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the Wanderling

When I was around eleven or twelve years old or so I spent two summers living lightly on the land like a forest monk on the east side of the High Sierras under the auspices of my Uncle. During one of those summers, on return to our main camp after having being gone several days and driving up to Whitney Portal followed by a climb to the summit, my uncle and I stopped at the compound of a man of deep spiritual Attainment that he knew in some fashion by the name of Franklin Merrell-Wolff --- an introduction that I woefully admit meant nothing to me at the time or for years to come. As the slow series of events unfolded I had no surface understanding that the meeting was actually almost a mirror image of an earlier encounter under completely different yet still similar circumstances --- opening a window to things to come through a door from the past.[1]

After a brief introduction, Merrell-Wolff took my hand and the the two of us walked slowly a few steps alone along an uneven rock strewn path, stopping only when we came upon a sweeping vista of the full extent of the mountains before us. Waving his hand in the air across the top of the peaks he told me there were trees on the mountains a thousand years old and in the sky above, stars millions of years old. He then said I was not yet twelve, nowhere near the age of the ancient trees or the stars, but we were ALL made of the samething with the same thought. It was as though someone had unexpectedly dumped a 55 gallon drum of ice cold water on me from behind. A feeling rushed over me if only for an instant but seemingly for an eternity, scaring me so much I ran back down the the rough, heavily strewn rocky path as fast as I thought I was able. However, my forward momentum was even faster --- as if I was gliding, my feet seemingly not making any real contact with the ground, almost as though the wind was carrying me and in the process I was part of the wind and the path as well --- blowing me right into the arms of my uncle, all the while still shaking and shivering all over.[2]

My uncle held me tight for the longest time. Then, sending me off with the other kids so I would not be within earshot but maintaining an ever watchful eye, he and Wolff sat and talked a long while. When they were done my uncle stood up, shook Merrell-Wolff's hand, thanked him, and we headed back to the car. All that time and for hours on end everything seemed as though I was looking through a 3-D viewer. Sounds carried a clarity I never remembered, and smells and odors waifted through my nostrils like never before --- I could even smell my own armpits. When we arrived at camp I was tired and wasted and fell asleep for what seemed like forever. When I awoke the sensations were gone.[3]

As far as Merrell-Wolff and my uncle are concerned it is not totally clear how the two of them met or knew each other in the first place. It was, however, I think, put into place initially through an early loose-knit association with my father that had long since faded.

Somewhere in my writings I tell how my father was fascinated with the Lost Dutchman Mine, primarily because he had spent a great deal of time as a gold prospector in his youth. Sometime prior to or during the Depression my father along with a man with the first name of "King" and another man by the name of Walt Bickel, had gone to the gold fields of the Sierras to pan for gold, eventually setting up a full-fledged claim with sluce boxes and all. Merrell-Wolff was a gold prospector as well and it was during that time he and my father crossed paths. I am sure it was through that connection my uncle and Merrell-Wolff came to know each other.[4]

After my mother died my dad was married several times, became a heavy drinker and smoked packs and packs of cigaretts a day. My uncle was much more spiritual and, even though my dad and Merrell-Wolff may have been friends at one time, my uncle and he had a much closer kinship.

At the time of the incident at the Merrell-Wolff compound I was traveling with my uncle, my two brothers, a cousin, a boy around my age somehow related to my stepmother by the name of Richard, and a kid my stepmother picked-up the tab on we called Bub President Hudson. The kid was the son of some movie actress my dad or uncle knew that went on-and-on continuously all day and night telling us that his mom was a spy and that she went to school with Tarzan.[5] Interestingly enough, out of us all, I was the ONLY ONE Merrell-Wolff chose to guide along the path that day.

I have really been unable to pinpoint specifically which of the two summers, 1949 or 1950, that Franklin Merrell-Wolff and I met at his compound in the Sierras. However, there is one event that I remember quite well that should help in determining which of the two summers was the summer we met.

Amazingly enough, during one of the summers my uncle made it possible for me to see the planet Venus in the sky well into daylight hours. Apparently he had tracked it since sunrise and knew where to look. He had me lay down on the ground in a tall strand of pine trees that blocked everything in a 360 degree circle around me except the open blue sky directly above. There, straight up in the sky right in the middle of the day was the planet Venus.


In an article by P.S. Watson titled Planets for 1949 found in "Popular Astronomy" Volume 57, Page 23, Watson wrote, referring to the northern hemisphere and more specifically the U.S. at 40 degrees latitude, that at the beginning the year 1949 Venus would be a morning star rising shortly before dawn, but would soon move towards the Sun to reappear as an evening star during the latter part of April and would remain an evening star for the rest of the year --- pretty much eliminating Venus being seen during the daylight hours during the summer of 1949. However, a year later in Volume 58 of "Popular Astronomy," Page 22, Planets for 1950, again by P.S. Watson, it is a different story. For Venus during the year 1950 Watson wrote:

"Venus will be an evening star for the first months of the year but will move towards the Sun to pass inferior conjunction on January 30. After this date it becomes a morning star remaining until the middle of November. Greatest brilliancy occurs on March 7 and greatest elongation on April 11. This will not be a favorable elongation, however, as the planet will not rise during most of this time until the beginning of morning twilight."

It can be pretty much be extrapolated from the above quote that after April 11th, going into the summer months of the year 1950 Venus would have been absolutely perfect for viewing during daylight hours, that is, if you knew where to look. And my uncle did.

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Fundamentally, our experience as experienced is not different from the Zen master's. Where
we differ is that we place a fog, a particular kind of conceptual overlay onto that experience
and then make an emotional investment in that overlay, taking it to be "real" in and of itself.














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As to the subject of donations, for those who may be so interested as it applies to the gratefulness of my works, I invariably suggest any funds be directed toward THE WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT and/or THE AMERICAN RED CROSS.




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"As the slow series of events unfolded I had no surface understanding that the meeting was actually almost a mirror image of an earlier encounter under completely different yet still similar circumstances --- opening a window to things to come through a door from the past."

Such is not totally the case, primarily because of extenuating circumstances that transpired some years prior to my meeting with Merrell-Wolff. Those extenuating circumstances being what I have chosen to call or given the name Mitigating Circumstances, as presented below and in context in The Last American Darshan, linked further down. They are the primary focus and cause of the lengthy blackout period experienced by me shortly after my return from India. That blackout period pretty much wiped clean all traces of my memory over a period of several years at one of the most crucial times of my life --- taken together, most definitely, a wide ranging series of almost unsurmountable Mara induced impediments. To wit:

Upon my return from India, with my mother dead, my two brothers dispersed across the country living with separate families and my father long gone, my grandmother, before the chance arose for me to be placed into a foster home, took me. I was with her but a few months when we went to see her only remaining child, a daughter, my mother's younger sister. Her husband, unrelated to any of the events surrounding the death of my mother or the falling apart of my side of the family, had swirled, somewhat quickly, into a relentless state of deep depression. My grandmother went to lend support to her daughter, taking me with her. One day, after going shopping all day long in town with my grandmother and her daughter and her two children, we returned and pulled up in front of the garage. I got out of the car and opened the two side-by-side wooden garage doors. There right in front of me on the floor of the garage only a few feet away in the glare of the headlights, in a slowly expanding pool of blood, was what was left of the husband of my mother's sister. The whole back of his head blown out from the blast of a double barrel shotgun he stuck in his mouth. His body laying there apparently falling off a still upright straight-back wooden chair with his once onetime skull full of brain now empty. Gone were all the synapses and neurons and everything that went with them, turned now into nothing but bloody silver-gray yellowish meat splattered all over the upper reaches of the nearby open-studded walls and exposed rafters.

There I was, a little kid barely even closing down on six or seven years of age, not long returned from India, without a mother, having missed both her final days and her funeral as well, standing with my mouth open, staring down on what only minutes before was someone else dear to me, not just gone, but excruciatingly gone. My aunt, stunned into disbelief at what she saw, with the car still in gear and engine running let her foot slip from the clutch as she apparently tried to step out of the car and run toward her husband. The vehicle lurched forward in one huge leap, crashing into the swung open garage door knocking it and me down and rendering me unconscious. It took months and months and reasons unknown before I suddenly came out of a nearly amnesia-like walking coma --- and even then, not fully so until years later. Everything that I knew and should have remembered about my mother's sickness, India, the time leading up to that moment in the garage, and being with my grandmother, either evaporated or was deeply covered over. Days, weeks, months, all gone. In closing that gap I remembered only up to one side, a side well before my mother ever got sick. A happy loving childhood with a mother and father and playing with my brothers and kids in the neighborhood. A house full of toys and my older brother learning to ride a bicycle. Then suddenly out of nowhere finding myself months later on the other side, getting out of a car clutching a tiny suitcase with nothing but a handful of crummy belongings and sack full of dirty underwear and not knowing how I got there. Standing on the sidewalk not much more than a simple beleaguered young boy with no mother and a father long gone, being taken by a stranger to live with a couple that owned a flower shop, a couple I was sure I had never seen or heard of in my life --- followed by a period of time which encompassed the failure of me to stay with the flower shop people for very long before running away --- on more than one occasion --- and because of same, ending up with living with my grandmother and uncle, with everything else in-between those two moments of my short childhood gone.



It should be noted that Adam Osborne, who, as a young boy grew up at the Ramana ashram and the son of one of the foremost Ramana biographers Arthur Osborne, played a prominent role in the Last American Darshan as linked above.


I am always reminded of a running event similar to the one that happened to me while I was visiting Merrell-Wolff's, but observed in the Himalayas by an explorer named Alexandra David-Neel who spent 14 years in Tibet. She reports that while traveling high in the mountains she saw a man moving with extraordinary speed and described the event as follows:

"I could clearly see his perfectly calm impassive face and wide-open eyes with their gaze fixed on some invisible distant object situated somewhere high up in space. The man did not run. He seemed to lift himself from the ground, proceeding by leaps. It looked as if he had been endowed with the elasticity of a ball, and rebounded each time his feet touched the ground. His steps had the regularity of a pendulum."

SHAMBHALA, The People’s Almanac #3 by David Wallechinsky and Irving Wallace



In the above main text, speaking of my father and his onetime youthful pursuit as a gold prospector, I write:

"(My) father was fascinated with the Lost Dutchman Mine, primarily because he had spent a great deal of time as a gold prospector in his youth. Sometime prior to or during the Depression my father along with a man with the first name of "King" and another man by the name of Walt Bickel, had gone to the gold fields of the Sierras to pan for gold, eventually setting up a full-fledged claim with sluce boxes and all."

My mother died while I was a very young age. Most of my childhood following her death was spent living with people other than my father. I did, however, starting around age ten years or so spend time with him once in awhile on weekend trips and parts of a couple of summer vacations. Those trips usually circulated around fishing, camping and gold prospecting in his favorite haunts along the eastside of the Sierras and into the desert in and around Death Valley. To facilitate his trips, as long as I could remember he always owned four-wheel drive vehicles. On one of the trips he picked me up in a World War II army ambulance he fixed up like a camper. We were headed north up the 14 from Los Angeles toward the 395 and got as far as Red Rock Canyon when the front U-joint on the rear-drive drive shaft came loose allowing the it to drop to the highway and bending the shaft beyond use. Any other time it would not have been a problem because he could have driven just using the front wheels. However, on this trip, for highway driving, he had removed the front drive shaft. When he went to get it out of the back of the truck he discovered he somehow left it in Los Angeles. He decided to hitchhike back to L.A. and pick up the shaft, but, figuring traveling with a kid might present a hinderance, he left me for a few days at the rather rustic mining camp of a friend of his by the name of Walter Bickel.

Typically he would have stopped in Cantil, a small town just to the east of Red Rock Canyon where the truck broke down, to see a good friend of my stepmother's by the name of Pancho Barnes. However, my dad and stepmother were going into, getting or just got a divorce and he did not want to explain it all to Barnes.

Bickel, who just happened to live in a place called Last Chance Canyon right next to Red Rock Canyon and my dad went way, way back. They were both born in the same year, 1905, and in the same month less that two weeks apart. They met in the goldfields very early on. My dad made it a habit to stop by and see Bickel on a regular basis during his forays into the desert, but, even though my dad and I did not travel all that much together, and I wasn't with him at the time, it was my second visit to the camp.

In an essay written by the past Curator of the Maturango Museum in Ridgecrest, California, the following is found:

"Last Chance Canyon was not the first experience Walt had with mining, but 'it was the first place I panned enough gold to think there might be more.' He prospected for gold and silver all over the upper Mojave Desert, from Jawbone Canyon to Owens Lake and into Nevada and Arizona. He originally saw the Last Chance Canyon area in 1927 while on the way to Nevada with a friend. It apparently made an impression because, in 1933, when he met a man in Mojave who had a mine in Last Chance Canyon, Walt and a friend had enough interest to go with him to see his mine." (source)

The 1927 friend was my father, not so sure about the 1933 friend. Bickel married in 1928 and my dad in 1931. Both started families shortly thereafter interfering with the close contact they had previously. The essay goes on to say:

"Walt placer-mined his claims, using a dry washer. Because a lot of the gold he collected is what he calls a "fine flour gold", and to make the most of his time and get the most out of his claims, he modified the current model of the miner's dry washer to retrieve up to 97 percent of the fine gold from the dirt."

My dad originally started prospecting using sluce boxes in the northern Sierras but moved to dry washers in the desert like Bickel in later years. The modified, more efficient, drywasher mentioned above that Bickel used to retrieve 97 percent of the fine gold was actually an inovation originally concocted by my father. Matter of fact, my older brother had one of the modified drywashers my dad built for years. Several years after the man who married my mother's sister committed suicide she tried to raise two kids and remain in her home. After years of struggle she eventually lost everything because of back taxes. A lien was put against her property and what was left behind was put up for auction. Unknown to any of us, over the years, my father had stored some of his things at her place, of which one was one of the drywashers he built. The drywasher ended up in a local antique shop where my brother ran across it and bought it. The first time I saw it I recognized it as being just like the one Bickel used.

After my discharge from the Military it was not unusual for me to visit what my Mentor called his High Mountain Zendo some distance north and into the mountains from Bickel's compound. Two or three times in the mid to late 60s either on the way to or returning from the Zendo, as described in The Letter, I stopped by Bickel's to pay my respects and update him on my dad who was in pretty bad shape, and eventually died within a few years after being caught in a fire while on the job. I was always invited to stay a night or so and on one or two occasions I did. During one of those one or two night stays I was introduced to a man by the name of Alex Apostolides who, at the time just happened to be doing archaeological surveys and field work under the aegis of UCLA. After talking Mayan Ruins for short period of time, in a small talk BS sort of way I dredged up the only other piece of information I thought might be of interest, mentioning I knew a man by the name of Carlos Castaneda who was a student in the department at UCLA at one time and had been, I was told, doing field work in Arizona and New Mexico. Surprisingly enough, Apostolides knew Castaneda. He told me Castaneda was now a graduate student working on his PhD and, although Apostolides was NOT totally familiar with the content of what Castaneda was writing, that he would soon have a book published --- the FIRST I heard of Castaneda being in the process of doing so since hearing about in a roundabout way of an uncompleted nonfiction manuscript Castaneda attempted to write he called "Dial Operator." I told him the last time I saw Castaneda was several years before in a Greyhound bus station in Nogales, Arizona. Of course that bus station encounter, unknown to me at the time and what continued to be so even up to the time I met Apostolides --- and seemingly unimportant to Apostolides as well --- turned out to be Castaneda's infamous Nogales Bus Station Meeting where he claimed to have met the mainstay in all his books, Don Juan Matus.

In the above text I write that being left at Bickel's camp by my father was actually my second visit. The first visit came about because as a very young boy I had, again, as mentioned above, inadvertently stumbled across the suicide of a revered family member. Hours later I was found wandering out in the middle of the desert all alone, dehydrated, mind-numb, and basically out-of-it, by an old, onetime Borax 20 Mule Team mule-skinner. He inturn took me to Bickel's place.

The incredible coincidence to it all, and completely unrelated to me being taken to Bickel's encampment by the onetime mule-skinner, was the discovery by Bickel that his original prospecting partner back in the old days when he first started out was MY father. When I told Bickel my name I don't recall if I gave him both names or not, but in either case, it didn't seem to register one way or the other --- nor in my mind or his was there any reason it should have. But later in conversation, when he asked what I liked to eat and I told him I liked "howdy beans" his jaw fell nearly to the floor. Apparently my dad was known up and down the old mining camps for a concoction he used to cook up called howdy beans. How it was told to me was, while other miners went to work their claims, on a rotating basis, one miner would stay back and cook grub and clean the camp. When it was my dad's turn he invariably made howdy beans because so many miners requested it. The concept of howdy beans was such an inside story that nobody but someone associated with the early mining camps would have known anything about them. When I told him that before my mother died my dad used to make howdy beans whenever we went camping, Bickel put two-and-two together --- I was the son of his old partner. For the full story on that encounter click HERE.

FOLLOW UP NOTE: Now, while it is true I haven't been excessively over inundated by thousands and thousands of people interested in Apostolides and any relation he might have had with Castaneda one way or the other, for the number who have read and responded to the above they seem to fall into several distinct catagories. First, those who never heard of Apostolides and not interested one way or the other, being tired of pretenders to the Don Juan throne. Second, those who never heard of him and would like to know more about him. Third, those who say even if he did know Castaneda he had no impact one way or the other. And last, those who have read about him and say he was so important they are convinced Castaneda modeled Don Juan around him.

Even though Apostolides himself told me he was NOT totally familiar with the content of what Castaneda was writing, some people, especially those from the last group, have expressed concern over my above comment that implies because he did not find the bus station encounter important at the level I feel he should have --- the bus station encounter being the major KEY to all of Castaneda's writings --- that Apostolides may have not actually been invlolved with Castaneda at the level he claimed or possibly at any level. Some who have expressed concern have refered me to the works of a friend of Apostolides, one Bill Gann. For those who may be so interested I have addressed the issue in Alex Apostolides.


My dad left his east coast home when he was sixteen, never to go back. A few years later, after he inadvertently got caught up in the race riots in Tulsa, Oklahoma during his travels, he showed up in the goldfields of California and Nevada, prospecting on both sides of the Sierras and into Nevada desert. That is how he met both Merrill-Wolff and Walt Bickel.

My uncle, two years older than my dad had finished high school and moved on to places such as Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and New York City to attend art school, throwing all of his efforts into becoming an artist. Eventually, in his early to mid-twenties, he followed a well known and established artist he studied under by the name of John Sloan west to the Santa Fe, Taos, New Mexico area. When Sloan returned east after a couple of years my uncle remained, staying in the desert southwest, for the most part, the rest of his life.

My dad and uncle's mother was a Quaker. Even though they were raised in the religion neither ever followed it nor practiced it. However, through her practice of the religion their mother met and knew a woman by the name of Gretchen Green. Green was a nurse who just so happened went to India and opened, then ran, a health clinic for a major Indian personage by the name of Rabindranath Tagore. Tagore's father was a Maharshi and Tagore himself was an artist and international renowned poet, Tagore having received the Nobel Prize Laureate in Literature in 1913.

In October of 1930 Tagore was in the United States doing educational fundraising and exhibiting his artwork, with shows in Boston, Philadelphia, and New York. Through the long standing connection between my uncle's mother and the nurse Gretchen Green, a steadfast healthcare professional who Tagore had an exceptionally high opinion of, my uncle was able to finagle an introduction --- an introduction that turned out to be much more destiny filled than just a mere passing handshake in a crowded, cold gallery.

Tagore traveled in all the right circles, writers, artist, politicians, mystics, gurus. Among others he met Shunyata who, in 1974, I met as well. Equally interesting, during his 1930 visit, Tagore appeared on stage with the interpretive dancer Ruth St. Denis at the Broadway Theater in New York City. Inturn, twenty-four years later, it was St. Denis who, in 1954, introduced me to Swami Ramdas.

Although Tagore was not an Enlightened being nor did he present himself as such, he did play to the hilt the Indian side of things by strongly portraying himself as a mystic poet and philosopher --- which in all reality, he was. There was something soothing or mystic-like about him my uncle sensed while in his presence. In the process my uncle was taken by Tagore and, for awhile, immersed himself into Indian religious thought.

For my uncle, raised in a Quaker tradition, eastern spiritual thought seemed so open and exotic. About ten years before meeting Tagore the groundwork for things spiritual on the eastern side of things had been set into motion, generously, in an odd sort of way, opening the door for a much more receptive attitude by my uncle when Tagore came along.

From my uncle's early post high school years through to the end of the depression he was a struggling artist. He did everything he could to earn a few bucks as long as it was art related. In the early 1920s he took a job doing minor art resoration for Edward I. Farmer. Farmer was an art dealer in New York City with upscale galleries at both 5 West Fifty-sixth Street and 16 East Fifty-sixth Street. He offered a variety of Chinese works of Art as well as European antiques. He is remembered for the most part for mounting fine Chinese porcelains and jades into decorative lamps and desk accessories. While my uncle was working in the gallery studios he met a Japanese man by the name of Yeita Sasaki that was sculpting jade for Farmer. Sasaki, who at the time was a formost Zen adept and one of the first major Zen Buddhists in America, would, in 1928, become a full-fledged Zen master known as Sokei-an, receiving Inka Shomei from his teacher Sokatsu Shaku.

Sokei-an was an advocate of Direct Transmission as was his student and follower Mary Farkas. If you have gone to my page on Alfred Pulyan you may recall he too was an advocate of direct transmission. You may also recall that Pulyan's mysterious female teacher, the person most responsible for his transformation, was a friend of Farkas. About direct transmission, Sokei-an, in his own words, says:

"I am of the Zen sect. My special profession is to train students of Buddhism by the Zen method. Nowadays, there are many types of Zen teachers. One type, for example, teaches Zen through philosophical discourse; another, through so-called meditation; and still another direct from soul to soul. My way of teaching is the direct transmission of Zen from soul to soul."

Years later, because of a still lingering sub-surface lean toward Zen Buddhism and Indian philosophy-religion, and knowing I had been to India and returned in a somewhat can't quite put your finger on it altered state, it is my belief that my uncle talked with my father about his concerns, putting an India type philosophic-like spin on things. In the process he must have informed my dad that he had taken me to see Paramahansa Yogananda at his Self-Realization Fellowship near San Diego. My father never heard of Yogananda, but, like I say, it just so happened he knew Franklin Merrell-Wolff, because the two of them had been gold prospectors together in the old days. Talking with my uncle my dad remembered that Merrell-Wolff had some sort of a spiritual epiphany. Knowing him both before and after that epiphany, and remembering after that Merrell-Wolff exhibited similar --- as my father called them, fucked up tendencies --- he sent me and my uncle to see him.

Although not directly related to the above Merrell-Wolff meeting per se' the following is related in a sort of offhand way:

About four years after the meeting with Merrell-Wolff my uncle took me to meet Albert Einstein. It is my belief that it was through his friendship with Tagore that my uncle was able to set meeting. In July of 1930, about four months before my uncle met Tagore, Tagore Interviewed Einstein. It is thought, by extrapolating inferences over time from my uncle, that it was through the Tagore-Einstein connection the initial meeting between my uncle and Einstein unfolded which inturn set the stage for the meeting between the scientist and myself.




The boy we called Bub President Hudson was a very young boy, the youngest in our group. Where he came from none of us knew, he just showed up one day and started living with us. Like I say, my stepmother was always taking in strays. How he could have come up with such a story about his mom being a spy and going to school with Tarzan by just making it up out of whole cloth as well as having the last name Hudson, is beyond comprehension if it was not so --- especially if you take into consideration and compare what he said in relation to the background of an actress my uncle knew named Rochelle Hudson.

Hudson (1916-1972) was a starlet starting at age 13. She was also a longtime family friend of Edgar Rice Burroughs the author/creator of Tarzan The Ape Man. She and her mother lived close to the Burroughs estate and they eventually became close friends of the Burroughs family, with Rochelle often being given rides to school by Burroughs' son Jack and going on vacations with them.

During a good part of World War II Hudson lived in Hawaii with her second husband, a naval officer stationed there. Her film career had been interrupted before going to Hawaii starting with the years just prior to the war and into it's early years when she worked as a spy for the Naval Intelligence Service. She and her husband, as a civilian, were doing espionage work primarily in Mexico, but also Central and South America as well. Together they posed as a vacationing couple to detect if there was any Japanese of German fifth column activity in those areas.

Rochelle Hudson was not known to have had any children.



For more on Rochelle Hudson's Naval Intelligence work in Mexico and her interaction with a young Clement Meighan and the Wanderling's uncle see: