Chapter 30: 1956 Trip To The West
Concentrated preparations had begun for Baba's one-month trip to the West. A great deal of correspondence continued to take place regarding plane reservations, days of stay at different places, and other preparations. Mani's typewriter was never silent. For the past several months, telegrams and letters had poured in from England, America, Switzerland and Australia, and after receiving instructions from Baba about each, Mani worked tirelessly to reply.
The Western lovers had been informed that Baba intended coming in July, provided the expenses of the trip could be met by his lovers in the West. They were notified: "Baba knows how difficult this is right now after the most loving and generous gifts made quite recently by you all [for the year in seclusion]. He knows with what great love and sacrifice they have sent him these gifts, and he sends his love to each."
Nicknamed Energy, Marion Florsheim of Jackson Heights, New York, was appointed by Baba to make all the necessary arrangements for the trip. The "Meher Baba Hospitality Committee" was formed, with Marion as chairman, Fred Winterfeldt as vice-chairman, and seven other members from Baba's following in New York, to raise the estimated $12,000 in expenses for Baba and four men mandali to come. Committees were also set up by Elizabeth Patterson in Myrtle Beach, Ruth White in Los Angeles, Agnes Baron in Ojai and Lud Dimpfl in San Francisco. Ivy Duce and Don Stevens formed a publicity committee. In Europe, Will Backett was making arrangements in London; while in Switzerland, Hedi Mertens and Irene Billo prepared for Baba's stopover in Zurich. In Australia, Francis Brabazon, Bill Le Page and Ena Lemmon were setting up accommodations, appointments and meetings in Sydney and Melbourne.
The mandali were concerned about Baba's health, and in regards to his diet, Mani wrote Ivy Duce on 9 March 1956:
The New York group have been asking for diet tips regarding Baba. I've told them that Baba does not take hot spicy foods or curries these days (as we do), and therefore there is no need to cook special Indian food. He likes Chinese cooking and French style of cooking. He and the men will take fish, but no meat. Baba likes soft fish (fillet is good with no bones) and soft cooked rice. He likes yogurt, and doesn't care for too many vegetables (particularly peas and beans). Apart from that, I told them not to worry — Baba's tastes are simple, (he does not like hard crisp things) and the American food, like its people, is so "broad-minded" ... Baba is not only a small eater, he is one of the quickest we've known.