Tree Stump Jell-O Pudding

It is the end of the school year and that is true also for North Como Pre-School up on Larpenteur Avenue. My daughter Olivia is “graduating” from there this spring (notice how many grades graduate these days?) and being it’s the end of the year, the resident Betta fish needed a home and Olivia was chosen among the whole class to have the fish. What an honor for her and a $30 tab for us to purchase the tiny tank, bubbler, plastic plants, water purifier, and so on.

I was first thinking we go full-on to a ten or twenty gallon tank as I had in high school. (I remember crumpling tin foil and then opening it up and putting it behind the tank. The light reflected off it at all sorts of groovy angles. It was a sweet 70’s era fish pad.) We could then fill it with rosy barbs, tiger barbs and any other fish we wanted. But someone pointed out to me that the Betta is rather unsociable with other fish, particularly other Bettas. In fact, put a mirror up to the side and the Betta would bash it’s little fish head against the image until it died. (I do wonder what the Betta would think of the disjointed image from my tin foil background. Some one-eyed Picasso-esque image of himself staring back. Freaky for the Betta no doubt.)

So we blew $30 on a tank for one fish we never asked for. A fish who has to live alone its entire life. An angry killer fish unable to inhabit space with any other fish – or he’ll kill it. Nice.

Anyhow, my daughter named her fish Tree Stump Jell-O Pudding. Middle name: Jackson. It’s a nice name, evocative of nature and, for me, Bill Cosby. The Jackson bit I’m not sure about but I don’t see us using the middle name much as Tree Stump Jell-O Pudding is rather much to say already.

After purchasing the tank at a store that overcharged us no doubt, we went to Target (where the kids were unruly, annoying and bordering on nutso) and after checking out, Jana and the kids walked ahead and I purposely hung back 25 feet to have, and I’m serious about this, a few moments of relative quiet. It was bliss. I walked past the checkouts in what felt like slow motion. I shut out every sound. I walked blissfully toward the exit, alone, like a Betta, though not as ornery.

But soon, Olivia turned and saw me, and as she is wont to do, felt bad for me all alone back there and came running over. It’s great to be loved. And odd that the only quiet time I get is at the busy checkout of Target. Maybe if I was a bit more ornery…

don’t move.

i was with a friend at her aunt’s house. this aunt had lived alone her entire adult life. she was in her late thirties. she left the room to get us drinks and my friend said, “watch this,” and moved a picture frame on a side table about an inch to the right. her aunt came back in and served us all drinks, then walked over to the table and moved the frame back. it was uncanny.

poor, lonely landlord

Poor, lonely landlord
love cannot find you
and you’ll be certain of that,
behind the walls, up the stairs,
raging at the injustices
you so carefully tend.

The hiss, the spit, the victim’s screech,
the trembling hands that torch bridge
after bridge after bridge
that lead to the island
alone where you sit
hissing and spitting and screeching.

[Penny-wise. Pound-foolish.
Save a nickel. Spend a friend.
Count your blessings. Not your jewels.]

But the walls are crumbling,
holes are opening,
the edifice no longer protects.
The gardens are dying,
they no longer feed
the imposter that’s stolen your soul.

There’s just you
poor and lonely and lording
over what

sara palin is brilliant

Really. Let’s admit it. Politically she’s a fucking cipher, dumb as grizzly-shat-upon log but still brilliant in her own way. She can change this tiny world of hers and ours if she positions herself as the Redneck Oprah – maybe not so much in those words – but actually in that talk show manner. Stay out of policy and talk the talk she talks. For many it’s beyond scary ignorance, but for a very wide swath of people, she’s a straight-shooter, a truth teller, a hockey-talky-mommy.

Cater to them, outside politics, you’ll be genius. And you will be a bipartisan entertainer entertaining us all.

the brother of karen carpenter

Okay, i’ll say it. I knows he’s got some geniusgenes, but i don’t trust Karen Carpenter’s brother. He’s guilty of something. He’s got that look in his eyes. That untrustworthy look in his eyes. This is not a man who took the time to listen to Karen Carpenter’s gorgeous voice -or, judging by his expression, he just wee-weed in his pants.

not sure, just not sure

I think that what happened here was that he was full of ever loving saturdays and druscilla penny’s and then he heard Karen Carpenter’s voice come into its own and he realized that all his talent as a songwriter, all is ability to get right up there with the best bands of his time, paled like marilyn manson in the sunshine of Karen Carpenter’s pure true voice. He’s got a fine voice but no one could possibly want to hear him sing if Karen Carpenter was also on stage.

Brutal truth, that.

see? beautiful!!

the truth about karen carpenter

Allow me if you will to wax a bit philosophical about Karen Carpenter. Okay, there are other singers of all stripes and certainly a whole crop of new female singers that are all the rage – there’s that Katy Perry and the one Mrs. Gaga – and that’s all well and good and I’m sure they’re all that and a bag of ironic chips, but then, right?, then there’s Karen Carpenter.

Alone in an empty room sans any electronic enhancement and singing a single run of notes any of those other singers would fall to their knees at the feet of Karen Carpenter. She’s got more velvet in a single sung note than Tony Bennett could fit in his no doubt considerable mansion.

Most singers sing to a crowd – an audience. Karen Carpenter sings to you. If you don’t believe me, strap on some headphones and listen to “I Believe You”. Listen to how her voice hits every note, the perfect songstress, while also talks to you – directly to you. She believes you. Can you believe Karen Carpenter? You should. Or you’re Soul-Dead.

Really. What is it about Karen Carpenter that makes all of us – you, me, everyone we all know – just melt when she sings? I will tell you. It’s honesty. No singer in the history of humankind sang with such unabashed truth. In an era where there’s little truth in music. Karen Carpenter is here. Still. She’s here.

the truth

joe vicodin and the six packs

Lennon and McCartney. Jagger and Richards. Simon and Garfunkle. Things come together and magic happens. Trips are planned, gentle trips, lacking dopey-ness, engaging pharma-groovicals. People have pain they find ways to alleviate – medicate – wait, I have no pain.

But when things come together, and before they fall apart, I have even less pain. One Joe drinks six; this Joe drinks six with Vicky. Sweet girl, fucking nurse, makes everyone feel better. Take that, Foundry Joe. You drink for a living. I think for I remember this poem. Poem? You ask? Maybe, shit, I don’t know. Poemess. Vicodress. Drink and mess. Things fall apart. And I do hate that dude. Mostly. Don’t mock my poem from beneath your internet.

[Musical Interlude: Little Feat: Time Loves a Hero]

On to the poem. Poem? You ask? It’s old. Here goes…

He calls himself
The Eminem of the Internet.
Cocky and sure, he slips out from darkness
to rap someone on the head.

But he’s funny and he knows it,
biting; down the throats of
unsuspecting posters.

He’s street and he knows it,
smart enough
to never stick around long enough
to listen to their cries in the light.
On to the next
punk who decries his comeuppance.

Bang! Shoots anger
from his index finger
the context never lingers,
the contest is over.
I win…

He knows it – he’s right.
Shoots on sight.
The Eminem of the Internet.

His name
is probably
like Barry.

on chimbote

There are faces carved into hillsides. Generations
of suffering slaves to hunger and thirst,
parched land butted up against water
water everywhere.

But tears remain and cut paths down
the dusted faces of children confused
by the white mooning about
of the likes of me and my kind.

It’s a kindness that’s earnest but
historically useless like a cloud
burst on deserted land.

It evaporates almost before
it can even penetrate
the substrate –
ultimately painfully sad.

the practice of non-practice

The Buddha said, “My Dharma is the practice of non-practice.” And when I’m in the deepest meditative state, I can almost achieve that. I’m like the proverbial pebble at the bottom of the river. All things rush by and I am still, quiet, empty of all the distractions, frustrations and obsessions of the so-called real world. I practice and when I succeed I am, as he said, not practicing anything. I’m just being, being a part of everything else, deeply present and aware, but unaffected in any way. It is here that I can truly rest and I can heal the wounds of 46 years of mostly unmindful living.

And then I go back into the world and start all over. So be it. I’m no Buddha, but I’m trying, and if I slingshot back and forth from booze to Buddha and back, so be that, too. The effort is to make it effortless to stay here, now, mindful and kind.

fear in meditation

In a discussion at the end of his book A Practical Guide to Buddhist Meditation, Paramananda writes about maintaining your practice that  “…meditation is a challenge to the way we see ourselves. In particular, it challenges us to take fuller responsibility for our lives. It challenges us to acknowledge that we are responsible for how we feel, and for the way in which we lead our life.”

It is a point that strikes me very profoundly right now. I notice that along with the joys I feel from my practice, I also have some real anxiety around it. I sense that I am letting go of something safe, albeit dull, and having to reach forward to something entirely new and clear, but “out there” and unknown. I rationally want this new mindfulness and clarity but know that there’s comfort in the old. He goes on:

“We are very attached to our version of the world, and it might well be difficult for us to give up the views and prejudices we have. Our sense of who we are is closely bound up in the way we see things, and it would be unrealistic to think that we can effortlessly give up views that have been conditioning us – essentially creating us – over many years. While we might like the idea of breaking out of the limiting ways we look at our lives, in reality it is frightening to give them up.”

I came across all of this smack dab in the middle of those anxieties and it was quite heartening. I was concerned that I didn’t get it or was doing something wrong. We have this misconception that meditation is all bliss and happiness when in fact it is often very much the opposite.

We are encouraged to meditate upon our own suffering and the suffering of others to better understand the world and ourselves. But looking deeply into ourselves is far from easy and especially in the culture in which we live. What you see is never perfect and often ugly – and if that is not what you see, you are not looking closely enough, or you’re already a Buddha or a Saint. We are flawed creatures, yes, but with great ability to correct those flaws.

And once you look and really see, and if you continue the practice, you’ll never return to your former self. As Thich Nhat Hanh writes in the first few pages of The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching, “Once the door of awareness has been opened, you cannot close it.”

That, to me, is profound, beautiful, and not a little freaky.