If you lived in Boston during the 1960's, or in Cambridge just across the river, you at one time or another heard about Mel. He had done this or had said that, and hadn't you heard, didn't you know. People spoke of his plans and pointed to his followers who carried copies of Avatar and, somewhere inside them, an empty space, sometimes called a need, which Mel Lyman came to fill. For the time and place it grew in, it was a good story: the story of Mel Lyman, who said he was the avatar and who organized a community around the structure of his personality.
The community is in Boston, on Fort Hill in Roxbury. All manner and type of people have been associated with it, although the celebrated, Mel included, don't always live there. Antonioni's Zabriskie Pointers, Mark and Daria, Jim Kweskin especially, Paul Williams in spirit, Ray Mungo by aspiration, Wayne Hansen through hard work; people more or less known in Boston and elsewhere, people who appear to have a belief about Mel and an allegiance to that belief.
Mel's story, the surface details at least, touches upon a nerve exposed during the period of time whose spirit was, it is said, ungallantly laid to rest many months ago. It was a time when the possibilities for change and for a particular style of change appeared quite good. Mel Lyman is, on the one hand, just another duck quacking The Word to America's emotional geese. On the other, he embodied some common desire, a need to speak at the risk of looking foolish, to the flashes of the day.
Whatever case is made for or against the desirability of Mel Lyman, the community exists, as does the need for it in certain types of people. The story in this issue about Mel and his community is simply a look from outside in.