Private property. Probably the two most boring words ever. But there is something I totally appreciate about private property. When I'm hunting around with a camera I usually walk right up to the edge. I'm freewheeling until I see the sign. When I see the sign, I back off. One, I don't want to get shot. Two, I don't like confrontation. And three, mad respect. So for me, the sign is one of those proper mind awareness tools. PMAT. It's readily available, there's no monthly fee and it's full-on yoga. This is a tool I can trust. So I'll wander to the boundary with no worries, clicking this, clicking that. Taking picture after picture. Because when I'm lying on my deathbed and my life flashes before me what I'm actually remembering are all these images. So I want to take the best pictures and I want to capture all the feels. With tender heart and lowered guard I expose every frame to love. I want pictures that help me remember the good shit. Just like they did in Soylent Green. So I'll take another photo, ooh, ahh, then another. Until I see the sign. Then it's BAM! snap-to. I am slapped from my dystopian melancholy and the awkward ironic pleasurable pressure to document my life is gone. Private property, yes, a simple reminder to get back to living.
So maybe we start with a 5x7 canvas. I'll create something that lives on the 5x7. Can I fit it all in? I need more space. I have so much I want to say. I have feelings. Perhaps the 16x20 is better. A bigger universe for my narrative. The beginning, the middle, the end. No way, 16x20 is not happening. I need more than inches. It's all about feet now. 6x8. Yes. I can capture the forest, the animals and all the love on a 6 by 8 foot canvas. Done. But I don't have room for the ocean. Hmmm. Let's be honest, I'm a water spirit. Always have been. Perhaps my landlord will let me put a mural on the side of her building. It's massive. I'll ask. A good 30x50 feet should get the job done. Just enough room for the dolphins and the redwoods and the lavender. But what about the people in Africa? I need a bigger building. How do I illustrate an ancient face? Space, that's how. I need more of it. A gigantic room for everybody dancing together. One love. I need more than feet. I need centuries to capture all the minutia. The depth of feeling is intense. I need a million songs, endless kisses and the ethereal flow of forever. Art is everything and everywhere. Oh so glorious. But I'm getting rather sleepy thinking about it all.
I think I'll just watch TV.
Let's just clarify that I am writing these words while listening to soft piano music, sipping on an Italian roast with bits of dark chocolate stirred in and looking out my window while a cool breeze reminds me a rain is coming. I can see the water of the James River. I am wearing flannel and writing on a late 2013 MacBook Pro. My toilet flushes and the refrigerator stows away pickled jalapeños and frozen blueberries. In essence, I am rather fortunate. Is this white male privilege? Probably. But either way, this is my current state of physical being. It feels lavish to me so I will honor the luxury while it lasts. I promise to write about contentment when I am homeless and my body withers away from cancer. Just for comparison. To see if my current perspective holds water when the view changes.
I speak of contentment and the efforts to both recognize and monitor this feeling during all my waking hours. This is a practical guide to awareness. Contentment is available all the time. It's just a vibe. Thought waves. I've recognized these vibes while creating a spreadsheet full of numbers. I've also felt the ease of contentment while sipping drinks on a beach. Whether my head is full of practicalities or dreamy with dance I glue it all together with the same thought. The mantra is basic. I am grateful for this experience, this breath, this ability to not measure myself against others. This is the gateway to contentment which is the gateway to happiness which is the gateway to love. When I first moved to NYC I joined a gym. I felt the need to be fit. And there was a Crunch within walking distance on the corner of Christopher and Greenwich. Their motto was no judgements. Still is. I can truly get behind this hashtag. But I would like to believe that Crunch was inspired by a simple Taoist concept that the true measure of life is to not measure at all.
The human species is constantly evolving. Faster, stronger, smarter. But no matter how much we change there seems to be a universal joy for contentment. To be comfortable in your body and your head. The first step to being comfortable is listening to how much we judge. Let go of judgement and you will be rewarded with contentment. But letting go of judgement in order to love is a mental thing. And stuff involving headspace is really hard to grasp. So let's introduce a practical tool to make the act of letting go easier. Unclenching. Unclench your butt, unclench your jaw, unclench your shoulders, unclench all that shit. Now you can get busy with loving.
I'll conclude this journal with a photo of Dee W Squeeze. I met her while living in NYC. I wasn't going to Crunch anymore when we became friends. I had a yoga mat instead. Dee and I recently went on a road trip. We slept at a funky motel in Arlington, VA. It's her most favorite motel in the world. So this is Dee being happy. Her happiness is my happiness because we are like a pajama onesie.
Find your happiness. If you are struggling, please let me know and perhaps we can collaborate on an art project that champions love, awareness, no judgements and contentment. Art project? Sure. It's all art really. But we'll talk more about this in the next journal.
Let's go, let's go, let's go. Gotta hurry up cause life is short. Gonna die soon.
Drink coffee. Drink a ton of it. Fucking hurry up you're running late. Do a line of coke, yeah, yeah, yeah, even better, faster faster faster. Don't need to eat. Chug a beer. Just got so much to do. Long list not enough time. Owwwwweeee! Just slammed my fucking finger in the drawer. Now it's bleeding. Who cares! Put a bandage on it. Dammit. All this traffic. I'm late for the meeting. Fuck them. They are damn lucky to have me. Working for nothing. Rat bastards. WhupWhupWhup!!! What the hell?! Speeding ticket my ass.
Join us next week when we host Guru Sup who will talk about meditation, mindfulness and detachment.
You read that right, but we'll get to the dirty deets later. Whoa, the last three months just whizzed by. Long of the short, all is chill in Wiggyland. Yay. I've been trying on some new clothes, taking off some used. I'm still living in Lynchburg, VA with the always inspiring Dee W Loizou. We've perfected our spicy fish-sauce sauce. Yes, I'm still vegetarian but this Thai dish we love requires the Red Boat, so we tread lightly and nom, nom, nom the bejesus outta that dish. I took photos for a wedding. My god, that was hard. Probably won't do that again. Thankfully the bride and groom are the best people on the planet. I took on a bookkeeping job for my dear friends at Riverviews...what! Yes, I hear you screaming. It's just temporary, people. No, I'm not moving back to NYC just yet. But I miss it. Dearly. Took photos for a fundraising event. Umm, super hard. But I did it all in character, with a British accent, in striped tights. For the challenge. Oh, I would do that again. For sure. Makes picture taking wildly mysterious. And fun. I did a few promo videos, bought a battery powered light kit, started using my flash a bit more for stills, and yeah, I taught an Introduction to Digital Photography class and an Advanced Digital Filmmaking class at the local liberal arts joint just up the street. It's called Randolph College. Used to be all women. Then that changed in 2006. I had 19 students and 16 were women. So who knows. I began teaching in February. Unfortunately I missed the first 11 classes of the semester because I came in as a pinch-hitter. Probably won't do that again. So hard. But I would do it all again if given a full semester. I taught four classes a week for a total of nine hours. 4.5 hours on Monday and 4.5 hours on Thursday. But you know what, that shizzle was a full-time job. Seriously. Best paying gig I've had in Lynchburg, but damn, brother barely had time to rest. But I kinda loved it? I know it's trite, but mad respect to all the teachers out there. Bring it in for a group hug! Yesterday was my last day. Graded all the students, sent each a personal note of gratitude, and then I noticed I hadn't written a blog post in three months. Whizzed by. The picture up top was taken at a show ring in Big Island, VA. I imagine myself sitting on those aluminum bleachers just taking it all in. Beautiful scenery, nice and quiet, just me and the cool breeze. What a spectacle. What a show. What a gift. Might as well be happy.
I value love. I value light. I value momentum. I value patience. I value compassion. I value sustainable income. I value creativity. I value listening. I value happiness. I value effort. I value today.
My objective is to meditate. And here is a conversation with myself while settling into today's objective.
Objective: Sit in a comfortable position, hands interlaced resting at my belly, palms up, eyes closed. Spine straight from root to crown. Focus my awareness on the breath. Breathe in, slowly, lingering on the last inhale ever so slightly before starting to breathe out. Melting the tension in my neck and shoulders as I slow the patient exhale.
Me: Oh that feels good. So relaxing. I am lighter than ever. I feel loose. I wonder what that sound is? Is the radio still on? Are those water drops hitting the roof? Is that my hard drive? Is my hard drive going bad?
Objective: Listen to the sound. Smile at the sound. Don't analyze the sound. Let the sound be. Sound is like the wind. It is free. It moves. Do not try to control the sound. Focus your awareness on the breath.
Me: Breathing in. Slowly. I don't care what that sound is. It's probably the snow melting. I don't care. Hold the breath ever so lightly, now slowly breathe out. Relax the shoulders. Relax the tension in my sit muscles. Oh that feels good. Oh yes. I really need to get my act together. I should create a spreadsheet that 1) outlines my goals and 2) keeps track of my progress. Maybe weekly? Or monthly. I'm not sure. But...
Objective: Really great thoughts. But let them go. Focus on the breath. Relax the tension in your eyes. Take a long, slow breath in. Hold it. Perfect. Now slowly breathe out while releasing all your tension. Your thoughts are tension. Let them go. Just sit comfortably and smile. Chakras aligned, shoulders loose, focusing your awareness on the breath.
Me: Wow. This seems to be working. It always seems to work. Now is not the time to do anything else but breathe in and out. Gloriously. Content with simply breathing. Oh.my.god. This feels amazing. I'll make sure to take my vitamins today. Pile the good on good. What a great day! I'll write a new blog post, gosh, I might even bang out my taxes. Bloody hell. I am on fire.
Objective: Focus your awareness on the breath. Just your breath. Simple in. Simple out. That's all you need to do.
Me: Copy that. Breathing in. Slowly. Breathing out. My tension melts away. No thoughts. No sounds. Just the wind.
The meditation lasted 15 minutes. By the end I was sitting comfortably, focusing my awareness on the breath. Along the way I had a few more random thoughts which I embraced, then I smiled and happily let them go. I heard footsteps on the sidewalk, a freight train, smells of curry. I was in the world but not judging it. I let everything go for 15 minutes, except for the breath.
I feel lighter. I'm going to build that spreadsheet. Glad I waited. I love my friends. I'm going to apply for that photojournalism job. I'm going to take pictures and write stories. I'm grateful for meditation teachers. I'm not really sure what the day will bring but I am happy to be a part of it. And when my baby gets off work we are going to read William Carlos Williams, roast cauliflower and boogie.
Love, meditation & happiness. Got it.
I love Facebook! Please let me explain.
As someone who has practiced meditation for decades, I am constantly seeking new ways to improve the efficiency of my training. And thanks to Facebook I have discovered fast food meditation!
In this wonderful season of giving it would be an honor to share this technique with you.
Step 1: Log in to your Facebook. Most of you can skip this step because you are probably already logged on. I realize nobody logs out of Facebook but I have to add this step just in case.
Step 2: Go to your news feed. To eliminate any confusion, your news feed is also your home page. Because Facebook is home.
Step 3: Before reading the first post on your newsfeed, please close your eyes and think of something that makes you happy. Isn't it wonderful, this feeling inside.
Step 4: Open your eyes.
Step 5: Read the first post on your news feed. If you have read the first post and you are still happy, read the next post. Continue this process until your happiness fades. When you are no longer happy close your eyes again.
Step 6: Think of something that makes you happy.
There you have it. Fast food meditation. You can practice this technique whenever you like, wherever you like. It is always available.
Please join me next week when I discuss, “Why 6 is an auspicious number.”
Dear President Trump,
I want you to be great. I really do. So in the spirit of your legacy I'd like to make a suggestion. I've been doing some research and I noticed that starting in 2001 our government has really jacked up the number of executive branch czars. Some of my favorites are the asian carp czar, the cyber czar, the ebola czar, the faith-based czar and the weatherization czar. Good folks doing the best they can. But maybe we can do better.
IMHO I think you should appoint a love czar ASAP!
Your personality and methods, Mr. President, are what they are. I have no judgements really. You have reasons for being and doing what you do. But again, IMHO, I think you come off as a bit mean spirited. You're kind of an arrogant bully. Hey, it is what it is. At one point in my life I was just like you. But I evolved. Thanks to the help of my friends, who are, I hope, proud Americans.
A little bit about me if I may. Just recently I appointed my good friend Dee W as my personal love czar. I created this executive branch, if you will, out of necessity. It was either create a love czar or go bonkers. I chose creativity. I think you'd really like Dee W. She is gentle and curious and effortlessly positive. A real find. Her official title is, for funsies, Director of the White House Office of Love and Compassion Policy. Right?!
Dee W is my savior. She created an essential balance to my ever changing emotions. I have so many feelings. I sometimes find myself wandering down the cold wet road of negativity, doubt and darkness. And believe me when I say that I may appear all lovey dovey on the outside, but girrrrl, don't get me started about the rage. Dee W is the light. She is goodness. Light, dark. Good, evil. Yin, yang. Masculine, feminine. These polarities are inevitable. No getting around them. The antidote is balance.
I know this is a lot to digest. Your head is probably swimming right now. But take a deep breath, visualize your greatness and what do you think about Melania? She'd make an awesome love czar! Melania knows you. Her familiarity is key to the success of, dare I say, your legacy. She will look you in the eye and say, "Honey, that idea is whack." She won't back down. Mama will tell it like it is. Melania is the light. She will provide our nation with the balance that is necessary to make America great again.
P.S. If you want to borrow Dee W's official title, go for it. I'm cool. Mi casa es su casa, bro.
When I graduated from college I was a mess. I left UC San Diego with a degree in visual arts and moved in with mom. She lived in Los Angeles. Slowly but surely I stopped rolling cigarettes and the craving for hallucinogens and speed eventually faded. I found work as a security guard but I spent the graveyard shift smoking reefer and sipping pints. Long cold nights in the VW Rabbit, writing big ideas on a tiny notepad, patrolling the scene with only a Maglite 5D for protection. Mom almost bought a Dobermann to keep me company. She was worried. Got a battery powered black and white TV instead. Crap reception mostly. So I would reread what I wrote. Here's an actual note-to-self from 1986:
Character 1 - "Yes, I made dinner. It's chicken. I hope you like chicken."
Character 2 - "Chicken. I like chicken. Chicken is good.”
(Montage of chicken bones with small amounts of moist meat still hanging on. As you see the image of the chicken bones we hear...)
Character 1 - "You like chicken? Shit, you'd kill for chicken."
So yeah. Thankfully mom's landlord knew a guy that worked in Hollywood. I got the job as a set PA on "Kids Incorporated" and writing copy for the music video show, "Night Tracks." Mom was less worried now and she moved out of Los Angeles and settled in a small town called Springville. By this time I was living in Silverlake with my good friend James. I kept up the PA work for awhile until I landed a job as an assistant production accountant on the "Father Dowling Mysteries" in 1990. I didn't see that coming. But then I worked on another show as an assistant and then another and then another and by 1995 I had moved to NYC to be the production accountant on "New York Undercover." Oh my god, is this happening to me, will I ever be an artist? I was afraid of my fate. But then I worked on another show as the accountant and then another and then another and then it was 2016.
But let's back up for a second. I was lying in bed with my friend Kat staring at the ceiling. It was my last year in San Diego and we passed our time doing acid, smoking bowls and drinking beers. Kat asked me if I ever meditated. I gave her a long-winded no. But she got me curious. I consider that day lying in that bed with that woman in that city the beginning of my meditation training. When I eventually left San Diego I had a misty vision for myself. I was going to be a visual artist and meditation was destined to show me the way.
I imagined my future every day I drove around LA delivering scripts and picking up lunch at Le Dome. I kept writing. A friend turned me on to the Siddha Yoga Meditation Center in Santa Monica. I participated in a huge group meditation session with Gurumayi at the Shrine Auditorium. I kept dreaming. I discovered Lilias, Yoga and You on PBS. She taught me yoga as I prepared for another day at the office processing accounts payable and auditing petty cash. I took photos. I bought a piano. I created soundtracks. I kept writing. I bought an HD video camera. I made simple movies. I learned how to process payroll, prepare a budget, apply for a tax credit. I kept writing. I was meditating 12 hours a day now. I slept the rest. When someone didn't get their check on time I was meditating. When I grossly miscalculated a production overage I was meditating. And when I say meditating I don't mean smoking weed. I was really meditating. Definitely jacked up on coffee but breathing deeply and moving forward, solving problems, being mindful. I got frustrated. I hated everybody. But I loved everyone. I learned how to paint with oils. I shared my art on social medias. I'd work until 2am perfecting cost reports. I sexted. I stopped eating chicken. I kept making art. And then it was 2016.
When I moved to Lynchburg with my partner Dee I relied on meditation to say goodbye to a city I cherished for two decades, to acknowledge a profession I depended on for 25 years, to rent a truck, to pack a hundred boxes, to throw away a heap of useless and to drive to a town I basically knew nothing about. But our apartment on Main Street. What a dream. It was all the inspiration I needed (besides a thousand tiny kisses every day) to take another photo, to do another downward dog, to just be at the piano, to write, to believe.
When the Bower Center for the Arts offered me a blank wall to express myself I turned to a trusted friend. A companion that allowed me to appreciate the past. An awareness that gave me the courage to acknowledge my fears yet move forward. Meditation showed me the way.
This is Perpetual Tea, or, Preparing Our Minds for Anything.
The year was 1993. I was holed up in a roadside hotel called the Hilltop Inn. This was in Monroe, NC. I was working as an assistant accountant on four back-to-back TV movies based on the film Smokey and the Bandit directed by Hal Needham. Hal was also directing the spin-offs and his hotel room was right next to mine. We got to know each other. I worked long hours, six days a week. Our accounting staff consisted of three people. My only free day was Sunday so I would drive my rental car to a sports bar in Charlotte to watch the Steelers. Monroe introduced me to the art of stunts, the cicada and minor league hockey. My sweetheart at the time was Penny. She was working in LA while I was in NC. Thinking about her kept me company. While researching this memory and going through my Bandit archives I found this headshot of Traci which basically explains everything else. Bye.
64 ounces of fresh pack. There was a time in my life when I thought a jalapeño was hot. Perhaps I was a bit more sensitive back in the day. Thanks to growing up in Los Angeles and New York City, I've seen a fair dose of heat. I'm simply used to being confronted in this manner. In fact, I can't remember the last time my senses were shocked. But I'm not a full-on tough guy. This doesn't appeal to me. Being a tough guy. Talking trash. Nah. Because the habanero. The habanero has my ass. I whimper to that tempting fruit. Humbled by its chemistry.
In May, 2017, we bought 30 boxes of nag champa. Each box contained 15 sticks. Today we have 13 boxes left, which means, we burn 18 sticks of nag champa per month. Carry on.
God I'm happy to be alive today. Wait, is that too mushy, too pollyanna? Whatever. I don't care. I am going to be super compassionate today. I'm barely gonna say a word. I just want to take deep, deep breaths and be patient with everybody. Just tell me your dreams. I will do yoga and listen.
Today is the day I throw out the garbage. Today is the day I stop using the words good and evil. Today is the day. In our micro community the trash is picked up once a week. There are a dozen apartments that share the same bins. Last week when the buckets were good and empty a family moved out and filled every container to the top with the stuff they no longer needed. In the meantime our coffee grounds and carrot pulp had to live happily in compostable bags on our front porch. We accumlated seven sacks in total. Early this morning a big truck gloriously emptied all the hampers. We were a clean slate once again. As I lugged our watermelon rinds to their final resting place I heard the birds sing and I paused to muse my feelings. As far back as I can remember there have always been perishable feelings in the world. Nothing lasts forever. And each day is filled with a bounty of love and hate feels, good and evil feels, yin and yangs. It is hard for me to articulate these polarities because I believe we are all one big ball of feels. And sometimes what makes me happy makes you sad and vice versa and so on and so forth. The birds don't really care. They sing either way. As I walk back up the stairs to the bounty of our home I am grateful for this reckoning. It looks like rain is on the horizon. Maybe I'll take a picture. I do not know the feelings of another. But I know what is in front of me. It is the energy of everything wrapped up together. It has always been this way.