Saturday, March 28, 2015

3. Look around; happiness is trying to catch you

Interesting timing. I read this fortune while cutting egg foo yung with the flimsiest plastic knife and fork I've ever held immediately after touching off a text-fight rooted in jealousy and wet-blanketing what was otherwise a beautiful day. I'm pretty damn fleet-footed, Happiness, and though you wouldn't know it to look at me, I can juke.

The H word has always been a touchy subject, something I'm kind of agnostic about. Happiness, you've taught yourself, is the detonator at one end of an indeterminate length of time fuse. Crimped to the other end is loss. Maybe now, certainly later, it's going to explode your life. Don't trust it.

But you long for it despite what you think you know. You search. You risk.

Then once in a great while, there it is. A new sun. An unstartled deer standing in a clearing looking steadily back at you. You try not to clutch it, not to question it, not to look at it directly, knowing these actions destroy. Keep your hands open, let it come and go - a flitting butterfly, allow it to unfold, don't get in the way, surrender...

Relax the lifeguard says, and the tense kid trying to float on his back starts to sink.

A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud. - Carson McCullers said to start with small loves because a big love can break a boy. Can break a man.

Thich Nhat Hanh, a monk of the Buddah (who recognized that all life is suffering), said, when you say I love you it means I can offer you true peace and happiness. In order to be able to offer them to another, he also said, you must already be able to offer them to yourself.

Relax the lifeguard says, and the tense kid trying to float on his back starts to sink.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

And I went on down the road...

2. Walk the straight and narrow path for now

The seeds of doubt planted in the boy long ago, nurtured in near perfect conditions, have exploded into jungle. If there's a straight path in here, it's too bloody narrow for his eye to discern.

What you feed grows stronger. The story of the black dog and the white dog. Of the same litter, they are inseparable, but you - their master - can choose which gets the most food.

Please forgive the unconscious racism. It's meant to be a parable about darkness and light. Evil and Good. It doesn't really matter what color the dogs are.

What's important is that we all have both of them living in our guts. But with your help and careful feeding, one can prevail over the other. The struggle occurs every day however. Minute by minute.

This story makes sense to the boy. He feels its truth in his body. He also wishes the dogs would shut up once in awhile.

A boy learns early through feedback, freely given by burned-out alcoholic teachers, that he lacks self-control. Sometimes that plays funny, what a character, and sometimes not so funny, like maybe a psychological evaluation is in order.

He is dreaming again that the Russians invade and take them all prisoner. The principal is immediately shot, the teachers offer no resistance, the kids scream and cry herded into the cafeteria by heavily armed soldiers, while the wily boy - the half wild boy - evades capture hiding in an air duct. Anyway, it goes on and on, but he burns for a girl who thinks he's strange, and he is going to save her or die trying. The boy often dreams this way.

In third grade, nearly suffocated, he hears this on the school bus AM radio and relinquishes the little self-control he does possess with relish.

Later he would come to understand this sensation as rocking out, a truly sacred state of consciousness.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

1. You are generous to the extreme and always think of the other fellow.

Raging, you exit your car in traffic full of violence directed at the other fellow dead-stopped in front of you. This occurs unexpectedly, in the middle of happy thoughts, while making your way to spend the night with a dream. For the next ten seconds there is nothing else. You don't care which one of you dies. Then, almost as quickly, you come to your senses, feel ridiculous, get back in your car, drive off, put it away.

You are feeling the passage of time. Reminds you of a night train flying past in the fog, blurred faces in lit windows, almost silent until it was on top of you. So fast. You were stunned in it's wake, left in darkness, standing in the chaparral.

You are beginning to see the ravages you used to read about in self-deprecating comic descriptions. It's all very funny until it isn't. When it's you, then you know.

You are thinking that Jeffrey Ross Hyman hated the confinement of himself, the limitations, so he transformed himself into Joey Ramone. King of Punk. You wonder how many days after that Joey Ramone wanted to be someone else.

The next morning the road rage incident is forgotten. You are shoveling wet snow and have taken a day off work to be with the woman you love. She loves a dog whose fate must be decided today. The dog is almost 14 years old, waning with cancer, weaker by the day with such tired eyes. She slept in the bed with you, and you could see the rise and fall of her side wasn't right. She coughed and gagged several times during the night.

The woman bought her when she was a puppy. Drove her home in a convertible down the Pacific Coast Highway on a sunny day. They've been together since she moved out to California all by herself, more enduring than any human companion, and now she is faced with this decision. And the inevitable.

You drive and try to talk to her about other things. The dog begins to tremble as you exit the highway just around the corner from the animal hospital. She was diagnosed here. Inside, the dog keeps looking anxiously at the door and trying to get off the table. As the sedation takes hold, she lies down involuntarily but fights to keep her head up. She is looking left, right, left then right, as if to fend of an enemy. What's alive wants to stay that way.

The woman holds the dog and cries. You have one hand on the woman and one on the dog. You are standing there, trying, but you can't stop any of this. Now she is weeping.

The injection is given. After a minute, the rising and falling stops, and the life leaves all at once. You see it, not where it went, but the sudden vacancy. A horrible mechanical gasp, just gasses moving in the body the veterinarian explains. Her unrestrained tears.

Later you are struggling on a treadmill in a purple gym, nearly murderous, provoked by the music and your fellows. Death should have given you perspective, but you fall back into the mundane so easily. Stupid patterns, noise, annoyance, distraction, trivia, blind negative cycles, busy work, clutter. Denial, because we don't know what else to do.

Remembering Mr. Rogers singing, sitting, changing out of the profanity of his street shoes. Standing, donning his holy vestments, that cardigan - let's make the most of this beautiful day, since we're together we might as well say...

You sit with a boy of 18 at 1 o'clock in the morning. He is afraid of what he might do. He says he saw her today and knew instantly that she was over him. He's still in love.

They have an internal switch of some kind, you want to tell him.

I don't want life without her in it. You meet his eyes, hold them and nod. Later, leaving into a windy, end-of-winter night, you are both the boy and the man.

Meditating on generosity, you remember Jose. Born in Tijuana, he was adopted by a San Diego couple and given an Irish last name. I remember him always smiling. He lived with his wife - humble, doe-eyed, beautiful - and their baby south of the border. A few times he found you in the streets there late at night, drunk and headed for trouble. He just smiled, never chewed your ass, and got you out of there. You woke up on his couch one morning, his wife fixing eggs and tortillas.

Well, you deployed to Okinawa together for six months. Jose had to leave behind his beauties in TJ, but he managed to keep smiling through it. He sent his money home, didn't party, used the time wisely, and was promoted to Sergeant.

Upon your return, his family threw him a welcome home party on Rosarito Beach. At some point a young relative got caught in the rip current while playing. Jose swam out to retrieve the boy. After a long struggle, Jose managed to get the child close enough to shore for someone else to help him. The child was saved. Jose was lost to us.

Anyway, that's an example of generosity to the extreme. That's what thinking of the other fellow looks like in the world.

Sunday, March 8, 2015


What follows is entirely a work of fiction which may, at points,  resemble certain interpretations of someone else's actual reality.

During the course of the next 49 days it is my intention to obtain seven weekly fortune cookies and to view the enclosed fortunes as instructions for life. I plan to write with them in mind.

Let us understand before we begin that this is the world and that, in the world, it is not unusual to find oneself misplaced. It is from here that I begin.