Sunday, October 25, 2009

I Picked Up Two Monks Today

I picked up two monks today as I was driving back from my Sunday morning dog walk through Fisherman's Wharf and North Beach. It was at Scott and Eddy; they were standing there all a-crimson and orange be-robed. Late-middled-aged white guys, one had a guitar case. The intersection was slow and as I waited, the seeming leader of the pair put out his thumb and gave me a little smile. I waved them in on a whim, and off we went. They needed to go to 22nd Avenue and Fulton, an entrance to Golden Gate Park most proximate to the day-long concert in celebration of the 40th anniversary of Woodstock.

The guitar-laden of the two got into the back. These were big fellas, and I have a tiny car with a large dog of occasionally dubious temperament in the back seat. So there was some maneuvering. The transplanted suburban yuppie Frau-mit-Kindern in the giganto SUV behind me, impatient, pissily swung around to pass and gave me that little lippy look that really deserves a good slap if said slap would not sully the hand that delivered it. But, whoops, I have two Tibetan monks climbing into the car, so I stilled my pique and calmed my heart and diffused into the joy of the sublime.

The guy in the back kept chatting away as if I were not there, so I interrupted and focused entirely on the guy in the front seat. He explained their particular devotions which are ecumenical in the Buddhistic sense, though it seems that the central affiliation is with the Kagi sect of Tibetan Buddhism.

It turns out that the Moody Blues is playing the park today. I told him that the first concert I ever attended was the Moody Blues at Massey Hall in Toronto. According to their web site, "Massey Hall was a gift from the Massey family to the city of Toronto in 1894. For over 115 years, its famous red doors have welcomed audiences to a stunning array of events, personalities and artists. It has earned a unique place in Canadian music history." It's a cranky old building, but famous for its sublime acoustics. We broke in that night ... it was November 29, 1969. Perhaps I should do a 40th anniversary celebration. I do not remember the concert very well, but I remember breaking in with my friend Sara who was expert at it. We managed to get into the Mariposa Folk Festival for free once also. I was very nervous in both cases ... I do not have the constitution that would be required for criminal activity, even back in those days when I participated in the notion that everything ought to be free. That notion is still around, but only CEOs actually practice it legally.

Back to the monks. I told them that my friend Michael Merrill, dead these 20 years, was a co-founder of the Hartford Street Zen Center, and that I had been a guarantor on the initial real estate purchase. Their web site says it was founded by Issan Dorsey, but that is a long-standing myth. Issan was a distant adviser as I remember, but he was such a larger than life character that the tale is juicier when he is founder. But it didn't happen that way. I must have all that paperwork around somewhere since I never throw anything out. Perhaps I willl send it to them some day in favor of historical accuracy.

The front seat monk thanked me for my efforts given that he lived at Hartford Street for a while.

I told him that Michael had died at the hospice at Hartford Street, and then quickly corrected myself as Michael actually died in a hospice on Geary Street. He tried to die on Hartford Street, but in extremis he was moved to Pacific Presbyterian Hospital and pumped up with fluids. They have their own hospice on Geary Street, and Michael clung there to life for two more weeks. He died as I drove south to the Pac-10 tournament in 1989 with my friend Jack Green, who is also now gone.

But I didn't tell that to the monks. We kept it light. I didn't want to be proselytized; one has to be "catholic" in the rejection of religion. Swanning around in red and orange is certainly less damaging to human life than being a papist or a fundie or a mahometan ... what's in a name ... but it is still delusion. Warm fuzzy delusion, but delusion. Of course, one does not want to be put into a position where it would be necessary to bring up the bloodthirsty history of the Tibetan lamas as they actually ruled. They were rather fond of extractive torture ... eye-gouging, tongue snipping, amputation ... in aid of their hegemony. And that's the point with religion: it's all cutesy when people are blessing each other and wandering around in a haze. But religion in power, even near power, is always brutal.

I figure if I ever were to find myself in a prison, though, I would be a Buddhist. Perfect religion for atheists, they have a rich literature unlike the literature-starved post-Sumerian monotheisms that dominate the world, and the meditation would pass the time nicely.

None of this came up with my monks. I liked the guy in the front seat. The fellow in the back seemed non-plussed that his conversational dominance had been usurped by the driver of the ancient Honda Civic. Maybe he was just grumpy ... I can grok that.

I pulled around the corner at 22nd and Fulton and they piled out. The front seat monk gave me his card and invited me to drop him an email if I needed a blessing or anything. I admit I was tempted ... that is how religion gets to you. I smiled, but did not proffer my hand. I don't think monks like ot be touched.

No pics yet. I am still channeling my inner Aperture, and I should be able to make it a more worldly effort shortly.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


I appear to have sailed on to a bit of shoal in my psyche. I am prone to these things, and once I am sufficiently convinced of the problem, I apply what my great friend Michael Merrill, deceased these twenty years, used to call "main force". So I am in the process of gathering main force.

One thing I have done is to force myself to spend a half hour at lunch reading the manual for Aperture, the more advanced of the Mac products for photo processing. iPhoto was so bloody easy, but I had to decide to upgrade and I have lost control of where anything is. And I hate creating posts without photos. So that is one of those effective ways of stymieing oneself in the modern era. A tight little circle of pointless self-undermining.

I think maybe I will buy a little more memory for my laptop ... that'll surely jog something.

I'm also planning to buy one of those horrible earpieces to improve the cell phone life. I loathe phones, and double-triple loathe cell phones. But that is like a baby loathing mother's milk or a Bostonian loathing the Red Sox. Amusing but ineffectual.

When one is on the shoals in the present era, one spends more time on Facebook than is sensible. Facebook is like a pile of gravel where Twitter is like a pile of sand. Doesn't matter in either case the shape of your shovel, you're still gonna miss more than you observe. But dig away, dig away. That's the spirit.

So trying to buck up - perhaps I should feel fine that Congress attached our right not to be beaten to a bloody pulp to some military expropriations bill ... ooops, that's appropriations ... and now we will soon have the majesty of federal law on our side when some gaggle of thugs take out their frustrations at not being able to ball each other without shame.

In that vein, catch this ... no homo ... for crying out loud ...

Of course, protecting people from hate offends religious sensibility. I mean, what would religion be without hatred.

Crappers ... trying to buck up, here. Maybe the Manhattan that sainted roommate and bartender RL just handed me will help.

I'll go with that ... and the fact that I have posted something, anything. More anon.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Brief Encounter

This is what the San Francisco Chronicle wrote about the American Conservatory Theater/Kneehigh Theatre production of Noël Coward's Brief Encounter: "Every so often a theater piece comes to town that is so brilliantly conceived and executed, so entertaining on every level, that you want everyone you love or even like just a bit to see it. Brief Encounter ... is that kind of experience."

Couldn't have said it better. It's on until October 17. There is a really cool site including a trailer that doesn't do the piece justice here.

The work is based on Coward's well-known 1939 play Still Life, and there is a better known movie, which of course I haven't seen, called Brief Encounter. The present production melds film, stage, railway, song, movement, and audience into a new, and yet old, retake.

It's about love. There are three love affairs: the central one in which two middle class folks come to the edge of losing their good sense, and two background love affairs among the railroad station cafe staff. The latter are bawdy and humorous; the former is dark and heavy, ultimately unrequited.

All that fun on the stage and I came to want some fulfillment. Coward, of course, would never end the thing in death ... perhaps someone can correct me if I am off-base here ... but there is a little death in the soul-destroying return to the sensible. All the fulfillment is in the bawdy joy of the other two relationships.

The essay in the program pointed out the poignancy of one of the songs ... Room with a View ... because of what it would have represented to the then marginally closeted Coward. He could not have true love because that was denied to homos. He could only have the bawdy slap and tickle stuff, and that only when he kept it quiet enough that it did not "scare the horses." So the contrast between the two bawdy relationships and the furtive and ultimately unfulfilled middle class liaison reverses itself ... the homosexual author lusts after a formal relationship without all the middle class nausea about the sensible.

Enough said. Very enjoyable.