Seeing Eye Man


My little dog Charlo has gone blind. Something called SARDS—Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome. My wife says it’s the paint stripper I put on the landing, he probably got some on his paws. The doctor just says, it happens to some dogs as they age. They can go blind in as little as 2-3 days. He might have been blind for a while before we caught it. We took him on vacation and he started running into things. Perhaps he knew the lay of the land at home, but in a new space he was out of his element.

Now taking him out on walks is a whole new ballgame. He follows the scent trails on a completely empty sidewalk. They mosey here and there and he follows it like it’s gold. Nothing is there to the naked eye. Perhaps someone dropped a half-eaten McDonalds French Fry there in 1979. But he still smells it. My little white lapdog has become a rabid bloodhound.

They say dogs have an amazing sense of smell. Maybe it’s the 300 million olfactory receptors they have in their noses compared to our six million. Or the fact that the part of the dog’s brain that analyzes smells is 40 times greater than ours. They actually have a whole separate passageway for odors. We share ours with our mouth. Either way, his nose is now clearly his sense of choice. It leads him on.

Can he smell cement? He’s blind but somehow he knows the difference between the cement curb that is coming up vs. the asphalt road he is crossing. He steps up to the curb without missing a beat. How does he do that? Sometimes I think that maybe the bottom half of his retinas still work, but I know that makes no sense.

We are now more linked. Instead of just a curious dog on one end of a leash and his iphone zombie owner on the other, we are now focused on the task at hand, like one organism. And it is glorious.  We find the sun, we find the dirt patches for pooping, we follow the most curious trails. How did our neighbor’s yard suddenly get so interesting? There’s a smell trail I can’t see that meanders over towards the rose bush, but if he gets that far, I have to pull him back so he doesn’t poke his nose.

I have taken to giving him instructions with the leash as if he is a horse: pull up to jump the curb when I worry that he doesn’t see it, pull left around that garbage can, since he can’t see that it is right in his path on the sidewalk, etc.

Charlo seems to have no distress or subconscious angst about being blind. In fact, I’m not sure he is fully aware of it.  He still trots along, head held high, taking the lead down the sidewalk he can’t see. On the rare occasion that I’m not watching and he runs into a branch across the way, he simply does a doggy double take, realizes there’s something in his path, picks his way around it and moves on just as confidently.

This mid-winter morning it’s cold and naked and dead. We never walk the block from Prospect St. to Washington on Depew. It is filled with too many food bits and garbage. What is it about this block that makes people want to fling old overflowing refried beans containers from cars? Is there something about the hedges there that hide crap better than those higher or lower on the street? Maybe the neighbors just don’t care here and so are fine with leaving things to rot. If I had an entire happy meal shoved under my hedges, I would pick it up and put it in the trash.

But today, the sidewalk that leads to this block is better cleared of snow, so begrudgingly we turn up it. Of course, the first thing I spy is a full loaf of bread in a plastic bag and think oh my god, Charlo will have a field day. But he misses it entirely and goes nosing about two feet up from it. I want to tell him, Buddy, you’re missing the big bonanza, but he is super busy.

Then he finds something, he thinks. He is shaking with anticipation like a drug addict. It is on the grass strip under the snow. He buries his nose in it, digging beneath the slight snow cover into the soil. Noses here, noses there. I can’t pull him back from it, he uses all his energy to plunge his nose into the dirt hole he has created. “Come on, Charlo,” let’s go!”  I’m dragging him by the leash.

Finally he unearths something, it might be…what is it? Yes, I think it is!  He chews it and it crunches. A tiny year-old dog turd. Yechhh.

Since Charlo’s sense of smell has sharpened, so has mine. I lift my nose as we walk, wondering even in mid-winter, does this non-descript hedge bush with tiny leaves have a smell I somehow have been missing all these years? I long sometimes to get down on my knees and follow the invisible trail he is tracking right into the center of the road. He’s certainly a more dangerous companion blind. And I must play my part and be his seeing eye man.

He’s also gained a late yen for adventure. His nose will take him places he would never dream of going when he was sighted. And he continues to find ways out of our yard, even after I have fixed the obvious gaps in the fence. How does he do it? I put him in the yard and a minute later, like Houdini, he appears on the other side of the neighbor’s fence. He never did this when he had eyes.

The beauty of it is, he is out of his old comfort zone, or discovered a new one based on smell. Prior to being blind he never wanted to spend time outdoors. He’d go out and do his business and then want to be back in. Now you take him home from a long walk and he immediately wants to go into the back yard. He’s a true seeker now. More enlightened.  He just can’t get enough of that smelly wilderness.

We rarely walk the dog together, my wife and I. Something about it being a chore, I guess. Although often we are out with the dog and look around and wonder at the world in a way that we never do in any other context. But tonight, we need to be together. A neighbor has committed suicide and we are moody. Of course, some combination of the dog and the will of the leash leads us right to her house. And that’s all my wife needs. She walks up to the door bravely and knocks

“What are you doing,” I ask incredulously. Before she can respond the door is opened by the husband. My wife and he share a long sorrowful hug and Charlo and I are drawn in with hugs and ‘come in’s’ and Charlo smells a kitchen. There are several friends here commiserating, none of whom we know, and before I can rescue Charlo from the kitchen, the 20 year-old son comes down the stairs and stares at us. He is white, drawn. I grab Charlo from the kitchen and make some excuse about him being blind and the son’s eyes focus suddenly.

“He’s blind,” he asks.

“Yes,” I say, “but it’s turned him into a bloodhound. Did you know that dogs have 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses and we have only 6 million?”

He looks me in the eye, which is shocking from this young sullen figure, and almost smiles.




Weather – The Last Frontier

Weather-Blog-ImageYou may have thought that space was the last frontier, but I would posit that it is weather. Every day we plan, analyze, prepare, study and predict it. What will I do when I get out there? How will I handle it? It’s at the edge of what we know. And then every day we put on our space suit and embrace it, one way or another. And where I live in New York, it’s always different! If a frontier is the edge of the unknown where there are no set rules, well that’s the weather!

And it may be unpredictable, but if you have eyes and skin, it is hard to be actually deluded about it, unless you’re from California.  I’m from that sunshine state and so have never learned to put my mittens on when it is below freezing. Some ten-year old part of me still expects it to be a balmy 70 degrees every day that I walk out from the house, and for it to stay that way until sometime in late December when it might rain a few drops for a month or so. My John Wayne attitude about snow and mittens follows a direct line from the fact that in Southern California there were no such things.  Sissies wore gloves and snow was cocaine.

Now, as an Easterner, I bore everyone with the phenomenon of weather. “Did you see how cold it is out there? The dogs are sticking to the sidewalks!” People smile smugly, maybe raise an eyebrow and think to themselves, “Fucking Californian.”

You would think that the weather casters would help. My wife listens to the weather report on our local newscast. But you have to take the messenger into consideration. It can be completely different, depending on who you’re watching.

Liberal media says go out without a coat to feel what ten below really feels like. Have empathy for the homeless who have to endure these temperatures without hot chocolate and marsh mellows. You know the ones with the little red sugar sparkles on them that make the already sweet drink just that much sweeter, and don’t forget the white chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies that we’re eating here on camera, just to show you that bad weather can be good.

Conservative media says turn up the heat to a comfortable 82 degrees and don’t use the bathroom next to the mud room, I have to get my contractor to fix the frozen pipes problem we always have when it gets this cold, but one of the other 35 bathrooms should be fine.

Social media asks how many likes the cloud that is shaped like a whale has and should we count the likes for the same cloud once it turned into a ship with cannons.

Local media shows commercials for new Big Pharma drugs you could take to make you feel warm enough to smile in a cold snap but not warm enough to prevent frostbite.

Russian media says the weather warmed up to ten below today. Schools reopened.

No help.

So, if you’re from California and live in the east or are just naturally weather deluded, do what I  do. Just get out there and take a walk in it, preferably naked. That’s right. Take your clothes off and get out there. When you do, you will receive sensations on your skin. You will breathe. Your eyes will open wide. This is no video game. This is the real world sending you messages and you are a part of it. Now start skipping. That will help. You might sing a little ditty as you skip. That’s it. Now you’re really alive!  Don’t be embarrassed. This isn’t California.  And life is nothing to be embarrassed by.

Now reflect on this. You couldn’t do this without a body. And by the way, how did you get this body? You don’t really know, do you? You’ve just always had it. It seems that everywhere you turn, there it is. So, it must be a repository of some sort.  In fact, it’s a collection. A collection of you. Don’t abuse the privilege. It’s a good collection. It might draw a nice price on Antiques Roadshow. It has problems, yes. But those are there to remind you not to be deluded!

“But I don’t feel well today,” you might say. “I don’t want to strip naked and skip in the weather singing old REM songs.” But this is the challenge that’s been thrown to you, I would say. Get out there and skip. There’s a miracle afoot. Experience it. You have no idea what a part of the universe you are.

Look! A flake of snow! Do you know that flake was made in a little cloud five to ten miles South, Southeast of Minneola and was kept on ice for you until this moment?  That frozen air mass? It was released from the ice cream freezer when Jeremy left the door open on Midland Avenue after he finally found the orange sherbet he was looking for and will be your constant companion until just after you cross Summit Street when you will sneeze and blow it to Ontario.

And where did that that warm breeze come from that is suddenly caressing your face? It started as a sweet little fart from a baby Beluga in the North Sea, rose to the surface West Southwest of Copenhagen and joined other little freshettes of similar origin somewhere North of Ireland where they fluttered through a Dingle forest and now, so scented, blew across the Atlantic to caress you. Small world, isn’t it?

The butterfly that flutters past you in May will cause the tsunami next March. So beware the weather whatever the whether is. Be amazed!

Or move to California.


Words to the Whys

WHY I say “Good Morning” to everyone I meet

Mostly to keep other people at arm’s length. It has nothing to do with my sunshine-y personality, it’s protection.

If you return my “Hi” softly, I know you are no danger to me and are surprised that I roused you from your early morning reverie and are just as happy to return to your concerns about the tragedies of fake ewes.

If you match my enthusiasm with your “Hi” back at me, I know you are an equal level combatant (would that be Rust Belt?) and not to be messed with and hope you are either happier, (which I doubt–who could be happier than moi?), or at least more adept at dealing with this world than I am, good luck.

If you say nothing, I begin writing the police report in my head taking note of your physical appearance, so I can tell the sergeant every detail before you mug me.

If you say nothing with earphones in your ears, I laugh and smile and tell you my life story laced with expletives because you are on Mars.


WHY you think my house is dirty

I have an arranging style based on nature.

My feng shui template is an unweeded garden that grows to seed and what you’re actually experiencing is art in the making.

It’s easier to find my things when they’re spread out in front of me, not hidden in drawers.

The maid has Tuesdays off, as well as all the other days of the week. In fact I’ve forgotten her name and once tipped her by telling her I didn’t think Valium was as good as a vacuum for getting things done. No wonder she told me my dirt sucks.

You’ve been reading too much Architectural Digest and should start reading more National Enquirers.

I like the vacuum in the middle of the living room like that, particularly with the sprig of flowers I laid on it, besides I’m old and don’t have a trip up to the vacuum closet on the third floor booked until early April.

You have the wrong virtual reality goggles on. Here, take mine.


WHY I write this blog

Boredom is a terrible thing and the magic of putting different words next to each other to wrest new meaning from them that I never intended, is fun.

It’s court ordered probation for excessive good behavior.

To write a primer of basic Buddhist principles very thinly disguised as a joke book.

So I will keep from staring at the other 600,000 commuters on this train and wondering how they keep THEIR sanity.

Because I believe in art and its ability to transform and I’m hoping to become a white rabbit.


WHY they should build a wall around New York City

It’s not like other cities and should be preserved.

To halt young white flight into this city – it’s like honey to the bees.

Easier for the New York Times to cover the world as they know it

Keep all the 1 percenters and rapists from infecting the Real America

Raise the property values even higher by turning NYC into one big, happy, gated community.

Charge higher tolls.


Good for tourism–Visit the Great Wall of NY!

Great for Mixed Messages – The Statue of Liberty welcomes you, lighting your path to the  wall, where you are strip searched and tossed back to the sharks in New York Harbor.


WHY people suffer so

Birth, old age, sickness, death.

To have compelling reasons to learn life lessons.

To sell more drugs.

Because studies show that complaining releases endorphins into your system and gives you a false sense that you can do something by just flapping your lips.

They have no tools of faith because they think the Devils who speak to them are healthy, bench-pressing role models instead of the bullshit excuses they actually are.

They can’t tell the Devils who speak in their head from the matters of their heart.

They watch so much TV that they think THAT is reality.

Makes a good story.

More Geezers Lost in Verses

More Poems for Second Childhood

Mary had a nurse’s aide,
His skin was black and glowed,
And everywhere that Mary went
Her aide was sure to go.

He followed her to vote one day
Which was against the rule
It made poll workers laugh and say
“You can’t vote here you fool!”


Faith is not your intellect,
A bit more like a periscope,
High above the drowning waves,
Looking out for hope.

Your mind will tell you seas are rough
And waves come by the score,
Your faith will tell you
Seagulls fly and look I see the shore.


This is one of those days–
Brilliant sun on mountaintops of foliage.
What kind of animal blames the world for its beauty,
Sitting in a room with a bag over its head?


These are the citizens all forlorn,

Who heard politicians tooting their horns,

And judged the celebrity with their scorn,

When out of their greed his service was born;

Who embraced their Google,

That made them oogle,

Ignoring the clarion call of the bugle;

Who loved the market,

That capitalist target,

That wagged the dog,

Unwilling to slog,

Who encouraged the hog,

And the leadership fog,

That lived in the house that we built.



Phone thumbs
Keep me busy,
Game thumbs
Stay amused,
All thumbs
In iPad city,
That’s why I’m
So confused.


Three blind ICE,

Three blind ICE,

See how they run,

See how they run,

They all ran after some immigrants trail,

To stifle America’s Holy Grail,

Did you ever think our democracy’d fail,

From three blind ICE,

Three blind ICE.



I see the fire,
The lights on the tree,
That mean I’m home,
Cared for, neighborly.

I remember passing
So many of these,
When I was younger
Wondering free.

Is outside, outside
Where I’ll be?
Is inside even
Possible for me?

Now the tree is trimmed
Cheap music plays,
My daughter passes by,
And wonders should she stay.



Dental bridge work falling down,
Falling down, falling down,
Dental bridge work falling down,
My whole paycheck!


When our planet
Does one thing,
And we do another
Our knowledge so grand
It’s like taking a lover,
Yet pollution piles up
Like ignorance uncovered,
A tsunami of greed
That we blame on each other.


When our body
Does one thing,
And we do another,
The plan is a picnic
But fate is a mother,
We see the horizon
Too late discover,
Tiny pebbles that stopped us,
And made us take cover.

Doc says we’ll catch it,
Start chemo today.
I’m sailing to Greenland,
The dock of the bay.
At least let me process
And on this bench stay,
I want to see death
From a long way away.


Give me your body,
Sand and smooth,
Varnish with oils
To help me move.
Make a teardrop,
Bow to stern,
And let me
To the sea return.


Ring around the moonrise,
Pockets full of moon pies,
Last one, last one,
We all fall down.






A Geezer’s Garden of Verses


I’m a little teapot
Short and stout.
Last night I was Moses
Speaking from the Mount.
Increasingly these episodes
Are what I am about.
Don’t tip me over
I’m filled with doubt.


In our time
We gave birth
To replace ourselves

Not really replace….
Well yes,
In other shoes.

That gnawing,
That if only,
That, where was wisdom then,

Now we give and give
And give too much,
That the enraptured love
They feel around them
Is enough.

To this time
Move forward,
To this time
Climb the upward path with more,
To this time
Put us to rest and go beyond,
To their time.


Hickory Dickory Dock
My iPhone is my clock
Now Time is dead
The battery ran down
Hickory Dickory Dock.


One day you will lose your phone,
It should have been surgically attached
But you put it down to pick up the popcorn
And someone spoke to you excitedly
And that was that.
The crowd closed around you,
Until that moment when
You realized it was gone.

And you either took it philosophically,
Counting the brains lost with hyperbole,
Or you panicked, cut and ran back,
Too desperate to even find the sun.

Then inventory,
How much lost,
A human hurricane,
Insurance can’t replace.

Finally freedom.
Freed from its candy grip
To gaze out the window on mountains
That seem to have come out of nowhere.
Were they there yesterday?
Have I been here before?
Do I live?


Mrs. Muffet
Had a fat tuffet,
When people commented
She told them to “Stuff it.”
Along came a spider
Decided to ride her
She smashed that arachnid
Like a supercollider.


Has meaning.
No THIS one,

It means
My pen still has ink left.
It means I was breathing
Long enough to write it.

It means
You’re breathing too
Reading it,
Want it to have meaning,
Want it to add to your life’s experience
No matter how small
Accumulate difference
That adds up to you.

No matter the definition,
No matter the context,
A signpost in a snow storm,
A way out of engaged behavior
And into the interlacing mysteries
Of head and heart.

This Word defines
You. Now.
Because you’re reading it.


How we get old
If truth be told
Is something like
Collecting gold.

For every now,
Distinct, sublime,
Withdrawal’s made
Of precious time.

And when the future
We unlock,
It’s meaningless
Without the clock.

So even worsts
We celebrate,
And breathe them in
And toast our fate.

And then determine
So to change,
Whatever we must

What fardels bear
Is really care,
To tend to more than
Thinning hair.


With thinning hair
And laissez faire
And moles,
They pop up everywhere,

Glass-like skin
And next of kin,
Broken falls
And fuck-it-alls,
And don’t forget the
Memory stalls.

Wheelchair ramps
And IV clamps
I told you not to
Call me Gramps!

And while with smiles
A life we fain
We’re really cursing
Chronic pain.

And sometimes walk
When once we ran
And stand aside
And watch the sand.

And make up
Paranoiac fears
From simply trusting
Our deaf ears.

Losing friends
We make amends
Seek pardon
For our selfish ends.

You too can play
This rhyming game
Just grow in age
And then take aim.


Wee Willie Winkie
Runs through the town.
Upstairs, downstairs,
In his nightgown.

Is anybody watching him?
Where the hell’s his nurse?
Somebody call 911.
Old age is a curse.


Do you fight in the trenches
For anything?
Your well-being, your dreams,
Your life?

Old age tells us
You won’t necessarily have tomorrow
To try again.
It is today.
It is now.

And there are only so many Nows left.
Your excuses are crutches
And that’s the last thing you need
At this age.

What you need are mountains,
Students, life projects
Not the glory of acknowledgement
But of daily sweat, daily accomplishment
Don’t wait.
Tomorrow is not just another day.


Jack be nimble
Jack be quick
Jack, let’s examine this career path,
Are you going to jump over candlesticks the rest of your life?

In all of human endeavor
This is what you’ve chosen?
Moreover, what about the candlestick?
Does it have any rights in the matter?


Communion of a special kind,
With nature,
With birds,
With friends,
Comfortable as old shoes.

Younger generations too,
And now we are the elders,
Life changes,
Ambitions tempered,
And still we breathe
The good air,
Share, Converse,
Eat, Sleep
in a natural world
We grow from.
Not one that grows
From us.


Diddle, diddle dumpling
My son John’s
Career is selling
Stocks and bonds.
The market’s off,
The market’s on,
Diddle, diddle dumpling
My son John. 


Not I,
But written by me.
By me,
I tell you!

I put those words together.
I hypnotized the English language
And in a state it danced
An unaccustomed jig,
So great is my power.

And white paper
Turned to art
As easy as
Seagulls fly.

Or so I believed,
Then read it back,
Chest swelling with pride,
And it stunk.

Like what’s left
on the rocks
After the shells have been dropped
And eaten out.


There was an old woman
Who lived in a shoe.
Her social security 
Hadn’t come through.
The government told her
It had no more bread.
She whipped them all soundly 
And sent them to bed.


At the end of the world
We danced. Just
An expression of joy
That we had been alive
Though the world was ending,
That the infinitesimal chance
Of our existence
Had flowered.

And now,
No seeds left,
Just the color
Of God;
Beyond the knowledge
Of our inability
To hold on
To the planet
We loved.


The Expedient Means of Oz

totoL. Frank Baum, the author of the Oz books, dabbled in Theosophy, a religion invented as a kind of bridge between what the world was starting to discover about Eastern religions like Buddhism, and the Christianity that was the prevalent religion of America at the time – the late 1800’s. This is a bridge that Ralph Waldo Emerson and others earlier in the century had started to build between Eastern and Western religions with Transcendentalism. In fact, in 1844 the first English translation of the Buddha’s highest teaching, The Lotus Sutra, was included in The Dial, a publication of the New England Transcendentalists.

One of the enduring delights of L. Frank Baum’s story, The Wizard of Oz, is the reversals that the plot consistently turns on. If you squint hard enough, you can almost see the faint outlines of Buddhist philosophy. Dorothy’s Kansas home is unmoored by a tornado landing in a strange place, Oz. When Dorothy lands, Glenda the good witch, a positive force of the universe, appears and points out that her house fell on and killed an evil force in the universe, the wicked witch of the east. (“When great evil occurs, great good follows.1”)

Glenda bestows Dorothy with the witch’s magical ruby slippers. To get the answers she thinks she needs to get home, Dorothy is told of an expedient means, the wizard of Oz, who is all knowing and will be able to tell her the answers.

What are expedient means? Webster says an expedient is something fit and suitable for the purpose. In Buddhism, an expedient means is simply a method skillfully devised and employed by Buddhas and bodhisattvas to lead people to their enlightenment.

Dorothy starts her journey down the yellow brick road to seek the wizard and on the way, she finds other creatures who complain that they don’t have the answers to solve their karmic problems—a lion without courage, a tin man without a heart, a scarecrow without a brain. Together they decide that the wizard must have the answers and journey to see him.

When they arrive and are faced with the wizard, he is larger, scarier and more Godlike than anything they can imagine. The wizard tells them he will help them when they have proven themselves by bringing him the wicked witch’s broomstick. They take on this quest, and survive the dangers of the witch’s magic and her minions of flying monkeys and guards, vanquishing the wicked witch in the process.

But when they return to the wizard with their prize, he seems just as scary and frightening (and ultimately useless to give them the answers they seek) as before. Until the only being in their group who is not cowed by this wizard, Toto, Dorothy’s little dog, discovers a man behind a curtain and once he is discovered to BE the wizard everything calms down.

Unmasked, the wizard, a little man from Kansas, feels he owes them something, so he gives them each something that bestows the things they say they want on them, proving to the audience that they had the thing they sought inside themselves all along, they just didn’t acknowledge it. He awards the scarecrow a diploma, the lion a medal and the tin man a testimonial and states that where he comes from these things are given to men who have no more brains, courage or heart than they have.

The wizard has a hot air balloon which he has been saving to get himself and now Dorothy back to Kansas, but Toto jumps out at the last minute and Dorothy is left in Oz without a way home.  Glenda comforts Dorothy and reveals that Dorothy has always had the power to return home but that she had to learn it for herself. Dorothy says that she has learned never to go further than her own backyard to look for her heart’s desire.  She had the answer with her all along. (“Never seek enlightenment outside of yourself.”2) She clicks the heels of her ruby slippers and says there’s no place like home and she is home.

Dorothy could have gone home from Oz any time she wanted, all she had to do was click her heels. But instead she needed an expedient means to become aware of the wisdom she already possessed.

The original Buddha taught his followers about expedient means by teaching this parable from the Lotus Sutra. A father’s children are sick and beg their father to cure them. He offers them medicine, but because the poison of sickness has entered their minds, they will not take it. “It’s no good,” they say. So he tells them, “I am old and the time of my death is near. I’m going on a trip, but I’ll leave you the medicine, just in case you change your mind.” He leaves, then sends a messenger to tell them he has died. The children, hearing this, grieve and feel like orphans. “If only our father were here, he would tell us to take this medicine. We should have listened to him.” They take the medicine and are healed. The father, hearing they are cured, returns home and greets them. His “death” was an expedient means–a  method skillfully devised to lead people to their enlightenment.

Our egos and arrogance consistently stop us from seeing what is good for us. Without an expedient means, we don’t seem able to accept the wisdom we need to be healthy and happy. The children thought they needed their father’s wisdom to take the medicine. Dorothy and friends thought they needed the wizard to provide the answers. They thought their enlightenment was outside of themselves but it was inside all the time.

Never seek enlightenment outside of yourself. Trust yourself that you have the answers. Don’t blame or point at others for the answers, look into your own soul. At the crucial moment don’t forget the promises you have made. Obstacles that you come upon are expedient means and show that you are doing it right, not a sign that you are in the wrong. Never give up, even if you want to and the flying monkeys are on your tail. The best and most satisfying victories come from the most difficult journeys down the yellow brick road.

“The journey from Kamakura to Kyoto takes 12 days. If you travel for eleven but stop with only one day remaining, how can you admire the moon over the capital. “ Pg. 1027 Writings of Nichiren Daishonin

1) The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, pg 1119.
2) “If you think the Law is outside yourself, you are embracing not the Mystic Law but an inferior teaching.” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Pg 3


Celebrity Drugs

Liberace is the #1 prescribed FDA approved treatment for Ostentationism. Read the patient information leaflet before you start taking Liberace. Common side effects include: Inability to distinguish between heartfelt truth and show, candelabra abnormalities, grandstanding, high rhinestone counts, fur and feather inclinations, multiple rings and fifi fofo. Tell your doctor if you wake up one morning in bed with a gay assistant. Do not eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice while taking Liberace as fruitiness count may reach dangerous levels. Liberace may cause fertility problems in males.

Today I am living my new normal with Obama. Taken as directed Obama is an oral combination treatment for Political Prevarication or PP.  Obama attaches itself to human graft receptors and inhibits their greed, allowing thoughts from the heart to enter the bloodstream. Side effects include: quiet mind, subdued hair coloring, nuclear disarmament and peace in our time. To be taken before tweets, releases or intercourse with the news media of any kind or gender. Do not stop taking Obama unless your health care provider is elected to political office.

For post-media arousal issues. Taken as directed will increase the flaccidity in your bloodstream and get you down off that 24/7 news cycle ledge. Quiets world-is-ending syndrome and turns apocalypse into apocalypso. First jams, then transforms all news signals into nursery rhymes. Warning: The London Bridge is not falling down.

I’m living my best life with Zuckerberg. I feel so connected. I feel so depressed. I feel like I’m missing out on life. Everyone else is having so much fun. Chill out and take another Zuckerberg. None of these feelings will go away, but you won’t care because Karen has a new kitten.

Not feeling so human today? Thinking of being reborn as a porcupine and shooting poison quills at all those assholes? Take a pill. Pfizer can help you be human. Side effects: Loss of salary, loss of sanity, loss of reality, loss of integrity, loss of appetite, loss of expedient means, increased amounts of that floaty feeling for no good reason, just because.

Side Effect
You’ve taken the rest, now take the best! Side Effect has no health purpose whatsoever, but man does it deliver the side effects. Dizziness? You betcha. This is better than your garden variety nausea.  Bulbous nose? Yes sir. Bozo would be proud. Itchy and sensitive skin. You could write a book. It’s so good, it won an Oscar for Special Effects.

Isn’t it about time to ask your doctor about Time? Time delivers neuron clock abductors to your pre-frontal cortex inhibiting sequential relations and creating a time/space pharmacokinetic fantasia.  Not to be used in tandem with any other lifetime. May be used as a predictor of sunrise. Side effects include: late for work, don’t-give-a-shit-ism, I would have liked to be there but I had my own party going on, deadlines are for losers, and mudbaths.  Dosage: as much as you can take and get away with.

Appreciation Ointment
Are you one of a million sufferers living with these symptoms? Negativity, glass more than half empty in fact drained, hate the President, hate your family, hate yourself, hate that annoying little thing your co-worker does every fucking day when she gets to work, hate the basic cubiclivity of modern life, hate the world of assholes, hate? Directions: Smear on your soul nightly and pray. No side effects except greasy palms. Can be substituted for any placebo.

Ask your doctor or other health care professional for Appreciation Ointment, or just go to the store and get some olive oil. Studies have shown that Appreciation Ointment used in tandem with heroin is not advised and can lead to a kind of oily death, having said that you will go out like a stuck pig in a greased lightning contest.

Just take it and stop worrying so much.


My Hotel

skyscraper hotelI have had the opportunity recently to be a guest in a big, impersonal skyscraper hotel and I have to say that it has left me a little cold. Why do we put up with this kind of hostelry? And why does it absolutely HAVE to be so impersonal?

The lobby is muted tones and big, modern design, uncomfortable chairs. It could be the offices of Architectural Digest; it looks way more comfortable in a magazine than it actually is. At the elevator banks, you punch in your floor number and a read-out tells you which elevator will take you there. Inside the elevator, no floor numbers. Whoa! What if the elevator forgets? No human can take you where you want to go.

My room is like the Great Plains as a design statement. Nothing at all remarkable. If I decide to look out the window, I have a beautiful view of other tall hotels nearby and how empty and impersonal they are. Far in the distance, on the ground floor of an impersonal office building, I see a Subway sandwich shop. No one goes in or out, but at least the neon sign is on.

Do we really require this kind of distance from the world at large when we stay in a hotel? Not in MY hotel.

My hotel would not have pictures of sleek modern buildings on the walls. We separate ourselves too much from what makes us great. Are riches and luxury interconnected with not participating in the human experience with other people? Is that what we really want? I don’t think so.

My hotel would have beautifully taken art photos of the chamber maid who will clean your room after you are through. As well as pictures of her home.  In fact, the coffee machine in your room is compliments of her, she has the nice one the hotel bought in her house, and you have a photo of it by your old-fashioned coffee maker, which is reliable and probably makes better coffee than hers.

By the TV there is a button you push to have face time with a person in a homeless shelter on the other side of town. You get to know someone who is homeless, tell them you have some leftovers in the hotel room fridge and to come on over and watch a movie on demand. Have they seen Coco?

The hotel fridge is behind the usual modern dresser like thing, but it was bought at a yard sale and refurbished by inmates who have a knack with old refrigerators. It still has the dent in the side where Flo tried to hammer the door open, after Larry had secretly screwed it shut. It retains those screw holes too. But the inmates have featured these things and in fact painted them red, white and blue–because as you know inmates are so patriotic–and the whole thing could go on a pedestal at MOMA with a little sign about the inmates’ life and not be out of place.

There would be other design touches that made you feel like you are not in an episode of Star Trek. Like an old telephone from 1934 (no one uses hotel phones these days anyway, so does it matter than it doesn’t work?), a bed quilt made by Grandma and a video of her telling you how she made it that plays all day, including the ending where she tucks you in.

In the wellness fitness center and pool on the 42nd floor, instead of an enormous porcelain tile mural of the skyline, which is just a repeat of what you can get when you look out the window, there is a huge porcelain tile mural of Gandhi’s Salt March in 1930 to protest British rule. You can see the number of people who support him, the righteous indignation in their eyes and the ability of humans to be ordinary and superhuman at the same time. That will inspire your next treadmill session.

And on the sound system, to keep the rhythm of your aerobics strong, not Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You,” but King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech with a saucy bass track underneath it.

At the fancy hotel restaurant, we would have businessman breakfasts, but instead of $7 cups of tea, no refills, and cottage cheese “caprese” salad with 10g of fat, 34% protein and 10 grams of carbohydrates for $16, our Executive Chef better known as “Mom” would sit down at your table with her electric skillet and make you blueberry pancakes and pork sausage.

And instead of giant flat-screen televisions with your choice of ESPN, CNN or local morning news on the wall to help your indigestion, there would be windows on the day-care center we share the premises with. If businessmen want to let their minds wander away from their breakfast meetings, instead of “the News” which they already get in myriad ways on myriad devices, they can watch the machinations of non-device play, the ingenuity of the little boy who builds blocks only so he can knock them down, and the tears when one of them accidentally falls on a little girl. These are the tragedies they should be digesting, not those other ones which make them think, liberal or conservative, that the world is falling apart and forces them to bring their most positive life condition, their reminder that they love their family, and their basic good nature to fend off the bad news. Let them think instead about the little girl who was crying one minute and jumping on a hobby horse the next.

And, in the lobby, since bunnies in nursing homes have been so successful in bringing people together and raising their life conditions and empathy, bunnies.  What businessman can turn his cold heart to the raping, pillaging, merger and acquisition of American business when bunnies are excreting little greasy pellets on his shoes?

The rooms, floors, restaurants and banquet rooms aren’t named for fancy cities, or monuments but have actual names and paraphernalia from Ma’s Old Garage, Gramps’ Back Room and Don’t Look in Here.

In the bathroom, nothing need change. Everyone wants a nice clean towel, a warm shower, a germ-free environment. But the mirror isn’t one of those that magnifies your face so you can tweeze giant nose hairs, it actually makes you smaller and puts you in context with other people. Go ahead. You’re lonely, away from home. Choose your context. It can be your family–download old family photos to the mirror technology and it will place you in the middle of friends and family who are having fun—or see what you look like as an agent of change in a meeting of lawyers, doctors or indian chiefs; or you can go historical and take selfies with pre-installed historical figures – only the heroes – Winston Churchill, Harriet Tubman, Honest Abe.

My hotel would have a selection of great arts performances on its TV and that’s all. No Rachel Maddow soliciting our worst and most sentimental righteousness, suffering with us over legislation that is going nowhere because gun victims can’t vote, no Sean Hannity acting bullishly like he is making complete sense and building a case for the fact that humans should have eleven  fingers, to the cheers of the nine fingered crowd.

My hotel is unique, but it doesn’t have to be. You the consumer, can simply ask for these things. You have the power. Lie. Tell the Marriott that the Hilton has better Grandma tuck-in videos than they do. Fill out the survey form at the Hilton saying that the Marriott has a super secret weapon – a March of Salt mural — and where is theirs?

Because to be honest, I don’t want to go into the hotel business, I just want hotels to be more humanistic.



The Seven Dogly Sins


By Charlo

Greed: Some mystical, invisible force drew us to the Snowball of Pee. It is an oddly shaped monument eroded by the warm urine of a thousand dogs that have carved its coldness. It is fascinating how the bouquet of different urine deposits co-mingle in a blend of aromas. I give it four stars, just above the Styrofoam Dish of Ancient Refritos, but of course beneath the splendor of the Frozen Pancake of Throw-up.

Pride: I anoint holy places in the neighborhood by raising a leg to them, whether the tank is full or not. Only I may anoint. In fact, if there is pee there already, it is incumbent upon me to over-pee that pee. Mine must be the last pee standing. Christina’s broken cement wall with the forsythia bushes growing out of it is one of the most sacred. Priestly pee here is necessary for growth. Other spiritual/anthropological sites that depend on me are the short decorative pine encircled by paving stones in front of Rosa and Fernando’s house (sorry Rosa, but God has asked that this pine remain short), The Burd Street Pooping Grounds (a festive field of bird and dog doo just waiting to be consecrated by the King)  and Enterprise Rent-a-Car’s decorative pebble planter (each smooth stone must be first sniffed, then adored, pooped or peed upon and so redeemed–it is a lifetime of work).

Sloth: Yes, and plenty of it. That’s right! Who are you kidding? This is what it means to be a canine. Have you ever slept in a fur dish surround for 24 hours, snoring in the sun, next to the heater, on a cold day? Indescribably delicious.

Wrath: That son-of-a-bitch postman tries to enter our house every effing day! But I stop him cold at the door and he hasn’t entered the house once! Not once! And yet, the next day, there he is, trying it again!  God I hate him. His kind is lower than a flea’s anus.

Gluttony: Feeeeeeeeeed me. It’s cold out there. My paws can’t reach the microwave. But they can reach your shins, you bastard. You! I’m talking to you! That’s your job! I didn’t just eat. That was ten minutes ago. What are you crazy? So, I found a microscopic potato chip crumb behind the pantry. So what?! You call that food? Food is a giant buffalo rib sandwich. Food is what’s on your plate. I’ll eat anything. Whatever you have. You took from me the ability to hunt it myself or dig in the garbage for it, so feed me, asshole!  Feed me. Feed me. Help me. Feeeeeeeeed me!

And by the way, I’m may be gluttonous but I am nothing compared to that fat guy, Jones who lives down the street.  He’s manages a string of WalMarts so you can imagine that he’s into lots and lots of lots. He thinks BIG. For instance during a snowstorm, stay away from his house entirely. He lives on a street corner, so he has over salted both the Summit Street AND the Depew Ave sides of his sidewalk. It is a barren, Godforsaken stretch of ground that repels decent dogs and forces them to walk in the street. You could flavor a cattle carcass with what Mr. Jones has sown on his sidewalks in just one storm.

Lust: Males. Females. Legs. I’m a healthy middle-aged dog, we have our needs. Anyone who calls this a sin, I fear, is having no fun at all in this lifetime.

Envy: Please just let me be a human for five minutes.

The Three Enlightenments

Good Friends: My half brother, Charlie, is my best dog friend. He lives four doors down. Always when I see him, I wag my tail. I am just so happy! We circle each other and sniff butts. Sometimes when I am sniffing his butt he will lift his leg and pee on me. So I will do the same thing for him. Often we face off. That means lowering our heads toward the ground, ready to fight and then instead of fighting, we take turns doing complete aggressive 360 degree turns as fast as lightening. If you blink, you will miss the turn and think we are just facing off against each other again.  Sniffing his yard is unlike sniffing anywhere else. Wherever I go, even taking the leap by the garbage cans to the back yard, it all smells of him. Sometimes when I am at home, warm in my bed, I hear Charlie bark and I know he is there for me.

The Master: Her name is Maria and I always know where she is, and if I don’t, I find out. Once I have ascertained her place in the house, I am in good shape. Nothing be ill if she be well. She is my master, that is sacrosanct—a true thing.  Yes, I am nervous at times and maybe a pain in the ass. But I will serve her until the day I die and she knows it and I know it. This is enlightenment.

Seven Dogly Sins: Earthly desires are enlightenment. Because I am conscious of them, my sins are my enlightenment. They come with the whole package. Nothing will change that. It is my relationship to them that has changed. I acknowledge them now. Yes, there’s my envy again. I do want to be human, but I am a dog and a damn good one. And when envy creeps in, I bark louder, wag harder, cozy deeper into my absolute canine-ness than about any dog I know. I am still a dog, but an enlightened dog.



Faith is the New God



Engraving from Gobekli Tepe

In Yuval Harari’s masterful look at the history of the human race, Sapiens, he relates that 10,000 years ago the human race went from being hunter-gathers to farmers. During this Agricultural Revolution, Man domesticated a few key species of animals and plants and settled down to create home. The question is why did this happen. Scholars used to think that it was advances in Man’s intelligence at this time that made him able to decipher Nature’s secrets, enabling him to tame sheep and cultivate wheat, and abandon the more dangerous life of being hunter-gatherers. Harari calls this a “fantasy” and “history’s biggest fraud.”

Studies of ancient skeletons from this period show that humans paid dearly for the transition to a dependence on wheat. For instance, they moved from ten-hour work weeks to hunt and gather food, to forty to sixty-hour work weeks to grow it. And with this change came new obstacles–slipped discs, arthritis, hernias, worse diet, hunger and disease. Wheat demanded a lot – cleared fields, space, water, nutrients and a secured area, so that no pests or animals destroyed your crops.

With no evidence that humans became smarter at this time of their history, what could have made them discard a lifestyle where they worked less than ten hours a week for their food, had a healthy, varied diet, and the freedom to roam and live wherever they wanted?

One of Harari’s answers is survival of the species. You could now, under the best circumstances have lots of babies who also require lots of attention, have them in one place called home and keep them alive more easily rather than carry one or two around with you as you gathered and hunted.

Oh, and there’s one more reason Harari suggests why you might want to settle down to change your lifestyle and feed a lot of people in a consistent fashion.  God.

Of all the human genera–Homo Neanderthalis, Homo Erectus, etc.— Homo Sapiens were the most social of the human species, a community of gossips, of storytellers, of animals who liked to share consciousnesses. They not only survived but beat out the other species of humans because they had the ability to tell stories together, and create fictions that helped them thrive.

One of those fictions over the years is money. It has no inherent value, but because we all agree that it has value, the financial system works. Another is God. We could gather and tell stories about God or Gods,  why we were here and collectively believe in the same set of stories and characters.

For proof of this connection to God, Harari points out that the first wheat was domesticated in southwest Turkey within miles of the Gobekli Tepe. This is a monumental Stonehenge-like structure from the period seven thousand years before Stonehenge was created, covered with spectacular engravings. Large quantities of food were required to feed the many people it took to build and use these monumental structures. The structures, as far as we can tell, have no practical purpose, except for the worship of God or Gods.

Man has always wondered, has always needed to explain who he was as part of the universe, has always made up stories of why we are here. To do that, he has built many monuments to God(s).  The form God(s) have taken has changed with the culture, but the need for God(s) have remained constant. That’s a human need at our very base. Let’s call that need faith. Faith that Man fits into the universe and has reason to be here.

Harari suggests that we are the only animal that went from a middle place on the food chain to the top in an extremely short period of time. Evolution had time to deal with other animals who ascended the food chain, to balance things out. With Man this evolution is currently behind and trying to catch up. That has added to our need for God(s). We are a little neurotic about whether we really belong here, on top of the food chain or not.

This same neuroses fueled the Scientific Revolution which started about 500 years ago. Now we weren’t just hunting for, or growing our own apples, we were asking why they fell to the ground. We went from thinking we knew everything to thinking we knew nothing and therefore questioning everything. Through this we have learned so much about our world, studied so much about our world and changed so much about our world.

But science is rudderless. And the basis for it is a lust for knowledge. We’ve made the causes to advance humanity since the Scientific Revolution, but haven’t really considered just how global were the effects of our actions: food chain neuroses.

So we race against time. We reverse engineer everything. We deny the overall causes we have made in the universe, even as Nature delivers the effects of those causes as a planet out of balance. We recycle and hope. And still protect our nest-eggs by buying stocks in conscious-less companies and build our houses on flood plains.

Our current lust for knowledge has so many times led us to think that we have outlived the need for faith. We think we live separate from nature. In the past, we committed ourselves to social structures and moral structures based on living with these stories of faith in an organized way. But now, we don’t need God, we say. That is an old- fashioned concept, we say.

Still, as a race, we seek for things that bring us together.  This need for faith that I propose is at the core of being human still creates amazing things communally–whether it is culture, tribe, village, town, city, nation, sports culture, brand culture.

Some admit to our need for faith, but say that it doesn’t matter what we believe in, as long as in our chosen groups we believe, and everyone else does too. That is how faith works.

This works for a while. But ultimately it is not very holistic and our place in the universe is lost. We can have faith that the Yankees are going to be great this year or that Chanel is a cool brand, but that doesn’t cut it when you get laid off or your girl friend walks out.

That’s why we’re in a sea change, right now. We are post Scientific Revolution. It is time to understand how our individual faith works and use it to become more responsible, to dialogue, to tell and gather around positive causes and stories

And we will know when we are on to something when each of us finds that “open space created by dialogue—whether conducted with our neighbors, with history, with the nature of the cosmos—that human wholeness can be sustained,” says SGI Buddhist leader Daisaku Ikeda. He goes on, “The closed silence of an autistic space can only become the site of spiritual suicide. We are not born human in any but a biological sense; we can only learn to know ourselves and others and thus be trained in the way of being human.”

As I said at the beginning of this essay, Harari’s book is masterful, but he has a very modern Achilles heel. He believes most deeply in his own intelligence. And once he follows that road alone, he ends up in a very dark alley. Without faith and human heart- to-heart connection, he fears everything the future could bring, and frightens himself and us with the twin Frankensteins of cloning and building technological human beings.

He forgets the human need for faith that raised a culture of worship from nothing in ancient Turkey, and so have many others.

What does that faith look like? Where do I go to get it? I don’t know. I met a Nichiren Buddhist 21 years ago and then married her. That’s who I got it from.

Nichiren Buddhism is just one cultural religious practice that can help. It talks about the enlightened nature of things — that everything has its dark side and its enlightened side. It says that everyone has the potential to be a Buddha—an enlightened human, but the struggle to do so is a consistent key to how we must live every day. It says that we are our environment (not that other guy), change ourselves and our environment changes. Then it gives us tools to train our humanity to go towards the light, on a daily, weekly, yearly, lifelong, culture-long, nation-long basis.

There are other moral-ethical-historical-religious structures, stories and principles that can help us get there. Pick one. Because the one thing we have proven time and again through the darkness of the human soul, is that we can’t do it alone. We need each other.

When our negative, secular culture wants to tell dystopian stories of our disasters and demise, our job is to tell and gather around positive causes and stories. Our job is to take actions to create positive culture. Our job is to remember that at the core of our human being is a need for Faith.