A SPIRITUAL HISTORY OF WESTERN WASHINGTON
The Love Family sprang directly
from the moist soil of Washington state
during the 60's—a quirky combo
of Jesus-freak idealism
mixed with anti-materialistic fervor.
They did more than straddle the fence
of lunacy, they just hopped right over
and made themselves at home in western Washington--
eschewing their birth names
and taking on new ones
that espoused their most evident virtues,
names such as “Patience” and “Serious.”
Their leader was a charismatic spirituality salesman
named Paul, who changed his name to “Love”
and the family adopted the surname of “Israel.”
They settled together, began breeding in earnest
and spread from a house in Queen Anne
to the surrounding neighborhood,
assimilating properties at a speed that was astonishing
for a cult which once swore it wouldn't touch money.
The Love Family grew larger
and Love himself more powerful,
while happily exercising the most important privileges
of a male cult leader--
bedding the family women,
and keeping the money for himself.
Eventually, Steve Allen's son, “Logic” Israel
used his most potent virtue to figure
that he was being screwed out of his inheritance
and led a revolt, in which the main financial backer,
a man whom Love had affectionately named “Richness”
abruptly demanded most of his money back.
The coke-addled Love was unable to defend himself,
and lost a large portion of his money,
a commodity he had once despised so much
that he wouldn't even handle it with gloves--
but he just bounced back up
like a child's clown-faced punching bag
and declared to the remaining members
that they were through with the city,
and would move to a large compound in the woods
north of Seattle, near the town of Arlington.
The group bought acreage and built several homes
with Love's mansion as the centerpiece
and began producing events,
the hallmark of which was the Garlic Festival,
an annual August celebration of beer, sex and garlic,
inexplicably mixed with Christian music
played on string instruments by white-clad women
who never smiled.
There were rock bands, as well,
and sensitive singer-songwriters,
hoping for a piece of the action,
and usually receiving it with no questions asked, nor quarter given.
The official statement from the cult was
“The Love Family can really throw a party.”
Unfortunately,the one thing they could not do
was pay taxes on their property,
and as the debts mounted, the festivals disappeared,
except for the Garlic one, which continued
until they were hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.
Two months before the county took the property
the Love family held the last festival,
They pathetically attempted to raise money
in whatever manner they possibly could--
charging three dollars to tour their wildflower gardens
while regaling contributors with an edited version
of the Love Family Story--
an offer that netted them about a hundred dollars.
Meanwhile, the female cult members
made a lot of the vendors very happy,
wandering freely through the booths
buying expensive handmade guitars and velvet dresses,
spending as if price was no object--
and it occurred to me that they still
felt guilty about handling money
and secretly wanted to fail
to punish themselves for their wanton materialism;
they were just a bunch of Jesus freak hippies, after all.
And fail they did,
the county took the land on Halloween,
and the few remaining family members
moved into tents on the bank of a nearby river.
Love was in his early sixties by then,
a time when most people are desirous of more comfort,
rather than being suddenly stripped of all material security,
but he merely said, “well, it's interesting,
I guess we've just gone back to our roots.”
It's hard not to admire such grace,
even from a man who had been the duplicitous leader
of what was once dubbed “the Teflon cult”
because no matter what he did, he never got into trouble.
He just settled back into his tent on a rainy November day
as if it was the natural order of things--
inwardly thumbing his nose at all his detractors
and silently proving to every person
who had ever challenged him over the years
that losing is a matter of perspective,
just a temporary way station until you can swing a new deal.