The Middle Way

Zen Spot #254 - Mindfulness, meditation, scraping boogers and the smell of an angel February 27, 2020 00:00

A ’47 front-end with a ’57 back-end

Tommy Dunwoody’s beard was a ten inch braid. Red hair fell to his shoulders, holding more grease than a french fryer. He did so much crank that, while trying to simultaneously smoke and sleep for one hour every day, at lunch, he’d burn his chest when a smoldering butt would fall from a suspended hand while he laid down and dozed off.

Dozens of burn marks stippled him. You don’t know Tommy, but if you know someone blessed with an infectious smile, you know Tommy’s smile. We worked together, during the summer, in shirtless heat, scraping boogers from the bottoms of elementary school desks, in stinking sweat that soaked through shorts, preparing the school for the upcoming September. 

At 7:00 am, give or take, Tommy would arrive on a Harley Davidson. Loud, proud, smiling, high. His hog had a ’47 front-end and a ’57 back-end — or that’s what he said. It was awesome.

Time

My first 8 hour gig, I watch the clock incessantly. For ten weeks, at $2.50/hr., I stretched the morning as long as possible in order to make the hours after lunch seem shorter. Music was the only redeeming part of the experience.

One man’s feast

My boss — the head custodian — grew up very poor, sometimes not having enough to eat as a child. While interviewing for the job (there were no other summer jobs available to me where I lived), before the students left for summer vacation, I watched him pull a piece of half eaten baloney from the trash, take it outside, wash the mayonnaise off with a garden hose, and toss it into his mouth. I gagged on his gratitude and haven’t eaten baloney in the ensuing forty years.

Terresterial radio

Tommy and I had the same taste in music, thankfully. At a time when all listeners were at the mercy of the DJ, never knowing what music was coming next, hope was a slow gravy poured over dried snot poured over a time clock that often seemed to go backwards. Dropping a dime into the school’s single pay-phone, hoping to plead with the DJ to play a favorite, was a luxury afforded only during the time Tommy was dropping lit cigarettes onto his chest. 

Our request was always Little Feat. While scraping, the wait to hear Lowell, Kenny, Richie, Sam, Paul and Bill was excruciating — and sometimes fruitless.

Baloney

It wasn’t until decades later, while strolling through the Italian Market, seeing dried meats hanging behind the counter at a delicatessan, that I remembered witnessing the baloney/hose incident. With the benefit of time, and life experience, and having fathered children, my perspective on my boss’ action changed. Somehow, never having experienced the kind of hunger that drove his choices, I was able to see the eyes of my children in his eyes.

Along the way, having scraped my own toddler’s boogers off of furniture, Lowell and Tommy having died too young, having gained weight from plenty of food, compassion actually reared its head from my psyche — sweat-soaked and stinking — waiting to hear from Kenny, Richie, Sam, Paul and Bill.

My errant expectation that compassion would smell like an angel was born from a lifetime of access to food. Expecting the angel to sound like Lowell George wasn’t too far from the truth.

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About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?

 

 


Zen Spot #226 - Mindfulness, meditation and a brother helping me remain in light November 6, 2019 13:00

Once in a lifetime

I am a night owl, often staying up past 2 a.m. This fact is well known among my friends and family and, for those in different time zones, my habit offers opportunity.

On a recent Sunday evening, at around 11:30 p.m., I received what I thought was a butt dial from my brother from another mother. Picking up the phone, I heard indistinguishable music and the familiar background noise of a phone call made by any friend’s posterior. Shortly thereafter though, I received a text message with a photo attachment from the same brother — the image above.

Sure that I was an errant recipient, especially because I couldn’t discern the man in the image, I paid little attention to the text message.

Curiosity of association

The day before I received the message, I had written a Zen Spot post about the voice of my brother. Not having heard from him in six months, and not believing in coincidence, I was struck by the timeliness of his message. In particular, my post described the tone, timbre and spirit of my brother’s voice. His, specifically, is a combination of David Byrne, Warren Buffet and Bugs Bunny.

Coming of age at the dawn of MTV, having sat in front of the television watching Video Killed The Radio Star at the moment the network launched, I saw the Talking Heads video Once in a Lifetime recycle dozens of times following the launch. In 1981, it was ubiquitous. David Byrne starred.

The song was a bestselling single from their album Remain In Light — both the song and the album are among my all-time favorites. The picture contained in the text message — the picture above — features David Byrne. With many decades having passed since my brother moved several time zones away, and with our conversations being spread further and further apart, I was taken back to a time when love was different — back to the body and mind of the man I no longer am.

Live

My friend’s butt dial was nothing of the sort. Thinking of me, and loving me over the span of decades, he dialed my number and held his smartphone in air, surrounded by thousands of fans, that I might hear the music I love. Experiencing a good portion of the songs from Remain In Light in concert, he wanted me to listen to the music and to see how David Byrne had changed physically over the decades my brother and I had been apart.

Truth be told, and given the fact that time has taken its toll on my eyesight, at the time I couldn’t identify unskinny the man in the picture, nor could I discern the music. No matter, I unknowingly heard the sound of my brother’s love, manifested in crowd noise, static and a rhythm that couldn’t be placed.

Yes, I unknowingly heard the sound of my brother’s love, manifested in crowd noise, static and a rhythm that couldn’t be placed.

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About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?

 

 


Zen Spot #78  -- Mindfulness, meditation and becoming a tomato January 31, 2018 00:05

Little Feat’s manifesto

Six words: Fat Funk Silk Weasel Cash Blast

This concrete poem doesn’t need to make sense right now, especially because it’s not a concrete poem, but it might after you’ve listened to all four sides of Waiting for Columbus. If not, you’ll conceive your own set of six unrelated words to describe the visceral experience of Little Feat.

Butcher Holler meets The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Folsom Prison meets Walt Whitman. Billy Holiday meets Van Halen. Miles Davis punches Frank Zappa square in the jaw, brawling at the intersection of Beale Street and Bowery.

An explanation of the album's title

I was the first of my friends to understand how the cover illustration, shown above, relates to the album's title. In the background, to the right of the tomato head, is an indigenous American statue. A cultural icon that could never have been found in Europe, the statue provides a subtle reference to one of history's most complex narratives, the smallest detail of which contributes to Columbus introducing Europe to an exotic new fruit -- the tomato -- upon his return from the new world. Thus, the robust red beauty lounging in the hammock is happily, wantonly and seductively waiting for Columbus.

Ten inches

I subscribe to the school of vinyl. Not because of the difference in fidelity, but because I believe in the whole story told by an album. Whether part of a concept novella or simply the sum total of disparate tracks cobbled together, every vinyl LP tells a unique story. The latter can be as personal as the former and vinyl demands patience.

In a world where media -- a song, a video, a blog or a vlog  --  is judged in 15 seconds or less, and we invest 3 minute increments in those that pass muster, the time needed to live inside an artist’s mind for forty-plus minutes is now the equivalent of reading Tolstoy. One needs to be smart , creatively curious and possess an increasingly rare patience to read War and Peace. Likewise, sadly and ironically, one needs to be smart , creatively curious and possess an increasingly rare patience to listen to the four sides of Waiting for Columbus.

Wherever

I don’t listen to the album much anymore. For it to remain transcendent, it must remain silent for long periods of time. Like a two-ton cast iron bell, it is always hanging in the temple of the mind, waiting to be rung. Unlike the bell, it is hard to reach a clear mind while it rings. Instead, the story must be finished, leaving one calm, relaxed and ready. One needs to be smart , creatively curious and possess an increasingly rare patience to reach a transcendental state.

Perhaps we are all a tomato.

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About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

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