(Hah! I found the cover on the Internet! I’ll attach it.)

At the time I was making tactile sculpture and the article I was in had to do with that subject, featured as a “behavior” article, not “art.” We’d just opened a tactile art gallery and show at Long Beach State University in California and the magazine was covering that subject too. August Coppola, movie maker Francis Ford Coppola’s brother, organized the tactile art show.”

Then Tong Yen wrote back expressing a great deal of interest, so I added another e-mail note:

“Well, since you seem to be interested….

Actually things were far more complex than that. I was in 1965 also, having dropped out of college in the Junior year, happily making sculpture in a storefront studio in Venice, California, involved in the anti-war movement. Rent was so cheap I only had to work for money one day a week and spend my time in sculpture and…

“I was upset about the US War in Vietnam at the time and was wondering how it is people accept war so readily considering the horror of it all, injustice, rationalized murder and so on. So wondering how much might be related to violent entertainment and war toys – for FUN! when all about injuring, killing and stealing, not generally considered good values – I also started a project called No War Toys in which myself and friends and supporters engaged nursery schools, alternative schools, Parent Teacher Associations, radio and television audiences asking just how healthy is it to promote violent toys? I’d debate parents, teachers, psychiatrists, etc. Very interesting subject: where does war come from in psychology and education, and what role does entertainment and play assume when condoned and encouraged in the private home? Is it in fact earliest training for the acceptance of one’s own country going to war?

“So the pieces came together with ecocities like this: (My father was an architect and I’d helped build two of my family’s houses in my teens which counts for general background…) I decided, being close to broke, I had to raise some money to support the No War Toy campaign and follow it where it might go. I had recently come up with the so-called “smiley face” – took the dot for a nose out of the usual child’s drawing with two dots for eyes and an up-curved line for the mouth – and was selling lapel buttons and bumper stickers and actually making a fair amount of money like that on the side. I thought we needed a logo and was systematically running through my mind what would be both positive and creative. I decided young children’s drawings of smiling faces was it. Needing more money than I was making, though, I decided to hitch hike back to my old high school in Arizona called Verde Valley – a boarding school for rich kids mostly, very international – and see if any of the parents coming to the graduation that year would like to give me some money for my efforts. One did: $300, which, says the Website “Inflation Calculator” right now, is worth about $2,200 in 2012 dollars – a very big deal for me at the time. Looking for a ride back to California, I found a ride with another parent, not the one with the money, who said, “Do you mind if we stop by a famous architect’s house on the way back?” It was her car – of course I didn’t! That architect turned out to be Paolo Soleri and I was immediately intrigued with his idea of three-dimensional, car-free cities as something pretty profound. Another interesting coincidence: that check I got for $300 was from an office in the most three-dimensional building on the planet at the time, or at least the most vertical, the Empire State Building where my donor had her office.

“Kind of complex, no?!

“I don’t know if you really want that much detail but I think you might be entertained some! I certainly found my life at that time to be pretty entertaining, and a little dangerous when I decided to oppose the war very publically, going on television and organizing demonstrations when I was skirting the edge of draft dodging having exaggerated some things to get out of the draft. Fortunately, I went through the induction interviews before the Bay of Tonkin Incident, after which things got really tight – a lot of guys didn’t come back after those interviews, or did with disastrous physical and psychological wounds – to say nothing of what happened to the Vietnamese. Horrible and yet very creative times. Certainly shaped my thinking. Kirstin Miller wants my next book to be my autobiography but would make me feel awfully self-conscious.”

Richard Register is founder and president of Ecocity Builders and can be reached at: ecocity  [ at ]  igc [ dot ] org.