Ed Rothkowitz & Eddie Lebron

As March turned into April last Spring two major contributors to my life passed on.  I offer these poems to their memory.

Remembering Ed Rothkowitz

Eddie came

Eddie did

Eddie’s gone.

Eddie was always Eddie

with those he loved.

With others

he was whatever

he thought

would work.

In either case

He was Eddie–

You’d know him


Remembering Eddie Lebron

A journeyman someone called him

Doing what must be done

to continue along his path.

Unafraid to cry

Utterly himself

Not unlike a saint.

Once I asked him

and he told me:

“Richie, I don’t know.

I do what I do.”

Published in: on November 30, 2006 at 5:58 pm  Comments (3)  
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Happy Thanksgiving from all to all!


Let me begin with a small rant.  For the last two plus hours I’ve been trying to get the above photograph to fit into this format.  At one point I even gave up altogether and opened a new site on Blogger because it is linked to Picasa, my photo program.  Needless to say I found a way to make that not work.  So, back to wordpress.  Now (and by “now” of course, I mean my own enraged “now” of the moment) my little edit screen is showing a full version of the picture, not just an enormous Sal in front of a moderately sized Kim in front of mama (in-law)Joann.  At the time this picture was taken I was truly embued with thanks for all.  Bobbie, aided by son Mike and his wife, Jenny, did wonderful service in getting all ready (NO!  I wasn’t being lazy.  I was being sick–although not so sick as to keep stepdaughter Kim and the twins-to-be from attending.  More like exhausted and achy sick rather than contageous sick.)

Finally 21 of us gathered in our living room for a meal that couldn’t be beat.  Which reminds me I forgot to make everyone listen to “Alice’s Restaurant Masacree” on the old Victrola there with the scratches and the pops and maybe even by now a skip or two.  Anyhow by the time I realized that it was indeed time to sit down and eat everybody had sat down and was eating, so I didn’t get a chance to ask each and every one of the people at the Thanksgiving table just what it was that they were thankful for on this particular Thanksgiving day.

Consequently I’m gonna do that now.  I’m gonna ask each and every one of you out there in blogland to write in the little comments box at the end of this paragrapgh and tell me and anyone else who cares to look up in the comments section what it is you’re thankful for at this Thanksgiving time of year.

That’s assuming that when I hit the saved and publish buttons that those two things actually do happen.

Published in: on November 24, 2006 at 2:53 pm  Comments (5)  
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Why now?

The melodrama: Last thursday I applied for Medicare.  When my parents were my age they’d been dead for 4 years–longer if you believe the Ellis Island shipping logs.  I work in the South Bronx, regularly ride my bicycle in traffic and don’t watch my diet as closely as I once did.  In short: it’s time. The reality: Blogging has become really easy to do.  I’ve got a bunch of poetry and pictures I’d like to share.  There’s a recently renewed interest in a writing exercise which occassionally produces some things worth sharing.  This seemed the best way to share without holding anyone hostage. There’s even opportunity for readers to send me comments, an opportunity to test both my vanity and the thickness of my skin.  More importantly, it’s an opportunity to get the kind of feedback that will help me grow. So, read, look, write back if you’re inclined. Be well. Goldberg ******************************************************************************** Now a bit of explanation:  For my first 23 years I was known as “Dick” to virtually everyone.  Family, friends, friends’ families, teachers, employers and them that knew them all called me “Dick” without any problems on their parts or mine.  Then I moved to New York City (“Wow, just like I pictured it!), where “Dick” referred to either that most masculine of body parts of someone regarded with the utmost disdain.  Not one to set myself  in opposition to the linguistic world, I became Richard. Now somewhere in the middle of this “Richard” era there was a brief period of roughly 25 years when, thanks to the fine folks at the Allstate Cafe, name number 3, “Goldie,” came into being.    Every once in a while one of them turns up–praise be to the preservative aspect of alcohol–so “Goldie” lives.  And, of course family and the crew from Hartford Public High School is still able to call me “Dick” without either of us blushing.  And, of course of course, for the rest it’s “Richard.”  Except for my clients who call me (get this) “Mr. Goldberg.”  All of which is why on this blog I call myself “Goldberg.”  Does that make sense?

Published in: on November 18, 2006 at 3:17 pm  Comments (1)  

Here’s the thing about Zen…

A few hours ago I arrived home after a 3 day sesshin with my Still Mind Zendo mates at a retreat house run by Franciscan Sisters up in Garrison, NY. Actually, I got back from helping drop off a large pile of zabutons, zafus, seiza benches, a bell & striker,an incense holder and maybe some other stuff at our in-town space on West 17th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues. Still Mind Zendo, that’s us. It was raining lightly. There was a great deal of traffic, part of it caused by the Chocolate Show around the corner.

It was just right. Manhattan is like that–just right, that is–when I’ve been away for a while. Even a brief while. And not even that far away. Even this time when while away my thoughts never turned to Manhattan or my work in The Bronx or to loved ones or to anything other than the work at hand: mediation…sort of…

All that sounds good. And there is some truth in it. What really goes on in situations like that–or more specifically: this– is not like that, however. What goes on is that for 24 25 minute periods of zazen (sitting meditation) and 16 10-or-so periods of kinhin (walking meditation) my mind flees from the approved foci of breath or feet to whatever comes down the pike. And when the pike is empty it creates:

The foggy image of a clear glass of lemonade with fading blue/green spots maybe on the glass, maybe suspended in the lemonade.

Accompanying a girlfriend of 20 years ago to a loft in a fancifully relocated garment district where, the pasha-like owner, in flowing pastel robes and spread out graciously (not gracefully) on a chez lounge, looks at me disdainfully and comments in tones so low that I must ask him to repeat himself three times, “Too much butter.”

Great pools of golden brown honey spread out on the floor between the rows of meditators.

Why do I know what “aspect ratios” are and why can’t I think of what they are right now?

Is it more masculine to order your steak really rare or really burned? Remember that Billy Crystal thing on old SNL, “Que es mas macho: Ricardo Montalban or that other guy? Who was that other guy anyway?

Renewed determination to watch the breath proves to be no more solid than the lemonade or the honey or my attempt at bravado when I reply to the “butter” remark, “My baby says she wants all the me she can get.” Breath is the last thing in this or any other world my mind finds interesting.

At daisan (a private talk with one’s teacher) a while later I tell my teacher that my practice on the cushion is at just about the same place it occupied five years ago: a game preserve for monkey mind. Monkey mind, that’s what we in the meditation game call a mind that jumps all over the place without getting permission from the owner. Greg, my teacher, pauses for a moment and then comments in this wonderful combination of drama and casualness, “Sometimes it’s monkey mind. Sometimes it’s something else.”


Yeah! He’s right! From a very deep place in me there is a seismic rumbling of the kind of satisfaction that can come only from real understanding. Not quite enlightenment, but certainly a step on that road. Sometimes it is something else. And before monkey mind can run back to the delicatessen or into a new version of the color blue I connect with my slimy little ego telling me to give up the Zen thing because I’ve got bigger fish to fry (or, in a healthier vein, poach) so let’s get lost. How about that Chet Baker. Remember when you saw him at Stryker’s on 86th Street and Pedro who used to be the bartender at the Annex on Avenue B was–-Monkey mind and ego in an unholy alliance, a partnership of subversives, a brace of not-to-be-denied terrorists hellbent on destroying my path to karmic harmony…

I was writing about something, right?

Anyhow, the bell rings. We gassho (it’s a zen thing) when it rings again, stretch our legs and eventually stand and go into walking meditation…after that some sitting meditation, walking…

Sooner than I’d want it’s over, we’ve packed up, driven back to The City, unpacked, dumped me into the #3 train (“Local trains are not running at this time”), where I marvel at the whole idea of traveling in a train underground and at the 40 or so faces visible to me as we all ride together.

Published in: on November 15, 2006 at 8:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

Answers to the three questions


“The true purpose of humanity in general, and of every human being,  is to connect with the Light of the Creator in greater and greater itensity, and eventually to literally become one with the Light.  But creating this connection with the Light is not simply a matter of gaining access to it.  Making ourselves ready to receive the Light means ‘preparing the vessel’ into which the Light will flow.  It means taking positive action in the everyday conduct of our lives, and observing the rituals and practices that the Creator has provided as tools for our transformation.  It means replacing desire to receive for ourselves alone with desire to receive in order to share, and loving others as we love ourselves.”Now the test: 1. Who wrote this? (This is the kind of question that depends on very specific information being available to you.  That you’ve come across this in the past, of course, is only a matter of chance.  In actuality, it’s being tested on something you were never assigned to read!  If I were you I’d skip it except to perhaps enter a brief note of protest re the presenting of such an obscure text for identification.)

2. What school of thought might it represent? (Hints: The concept of “Creator” pretty much eliminates philosophies and religions which do not posit a “Creator.”   “…observing the rituals and practices that the Creator has provided as tools for our transformation” also eliminates certain candidates.   Beyond that you’re on your own.)

3. What do you think of the ideas in this quotation? (The truth be told, this is the one for all the marbles.  The other two questions are just lead-ins, although they are the only two to be answered in a subsequent posting.)  Use the “comment’ box to submit your replies (Notice I didn’t say “answers.”)

(Imagine a few days passing to allow time to think about the questions…OK, time is up, here come:)

The three questions answered, November 10, 2006

The author of the quotation is Rav P.S. Berg, dean and codirector of the Kabbalah Center, in his book, The Essential Zohar.

The author is Rav P.S. Berg.  The book is The Essential Zohar, a very well done summary of that 22 volume tract, the central text of Kabbalah.

Just as it suggests the Christian worldview to those more familiar with Christian mysticism, when the cultural/historical details are left out it also reads like a Buddhist work.  In fact Berg’s introduction makes specific that Kabbalah, while coming form a Jewish culture, is not part of the Jewish religion.

The more I read in the areas of religion and spirituality, the more firmly I believe that there is one universal truth presented thru the filters of various cultures.  Stephen Mitchell’s quite wonderful book, The Gospel According to Jesus, really brought this home to me.

There is great comfort in believing this, allowing me to escape the trap of making value judgments re choosing which understanding is “best.”  Once understood that the essence is to be found in stripping away the cultural specifics of any one, all become equal.

As that remarkably wise woman, Barbara Kaminski Straite Goldberg once said, “I believe the words of G-d.  It’s those of people I have trouble with.”

Published in: on November 14, 2006 at 11:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Bunch of Poems

Sleepless in a chair

I glance at our bed:

Pale light on the pillow

on your sleeping face.

Not a poem.  Not a dream.

I hear your winter breathing

and close my book.

*   *   *


When his wagon became

trapped in deep Russian snow,

the wood-gatherer, my grandfather

cut loose his horse

and came to America.

Why do I think of this now?

*   *   *


A car alarm wails.

I pray for the thief’s swift success.

*   *   *


Close up

the tall beautiful woman

at the far end of the car

is a boy.

*   *   *


I look ahead

the hill is steep.

I look behind

the valley’s deep.

I look straight down

the road is flat.

*   *   *

Saturday night outside my window:

shouts, squeals, honks, laughter–

the raucous roar and splatter of life.

There is no noise.

*   *   *


In all his wandering, meditation

and joyful drunkenness

playing ball with the children

visiting the ladies

Ryokan, great hermit poet Zen monk child-at-heart

never got to imagine himself

sitting in an eighth floor apartment

in new York City!

Hissing waves of traffic

rising and falling slowly–

this cold March morning rain.

*   *   *

One brief horn honk

thru the cool morning rain

reveals the world.

*   *   *

Enjoy your writing

While you write–

Tomorrow your critic

May overthrow your muse.

*   *   *


Today a client sat with me

eyes swollen in tears

refusing to speak

of his dead young son

lest that death become

real for him.

Thirty-nine years have passed

since you left this floating world.

Where have those four decades gone?

*   *   *

Do I like meditation, you ask.

No…no, I don’t like it

nor do I dislike it.

What, you then ask

do I get from it?

Nothing I can

put my finger on.

*   *   *

A patch of sunlight

a window’s shadow

moves off my leg

an across the bare wood floor.

Now long ago

friends and I

would pass warm aftenoons

in the timelessness

of shared wine.

Where are they now?

Do they live?

Do they remember?

(Not all that long before my friend Ed Rothkowitz passed I sent him this poem.  He replied, “Here, yes and yes.”)

*   *   *

When my father died

Spring flowers died

and all shades of Summer green

became the same.

Air was airless

the brilliant sun blinding.

*   *   *

Sadhu                                                                                                                                                       One of tens of thousands                                                                                                                                               Just like you and me–                                                                                                                                                               Really.

Published in: on November 14, 2006 at 11:17 pm  Leave a Comment