Trapped By Circumstance

In 1983, when I was in graduate school, they had re-released the movie, Last Tango in Paris. As I had never seen the movie upon its original release, (I was too young as it was rated X), I decided to go and see it as it had become a modern classic. It was playing at only a few theaters around L.A. One of them was on Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills.

I had a few hours to kill this one early afternoon before my classes were to begin in the evening. I remember I invited my girlfriend but she was mad at me about something. I had probably done something she didn’t like. In any case, I went by myself.


I saw the movie and was on my way out when the man who took my ticket at the door, asked, “Are you Scott?”

As it turns out, he was a guy I went to high school with. In fact, in high school, we were friends. We often walked to school together.

In high school, he was one of those really smart people. I mean, you could just sense his intelligence. I really felt the guy was going to go far.

Me, on the other hand, I was anything but a good student. My mind was far more fixated upon my work with the Sufi Order, the Integral Yoga Institute, playing music, traveling up and down the coast, and following a few other abstract roads to spirituality that most people did not understand.

When we were in high school, he lived in a bungalow apartment with his parents a few blocks from where I lived. His father was a longhaired projectionist at a movie theater in Hollywood. That seemed like a pretty cool job back then. Plus, he had long hair, which was more than unusual among parents of that era. It meant that he, “Understood,” and that he was cool.


But, more than that, his father owned one of the first synthesizers in the home that I had ever seen. He was pursing a career as an electronic musician.

I had long been enthralled with electronic music since its birth. His father was a true inspiration to me. Wow, I thought, you could actually have your own synthesizer in the 1970s. As soon as I could afford it, I bought one. My first synthesizer was a Roland SH 3.

In the lobby of the theater that day, after we got reacquainted for a moment or two, he asked me what I was doing in life. I told him I had spent some time in India, was in graduate school, was teaching the martial arts, was writing, pursing music, and so on. I had no intention of creating this affect but I could see his face drop. He, in fact, made the common, “You’re doing all that and I just work here at a theater.” I guess it didn’t help, but I explained to him I thought that he would go on to college after high school and do something big. “There’s still time, man!” I exclaimed. I mean, we were only twenty-four years old.


For those of you who may not know, here in California, in the 1970s, up to the early 1980, the community colleges were virtually free to attend if you were a California resident and had a high school diploma. All you had to do was buy your books. Anybody could and should go. I did.

I mean look at me, the bad student, who was far more focused on other aspects of living life. I went through the community college system, transferred to a university, and had ended up in graduate school. But, my one time friend never choose that path. He had followed in his father’s footsteps.


Now, this may be a bit hard to understand for you who grew up in other places. But, in Hollywood, there were the haves and the have not’s. There were those who lived in the Hollywood Hills, some of them in virtual palatial mansions. And then, there were those of us who lived south of Hollywood Blvd. Like my friend and I. We were the ones born of the working class. Not the children of producers, directors, industry moguls, rock stars, deejays, and movie stars.

“The Haves,” whether they were smart, talented, or not, seemed to be presented with a path paved in gold. The others of us… Well, we were not.


Except in one case… A situation that truly motived me in life.

Back when I was in school, junior high was three years: seventh through ninth grade and high school was three years: tenth through twelfth grade. So, our first year at Hollywood High was tenth grade. I know it has changed since then...

The first year, there was this guy, who lived up in the hills, who scored with a couple of the prettiest freak girls on campus. We referred to ourselves as, “Freaks,” back then because we had long hair and were more or less ostracized from society. You know, we were the drugies and the etc…


This guy dropped out in the beginning of eleventh grade. One day, early in the twelfth grade, I see the guy. His long locks are gone and he is wearing a green jumpsuit. He had become a janitor at our school.

Now, certainly there is nothing wrong with being a janitor. It is a needed profession. But, not only did this guy come from money, his future could have been joyous, if he had only played the game. He didn’t. Thus, the guy who had it all in tenth grade, by the twelfth grade, his road to the stars was over.


Now, believe me, being who I was and involved in the numerous off campus activities that I was, I had many times pondered dropping out of high school. Seeing this guy, however, sealed the deal. I would finish high school and do something with my life.

But back to the main subject... After we spoke for a few minutes, I left the theatre. I never saw my one time friend again. At least not yet...

I really felt for the guy, however, because he was a good dude that could have truly succeeded in life. But, he was trapped by circumstance. I’m sure he needed to get a job after high school to help pay the bills. There was probably no time for college or pursing whatever dreams he had.


In my life, I taught yoga and the martial arts. So, I could make money while remaining more or less free to pursue my life goals. Sadly, it is not this way for everybody. They are trapped by circumstance.

I believe that we need to think about this whenever we question why someone has ended up where they have ended up.