled. He would get an aged valise repaired for the 100th time, and toss his carpet sweeper out in favor of a new one - repairing where the time/cost was favorable, replacing when that was more efficient. In fact, that word, efficient, would best describe his life-style, as would economical.
Also dynamic. During one phase of my stay, there were many visitors, some of great worldly renown. At that time, the living room was transformed into an interview room: tangkas came and went according to the visitor: (nothing Chinese for the Tibetan, nothing Hindu for the Christian); the color scheme remained dominantly bright red-orange, with earth-tones and off-whites softening the potency of the red-orange furnishings and upholstery (which I believe diluted the visual impact of PB's aura somewhat). If there was to be one visitor, then there'd would be two chairs and a low coffee table set to create distance; if it was someone he was close to (as it were), the coffee table would be replaced by a small tea-table that afforded closer proximity. If two people came, they would be seated either on a settee, or a couch (allowing them to sit further from each other) or on separate chairs. (This furniture moving took only a few minutes somehow, and the rest of the apartment was shifted accordingly - couch out of study, extra chairs in, etc.)
After a few months of visitors, PB changed gears and everything in the living room was piled in a big heap in the center of the room - including the ceiling light fixture! After an adventurous day in the attic store-room, and another at the hardware store, the living room was transformed into a writing/study room, with a bright white ceiling light, white lights on a writing desk, book cases and a meditation chair replacing the orange lamps and couches. It was like walking into the director's office at the British Museum Library (which I'd seen, and so, presumably, had PB). At this time the walls were hung with a tapestry of the Pyramids and Sphinx, and several Turner Prints (images that had been meaningful for me long before this stay, and which made me feel quite at home).
When he was recovering from minor surgery, this room was transformed once again into a 'day room' - with lots of plants (which were brought out of the study and kitchen), the coffee table, the big couch for PB to lie on, low but white lights, one orange lamp, and lots of Chinese decorations: a silk robe made for him during his stay there, three floor-to-ceiling paintings of Confucius, Chou-Tun-I, and the Buddha (a la Chinese).
The thing that struck me most was how flexible he was within his own accommodations. I could describe the shifting designs of his bed-room and the study, but let me say they were of the same nature - though one additional image comes to mind. One of the visitors PB had was a man of vigorous and inconsiderate or unconscious behavior (something I learned more about later in life). In anticipation of this visitor, PB got a twinkle in his eye and spent an afternoon with me planning and designing a Rube-Goldberg type invention. When this man opened the door to the hall closet where he would hang his outer coat, the door would catch on a string, preventing it from opening more than half-way; a second tug allowed the door to open further, and caused a little sign to drop down to (the visitor's) eye level that said "QUIET PLEASE." PB was pleased with this little device, which had the desired startling and stilling effect on his guest - but he seemed a little disappointed that we couldn't figure out how to also rig something that would give a buzz or tingle to the closet door-knob. Such inventiveness abounded in PB's apartment, but seldom with that degree of whimsy: an extra hole was drilled into his tea kettle lid to soften the whistle; part of a chimney pipe was shaped so that PB could better see the flame on his stove on a sunny day; he combined an incense burner and a table leg to produce a beautiful little lamp which gave him the desired bedside illumination; one set of tea cups he had were priceless China, another was actually from a children's tea party set, both were actually beautifully made, and very pleasant to handle.
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