The Middle Way

Zen Spot #8 — Mindfulness, meditation and a Soho doorway where a policeman knew my name January 27, 2018 00:05

My mind’s eye is black and white in this memory

There's something to be said for returning to the scene of a crime, especially in the context of a personal recovery that is built on a commitment to mindfulness.

The crime? A spate of drunken blackouts to which I gave away weeks of my life. Over a drinking career that spanned 16 years, I’ve forgotten the number of times I’ve forgotten chunks of time. And, given the fact that I believe in personal accountability, my actions can be considered crimes that cost my family and friends a great deal. At times, laws may have been broken. 

The scene

There is a bar in Center City Philadelphia within which lies a booth I often entered stone sober and left, some time later, on ego-pilot.

The bar was a dive. It smelled of stale beer and was broken , literally and metaphorically. A clown car of working class neighbors from twenty blocks south, art students, iron workers, prissy Ivy co-eds and everything in between, its occupants often spilled into the street on warm summer nights.

The bartenders were rude until they got to know you and, the last time I was there, the northern side of the bar was actually falling over. Gashed linoleum, peeling away from a concrete floor, like fingernails accidentally bent backwards, snapped shut on shreds of branded tobacco fallen from the end of thousands of fresh cigarettes. 

The exterior was painted flat gray. Camouflage is anonymity. It was an inexplicable amalgam of pretense and pragmatism.

The air

The noise inside wasn’t overwhelming. Music filled the background, but not so much that one couldn’t understand the cacophony of discourse and drunkenness. Noise, in louder moderation, especially that form of white noise that every crowd creates, never posed a problem for my practice. I didn’t need silence.

Left behind 

I’ve not gone inside since 2001, but have been told the bar has been fixed. No matter, I’ll never go back. I don’t need to return. I will, however, sit outside, cross my legs, lean against the southern wall and breathe until a cop or a drunk or a friend or a neighbor or the sun rousts me.

Just like I would have interrupted a mindful practitioner 16 years ago.


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

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