Enable AMP!

WordPress has changed my world by changing the editing software I’ve been using since 2006. On top of that they’ve informed me that I’m about to use up my 3 gigs of free space and suggest I start paying them to continue being able to post Welcome! I’m trying hard to not believe that all this is not tied into COVID-19 or the right to carry an AK-47 into Dunkin’ Donuts or even the election of a Democrat President or the UCONN Women’s basketball schedule. Whatever and beliefs notwithstanding, I’ve figured out how to create and post using the new format and have applied for Federal funding to meet the $4 per month debt I’m about to incur. Let this be my close-to-last insight of 2020: It all works outpretty much.

As for “Enable AMP,” I’ve no idea what AMP is, but I am now in position to engage or disable it as I choose.

And now the pictures!

#2 train socially isolated

Amsterdam Avenue in the rain

 

Henri’s rooftop on West 86th Street

Chelsea Piers

The Met empty enough to see the artwork

Halloween

Smoke break on E. 43rd near UN

Central Park pond

Amsterdam & 76th

Ghost in the subway

Living room shelf

The Highline

Dave

                                            Mr. Plow & Mr. Sun

 

 

 

From the Highline

And an afterthought: Some one of you who‘re reading this actually know what AMP stands for. Please use the “comments” section to tell me. Obviously it doesn’t enable me to get the desired spacing between the last snap and it’s caption.

Those of you who don’t know what it stands for, here’s your chance to get funny.

Published in: on December 6, 2020 at 3:38 pm  Comments (11)  

The time is now!

 

This photo shows  peeling paint in the back staircase of a perfectly respectable middle class building. Is it a metaphor for the ugly, murderous racism that underlies the American dream we so want to be real? Does it expose as does the video of an American police officer keeping his knee on the neck of an American Black Man until that man was dead exposes what we’ve been denying since the end of slavery? If so, then let it be an inspiration to all to find a way to join in the struggle to bring freedom and justice to all.

Published in: on June 1, 2020 at 8:10 pm  Comments (1)  

Phone Snaps!

Overlook & W 184thWest 184th & Overlook Terrace

02-WP_20140131_009South of Chinatown

First snow fantasyFirst Snow

10-WP_20140222_003Family

5th Av in the 50'sFifth Avenue in the 50’s

From Noho StarNoho

03-WP_20140201_003George Washington Bridge

04-14-WP_20140203_088Central Park

New-York Historical SocietyNew-York Historical Society

W 86th & Amsterdam Av from a busFrom the bus

Published in: on March 14, 2014 at 6:05 pm  Comments (13)  

Here We Are!

Thanksgiving is past.  Canadians wearing multiple layers of ever so warm clothing are already installing themselves and their ever so fragrant evergreens:

(with thanks to Wikipedia)

on street corners throughout our city.  And soon enough this

will look like this:

then this:

and, if we’re truly lucky, eventually this:

Bobbie grew up with Christmas as the central holiday for her family.  With the Goldberg clan it was always Thanksgiving.  Now, as our lives have coalesced, Thanksgiving-to-Christmas for us has evolved into one wonderfully long Family Holiday.

The folks in the collage above are our family at this moment, the people we hold closer, the ones we’ve allowed to know us beyond the scope of just acquaintances. They are the  harvest of our lives.

Here’s hoping that this time for you is one of  gratitude for the ongoing harvest of your life and of awe at the movement of the seasons into the promise of new life to come.

 

Published in: on November 27, 2010 at 7:40 am  Comments (3)  

Two addicts are talking…

The first one says, “Nobody could help me outta this shit except another addict.  Them college boys they got runnin’ treatment nowadays and them books–you know what I mean–they don’t know shit about what dis shit is about.”

The other one, he says, “Yer up yer ass!  Another fuckin’ addict don’t know shit.  He just another fuck-up a little more down dis same dumbass road we on.  He gonna tell you how to run your life and he don’t know shit.  He ain’t nothin’ but a relapse waitin’ to happen.”

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“Besides,” the first one says.  “The kinda food they got in them treatment places.”

“Yeah,” the other guy says.  “And now they don’t even let you smoke cigarettes in them places.  Can you believe that shit?”

“And you gotta clean the toilets–”

“And cook the food and shit.”

“And the fuckin’ people they got in there!  You know what I mean?   Like I’m gonna talk to them about my shit”

“Yeah,” the other guy says.

“Exactly!”   Silence.  They look around.

“Tomorrow,” the other one says.

“Yeah,” the first one says.

They look around again and walk off in different directions…

(O.K., so here’s the question: Where are they talking about meeting tomorrow?  Is it the same place to do drugs again or is at a treatment center?  Write your response by clicking on “Leave a comment” below, then following the prompts.)

Published in: on November 11, 2009 at 3:43 pm  Comments (4)  

A Brush with Divine Intervention

This may be the silliest post yet.  Maybe not…

The title, of course, is a reference to two posts ago, a little story about cracking out of my little world of “shoulds” into the much bigger universe of “is.”  This time, if I have it right, it’s about leaving the world of “coincidence” in favor of the cosmos of “OmyGod!”

The picture below is of a fully inflated bicycle tube hanging in a closet.  IMG_1599And here’s the chain of events which led to my spending  time and effort to create the basically mundane image now at the left.  It all began Monday morning.  The time was about 8:45, the temperature was already in the upper 80’s with nowhere to go but up, and I, filled with rationalizations and good intentions was about to mount my bike and ride four laps (25 miles) in Central Park before riding the 8 miles to work.  Remember, boyhood has long passed me by–or I it–and my heart has a history of attacking me.

Just as I am about to  pass through the apartment door on my rush to ego gratification, I notice my back tire’s flat.  On closer inspection I also note that several sections of the tire have worn so thin that the kevlar belt under the rubber’s surface has actually replaced the rubber.  Clearly it is time for a patch and a new tire.

I set to work.  Patching tubes is something I’ve had a great deal of experience with lately.  One block from visiting friends Annie and Mahanta at the beach at Rockaway Park I flatted on my commuter bike.  It was the first time in maybe four years that such a thing has happened to my city bike tires, those warriors of urban trash and treachery, those conquerors of both The Bronx and Brooklyn.  Then there was the ultimately polite delight ride with newly met friend Marilyn on the Hudson River Greenway and the flat she somehow brought with her from home.  Our only spare tube (mine) was two inches less in diameter than her tire and wheel.  Still, with patience and perseverance it was done.

This time, in the comfort of my own home, a most curious phenomenon: I was unable to spot the leak in the tube. I inflated it and moved my hand slowly along it’s surface…nothing.  I ran it along my ever-so-tender cheek, past my keen hearing ear.  No blow.  No hiss.  I filled the sink with water and immersed the tube.  No telltale bubbles.  Especially close attention to the valve and the one patch from a previous flat yielded the same nothingness.  Out of curiosity and, I suspect, some disbelief, I hung the inflated tube as you see it depicted, fully expecting to find it flat upon returning from work late that evening.

Focusing back on the bike: I just happened to have in that selfsame closet both a new tube and a new tire, perhaps the stiffest tire ever made.  With great and prolonged effort I managed first to wrangle the tube into the tire and then the pair of them almost onto the bike’s back wheel.  “Almost,” here, is the operative word.  For what felt like the better part of a decade I struggled to mount them to the wheel without success.  Then I remembered: back in my day we’d first put the tire half on the wheel, then insert the tube, then bring the other side of the tire into place.  I tried it and, yes, old fashioned worked.

OK and I’m ready to ride.  A quick look at the clock and it becomes immediately and incontrovertibly clear that there is no way either here or in hell that I’ll have time to ride my four go-rounds in the park, come home, shower, dress and ride to work.  O well, perhaps changing the tire and tube were exercise enough.  Out of my nifty bike rider suit and into my commuter stuff and off I go.  A quick stop at the library to return four CD’s (Brubeck’s Take Five, the Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo, The Million Dollar Quartet’s Million Dollar Quartet and Clifton Chenier Live Somewhere in 1981) and then onto the bike path along the Hudson to head for The Bronx and the job.

By now the temperature’s pretty close to ninety  and probably the humidity as well.  Despite the 10 or so miles per hour breeze created by my  riding I find myself utterly wet with sweat.  The air is  just short of being a beverage rather than a gas.  Struggling along on perfectly flat pavement, I  hear it:

“OmyGod!,” that interior voice much smarter than my own blurts out.  “If you’d gone to the park to ride laps, you’d probably be dead by now.”

“OmyGod,” I agree.  “I agree!”

Slowing down to the speed of a respectable senior fastwalker and drinking much water, stopping periodically to rest, I make my way uphill from sea level along the Hudson over the spine of Washington Heights to the Highbridge section of The Bronx and the job.  Now, I’ve already got some interpretive ideas regarding what I’ve been describing here, the kind of fuzzy spiritual things you’ve come to expect of me, but I just leave those out when telling co-worker Martha about the morning’s events.  She knows of my heart history and doesn’t mince words.

“Hmmfff,” she sort of snorts.  “Divine intervention,” and walks away.

Divine intervention…nice idea…but no.  The tire was flat.  It is flat, I think to myself.  When I get home tonight it will be limp as an old man’s (sigh) step.

All day long, through client interviews (I work with men and women in treatment for addictions to drugs, alcohol, street life, pain and money) and group facilitations, I can’t stop thinking about that damned tube.  At 8:45 pm, 12 hours exactly after all this began, I phoned home and asked Bobbie, now my wife of 11 years, to walk the phone to the closet and describe the tube to me.

Yes, it was still firm with air!  No it hadn’t again flattened.

When I got home an hour later it was still firm.  I took it down, forced the air out and rolled it up.  The next day (today) I decided to write up this bit of mystery and re-inflated the tube to photograph, then deflated and rerolled it, realized the picture wouldn’t orient properly, unrolled the tube and rephotographed it.  Each time it held air with no leakage.  Each time I heard Martha’s observation.

I think she’s onto something…I don’t know…Do you?

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Here’s Martha (with Edgar)

Published in: on August 21, 2009 at 12:28 pm  Comments (1)  
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Slow Tweet…

Vacation Day

Wake up in the arms of my beloved

Breakfast of summer fruits and banana bread.  Coffee.

Wash the dishes–new Fiestaware, deep colors beneath white suds.

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On the bike: 4 turns around Central Park past happy chattering knots of visiting Frenchmen and Italians and from-sure-enough-Spain Spaniards,   noting the backs of all those cyclists who pass me.

A hot shower

A cold iced tea

A man on tv tells me how to care for my mind.

Bike to the library: return the New Orleans Klezmer Allstars, pick up King Sunny Ade.

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*********************************************

And now, right now

Sitting in the shade, the late afternoon breeze

Between the Hudson River and the West Side Highway (a candy bar in my pocket!)

Writing to you…

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How am I doing?

‘Couldn’t be better!

Published in: on August 8, 2009 at 2:01 pm  Comments (3)  
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OK, so here I am at the Metropolitan…

Museum of Art in New York City.  I’m with a friend, Judith, and we’ve both got cameras and our expressed purpose is to take snaps in the museum (in accordance with their rules) to be entered in the museum’s photo contest.

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The museum’s goal is to get a whole bunch of free photos to use to promote the museum.  Mine is to…well…I guess it’s to satisfy my ego that I can make photos good enough to–if not actually win the contest–to at least let me believe that the judges who didn’t pick me are all either corrupt or tasteless, and any fool can see that my snaps are better than the one(s) they chose.  Judith’s goal, as I am to ascertain from her comportment and subsequent conversation, is to spend a pleasant few hours in the museum in my company taking photos along the way.

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Those among you out there who  have accumulated some expertise in the area of friendships and perhaps even unspoken crossed purposes may already be smiling in anticipation of what to you seems inevitable.  Those of you who  have seen me possessed by an ego-driven mission may be chuckling aloud while congratulating yourselves on knowing what will take place in a paragraph or two.    And, finally, those of you who have failed to notice all the stuff squeezed in between the lines, those of you thinking, “O how lovely!  Two friends spending an afternoon in one of the world’s leading museums together and taking some pictures–ah, if only it could have been like that.

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But no matter.  See, this isn’t about you.  This is my blog and my ego and it’s about me.  Remember that!

[Here we leave the digression and return to the narrative.]

It’s all about me, and I’m very proud of my ability with a camera.  I don’t wander around great museums without getting in touch with my own greatness.  I’m not here to chat about work and classes and that restaurant in Soho where everything is green or even oooww! the pain in my foot (and you can bet I have got a  lot to say about that particular issue–just not now) or anything else.  I’m here to demonstrate my greatness–maybe greatness is too strong a word…but then again…

img_36981It doesn’t take long for me to start walking at my own pace and going off in my own direction.  After all we are off  to the area of the museum she’d requested.  It’s not like I’m being bossy or demanding.  I’m just following along in my own way.  I mean, hell, I am entitled to that, aren’t I?

It’s remarkable, isn’t it, ego’s ability to find things to feed on.  The simple truth is that I expect great photo ops to be available everywhere in the museum.  Hence, it matters not at all to me which way we go.  Her suggestion is a fine one and it would have been most appropriate to simply acknowledge that and smile.  Ego, however, seeks not the opportunity to express gratitude.  It demands nourishment. Heading for her preferred destination allows me to feel simultaneously self-sacrificing and considerate and noble. Any of you all ever do that?  It might play out like:

“Let’s go up to Connecticut this weekend and see the grandbabies and the kids and Lil and Bob and Lew and April and Ron and Connie and Barbara and Bill.”

“Yeah, sure…whatever.” when you’re actually dying to see the grandbabies and the kids and Lil and Bob and Lew and April and Ron and Connie and Barbara and Bill.

–or–

“Would you mind terribly if we watched the Simpsons tonight?”

“(sigh) OK, anything you say.”

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Maybe twenty minutes into this adventure (I don’t remember exactly where we were) my fixation on being left alone in this  moment of creation clashed sufficiently with her need for socialization to become the topic of–in my mind– her ceaseless conversation.  Judith, Judith tells me, feels neglected and hurt and, truth be told,  I have hurt her.  No matter that it is unintentional.  No matter that I can (and at first do) justify my behavior brilliantly.  Not only do I justify it, I undoubtedly exalt it while simultaneously attacking hers.    Judith, however, is a strong sort, not about to be blown away by my noise.  Realizing this I go into my soft, precise mode, explaining in a calm and condescending way my purpose for coming to the museum.   She, with equal calm, explains to me that I had failed to inform her of the rules beforehand.  Ego provokes ego, offense provokes defense.  We are off and running!copy-of-img_3660

As I am just about to (with all good intentions and believing myself to be so utterly right that even she could see it for God’s sake) destroy a friendship of 17 years,  something tantamount to miraculous happens.  Another part of me–not the ego or even the ego cleverly disguised as another part–takes over.  I’ve written about this before, that unnamed part deep inside that bypasses the brain altogether as it produces the words which I hear for the first time as they come out of my mouth.
“Hey, howzabout this:  It’s one o’clock now.  Let’s each go shoot snaps for a while,  meet at the coat check at 2:30, then get coffee and talk about stuff?”  We both exhale.  She smiles and agrees and we do.
*     *     *
The first five photos are the ones I ended up submitting to the contest.  The last is a self portrait.

Published in: on March 7, 2009 at 11:04 am  Comments (6)  
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Life Falls Together…Right Here in New York City

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Let me start with Friday, January 2nd.  Based on this:

Peter Doobinin

dear friend,
there will be a downtown meditation community “new year’s day sitting” on january 1, 2009.  we hope you can join us as we greet the new year.

the sitting will end at 8:30pm, followed by time for fellowship.  refreshments will be served, but if you would like to bring something, food (vegetarian), or beverage (non-alcoholic), please do.

Peter was my first meditation teacher.  I studied with him for two years, taking his introduction to meditation course, the intermediate offering and then taking the introduction again.  After that I did a series of “sandwich retreats,” meetings held in his apartment on a Sundays, Tuesdays and then Thursdays, thus sandwiching meditation and dharma talks (“sermons” to you Christians and Jews out there) with life in the usual world.  Peter is knowledgeable, compassionate and focused to the point of seeming almost abrupt at times.  His job is to transmit the word, not to debate it.  He follows the Insight tradition, not the Zen with which I currently study.

Having had a quiet New Year’s celebration and not having seen Peter in maybe four years, I decide to accept the invitation.  Being a good Jew underneath it all, I of course have to bring a little something either vegetarian or non-alcoholic. Opting for the former, I stop at the Subway on 14th Street about three doors down from the rented room where we are to meet.  I order the Vegetarian Footlong and request it be cut into ten pieces.  The counterman looks at me for a long instant, smiles and says, “Sure.”  Sure he was, doing a magnificent job without the aid of a calculator, ruler or calipers.  I thank him, tip him, exchange best wishes for a great new year, then set off to the meeting.

Ok, soI’m  in the elevator with a coupla other folks heading up to five, when we stop at four and someone known to the others gets on.  Some dialog now:
“How come you’re on four?”
“The men’s room on five isn’t working, so I hadda come down here.”
“Hmm,” thinks I, your writer.  “This is a message I can read.”

So I exit the elevator, find the back-up men’s room, make use of it and arrive upstairs just in time to remove my jacket, sweater, shoes and cap, locate a mat and space on the floor for it, open my seiza bench (my nifty, padded, folding–Christmas-a-few-years-ago gift from stepson David) meditation seat and assume the position.  As Peter begins his presentation, it occurs to me that something is missing from all this.  Yes!  The ten piece, toasted vegetarian footlong is missing.  I don’t recall putting it on the table with the cheeses and crackers and hummus and raw vegetables and bowl of fruit.  I don’t remember leaving it on the table next to the free literature (Peter always has good free literature) where I’d put my outerwear.  It’s definitely not with me here on the seiza bench.

Peter’s words are lost as my mind hurtles backward in pursuit of the toasted vegetarian footlong.  Is it in the back-up men’s room on the floor below?  Back at the Subway?  Meanwhile the chanting is starting.  Wherever it is, I figure.  It’s safe.  So, along with the forty or so other celebrants in the room, I chant.  Then I meditate, then listen to the dharma talk (Insight folks call it the Dhamma Talk,) the questions and comments period, and only then, as we stand and pick up our mats do my thoughts return to the errant sandwich.
Quickly I run down to the back-up men’s room only to find nothing.  Ok, either someone who needed (or wanted) it found and took it, or it’s still back at the restaurant.  Whatever, I return upstairs, speak happily with Peter, have some wonderful cake and leave.

When I arrived at the Subway looking more joyful than sheepish, I am greeted by the counterman, looking more sheepish than joyful.  Arms out and palms up I begin:

“Duh…”
“When I saw you left it behind, I ran outside to look for you, but you were gone.”
“Yeah, I just was about 3 doors down.  You still got it?”

“Naw.  I threw it out.”

“How far out?”

“I really threw it out!  It’s ok.  I’ll make ya another one.  Vegetarian, right?  See, I remember.  What kinda cheese?”

“Swiss.”

“All outta Swiss.  American?”

“Ok, but just cut it in half.  I’m not going back to the party.”

So, laden with seiza bench and footlong vegetarian hero and no hunger whatsoever–I had a BIG piece of cake and, besides, Bobbie fed me well before leaving home–I travel uptown by small “s” subway to my stop at 72nd Street.
Now here’s the part that let’s you know that (ta da) Life Falls Together and not just in Bhutan, but right here in New York City.

It was cold enough when I exited the station that only one man was sitting out on the stone seats in front of the entrance, his bundles in front of and next to him.

“Howya doin’ tonight,” I begin.
“Na mobly tow towa bummle,” it sounded like.  Not much interest in conversation.
“Would you like a sandwich,” I continue.  His eyes brighten, making contact with mine.
“That’s  your sandwich!”
“I thought you’d like it.”
“What’ll you eat?”
“I got stuff at home.”
“You sure?
“Yeah.”  I hand it to him.  He takes it, hefts it.
“You sure?”  I nod.
“Thanks,” he says.
“Happy New Year,” I wish for him out loud.  No response. My moment in his life is over.  Me, I smile.  I’m still smiling.

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Happy New Year!

Published in: on January 4, 2009 at 5:24 pm  Comments (5)  
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This is a Hard One…

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At this moment this has nothing to do with Christmas, Channukah, Kwaanza or any other holiday.  It has to do with a painful event followed by another painful event which continues to cause pain.  It’s not at all appropriate to the season, and, given the usually light or musing nature of this blog, not even appropriate to what I’ve been writing.  Let me stop explaining and just start writing.

*     *     *

Back on the 31st of October I began a period of intensified Zen meditation, study and practice lasting through the 6th of December.  During that period I participated in a group study of the writings of a  8th century Chinese Zen master, Ma-tsu (which I didn’t understand) and understanding of the Ten Essential Precepts (which I didn’t do well with either), extended my daily meditation period from 35 to 40 minutes (which did nothing to increase the depth of my meditation),  focused on maintaining two of those Ten Essential Precepts (#7: not elevating oneself or blaming others–to own one’s limitations, and #9, not being angry–to see things as they are and not as they should be (which may prove to be the saving grace in all this.) On December 6th this formal period, called Ango, ended with a meditation beginning at 8 in the morning and lasting until after 9 in the evening.

It was during this extended meditation  period that the first painful event occurred.  It happened at about 3:30 in the afternoon.  I was sitting in meditation when suddenly, with nothing I can recall to provoke  it,   my mind and body were taken over by feelings I’d never before experienced.  Intense helplessness, pain, isolation, terror, bewilderment, betrayal, despondency–I was experiencing feelings often described to me over the last 15 years by clients I’ve treated for addictions: the feelings that accompany being sexually abused as children by a trusted family member.  For all the years my clients did their best to describe their feelings, this was the first time their reports had moved from my cautious and distancing brain right into the center of my living.  I was sweating.  My belly was flipping.  Tears tried to come out, but I was too terrified to let that happen.  It was as if all that I had held certain and dear in life was simply no more.  I felt utterly alone and defenseless in this universe.  Utterly at the mercy of any and all evil.  Without losing consciousness everything went black.

Blessedly, when the gong sounded ending the meditation period I was scheduled to meet with one our teachers, our senseis, to discuss my progress and receive counseling.  I all but ran to the daisan area, the private space where we were to meet, my muscles tight to aching and my nausea just under control.  I rushed the polite introductories and spilled out as best I could the feelings which still ran through me.  I knew that compassion, one of Buddhism’s fundamentals was involved, but that empathy, a similar but much more visceral response, was overwhelming all else. Sensei would bring me back to balance.

Sensei looked at me calmly, and said that his job was to help me with Dharma, the Buddhist term which can mean either reality or the Buddha’s teachings, which are also reality.  When I continued my blurting, he noted that he had many more students to see and could not spend a lot of time with me.  When I continued–undoubtedly repeating what I’d already said, he asked me if I wanted to study koans, Japanese/zen mind-releasing puzzles, in January.  I responded that I was too tied up in this moment to think a month ahead.

At this point there was a pause, then I heard Sensei say, “Where there is self-hatred there can be no progress.”

What???  I was certainly jolted out of my terror and nausea.  What the fuck did that mean?  Who was self-hating?  I’d very carefully explained that I was feeling feelings my clients had described, that I’d never been molested nor had I molested anyone, that my life, ups, downs and the rest, had left me feeling blessed.  I had no idea of what he meant by his sentence.  I knew that Zen could be cryptic, but this was beyond my ability to understand, beyond my ability to even see the suggestion of a path to explore.  Still I was too upset to even ask what was meant, too chaotic to do anything but fall back on my habitual insecurities and assume that sooner or later I’d understand what my teacher was telling me.  Not all that deep down I felt that somehow it was being implied that I was an abuser.

Bowing meekly I left the room and returned to my mat.  For the next 5 hours I was useless. There was no meditation.  Motionless and silent, the agony of my clients had been joined by my own.  I, too, felt abandoned.

That was on Saturday.  Sunday, Monday and Tuesday I remained preoccupied, embedded in turmoil.  Tuesday night I returned to the zendo for regularly scheduled meditation.  Before even taking off my jacket I signed up for daisan with Sensei.  I had to know what had been meant by, “Where there is self-hatred there can be no progress.”  Walking to the interview area I alternated between rehearsing my words and urging myself not to turn and run.  Arriving in the daisan space, my voice at the edge of tears, I explained how I did not understand his comment, that I remained upset and without direction, that I had to know the meaning of his comment.

He replied directly and without hesitation, “I never said such a thing,” and asked for the context of this alleged remark.  I repeated all that I described above to you, all of which he acknowledged, all but the devastating sentence, “Where there is self-hatred there can be no progress.”  Again I flashed back to the stories from my clients.  Now, however, I wasn’t just hearing them.  I had become one of them.  Like them my perception, my reality was being denied.  The one whom I saw as my help, my rescuer, was denying what I knew to be true.

“You must understand,” Sensei continued, his voice firm and words precise.  “You must understand: I have no memory of ever having said those words.”  I looked into my lap, my shoulders dropping, my belly heaving, eyes wet.  A second, a minute, an eternity passed, then I heard a weak, infantile version of my own voice:  “I understand that you have no memory of ever having said those words.”  I rose and returned to the meditation room.

*     *     *

Zen and Ma-tsu talk of an all-containing universe, a universe so grand that it knows no contradictions because it holds all.  Truth and not-truth, full and not-full, raped and not raped.  Leaving my meeting with Sensei I focused on the universe holding memory-of-this and n0-memory of-this.  My truth and Sensei’s truth.  A universe big enough for both.

Intellectually I see no problem in this–now.  Sensei remembers one thing.  I remember another.  Reporting on our memories, we are both accurate.  Be clear, other than what we remember there is no trace of what transpired in that daisan on December 6, 2008 at around 3:45 in the afternoon.  The events of that moment are no longer part of here and now reality.  They are only of the past.

Reality, that which exists right now, is another story.  Right now Sensei may well believe that my memory is broken and, indeed, it has its problems.  I believe that  Sensei’s memory–if only in this instance–is simply not as good as my own.  I’d like to leave all this in the past, but there is the matter of pain, pain which is now and is real.

That pain which I  feel now is not that of my clients.  Nor is it that of not being comforted in those moments coming off the meditation mat. It is not even the pain in the accusation I inferred from the words, “Where there is self-hatred there can be no progress.”   No, it comes from my inability to leave the past behind, and as such it becomes my teacher, pointing up unmistakably my now-and-then tendency to become stuck in products of my mind.

Here I become grateful.

The work with my clients is to help them dislodge from the suffering brought on by clinging to the horrors and beliefs arising from their pasts.  Having it thus handed to me that such is not the clean and easy task I’ve always envisioned bolsters my compassion and my patience.  It makes me better at what I do.

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Published in: on December 18, 2008 at 10:59 pm  Comments (13)  
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Right here in New York City!

I’ve really nothing to say right now, but I couldn’t just send you these snaps without some kind of comment.  This afternoon, walking thru the Ramble in New York’s Central Park, I ran into these fellers:

Raccoons!

In Central Park!!

in NEW YORK CITY!!!

Quiet, calm, curious, friendly–but mostly curious– raccoons right here in New York City, where people come from everywhere else so they can make more noise and craziness than they could at home while at the same time being more afraid of strangers than they’d ever been before.  But not them.

So you can surely imagine my surprize when these little fellers, soft as their fur, just moseyed out of the trees onto the sidewalk and right up to me. Not brave but simply with no fear and no reason to develop any.

Look at this one! There he is up on his hind legs and there I am on my ugly twisted feet looking down into his beautiful eyes and there we are, the two of us, just being there in the Ramble in Central Park in New York City.

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Now that I’m back home and I’ve started thinking again (while I was out there I was too busy being there to do any thinking), I wonder how they got there and where was mama when I was taking pictures and how come in 43 years of walking thru the Ramble I’d never seen raccoons in there before and some more generic questions like what do they eat and how do they spend their time and do they have rabies.  That last one gives rise to a personal question:

Was my toe in danger?

The only one I can truly answer is the last one: no.

Published in: on August 2, 2008 at 9:59 pm  Comments (4)  
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Me and Natalie Alone

Last time I told you about a wonderful writing, thinking, being exercise I learned from Natalie Goldberg and invited you all to try it and let me know how it went. So far no one’s accepted the invitation, so I did–but I didn’t throw it out. Here it is:

Sunday, July 20th: Once again here I am. Yes! Right here. In my head I’d begun working on a lament: O, poor me! All alone on this hot and appropriately humid New York July Sunday. Bobbie’s up in Connecticut with the grandbabies. My two best bike buddies are elsewhere, as my third best bike buddy, and I got up too late after having been out too late last night to ride to the beach with a group of strangers. My best art buddy and I are buddies no longer. O lonesome me (in the words of mostly forgotten song.)

Be all that as it may, I’m here: siting by the Hudson river at about 62nd Street in a little bit of shade, listening via mp3 to Charcoal Gypsies by Musicians of the Nile. One can listen to only so much Umm Kalthum! Out of the corner of my eye a site-specific dance event is being rehearsed. It will start in about an hour and a half. I’ve brought a bottle of water, a camera and extra batteries.

Next to me on the bench is National Geographic Traveler’s Egypt and the list of sights out trip (in less than 3 weeks!) will cover. My plan for this afternoon: to read up on what we’ll see in weather hotter and drier than what’s upon me now.

Meanwhile leaves, willow style, blow gently across my head, cheek, neck and shoulder. What a tickle!

Frankly, what a life!

Clearly “Poor Me” is not cutting it. “Lucky Me” and “Blessed Me” and “Grateful Me” are kicking Poor Me’s ass.

Poor “Poor Me.”

Published in: on July 21, 2008 at 10:24 am  Comments (1)  
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My weekend by Richard G.

Have you not seen the idle man of tao who has nothing to learn or to do?

Who neither discards wandering thoughts nor seeks the truth?

The real nature of ignorance is Buddha nature;

The illusory empty body is the Dharma body.

–from the Song of Enlightenment

by Yung Chia Hsuan Chueh

Temperature in the 96’s and humidity about the same, I spent the morning finishing Tara Brach’s extraordinary book, Radical Acceptance. In a nutshell–a small one, maybe a hazelnut shell, she says that the way to most enjoy and be satisfied with life is to accept it. As my clients at Samaritan Village might say, “It is what it is.” Ms. Brach, however, spends 326 or so pages saying it both beautifully and brilliantly, with examples and exercises and wonderful moments of humanity to remind me that heart comes first in the Buddhist concept of the heart/mind.

Today became day number four in my string of four incredible days in a row, days filled with love, compassion, delight and good food. It all started at work on Thursday when I presented a workshop, “Social Work and the Therapeutic Community,” at the 40th Annual National Association of Social Workers Addictions Institute. The presentation could not have gone better. The audience was enthusiastic and participatory. The material flowed nicely. Even the evaluations at the end looked good.

Back at Samaritan Village in the Highbridge section of the Bronx on Friday, both staff and clients were in extraordinarily good moods– remarkable in that I’d seen/felt nothing like it in my previous 13 years and one day on the job. The clients, all struggling with addiction and legal and family and mental health issues, are now also struggling with the State of New York’s decision that on July 26th (a minute away in their eyes) all substance abuse treatment facilities within the Empire State will become no smoking zones. Not only that, but nicotine addiction will be treated as all other brain-confounding addictions, to wit, no possession of smoking materials or accessories will be allowed; clients and staff seen smoking anywhere will be subject to repurcussions and YES THIS MEANS YOU!!!

We’ve been working to bring this in gradually, with one fewer smoke break per day each month to the point at which we’re now at one per day. We’ve even renamed them “breaks” to get the smoke out of the package. There’ve been Nicotine Addiction classes, free hard candies and NRT (nicotine replacement therapy) devices (e.g., gum, patches, etc.) available to them. Nonetheless we’ve had a high number of clients leaving treatment against clinical advice, often explaining their decision not as showing a desire to return to crack or heroin of reefer or even sex, but resting in the inability to swear off allegiance to Joe Camel and his mentholated cohort.

Why the good mood, then, was anyone’s guess. But there it was, expressed in smiles and laughter and cooperation. I did a couple of very satisfying individual sessions, one unscheduled with a client who just needed a safe place to vent, yet came away from it with much more. There was a wonderful teaching session, also unscheduled and informal, with a young case manager who’s charged with some very demanding clients. And then there was just a looseness and warmth in the staff-staff interactions during the day. Again, why is anyone’s guess.

Saturday after zendo I had lunch with some fellow meditators who’ve taken to discussing matters Zennish over lunch. Those of you who have known me for a while know that when I’m uncomfortable with anything I’ll either withdraw and spend my time wishing 1, that I had the balls to say something; and 2, wishing I was elsewhere; or 3, blowing up at the wrong thing, creating a mess and 4, wishing I was dead. Without going into the details of what got me bent seriously out of shape this time, let me just report that I was able to articulate what was going on with me and, to the best of my understanding, why I was able to to mention out loud the knot in the belly, the inability to intellectually comprehend what was being discussed along with the attendant sadness and frustration, the desire to be better able to participate, the desire to find a way to apply what was being said to my own quest for a richer life experience–all this without casting blame or mentioning anyone’s mother.

Phenomenal! I couldn’t help but feel like a grown-up.

And then came today. (Incidentally the pictures of the cats have nothing to do with the words here, but I couldn’t resist them. I’m not a “cat person,” but Fred and Mrs. Sipowicz are beauties.)

In an unrelated development–but one of great interest–my friend, Alix Loranace is having a show of Selected Prints entitled ” Amazing Women.” The show is at the

Ocean County Artists Guild

Ocean & Chestnut Avenues

Island Heights, N.J

It will run through June 30th.

If you have a way to get there, get there!


You can go to

http://picasaweb.google.com/richsgold/DoItYourself

BrainSurgery

to see a series we ran here a while back.

Published in: on June 8, 2008 at 5:39 pm  Comments (2)  
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OK world, smile at the camera!

OK, I’m in love with little digital point-and-shoot cameras, and tonight it feels right to post a few new snaps. The influence of Bruno Moyen’s New York City: a state of mind on this, my first effort in about 35 years at re-seeing the city, will be apparent to those of you who’ve seen the book or the website (www.brunomoyen.com). He used indoor film to record outdoor images, then took things further from the land of simple reportage in the darkroom. For me Google’s Picasa was the tool for making a similar trip.

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Thanks to those of you who made it down this far. For those who are curious about locations all the exposures (do we use that word for digital?) were made on Manhattan’s west side, from 125th Street down to 76th. They were all made on the same day, so something was really working for me.

I hope they work for you.

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Published in: on March 3, 2008 at 10:51 pm  Comments (1)  
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*$*BLOGS*$*BE*$*REAL*$*

Noon.  September 2, 2007.  Washington Heights.  Temperature 75.  Sun brilliant.

Sky possessing a clarity that poets, dying, wish they had lived to see.

St. Nicholas Avenue awash with life, color, motion, sounds and smells–yet peaceful, harmonious.

Room for everything and everything fits.

Down a block B-REAL peeks at us

Jumps out at us black in white in this full color world

(Bobbie & me, out scouting

carrying ice cube trays, corn, kiwis, a book.)

Half smiling, that maybe once famous B-REAL half smile

The smile that got him laid?  Killed?  The smile his mother loved? That others envied?  “How he smile like that anyway?”  Beyond compelling.  Demanding!  “Get your asses down here!  Check out our blog!”

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A lone teenger (a B-REAL wannabe?) standing in the entrance rolls off to allow us in, never looking our way or otherwise acknowledging our existence.

Leaving us alone with B-REAL

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Dazzled by art, saddened by death on this one more perfect day.

Saddened by art, dazzled by death on this same perfect day in Washington Heights.

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Published in: on September 2, 2007 at 5:26 pm  Comments (2)  
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