On July 4th 1976, the 200th anniversary of the founding of United States, Kama Nagari, 6 weeks old Vrindavan and I arrived on the border between Canada and the United States at Detroit, Michigan. I was about to become an official resident alien. At the US consul in Toronto the American immigration authorities had given me a large sealed document folder to give to an entry point agent when I arrived in the US. Everything went without a hitch until I was told that I must register for selective services. The US military? That was a shocker. I never anticipated that. So what could I do but sign up? As it turned out I was not actually joining the military, instead I was making myself available for the draft. The US government could call me up for military service anytime. Still, this was not something I had anticipated. At the time, the Canadian military was an all volunteer army and not a very large one at that. I knew no one in the military. So in great anxiety I registered for the draft and became an official resident of the US. We piled back into our tiny VW “bug” and continued our journey to Dallas. I had legally come to the US.
Anna, unless you have lived in the southern United States you can not imagine the heat and humidity of summer. The temperature was in the 40s with 85% humidity when we arrived. It was hellish. I remember scrounging up a tiny little room in the bell tower of the temple with no air conditioning that I could use as a office and a place to live. A year before, the Dallas temple had been a “happening place,” but in the months before we had arrived the school had closed and the temple was in a depressed broken state. We arrived in the midst of this disaster.
Prabhupada had declared the West a spiritually unfit place to raise children and had ordered the Dallas school closed. All of its children were to be moved to India. A new Krishna conscious school was being built in Vrindavan, the birth place of Krishna. This decision devastated the Dallas temple. Suddenly the 250 children and 80 teachers and support staff were gone. Kama Nagari and I had come to Dallas specifically for the school. Now there was no school, but we were emotionally committed to being there. So with reservations-mostly because we had no where else to go-we decided to stay in Dallas. We had no place to live, no income and now no purpose for being there. It was hot, humid and depressing. We had moved to hell.
Our two priorities were to buy a house and get a job. So we went house hunting. It is hard to imagine, but during the year we lived in Toronto we had saved about $5000 Canadian dollars. We arranged to have that money wired to the US to be used as a down payment on a house. I can still remember the look on the assistant bank manager’s face when we converted the Canadian dollars into American. It came out to $5,862.35. She went white. The Canadian dollar was worth more than the American dollar! It was around $1.15. We were delighted, but this lady was insulted beyond measure. Canada was worth more than the great United States! I remember driving around for hours with a real estate agent looking for a house. The neighborhood in Dallas where the temple was situated was almost a ghetto. It was a very run down and depressing area. It was nothing like Canada. I was suffering from culture shock. The only redeeming feature of this neighborhood was the cheap real estate.
The buildings were old single story fame houses without basements. I was used to brick two story homes with basements. These things seemed like match stick shacks to me. In spite of this, we eventually settled on a somewhat respectable house on a run down street just a 10 minute walk from the temple. It is bad business to buy the best house on a poor street, but there was no way that I was going to live in some rundown dump. There was already another offer on this house so we made an offer that was accepted immediately. I just offered the asking price on the house. I did not want to negotiate. I just wanted a house. I recall that we paid $17,500. I suppose we could have bought it for $15,000, but at the time I did not care. Saving a few thousand dollars and endangering the deal was not worth it. Today that house is worth well over $300,000. I should never have sold it. Kama Nagari never had a problem finding a job, so within a day or two she again used her Jewish connection and found a good job. This time it was as a book keeper. It is good to be Jewish in North America. It took about 45 days to close the house deal and so we moved in as quickly as possible. It was a relief to get out of the bell tower of the temple and into our own home. Unfortunately, one month later I took a trip to Los Angeles and never again returned to Dallas to live.
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