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Saturday, June 18, 2011


I stood outside a back room. Hands folded over my stomach.

The door opened. I stepped inside next to another student, we both did a full bow to an altar. It was basically a small table with a vase of flowers. We placed our foreheads to the carpet, raised our hands near our ears, palms up. The silence made the awkwardness palpable. Clothes rustling. Breath slightly labored standing up.

At that moment, I was having a thought. This is stupid.

The student left. I turned to face an elderly woman sitting on a meditation bench. Her hair short and void of color. She wore big round glasses that old people often wear. I started to do a full bow to her and she stopped me. "No, no," she said. "Not to me."

I didn't know what I was doing. So I did a short standing bow to her, more of a respectful greeting, then seated myself on the floor in front of her. I opened my mouth to say my name. She beat me to it.

"Hi, Tony."

There is a power in the universe, some say, that is immense. Obi-wan Kenobi called it the Force. Zen teachers call it joriki. Whatever it's called, it was in that room. It filled it. Blew through me like an exploding star. It had texture. Luminescence.

I came to the San Diego Zen Center when I was 23  years old with no expectations. If I had any, I still wouldn't have seen that moment coming.

I don't remember what Joko and I talked about. I remember smiling, a lot.

When she rang the little bell at her side and I let the next student in, doing full bows to the table/altar of flowers, I remember knowing something. I remember knowing, at the moment, that there is light in the world.

Charlotte Joko Beck died this week. It was June 15. She was 94 years old. I don't think she would remember me since she worked with so many people. But I'll say it anyway.

Thank you, Joko.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Tweet This

I missed a joke on Tosh, or maybe it was John Stewart. Something about the fail whale. My 13 year old daughter explained it to me. Had something to do with Twitter.

It's about time I catch up with Twitter. I got Facebook, got a blog, a website. Hell, I even watch Randy Jackson's America's Best Dance Crew with my kids. I know who JabbaWockeeZ is, son.

So I log onto Twitter. Look at a couple people to follow, read the comments in 127 characters or less (140, 204, or however the hell many it is) about eating at diners or being stuck in traffic. 10 seconds later, I log off. Forever.

Twitter. I still don't get it.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Reader Email: The End is Near

I get a handful of emails from folks that read my column in the Post and Courier. Mostly questions about dying plants. This one started out no different. The reader wanted some info on why her hydrangea wasn't blooming. My answer was short, to the point with a little humor at the end.

I wrote,
The growth produced this year will set flower buds that will open in 2012. According to the movie, that's the end of the world, so that may be the least of your problems.
I smacked that out of the park. Crushed it.

This is what she wrote back:

Since you brought it is my take on that. I am tired of right wing stupid people trying to manipulate my every move, day to day, by their out the ass rantings based on little fact and/or merely some warped interpretation of The Book. I am not nor ever was a fan of Chicken Little nor Henny Penny and think there heads should have been wrung, figuratively speaking, long ago.

Some things there is no control over and this is one. It would not surprise me to learn that some ploy by government to keep people stirred up and thus easier to control is behind all the hype. A house divided is a house easy to conquer. So to that moron Stamping and all his right wing experts, I say, ' bite me'. 
Thanks for your input about the hydrangeas. 

At least she thanked me.