Archive for May, 2010

“Yes, and cow dung make good fuel, too.”

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

Have you heard of the village?

If you are familiar with my thoughts here, you’ll quickly realize, upon learning of the village, that it is quite suitably my imaginary idyllic beacon. I was reminded of the village today while I watched Akira Kurosawa’s “Dreams.” The movie is a vast, surreal, vivid display of private cinematographic wondrousness based on several of the famous Japanese director’s dreams. Eight, to be exact, and the final dream represented in the movie is entitled “Village of the Water Mills.” As with many of the short dreams portrayed in the movie, the story involves a lone traveler who discovers a desolate and uncanny location populated by mysteriously fleeting characters who appear trapped between two worlds, a tenuous border zone separating states of existence.

In this case, the traveler wanders into the village and finds an elderly man who happens to be doing maintenance work on a…water mill, of all things.

The traveler is dressed in a a relatively modern ensemble of jeans and button-up shirt while the village dweller is an archaic representation of distant Japanese past.

The border zone these two presently occupy is explained by the elderly man in this clip:

The old man’s even-handed responses and explanations of the village’s pre-modern style of life make me smile.

Perhaps this one sentence, in response to the visitor’s querying him about the village’s lack electricity and reliance on candles to illumine the oppressive rural darkness, sums up the dialog best: “Why should night be as bright as day?”

But the most striking thing to me about the village is not its lack of electricity or lights or machinery or lack of common modern amenities. It is the lack of a formal, geographical name. This town is not only timeless…it is bodiless.

It left me second-guessing man’s reflexive habit of bestowing names in order to distinguish people and places. To consider a village that has no name is baffling to my sense of order and proper reality. How must a civilization without names manage to exist, how would it diverge in ritual from my accepted cultural manner of attaching labels to my world.

For is this not the purpose of names?
Names tie us, they bind us. They consolidate our differing streams of existence. Names solidify and mark the land that is not marked. Names place artificial differentiation on places which nature didn’t. We draw city limits, we draw invisible and imaginary limits to this coldly and neutrally natural world of ours. Names bring the element of the unrecognizable and inexplicable into focus and provide us with a common understanding of our physical environment.

Kurosawa’s Watermill Village is a repudiation of mankind’s egotistical yet helpless attempts at harnessing his wild environment.

The Zen-like Watermill Village offers an an exquisitely right-brained method of interacting with our world. In this village, direct binary relationships are not inherent to the language’s mentality or structure. All concepts skirt such simplistic correlations. Rather, we relate with our environment through an internalized and slightly spontaneous but descriptive fashion. Names are not labels; names are movement, they are emotion, they are untold. We don’t recognize or demarcate with meaningless words. Names are denoted by traits, behaviors, description, underlying sensation. We share an awareness of the place, and when we think of it, we know it, and descriptions of it are exuded in the context of its role or placement within the environment. Issuing a humanly contrived name reeks of hollow superiority and godliness. In Watermill Village, the land, the landscape, is immutable and thus not in need of an impermanent name (essentially, all names are impermanent for those that name are impermanent themselves).

Watermill Village then is reflective of more than just trite pastoral symbolism.
It treads upon the ambiguous nature of an unworldly transient mentality, perhaps comparable to that of the American Indian.

Phaedrus’ deserted path

Friday, May 28th, 2010

Random passages have been known to strike random chords.

If you read enough, eventually you will find a passage or two which affect you deeply by virtue of self-recognition. Which leave a strong sense of familiarity reverberating in your mind. A passage which may define you in a displaced manner. Cited by a stranger, an author, who may have lived and died many years ago, or who is still alive but may as well live in another galaxy. These disconnected and removed people who describe you in intricate detail.

When you read such a moving passage that you strongly identify with, you must re-read it.
Feel it.
Feel the words, let them sink in, absorb them and allow them to travel through your veins and swell your being. You re-read. The words encircle you, the description embraces you. You see the words as if looking in a mirror. For you could have written them.

I’ve fallen behind on my reading, but I’m catching up. Today I read the final pages of Chapter 7, which is also the final chapter of Part 1 of Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance.

I encountered a passage.

Phaedrus described. A mysterious lurking character who has remained ethereal and mystical throughout the opening chapters of the book. Until now, in the the final pages of the seventh chapter. He is slowly made real, painted with tangible brush strokes. Phaedrus. Brought to life.

Some things can be said about Phædrus as an individual:

He was systematic, but to say he thought and acted like a machine would be to misunderstand the nature of his thought. It was not like pistons and wheels and gears all moving at once, massive and coordinated. The image of a laser beam comes to mind instead; a single pencil of light of such terrific energy in such extreme concentration it can be shot at the moon and its reflection seen back on earth. Phædrus did not try to use his brilliance for general illumination. He sought one specific distant target and aimed for it and hit it. And that was all. General illumination of that target he hit now seems to be left for me.

In proportion to his intelligence he was extremely isolated. There’s no record of his having had close friends. He traveled alone. Always. Even in the presence of others he was completely alone. People sometimes felt this and felt rejected by it, and so did not like him, but their dislike was not important to him.

No one really knew him. That is evidently the way he wanted it, and that’s the way it was. Perhaps his aloneness was the result of his intelligence. Perhaps it was the cause. But the two were always together. An uncanny solitary intelligence.

OK, I’m not presuming reams of intelligence. Don’t dwell on that.
Dwell on something else, please. On this:

The chasm that forms when your mentality departs from the common stream of humanity.

You grasp concepts differently.
You understand diverse relationships differently.
Differently than most others.

You feel as if you are witnessing the same things everyone else does, but through different eyes.
Your inner voice, the one which unifies disparate concepts in the form of privately-held analogies, speaks a different language than most people.

Your mode of expression, your manner of conveying ideas and thoughts, runs contrary to common perceptions and understandings. Your method of verbalization swims upstream, against the opposing rush of humanity headed in the other direction.

Robert Pirsig, the author, structured a fictional account, a summation, which I felt eerily describe me.

I wonder how many others experience such “aloneness” and go about interpreting such alienation as a punitive aspersion describing the wretchedness or shortcomings of their own personality, their own worth, their own personal appeal. I wonder how many people examine their solitude and rebel against such defeatist notions, thus revealing the true nature of their reality. They must maneuver through scads of self-examination before realizing nothing is wrong with them. Value judgment has nothing to do with it.

See, there must comes a time when you can no longer blame yourself in good conscience. When you stop incurring the imagined wrath of civilization. It’s no longer a question of blame. Blame has no place in discovering your unusual role within the circus of mankind. To compare and contrast yourself is the first step towards self-defeat.
Self-acceptance is possible. Phaedrus, single-minded, monomaniacal, perhaps, but travelling with the unidirectional ferocity of a speeding arrow. Thus, he was unaffected by trivial matters of social pride.

As it relates to me. The outsider, always the outsider and the observer and thinker and shunning most intimate human contact.
Talking, noise, blathering, they drain me. Human interaction saps me. I need silence, I need darkness, I need separateness.

And like Phaedrus, a wedge of human separation instills itself between me and the rest of common society. Amongst groups, the teeming masses, I feel like the sole green apple in a sea of red.

Even in the presence of others he was completely alone.

Not only in obvious outwards mannerisms and environmental appearances, but on a deeply spiritual plane. My persona, my psychic energy, cloistered, sheltered, removed, never able to truly surmount the pall of aloofness. Even when I laugh, when I welcome good cheer, even when I’m at the center of it, this aloofness blankets me, walls me in and coldly expels those who approach.

As long as my focus is laser beam sharp, thoughts of loneliness or solitude don’t enter my mind. They don’t befuddle me. My focus, when it’s consuming and allowed to be such, obliterates all normal human emotional concerns and there is no opportunity for me to experience any of the multitude of bothersome emotions people experience at the first inklings of unpleasant stimuli.
Sometimes, my loneliness is pointed out. Commented on.
Jolted from my reverie I open my eyes and see, perhaps they are right.

I am alone. If I allow the awareness to consume….apprehension may fill me. Panic even.
In the absence of focus, I’m almost human again.

There was a cartoon I once saw in which a character manages to become airborne and is able to fly for no other reason than that he has convinced himself he can, even though physically he is literally incapable of it. Blindly fluttering along, ignorance is his enabler; focus allows him to defeat the laws of physics. Until it’s pointed out that he is FLYING! Startled, he opens his eyes, finds he cannot maintain the single-minded focus now that his eyes are open, and realizes he is FLYING.
This realization and self-conscious awareness snuff the illusion, causing him to plummet to the ground. That is the dynamic I sense if someone points out my lonely existence.

My focus is narrow and it’s the only way I know.

The girl I built today

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

Dear treasured and beloved reader: check it out.

I’m going to take you on a very (mercifully) short journey through my mind.
As I unfold some thoughts stemming from someone I saw earlier today.

Inner dialog stirred.
I filled in the blanks of someone’s life.

To begin.
OK, so I cross paths with this chick occasionally in the course of my day. Not daily, but frequently enough that I have a good sense of her. What she’s about, what makes her tick, her drawbacks, etc. I’ve been able to form a pretty solid portrait of her based upon our non-speaking encounters.

Today she wore one of her typically overwrought outfits.
How do I describe this…she does not dress slutty.
But her clothes are frequently exaggerated forms of normal attire and the way they appear on her reminds me of a costume.

Seriously, that is the way she wears her clothes. I see her and I think “the clothes wear her.” She does not dress like this all the time. I suspect these days might coincide with her Happy Hour jaunts, dates, hookups, who the hell knows.

All I know is that she is an unorthodox dresser, and not owing entirely to the style of her clothes, per se, but to the incongruous manner in which they drape her body. The best metaphor I can think of is that it reminds me of a sweater on a dog. Or any other human encumbrance gracing an animal’s body for that matter (which I’m convinced is mental illness on the part of the owners).

So there it is: this not bad looking chick and her clothes which don’t match…her.

She has another curious trait…she walks like she’s been held captive at charm school for too long. She walks like a beauty contestant floating across the stage, a very self-conscious foot-in-front of the other saunter. Arms swung out in tune with the Miss America stride. Something about her screams “pampered Daddy’s girl.”

She is a glittery, lifeless object (that miraculously moves and breathes).
She has been reduced to a possession, an untouchable stone imprisoned behind the sales counter.

This girl does not live.
She has, no doubt through a lifelong ritual of superficial validation from parents, friends, family, managed to reach full maturity without being given the ability or chance to nurture a human, fleshy soul in the process. She has become the sum of her appearance only. Her glittery gold beauty pageant-like sphere of existence.

I firmly believe people do not ask to be that which they are. We learn and we act through no fault of our own. She’s a self-absorbed spoiled princess. Good for her.

Isn’t that how we would describe most women in varying degrees of severity? Most women, through a modern process of Western socialization, are transformed into sales merchandise. Inventory. Women, learning to rely on a sense of self-worth as dictated by external appearance, are not expected to offer layers of depth or a blazing intellect.

Some unfortunate women, stripped of clothes and cosmetics and jewelry and hair, are left naked for all to see. Soulless, bland and dense little girls.

For they never had to develop anything beyond a great fashion sense.

And that was the girl I built today.

Agonizing middle school lessons

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Saying what we know to be true.
Sex Education is largely a waste of time.

I’m not arguing that sex ed is unnecessary…I’m merely observing that in its present form it is useless for most teens as they pretty much know everything about the subject and are also well aware of all the pitfalls of unprotected sex being that they spend their entire life in front of the TV. Nah, screw sex ed…these kids need to learn important lessons. The stuff that really counts, that which will prepare them for daily life as they succumb to the awful responsibilities of maturity.

I have an example. My son’s home room Math teacher exposed him to an insightful lesson in personal accountability (or lack thereof) which I’m convinced he will find himself revisiting often as he skirts the obstacle course of modern American life. Funny thing is, I don’t think the teacher has any clue the salty life lesson she is responsible for exposing to her students.

Actually, my initial reaction was what the fuck?? as I pulled out a piece of paper to write an incredulous note to her…but then I thought better of it.
Slow down there, pardner, I had to calm myself.

My son has been thrust into a shitty situation. Handled correctly, I think it is a lesson he can take away and keep in his arsenal for the rest of his life. Or at least maintain some awareness of so that his jaded little heart isn’t squashed in a surprise attack when he is older. When he experiences the misery of being a conscientious person in a not-so-conscientious world.

The teacher assigned a project which includes lots of cutting, gluing, building, drawing, painting, etc. A real team effort. Groups were formed but I’m not quite sure how the selection process worked. I suspect the students were left to their own lazy inertia to form working groups with the specific aim of completing this project by tomorrow.

Now my son…well his group, not sure how it happened, but his 2 groupmates are monumental slackers. And my son…well, he’s my son. He is conscientious. A deadline and assignment means what it means…the assignment must be completed and turned in by the designated day. Simple logic. It involves a partial sacrifice of time and effort in order to see the job done. That’s the way he was brought up.

Well Friday night, he was supposed to meet with the two boys in his group so they could discuss the assignment and get their ducks in a row. Well the kids flaked. Said they couldn’t make it. The weekend was suggested, they said they couldn’t do it on the weekend. How about Monday. OK, they planned for Monday night. Monday comes, after school, they flake again. Their story weakens. Now they tell him they just can’t make it. Oh well….

See, we have a problem. There is a group project that the rest of his group has contributed nothing to (save for some penciled art work) and my son is left holding the ball. After the boys flaked last night, my son and his grandparents scrambled to get the assignment back on track.

The assignment will be turned in tomorrow and they will all get credit. All of them, even the other group members who barely lifted a finger. My son, having done most of the work, will get an equal share of the credit completing a disproportionate amount of work.

Now is this not the type of morality tale that just begs to be compared to the disillusionment of adult life?
The moral is a no-brainer.
Dial it in.
“Son, there are 2 types of people in this world. Those who take responsibility seriously and consider it duty, to themselves and others.
And there are those who don’t give a shit and subsist on luck and timing to get by in life while doing as little as possible. You work hard in school so you have options when you are ready to make the leap to adulthood. That’s all school is about. Options. If you do shitty in school, you will have no options.”

And the tough part:

“But there are kids who will do crappy in school, never try, leech off other students, and they will graduate and you will find yourself supporting them in one fashion or another for the rest of your life. That’s the part that blows.”

The basic lesson.

The difficult parenting part is addressing the next progression of personal attitudes that come after one realizes the freeloading nature of most people.

“Hard work is a reward in itself. Conscientiousness is a proud virtue. Just because many lazy people with utter lack of pride manage to survive with a minimal sense of duty or shame does not mean you should be deterred from living the most honest, hard-working life possible.

That is the difficult lesson that must be taught by example.

I got your Helote right here!! And no, that’s not mayo…

Monday, May 24th, 2010

 

Way back in the day, like 3 months ago, well before I went off the deep end, before my psychotic breakdown, before I went on that blog rampage which saw me disable comments and replace all my old categories with a new 1-7 numerical system, back when I at least pretended to be sane, I used to post occasionally to a category I named “pointless ruminations.”

 

I loved it, actually.

 

Essentially pointless ruminations was a catch all for posts I wrote during moments I truly felt wordy…the spark to write was there, but there was one small hitch: I had nothing to say. Not a thing. Rather than do the smart thing and clip my toenails or watch horrible prime time TV, I threw good sense out the window and persisted in writing despite the absence of substance. Pointless ruminations was like blog open mike night. I would flip on the computer, sit in front of the blank screen, and improvise baby!

 

Fucking formidable. I suspended any self-conscious duty to enlighten or intrigue my reader(s). I just typed out whatever shit popped into my head. It ended up becoming a really enjoyable exercise. I got quite a rise out of it. As I said, April saw me retreat into a demented mental wilderness. Intense, strange, creepy (there are reasons I can pinpoint which I won’t gag you with here much less make you swallow), my posts turned into labors of despair. Pointless ruminations suffered.

 

Well the point is, I am ready for one today.

 

I have absolutely nothing of note to say. I should vacuum the carpet or prep my fresh veggies. Not yet. I’m in a flighty, light-hearted mood, BUT! I’ve got so much to say. Sounds like the perfect recipe for pointless ruminations, but unfortunately I have new categories and frankly I don’t have any vibes yet on which L-number this post is going to fall under. I shall continue typing.

 

So anyways, where am I…oh yeah, pointless ruminations.

 

Actually, I’m in East Los Angeles which is basically Mexico Lite.
If I ever forget this I only have to sit in this room with the window cracked open while I wait for the Mexican dude with the shoddy cart and the horn to walk by bleating like Bozo El Clown as he yells “Helote!!” (beep beep). Basically he’s pushing corn on the cob which is kept warm with a high-tech warming mechanism tucked into that old cart. If you decide to go buy an helote!! from him, you have the choice of dressing it up with any of the garnishing he has handily bottled or wrapped inside the guts of that cart: smelly Mexican cheese, hot sauce, mayonnaise, chili powder, limes, not sure what else since I don’t hit up helote guy very often.

 

See, that is the shit that tells me where I am.

 

Oh, and earlier. On the way home, I was reminded again…

 

I’ve run out of fresh veggies and anyone who has been brave enough to read this blog deeply enough will know that I buy a bundle of fresh veggies every weekend for Monday preparation. This weekend was a loss due to many factors, but let’s just say I didn’t hit the farmer’s market, and as of last night there was absolutely nothing in my fridge that was once a seed or provides enough dietary fiber to get things “moving.” So my plan on the way home…stop and buy fresh veggies. Which begs the inevitable question…where? Definitely none of the American chains. Buying produce there is financially unwise. It’s like stopping at the Chevron on Alameda in downtown that charges over $3.50 per gallon right now. That is an emergency stop. That’s where you go when you’re running on fumes and driving by a gas station is literally vehicular suicide. So I don’t buy produce at the American chains…but, I didn’t say anything about Mexican chains, did I?

 

Socal is full of Mexican supermarkets, and there is one I’ve stopped at on my way to work called “El Super.” I am always impressed by their low prices and I’ve bought apples there for a steal compared to the robbery and rape I would be subjected to at my local American chain that has the gall to sell apples for $1.99/pound.

 

So there I am, pulling into the parking lot of El Super on Indiana Lorena and Cesar Chavez (yeah, where do you think I am?). First thing you notice when you walk in is the loud Banda music playing over the PA. Loud. I’m thinking this is Tijuana, man. All that’s missing is a seedy bar, prostitutes and/or a donkey. It’s Monday night, the place is crowded. There are no stinking hand baskets at this place. Fuck. I refuse to cart a shopping basket around this madhouse, so I begin to fill bags with produce while I try to balance what I have on my available hand while I gather more groceries with the other. It’s a precarious act. And the music is too loud and there are too many people. A disaster waiting to happen. Screw it. I buy 2 large heads of brocolli, an unusually fearsome and large head of cauliflower, a bag of carrots, apples and a cantaloupe. I somehow lug everything to the cashier without dropping anything. And I see them!

 

Takis!
Oh yeah baby.
Fuego! (literally)
There is a large display at the cashier line housing nothing but Takis of various flavors and colors. But they all have one thing in common. There are junky, fattening snack foods packed loosely in bags and they look like little tiny rolled up tacquitos (hence the name). And they are so junky good!! I was hungry and I nabbed a bag of the “fuego” flavored Takis which are a deep and spicy burnt crimson powdery color.

 

Made of corn flower, of course.
Helote!!
We Mexicans are very fond of the mais. Very.

 

The pretty glittery bag:

 

The awful nutritional news. (Hey, they only have 140 calories!! Problem is, who the hell can only eat 12 of these??)

 

And in case you’re wondering what the critters look like…

 

Another thing about El Super…you gotta bag your own shit.
I hate that.
I’m kind of snooty that way.
I’m here to pay and shop, not fucking work.
Oh well, cheap produce doesn’t just happen, does it?