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"I'm so tired. Where is my room?"

"Of course, my dearest girl. I'll have Giancarlo show you right away," he said with a smile.

I was relieved. I was worried that Marco would want me to stay up hours longer as his "arm charm." But my relief soon turned to disdain. Marco leaned in, alcohol dripping from his mustache and his breath.

"I made sure to put you on my floor, Carre. You're right next to my room," he whispered. He seemed to be drooling.

I wriggled in disgust.

He nodded to Giancarlo, and I was swiftly shown to my room. Just as Marco had promised, my bag was waiting for me. There was something else as well, an article of clothing that I had not brought with me. A very risque nightgown was spread neatly on the bed. "You've got to be kidding me," I muttered, and quickly turned to close the doors. Remembering my experiences with Gerald, I was relieved to discover that my doors both locked from within. I was asleep within minutes.

Needless to say, it was a long night. As I had feared, Marco eventually arrived at my locked door. At 4:00 A.M. I awoke to the sound of his fists on the door as he banged and begged to be let in.

"Ah, my dear, so you are playing hard to get! How cute you are. I will get you before the weekend is over!" he threatened, slurring his words, laughing unkindly to himself.

What a pig. I pulled the covers over my ears, trembling with rage and a bit of fear. What the hell was I supposed to do? I had to get through another day and night here in this opulent playboy palazzo unharmed. What games would I have to play? What would happen now?

Marco was a famous photographer, but I had not seen a camera in his hands once. That did not mean I was not photographed. That Saturday, when I emerged cautiously from my room, I found out that my day and night were scheduled right down to the minute. I was taken to lunch, then out on Marco's speedboat. As we traveled around, paparazzi appeared. They'd apparently been tipped off, as Marco made no effort to avoid them. Quite the contrary. Marco had a playboy image to maintain. Within days, photos of the two of us together appeared in local papers and magazines, just as he wanted.

The oddest and most uncomfortable moment of the weekend came when Marco arranged for me to have an intimate dinner with him-and his teenage daughter, who was only a couple of years younger than I was. Talk about awkward! One of the other models I met that weekend told me that Marco had taken a special liking to me because I resembled his daughter, which made his advances seem even more repulsive.

When the weekend was over, Marco drove me all the way back to Milan in his Rolls. "My dear," he insisted, "I do not want you traveling alone for hours. I'll take you home." I certainly did not mind a ride, but I did quickly tire of fending off his right hand, which fell onto my thigh every few kilometers. The trip back was much faster than my Friday-night bus ride, but Marco made it seem longer.

When we pulled up to my pensione at last, Marco reached into his pocket and drew out a beautiful bejeweled gold money clip. He peeled off a few crisp American hundred-dollar bills and handed them to me. I was shocked. But I took them. I had certainly earned them, and I knew I would not see a cent from the agency cut. I thanked him and then quickly climbed out of the car, knowing that if I lingered a second longer, he would perceive it as an invitation.

Marco drove off into the polluted Milanese sunset, the driver's-side window down and his left hand waving in casual farewell. As I watched the Rolls disappear, I told myself that it was time. Time for me to head home. I was not sure where home was anymore. But it sure as hell was not in Europe.

THE FIRST HOMECOMING

I was ready to get out. I'd had my fill. What success I'd had was not worth the price I'd been paying. And after a friend's dog bit me in the face, it seemed an obvious signal. It was time to depart back to the homeland.

There was only one person I could call from Paris. Only one place I could think of to go.

Ethan Allen (yes, his real name) had been a fellow student at John Woolman. His mother, famed midwife Nan Koehler, had a place in Sebastopol, California, called Rainbow's End. In the 1980s it was a small commune with an organic farm housing several different families, as well as a few stray kids about my age. It was also the center of a movement. Classes on Western herbology, midwifery, and general family wellness were held there. Nan's husband, Don, also had a gynecological practice there. Nan was a true mother in every sense of the word, and-much to Don's exasperation-she was notorious for taking kids in under her wing. When I'd been at Woolman, I'd felt a strange connection to Nan. She was the safest and most accepting adult I'd ever met, and I'd thought about her from time to time ever since I'd dropped out.

Nan remembered me immediately when I called from my tiny apartment in Paris. As I explained my situation, I was honest about not having a plan. I just needed to return to California soil. Her support and the promise of open arms was all I needed to hear to find the courage to book my ticket back to San Francisco.

At SFO I was met by Ethan, now a beautiful, tall teenage boy with a lion's mane of brownish gold curls that flowed halfway down his back. The last time I'd laid eyes on him, he was merely a gawky adolescent, but now he was well on his way to manhood. And I certainly was no longer the same girl who had left. I felt a stirring, a sense of relief and safety with him. I immediately knew I was in the right place and on the right path.

The drive up to the farm was magical. Black Uhuru was blasting on the cassette player as we moved through the city's foggy streets, crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, following the 101 northbound. I held my breath by the Greenbrae exit, knowing how near I was to my estranged family. My heart skipped a beat with yearning as we passed, but I knew it was not yet time to go to that home. Maybe someday, I told myself, but not now. Not yet. Veering off the freeway at Sebastopol, we entered the redwood forest. Paris felt a million miles away.

Frati Lane is a tiny road with a dense canopy of branches arcing overhead. Signs let us know we were drawing near: RAINBOW'S END, children at play, and finally SLOW DOWN. In the main parking lot, Ethan came to a stop. He turned off the motor and looked at me. "Welcome back, Carre." And I could not help but grin.

I was anxious to see Nan. Although I did not really know anyone at the farm all that well, if ever there were a hippie family to spread the love, I was sure it was this one. And I needed the love.

Ethan grabbed my bag-a bigger one than the one I'd left California with-and we walked up to the main house.

Nan greeted me with a warm bear hug and sat me down for some tea. Her kitchen was stocked with every drying herb imaginable. Seeds were sprouting in jars in the sunroom, and the smell of incense wafted through the air. There were crystals on windowsills and treasures like hawk and owl feathers tucked into cracks in the wooden walls. Nan was a healer, a shaman, and a bountiful woman. And she would soon show me the many facets of what it meant to be just that: a woman.

Nan became my first positive female role model. She was hearty, challenging, intelligent, vocal, and controversial. No matter what her opinion, there was love behind it. Nan was fearless, so unlike the women I'd known growing up (my mother included); she talked openly about weight and sex, aging and wild emotion. She was also physically demonstrative, her touch strong and safe and tremendously reassuring. I'd never met a woman so comfortable with her own body and her own raw womanhood. Meeting her was a revelation. (Nan Koehler now has a book called Artemis Speaks: V.B.A.C. Stories and Natural Childbirth Information.)

Ethan offered to let me stay with him in his cabin, and as Nan agreed, she looked me in the eye, holding my gaze for a long time. It was as if she were peering into my soul, seeing the past I had endured as well as the future that would be. Her eyes welled up, and she gave me another motherly hug, this time holding me close and tight.

"Sweetie pie, you can land here," she whispered encouragingly. "Come on home." I, too, had tears in my eyes. I felt as if I were being seenfor the first time. All the hurt seemed acknowledged, and all my potential was held with assurance in her embrace. I sighed, exhausted from the trip. "Ethan," his mother said gently, "let's get this sweet girl tucked in. She needs a good rest."

We finished our tea and snacks and made our way down to the cabin. Afternoon was slipping into evening, and along the path the last few crickets of summer chirped and the sound of the evening bullfrogs croaking could be heard in the nearby pond. The air was sweet with the unmistakable smell of the damp Northern California earth. Though I'd never stayed here before, I felt more at home than I had in many years.

Ethan's cabin was a tiny shack with a loft. There was a single light but no running water. It had a wood-burning stove and mud on the floor, but after Paris it felt so right to be close to the earth and simplicity. I could make this work,I thought. This is heaven.

Nan placed my bag just inside the door, lit a candle, and pointed to the loft. "You should have all you need for warmth-there are plenty of blankets up there. And we will get a fire started for you. Now, why do not you climb in and get some rest, my dear. We'll see you when the sun is up. " With that, Nan left, walking back up to the big house.

Ethan climbed up after me and cracked a window. He rolled a cigarette and sat leaning against the thin wooden wall, looking away as I pulled my shirt over my head and slipped off my blue jeans and wiggled to get under the weight of the heavy comforters. The fire crackled below. And as Ethan struck a match to light his cigarette, I looked at him behind the flame. He was different, this one. Beautiful. Open. I watched as he took a few drags and exhaled, smoke curling around his silhouette against the backdrop of dusk. And off I slipped into the sweetest, safest sleep I'd had in a year.

Life on the farm was anything but routine. It was everything under the sun. People from all walks of life came to visit, including teachers from all different fields. There were amazing herbalists; shamans like Brant Secunda; Aryuvedic doctors like Harish Johari; women of wisdom such as Jeannine Parvati Baker (a midwife like Nan and author of Hygieia: A Woman's Herbal). There were Native American elders and local hippie celebrities such as Stanley Mouse, the visionary artist who created many of the Grateful Dead album covers and sixties-era posters. Nan was very respected by everyone who knew her work. Held in high regard for her voice and expertise in the field of delivering babies, she was something of an anomaly, enjoying praise from both Western and alternative practitioners.

It was not long before Ethan and I began to enjoy a youthful, innocent, and sweet sexual relationship. It was safer and kinder than anything I'd known before. But no matter how much love I was to receive on the farm, it was nearly impossible for me to let it sink in and embrace it.

Although I stepped easily into the shoes of hippie girl and played that part as well as I did the many others I had assumed before, I felt a torturous disconnect within me. The pain of my secrets and of the violations I'd suffered on my road through Paris and Milan remained in my consciousness. And no doubt I was not the easiest girl to be in love with. I was complicated; my moods could turn dark and dangerous with very little warning. It was only a matter of time before I would begin to sabotage my chances of thriving on the farm.

Sweet moments and memories mixed with the sour: listening to Bob Marley's Kaya; gardening in the rain; harvesting herbs; feeding our ducks, Ping and Pong; watching the clouds roll by as I lay naked in the sun. Learning to grow food planted a seed in my consciousness-it was the first time I really began to understand that food could nurture as well as tempt. Though my worst struggles with disordered eating were ahead of me, plenty of damage to my physical self-image had already been done in Paris. It was a revelation to see, if not fully understand, what a healthy relationship with food might look like.

But while I was doing a great deal of inner healing at Rainbow's End, I was also engaged in a lot of textbook acting out.

Though the farm's family gatherings always included me, I inevitably felt distant and detached during them. I could not ignore the yearnings I had to reconnect with my own family, and it resulted in a terrible homesickness I was too young and too stubborn to admit or tend to. I had no idea where to begin. I felt an inexplicable alienation around large groups of loving people. Whether it was that I felt I did not deserve that love or did not trust it (or both), my volatile emotions kept people at bay and kept me in what I thought was the safest place possible-alone within myself. The gatherings were actually quite painful for me, a reminder of my differences from everyone else. Even after Paris and a success that some might think would put me more at ease, I only felt more unable to relate to those around me.

Christmas would be arriving soon. In early December I reconnected with Dawn, the beautiful, lithe girl who had served as Gary Loftus's assistant in San Francisco. We'd shared that strange electricity when we'd first met, and we'd talked a few times over the years as she kept tabs on my career, even after dear Gary had lost his battle with AIDS. Dawn was a lesbian-and I was curious. When we'd seen each other again after several years, we'd shared a few kisses, and there was an undeniable mutual attraction. The thought of any real sexual or emotional intimacy with her unnerved me too much to go any further at that time. I was not ready. Now, of course, I was in a relationship with Ethan. Nevertheless, I invited her to the farm to join us for the holidays.

Ethan was not entirely sure why I would invite Dawn up to celebrate with us. Neither was I. It was the beginning of a conscious betrayal, one that would drive a wedge into my relationship with innocent Ethan. Yet I could not seem to help myself; I was pushing every boundary, testing to see if love really could be everlasting and enduring despite provocation. But everyone has a limit. Even the innocent.

Christmas Eve began with rounds of apple cider and marijuana in one form or another. Someone had brought pot cookies. Dawn did not smoke reefer, so how she ended up eating one of those incredibly potent treats was anyone's guess. As we all munched, we sat in front of the fire listening to Leonore, Nan's elderly German mother, read "The Night Before Christmas." I had curled up on the sheepskin rug, spooning Shayna and Sara, Ethan's youngest sisters. We were extremely close, and I knew I was like an older sibling to them. The eldest of Ethan's sisters, Jubilee, sat with him next to Nan and Don on the couch. Dawn quietly made her way in from the glow of the fire, the telltale crumbs of a cookie still on the corners of her mouth. I sat up and whispered, "Dawn, be careful... Those cookies are reallllly strong," but it was as if what I'd just said had not registered at all. She just hungrily shoved another piece into her mouth.

I stretched back on the floor next to the girls while Dawn found a place on the rug nearby. And as the fire blazed and crackled, Leonore's German accent punctuating Santa's journey, I could see out of the corner of my eye that Dawn's body was beginning to tremble. A moment later a groan filled the room, escalating well above the storytelling. I held my breath, wondering if anyone else had heard her. Sara looked up at me and asked innocently, "Carre, what's wrong with her?"

"Shhhh, Sara. Listen to the story."

But all of our attention was now fixed on Dawn. Her body arched and writhed; a squeal and a hiss emanated from deep within her. Oh, shit,I thought. Here we go.

"Dear God, what is that girl doing?" Leonore begged to know, putting the book down on the couch beside her.

"For God's sake, what the fuck did you guys give her?" Don demanded.

"Good one, Carre," Ethan chimed in, a rare edge to his voice.

Oh, man, this one was on me. I leaned over toward Dawn, placing a hand on her shoulder. "Dawn. Dawn, are you okay?" I asked in as calm a voice as I could muster. But she responded as if my hand were a hot coal. She shrieked and jumped up. Wild-eyed and frightened, she looked accusatorily at each one of us.

"What have you done to me, you crazy fucking people?" She was having a serious reaction.

"Whoa, Dawn, it's fine. You just ate some pot cookies-that's all." I tried to sound reassuring.

Reassured or not, Dawn reeled toward me, her arms sloppily falling around my body. To my horror, she tried to kiss me on the lips, and as I pushed her away, a silence hung in the air. Nan, Don, and Ethan looked back and forth between Dawn and me, the same question on each of their faces. Nan asked it.

"Just what isgoing on here, Carre? "

"Um... I do not know." I looked at my feet. Cat was out of the bag. In an instant, everyone knew why Dawn was in the house. And it was not exactly innocent.

"Jesus, Carre! How could you?" Ethan was furious. A look of disgust crossed his face. Not only because it was obvious Dawn and I had something "going on" but because I was so reckless and insensitive as to bring it to the farm. On Christmas Eve of all days.

"I'm sorry. It's not what it seems. It's... Complicated," I stammered, trying to relieve the tension.

Nan looked aghast at first, but then the savior in her took charge. She liked coming to the rescue. "Carre," she said, "it looks like you and I have our work cut out for us tonight." I was only partly off the hook. This was my mess, and I was expected to clean it up and move it on out.

Dawn was ready to bolt out into the night, and Nan knew that it was our responsibility to calm her down. We coaxed Dawn into another room, lit some candles, and proceeded to assist her in purging the beast. While wild and paranoid accusations came roaring out of Dawn, to my dismay, Nan herself began throwing up. I finally got Dawn settled down by wrangling her into a cold shower. And bless Ethan's heart, but he was the one who had to drive Dawn all the way back to the city on Christmas Day. Later I found out that she'd been off her medications-lithium, to be specific. Dawn was a bipolar paranoid schizophrenic. Not a good mix, and not a good candidate for hallucinogenic home-baked goods.

A month or so after the Dawn incident, I was shopping at the little local health-food store in Sebastopol. I would always peruse the bulletin board as I drank my fresh-pressed juice concoction, checking out what was going on in our community. Beneath the newest flyers for full-moon drum circles, there was a photograph of a woman, her sky-blue eyes contrasting with her shock of wavy brown hair. I froze in my tracks. Taking a deep breath, I reached out and pulled the picture to me for closer inspection. There was something about this face, this woman. I knew her, even if I had not known as much until this moment.

From deep within my body, a feeling of connection and longing steadily rose up. "Dakini Retreat with Tsultrim Allione,"it read; a picture of a Tibetan female deity danced off the page. I was stunned. Tsultrim's lioness face and mane of wild hair seemed to move on the flyer. "Location: A comfortable private residence in Bodega Bay."I had no idea what a dakiniwas, nor was I interested in going to a woman's retreat. Yet all the way back to the farm, I could not stop thinking about that face and those penetrating blue eyes. I knew I had to go, despite my reservations.

When I told Ethan and Nan of my finding, Nan began to fill me in on her knowledge of Tibetan Buddhism, sharing with me what she had read of the many deities that were "worshipped." Dakinis were like female Buddhas, the enlightened feminine aspect in what was primarily a patriarchal culture. I needed to know more, and in Nan's vast library I found the Tibetan Book of the Dead. I was blown away. Since childhood I'd been acutely aware of the suffering that surrounded me, absolutely overwhelmed with compassion as well as fear about the lack of response and conversation concerning the omnipresent pain that existed. It was as if I were all of a sudden connecting the dots. Dots I never even knew were there. I was finding answers. And as I devoured all the books I could find, I wanted more. I called the number on the flyer and got the dates and details. I would go to the retreat.

Spring had come. The earth was still cold and damp, but on one Friday as I packed a small weekend duffel bag, the rays of sunshine cascaded down around me, illuminating and warming my small cabin. Ethan was ready to give me a ride to Bodega Bay. He looked at me quizzically, wondering what changes this retreat might bring. There was much between us, and a great deal of it was resting in the unknown. I could feel a momentum, a movement, and a time of growth and wonder ahead. So, perhaps, could he.

We drove along the coast and into the small town of Bodega. Stopping at the address I had been given he leaned in to kiss me. "Call if you want to come home early," he joked. As he pulled away, I stood for a moment in the drive, collecting myself and taking a deep breath. I was nervous. This was unknown territory.

Just then a beautiful, streamlined young gal a few years older than me pulled up on a bike. Her long blond hair was caught up in a rainbow barrette. "Hi! I'm Rene," she greeted me with a grin.

As she dismounted, I could not help but stare at her unbelievably athletic body. Her arms were rippled with muscle, and she reached out to give me a hug. Again a sense of familiarity hung in the air. Together we walked into the house. Warm faces, flowing skirts, mostly gray-haired women greeted me. I removed my shoes and placed them next to the other pairs inside the door.

"Have you met Tsultrim yet?" one woman asked. I had not, I replied.

"Well, why do not you go on upstairs and say hello before everyone gets here."

In an instant I was herded through the house and up a long flight of stairs. I could smell a strange incense burning. A faint but familiar bell sounded from the room I was moving toward. As I heard it, it was as if the lights dimmed, yet everything before me became crystal clear. Quietly, I knocked. A moment of hesitation, of fear, bubbled up. Why am I here?I wondered. What on earth am I doing?

Entering the room, I could see that a beautiful altar was set out on the floor. Candles of different colors sat in each of the four directions, while a blue one flickered in the center. Flowers and crystals caught the light, and in the middle of all this there appeared to be a small cauldron. Later I would come to know that cauldron as a kapalaskull cup, a human skull used as a ritual tool in both Buddhist and Hindu practice.

Sitting at the end of the room, holding court, seated in a cross-legged position, was Tsultrim. Her being emanated brilliance and compassion. I made my way slowly toward her, and she smiled, nodding for me to come closer. As I did, something uncontrollable happened. I burst into tears until my tears became quiet, body-racking sobs. Falling at her feet and placing my forehead on the floor before her, I just let myself cry, not entirely sure, nor even caring, why. It was as if lifetimes of longing and pain were moving through me and I was finally before someone who truly knew and loved me. I had not said my name, yet in a flash her arms wrapped around me, stroking my hair, and then a simple, clear greeting- "Welcome home, Carre" -came from her mouth. I was stunned. And silenced. I immediately knew I washome. I could not explain it intellectually, but I understood it emotionally. That old longing, that old heartache I had always associated with being homesick, evaporated.

That weekend was a milestone in my life. I will never forget it. How long had I been searching for this path? How long had I been waiting for my teachers? After meeting Tsultrim, I began to study and put into practice the profound elements and instructions of Tibetan Buddhism. And as I did, a wisdom awoke inside me, a wisdom that would guide me through some of the most trying times anyone could face in this life.

Returning to the farm that Sunday afternoon, I knew that things had changed. I now had something I did not before. I had found my teacher, and I had connected with my beliefs, both remembered from another time. A new chapter was beginning, and in it was more of the unknown. But I was ready. Armed with a new strength and a resilience within, I realized I was ready to return to work.

MODELING AGAIN

The farm was proving to be a smaller world than I had once thought, and I was getting antsy. Every community has its politics, and the farm was no different. Ethan and I were both in an increasingly uncomfortable position; we never had jobs, so we never had any of our own money either. It was humiliating to so constantly be dependent on Nan.

A part of me craved being busy and out in the world again. I had already tasted that kind of independence. No matter how far behind I had left Paris, the yearning to be back "out there" was returning, like a beast to his feeding grounds. Whether it was for fame, money, acceptance, or just to finish off what I'd begun, the world of modeling still had its allure. And as safe and nurturing as the farm was, I still wanted an escape.

I was ready for a change. Rumor had it that there was catalog work in the city. Thinking that could be a good steady gig, I set up an appointment with a local agency called Look and drove in for a meeting. Marie-Christine Kollock was the agency owner. This petite French woman with plenty of spunk to spare met me at her office. We looked through my portfolio together; I showed her the shots from New York and France. By San Francisco standards, I was considered a star. I had a French Ellecover, and that counted for a lot. I went straight to work.

Slowly and steadily I began to clock my hours. And just as steadily I was able to put some coin in the bank. I would drive from the farm in the early-morning traffic, an hour into the city. By 5:00 P.M. I was making my way home. The commute was endless but necessary at first. The farm gave me the security I needed to find my way back into the industry. San Francisco proved to be tame enough, so within a few months Ethan and I decided we could handle the move. We found ourselves a sweet little apartment on Dolores Street. From our second-floor balcony, we would often hear the calls of the wild parrots of Telegraph Hill screaming through the air.

As the months passed, a basic routine began to develop. I was able to balance work, home, and a strong devotion to my Buddhist practices. My world was opening up. I was gaining strength and momentum. The daily bookings for local catalogs like Macy's and Emporium were helping me to hone my skills and boost my confidence. But soon San Francisco began to feel like a small town, too.

I continued to set my goals higher. I felt as if I could conquer the world one step at a time. I began to think that maybe success was all in the timing-and perhaps my time was coming. I knew I still needed a "big" agent, but I did not want to go backward and be represented by a massive corporate agency where I was just a number. I wanted to hold on to my individuality. I'd seen what it was to be caught up in the great modeling machine, and I had not liked it, to say the least.

Los Angeles was the best bet. I did not want to return to New York. And I would rather be dead than go back to Paris. I began to ask around about agents in Southern California. One name kept coming up: Paul Fisher with It Models. From what I could gather, he was the closest thing to a New York agent-only he was close enough to familiar stomping grounds.

He and I chatted easily on the phone, and I agreed to drive down and meet him.

Paul was young. He seemed like a kid himself, or at least a big-brother type. He talked a mile a minute and was all about "possibility." Dressed in a pair of white jeans, a T-shirt, and a pair of sneakers, he was the walking antithesis of the agents I had met. I believed his rap, though, and his enthusiasm was contagious. I was very frank about what I wanted. And even clearer about what I did not want.

I wanted to work, I wanted money. But I did not want to sell my soul or have anyone else do so. "Groovy, sister" -he nodded as if he understood me. Time would tell whether he did or not. But we agreed to work together. And that was the beginning of a new era for me.

By the time I arrived home, I already had a call from him. Herb Ritts was shooting for German Playboyand wanted to see my tits.

"What? Are you serious? First of all, who is Herb Ritts? And second of all, Paul, there is no way in hell I am going to shoot for Playboy! "I was appalled. Playboystood for everything I hated.




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