June 26, 2006

Blogger Declares Slowdown, Cites Working Conditions

I don't understand how anyone in their right mind can be willing to maintain a blog for an extended period of time. Numerous people have told me I should blog. They only say that because they think I could write good blog posts. I agree that I could come up with some good material; I just wouldn't be willing to carve the requisite enormous chunk out of my life to devote to it. This would have been a great blog if you had kept it going over the long term, but I'm sure you're better off spending that time living.

Thus my son John, commenting on his brother Chris' decision to terminate his short-lived but excellent blog. Well, I've never claimed to be in my right mind, but at the moment I don't think blogging is helping put me there.

It's an issue I've thought about many times. This blog is my creative outlet, and creative inspiration waxes and wanes. My creativity has been in retreat for a number of months, as you know if you've been stopping here regularly: I've posted less frequently, and less of what I've posted has been fiction or creative essays, more has been filler.

The decline has accompanied a period of tremendous turmoil and reassessment in my life. For reasons explained in this post from back in January, I've been preoccupied with taking toddling steps toward necessary development in my psyche. It's going very well; at a rather late date, I'm leaving behind bad old behavior patterns, benighted ways of thinking, and learning to turn the love that I feel into action that others can feel. It's been, it is, a painful and sometimes exhausting surge of growth, and whether it can heal past wounds remains to be seen. It's also not something I want to set before the public on a step-by-step basis, and it's a process that requires all my resources. At this stage, at least, it doesn't leave me any emotional energy to spare. Plus, I work all day banging at the same keyboard I post at; coming here to do this for an hour or more each morning, going to bed wondering what I'm going to post about the next day, has turned into much more of a self-imposed obligation (to myself and my readers) than a solace or a self-expression.

I would hate to stop this blog and I'm not doing that, but I need to let up on myself for a while. In the absence of creative inspiration, there's no reason for me to go searching the news every day for cute tidbits about which to share my tart and witty observations. There are plenty of people who do that much better than I would, and who know and care much more than I do about public issues and popular culture. Better for me to grab an hour in which to sit looking at the garden and sipping rooibos tea, than to get worked up about how to describe the cultural catastrophe of the minor-league baseball game I went to last night.

As a friend of mine put it after reading a blog for the first time, "It's like the thoughts that go through my head every morning on the way to the subway, except I'd never think of writing them down for the whole world to read."

This is all a long way of saying that I'm going to slow down my posting for at least a couple of weeks, probably more. If anything comes into my mind I'll write it, and if not, I won't strain myself looking for a placeholder. This will reduce my readership, but I hope that you'll still stop by now and then to see if anything's up. If I start posting more again, I hope you'll return in full force. I've never understood the blogosphere's obsession with readership statistics anyway; it seems to me that this ought to be the last refuge for unquantifiable value. (I once thought the world of books was that, but it turned out not to be.)

I'm thinking about reducing to one or two posts a week, down from three or four, which was down from five or six before that. That's just my estimate this morning; I don't know how close to reality it will turn out to be. All I know is that I need a lot of rest right now.

I care about you all and I want to share as much of myself as I can with you. Many of you have blogs that I love, and I'll pop over from time to time. I like reading and commenting almost more than writing.

I've already spent my share of the morning writing this, and now I think I'll go take a shower and put on my jeans and tee shirt and have some decaf and raisin bread and look at the trees.

June 25, 2006

I Must Learn to Lighten Up, I Must Learn to Lighten Up, I Must...

This morning, Amba tells me how stress and depression are making me stupid. And Dilys tells me that I shouldn't try to get too deep. In the words of theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar:

Above all, we must not wish to cling to our suffering.

Suffering surely deepens us and enhances our person, but we must not desire to become a deeper self than God wills. To suffer no longer can be a beautiful, perhaps the ultimate, sacrifice.

There are those of us whose response to stress is to try to get deep. That's starting to seem stupid to me. And I'm feeling too stupid to say why.

I'd better go out and find some flowers to sniff or some water to look at or something.

June 22, 2006

Further Adventures of Comment Registration

Well, now that I'm requiring commenters to register, one of my formerly anonymous spam commenters has registered, using the name Nino. Very bizarre.

FYI, here are the spam comments I've gathered for one post from early 2005.

Anonymous said...
La china no es ni de china ni de japon Es De SANANTON

Anonymous said...
Cool, I meet him and it´s great I LOVE HIM UHU UHHH

Anonymous said...
Pondre en mi idioma mi cosa favorita. Asi empezo mi cuento q parecia no tener sentido al principio pero resulto tenerlo al pasar de las paginas. Girls are sexy YES! I LIKE

Anonymous said...
It´s good to meet you, I follow your work. It´s good. ByeGirls think they ´re Crissy and nice

Anonymous said...
mmm... i believe she is nice and he... in handsome, maybe a little short for hergirls think they ´re sexy and tall

Anonymous said...
I heard about that story... maybe it´s true! Girls that wanted sexy to be horny...

Anonymous said...
Que es lo que han dicho?? No entendi realmente... espero que alguien me conteste. Women that no se lo que es eso es cierto no lo se

Nino said...
Yo concurri la semana pasada y fue realmente ncreible. Les recomiendo ir si pueden... Chau Querran repetir mi experiencia no??? no lo se

They all come with hyperlinks. I just clicked to one for the first time -- purely for the edification of my readers, you understand -- and it turns out to be the usual porn crap.

RLC says: That Nino guy sure is suave!

June 20, 2006

New Comment Policy

I regretfully have to announce that this blog isn't taking anonymous comments anymore. The reason is that I've been deluged with anonymous spam comments in the past several weeks, sometimes a dozen each morning. They're always attached to old posts, so few readers would have noticed it. But it's become tedious for me to be confronted by them, and I have better things to do than delete them from my blog.

I instituted word verification several months ago, but apparently the spammers can get past that. Since the spam is anonymous, I'm guessing this next step will block them.

So from now on, commenters will need to register for a Blogger account in order to comment here. Fortunately, the great majority of my commenters are already registered. I have at least a couple of valued commenters who still use the Anonymous tag, and I encourage them to register. It takes just a few minutes to sign up, and it's not like you have to use your real name or anything.

Life Imitates *The Onion*

Marty Siegel, a 46-year-old train conductor from New Jersey, is a fanatical devotee of 7-Eleven convenience stores. He has visited 2,000 stores in 23 states and 3 Canadian provinces, and arranges his vacations so as to visit 7-Elevens.

"A lot of people who know me always say: 'Hey Marty, what's the big deal? If you've seen one 7-Eleven, you've seen them all,'" said Mr. Siegel, who grew up in Brooklyn. "But that's not true. I always seem to find something unique about each 7-Eleven I visit, and I guess that's why I keep visiting them."

Mr. Siegel, who has never married, fell in love with 7-Eleven the moment he laid eyes on a franchise, which arrived in Brooklyn 21 years ago.

"December 21st, 1985," he said, recalling the date of the grand opening he attended on Ralph Avenue in the Flatlands neighborhood. "It was such a bright, nice-looking new store, a real fresh breath of suburban air."

He added, "I guess I got hooked."

How does the 7-Eleven company feel about him?

Cynthia Baker, a spokeswoman for 7-Eleven, which is owned by Seven-Eleven Japan in Tokyo, a subsidiary of Seven & I Holdings Company, was flabbergasted when she heard about Mr. Siegel. "Marty has taken it to another level," said Ms. Baker, who is based in Dallas.

Read this NYT article about him -- there's much more, I don't want to spoil it for you.

And while you're at it, read this one about a Hispanic-American New York refrigerator repairman, non-Jewish, who's a passionate student of the Kabbalah and advertises the fact on his repair truck.

Nelson Cabezas seems like the kind of guy I'd like to have a conversation with. Marty Siegel -- I think I'll make do with the article.

June 19, 2006

Changing the Wind

Once there was a man who received a sailboat as a gift: a small sailboat with one little sail. He knew nothing about sailing, but he stepped into the boat and waited, and soon a gust of wind carried him away from the land.

The man sat back and waited for the wind to carry him further, but after a few minutes the wind changed and sent him in another direction, and then another, and then it slackened and the boat stopped. The man sat bewildered in the little boat, looking at the slack sail and wondering when another wind would come and take him in the direction he wanted to go.

At last it came to him that he had to change the direction of the wind. He stood up in the boat, wobbling from foot to foot, grabbing onto a rail, a rope, a hatch, and began thinking of ways to change the wind. “Turn to the north!” he called out, but the wind still came from the south. The man shouted his command louder, and still nothing changed.

Then he began to make up magic spells. He hurled combinations of nonsense syllables at the wind, and the wind flung his spittle back into his face. Wiping it off, he was furious that his nonsense syllables didn’t do any good. In his fury, he stomped and stumbled in the little cockpit and, as the boat turned, lurched forward clumsily, colliding with the boom. By sheer luck, the sail turned in the right direction and the boat began to glide through the light chop of the open water.

“Aha!” he grasped at once. “I shouldn’t try to change the wind, I should try to change the sail!”

Of course he still knew nothing about sailing, but from then on he began experimenting with shifting the sails this way and that. Sometimes he was able to turn the boat in the direction he wanted, but more often his efforts took him exactly the opposite way. He observed his results carefully, but by the time he noticed one effect he misremembered the previous ones, and it was so frustrating to try to recapture a successful effort that he kept making more and more mistakes.

In confusion and despair, he gave up and threw himself down into the bottom of the cockpit and sat with his arms over his head, refusing to even look at the water. But then he noticed that the boat was rocking more and more violently. Stretching his neck to look, he saw that his dear little sailboat was running toward a long, narrow reef, visible just above the water.

“I am going to crash,” he told himself, and as he watched the bow of his boat dip and rise as it closed in on the reef, he first felt alarm close to panic; but then it subsided for no other reason that it couldn’t keep itself going any longer; and as the reef grew close, larger, it seemed more beautiful, and his mouth opened in happy surprise. He didn’t mind that he was about to crash on a reef. It was quite amusing, really, and exciting. He watched himself close in on his goal; he watched the small foam break on the serrated edge of the reef; he said aloud, “This is it!” And at the last moment, without thinking, he reached out and pulled the line and the boat came about and swerved from the reef with only inches to spare.

From then on, he knew how to sail, and whatever direction the wind came from was a direction he could use.


June 18, 2006

Happy Father's Day, Mr. Gobley

That is, if Mr. Gobley is actually a father. But whether he is or not, this secretive blogger is reliable for free-verse poems that find the infinite in the evanescent: finding a dime on the sidewalk, waiting in line at a store or a railroad crossing, or facing the week on a Monday at his desk. (Where does Mr. Gobley work, I wonder? What colleagues sit by him day after day, unaware that in the next cubicle a philosopher is spending company time communing with the Self in the mundane?) For Mr. Gobbley, and thus for us, every experience is an opportunity to remind ourselves that the experiencer and the experienced are one and the same, both part of a mystery that prompts awe, joy, and devotion.

Mr. Gobley has just put together a book of his best posts, and I can't wait for my copy to arrive. If you've read him already, you'll want to have these writings gathered in permanent form. If you haven't, go to his site and sample his work. You'll end up wanting to order a copy. Go to this post of his for more information.

June 16, 2006

The Matuszek Bird

Mr. Matuszek did bird calls. He did them in his work as a park ranger, and he did them at social gatherings too. He was an uncanny mimic of a wide variety of calls, and people were duly amazed. His coworkers had lived with it for a long time, but greeted each newly acquired call with gushing envy for Matuszek’s intimacy with nature. At social gatherings with people who were not Forest Service types, people were amazed to see that Matuszek, who seemed so bland and insignificant, had a special skill, a gift they could never duplicate. No doubt every one of the guests, hearing him produce from his very soul exactly – but more profoundly, more hauntingly -- the inhuman, opaque notes of a nighthawk or a vireo, was given fresh hope about the hidden uniqueness of people whom they had previously disdained.

The way Matuszek learned a bird call was, he made up a phrase that mimicked the cadence of the call. For instance, in the mornings outside his window he heard, “ Who wants to know? Who wants to know?” And “Jerry, Jerry!” And, “Ratatatatatatatatat!”

One spring day Matuszek opened his window at dawn to hear the birds while he washed and dressed, and he heard a new call. The call was deep and not at all warbly, and it said, unmistakably, “Matuszek! Matusez! Matuszek!”

He threw open the door of his Forest Service bungalow and rushed outside in his undershorts. The bird call had been one he had never heard before. He waited till it came again – but it did not.

“Matuszek! Matuszek!” he whistled to himself all day. And day after day, he whistled it over and over during his leisure time, although, unlike when he was studying other calls, he never heard this one again to help him practice.

Sometimes he wondered: had he really heard the call, or was it a misperception, a fantasy, a wish? But no, he had been studying bird calls long enough to know when he heard one.

Morning after morning he stood on the lawn outside his bungalow, whistling, “Matuszek? Matuszek!”, and waiting for an answer in the silence that his voice created among the birds. Answers came from “ Who wants to know?” and “Jerry!” and “Ratatatatatatatatat!” But the Matuszek bird did not answer.

He whistled it under his breath when he led tour groups through the park, and he whistled it silently in his mind when he attended staff meetings. It never stopped. What bird was it? Where had it come from? Where had it gone? Was it a member of a species, or the only one of its kind? And how could it be one of a kind? And yet increasingly he thought that must be the answer: there was a single Matuszek-calling bird in this world, flying unknown in forest depths, an avian yeti, an invisible, wary creature, harassed by shadows, shrinking from all companionship, who only revealed himself to – himself.

(Or was there a colony of Matuszeks living somewhere in an undiscovered sanctuary on somehow unsurveyed land, a grotto with a waterfall, where Mtuszeks by the dozen swooped up under a domed roof and around a splashing cascade, calling, “Matuszek” to eat and “Matuszek” to fight and “Matuszek” to -- to -- he scarcely knew how to think of it -- to mate?)

In the dark of his bungalow at midnight he called sweetly and softly to his bird, knowing by now that it would never return. He called the cadence of his name hundreds, thousands of times, and he heard it echoing.


June 13, 2006

Dream Journal: Bear vs. Gorilla

I'm walking through city streets, trying to find my place in the world, when I come upon a bear and a gorilla wrestling furiously on the ground. I'm curious to see who'll win, but to avoid being noticed and eaten I flee to an apartment building where I live. They're moving their battle toward me, and in terror I lock myself in the bathroom even though I know it's the worst place to hide. I climb onto the sink and then higher, onto the narrow, rounded ledge that divides the upper, plaster portion of the wall from the lower, tile portion. Looking in the mirror from this precarious perch, I see that my jaw is rattling uncontrollably and my eyes are fixed with fright.

When there has been silence for a while, I risk leaving. I sneak into a side street and blend in among the pedestrians, looking for my way out, composing poems in my head to help me calm down.

Waking this morning, my first question is which of my parents is the bear and which is the gorilla.


June 11, 2006

I'm in Love!

With this woman.

Byron Katie is an authentic homegrown American spiritual genius out of Barstow, Arizona. Raised in ordinary circumstances, she became successful in real estate, married twice, and raised a couple of kids. In her thirties she became severely depressed, a state that lasted ten years. She suffered from bouts of rage that terrified her children. Agoraphobia set in; she stayed in bed for weeks at a time, neglecting to wash or bathe, and eventually checked herself into an eating disorders clinic, the only facility her insurance company would pay for. At the clinic, her anger was so frightening to the other patients that she was placed in a separate attic room, where she slept on the floor because she felt unworthy of a bed. About two weeks later, she woke up one morning in a state of unalloyed clarity and joy. She felt that she was no longer herself and that she wasn't separate from anything in the universe. An "it," or perhaps a larger "I," was looking out through her eyes. And she understood that all suffering comes from thoughts.

Returning home shortly afterward, her state of joyous understanding endured. She reconciled with her astounded family. She spent a good deal of time in the nearby desert, sitting in the wind. Word of her awakening spread locally and people began coming to her with questions about their lives. When they told her of their perceived problems, she would ask, "Honey, is that true?" and lead them to see that their sufferings were built on misconceptions of what ought to be or of what was being done to them.

Over the next two years, she formalized her approach into a list of four questions, amazingly simple, :

1. Is it true?
2. Can you absolutely know that it's true?
3. How do you react when you think that thought?
4. Who would you be without that thought?

The four questions are followed by a "turnaround" in which you reverse the terms of the thought. For example, "He's mean to me," might become "He's not mean to me," or, "I'm mean to him," or "I'm mean to myself."

Writing down the answers and the turnaround, dwelling on them to see what emerges, is a profound meditation that leads one to uncover the projections, the blamings, and the fictions that one lives by. The approach is completely nonjudgmental: one doesn't try to eradicate the thought, one simply acknowledges it and, eventually, even comes to be grateful to it.

Katie calls this process of inquiry The Work. One does it over and over again, on any issue in one's life, and it keeps generating joy and clarity. And from what I've read, the more one does it, the deeper and subtler one's insights become and the more automatically fruitful the process becomes. Apparently Katie lives at some level of impersonal unity with the cosmos where questions of identity, of life and death, hardly matter anymore. Most people, operating at a more mundane level, use The Work for its psychotherapeutic benefits, the changes it can create in their self-identified lives.

The approach is so simple, many people are suspicious of it. How can four rather obvious questions change misery into joy amost overnight? Can the change really last? Isn't there some sort of flim-flam, some guru effect, going on?

Well, Katie has a powerful personality, and I think that was responsible for both the depth of her crash and the height of her rebound. Her enthusiasm and personal presence -- which, while consistently loving, can also be tough and no-nonsense -- are major factors in her material success. But I also get the feeling that her material success is genuinely a side issue for her, that if she hadn't achieved it, she would still be asking those four questions to any individuals who sought her out, and to herself.

I'm convinced that the technique works, because I've tried it over the past few days. It's premature to say how deeply or permanently I've changed, and I don't know if I'm qualified to judge anyway. But I know I've gained insights into my unproductive mental habits, insights that might have taken me months or years to achieve in therapy, if ever.

And I know that I intended to keep up with The Work to see where it takes me. There are elements in it of cognitive therapy and elements that accord with Buddhist psychology, but Katie, arriving at these ideas on her own, has instinctively stripped away the clinical and cultural frills (or perhaps didn't have them to strip away in the first place) and presented only the core, the pith, the essence. The reason the Work is so ridiculously simple on the surface is that she's gotten rid of the decoration.

Katie's 2002 book, Loving What Is, encapsulates the approach so fully that it is all the equipment you need to pursue The Work on your own. No teacher is called for. She says, "You are the teacher." You can also learn the gist of The Work for free through her website, which offers useful printouts and worksheets, a schedule of Katie's many public appearances, and offerings of intensive weekends and week-long programs, at which Katie herself presides. Busy nonstop, and having turned her simple questions into a highly successful commercial enterprise, Katie is remarkably available to answer queries and participate in periodic free conference calls.

In the world out there, The Work is classified under "Self-Help" and therefore crammed together with scores of other glitzy, self-promotional techniques promising happiness to the anxious American middle class. Glitz and self-promotion aren't absent from Katie's business, but one senses an authenticity underneath: a pragmatic directness flowing from the joy of real knowledge. You can spend lots of money on The Work if you want to, but Katie is glad if you don't spend any.

When the student is ready, the teacher arrives, the saying goes, and if I'm not ready now, I don't know when I ever would be. And while I might say that the teacher is Katie, she would say it's me.

If there is anything problematic at all in your life -- a job, a relationship, a health issue, money, anything -- I suggest that you look up The Work.

I thank Dilys at Good and Happy for posting about Byron Katie so often that I finally had to check it out.


June 09, 2006

Song in the Supermarket

He’s only going there to pick up some eggs, he’s got the carton in his hand and is heading toward the checkout when a song comes over the loudspeaker, a high-stepping guitar lead over a rippling piano, instantly recognizable: a song he hasn’t heard in maybe twenty years. It’s a song about missing someone. He stops in the middle of the aisle. Can’t go to the checkout now. He’s got to hear the whole song. The chorus is like a photo of a forgotten love. Fortunately it repeats many times in this song; you can sneak lots of looks at the photo.

He’s got to do something with himself while he’s listening, can’t just stand stock still listening to the ceiling like some kind of lunatic, so he starts moseying up and down the aisles, and soon he’s picking an item or two off the shelves: a pound of butter, a bag of chips. Then he’s got to grab a basket to put them in. The song is playing, he knows the lyrics of the next verse…

“Good afternoon, shoppers.” Blaring right over the song. It’s infuriating, it’s… “Look for our weekly specials blah blah aisle 23 blah blah…” She’ll stop in a second, he thinks, but no, there are more weekly specials to announce… What’s the point of making these announcements when the sound is so garbled you can’t tell what she’s saying? No one’s going to go to Aisle 23 because of her; what is she bothering for? If the song is over by the time she stops, he might have to throw something.

Thank God it’s a long song: five, six minutes. The chorus comes on, then an instrumental break and then the same ecstatic chorus again, those boys knew they had a good thing when they recorded it. Could listen to that chorus forever; it could be the soundtrack of the afterlife.

It’s so wonderful to hear that song again, he grabs more and more items – cookies, an organic soft drink, he’s a retail psychologist’s dream. He times his arrival at the checkout to coincide perfectly with the song’s ending. It’s over, he pays his money, he breathes a deep sigh, goes out into the hot afternoon…

He remembers the first time he ever heard that song. Funny, there was also a supermarket involved: he remembers turning on the radio in the store parking lot, and the song spreading across the sky like a revelation. It was a stinging cold night, the kind of cold that can make a car radio freeze, cracking into silence like a frozen tree branch splitting from its trunk. He drove back to his apartment in the below-zero dark, listening to that starbright twinkling guitar. At the time, he had no one to miss but felt that someday he might miss someone. And now there are so many, he doesn’t even know who the song reminds him of anymore. All of them really, every little one, every little thing, every little kiss. They blur together; it’s the missing that counts.


June 07, 2006

Where I’m Not: An Exercise in Geopositioning

Lately it has seemed necessary to remind myself of these fundamental facts:

I am not in 1988, when I was a promising, critically acclaimed young novelist whose career seemed to be just taking off.

I am not in my parents’ apartment in the Bronx between the years 1952 and 1969.

I am not in the shoes of my teenage best friend, whose current net worth is in the nine figures.

I am not in Greenwich Village in 1960 or San Francisco in 1967, and if I were I might not be mingling with the right set.

I am not in heaven or hell.

I am not rotting underground.

I am not inside the pages of a book – not a character or a clinical example.

I am not living alone in miserable poverty, spurned by my children and sniffed at by my ex-wives, still pounding away at hackwork in my seventies.

I am not in Austin State Hospital, just down the street at Guadalupe and Forty-First -- neither as a doctor nor a patient.

I am not in New York -- and I never will be again, not the way I used to be.

Those negative boundaries being established, there remains only one question to answer:

Where am I?


June 06, 2006

Bookstore Buddhists

“What’s that you’ve got there?”

“Pema Chodron. Do you know her?”

“Oh, Pema Chodron, she’s wonderful! She writes so clearly, she has such goodness and gentleness. And you know Charlotte Joko Beck?”

“She’s great. A little colder, though, you know what I mean?”

“Yeah, cold, but she really makes you face things. For warmth I like to read Jack Kornfield.”

“He’s wonderful! So, do you practice somewhere here in town?”

“No, I’ve never really been into a formal practice.”

“Me neither.”

“I tried it once, but, I don’t know. The people there -- and it’s not really – I mean, the leaders, I don’t know how much esteem I actually have for the ones around here.”

“I know what you mean. Hey, I’m gonna be over there checking out the fantasy for a while.”

“Oh, you like fantasy? Me too. Do you like Neil Gaiman?”

“Of course! American Gods! Did you read that? But you know who I’m liking lately? Susanna Clarke.”

“Susanna Clarke! Yes, and you know who else -- ?”


June 05, 2006

Yet Another Grateful Dead Keyboardist Dies

The keyboard position for the Grateful Dead has long been considered cursed. Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, their original keyboard player and the first cultural icon of the group, died in 1973 at age 26 of a gastric hemorrhage brought on by alcoholism. His death, coming after years of diminishing musical contributions, consolidated the band's decline, which continued for another two decades. His gravestone says: "Pigpen was and is now forever one of the Grateful Dead."

Pigpen's performance as front man in a show-closing "Turn On Your Lovelight" at a free concert in Central Park on June 22, 1970 remains the single most thrilling rock concert experience of my life.

Pigpen's replacement, Keith Godchaux, died in 1980 in a car crash. Brent Mydland, the best musician among the casualties, died of a drug overdose in 1990. Even the keyboard player for the best-known Dead tribute band, Scott Larned of the Dark Star Orchestra, died last year -- a heart attack. (He was born in 1969, the year I saw my first Dead concert at the Fillmore East.)

Now Vince Welnick, keyboard player during the band's last phase, has died at age 51. Cause has not been released; there is speculation about suicide. Apparently he had been depressed ever since Jerry Garcia's death in 1995.

May they all rest in peace. "Death don't have no mercy," but may life be more merciful to us than it was to them.

Keyboardist Tom Constanten, a member of the Dead during the late 1960s and responsible for many of the avant-garde sounds on "Anthem of the Sun" and "Aoxomoxoa" (prepared piano, celesta claves, etc), remains alive, as does piano player Bruce Hornsby.

June 04, 2006

Dream Journal: Impounded Car

On a journey with my wife, I park the car illegally in front of a courthouse. When we return from sightseeing, the car is not there. A security guard, yelling at his wife in Greek over a cell phone, will not help us. The person we are staying with, a former professor of mine who in real life was a disappointing mentor, takes my change to do his laundry.

A humdrum dream, but an exact picture of my current state.

The hopeful thing: pretty soon we will find out how to get the car back and how much it costs.


Karmic Insight #1

When I've put someone down, belittled or criticized them or scorned their activities, I've usually lost out or been hurt as a result. And I've done a lot of it.

Ths applies equally to when I've put myself down.

June 03, 2006

Last Photos from Greece

A miscellany of things we liked. Photos by Susan, except for photo of Susan and me, which was taken by a fellow tourist.

The port of Amoudi at the foot of the Santorini cliff, directly below the town of Oia where we stayed. A little dock and four tavernas, where fresh fish costs up to 60 euros a kilo -- surprisingly expensive, since the fish can be taken out of the water ten minutes away.

The Church of St. Nicholas, at the foot of the same cliff, just around the corner from Amoudi -- a church for fishermen. One of several we saw in this area.

Door in a cliff, Red Beach, Santorini. Especially for door-in-a-cliff aficionados.

Volcanic island in the middle of the Santorini caldera. The island was formed in 1957, one year after a quake devastated the island and destroyed a large percentage of its dwellings. We and another couple split the cost of a private boat and motored out to explore the island, smirking smugly at the tourists who went en masse in big commercial boats.

Life appears on an island of volcanic debris.

Susan and me in a sulfur hot springs in a cove of the volcanic island. The water briefly turned our hair, skin, and swimwear yellowish-reddish-brown. It was only lukewarm, though, because the windy day brought in cold water from the open sea.

June 02, 2006

Cretan Countryside

Photos by Susan except for the photo of Susan, which is by me.

Samaria Gorge, longest gorge in Europe, some 16km long, descending 1260m from the mountains to the Libyan Sea. Crete's only national park: a 4-6 hour hike over continuously rough, stony ground.

Dragon arum (Dracunculus vulgaris), a beautiful, horrid-smelling, flycatching plant, common in the gorge.

Me in the dry riverbed of the gorge. Lower down, a stream of clean, potable water rushes through.

Susan in Samaria Gorge.

The Iron Gates, where the walls of the gorge are only 3m apart

A door in a cliff near the exit of the gorge.

The lion fountain in the town square of Spili, Crete: clean, cold, delicious water from the streams of Samaria.

I think I'll do one more post of Greece photos after this, some miscellaneous ones that I like from the entire trip.

June 01, 2006

Agios Pavlos

Photos by Susan

An isolated beach on southern Crete: the best part of the trip. This is the most populous section of the beach.

Beach with tiny nude man (not me) flexing his muscles. Look for him in the white surf to the left of the blue umbrella.

Sandy coves.

Pink umbrellas. Another high-density gathering place.

More pink umbrellas.

A cliff at Agios Pavlos.

Folded rock.

Twilight, rock, grass