Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sunday Papers: Kahlil Gibran

"Trees are poems that earth writes upon the sky,
We fell them down and turn them into paper,
That we may record our emptiness."

On the turntable: Primus, "They Can't all Be Zingers"

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Naming Desire

(This week, let the movie themes run amok...)

It was the cliched middle of the night, and I was awakened by a voice. In my groggy, still yet-unwakened state, it was at first a mere outburst of voice. Then, the voice formed a word, a name. "Felicia." "Feli-cia!," all stretched out. "FELI----CIA!!!!" like a modern version of Stanley Kowalski, and his "STELLAAAAAA!" Sound carries far here in the desert, the lower bass end usually disappearing fast. But this fellow had bounced his voice into this narrow canyon of close standing faux-dobe townhouses, with the bass resounding nicely. After a few more Felicias!, he wrapped up his oratory with a surprise, with an "I Love You!" that bounced along the earthen walls, through the wind-catching open windows, and into our imaginations, making us wonder at what it was that had caused Felicia to wander off in a perceived huff. The absence here of hot tin roofs means too the absence of cats. But the dogs chose to have their say, starting up as one. Then it was the baby's turn to critique the performance.

In time, the dogs wrapped it up, as did my girl. But our man Stanley was still out there somewhere, his voice barely audible, being lost to the vastness of landscape, and to the credits now rolling on what had been a brief foray into wakefulness...

On the turntable: Jerry Garcia, "1969-10-28 Fulton Street "

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Moving Pictures

On the way into the theater, I made a quick trip to the bathroom, where I was treated to the sight of a young guy texting with his left hand while he aimed his willie at the porcelain in front of him. The dexterity he displayed was nearly worth the price of admission.

Expecting the Boy Wizard to be cheered on by a large crowd, we'd arrived at the cinema early. This was only the second film I'd seen since coming back to the States last year. Before going to Japan, I used to go to the movies two or three times a week, back in the days when the afternoon show was a buck fifty. These days, I'm more interested in smaller, more talky films, for which a DVD will suffice. Anything worth seeing on the big screen would have to be action-packed, yet these inevitably have a dumb-as-nails, connect-the-dots storyline, which I'd just as soon miss anyway. The Boy Wizard franchise was a nice compromise--good visuals plus intelligent script.

Anyway, in arriving early, I was surprised to see that Enormoplexes these days are now showing previews before the previews. These usually consist of these little "making of" features that serve as low budget advertising. They aren't advertising just films, but television as well, plus a few of the usual auxiliaries which the tendrils of bloated mega-corporations now grope. The weird thing is how little they show of the actual product. The products always look like they're not yet out of the oven. What was even more bizarre is how I at first couldn't tell if what was being presented was parody or not. As we get deeper and deeper into our virtual worlds, the line between reality and parody is getting very very fine. As these ads stalled to something of a conclusion, they were wrapped up by an onscreen announcement that said, "You've just watched, blah blah blah..." I thought, wait a minute, we saw nothing, only saw pieces of this and that, with no substance to speak of. Does this shallowness actually pass for the real nowadays?

The pre-previews then begat actual previews. I usually hate these, the way they bludgeon the adrenals with their ADD editing and soundtrack pumped up to eleven. As they went on (and on and on) I began to get really offended by the quality of what the studios were pushing. Do the suits think we're really that stupid? Or have we actually become that stupid? I was amazed at how many 3D pics are on the way. Gimmicks like 3D, or 25th anniversary big screen re-releases of classics, are always a sign of a film industry in slump. And based on what I'd experienced over the last half hour, film today looks mortally wounded. Ironically, these Buddy Holly glasses we all now wore brought even less clarity, further blurring that line between real and fake.

Then, the curtains rose (metaphorically), the Boy Wizard took the stage, and entering the illusion, I began to hope that he might actually save us.

On the turntable: Ella Fiztgerald and Louie Armstrong, "For Lovers"
On the nighttable: "Larry McMurtry, "The Last Picture Show" (Kinda ironic, ain't it?)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sunday Papers: Shinto Guji (Priest)

“We do not have ideology. We do not have theology. We dance.”

--as quoted by John Dougall

On the turntable: Frank Zappa, "Just Another Band from L.A."

Friday, July 22, 2011

Dear Abbey

It's been a long while since I've read anything by that bard of the desert, ole Edward Abbey. "Down the River" is a fantastic book, close to genius but for a few weak pieces near the back of the book, and the political stuff now dated. The opening essay on Thoreau is magic. I think I'll have to plan a revisit to Walden in the near future...

On the turntable: Velvet Underground, "Quine Tapes"
On the nighttable: Edward Abbey, "Down the River"

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sunday Papers: Colin Fletcher

"Once you become a walker, you become a conservationist: no one can walk for days on end through wild and unspoiled country and then stumble upon some man-perpetuated horror without having his blood start to boil."

On the turntable: Marillion, "Misplaced Childhood"

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


My newborn daughter's eyelids
Twitch in sleep.
You're been in this world
Less than three hours, little one.
What can you possibly dream?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Marriot Darshan

We never made it to India in 2010. We'd planned to spend a good couple months there, traveling around, waiting for winter to run its course. One of the things I'd most hoped to do was to visit the ashrams of Sai Baba and Amma. But somewhere during Miki's visa process, the rules changed, and we had to enter the US early. So much for India.

Last April, Sai Baba passed on. Around that time, some of Miki's shiatsu clients mentioned that their guru, Amma, would visit Albuquerque in June. At first I wasn't interested, wanting instead to visit Amma in the jungle of Kerala. But Miki won out, and with our friends Ayumi and Taylor in tow, we drove south.

Finding parking was surprisingly easy. There were plenty of spots beside a large customized bus of the type that are the homes of famous rock stars on tour. There were a handful of people dressed in white standing in the entrance to the Marriott, where Amma would give her Darshan. I was amused by all the shops here, some the type found outside temples of India, selling candles and incense and photos, and others more geared toward the modern American spiritual pilgrim: books, colorful, billowy clothing, and the omnipresent essential oils. In fact, the majority of the people attending darshan today were of a particular demographic, their white robes matching the color of their skin. Some of the booths had signs looking for people willing to do karma yoga. My favorite sign was for 'Veggie Choppers.' Great band name.

Miki, being 9 months pregnant, attracted immediate attention. We were lucky to be allowed to receive Darshan quickly, and therefore avoid a long wait into the afternoon. We found a place off to the right of the stage, a good perch from which to view the proceedings. When Amma entered, the energy of the room changed immediately. I hate to overuse any cliche, but it literally became like a hive, with the bees buzzing frenetically around their queen. We all sat again and were led in meditation. I had a hard time concentrating since the voice of the man leading the meditation reminded me of the intonation of Goenka-ji, making me smirk occasionally. After, we watched the video monitors, showing people as they received their Darshan. It was amazing to watch Amma, talking to some of her circle while she clutched someone else to her bosom. She'd be all smiles and engaged in conversation, then would suddenly bend forward and whisper intensely into the darshan receiver's ear. This shift was always sudden and always dramatic. During the proceedings, a band played devotional music on stage, the tabla inspiring motion in me, as it always does. Amma's helpers moved in a different rhythm, assisting in where they were needed. I wondered what these Indian nationals made of Amma's celebrity abroad, if they found it odd at all. More than this, I wondered how they felt after these long days of Darshan. Amma's energy is famously steady, but do they feel? Empty or full?

After about an hour or so, it was our turn. There was a bit of musical chairs, then my face was pushed into Amma's chest. What did I feel? Hmmmm, it's hard to say. Part of me was busy with protocol. But another part...
Then, just as swiftly, we were guided off to the left to sit at Amma's side.

Not being a devotee, I chose to close my eyes and meditate, falling quickly into quite a deep state of quiet. Finally, a voice inside said, "That's it," so I quickly stood up and walked back through the crowd of people who'd be here well past midnight.

And again, what did I feel? After the four of us got back in the car, we talked some, but no one shared their own personal experience. I liked that. Miki and I later agreed that we liked the auspicious timing of meeting Amma, less than a month before our child's birth. Our own experiences are still beyond words, which feels pretty much right...

On the turntable: Pink Floyd, "Wish You Were Here"
On the nighttable: Pauline Kael, "For Keeps"

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sunday Papers: Shunryu Suzuki

"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few."

On the turntable: Pink Floyd, "Obscured by Clouds"

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Fires...

...rage on. Smoke pours over the ridges of the Jemez, the sky taking on the colors of the apocalypse. We sit in the house, windows closed. We have no A/C, so the rooms are stuffy. As the days go 0n, my body begin to feel like a dried out twig. It's difficult to sleep, with the heat of the room, the stale air, the fears about radiation coming from The Labs, the potential respiratory problems for my child, due to be born any day.

Almost worse is that fact that all the mountains are closed. I had intended to do at least one hike per week, making up for last year when anxieties around money kept me working and working. This is to be our last summer in NM, so I had wanted to spend much of it in the hills. This connection to place is important to me. It has slowly become my spiritual practice. And as ever, it remains my muse. But now the door to the wild has been shut. Miki and I find consolation in sunset walks around the arroyos, after the heat has gone. There's a wonderful trail system just below our house. Rabbit scurry, beetles lumber on their way. There is some wild left after all.

My fire anxieties peaked on the 4th, being all too familiar with the capacity for stupidity in my fellow humans. This stupidity shows up in some surprising, yet surprisingly obvious, places. Around the 1st of the month, the governor finally got around to declare a state of emergency around fireworks. Despite this soft ban, the city of Albuquerque went ahead with their annual fireworks display anyway. Fire teams stayed on the monitor the situation, and wound up putting out over thirty spot fires during the night.

The other day, a woman came into the store, wearing a face mask, like those seen during Japanese winters. She told me that it wasn't so much the smoke that was getting to her but the ash. Apparently, many people have been coming down with digestive issues, after swallowing this fine gray dust day after day. "The good side," she said, "is that we're all getting smudged." "Smudged?" I asked. "Yeah, think of all that burning sage." A true Santa Fe perspective...

The mood in the city is dark, made worse by a population swollen with refugees from Los Alamos. Tempers too flare up easily. So we all collectively pray for rain.

has been a taste. Last week, as I taught my yoga class up at St. John's, the clouds began to gather. At the end of class, with the students in savasana, the drops began to fall, turning quickly into a squall. The cathartic release was almost sexual. The Chinese have it right, clouds and rain.

Clouds and rain.

On the turntable: Roger Waters, "Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking"
On the nighttable: Bill Morgan, "I Celebrate Myself"

Monday, July 4, 2011

Sunday Papers: H.L. Mencken

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard."

On the turntable: The Beatles, "Yellow Submarine"