View Full Version : Oran Canfield: My Childhood in Freefall,"AKA:My Childhood In Hell !"

02-07-2010, 01:25 PM
Oran Canfield: My Childhood in Free_fall

Musician Oran Canflield's early memories are of growing up in a punk rock commune, juggling in a travelling circus and hating his father, a famous self-help 'guru'. His parents don't remember it in quite the same way.

Oran Canfield writes that his birth in 1974 was presided over by 10 Buddhist monks who chanted throughout the 72-hour delivery.

His parents, Timothy Leary-types who ran a holistic health centre in Massachusetts, dined on the placenta.

For the first year of his life, as Canfield describes in Freefall, his memoir of growing up in a dysfunctional family, he was cared for by "a community of weird therapists, early self-help freaks and drug-experimenting hippies".

It set the pattern for the rest of his childhood, which was lived in the shadow of two parents more devoted, as Canfield tells it, to the human potential movement than to their children or each other. Their two boys, Oran and Kyle, were sent to live in a succession of progressive boarding schools, libertarian communes and even a travelling circus run by Wavy Gravy, the Grateful Dead's "official clown", famous for his tie-dyed false teeth; aged 14, Canfield took his first acid trip with Jerry Garcia's daughter.

Canfield's humorous chronicle of his countercultural upbringing is intercut with the story of his struggle with heroin addiction, which saw him confined to various rehabs for much of his 20s (he has been clean for eight years). I meet Canfield, now 35, in a cafe in Williamsburg, the hip section of Brooklyn to which he moved from San Francisco several years ago. He arrives, hunched over against the cold, looking world-weary. With pensive brown eyes, a furrowed brow and circumflex eyebrows, he reminds me of one of the anxious-looking clowns painted by Jean Dubuffet.

In conversation he is spiky and funny and at ease with his past. His memoir, for all its cynicism and bitterness, is devoid of self-pity; it is a black comedy influenced, he says, by David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs, two writers who have also wittily documented their crazy childhoods and, in Burroughs' case, a journey to sobriety.