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Hollywood Portrait: The Dreamer

Milo Lavender contemplates the nature of time and the meaning of life in Hollywood.

Hollywood Portrait: The Dreamer

His long harlequin tattoo covering one eye got my attention first, accompanied by a big smile. Traveling through America with his French girlfriend and little else but wanderlust, he was happy to spend a few moments talking. When I asked him if he had any time, he said, "I have nothing but time," and then proceeded to explain the nature of time, as he sees it, along with his vision of a better world.

Name: Milo Lavender

Your real name?  It’s both real and imaginary. Kind of like Hollywood! [Laughs]

Age: 27

Original Hometown: Larchmont, New York

What do you do? I live. And dream.

What do you dream about? A better world. A world with no hunger, no poverty. A world beyond war.

Do you think that is possible? We have to believe it’s possible. We have no choice. We must envision a better world.

How do we make it happen? Through magic thinking and real thinking. Trust in God but tie your camel. Because people will steal your camel. They always say God helps those who help themselves, and I know that’s true. Cause this earth, it’s a big classroom. We’re here to learn. And a lot of the lessons we are here to learn aren’t a lot of fun. They’re lessons of sorrow, of betrayal, illness, tragedy. But God wants you to take these classes – and learn even the hardest, most painful lessons. And hopefully learn those lessons, take them in.

People will steal your soul if you let them. Some people believe a camera can steal your soul, if you get your photo taken.

Do you believe that? Actually no. It’s the opposite. Every time you have your photo taken, new pages get added to the book of your soul. Which is why I smile when you focus on my face. Take as many as you like.

We all exist on many levels at once, in many lifetimes. This idea of narrative, chronological time in which we live is just an illusion created by our limited human perspective. It’s like being in a movie theater all the time so you believe what’s on the screen is real. And it is. But it’s not the whole story. You’re sitting in a theater in the dark, and outside of that theater there is a whole other world. But the movie of our lives is so vivid, so dimensional and dramatic and emotional that we are distracted to the extent that we forget the source of our lives. We forget a projector is throwing those images up there. But there is a reality beyond this movie, a reality in which time doesn’t flow like a river, it is an ocean.

Hollywood itself is multi-dimensional; it contains many eras all at once. It does, I agree. Which is why I was drawn here and why you were drawn here. All of Hollywood does exist at once – the time before the movies came to town when this was all about orchards and beautiful gardens – Paul DeLongpre, you know, had famous gardens here. So did L. Frank Baum, who created Oz. He lived over on Cherokee in Ozcot – and he and Mrs. Baum had award-winning flowers, just sumptuous gardens. Now a gray non-descript house stands where Ozcot was, this little paradise of beauty and fantasy. He didn’t create Oz there, but he nurtured it, like his garden. He watered it, gave it sun.

“Now it is time to cross the shifting sands” was the last sentence he uttered according to his wife. When he was gone, she felt the magic of Oz had gone with him and she sold their parcel of heaven and it was officially demolished, I think, in 1959. Everything got demolished in 1959. But you go there and, you know, Ozcot is still there. You can still hear its music, smell its flowers. you can feel the rhythm of his patchwork dreams.

Do you believe Hollywood is spiritually unique? Absolutely. Poets and writers and artists have known this for many decades. This area is magnetically impregnated with powerful spiritual energy. It’s why so much art has been created here – why the miracle of movies was brought here to flourish and expand, to learn how to speak and sing and dance.

There are lines of power that go through the earth, and if you align yourself with these lines, you can draw on the energy, which is limitless. It’s a direct line, you can draw it from the heart of Hollywood Boulevard and Cahuenga – which is the very core of the energy, the source – up into the hills to the Vedanta Society and Krotona – religious societies that came here to mine this golden energy before the movies were born. And it goes through Krotona up through the hills to the Hollywood sign and beyond.

It’s the energy that made the movies flicker and talk. The energy that allowed big bands play with so much fire and passion, that fed the soul of jazz before becoming electric and tribal and birthing rock and roll, so the Hollywood Bowl stands as a tribute to Christ and Easter and that electric cross in the hills, but also for the Beatles, who played at the Bowl and made that Capitol Tower on Vine Street sing and matter. It’s all connected, from the days of magic lanterns projecting images on bed sheets to Charlie Chaplin’s poetry of silence to Sid Grauman’s movie shrines evoking ancient spirits and civilizations – the Egyptian Theater, and the Chinese Theatre, these sphinxes along the boulevard, and these mythic stars in the sidewalk, and the footprints of kings and clowns in cement along the very boulevard where the King used to stroll. Elvis always stayed at the Knickerbocker Hotel [on Ivar], you know, he liked it far better than the Beverly Wilshire. When he brought his parents to Hollywood and his family, he put them up at the Knickerbocker, just a block away from where the Capitol Tower would rise in time for the Beatles to explode songs and the world and its spirit.  John Lennon learned how to write “Help” from Bob Dylan, who studied the Torah and Tin Pan Alley. And Lennon told us to imagine a better world. And he sang, “you may say that I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one.” You may say I’m a dreamer, too, and you’d be right. But I’m not the only one either.

It’s all myth, all magic and miracle, all the music and songs of the greatest songwriters – the Gershwins and Harold Arlen changing this country with the beauty of their music – and Stravinsky here rewriting all the rules on a piano he gave to Bob Dylan, and all of America and the world lives in these dreams and songs and movies manufactured here in our Hollywood laboratories and factories. And in these eternal songs that Lennon & McCartney wrote, songs as important in our time as Beethoven in his.

You seem very connected to Hollywood of the past – Because we live in that past. And in the future. All of time is simultaneous. We live many lives. But all at once. Because we are so geared to chronological time, we think of these lives as sequential, as coming one after the other like chapters in a book. But step outside of that limited realm, and you see the whole book exists. It’s been written. Sure, you can experience it in order, chapter after chapter, page after page. But you can hold the whole book in your hand, the ending and beginning and all its content, all of it at once.

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