Local man had charms but no home.
Thursday, May 18, 2006
There was always something different about Karl Gandalf. Maybe it was his ability to retain a degree of style and grace though he was clearly without steady shelter. It might’ve been his propensity to chant original poetry. It certainly had something to do with the pointed magician’s cap he always wore. And it definitely involved his indomitable charm. Every time Gandalf, born Carl H. Ledford, Jr., was asked how he was doing, he offered a succinct, appropriate response.
“Magical,” he would say, before breaking into a smile that suggested he and his interlocutor shared a secret about the universe.
Sometimes, tallboy in hand, he would share more than a sly, less-than-sober appreciation for his Cannery Row haunts and the proud history of the flophouse folks who had crashed there. Once it was a benevolent reading of stranger’s aura. Other times it was recited verse.
“When a master moves among the masses,” he once announced dramatically outside of Long’s in New Monterey, “the stars declare his name. The mystic wanders with a living wand of magical suggestion, which, when waved in an atmosphere of ideas commonly accepted as facts, transforms the appearances into a description of the way he knows his will to be…”
When asked about his poetry, Gandalf produces a worn packet of papers stapled together. It’s titled God Is Dreaming I Am Awake. On the cover is a dedication from the woman who typed it up for him, Diana B. Young:
“…He has not yet transversed the sacred way from the gate of New Jerusalem to the room of the throne, yet listens to his visions, for he has seen and there is truth within his speech. And it is his own, his gift of beauty to give.”
Inside, Gandalf offers his own introduction: “Dear reader, before offering these writings of my visions, I’d like to say that I feel happy that I may, in some way, enrich your life today.”
The poem he recited is in there, entitled “For a Master of Magic.” So are 27 others, including “Valentine”:
“Within the moment of moonbeams my arms embrace a memory./ Love is you treasure, a passing of splendor./ My soul transcends as tongue descends into your precious charms./ And all I live, I freely give, to be within your arms.”
Gandalf hasn’t been around for a while. A bearded homeless man named Spence Britton found hanging around Karl Gandalf’s old spot confirms what other local homeless men have reported: Gandalf is in a convalescent home in Carmel, put up there by one of the souls he connected with along the way.