Archive | July, 2012

Ask and You Shall Receive

19 Jul

On my third day in Bangkok, I decided it was time for me to start trying to act like a grown-up and buy me some food for my apartment. So I went to a big supermarket nearby. My motivation to buy anything waned as I walked down the isles of outrageously expensive groceries. Most of the food was imported from the United States, and therefore was super-pricey. “WTF?” I protested to myself. “I’m not buying any of this stuff!” As I made my way down the appliance isle toward the exit, I felt a strong urge to be indulged with some form of comical relief. The prices of all these Corn Flakes and Wheat Thins and Jiffy Peanut Butters were way too serious for my current state of lightness. I summoned the universe to deliver a laugh-inducing angel immediately. As the saying goes, “Ask and you shall receive,” I stumbled upon a vacuum cleaner that was packaged up in a big box. The front of the box displayed a black and red machine that looked a lot like R2D2 from Star Wars. That machine was obviously the vacuum cleaner. Directly above the machine was a man’s arm flexing an enormous bicep. Only his left bulging chest muscle was in view, and his eyes were half-shut, suggesting that he was getting an orgasm just by gawking at his own perfectly sculpted arm. Next to his clenched fist were three words: Wet, Dry, Blow. Ok…that kind of stuff is funny. As I was chuckling out loud to myelf, I whipped out my camera phone and took a photo of the picture. Moments after, an omnipresent voice from the supermarket heavens spoke to me over a loudspeaker: Please do not take photographs of the merchandise. Then I looked up, still grinning with amusement, and saw three Thai male Earthlings in supermarket staff uniform, sending me daggers of disapproving glare. Shit just got real! It was a pretty hard-core stand-off. I was surrounded on all sides. The four of us were all frozen stiff, just like the cowboys in the Western films who stare each other down during a gun duel. It was time to leave the store. I parted the sea of reproach by diffusing a friendly smile toward my counterparts, put my palms together and apologized to the three gentlemen for having taken a photo. Their faces softened into quirky smiles of acceptance. I strolled outside and thanked the universe for sending the envoy of laughter into a random and quite arbitrary situation. Those boring moments in life seem to have the most potential for exposing that itty-bitty thing we call joy. Ask for it, and you shall receive.

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Last Day in San Francisco

16 Jul

(if you see a # at the end of a sentence, it’s a signal for a footnote, so look down at the end of the blog entry)

 

What’s the secret to life? And what the hell is the secret to happiness? Don’t these two questions want to make you puke all over yourself? They’re so, um, like cliché, disgustingly overused to the point of nausea. But that’s ok, because I’m bringing the art of trite, overused statements and questions back into the spotlight of verbal fashion. Just as many American hipsters will dress like flappers from the 1920s, I’ve decided to bring the art of speaking with clichés back in vogue.# Trite is right, baby. Yeah! But even if you don’t care how strongly I feel about the constant secretion of clichés, perhaps you might be interested in knowing why I love asking questions such as these. I love questions because of their astringent parameters of being. A question can only exist in the context of language. You can ask a question by speaking orally, gesturing with your body, or writing it down on paper. A question is doomed to spend its life under the confinement of linguistic purgatory. And here’s what gets my panties all up in a fit of excitement: an answer to a question is not limited to the confines of language. When we pose questions, they linger in the ether of our consciousness, and wait to be answered in all kinds of ways. For example, about 6 months ago I asked myself, “Allen, what do you want to do next year?” The answer came to me in the form of a mental picture of Asia. Then I got excited and spent the next 6 months doing everything possible to get to Asia. And I did it! I am now sitting in a Being 777 airplane on my way to live in Thailand and teach 5th grade for at least one year. The question of where I wanted to live was so barren of any complexity that I found it quite fun to answer – not through words, but through actions!

What’s the secret to life? What’s the secret to happiness? Don’ t you want to answer these cliché questions yourself? Wouldn’t you want to answer them through actions rather than only words? I love philosophy, but fuck philosophy. It’s way funner# to respond to simple philosophical questions with a good pounding of action. Now, the question is, what’s the appropriate question to ask? As an elementary school teacher, I’ve come to believe that the best questions are asked by kids. Milan Kundera writes, “The only truly serious questions are ones that even a child can formulate.” So if you want to learn about the art of inquiry, then get pregnant and pop out some kiddies, or do what I did – become a school teacher. Or just read my blog. How do you like that for a nail-biting page turner of a blog entry? But wait! There’s more! For an unlimited time I’m offering cool ways to answer great questions! What an awesome deal!

So here’s my favorite question ever: what does a dude gotta do to get some happiness around here? How do I turn up the dial of the dopamine-machine inside my brain in a holistic way; that is, without the help of chemically induced performance enhancers?#

Read on if you want to know the answer. But I’m gonna warn you: this is my answer, not yours. My job is to share it with you. Your job is to get inspired. Just so we’re clear – you let me do my job of inspiring, and I’ll let you do your job of getting inspired. Got it? Good! Here we go:
Yesterday, July 12th 2012, was my final day in the United States. Yesterday was also one of the best days of my life. I spent that day in Marin with my family. First I went to see Luba and Izya, my grandparents in their home. Izya told funny Jewish jokes as usual, Luba spoke in pithy sound-bites of love and smiley gazes of admiration, and I sat on the sofa and did my best to transfer every ounce of merit, which I had accumulated in my lifetime, toward the well-being of my grandparents.

Then I drove up the street for the next love fest with Mom and Dad. After dinner I made moves to head out. I gave Dad a final hug. Then he extended his hand and smiled. I shook it just for a moment and stole a warm grin from him. He sent it with a stamp of unconditional love. I could feel it. At that moment, my life changed forever; I felt the partisans of truth and reality open the gates of a new life for me. But I wasn’t ready to walk through just yet because I still had something to learn from the question, what does it mean to be happy? Mom walked me out to the door. We hugged. I made sure to hug her extra tight. I wanted my hug to convey the message that I really really really really loved her. I didn’t want to say it with my words. So I tried to say it by squeezing harder. And then I felt 5 gallons of tears well up behind the tear ducts under my eyes like a mad surge of water demanding its entry through a wounded damn. That was because I really really love my Mom. And it was because I really really love my Dad. That’s why I found myself in a pre-sobbing-and-crying-like-a-little-girl circumstance. “See you soon,” she said. I stuttered the same in response. Then picked up my bags and walked out toward my car. I was sort of relieved that I didn’t break down in front of her, even though I know if there’s anyone to cry in front of, it’s mom and dad. I realized I forgot my car keys in the house. I shuffled back inside to get them. I gave Mom another hug and she kissed me on the cheek. And then the damn splintered a bit more and I felt a few tears run down the same cheek she’d kissed. I turned away and walked to my car.

In my car I felt safe to cry. As I drove down Regina Way, I asked myself another question: Why am I crying? My question was answered by another torrential downpour of tears. I wasn’t satisfied with this answer. So I asked myself again: Why am I crying? This time the answer came from my grandfather. He happened to be driving up Regina Way as I was driving down. I stopped my car and turned it around. He stopped the car too! I parked behind his car. We both got out and met each other in embrace. I looked in his eyes and saw two windows of compassion. And then the damn, the barrack which guarded all the most of intense emotions in my heart, shattered completely and gave way to a manic flood of tears. “Is everything ok?” he asked.

“Yes,” I sobbed. “It’s very ok.”

Izya leaned his back against my car and said, “You’re crying because you’re happy. That’s a really good reason to cry.”

I stopped crying and listened for further guidance.

“You know, you’re so lucky because you have your Mom and Dad who really love you,” he said. “You have many people in your life who are here for your benefit.”

Then I said, “Yes, I’m crying because it’s so intense – the gratitude I have for everyone in my life.”
Izya went on: “You’re crying because you have a very big heart that understands how to be grateful. I am just as emotional as you! And you’re also wise. Wisdom never goes away. You have it forever. But just because you have wisdom doesn’t mean you won’t act like an idiot. So make sure to act wisely.” I studied his face while he spoke. His gaze was fixed on the outer lands of the universe. His face was soft, filled with wisdom, peace, and unconditional resignation to the truth of everything.

“I’m so happy that you drove up this way,” I stuttered.

He looked up toward the sky and then back at me. Then he said, “It’s He who felt it important for us to meet once again.” (By “He” Izya was referring to G-d). I was overcome with joy. I hugged him, thanked him, and he walked back to his car and drove away.

On my drive back to San Francisco I found myself making a mental list of everything and everyone who’d been responsible for my happy existence. It was a long list and took up the whole 45 minutes of my trip home. As I pulled into the garage, I decided to end my list of gratitude with the guy who I would be spending the last 24 hours before departing for Thailand: my dear brother, Mark. What a perfect way, what a splendid day, to commence a 4-year stretch of good living in beautiful San Francisco. Gratitude, dude: find it, own it, share it.

Thailand, here I come!

 

# The last analogy is not a very accurate analogy. Thus it is termed Allenalogy
# Funner – not a real word