Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tales of the Koko Lion, Part 17: The Drive to the Next Life...


"The fundamental, simple, and great mystical realization is that by which you identify yourself with consciousness, rather than with the vehicle of consciousness. Your body is a vehicle of consciousness."

Joseph Campbell


Koko just couldn't pass it up any longer, that tiki torch cocktail lounge with it's glorious lacquered bamboo façade, so when Grace needed a ride to the airport to visit her aunt, he volunteered to drive her, knowing the trip home would take him right past the place - past it's flapping torch flames, and red chop suey script sign. The round trip would take him much farther away than he could've known. He parked her car, the one she loved, the one her father bought her, in the side lot, and ambled into the place as the sun was setting.

"Gee," he told the waitress, whose features are long since forgotten, "I've never had a Mai Tai." "Then let's fix that," she said, smiling. She always smiled at the first easy Mai Tai, and easy it was, bright orange hanging garden of fun in an imperial pint glass. The second was still fun too. But the third spelled trouble, and forgetting her face was just the start of it. She knew that sideways loss of recognition all too well, working at The Tiki Lounge, there in downtown Glendale. But Koko really had never had a Mai Tai –at least not an official one, and he could've sworn that he didn't feel a thing after the first, or even after the second. He never felt all that much anyway, so the third seemed like a reasonable experiment. He hadn't quite finished it when leaving seemed like a good idea too. The King Kong Club interior looked too flammable to last.

It was an easy drive. Weren't they all? A quick hop home – and just to be on the safe side, there were unexplored back streets that pointed in the right direction, and promised a cop-free ride. After all, it was always smartest to err for caution's sake.

Now it was dark, and there was a stubborn cassette acting up in his wife's car's tape player; and a funny, winding little suburban street, right where they should all be straight, and a little too much foot on the... BLANGG!! ...and the film broke.


"Pingk... pingk.. .pingk..." went the wrecked car, steam hissing out of the stove-in front end. From where Koko was, near the top of the telephone pole next to the streetlight, you could see everything real easy. Steam poured out and roiled up through the light against the dark sky, hot water running all out on the blacktop. Some other liquid, dark and glittery on the ground. That stuff. Sticky.

The Celica's front end was really bashed in, but the pole wasn't even crooked! And what was that down there below? Koko wondered...what is that I see hanging half way out the busted window down there? The windshield was busted too, like a tempered glass spider-web target. The steering wheel was whacked into a loopy shape, his motionless arm draped through it. Lights in the neighborhood snapped on, and Koko could hear their approaching voices..."It looks bad... somebody call the..."

There, twenty feet below, very badly busted face just in out of the light, was him. Me, thought Koko. But he was up here, safe and sound, it seemed – though he couldn't see his hands or body. Perhaps because his body was down there, a bloody broken mess, wearing a red drenched punk t-shirt and black jeans.

Koko stayed for a minute, silently hovering up high, next to the streetlight. It had been long enough now, until he realized that that wasn't him anymore. He wasn't alone- no, there was somebody safe just behind him, just out of sight, and they spoke to him, just not so's anyone could hear. They told him it was time to go, and so he reluctantly moved along, shepherded into the warm grey cotton night. From then on, he forgot, with only washed-out flashes coming back years later. A piece of effervescence. An inventory of some kind...


Koko came to, briefly, in another ambulance, being taken to the hospital where the University had their plastic surgery residency. Then he slipped back to that other place, where he wasn't him anymore, and stayed there for "twenty hours" or so. The girl had long gone back to waitress again at The Tiki Lounge by the time he finally woke up, for better or worse. He had a little different face. He had a whole different life, beyond this one it seemed. Alongside, perhaps. It's funny, to die; to know how easy it is. Like walking into another room. It was a knowledge that would play a part in changing him many years later, when he finally realized that he couldn't just live this body's life anymore.

And as for Grace, well she cried of course, for Koko, and for her car. But from that point on, they never discussed it again. They would be apart for many years by the time he really came back to life.


"If an earthquake opens the prison walls, do you think an escaping prisoner will complain of the damage done to the stone and marble work?"

Rumi


Saturday, November 14, 2009

"Philosophy is really homesickness." Novalis

Mr. Floppy helps Faith escape the material, for a little while...


"The true individual Self should be distinguished from it's distorted reflection, the ego. The ego, the little self, which regards itself from others and the world, is a physical, vital and mental formation; it belongs to the transitory personality and dissolves with it." P. B. Saint-Hilaire

"When the overmind descends, the predominance of the centralising ego-sense is entirely subordinated, lost in largeness and finally abolished; a wide cosmic perception and feeling of a boundless universal self and movement replaces it...In this boundless largeness, not only the separate ego but all sense of individuality...may ...disappear...and this sense of the delight...is not confined to the person or the body but can be felt at all points in an unlimited consciousness of unity which pervades everything." Sri Aurobindo

For many, particularly those whom life has broken open to the Divine, there's an ennui, a sadness to being in this form that I can only chalk up to the Ego's insistence that we are separate from each other, and all other forms of life on this planet, when it clearly is not the case. It's a lot of work, fighting against those urges to constantly compare and judge, the need to claim some kind of dominance of individuality - like a mad explorer sticking their flag into the shore, and proclaiming the whole expanse of some vast unknown continent in the name of their personal country.

The alternative that's presented to us, a graceful middle-ground where we hear the prideful, cajoling voice of the Ego, but pay it no mind, allows us to easily turn that sentimental coin to it's other side, which though equally sentimental, is purely joyful, even in the "sad" parts. A freedom that can't come from being attached to the ever-changing, only to the ever-unchanging.


The book: How to Survive Life (and Death), A Guide To Happiness In This World and Beyond is now available everywhere, but ask for it it at your local bookstore!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

When you gotta design a silly, happy, friendly little robot...

Tales: Through a Glass Darkly...Ouch!


"The Meaning of Life is to embody compassion. Anyone can discover this. When you discover this and live it, you discover your truest nature and share its joy."
The Dalai Lama

This form our spirits assume, this changing body/mind we occupy on Earth from our birth to our death, is a miraculous combination of the magical quantum/electrochemical exchange of matter and energy, and equally amazing mechanics. The material "reality" of our flesh and bone bodies, bumping around this world. Our attitudes and beliefs; our genes and chromosomes; our focus and intention; our psyches and our Karma, shape the physical "realities" of our lives.

We intuitively know about this stuff, and more and more, Science is confirming the magical relationship between all these aspects of being; but it's confusing. How does the system work exactly? To bring our wants, our purpose into physical reality?

Confusing the issue are programs like The Secret, a difficult combination of the magical nature of intention and power of Love's creative force, and the occult power of Ego – man's will for self-enhancement through acquisition and "mastery" over Nature. "The Dark Side."  It's the difference between being naturally aligned with Source (God and Love, if you will), and open-heartedly receiving all that you require for peace and fulfillment (success); and the separation from Source into your Ego Self (dark side) – an entity that through force of will manipulates the energies of the world to achieve sensory rewards, which are elusive and momentary (everything except Love is.)  Putting it simply, both you and your Ego Self want a nice girlfriend or boyfriend, but your Ego Self still won't be happy when it gets one.

We look through this prism of our perceptions – Through a Glass Darkly, to try to find the way to at-one-ment, the unification of purpose and lifestyle. But so much seems to stand in the way.  Julian Schnabel's wonderful film, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, based on the book written by stroke victim Jean-Dominique Bauby, does a brilliant job of describing the obstructive quality of our bodily forms. The subtle yet powerfully destructive nature of the Ego Self. Bauby's story demonstrates the nature of what's really important, beyond considering our self as just a body and mind.

Of course, the answer is Love. The mechanism it empowers for attaining real success lies in our attitudes, beliefs, and actions.  An uncompromising attitude of Love and compassion towards all (no matter how challenging that may be at the moment!).  An unshakable understanding of the oneness – the interdependence of everything, and the belief that every expression of Nature is Divine and requires proper care and respect. Living these attitudes and beliefs will intuitively guide you in the right direction. Your actions will have a path to follow. Your purpose will become clear. 

Meanwhile, going about that in these clunky and obscure "rides" we inhabit can be pretty challenging. Why is my hair falling out? We need to sit in meditation to touch the energizing light of Love, and sort through our psychic baggage objectively. If a piece of semi-conscious luggage pops up on your meditation screen, or rides your mind day-to-day, don't let it weigh down your serenity – take care of it!   Investigate, illuminate, resolve. That way, it won't be in the way when it comes time to help someone else. Compassion is the path to purpose. It's not just a tree hugger's dream, it's a real strategy for success.

While you're trying this strategy out by being as compassionate as possible, don't forget the most important person, without whom no success can be attained – yourself.  It's the nature of the beast that our Ego Self (judgement, comparison) is hard on our True Self (Love, compassion), for being imperfect. For not measuring up to the material scale it measures success by. So every time you hear that critical voice within, simply forgive yourself.  Have compassion for you.  Quietly get in touch with your inner nature, with your True Self, and you'll immediately know that you're doing the best you can – especially tricky for a subtle, expansive spirit of light stuck in an imperfect form.

Associate with this inner, spiritual self more and more, and less and less with your body, with it's aches and pains. With how you look. Less with your five senses and the momentary gratifications of this world.  For example: Meat isn't worth the killing because it tastes good for a couple minutes. Associate less with the ceaseless, sequential demands of your intellect, and the willful need to figure everything out. In short, relax into your being.

Make an effort to relate to this world using your sixth sense – your magical, intuitive sense – which you can connect to through the practice of meditation. Then the actions you're led to through Love and compassion for others will show you your path to all forms of real success. Even the tough parts (ouch!) of being here in this doggone body will become easier to deal with. You still have to look out through that glass...but it will look a lot clearer.

"As is a man's meditation, so is his feeling of love;
As is his feeling of love, so is his gain;
and faith is the root of all."
Sri Ramakrishna


Wednesday, November 4, 2009


No Star Wars here, just junkyard flyers from Kids Next Door - stepladders, exercise bikes, and a nice big jet engine...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tales of the Koko Lion, Part 16: May the Force Get Started



"Myths are public dreams, dreams are private myths."
Joseph Campbell



It was being San Francisco again. A dense gray-blue watercolor sky bleeding down into the wet streets. San Francisco was fine like that. A little rainy and a little dreary. It felt right, and smelled good when it rained, and the fresh Pacific flow scrubbed the town from edge to edge, so that when it rained the streets sparkled grease-lessly, like no other town. A second season as a ski bum, this time in Park City, hadn't panned out. There'd been no snow that year, so no ski. Just bum.

I ended up back in the garlicky little beach town of Del Mar, California, drawing horse portraits and designing youth soccer logos, when out of the blue, I got a call from an old friend whose uncle was hiring up in San Francisco. We packed up and moved, first to Burlingame, by the airport, then to a Mondrian-inspired apartment on Potrero Hill. My friend left after a few months, but I stayed on. I had fallen in love with a city for the very first time.

I was on my own, welding in a free-standing fireplace factory in Hunter's Point by day, surrounded by noxious fumes, surly illegals, and the odd furloughed worker from San Quentin. By night, I made the rounds of particular nightspots. I was still too young to drink legally, but Montana had taught me how to order up with the proper attitude, so it was never a problem, getting in, getting served. Especially in North Beach, where I could catch Stan Getz at Keystone Corner, or last call at Gino and Carlo's, The Saloon, and of course, Specs' - the famous Adler Museum, with an optometrist's sign, tucked in an alley just under Pacific Street. (Before the city felt compelled to name that alley after William Saroyan)
The big, round table at Specs' was always lively just before closing, with guys named Gary and Larry, Leon the Cabbie, and John the Painter, some of whom were apparently quite famous, some decidedly weren't. They were just the guys at last call for me. I was, as usual, the youngest. We traded quips and opinions; poetry and pontifications, until Specs hit the lights – and out we'd go into the fresh night air.

 It seemed a little odd, living the high life low, or the low life high in San Francisco. It always smelled so fresh and clean, even with the stinkiest stuff on your breath, or on your conscience.

I spent a lot of my free days there in North Beach too – picking up salamis at Molinaris; having coffee at Puccini or Trieste. Sitting up on the riser at City Lights Bookstore, discovering Ginsburg like you're supposed to there. I picked up my first Sam Shepard, and continued to devour Steinbeck and Vonnegut, the beta magical realism of Tortilla Flats and Breakfast of Champions sending me away south to Marquez and the South Americans. I discovered some Czech roots, stumbling across Milan Kundera, and pouring over it in front of the bookstore's picture window, under the watchful gaze of Carol Doda's neon nipples that flashed kitty-corner at The Condor Club.


Alone, and participating in such a seemingly common life, it never occurred to me back then that I was manufacturing any memories. Just free-standing fireplaces.

That sparkly, dreary day though, a memory was making me. I'd seen a tiny photo, like a postage stamp, in the Chronicle the day before. It was a mysterious shiny black figure, wielding what appeared to be a neon sword. There was a little announcement of this film screening up at the Coronet theater on Geary street, scheduled for noon. I had nothing planned for that Sunday, so taking my youthful hangover to the movies sounded healing.

Driving by the theater, I passed a short line of wet attendees standing out front, movie-goers in the mist. Mostly guys a little like me. I joined the queue strung along the unprotected theater façade in the light rain, collar up, hands in my pockets, like everyone else. No one said much, getting wet and feeling a little dumb...what is it? I dunno...I heard it was...saw the picture in the paper

They ushered us in, and I don't remember any fanfare or trailers – maybe just a brief announcement that they were screening a new film before it's release. What I do remember is that first impression – an expository serial-like text scroll vanishing into space, followed by the interminable rumbling of a gigantic I didn't know what – apparently a spacecraft passing overhead as the film began, and the collective "whoah" breathed out by the seventy or eighty soggy witnesses. The theater had recently installed the new Dolby Stereo sound system, and the bass hummed up through the seats.

When it was over, they ushered us back out. I remember us all smiling and nodding to one another like a pack of stupefied nerds. Exactly like that. We were handed some flyers, or questionaires, something you bet I wish'd I'd kept but didn't think to. I wasn't thinking of much, other than what I'd just witnessed. A new, updated action genre. Classic, even eternal themes. Alec Guiness. It was a really terrific movie – no question about it. Especially coming from the American Graffitti guy.

I doubt that any of us realized what we'd just witnessed. I sure didn't. What it would mean to our world. What it was to become to a culture of people who spend their lives staring at screens, wishing they could lead other lives. I, and seventy or eighty damp Bay Area compañeros, had born witness to George Lucas' first public screening of Star Wars.



The book: How to Survive Life (and Death), A Guide To Happiness In This World and Beyond is now available everywhere, but ask for it it at your local bookstore!