Monday, December 26, 2011

Winter of Peace

All the US troops should be out of Iraq by the end of 2011. Rather than celebrating this news, there's barely a whimper of acknowledgment at our decade of folly, blood, and torture. In New York there are no 'Welcome Home' rallies or parties. We are too busy concerned about the next crisis to look back. The holiday spirit of exhaustion sadness seeps into every political discussion.

When I first came to the city in the fall of 2002 war was in the air and the people rallied in the street. I was ambivalent toward the anti-war protest and the anti-peace politicians. I didn't want war, but on the other hand I felt on an instinctive level that I was watching a shadow puppet play. Is this really about stopping a war, or just about being on-record about something that's happening.' Why wasn't it a peace rally? Why was it anti-? 

I remember hearing New School'ers talk about going to the protest and asking me if I was going to go and I wanted to say 'yes, sure' but I was frozen. Deep down inside something kept saying 'you know you can't go. It's not going to work. Your entire being will rebel against this faux liberalism, this defeatism that's overtaken left-wing movements.'  So what ended up happening is I would offer these sheepish muddled excuses about why I didn't want a war, but also wouldn't go to an anti-War protest. I didn't have the wisdom to even argue. Didn't have the scriptural logicof it but just an internal logic was clicking through my mind.
When I was in middle school the Rodney King riots erupted after the not-guilty verdict. People were enraged. The administrators organized a gathering for students to vent their anger in the last two periods. I was 12, scared out of my mind but I asked to be excused from the rally. I would be the only Black person who didn't want to sit and a room and scream about the police while LA burned. People looked at me like I was crazy, an Uncle Tom, a sellout. But something deep inside said 'you can't go to this. It will just be anger. You have enough.' I was shoved down the stairs on my way to a holding room for those students refusing to take part in the rally. I still went, knees shaking. A part of my mind observed the insanity of anger on a macro and micro level . A few angry police officers beat up another person who looks like me. This triggers other people who look like me to get angry. But people who look like the police officer are angry and they let the cops go, which triggers many people who look like me to begin burning their own houses and neighborhoods. This spreads to hundreds of cities. People who look like me and then (mostly) people who don't look like me start burning, shooting, killing, stealing because of that initial act. Cascading waves spread to each city, then around the world on TV, in newspapers. And then on the other side of the country people who look like me shove me down the stairs because I don't want to share in their anger. So Black people express their anger at racism by shoving a Black student down, by burning Black businesses, and homes. It occurred to me 'but this is the way it's always been going for Blacks, Whites, all people.' This. is. insane.
I left my body and observed this, bookmarked it in my memory as a short, fat, asthmatic 12-year-old nerd gingerly walking (fearing my legs would collapse from under me) toward the holding room for people who didn't want to attend the school venting session. After school people exploded out of the auditorium, screaming and shouting, faces twisted in anger. Windows smashed, police were called, and a new cycle was formed: people who look like me battling people who looked like 'them' that began years ago in LA with a traffic stop. I and the other people in the holding room ran, fearing for our lives, fearing that we would get swept up in 'government-sponsored' hate session that now flowed out into the parking lots, streets, and buses of Miami.
That's when I realized there was that voice that would pop up occasionally and tell me, provide refuge. I don't know where the strength came from to move, to retreat, to run -shaking legs and all.

 That being said, I didn't insult people who went to the anti-War protest in 2002. I observed politely, quietly. I kept my head down and thought 'what's this all about?' One side screaming this, the other side screaming something else.

 Then a week later my friends were at a bar and we saw the crimson fires exploding over the skies of Baghdad. Shock and Awe. The war had begun and we were watching in a cozy little Manhattan bar drinking beer and listening to songs on the jukebox. How absurd, how obscene. The bar was neither joyous in celebration nor somber. People were respectful observing, wondering how we should feel. Unsettled but not knowing what to do except drink. There was a deep feeling in that moment, in that room that we were about to enter the rabbit hole, a deep puzzling enigma of violence, pity, greed, absurdity. More drinks, more music! Seven years later we are still trying emerge from that twisted puzzle and I don't know what to call what has happened. Shock and awe.

 The next morning there was a heavy blizzard that blanketed Manhattan in a hushing white coat. I went to my early morning class realizing I would be one of the few. The streets were silent and somber and mostly empty. Fresh snow was beginning to pile up in the inches. I trudged to an Alexander Class (posture and mindset). We were asked to engage in deep listening. I would listen to someone talk for a few minutes with all my body and mind. Not leaning forward, but maintaining a deep balance of listening and absorbing. We had to look each other in the eye and no touching.

 My Australian friend Jono began talking about his feelings, the silence of the morning, the weariness of the start of this war, his feelings about being alone in NYC during winter. I'll never forget the deepness of his emotion, of his mind when it was just allowed to flow. I didn't interrupt him and actually listened to someone (very rare in our society to do that, you know?) With that level of honesty and connection, I could listen to someone for hours talk about their life, the war, zucchini, anything! Because with that level of honesty someone could be talking about "Star Trek" and they'd really be talking about themselves, their mind, my mind. It wouldn't matter, right? With that level of honesty, stillness, and listening a space was created. Then I spoke about my fears, the war and my conflicting feelings, the need to do something.
We were both crying. Crying and crying but connected. That turned out to be my protest. In the quiet, cold, half-empty classroom in the middle of an early morning blizzard. The day after the bombs had started falling I knew this is what I should have been doing all along. I should have been listening with deep love and honesty. Looking into the eyes and listening, absorbing and trying to remove my hate.

 I'll never forget that. There was something very truthful about it. And like I said this was years before taking a Buddhist dharma class. I would always think 'how can I get back to that space, to that place in the peace, where true emotions flow and change begins to happen?'

 If we could all be trained, if I could take it with me more, instill it with me more, spread that peace, that deep abiding pool of compassion, love, and openness.

 Health care, Monsanto, Afghanistan, climate change, Tiger Woods. I'm tired of being outraged. It doesn't work. It's exhausting. It makes the whole world full of shouting, anger, violence, and unhappiness.

 My parents watch MSNBC and I'm hearing the words 'should be outraged...' and my mind goes numb. I laugh weakly and nod as I eat dinner 'yeah, I'm outraged. Whatever it is, I'm appalled. You have my bile, my bitterness, my outrage. Add it to the stew.' Take it away from me, please. Take my outrage at others, add it to some bottomless pot and take it out into the middle of the Pacific Ocean and drop it. It would explode like some 1950s atomic bomb test. It would wipe out small islands, shake windows, send tsunami waves out for thousands of miles. And then vanish into thin air, shimmering waves of heat that would get absorbed. Or maybe my outrage would crash through the Pacific floor and strike the core of the earth. Opening up a hell mouth that would vomit up fire, forming a mountain of black marble. A stewing cauldron would be turned into a volcano bubbling up lava and ash. Creating new islands, new terra, new life from the cooling lava. Maybe that's how the world is created. From my ignorance. But ocean waves cool the lava, shape it, they outlast the heat. The great endless waves of compassion overwhelm the biggest volcano and turn all that hell into new earth. Paradise.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Hip Hop Minstrel Show

I was warned ahead of time of what I would see. I was sitting in my seat before the start of the show and my friend turned to me and said that the author likes to have White characters say 'hip hop' slang for laughs. I nodded and said 'yes, it's hip hop minstrel'ing. I've seen it before.' My friend's eyes flared up and he stared at me. "Oh my God! You're right.' It felt like I had revealed a whole new world or perspective to him.

The show started and, sure enough, the first 30 minutes were peppered with jokes derived from White cast members talking like Black rappers and thugs while swaggering around and wearing baggy clothes. Repeated peals of laughter exploded in the mostly White, older, upper-class audience as the jokes landed. Some of the jokes I laughed, some of the jokes I did not. Afterward my friend wanted to pick up with the conversation again and asked if I could go into more detail.

The key pleasure from minstrel shows was and is still about taking Black culture at its most grotesque and extreme and to reproduce for objectified laughter. Black culture at its most parodied involves violent slapstick, overly-sexualized stories, buffoonish criminality, and the malapropism of language. Those are the parameters of minstrel'ing to me and I think most would agree to those borders. No new revelations in that. What I don't understand is how come people can't connect our current culture's obsession to the past? America is the birthplace of minstrel shows and just because people aren't smearing shoe polish on their face doesn't mean we aren't still using the archetypes.

I don't mean to suggest that every time a non-Black character utters an hip hop slang or ebonics term for a laugh that it's a minstrel act. It would be a dreary world if the thought police didn't allow White characters to explore other cultures and vice versa through jokes, love, and conflict. But hip hop minstreling is the lazy, shorthand for 'otherness.' It is when a 'White character' seeks so-called freedom from the limitations of his or her tribe by adopting hip hop ebonics and clothing in a slapdash way that highlights animistic and degrading stereotypes. And it's done so for the purpose of laughter 'at' the other rather than 'with' them.

In hip hop minstrel'ing it's very important that the comedy feels like a finger-pointing to something ridiculous, savage, and denigrating. The audience then feels a certain superiority in laughing at the character who is highlighting the 'other.' But really the character is only serving as a display case for what we're really laughing at which is hip hop, urban youth, and Black life. Unable to do that directly because of social stigmas, hip hop minstrel'ing allows for the laughter of privilege 'at' the un-privileged other through the use of a White body. Since it would feel uncomfortable and self-conscious for a mostly privileged audience to be laughing directly at the shenanigans of 'darkies,' they dress one of their own up as a 'darkie' and mimic the dipping swagger, clownish clothing, and braggart slang revolving around violence and sexual satisfaction.

The story arc often works in two directions: either we begin with a seemingly 'uncool' character who is tutored into the minstrel act by a Black culture gatekeeper or the minstrel character starts off the story in full drag before 'discovering' his true roots and going back to being 'just a White guy.' In both scenarios there is usually a run-in with a Black character at some point who tests their 'minstrel skills' in a battle of slang, dance, or showmanship. Often the minstrel is put into a Black setting in which they must 'oohgaboo' and 'bugaboo' there way out of their difficult situation. When they succeed they are confirmed and validated by a Black character who welcomes them into the family. Or they fail and are destroyed. Either way the hip hop minstrel takes off the proverbial shoe polish at the end. He is wiser in his 'whiteness' and 'normalcy' for having temporarily experimented with the other.

The hip hop minstrel returns to the privilege status with an affectionate wink to the audience, as if to say 'what was I thinking?!?' We laugh and nod our heads, feeling confirmed and relieved. The reformed man may, in the future,  don the ministrel act again when it suits him but it plays no part in his emotional life and development. The mask was just 'a curious phase' or a useful gadget in his Batman tool belt.

Hip hop minstrel is not limited to just non-Black characters. Upper-class and rich Black people may also indulge in 'the act' as a learning tool in their privilege. Often the character walks away with a new-found respect for 'them.'

It's not necessary for me to name countless shows, movies, skits in which hip hop minstrel'ing plays out. Besides, there is nothing gained in pointing an accusatory finger. But perhaps if we were more away of hip hop minstrel'ing we wouldn't allow it to succeed. We would demand more from our comedians, writers, and performers than poor mimicry and ape'ing. If that happened then the arts could actually explore our society in ways which enrich and expand our lives instead of calcifying of judgments of others. It would be a great day for hip hop and America if we asked for more.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Massinissa: Hannibal's friend and foe.

I knew of the great Hannibal Barca, but had no idea who Massinissa was until tonight. I went to see "Massinissa" at the Poets Den Theatre in East Harlem and got to relive my love of Roman and Carthagian history. As a child I loved studying great civilizations from the Phoenicians to the Zulus, great societies are often marked by their spiritual and military contributions. The Carthagian were one of my favorite studies because of the Barca family. Hamilcar was the famous statesman and warrior. Much like Phillip of Macedonia being out shined (and probably assassinated) by his son Alexander the Great, Hamilcar has taken a backseat his son, Hannibal. 

Alongside Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great, the Carthagian general stands as a man whose victories and defeats single-handedly changed the course of human history. If Hannibal would have gotten the necessary supplies and support, he could have defeated the burgeoning Roman Republic and shifted the growth of power back to Africa and the Phoenician's multicultural societies. Hannibal had a very skilled military brother, Hasdrubal who helped keep the reigns on Spain for most of the Second Punic War. What I didn't know is that he had tremendous help from a Numidian named Massinissa. And it was that shadowy figure who was responsible for turning the Second Punic War to the decisive advantage of the Romans. 

Massinissa was a poor Numidian taken in by Hannibal and the prestigious military academy. He was trained and led an army at the age of 17 to defeat one of Rome's allies in Africa, the King of Syphax and his Algerian empire. Incredible to imagine a young, fatherless 17-year-old lieutenant going into battle against a feared and clever king. And winning. With a major Roman ally neutralized, Hannibal was then able to focus on his campaign into the Italian peninsula. When Hannibal was storming up and down 'the boot' it was Massinissa who kept Spain safe. And when the war began to turn, it was Massinissa who betrayed Hannibal and defected to the Romans. Thus Massinissa is a historical Brutus, Benedict Arnold, the archetype of serpentine friend. 

Scipio Africanus gets the credit for the coup de grace blow to Carthage at the Battle of Zuma. But what is underreported is that riding at his side was Massinissa with his own viciously effective cavalry that played a decisive role in ending the Second Punic War. But the victor gets to write the story and Massinissa was once again pushed out of the picture. Nobleman Scipio Africanus performed the 'seemingly' miraculous accomplishment of beating Hannibal. 

But there is a difference in this analysis. Massinissa was not Carthagian. He was considered lower-class and an outsider. Massinissa made clear that he had a desire to have his own kingdom and that would never happen with a Carthagian victory. He would continue to be considered the darker and more savage foreigner to the elitist Carthagian ruling class. In some ways, Massinissa becomes a sympathetic traitor who was rewarded and punished. Demanding a proof of loyalty, the Romans demanded Massinissa surrender over his new bride who was related to Syphax. Massinissa sent her poison and she killed herself rather than be dishonored. But once the sacrifice was made, the ambitious Numidian was rewarded with his own kingdom. For the rest of his life he carefully expanded his small kingdom by eating into Carthage land, always with the approval of the Romans who were seeking ways to reduce the power of their chief rival. 

History doesn't look kindly on Massinissa. He's seen as duplicitous and seeking small gains as the expense of historical fortune. But it was not his history, nor his people. Take Wings and Soar's production of "Massinissa" sheds light on this unique and thrilling story. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Killing the Black Body

Herschel Walker's brilliant bio-documentary ESPN's 30-for-30 series is a personal inspiration. He was fat asthmatic kid who was picked on by white kids and beaten up regularly in his town. I felt the same way growing up and struggled with my weight and asthma. Walker literally turned himself into a Superman through push-ups btw commercial breaks. It was hard not to cheer for him when you watch the old footage of him destroying defenders, walking over linebackers. But the superhero dynamic always has a flipside: they're loners, angry, and just as troubled. I think as a boys we like that dynamic of being a Superhero and w/o Black men rolemodels that is the only one to follow. Walker ended up suicidal and destroying his marriages and he admits he was so angry no one could be around him. The only thing which changed him was having a son and thinking 'I don't want this for him.'

I think as Black men in America we have historically over-identified with the body in all aspects. And this has typically resulted in some harmful causes 1) we underdevelop our emotions and meditation and prayer ability 2) we underdevelop our spiritual connections which is why churches aren't filled with six-pac ab brothers. They're filled with women, grandmothers, and kids 3) we overdevelop our sense of temporal physical things: money, body, and women which makes us unhappy, neurotic and paranoid of losing the things which always fade (check rap music's obsession with these things. the best rappers like Tupac, Biggie, Wayne, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Drake all constantly run back in forth between ballin' and how unhappy and paranoid they are) and 4) we compete for temporal status symbols which will never make us happy w/ underdeveloped emotions, spiritual connections and community understanding. This creates a violent lash effect against each other, since we see ourselves so heavily as 'bodied beings' instead of 'spiritual beings embodied."

when we were brought over in this country, that is exactly what was desired. A pure relation to the body and very strong disconnection to any intellectual or spiritual development. We were rewarded for working our body and punished for trying to learn how to read. Our spirituality was tolerated as long as it was corrupted enough with broken families, alcohol, and violent divisiveness to not get us anywhere. Our spirituality thus became a docile taming mechanism of the mind which forced black men to focus even more heavily on body-based development. You look at urban Asian kids working their family's biz or Jewish kids forced to go to Hebrew school (after normal school) and then Black kids hit the basketball court. Who's really winning in this scenario?

There's nothing wrong with working out and it does help the mind ( I love yoga and the gym). The trap is when worship falls over into vanity. Having lots of money enables us to help more ppl but that's now why we have a Fortune 500 list. We have that to worship money. Strong body helps w/ strong mind but I would say that's not why ppl want the Shake Weight or 6-pac abs.

 I'm biased being Buddhist w/ middle way path. The body is very useful, but only as a vehicle to get somewhere. Once one gets to the proverbial other side of the river, you leave the canoe on the shore. Carrying it around saying 'look at how great this thing is, I put 20-inch spinning rims on my canoe' slows one down on the journey. So build a beautiful vehicle that is comfortable, easy to use, and gets you where you want to go in style. But then we all have to leave it on the shore. So how much time would I really invest in putting rims on my canoe if I knew that I was leaving it behind once my voyage was complete?

I'm not dismissing athletics. I was an all-state athlete in football and wrestling, got scholarship offers, etc. My parents also encouraged me to play violin, viola, and become a championship debater (did all of that). Now I enjoy yoga, west african dance, and Tibetan philosophy. Rhodes Scholars are ppl who excel both academically and athletically in line with the Ancient Greek concept of scholar being involved in healthy sports for the body and mind. But as Black men it feels heavily imbalanced. That's why there's ageism: b/c we overvalue the body. This isn't going to be corrected by having 60-year-old men look like 20-year-olds. Ageism is corrected at the roots of our obsessions at the risk of spiritual pursuits. Look at the page the article was written on and is there any question what is the cause of ageism? Obsession with body image leads to this fear and failure which is why Black culture in America has athletic Supermen AND rampant diabetes and obesity. It's a culture so body obsessed that we become polarized as we get later on in life. There is a stable, well-built, (6-pac ab) middle that can be achieved.

It's nice to have a flexible strong body, but it's still a body. It will fail 100% of the time. But we worship the very thing which will always let us down at the expense of developing the one thing which is eternal. Body, money, and power identification are the big lies. They never last and only increase suffering when they begin to fail. Invest in getting the mind of a 20-year-old: strong, flexible, creative, and free.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Psychic kinesis (PK)

This book "Holographic Universe" is stunning. I'm halfway through it and author Michael Talbot along with many physicist confirm the higher-level of reality expressed in Buddhism and science.

The Princeton Institute which studies physic abnormalities and consciousness (P.E.A.R) catalogues all these things which don't fit according to standard physics. The cases number in the thousands.

In one case scientist got in contact with verifiable hypnotists who could hypnotize each other and sync up in their illusions. The hypno-duo found themselves both on the same surreal beautiful beach walking along. When the woman asked 'take my hand' the guy then realized that he hadn't made the illusion (or rik chi) of a hand yet. So he conjured one instantly. They reported that often when they were in this world they were just a face or disembodied self. The theory is that this is as real as our 'usual life,' but that our minds our so trained in conjuring up the body that we do so instantly and constantly. Buddhist philosophy of mental images matches this perfectly by saying there is only mental images layered on stop of stuff. If the mental images are removed there isn't "necessarily" something there.

In another case I psychic was invited to a house party of scientists to perform tricks. He hypnotized a willing participant and told him that when he awakes he will not see his daughter. Then his daughter was placed in front of him. When he awoke from his instructions he was smiling as if everything was normal and couldn't see his daughter standing a few inches in front of him. Literally he saw through her. The psychic then placed his watch behind the daughter's back and asked the participant to read the inscription. The participant read the inscription effortless even though there was a so-called body in front of him. Which lead to the belief that we don't see with our eyes. How could we if someone can -with moderate hypnosis- completely see through a person, unless the person standing there was a mental image. If the mental image is ignored or wiped clean from the mind then there isn't anything there and it's like staring at a watch that's being held in empty space, hence him reading the inscription without a problem.

A month ago I was meeting with an old-time TV writer about a project. He wasn't very into this sort of musing about psychics but he said he was working on a show in the 1970s in NYC that was going to have a famous psychic on it. Before the meeting, he wanted to have the psychic guess a number in his pocket. So he wrote down his address and phone number, added everything up on a sheet of paper, folded the sheet and placed it in his jacket pocket. So he goes to the meeting and forgets about the slip of paper in his jacket. By the way, he didn't tell his producers he was going to do this. As the meeting is closing, the psychic casually says 'he has a number.' The producers look confused, 'what?!?' The psychic looks over at the writer and repeats 'you have a number that you want me to guess.' The TV writer nods and says 'that's right.' So the psychic takes out a piece of paper and writes the number down which is the exact total of the writer's sheet. Either this psychic is effortlessly able to sync up with other minds and/or he too has eliminated certain dun chi in his mind related to objects and can -at will- dismiss the dun chi of a jacket or the dun chi of another mind in front of him. What's interesting is that the TV writer didn't prompt him and had also forgotten about the number, so it's not like it was on his surface mind.

This suggests that if I eliminate or soften certain dun chi through meditation that it is possible to read minds, see through 'solid objects' and see emptiness. And if one person can do it- and this book suggests that millions can and do- then everyone can do it. It's exhilarating and frightening to think of the real possibilities when we blend this quantum psychics info and documented testing with the ancient wisdom of mental images (chi and jedrak) in Buddhism.

In another case scientists at Princeton's PEAR created a REG or random event generator which was a binary coin flipper of producing either a 1 or 0. The motor for the REG was the most random thing in the world: radioactive decay compound that, depending on how it degenerating at any moment, would trigger a 1 or 0. The more times you flip a coin the more likely it ends up 50/50 so it should be about 50% 1's and 50% 0's if you keep running a REG. And the results held that up. Then they placed a person in front of the REG and had them try to just direct the machine with consciousness to get a larger amount of 1's or 0's. They found that every single person was effective in significantly shifting the REG through just focus. They call it psychokinesis or PK. Some people were better at PK than others and would get even bigger results in consciously making a shift. But everyone was able to shift the REG. In another REG they created a pinball device with metal balls that would flow down a obstacle course of pegs. Once again, each participant was able to significantly shift the course of cascading pinballs through just awareness and focus.

It suggests that the steadier my mind is the easier I'm able to tap into PK in order to sync up with a great job, partner, or just making it to the train on time. We've all had streaks where we are just making right on time to the subway or just a feeling of synching up with a random machine or system (cell phones or train schedules). Conversely we've all felt out of sync of moments where we're jinx'ed with a particular technology. So this PK suggests it's not only with other minds but with so-called inanimate objects.

Very interesting stuff. This morning re-listened to Geshe Michael's youtube clips about how to see emptiness (through analyzing mental images). It all eerily fits together.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Taking a Stand

My Dad stopped eating. After years of strokes, partial paralysis, and physical loss he was making a stand. I prepared to go home and encourage him to give up the hunger strike. The suicide attempt was averted after a few days. He returned to eating, taking his pills, and being plugged into the hospital machine.

I still want to go home in the next day or two. I'll know if I can in the next day or two.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Penn State Piety and Americana

This is not an objective, unbiased view. I'm biased. I'm Black and grew up in Miami during the 1980s. Like most of my friends, I was a Miami Hurricane football fan. And they were two schools that consistently shown as the anti-Hurricanes in piety, cleanliness, and Americana: Notre Dame and Penn State.

When Penn State upset the hot shot Hurricanes to win the national championship in 1987, it was seen as a victory for Constitution, flag pins, and whole milk. Reagan proudly welcomed the winning team into the White House and made sure to note the cultural purity of the Penn State players and the reason why America rallied behind them and against the loud, brash (and mostly poor and Black) Hurricane team lead by Jimmy Johnson. This wasn't just about sports. This was about culture and Republicans made sure to highlight the differences.

Miami Hurricanes were called 'trash, convicts, thugs, murderers' and scandal soon befell the school. The scandal was financial in nature as student athlete accepted bribes, cars, and loans from boosters. Very little pity or understanding was shown toward students who came from inner cities, worked diligently on the football field to make the NCAA millions of dollars, and had to worry about the Miami-Dade bus schedule to get around town. It did not matter that many students had children they had to feed, parents who depended upon them for financial support, and a variety of pressures that should not be on a teenager. What little leniency that might have been shown to the organization was crushed by Canes swagger: they liked to celebrate after plays, trash talk, and put on a show. This was deemed unfit behavior and the bribery only helped re-enforce the convict view of the Canes.
Sports Illustrated called for the Hurricane death penalty. It was too much scandal and rancor in the swamp to fix things. The Hurricanes were a lost cause and the adults in charge were just as bad as the athletes.

In contrast to Miami's coaches there was Joe Paterno. Jimmy Johnson was a trash-talking Southern hick trying to win games and Joe Paterno was a stern figure building men. Dennis Erickson was a corrupt alcoholic trying to grab as many rings as possible while Paterno was molding the future of America. Still the majority of rage was directed about the mostly Black teenager athletes, while the UM administrators and coaches got a pass in the media.

In light of the last decade of sexual scandal from Catholic-lead institutions and now Penn State I wonder if there will be any calls for the death penalty for Penn State? If poor students taking bribes is an un-Godly crime against the sanctity of the NCAA, then where on the continuum of crimes should we place a coach systematically raping boys in the locker room and an university covering it up for a decade?

And the way the story is being handled and the very fact that Sports Illustrated will not call for the death penalty for this highlights that sports is never about sports. Penn State vs. Miami was never about swagger vs. tradition. It was, is, and will continue to be about those uncomfortable things we never want to talk about in sports: race and class.

It is this very assumption of privilege afforded to Penn State that allowed its institution to believe they could actually cover these crimes committed against the voiceless. It is the exact mentality of a small select privileged group being above the law that allows a coach to set up a not-for-profit organization that funneled poor kids to him and to work out a deal with a university that worried more about its image than the underprivileged it claimed to be protecting.

When we don't talk about race and class in sports, we re-enforce old privileges and status. And while everyone was and is still bemoaning mostly poor Black teenagers wanting to have a nice car or go on a vacation, it is the wealthy adult coaches and administrators who often do far worst things.

There will be those who say that now is not the time to have this conversation. Now we should worry about the victims and the crimes committed. But that is exactly why we should be having this conversation now because this probably isn't personality-based, but systematic and socio-cultural.
Can there be any doubt that if the Second Mile were tended to privileged White kids instead of the poor, that these crimes would have come to light 10 years ago? And if the very nature in which we confront wrongdoing in sports either leads to its end or the silent allowance of its continuation, then lens through which we view sports scandal must be corrected. It can't be corrected by ignoring the hypocrisy or just scapegoating on a few bad people. This sports culture of privilege has to be changed by the media and by its leaders.

I have no doubt that a year from now LeBron James will still be hated by large portions of the country for an 'arrogant' one-hour TV special that, by the way, donated millions to the Boys and Girls Club for underprivileged children and teenagers. And after a few mea culpa interviews, a confessional book, and maybe a media relations salvage job, Joe Paterno will be returned to the Mt. Rushmore of Sports. Think about that for a second. LeBron James will be hated for the way in which he legally left a team as a free agent, but Paterno -who allowed boys to get raped in his locker room for years- will be forgiven.

Meanwhile, in other news, NCAA continues its crackdown on style of players celebrating thanks to the 'horrors' of Canes swagger. They relive the nightmares of uncouth players dancing in the end zone and holding up National Championship trophies. If only these same NCAA officials would have other nightmares of the underprivileged getting taking advantage of then maybe we could fix the lens through which we view our heroes and villains.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Strange, Supernatural, Wonderful Night

I went to "John of God" documentary about the faith healer in Brazil tonight. I got in contact with him through one of John's guides, Steve. I asked about healing for my Dad and my spiritual path. Steve responded saying he too got interested in this b/c his Dad was sick. He mentioned coming to the screening and I agreed. We kept having this email 'me too' links while he's in Brazil. 

I enter the luxurious apartment and lean down to register. My jade green Buddha necklace immediately becomes entangled in the event organizer's green shawl like it was magnetized to her (this does not normally happen ever). She says 'oh I'm a Bodhisattva too (Buddhist saint). Okay. Not that big of a deal about the green necklace and green shawl, but interesting. 

Steve came in with bags of food and the documentary on DVD. He moved a bunch of stuff around the room and then lost the DVD. And he's repeating aloud "I lost the DVD." I found myself saying 'but I thought it was right here' and I turn around and find the DVD. It was hidden under a red folder. A bit strange since I was NOT paying attention to what he was doing and where the DVD. Yet it's like I just located it without thinking. Okay, this is getting interesting. Steve goes 'thank God you're psychic.' I laugh a little but take note of it.

Before movie the host has this pitcher of  water and I started drinking it and feeling amazing but not in a peppy energy sports drink kind of way. Just felt this deep profound stillness and my whole body was filling up with this surreal energy. Turns out the water was blessed by John of God when he was here in New York. And I can't stop drinking this water. It feels amazing. Charged. Calming.

Well we watched the documentary and afterward there was this unusual connection between me and the speaker. I could feel myself interacting with him, as if my energy were calming him down. Someone suggested a group pic and I moseyed to the back of the pic and stood behind the speaker. They took a pic and we went about our business. Later someone looked at the pic on the camera and said 'LOOK! There's a orb of light right by your head." They zoomed in on the pic and sure enough, there is a white orb of light above my head and the speaker's head. Not a halo and not a lens refraction, but a round globe of light. Apparently that means we're linked in some way.  Afterward Steve looks at me and repeats 'we must be linked in some way.' I nod and head out the door. 

I'm heading out when the event organizer (who I got entangled with) compliments me on the jade Buddha. She notes green is in the heart chakra. I find myself effortlessly remembering several years ago when I woke up in the middle of the night and a green orb of light floated out of my chest, ascended to my eye level, levitated for a few seconds, and then shot out the window across town. Half hour later I'm trying to get back to sleep and the phone rings. My grandmother on the other side of town fell down about a half hour ago and she's been on the ground trying to get up but can't. The second the phone rang I knew 'it's grandma.' 

Strange, supernatural and wonderful evening in the mystical East Village of New York. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Meals on Wheels

On Saturday I volunteered for City Meals on Wheels. I arrived at the Actors Church on 49th Street at 8:30 am. Early, I walked to Food Emporium but came up empty on breakfast food options that didn't involve sausage or bacon glued on to sandwiches with cheese.  I got by snacking on coconut water and a muffin. I went back and sat in the basement of the Church with only one other volunteer. The cold snap was keeping people away, or at least that's what the volunteer coordinator suspected as the reason for a low turn-out. Due to a lack of volunteers I would have my own cart and have to handle the entire route by myself.

City Meals on Wheels provides homebound people with food for the week. On the weekend, we usually deliver a hot meal, a frozen meal, and a cold pack of fruits/juices, milks. I grabbed my 3-tier cart and wheeled over to 11th avenue where all my drop-off points were listed.

The first building was over 20 floors of rusted iron and poverty. I didn't have to look inside to know this was public housing and low-income subsidized. Blacks and Latino overwhelmingly. I walked in and the doorman was screaming at residents stuck behind a jammed elevator door, "PUSH THE BUTTON." On his side, the doorman was trying to peel the door back with his chubby fingers. I guessed this exercise had been going on for more than a few minutes. The magnet that connects the inside elevator door with the floor-door had become de-magnetized. This meant that the lobby elevator barrier was open but the elevator door itself had not been triggered and magnetized to the opening. The elevator door was stuck with two residents inside.

HOLD ON. I'M GONNA CALL THE FIRE DEPARTMENT. The tone of doorman's words suggested this was a typical inconvenience of his job. I offered to help so I wedged my body in the tiny elevator crack that was opening up. The doorman yelled at the residents to keep pressing the button. I flexed and bent my knee by squatting, drawing upon the full-strength of my lower body to jack the door. Even though I was moving myself in between the wedge, the door's pistons were absorbing most of the push.

I went into meditation on this moment. I stopped trying to 'force myself' against a mechanical device that probably was built to withstand several thousand pounds of pressure. Then I let go, stood up and un-wedged myself. A second later the elevator door effortlessly popped open. The doorman thank'ed me profusely along with the formerly-trapped residents. I assured them that I didn't do anything. In fact, it was only when I stopped forcing it and acknowledged what I couldn't do that the door slid open.

The residents and I took to the other elevator while the doorman vowed to have the broken elevator shut down. I rode up to a linoleum lined floor that felt both sterile and depressing. I handed my 3 meals to a few of the listed residents and then left the building. I noticed the crowbar marks on the elevator doors on different floors that bore witness to an elevator, building, and people that were in a state of decay.

My last building was privately-owned glass tower. I could tell because it had well-dressed security, brightly lit hallways, and perfectly-tuned elevators that hummed reverentially when they zipped up and down the 30 floors. I began at the top floor and worked my way down.

The first apartment had J in it (I'll refrain from using people's names). The door was already open in expectation of the visit. J was an elderly man standing in the kitchen in a white bathrobe with the logo for Trump Towers threaded in gold on his chest. He looked confused and tired. I asked him how he was doing and he admitted in a deep, hoarse voice "not too well." He described the pains of his body and his doctor visits. The inability to sleep, the inconvenience, the dizziness, trouble walking, ease at falling, the lack of appetite. I placed the hot, frozen, and cold packs on his pristinely unused stove top as I nodded along in commiseration.  My view was that he could try acupuncture and J brightened up at the word. Acupuncture had really helped him. J enjoyed it, the treatments made him feel better, but his insurance didn't cover it. But sometimes paying out of pocket is worth it, if it saves your life or improves the quality of the one you're living. He nodded along as he continued to look down at the kitchen floor in anguished contemplation.

J invited further into the kitchen to read a number magnetized to the refrigerator door. I stepped in further and noticed a brown bakery box with a half-eaten cherry pie. Many senior citizens lose their appetite and only snack, but then keep pies and cookies around as their only sustenance when they want something. This causes the body havoc. I suggested that him picking at a cherry pie for two days isn't the best way to treat his ailments. He nodded but said that he was told cherries were good for him. Yes, but you're eating a pie I reminded him. You can just go buy some cherries or get a healthier alternative than stewed and sweetened cherries under a thick buttery pie crust. He told me to take it then and give it to others. I sliced the pie up into nice slices and he gave me a paper plate.

Down the hall, a note was left on the door to leave the food on the kitchen counter. I walked in and and saw a man laying on the couch looking at TV. After leaving the meals for him and I quietly closed the door and headed to the lower floors.

On another floor I met "F," a female painter in an apartment overflowing with art. We spoke for a bit about life and art. She too noted the inconvenience of a new pains she was experiencing in her body. I found myself crying by the end of our discussion. I wished her well and went down to a lower floor.

At the next apartment, E opened the door and smiled. E is a small, petite woman with doll eyes. I placed the meals on another pristine stove top and she smiled and began whispering to me about her legs. She fell and broke her leg. It's taken her 6 month to heal. E said her daughter was stopping by in a while. That reminded me of J, who said his son was supposed to stop by later. Many of these residents seemed to live in a state of waiting for their children to arrive. E. told me how she met her husband who had a identical twin. The two brothers were tall, lean, blond Gods. Women adored them and chased after them. She often mistook one brother for the other, who looked exactly alike except for a slight dental difference in teeth gaps, which was totally unnoticeable unless both were smiling brightly. E. couldn't tell the difference between the brothers until she fell in love. By then she could distinguish the two by how her heartbeat in her chest for her boyfriend and not for the other. They married but her husband passed away after 9 years. E noted that she's been a widow for over 50 years. She is a survivor and has had the morose misfortune of burying her siblings and parents. Now she's stuck here alone in this high-rise condo against her wishes. Her sister passed away a few years ago in bed. E said she went to go shake her sister and felt the draining warmth of the recently expired.

I cried all the way down the tower. All these different residents living by themselves in their old age. All of them with severe pains and aches, disappointment, and the disease no one wants to talk about: loneliness. The incredible loneliness. None of them lacked food, clothing, shelter. But all had a sadness in their eyes, at the corner of their smiles.

I exited the glass tower with a half-eaten cherry pie and an empty cart. I walked down the street looking for someone to give the pie to but, alas, there wasn't anyone out on this cold New York afternoon.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

US Student Loan Debt Hits $1 Trillion

We're entering new territory. US student loan debt has hit the $1 trillion mark along with record defaults. I have many friends who are buried in debt working multiple menial jobs they don't like in order to stay current with loan payments. I know many others who have just quit the game all together. I wonder what I can do? The number 1 trillion seems so beyond comprehension. No one ever brought up student debt when the number was at $100 billion or even $500 billion. Now in a quick blurb on a website the New York Federal Reserve casually notes that an entire generation is living under $1 trillion in fees and expenses. How are they going to afford homes?

I remember how much going to college was stressed to us as children. College, college, college. One day while in high school I floated the idea of not going to college to a few of my friends. You would've thought I was suggesting torturing kittens. The look of horror on their faces was astonishing. YOU HAVE TO GO TO COLLEGE!!! I was shouted down. The fanatic reaction made me laugh and, me being a contrarian back then (which is a fancy word for a smart-ass jerkwad instigator), I pushed it a little further. What if I didn't go to college? What would happen? Would I be struck down by lightning? What was so vital about college? What was gleaned from college that was so fundamental to adulthood?  I could see the malfunctioning computer freeze seize their faces. They were beyond speech. Silence. One of them sent me a note the next day saying she went home and cried at the thought of me not going to college. I wondered if my parents of Bank of America were paying her to say that.

I made a high school mental note: people are really serious about college. I have to believe this seriousness, this rigidity didn't come from them. It was handed to them by their parents and the institutions that cater to middle-class families. Somewhere along the way, going to college became a must-have for middle America. Something felt wrong. The reaction of my friends was unnaturally harsh, like they had been programmed.

Granted, I always thought I would go to college. But I was also aware that there were other routes to life. I had the grades, I'm good at solving problems, I can speak in front of people. There are millions of jobs out there for simple, fairly intelligent men and women capable of solving problems and keeping order: they're called managers. Store managers, restaurant managers, stage managers, office managers, it doesn't matter the setting. A manager is just someone who deals with people, fills out paper, handles problems, keeps order. A very necessary function to any business or organization, but not rocket science. You don't need a college degree to be a manager. Or to be an artist, humanitarian, computer programmer. You don't even need a college degree to go into business. In fact college is a luxury for most professions and lifestyles.The only job that seems to make college education a must is teaching in college. A hundred years ago, college was reserved for those looking to further their interest in a philosophy, study religion, or teach.

I think somewhere along the way, banks got together with major universities and saw a goldmine. You have all these kids who don't know what to do after high school. Most just get a job or go into the army, or take a class or two at the local college. If we can get millions of middle class sons and daughters to buy into 4-year university experience as a must, then we're talking about a seismic shift in lifestyle and financing. Along with owning a suburban house, car, and taking summer vacations, college became the post WW II item that parents wanted in their lives. Why? Because the next-door neighbor's kid is going to college. Doesn't matter if the kids wants to or not, they're going to college because that's the kind of parents they wanted to be. Hence, the baby boomers we're pitched college as a status sign of upward mobility. Then these baby boomers had kids and became the first generation of college-educated, middlebrow workers.

My sister's generation, Generation X, was the second generation of college-educated masses. I am the third. I notice the difference between her education and mine. Her education didn't have many frills. You went to the computer lab to write your paper. A pizza party was considered high-class college life. I remember moving her out of her dorm after graduating. We could fit everything in the back of a mid-sized van. A few years later I went to college and people were backing up U-Haul trucks to the dorm entrance. You needed a computer. And a cell phone. You just did. Additionally there was all sorts of university-sponsored items and university-stamped accessories to buy. And then there's tuition. The four years in between her education and mine had a startling jump in tuition from most major schools. The average of the top 50 schools went from being $20,000 (still way too much) to being $30,000. That's a $10,000 inflation in 4 years that has not been matched by wages. Now I hear it's at $40,000.

My time in college was great. I went to a top ten university, traveled, had amazing teachers, became an artist. But if I'm really honest the $30,000 was a status symbol. Did my education (mostly writing classes where would sit around table with paper cost $30,000? No. Could I have traveled, taken a few classes at a local college, and become an artist the old-fashioned way? Yes!

Halfway through my freshman year in college my friends taped me going on diatribe in my dorm room. It's been more than ten years but I remember I was ranting about feeling cheated. The food was nice, the friends were nice, the campus was nice. Northwestern is a really nice school. But something fundamental was missing and I suspected it was missing from all of the best schools.

In the past the liberal college education was based on making better men and women. You would study ethics, law, art, history. Getting a job was not the goal. The goal was enlightenment. But now that we were paying so much money the soul of college education felt dead. Our parents wanted us locked-in to a career. No question. Okay if you want to go to graduate school but it all felt like a huge wind-up for sitting at a desk.

The world order played like a con game. Just like back in high school with my friend insisting that we all MUST go to college. Now we were in college and we were being told we MUST get a job that fits our status. And me being a contrarian, I don't take to being told by society what I must do. I don't like feeling Adam Smith's invisible hand up my ass prodding me into the marketplace of trading dreams and goals for more nice stuff. In the middle of my rant I remember stopping. It felt like I was having a revelation. That's it. First it's must-do college. Then must-do white collar job. Then must-do marriage, kids, home, mortgage, debt, debt, debt! The whole game was rigged. It had nothing to do with improving my soul or educating my mind. It was about getting the cog plugged into the machine, working it until it broke, and then replacing it with a newer cog. The entire system is a game. At the time I was 18 and had been at the top of the class my entire life. But NOW I was really learning.

After my freshman year I went through a funk. I was no longer interested in nice things. I was a radical asshole, capable of telling you everything that's wrong with enjoying your sweatshop-bought shirt, your factory-processed food, your artificially-induced bourgeoisie emotions of romance. It took me another year to move through that anti-everything phase. By the time I graduated I felt more balanced. I realized most of my friends were going off to work jobs they would not enjoy to afford a lifestyle that left them feeling more comfortable than inspired. I accepted that marriages would be made, homes would be bought, and debt would pile up. I learned to be okay with desiring success and wealth, without getting stuck in the game. Along the way, I lost money, made a lot of money, paid off most of my debt, went to grad school, and refused dozens of desk jobs.

I am 32 and I know that I can not handle settling. I would crawl out of skin if I settled into a job, relationship, comfortable view of the world. This had made for some tumult and uncertainty. Unlike most of my college friends I don't know how much money I'm earning every month. I'm a writer, producer, and artists. Some days it's great and some days it's horrendous. But I am still here. And I would never trade in this flowing, rich life for consistent crumbs.

My generation's anger over our debt is that we traded not only our money but our hopes. And we ended losing both. The lost dreams of my generation dwarfs the $1 trillion owed. The money is merely another sign that the game is not working on a financial level as well as spiritual. We have to find a better way.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Two Motivations That Run The World

An artist friend asked me this morning about how does one develop motivation? I thought about it and this began a long discussion. There are two motivations which run the world.

"Doing" and "Being."

1)Doing: motivation TO DO comes from the ego thinking about all the nice things it'll receive from acting in the world. A person's identity is mistakenly qualified by what is being done. The 'doing motivation' is never satisfied. Not because it is evil or wrong, but simply because it is based on a mirage. The thing being done is not real, the goal is not real, nothing is really there. We know this because every time a goal is reached the mirage evaporates. 

The nomadic ego never arrives at its destination but keeps marching on to the next mirage. There is no home for it. Not surprisingly people driven by 'doing motivation' often work themselves to death or are forced to quit at a certain time in life when their bodies and minds can no longer 'do.'  

My grandfather did just that. He died in his sleep from a massive heart attack. He never had a day off at the end of his life because his mind couldn't take it. My father is a doer. He's been crippled by massive strokes. He has lived the past several years depressed at his limitations because he can't do what he used to in the past-tense of him. He has lost his identity of what he thought he was supposed to be doing. And in this system of motivation, a 'non-doer' is a non-person. A social zero with no status or purpose. Despite our love and affection, he insists on remaining a zero. This willful, child-like stubbornness is one of the last stands of the ego. It punishes itself and refuses spiritual sustenance such as grace and love. Rather than changing its view, the ego locks down even harder on its view, causing itself suffering. It has let itself down and inflicts judgment and wrath internally and externally. Ironically this judgment is often mistaken for God's will of fate. Willful and wrathful people project their own disdain out into the world. Often this fear is masked in religion or science.

At the end the ego brings the human back to square one: what to do now? The final 'do' for the human is death or rather it is something done to it.

Doing motivation is tautological because it is the echo chamber for human existence. This person is never satisfied because they are moved primarily by fear. And if fear is the underlying engine of motivation then a person must do because they will always finds something to fear, envy, admire, or fight. The cycle is endless when you are a 'human doing.'

2) BEING: motivation TO BE comes from grace and joining w/ holy spirit. 'Being motivation' is above the world's roiling and fighting while moving through it. There are plenty of 'Be-motivators' in business, politics, and the arts. Many are famous, but most are not. The 'being motivation' rests in the soul, and not in the eternal sense. Soul in the 'Buddha mind' sense or the emptiness joined in all phenomena. There is an emptiness to the mind and there rests a pure soul. It is present in every moment but difficult to wake up.

The soul has a home. It is in the spirit. This spirit can be called Krishna, Christ, Buddha-mind. In Buddhism they describe the moment of a pure mind touching on emptiness as pouring water into water. Quantum physicist would refer to this force as the zero-point. Out of the zero-point field the universe arises. Native Americans might refer to it as Supreme Mother. Those daring enough might even say God.

Be-motivation requires a quiet, steady mind. The ego will try to trick this mind and create panic. Nothing is being done, the world is moving past us. We are losing! It's never clear just what is being lost in being quiet but the ego is effective at creating unrest and riot because it can't thrive with a quiet mind. A quiet mind finds stillness. And in stillness is grace and 'being.' Being what? Being here. Present-tense, simple, and clear.

 Being motivation can lead to being a singer, mother, or an angel. This comes from the soul which moves toward love. The ultimate love is one which includes everyone. A 'being motivated' human can enjoy interaction with the world but doesn't compete with it. Competition is impossible because the world is an illusion. Einstein and James Clark Maxwell said so and they're considered the co-founders of quantum physics. Buddhists have been saying so for a few thousand years.

A human who is being is one  who is in love with the world. They are in love because they are present. Here and now. 

There is no past-tense or future tense in being. Only here and now. In 'doing motivation' there is only past-tense and future-tense. The present is a constant state of anxiety at what is to be 'done.' There is no joy in human doing, only expectation. Conversely, human beings are frequently very funny, pleasant and alive. These human beings are often called spiritual but that implies that others are not. They are no more spiritual than anybody else, but they're just awake to now.

You can either be motivated by fear and the ego, or motivated by love and your soul. But you can't do both.

Being here is the highest type of 'human being' because in 'here' there is God. God is only here. As I write this very sentence, God is here. God isn't in past tragedies, future plans, or the holographic holocausts of images presented in the news. As Gary Renard wrote in his miraculous book The Disappearance of the Universe "God is."

Those are the two magic words at all time: God is

Monday, October 17, 2011

Underground Notes: Mad Scientists

I'm seeking to track my time underground in the New York subways in verse for a running series of poems. It's an experiment foisted upon me by the lack of time, multiple deadlines, and an agreement to create/perform new spoken word.

Chapter 1: Mad Scientists

And in walks the mad scientists,
swirling incense, clicking charms and selling potions
Shouting like a Carolina Baptists,
dancing like a Blue Grass Pentecostal
begging like a saint,
eyes scouring and scanning
for recognition, awareness. Looking for a face.

There are mad scientists underneath the city.
Cackling wild voices in echoing lairs
fall out bunkers, and hieroglyphic caves.

Mad scientists who blink their fingers
flickering lips and spittle drips from their
bursting ruby eyes,
glowing like demons.

Half-naked and shit-stained mad scientists
testing new drugs, liquids, and emotions
on the general passenger.
You see underground has the perfect test subjects
Endless variations. Nigerians dark as ebony
in white desert robes, Hasiddics fingering their curls
while reading prayers, Mongolian merchants shuffling off Canal
Korean students shoving fliers written in three languages asking 'Are you saved?'
Tattoo pierced Cross-dressed transgendered queers
and uncrossed un-pierced money-gendered Wall Streeters
shove for shoulder space inside snaking streets that never see sun.
The underground is lit by chemical torches, blinking machine red warnings, train lights, and trash fires .

And in walks the mad scientists. They must be planted at the beginning and end of each line
because they always seem to be there
waiting for me. They must know I have a busy schedule
and don't have time for the set-up. How thoughtful of them.
I'm a New Yorker, so if you're going to act
bat-shit insane I'd prefer we skip the formalities, introductions and get to the main event
Bring the Ruckus.
You have 7 subways stops to hold my attention,
scare me, thrill me, entertain me.
Afterward I will never see you again.

At Union Square, I walked into a private bedroom.
Quartered off with boxes, bags, and drapery.
He lay slumped over wrapped in loose loose
falling down loose pantaloons, half-naked.
Thin alabaster reed with a bouquet of  popping out of chest
wearing a crown of greasy string cheese. A white blindfold.
The man stood up, hands readjusting his pants in a striptease peek-a-boo
'now you see it, but you pray you won't.'

And then the zonked, blindfolded, half-naked passenger
began doing tai chi. On a moving subway from 14th St.
until the time I got at 57th St.
Naturally it wasn't a full set.
It was obscene, absurd, maybe even a bit erotic
but an experiment nonetheless.

And in walk the mad scientists
pissing in a beer bottle
while mothers hold their children's heads
and run like they've seen a werewolf.

And in walk the mad scientists
singing a whiskey-voiced collection
of Christmas tunes...
in July, wishing everyone happy holidays
and doffing his Santa hat.
I gave him some change and he sang all the way
over the bridge.

And in
42nd Street, beginning of November
rainy night. Cold, lonely, Sunday.
My eyes pre-scanned cars as they rolled to a stop
The green wool scarf twisted 'round my neck
A bell rang and doors opened.
A scramble for the dayglo lemon and tangerine colored seats
I didn't even look before sitting but we all know that terrible feeling
when we don't look and find ourselves sitting next to crazy.
The mad scientists was sprawled out between 3 seats plus the two window seats.
Muttering, snapping, snarling.

We flip open our hand-held device and have a stare-off with the screen
Muttering, snapping, snarling
We hold our phone tighter. Death grips around the LCD.
His eyes scan our faces. One looks up. He goes in.

Mad scientists muttering, snapping, snarling, standing.
Staggering up in the rocking cabin.
Gnarled and nappy he leans into a screen,

Female PYT leaps up and walks down aisle, never
parting from her screensaver mask, peering religiously
down at her phone.

Mad scientists follows and I look around.
No one is doing anything!
A sick feeling begins sloshing around my stomach,
duty, responsibility, some kind of subway chivalry. DAMN!

I wait, maybe someone will DO SOMETHING.
Muttering, snapping, snarling he pursues her down the aisle.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN he shouts.

Sickened, the feeling comes over me: that dream-like, time-stilled
murderous adrenaline floods up from my stomach and leaks out of skin.

I stand slowly, trying to control this sickness filling my head.
Taking deep sigh, I close the gap between us in a second.
My hands become hooks. I snag his jacket and yank the shit out of it.

The cabin floor jumps and mad scientist flies through the air.
So light, so effortless. My hook throws him like soup can.
In mid-air he's not yet conscious of what is going on. 
That he is flying.

I could smash him against the metal pole or fly him into the ceiling.
Instead, I bring him in for a soft landing. Both hooks guiding him to the floor.
He's stunned. I'm stunned. The passengers look up from their screens.

What does it mean, he asks softly.
He's a little boy again.
Putting on my best 'Daddy voice' I assure him just like my Dad would
that the most pressing issue is that he needs to shut the fuck up!



I don't feel very Buddhist right now.
The young female runs out of the car when the doors open.
Suddenly embarrassed, I run too!
A hand taps me on the shoulder and a voice says 'good job!'

What does it mean?
I need a retreat right now
I need a monastery, a refuge, a prayer.
I say a prayer, more hands tap my shoulder ascending stairs
'good job!'
No, not a good job. Very, very bad job. Stop congratulating my rage.

Adrenaline drains from me and consciousness returns.
All my awkwardness
returns twice as strong. 

I run out into the night air.
I could have smashed his skull in. But I didn't I keep reminding myself.

I could have crushed his chest underneath my feet.
But I didn't.
But I thought it.
But I didn't.
But what about next time?
Be more prepared for the experiment.
Be more aware of the mad scientists.

Inoculation Theory in 2020 Election

The Art of Argument and Persuasion was one of the freakiest classes at Northwestern. Actual relevant info students could take out of the cla...