Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Non Compos Mentis

So I'm meeting with a client today who brought her small child,an adorable blonde moppet in thick glasses and a bright orange T-shirt.  This happens, because people are human and humans don't always have time to find babysitters before they have to run to their lawyers' offices.  (By the way, I am not a lawyer, I am a paralegal.)  And I walk into the conference room, and this li'l moppet, who is sitting on the floor looking out the window, gets up, turns around, looks at me, and points.  In a voice loud enough to shatter the hermetically sealed glass, she/he announces, "LOCO!!" and does the crazy gesture, hand near temple and twirling furiously.  Pronouncement made, the moppet sits back down and becomes absorbed in traffic on the far-below freeway.

Why these things always have to happen in front of my boss, I have no idea.  

Anyway, mom is apologizing all over the place, and saying to the moppet that he/she better apologize, and I'm saying it's nothing, really, and my boss is trying to get this meeting started, and the moppet is ignoring everybody, and I'm wishing I could go back to my cube and hide under my desk.  I knew I'd get outed at work sooner or later, but by a four-year-old?  Yes, okay, a four-year-old who's an astute judge of character.  But still.  There's something about being called crazy when you actually are crazy that makes you feel much crazier than you are when you're, I dunno, sitting in your psychiatrist's waiting room watching the fish, or counting out the weekly meds, or trying to decide whether or not you have to tell your therapist about the altercation with the parking garage attendant, or any number of other things that might signify actual craziness.  

It kind of put a damper on what was otherwise a pretty good week.  First there was that whole three-day-weekend thing, and then it's a short work week.  And as y'all know, my favorite band has a new album out, and I have it and it's really good!  Mike Peters is singing, but it really doesn't matter; from the opening guitar chords, it's instantly recognizable. "Oh yeah, that's Big Country."  The song "Another Country" is going to be the big hit in America, if there's to be a big hit in America.  (And the sad thing is, I probably won't know, because I don't listen to the popular radio stations; heck, I don't even know what they are.)  And then I find out that they're doing a world tour. World as in not just Europe but also the U.S. and Canada.  And yes, Virginia, they're coming to Texas.  Austin, Texas, to be exact, at a club called the Belmont on July 13.  I have tickets already.  Bought them on my phone; how's that for living in the 21st century?  

So I got the tix and I booked a room and made arrangements to drive down and invited some friends, and two days later, Big Country announced a gig in Dallas.  Gee, thanks, boys.  Good timing, there.  Not that it will kill me to see them two nights in a row.  Heck, I could drive to Houston the day before Austin and make it three nights in a row, if I really felt like it.  Do the Trans-Texas Corridor. My boss is from Houston; I can probably ask him where 18307 Egret Bay Boulevard is, and he'll say something like "Well, normally I'd tell women to stay out of that neighborhood, but seeing as you're loco..."

And while all that was going on, the mighty Law Dogs got rained out.

I kid you not.  We had eight softball games scheduled this season and five of them got rained out, including tonight, which was supposed to be the make-up game for one that got rained out.  It's not even like it's been an especially wet spring; it's just that every Thursday, practically like clockwork, it started pouring rain about two-ish and kept up until the ball field was underwater.  It seems that the field is on a downslope, so this is bound to happen if there's enough rain.  There were two games where we got rained out the day before.  

But, when we did get to play, the team was a lot stronger than last year.  We scored higher, ran faster, hit harder and fielded better.  We pulled ahead in two games, and one we even thought we had some hope of winning.  It didn't happen, but just wait'll next year.  Yours truly got two base hits, made it to second once, and got tagged out quite a few times (but in order to get tagged out, you have to hit the ball, and--yeah.)  I only fell down the once.  It was pretty impressive, but I never did it again.  And I somehow escaped serious injury, although I have an assortment of ball-shaped bruises pretty much everywhere from the double header we played on Tuesday.  (I'm the catcher.  Somebody should have explained to me that you catch the ball with whatever's handy, which is hardly ever the actual glove.)  

Last thing: I'm at Afrah, and it appears that they're tearing down the building next door.  Could a new Afrah be in the works?  I think it's entirely possible.  Hm. Maybe with belly dancers.  One can hope.  

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Writing In The Dark

You know, sometimes I get tired of writing these.  I mean, I know my legion of screaming fans - both of you - would commit violent gory suicide with chainsaws and the business ends of automotive engines if I ever stopped, but there are days when I ask myself what the frick'n point is, anyway.  This is a dangerous question for a Buddhist to ask about anything because, of course, there is no point.  To anything. Ever.  And once you start thinking about that, it's only a short period of time until a miniature black hole takes root in your brain and your entire head starts to slowly implode, kind of like the planet Vulcan did in the first Star Trek movie but without the great f/x.  And we all know how that ended.

(Okay, I admit I have no idea how that ended.  That movie confused the living sheep out of me.  Was Leonard Nimoy supposed to be the "old" Spock from our timeline, and Zachary Quinto was the "new" Spock because he hadn't passed through the space/time paradox, or what the hell was going on, on that ice planet?  I kept expecting a guy in a blue box to materialize and explain the whole thing in a British accent, and then somebody named Luke to get into a fight with an abominable snowman.  No, don't tell me anything about the new Star Trek yet.  I haven't seen it. Hopefully this weekend.)

The irony is that I always have time for it.  Thursday, six o'clock, me, laptop, Afrah.  In between gobbling pita bread and guzzling lemonade (except during Ramadan, and July 8 through August 7, thanks for asking), I knock out sentences like I do it for a living.  Which I do, kind of.  Most of them start out like "COMES NOW GUS GOODGUY, Plaintiff, and complains of WILL WEASEL, Defendant, and for this his Original Petition will state as follows..."  I also write in the morning before work.  Two to three pages of whatever junk is knocking around in my head, and it's generally a lot of paranoid delusional self pitying sissypants crap.  What I don't seem to have time for, and this is really weird considering who's saying it, is actual, you know, writing.

I am working on a novel, you know.  (Or maybe you didn't.  Okay, I'm working on a novel. Now you know.)  I'm only about 30 pages in, but that's 30 pages that didn't exist before.  What's ironic, though, is that totally unlike Mindbender and her two older sisters, this one is, uh, actually hard.  As in, it's not just flowing out of my fingers like so much, uh--what flows out of fingers?  I guess nothing, unless you chop off the ends.  So let's just drop that simile like a lead balloon and move on.  What I mean is it doesn't soar.  It just plods along, and I sometimes feel like I'm breaking rocks on the freeway just to knock out the requisite ten pages for the next meeting of my writer's group.  (Did I mention I'm in a new writer's group?  I'm in a new writer's group. Now you know.)

I avoid working on it.  I tweet.  I flip through Alternet and Huffington Post and RawStory and RHRealityCheck and lots of other Web sites filled with great stories about this great country and the great people in it, and how the rich are greatly helpful to the poor and the poor have a great chance of becoming rich, and everybody respects everybody else's civil rights and it's all just great. Then I mess with my cell phone, play a few rounds of Words With Total Strangers, say a few things on Disqus that I'm bound to regret in the morning and move the word "plant" up and down and all over the screen for no apparent reason.  Maybe I get a sentence or two in there.  I'm likely to erase the sentence ten minutes after I typed it and start over again.

Is it writer's block?  No.  I don't believe in writer's block, and I didn't believe in it when I was unmedicated and writing in 18-hour overnight binges of 70 pages at a stretch.  Man, I miss those days sometimes.  (Joan doesn't, though.)

What I think it is, is the Curse of the Dryer Lint.

See, Mindbender is a very dark trilogy.  There's a dangerous assassin and an international criminal and a psychotic would-be general and a petrified accountant and a lot of other Really Bad People in it.  Some of these Bad People do Very Bad Things.  Some of the Good People, for that matter, get pushed into situations where they, too, have to do Very Bad Things.  (The insane mother, for example, jumps the corrupt detective in a hospital corridor and kills him by injecting drain cleaner into his carotid artery.  He expires in less than seven seconds. I was particularly proud of that one.)  And maybe because there was all this darkness tumbling around in my head like clothes in a dryer, I started to build up dryer lint that could only be cleaned off the screen if I wrote something completely ridiculous.

So I did.  And it was fun.

And I'm trying to do it again, here, and it's not fun at all.  The only thing I can see I'm doing different now is not writing something very dark at the same time.

So maybe I need to start something dark.  Or go back to something dark that I was working on but quit working on because it was too dark.

Which reminds me, I have a meeting to get to.  I can tell because it's getting dark.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Thousand Stars in the Night Sky


Oh, yeah, I went to this Buddhist retreat, and there was a lot of meditating and a lot of Noble Silence, and it was a great time all the way around, but what I remember most are the stars.

I live in Dallas.  It's a fine place to live, but there's so much light here. It's humid and light bounces off the water in the air and at nine at night it can look like twilight.  If you see a star, it's either really bright or it's a comet that's burst through the outer stratosphere and is plummeting toward Earth, due to explode a thousand feet up and take out thousands of trees in a repeat of Tunguska that practically screams you'll be late for work tomorrow, er, if you're not dead.

But this place.  Oh my God.

We were eighty miles out of Dallas.  We could see it, glowing on the horizon like a nuclear plant with serious problems, but it was far away.  Standing out in a field on the prairie just a mile or so from the Red River, we looked up and saw stars.  Hundreds and thousands of stars.

"There's a thousand stars in the night sky, I wonder which one could be yours."  --Big Country, "The Broken Promise Land"

It takes a human eyeball about forty minutes to fully acclimate to the darkness.  I spent the forty minutes lying on my back in the field, staring up at the sky.  I only pried myself away to go to bed because it was freezing cold and at some point I needed to get some sleep.  (Yes, sleeping in the field was an option, but there were cows, and cows, though they aren't very bright, are extremely curious.  Imagine waking up at three a.m. to find a heifer nosing your forehead. One might never lie on one's back in a field again.)

I was back in the field the following morning for some walking meditation.  I lay down on my back again, and  my sweater rode up on my stomach.  After a while I felt something walking around on me.  I looked down (not very easy, with the breasts the size of Montana; I kind of had to flatten 'em and move them to one side) and beheld a very tiny grasshopper.  It was maybe the size of my little fingernail, bright green, wide-eyed and  moseying around on my stomach in a just-hatched sort of way.

"You might want to watch out," I told it.  "I'm a mass murderer."  (When I was a kid, grasshoppers infested the mint and asparagus plants in our backyard.  I must have killed thousands of them.  I've felt bad about this ever since.)  The grasshopper did not seem alarmed.  Neither did another one that hopped up next to the first one.  So I shut my mouth and just watched them until they hopped off and disappeared into the grass.

I wonder if I've been forgiven.

Anyway, I had a pretty good time at the retreat, in case this isn't obvious.  And I caught a stomach bug. Well, that wasn't so great, but I guess into every intestine a stomach bug must fall.  Maybe it was the vegetarian food.  I've always preferred they take it easy on the vegetarian.

Coincidentally, Joan and I are sneaking out of town this weekend for her birthday.  We're going to Bonham, and that's not far from the retreat center.  I've already emailed them to see if we can stop by and look at the stars.  Answer: Yes.


Friday, May 3, 2013

Off To Be The Wizard

I suck at this packing to leave town thing. I can't imagine it's anybody's favorite chore. I'm even reasonably good at the packing part; I can get a lot into a suitcase (thanks, Military Dad) but I still suck at it.  Mainly I can't stop thinking about odds and ends I might need or could need or am thinking about possibly needing. Like a new pair of ear buds to replace the pair that broke yesterday. Like bug spray and some Power Bars and ear plugs for that hardy soul that gets to room with me.  Mind you, I've already left the house, so all these things will need to be picked up from the drugstore. And a Starbucks, to get some Via in case they don't have coffee there.  It's a Buddhist retreat; they'll probably only have tea. Coffee interferes with the blah blah blah and is bad for your ___________ and makes __________ more difficult or something like that.  To which I say, blammo. Bring on the caffeine or I might get ugly. Er.  

This place I'm going is in Oklahoma. Well, not quite Oklahoma. It's actually the border of Oklahoma, just south of the Red River.  On Google Earth, anyway, you can see the river from there.  Probably not in real life. It looks pretty darn rural, with fields and trees and rolling hills and stuff.  Very intimidating for this child of technology. 

Speaking of technology, this weekend is all about ditching it.  There's no cell phone reception and no wi-fi. Which means no phone, no lights, no motor car, not a single luxury.  Well, okay, I'm driving a motor car, so there must be SOME such things.  And I've got a flashlight.  There's probably electricity, at least for lights. But they're serious about no cell phones, no laptops, no tablets, no Internet, no Nooks, no...

Well, actually, I am taking my Nook.

But I can explain. 

Our gang of Buddhists is reading a book called "Training In Compassion," by Norman Fischer. We're actually supposed to have read the whole thing, which I haven't done. I've read about half of it and understood basically none of it, but hopefully what I have absorbed will help some. We're all supposed to have a copy, and when I bought mine I did what I usually do. I bought it with my Nook. So there it is, on the Nook. And on my cell phone, which has a Nook app.  

(In fact, in the ongoing war between Nooks and Kindles, I expect both to lose.  Tablets will win and reign supreme, and Nook and Kindle apps will duke it out in cyberspace. But I still think Nooks should win just because they have a cooler name. Kindle. That's what you do to light a fire. Fire. Books. Bad combination.)

Apart from the Nook, though, which also has a bunch of religious texts, a couple of sci-fi thrillers, a trashy noir or two, the latest issue of Time Magazine and maybe, just maybe a cowboy romance (no, not really, but I scared you there, didn't I?), I'm going to unplug, put away and otherwise be shed of tech for two days.  I think I can go that long without Tweeting. And if this thing lives up to its advertising, there won't be much to Tweet about anyway. Be safe, everybody. See you on the other side.

PS. Last night, in blasting wind and frigid temperatures, the mighty Law Dogs were brought low by Bat Pitch Crazy to the tune of 6-19. Yeah, that's pretty bad, but in the first inning we were ahead by two runs for the first time in team history.  And yours truly managed two hits and runs to first without falling down.  Truly, can the majors be far behind?

P.P.S. Big Country's new album "The Journey" is really really good!! Yes, even though Track Four is a heartbreaker and made me cry. Check it out.  "The Journey," wherever classy CDs are sold.