Monthly Archives: June 2022

Thirty-ninth year…

June 21st, 1983 was my first day sober in the Napa County Detox and Alcohol program. The journey there involved a confused boy who started drinking to get drunk at the age of 13 and I drank ’til I was 35 years old, the last 18 years of that was definitely alcoholically. I’ve led an interesting life in regard to a wide variety of experience and circumstance, much of it as a criminal and ne’er do-well; in tandem with being fairly astute and aware while simultaneously, a complete fool as to how the regular world, social, educational and practical; actually functioned.

A lot has changed, but I’m still pretty much at the mercy of my incomprehension as to how things work and why people are the way they are and do what they do. I’ve been studying and practicing Buddhism since I declared myself as such about a month into my sobriety, and have been training in a structured Soto Zen Sangha for over 30 years; so I do understand a fair amount of how and why we are the way we are, but apparently not as clearly as I think I do. I’m still a functional fool who has been very fortunate, and often grateful, in how my life has unfolded.

I have many high quality acquaintances and friends that I’m very comfortable with and a group of longtime and new people in my life that are reassuring me, by their presence and appearance in my life, that I am indeed very fortunate and blessed in my circumstance.

I had a long term marriage and friendship with a wonderful woman whom I met early on in 12-step setting and we carved out a sane (ish) life until her death eight years ago from cumulative effects of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis and kidney failure. Thank you for everything, Linda. We did pretty darn good.

I have a daily practice in my mixed bag of Zen and Buddhism and am too critical of all the Noise and B.S. created by people who know very little, yet try to push a mix of the 12 Steps and some Buddhisty Hash as something that will make you feel good. Sobriety and spiritual/religious practice usually make you feel ‘good’ better, and if they are real and serious they will also make you feel ‘bad’ better. How to combine those seeming opposites into a balanced way of beginning to see how we can “Be” in the world is very different from how we are trying “Feel” in the world. Feelings pass. Being, is presence.

So, that’s were this elder-coot is situated today in a small way, in his life and mid- morning thinking/feeling. No place special really, just usual mix of awareness, blindness, gratitude/caring and carping/grousing, plus general kvetching.

A good day to be alive. So much to be grateful for, So, much that needs deeper acceptance and understanding. So much that I must allow in a world that is rife with wonder and destruction, life and death, bloom and harvest. Thank you.

This is the day,

Another, like

Any other, that

I have a choice

To look and see

To be

A life

Somewhere there’s a…

For some reason this story has popped up for me about six or seven times in the last few months. It has a small relevancy to my daily life in Buddhist training and it’s just a good story, I’ve got lots of them, some of them a bit Truer than others but all of them true.
So, back in the mid-70’s I was standing on the sidewalk in front of a North Beach bar in San Francisco (The Columbus Cafe on Green Street), with three other guys because we were outside to have little more privacy in our conversation.
I was in my late twenties, two of the guys were in their forties and one in his 60’s. The guy in his sixties was named Johnny Fazano, he had been a boxer in the 1930’s and early 40’s and had about 80 Pro fights, and who knows how many “smokers” he may have boxed in. Smokers, are fights that can take place in a hotel room, a basement, some small arena in the country, or any place with room and no Professional sanctioning, usually for a purse that’s determined by how many guys are in the various fights and how much was put up by various backers for an array of cash prizes.
(Dean Martin was a boxer in his youth and made money boxing in smokers, before his singing career was being formed, he was the only real tough guy in the “Rat-pack”. I digress.)
Johnny was a feisty, angry, old school tough-guy who spent many hours in that bar and played a lot of cards at the back table, often arguing with somebody about something. Interestingly, in that bar there was another guy named Johnny Fazano, same name different part of Italy, who was the exact opposite in demeanor and behavior from this one. What are the odds? Super low that’s what!
Anyway, there’s the four of us out front, maybe 11:00 a.m., and a woman walks past us coming from Grant St. heading towards Columbus Ave. and she’s one of those people that you see maybe a dozen times in your life or the movies, she was stunningly beautiful in dress, carriage and looks. My head turned as she walked by and followed her path and my little Yearning Dream Engine was in high rpm’s.
Johnny Fazano’s raspy voice (He’d been punched in the throat many times in his boxing career and later too), came to my ear as he said, “Somewhere there’s a guy that’s tired of her!”, mildly caustic but not demeaning and I thought; Impossible!!
Here was a neighborhood guy talking to a No-show-Longshoreman who carried a .45, and the best thief/pick-pocket/bartender in North Beach, and me; Sharing some insight into several of the basic teachings of the Buddha and the Street. Everything changes.
My lifestyle/attitude in those days precluded my living as a Buddhist, but like everybody in North Beach I had read enough noise about Buddhism to be attracted to it, you know like a standard bar-stool intellectual. (Little did I know then, like now).
Johnny, in those days was spending time with a famous San Francisco personality who had made a name for herself in Roller Derby on a national level and he was for sure someone who had been around the block many times. It was actually a kindness this guy was doing when he made that observation. He was putting out some good basic observation/teaching about life and how to look at it in a bigger picture way, and that maybe one could actually suffer less by thinking things through, on the spot; not afterwards.
He of course, had many ways of increasing his own suffering and that of others through all the aspects of his anger and in some areas he obviously had some insight; whether he actually applied those insights to himself, was I presume, probably on a case-by-case basis, and it was a good teaching. I thought; “What the hell would you know about it, old man?”
Now that I’m older than Johnny was then, it’s fair for me to ask myself if I’ve learned anything from all the good teaching I got on the streets and later in the Sangha.
I’m certain I have and yet I still harbor a lot of the younger ‘me’ and apply what I’ve learned on a case-by-case basis, and that’s a sort of wisdom since all situations vary.
I still have unrequited yearnings arise, but I see the pattern and have a place for them. I still think, “what the hell do you know about it?” way too often and I occasionally wish there were some elegant way out of standing on the street, shooting the breeze and wishing I were “elsewhere”. Or, at least, There!

My ideas about this and

That are based on them,

Those, this and why and

When. Also how, should

Gonna and wish. I would,

Could, and then, I see;

Oh, yeah! A dream also

Forgetting. Now, I

Remember! It is never

Too late or too soon.

It just is as It is.

Gone, yesterday.

Clouds of Knowing…

It has been a very interesting period of time from Spring to Summer in my personal and spiritual life and I’m grateful for all the pain and confusion that has arisen. I knew, as it was all appearing that there was something moving internally and old karma was presenting itself for my consideration and help. As is usually the case the only real help I can give in these times is to try and stay within myself and not react in ways that create more karma.

Once again exploring, as if they were all new; old habits, attitudes, feelings and presumptions under a fresh light that seems to have just arrived to help me see more clearly. Not ‘way more’ clearly, just different and cleaner and renewed contextually.

Right, I’m not sure that explains anything but I’m still groping for descriptions and they may not be necessary at all or ever.

Anyway, here I sit experiencing a brightness that bodes well. It’s easier to accept this than some of the things that were “coming up” recently. The freshness includes an acceptance of the actual aging process and mental diminution that I was noticing and saw with worry, fear and a “nowhere-to-hide” type of resignation.

Something has changed and everything is still very familiar, but a little different. A new ease seems to be appearing. Some of my outlook changes have come through people entering my life and a reappraisal and understanding, on my part, of those already in it. Gratitude is what it appears as, and there may be more.

I am also more appreciative of this venue to just practice formulating very stray and diverse thinkings. I’m pretty sure no one is reading this, or ever will, but I am having a sort of organized conversation with myself and that’s a big improvement.

So, gratitude for a new and gentler caring, and allowing, having entered my life.

The things I Know often

Cloud the that, which

I don’t know, which

may be Good for

me to learn. i.e.

“As long as I don’t

Aim, I don’t miss.

Thank you once

Again, Ryokan.