Thursday, October 4, 2001
As he sits on a rock munching a sandwich at the bottom of Ocean Avenue in Carmel, Brother One Feather smiles broadly at the crowd gathered around his ''76 Dodge Sportsman.
"Peace be with you," he calls to a group of curious Europeans checking out his van. "Please enjoy yourselves, and look around."
Most onlookers are silent, slowly circling the van as they examine the toys, figurines, paintings and other detritus of pop culture that clutter every square inch of the van''s surface. Star Wars and "Star Trek" figures battle it out on the roof of the van. Mickey Mouse and friends wave from the grille. A laughing Christ smoking a joint competes with the Dalai Lama for space. Beads drip from the Sportsman''s undercarriage, and 40 dozen red apples ring the windows.
"It''s a tribute to the Big Apple people who died," Brother says of this latest touch. "I''m creating an altar to promote healing as a nation, oneness, unity and inclusivity."
"Brother" won''t reveal his birth name ("let''s just say it''s overly used and 1.5 million Americans have it") or much of his background. He demurs when asked where he comes from ("the creator" is his smiling answer) and wears a long brown robe with a hemp rope tied around his waist, like the friar''s on the Frangelico bottle. When people tell him he looks like Christ, he says, "I play off the imagery."
A few personal details leak out in spite of Brother''s aversion to self-revelation. For example, Brother does mention that a divorce was the catalyst for decorating and living out of his van, and that he used to be a nurse.
"I was seeking a new freedom and wanted to reprioritize my values," he says. "I''m spreading love through art and having communion with the people I meet."
Brother found that living on faith was actually simple. "When you jump off the edge," he says, "you think you''re going to fall, but actually it''s the opposite. The wind is under my wings and just lifts me up."
Brother shows off photos of himself in Europe. "It was the first time I wore the robe 100 percent. I went on a round trip ticket and on love, no money at all. God took care of me the whole time."
Well, God and the kindness of strangers. Very near to Brother, sitting on the ground, is an upturned Dr. Seuss-style hat with a small American flag sticking out of it. "If you enjoy your experience, please feel free to donate," he says, gesturing toward it. Next to the hat is a small sign that says "Love offerings."
For it seems that practical matters do intrude. "I''m a bit stressed now because I need a new engine--it''s blowing out smoke," Brother says. "But I''m praying for an engine miracle."
Though unfailingly sincere in his message of peace and love, Brother constantly laughs at the lunacy of it all. And though startlingly articulate on his views of world peace, Brother also puns continually, especially on a favorite topic of his: hemp and marijuana. Phrases like "herbally verbally" and "hemp hemp hooray--it''s the battle cry for the new millennium!" jump out playfully as he expounds his message of brotherly love.
Although he normally hangs out at Asilomar or Carmel Beach, last weekend Brother coaxed the van up to San Francisco for the Bay Area''s ArtCar Fest 2001 to share his art message with a larger audience in the "West Coast''s largest gathering of art cars." But Brother insists it''s not about the competition. "I want to show the glory of God through the spirit of expression," he says. "The point is not to seek to win for praise."
Although his sandwich---munching has long since been interrupted, Brother continues to chat and hug visitors in the parking lot. Beachgoers linger, reading the jumble of text and images painted on the van. Some people laugh out loud as they read buttons like "Thank you for pot smoking," while others nod at bumper stickers that say "Make love visible, visualize world peace." Brother laughs with them.
For all the giddiness, it''s obvious that Brother is not joking when it comes to spreading his message of peace and love. An older woman in a sweatshirt depicting three angels--tan, black and brown--comes up quietly to look at Brother''s van. "Look at the angelic message you''re honoring--and they are three different colors," Brother says to her. The woman''s face lights up. "And even though they are different, they''re all the same," she says, pointing at her shirt. Brother gives her a hug and says, "The best part of this is being able to touch people. Wait and see, we''re just getting started. It''s working."