Don “Orfeo” Rechtman
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On the river in San Zhua Lun (三爪仑) National Park, it was a bit rainy and unusually cold. About a third of the way down I broke my bamboo paddle, and was concerned about how to control the raft. Then, true to the Taoist philosophy of "go with the flow," another paddle showed up: it was apparently lost by another rafter who decided not to go with the flow and apparently got it stuck between two rocks. Only the top part of the handle was visible, but I yanked it free, Excalibur sword style, and again had raft control, but not as much as I had hoped, as seen at the end of my trip! (Maybe I should have just relaxed and gone with the flow.)
It is a matter of public record that I have a Federal felony record. I refused to join the army and kill innocent people in Viet Nam. After I came to China, I discovered an army that seems to have as its primary directive to help build the Nation, and a secondary directive to defend its country. (This is in sharp contrast to the American army, whose primary directive still seems to be to invade foreign countries and kill innocent people.) The Red (Chinese) Army is fulfilling a dream many have had for a United Nations army: an army committed to Peace rather than war. Were I young enough, I would have no hesitation joining today's Red Army.
When first entering Chinese schools, all students get several weeks' military training, American ROTC style. No weapons, but lots of marching, lots of pomp. China is very big into style and show. I had the privilege to participate in this year's training at my school, both as a student and a teacher. It was exciting teaching the English students the commands used for marching by the American military. I told them that finally we would be hearing the use of English commands for Peace rather than for war!
In 1971 my parents spent over $6,000 to cover my court costs when I fought the Viet Nam War in the courts; despite their best efforts, years later I still ended up wearing military fatigues!
I had lunch with members of the Red Army who were assisting with training the students.
As part of the military training graduation, students were presented to a show. During recruitment, just about all students saw me perform my song The Lover's Waltz. As part of my presentation, I would randomly select a female student to sing to. So it was a big hit when I showed up at their graduation in my military uniform, and was an even bigger hit when I sang the song to two students rather than just one!
A highlight of my high school career was attending a party hosted by fellow eccentric student Charles Hinkle. He greeted me at the door, wearing a top hat, shook hands with me in welcome, then turned and stepped away, first on his left foot, then his right foot, then his other foot! That costume inspired me years later to create the "Siamese Nerds" costume you see below. It was first seen in Boulder, Colorado on Halloween night, 1998, with me and my Siamese nerd twin Curtis Martin. In 2003, my other half was my cousin Scott. We entered a costume contest, were brought back for the second round, but apparently a "fifth leg" wasn't considered sexy enough; everyone lost to someone dressed as a twelve-foot tall green "Green Giant" penis.
In Boulder, I created the "head on a platter" costume. It won prizes, but unfortunately lacked the mobility most find useful for Halloween parties. However, when the head "woke up," it was quite a hit as a punster, saying things like "My mother told me to quit while I was ahead," and "Hey, baby, wanna neck? I do!," and "Hey, baby, how about a date? I give great head!" "How did this happen? I told the barber 'just a little off the neck.'" And of course, inspired by Marty Feldman's classic line in the movie Young Frankenstein, the head would break out in singing "Ain't Got Nobody."
From 1970 through 1975, I worked in the health food / nutrition business. The store was Atlanta Nutrition Center. I also gave talks on nutrition at various events and on radio.
When I moved to Colorado in 1993 I spent my first three months in Colorado Springs, which is next to Pikes Peak. On May 11, 1993, I had the great privilege of being Margot Adler's escort to Pikes Peak when she was invited to join other religious leaders to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the penning of America the Beautiful. Some of the more conservative religious leaders dropped out when they heard that a pagan priestess (Ms. Adler) would be participating, but others were quickly found to replace them. All the guests rode up to the top for free on the cog railway. Half up the one hour ride, someone noticed me playing my lap harp and suggested I accompany them in singing America the Beautiful. That evening I was seen on the local news accompanying 13 singing religious leaders from diverse religions and various parts of America.
Failed Peace March
I created a large sign for the March 18, 2003 Peace March in Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, it and two recent national elections are yet to stop the killing.