Sunday, January 20, 2019
PHILIPPA MEYERING (1930 - 2019)
My life and Philippa's life intersected only briefly. We were married for two years (1967-1969). But those few years were exciting times and she was an exciting woman. So with a few stories of our brief times together I will try to sketch a necessarily partial picture of this remarkable lady.
Philippa (Phyl) was born and raised in southern California, became a member of Alpha Chi Omega sorority at UC Berkeley, where she met and married R. Meyering, a Theater Arts major, and birthed two daughters, Marcia and Cathy. Later, in Los Trancos Woods (LTW), CA, she married A. Mixon, a former Navy SEAL, and birthed her third daughter Diana.
During the late sixties, I was a physics graduate student at Stanford, living in a house in Los Trancos Woods with a Stanford medical student, Bill Ross. In those days, Los Trancos Woods was a haphazard rural area in the hills behind Stanford, populated with a mix of eccentric characters. Philippa was our close neighbor and Bill and I often socialized with her and her three daughters.
Phyl was associated with the Stanford Genetics Department and presided over a salon at her home which featured Stanford professors and others sharing their thoughts about human potential, parapsychology and psychedelics -- topics that still fascinate people today.
Phyl drank beer and wine in moderation, smoked menthol cigarettes, attended Native American pow-wows, liked to read biographies and enjoyed a wide variety of friends. Her favorite charities were Amnesty International and ASPCA.
Her oldest daughter, Marcia, writing from Kimberley, British Columbia, reminds me that her mother drew comfort and inspiration from water: from creeks, rivers, lakes and especially the ocean. Phyl's house in LTW, was perched on the edge of Los Trancos Creek and during California's rainy winters, this watercourse echoed like a bowling alley as boulders bounced down stream just a few feet from her bedroom window. She loved camping outdoors, near the frog pond in upper LTW, or nights on the beach near Pescadero. Her favorite part of the San Francisco zoo was the otter pool. When we were living in Monmouth, Illinois, we often visited the Mississippi River, just a few miles west, observing the shipping barges, the fishermen at their work, and conversing with people at the bait shops.
On my thirtieth birthday I decided to spend the night meditating in the hills behind my house in Los Trancos Woods, but before I could reach my destination I encountered a large dead deer on the road that had been recently hit by a car. I returned home, dropped my pack, drove back to the spot and loaded the still warm body into my station wagon. Bill Ross and I hung the deer from our basement ceiling and immediately phoned Philippa. Using kitchen cleavers and Bill's medical scalpels the three of us carefully dissected the animal, wrapped its parts in tin foil, and stored the meat in Phyl's freezer. So instead of solitary meditation, I spent that night slaughtering a large animal with my roommate and my wife-to-be.
One of the highlights of the West Coast hippie scene was the Trips Festival, January 22, 1966, at the Longshoreman's Hall on San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf. Organized by Ken Kesey and Stewart Brand, it was the largest gathering of "acid test graduates" to date. Thousands of colorfully-costumed freaks in colorful states of consciousness showed up to experience the light shows, the strobe lights and trampolines, and the chaotic music and performance art. Phyl and I decided to go as "squares". by dressing as if we were going to the opera: from the outside we looked like two flamboyantly ordinary beings mingling with a circus of freaks. After digging the scene, we wandered over to the corner where cups of Kool-Aid were being served out of big garbage cans, Our hosts seemed a bit reluctant to serve us but eventually relented. We both figured that in such a large public gathering, they would never dare to put LSD in the Kool-Aid. On this matter we were mistaken. But the dose seemed fairly weak so this square couple played in the shallow end of the pool and did not go back for seconds.
When I got my PhD, I married Phyl and took my first job, as a physics professor at Monmouth College in Illinois, just a few miles west of Peoria, legendarily the most typical of typical Midwest towns. (Will it play in Peoria?). In its unapologetic ordinariness, Peoria did not disappoint. We enrolled the kids in the local schools and assumed our roles as "that crazy couple from California", lionized by some, disliked by others, and tried to fit into an environment (it was only going to last one academic year) that in its own way was as bizarre for Phyl and me as the Trips Festival. I became one faculty member with whom students shared their drug stories, and Phyl collected her own circle of admirers, including (ha, ha!) becoming the confidant of the college president's wife.
Besides driving to the Mississippi River and going to estate auctions (which featured the classic tobacco-style auctioneer/showman) we sometimes amused ourselves and the girls by going to Monmouth's pizza parlor and reading to each other from the National Enquirer.
After our nine-month stint in the Midwest, Phyl and I returned to California, got divorced, connected only sporadically, then more often, and then kept in contact by phone when she moved to Happy Camp, CA, an isolated town on the Klamath River near the Oregon border.
I last talked to Phyl in late December; when only a few days later Marcia informed me that Philippa had perished on the morning of January 4, while her house in Happy Camp burned to the ground.
Philippa is survived by 3 daughters, 11 grandchildren, and 7 great-grandchildren.
Hail and farewell, loving mom, intimate companion, dear first mate.