Mel Lyman's ball-point pen has run dry. Everyone under 20 is talking about it. Everybody, that is, who reads The Avatar. You remember The Avatar. It descended with The Word last year and shook up policemen, mayors, governor's councillors, the Governor, protective mothers, autocratic fathers and all those who get palpitations when they see dirty words in print.
The Avatar gave Cambridge and Boston policemen much needed experience in arresting children and gave straight people something to fume about. There was the center-spread episode, when four familiar obscenities graced a two-page lay-out. The Avatar people did it as a protest against police harassment. The police got orders to pull even more of the kids into the station.
There were a few arrests, then, dozens and when the round-up was rushing rapidly toward 100, a delegation from The Avatar met with the police in Cambridge and persuaded them to lay off. The Avatar crowd has retained the services of Joe Oteri, who previously had been doing legal social work defending marijuana cases, and the police agreed to let the 70 or 80 cases already on the books go through the court and appeals before they start busting Avatar newspaper boys and girls again. The Avatar people are defending their publication on constitutional grounds and on the grounds that it is not obscene. Civil liberties lawyers believe they have an easy case and will in the long run win their point.
In the meantime, The Avatar has been publishing like clockwork - every two weeks. Their underground newspaper has moved from claimed printings of 15,000 or 18,000 back around their issues 12 and 13 - the dirty word phase - to claimed printings of 35,000 that are almost all sold by hippies and college students on the streets of Boston and Cambridge. The guiding lights of the publication live on Roxbury's Fort Hill in a group of interesting old houses that they are reclaiming from oblivion. and the guidingest light of all has been this fellow called Mel. He is called a lot of other things, too.
Some Avatar readers who disapprove of Mel's dominance of the publication call him $%)X$%-&). (The Avatar would have printed that). Many more of the enthusiastic young people reading the paper call Mel Lyman a World Saviour. He really means it. Now, in this latest issue of Avatar, Mel throws in his pen and pencil set, shatters his typewriter and leaves the endeavor to his apostles.
Mel no longer will fill page after page with his ruminations or with the letters he receives and answers. With typical Lyman humility he writes to one correspondent who dares to question Mel's godly credentials: "I do know everything, everything that matters. I know the human heart, I know what it needs and how it is achieved, I know God's plan and I will reveal it to mankind, step by step, as God reveals it to me. That makes me a World Saviour."
The Avatar staff doesn't think that its readership could take the blow of suddenly being denied Mel's prose so it has arranged a withdrawal system. For the next nine issues, Avatar will reprint a Mel Lyman article in each edition. He also has left a few completed, unpublished pieces that will be dropped in from time to time.
His friends on the paper will answer his correspondence. And as for Mel - he's going to start making movies. The Avatar Film Company has been born. Mel really isn't going away after all. He's just mixing his media.