Taking Buddhist Practice into a Taxi Cab

14 Oct

In my first three months in Thailand, I think I’ve learned most of my conversational Thai within the doors and windows of taxi cabs.  Throw your hand out anywhere along a busy street and within seconds a bright blue or pink taxi cab will come zooming up to you.  Step inside and here’s what you’ll most likely see: the interior of the cab adorned with shiny talismans, wallpapered with foreign currency, or plastered with mug shots of the driver’s favorite Theravada Buddhist master.  And most important (in my opinion), a cheery taxi driver with an affable smile and uncanny willingness to do his best to chat in English with you (I say ‘his’ because I’m yet to meet a female taxi driver.  Though I did get one lady, she looked so butch with arms bigger than my legs and spoke with a voice of a 70 year old man with Emphysema.  Sorry, that doesn’t count.  Ok fine, it counts!).  Show him that you’re making an effort to speak Thai and he will become your best friend.  I have made dozens of best friends so far.  And I plan on making more. 

I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for Buddhism, and I find that it can be beautifully practiced while staring at the back of my taxi driver’s head and making sure to say hi to him.  My idea of Buddhist practice is constantly evolving.  It seems like the less I talk about Buddhism and the more I do Buddhism it, the more I feel that I’m practicing it.  And therein lies the one element of Buddhism that never changes in my mind: one won’t find the wisdom or essence of Buddhism in a single book written about it.  I don’t care if it’s written by the Dalai Lama, Thick Nat Han, or G-d!  If you get sold on the teachings of Shakyamuni Gotama – AKA Da Buddha – then better get off the ol’ buttocks off the couch and start practicing them instead of just reading about them. 

 But there is something that absolutely must be read and enjoyed. In fact it’s the following story I’m about to tell.  One evening I got into the taxi and asked the driver to take me to my apartment.  Holding true to my own personal commitment to just say hi, I initiated the conversation by asking him where he was from.  He told me he used to be the owner and operator of a bar and nightclub on a small tropical island of Phuket.  Then the tsunami attacked from the coast and obliterated everything to the ground.  “One moment I have everything, one moment I have nothing,” he explained.  Then I asked him, “So why did you decide to be a taxi driver?” He said, “I chose to be a driver because I wanted to continue serving others.  When I drive, I get to serve.  It makes people happy.  It makes me happy.”  These words will deeply resonate in my heart for a long time.  In my eyes this man is the human prototype for a pretty decent way to go about life. 

 

 

Airport Shinanigans

24 Sep

“This is fucking ridiculous!” I yelled to the lady at the United Airlines ticket counter.  I was pissed, and the whole damn international terminal at San Francisco airport was gonna know it.  I’m a staunch proponent of avoiding the exhibition of anger at all costs, especially when other people are being affected by it.  But that didn’t change the fact that my check-in luggage exceeded the 50 pound minimum.  It didn’t change the fact that I was given an ultimatum by the ticket lady: “Pay us $400 for the excess weight or figure out a way to put some of your shit in another bag.”  I was told to step aside and figure out my problem and then return to the ticket counter when I was ready. It just so happened that I had packed another duffle bag into my suitcase. So I lugged my two carry-on bags and my fat-ass overweight dumb-stupid suitcase over to the side and began shoving stuff into the duffle bag..  It was mostly picture books, board games, shoes and a gallon container of Bumble and Bumble coconut conditioner (Laugh all you want; the books and games were for my 5th grade kids and the conditioner is the only hair product in the world that properly manages my Jew-curls).  I lugged my suitcase back to the counter and threw onto the scale.  The digital screen began the reading: 25 pounds..35pounds…45.……………….65…67.  I blurted out rudely: it’s still not 50 pounds! As if it were somehow her fault that I hadn’t read the disclaimers about maximum baggage weight on my confirmation email.  She calmly shrugged her shoulders and told me to shut my face and keep figuring out a way to get my bag to under 50 pounds.  I was livid, and then I spotted it: I saw my own Fuck-Face Mr. Ego marching right through the gates of my sanity and declare itself the dictator.  I thought United Airlines were so stupid for making these rules.  They just want to do it to make money.  Fuck them! 

 

I went back to my suitcase.  I was sweating like crazy.  I felt as if I were a separate airport exhibit with people saying, “Hey everybody, come over here and look at this tool; he’s losing his mind while he sits by his suitcase frantically throwing his underwear and socks all over the place.”  After a third try, I came back to the scale: 25…35…45…55.  “It’s 5 pounds!” I pleaded to the lady.  I was of course, rejected.  That’s when I yelled, “This is fucking ridiculous!”  Well that didn’t accomplish anything.  So I went back to repacking.  I knew quite well why my bag was so heavy: it carried two massive notepads of lined chart paper that I bought in America to bring back to Thailand for teaching (Thailand gets an A+ grade for being awesome in most areas; however I was saddened by the fact that it’s impossible to find lined chart paper.).   I made the most sobering and difficult decision of the hour: the chart paper would have to go into the trash.  So I took it out and went back to the counter.  The scale read 45.  The ticket lady then strongly urged me that I could still make it work with the chart paper.  “Just try,” she pleaded.  “Don’t throw it all away.”  The scene became comical all of a sudden to me: here’s this lady, who’s got a million other customers to deal with, counseling me through my traumatic airport experience. 

 

But she was too late.  I’d fallen into an irreparable chasm of despair and denial.  “No,” I said somberly.  “There’s no way to make it work.  I’ll just throw the chart paper away.  It’s fine. I just want to get to my plane on time.”  She looked at her watch and then back at me.  “You have an hour,” she said annoyed.  I felt 5 years old, but at the same time comforted by this woman’s unflinching resolve to put my needs before her own.  There was a powerful scent of motherly tough-love in her aura.  Her body language was clearly telling me, “You’re not going to just give up, are you?  Not on my clock you’re not.  Or wait…oh I see, maybe you’re just a big floppy vagina without an ounce of faith and fortitude. Get yourself together, man!  Then she pointed at the zipper of my luggage and firmly said, “Open it.  Take a few pieces of clothing out.  Put the chart paper back in the bag.  Don’t worry.   Like I said, we’ll make it work.”  I followed her commands.  The scale The scale began to drop as I removed articles of clothing.  As I did so, I looked at the lady for direction — physically and emotionally.  “Now take that shirt out,” she said pointing at my clothes. 59 pounds.  “Now take a few more.  We’re almost there.”  I complied.  Scale read 53.  “Ok that’s good enough.”  We’ll take it.

 

I was so frazzled that I didn’t even have the wits about me to show my gratitude to my hero.  I was still disarmed and embattled from the nasty war that had just occurred between my self and my ego.  In the end I had won.  But not without losses: I left the ticket counter with a heavy burden of guilt for having acted like such a jerk toward her.

 

Now I’m on the airplane flying back to Thailand, and I deeply reflect on this experience with an attitude of “It’s all good.  What have I learned from it?”  And I did learn a lot, actually. 

 

I learned first and foremost how happy I am that I have years of consistent practice in various modes of meditation, which helps me see reality for what it is, not for what I think it ought to be.  Yes, there were a few minutes when I was dazzled by the hypnotic allure of my ego, which invited me to indulge in a raging anger-fest, which caused me to be a dick to other people.  Good! I’m glad it happened.  And now I’ll use that experience as fuel to live a happier life.  I’ll do my best to see all circumstances for what they are without letting my negative emotions take over.  But if they do take over, then I’ll let them do their thing and then I’ll move on.  That’s the key for me right there – that’s why meditation is so awesome.  Meditation doesn’t help you never get angry or sad or fearful.  If you never got angry or sad or fearful, then there would be something seriously wrong with you…you’d be a freak of nature or something.  Rather, meditation helps you respond to and deal with your sadness, anger and fear from an objective point of view.  And it’s much easier to manage painful negative emotions when you see them objectively – without judgment or stupid conditional notions such as, “If only things were different, then I would be happier.”  Meditation helps solve the “So what do I do now?“ problem.  This is most important of all because it is our actions (what we do and say) that bring good old happy living to us and to others.  So go meditate, go travel on airplanes, and go say hi to strangers. 

 

And go get angry.  Go worry about bullshit all you want; go get sad and cry everyone a river.  But please don’t worry about your worrying.  And please don’t get sad about you getting sad.  And pretty please with a huge sweet fake cherry on top – don’t get angry at yourself for getting angry. For so many don’ts I have one special DO for you right here.  M-E-D-I-T-A-T-E.  Don’t know how?  Then stop bitching like I did when I was at the airport, and go figure it out! 

The Wanka Challenge – A la Allen

19 Sep

On the second day of school I decided it would make perfect sense to begin reading aloud Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl to my new 5th grade class in Thailand.  I raised the book high in the air for all 14 children to see, and then asked,  “Raise your hand if you ever read this book.”  The class was silent.  “And I’m’ sure you’ve all seen the movie, right?”  I asked.  To my pleasant surprise, only 3 or 4 children raised their hands.  And anyway, I found out that those 3 or 4 kids who claimed to have watched the movie saw the new version with Johnny Dep, which royally sucks ass compared to the original 1974 flick starring Gene Wilder. 

Anyway to prolong my elated surprise a the fact that almost none of my students read the book nor watched the movie, I re-asked just to make sure.  “Wait.  Hang on.  So, you kids are telling me that absolutely positively one-hundred percently none of you read the book nor seen the original Willy Wanka movie?”  The children stared at me with matter-of-fact facial expressions, basically saying, “Duh! That’s what we told you the first time you asked.”

I quickly stood up on an empty chair, raised my hand high in the air, gripping the book and displaying the colorful front cover to the kids.  Of course I didn’t have to make it all so dramatic, but part of the fun of being a teacher is to be dramatic, boisterous, silly, and overly excited about seemingly mundane stuff (It’s also part of my daily Buddhist practice). You know your dramatic play is working when you see children’s bug-eyed facial expressions implying the what’s-he-going-to-do-next attitude.  “Ladies and Gentle-people,” I announced.  “We are about to embark on a very cool journey. The story of Willy Wanka is not just a kid-tale of a boy who gets to visit a dude who makes chocolate. This story is the wisest, most twisted, hair-raising, at-times dark, at-times silly, at-times funny, and at-many-times scary adventure.  It just so happens that this book, which I hold in my hand, is my favorite book ever!”  I successfully completed phase one of my spontaneous show of inspiration.  That is, I threw the hook of excitement; every child took it.  On a psychological level, it pays to put in the effort to find creative ways to get kids excited about stuff from the very beginning.  The expression, “first impression is most important,” is very true when it comes to teaching kids. 

I read through two chapters that day and got to the sad part of the story where Charlie would only receive one chocolate bar once a year for his birthday because his family was too poor to afford anything else.  I read with a somber voice how Charlie would take just a small nibble every day, that that one chocolate bar would last Charlie for months.  Then I paused and asked the children, “Do you guys think you could save one piece of chocolate for as long as Charlie can?”  Most kids said, “No way! I could never!  I love chocolate too much!” 

Then an idea popped into my head.  “Ok boys and girls.  I am now going to make you an offer that you can refuse” Then I paused again and stood still for dramatic effect, scrutinizing the 14 pairs of eyes, which waited eagerly for me continue.  I am offering any of you the most delicious piece of chocolate you’ll ever have.  But first you must agree to take and successfully complete The Chocolate Nibble Challenge.  You must first bring one chocolate bar to school; then you have to show me that you can savor that one bar for a whole month, eating just a little bit of it every day. If you complete this challenge, I will reward you with a morsel of pure chocolate joy.   

Though many kids announced that they were up for the challenge, only Ada took the initiative to go through with it.  Ada is younger than the other children – technically in 4th grade.  She’s a gem – bright smile, very intelligent, compassionate, always optimistic, and eager to learn.  I became friends with her right away.  I would say that she is the leading seamstress for the positive social development of our classroom community. 

The next day, Ada came to me with a chocolate bar and a 30-day calendar that she created at home. She took the first nibble in front of me.  Then we put the rest of the bar in a Ziplock bag and I placed it in my desk drawer.  I gave Ada special permission to open my desk drawer once a day to take a nibble. 

Like clockwork, Ada would wait until the end of the school day, until all children were gone.  Then she would whimsically skip to my desk, usually humming a tune to some song, and take a nibble.  Now I could really get into the deeper meanings of this silly Nibble Challenge, such as friendship building, the practice of self-control and non-attachment to Self and one’s thoughts, and cultivating a shared experience of joy between a student and her teacher.  But I’m not going to get into it because, well, I just did.  I mean, I won’t write a million more pages about it.  All I will say is that I was so pleased at the whole shindigity process, beginning with my announcing the challenge up through 30 days later when Ada announced she had successfully completed the trial.  On day 30, she showed me her calendar, which displayed 30 boxes (one for each day) with an X drawn in each one. 

“You did it! Ada! You passed the test! You won!”  I exclaimed.  I purposefully used Willy Wanka’s (played by Gene Wilder) exact words and excitement at the end of the movie when he tells Charlie that he was the only child to prove his virtue as a sincere and compassionate human being.  I saw Ada in the same way as Wanka saw Charlie.  And in some weird way, I felt like I’d been playing the role of Willy Wonka since the beginning of the school year.

On the next day I went to the 7-11 store and bought a milk chocolate Hershey bar.  I gave it to Ada after school and said, “Ada, this bar is made by an American company, one of the first and oldest chocolate companies ever.  If this were a Wanka bar, then it would be Wanka’s very first invented chocolate bar.”  That last sentence didn’t make any sense to me as the words streamed out of my mouth.  But at that point, neither Ada nor me were operating at the level of words.  Ada was jumping up and down, smiling ear to ear, clapping her hands and squealing with her subtle Thai accent, “Allen!  Thank You Thank You Thank You! I never had Hershey bar before.  Thank you Thank you Thank You!” She hopped out of the room, yelping with frenzied elation,  “Thank You Allen!  Thank You!”  As her voice trailed off down the hallway, I took a few moments to sit quietly and allow myself the opportunity to just be in the present moment.  Why did I just want to be?  Because the last few minutes with Ada were very precious for me.  And I didn’t want to aimlessly shift my mind toward some other arbitrary thing.  I wanted to feel an understanding of what had just happened.  Whatever it was, it was beautiful. 

It was beautiful because Ada inspired me to be like her. To find bliss in the smallest nooks and crannies of everyday life; to find truth and joy in everything that happens in the here and now.  Ada reminded me the importance of seeking bliss in the smallest things in life.  She had found holiness – truth – purity – in every moment that led up to the enjoyment of a plain old Hershey bar.  

Later that same afternoon, I found a letter on my desk.  It was from Ada and it read:

Dear Allen,

Thank you so much for the Hershey Bar.  It was the most FANTASTIC chocolate bar I ever had.  I am so happy!  If it’s ok with you, I would like to take another Nibble Challenge for _________________ months (Allen: please write how many months).  You can put this letter in my desk and I will see it tomorrow.  Thank you!

Love

Ada

 

 

 

Serendipity Strikes Again

5 Sep

Serendipity.  I dare you to be as nerdy and sappy as me – take a moment to let the exquisite music of this 5-syllable word ring through your soul.  Se-ren-di-pi-ty.  Hot damn, that’s a sexy word!  Last year it soared to the top of the charts as the number-one word of the year in Allen’s Brain.  And today, Serendipity won best lead role for bringing joy to my life for a second straight year. 

Serendipity is a sexy, yet sneaky little bitch.  She’s a piper, luring me tenderly with music of pleasant surprises, radiating warm beams of joy throughout my existence.  But then she always removes my platter of its bliss it bestowed like a child being punished with no supper for being a naughty boy.  Serendipity is the universe, the ultimate teacher who loves to test my capacity to do the following acts with sincerity and gratitude: to give to others, to show discipline, to persevere, to practice compassion, to meditate, and to share wisdom with others.

She came by this morning and said hi.  She stayed with me all day and helped me share joy with my 5th grade kids, to put smiles on their faces.  Then after school she followed me to the local neighborhood grocery store across the street from my apartment, where I bought some groceries and was invited to sit on the outside stoop of the shop with the owner and share a beer.  All the while, Serendipity sat quietly and carefully scrutinized my behavior.  She rewarded me with the owner’s request to tutor her 6-year-old son in English.  I accepted the offer.  Then Serendipity followed me into the elevator of my apartment building as I said hi to two strangers – a guy and his girlfriend. During the ride between the first and third floor – where the couple lived – we became good friends.  We exchanged phone numbers and smiles, and I was invited to go camping with them and their friends.  From the 3rd floor to my 8th, Serendipity handed over a big bundle of rapture. 

Thank you, Serendipity.

Faster Than the Speed of Light!

2 Sep

Polly, a friend and fellow co-worker at school recently asked me, “What inspires you to write?”  Her question made me really happy.  I basked in this joy for a few seconds, savoring its ephemeral stint of narcotic bliss.  And then I told her the brief timeline of events since childhood: how as an 8 –year-old I would write stories about space aliens; then as a teenager I would write poems filled with angst and desire for love; and then as a world traveller I would write personal short narratives about my experiences harmonizing with strangers and how much joy it would bring me.  After our conversation, I reflected on why I got so much joy when she first asked me this question.  And I know the answer.  Finally, after 32 years of searching, I unexpectedly found but one more answer to a self-imposed existential question: what is the purpose of my writing?  I write in hopes of inspiring other people, not to bring joy to others – it’s impossible to bring joy to another person – but to share joy with others.  How fast do you think you can travel through space and time?  The answer is simple.  Well it’s simple to me at least.  It came crashing into me with full bloom just a few minutes ago when Oom and I were both splurging our sappy feelings about how we both inspire each other.  

I then said to her, “You know, there is one way to travel faster than the speed of light.  It happens when two people find themselves open to each other’s inspiration.  So, congratulations – you and I are travelling faster than the speed of light…RIGHT-NOW.”

Oom said, “Yes, it is faster than anything else.”

And I said, “Almost impossibly fast – ALMOST.”

So why do I write? To express another shade of nirvana – to share resplendent inspiration with others – to share joy with others – to do it all together – so that I can feel what it’s like to travel faster than the speed of light with a beautiful person such as Oom. 

But you gotta start from somewhere before you go that fast, right?  You start by saying “hi” and see what happens…I’d say there’s a pretty good chance that you’re gonna speed up. 

Serendipity (from 2011)

2 Sep

It’s only been ten days since I embarked on a journey to New York City.  What is a journey?  This is a philosophical question that’s lately nudged itself up close to me.  I’ve already been on many dates with this question. It’s an idea that I cuddle with all the time.  It doesn’t beat getting into bed with another sexy body.  But at least the idea of journey gives me an emotional and intellectual orgasm every time I decide to travel somewhere.    My first and second grade kids helped me define what journey means to me.  At the end of last year we picked the theme of journey for our end of the year class project.  As the project came to life in the form of child-driven experience, I noticed that every child had his or her own unique idea of journey.  I transcribed quotes on the meaning of journey from every student.  Not a single child even remotely said the same thing.  Journey means: running from one place to another in the playground; watching horses at the race track; traveling on an airplane to Hawaii, riding in a car to a mysterious place of the unknown.  Such a variation of ideas really opened my eyes to what journey means to me. Journey is a dedication to explore not just the physical world, but the emotional self – to dig deep into the gold mines of the conscious and the heart.

The title for my NYC adventure is Serendipity.  It was inspired by a very cool conversation I had with Daniel Wilner, a dear friend of mine who currently lives in Brooklyn.  We met at a coffee shop for a much-anticipated reunification of catching up.  He shares a very similar view of traveling that I do.  He gets excited about travel.  He writes detailed stories and profound reflections of his adventures. I shared my excitement for travel, how every step of the way, every fragment of experienced awareness lends itself to coincidences, yet they are really so much more than coincidences.  For some reason I was having trouble articulating my feelings about the subject to Dan.  I talked and talked, well overdue for a break.  But Dan respectfully listened until I was done with my pleonastic speech.  Finally I was done.  Dan looked at me and paused.  The pause must have been made for dramatic effect.  He was sporting a grin that was an eloquent overture to the word that was about to define my feelings, and ultimately to identify the title of my journey.  He said, “Serendipity.”  Then he paused again for more impeccable drama.  But the pause was not long enough for me to extract my own definition for serendipity. “A coincidence beyond coincidence,”  he said.  I got so excited I felt myself jump out of my seat because that’s exactly what I felt time and again on my travels.

Serendipity – a coincidence beyond coincidence; the accidental discovery of something pleasant.  Yeah baby yeah!  It happened a million times every day in the summer of New York City, 2011!  Thank you Dan Wilner for bestowing me with the perfect literary abode and anchor for the things that brought me tons of joy.

Onward with the story.  On the last night at NYC, I headed east bound from Manhattan on the L-train to Izya’s loft in Williamsburg.  I received a text from him saying, ‘Hurry and get over here. I steeped some tea and its almost ready.’  I was really looking forward to sit in peaceful low-lit environment, without any terrorizing alcoholism or debaucherous partying; just to sit on the floor, drink tea, listen to chill-out music and talk about everything important and everything not important.  I am always grateful to Izya for his company. I was also grateful for him giving me a place to stay.  And that gratitude really hit me when I was already on the train.  To show my gratitude I wanted to get him something nice.  So I boarded off the train at Bedford Ave and bought him the following: Nutella, fresh bread, chocolate chip cookies, and a bottle of kick-ass cognac.  Late night trains didn’t run often so I tried to be hasty and get back to the station.

As I scampered down the stairs I heard the unmistakable sound of the train and the robotic voice announcing, “The next Brooklyn-bound L Train is now arriving.  Please stand back from the platform edge.”  I swiped my metro card at the turnstile.  The card had insufficient funds to allow me through.  Fuck! I thought.  I rushed to the ticket machine to purchase add value to my ticket.  “We’re unable to read your card, please try again,” the machine told me.  Fuck! Fuck! I’m gonna be late.  I tried again and again.  “Please stand clear of the closing doors,“ said the male robot voice.  Then a double beep and the soft whooshing of the closing doors.  There was really only one word in my mind as I stood in front of my card machine: “FUCK!“ The air was hot and humid.   The sweat on my face was adding on at least 10 more self-spoken ‘fucks’ in my head.  So I relaxed the frenetic rush to get a ticket and slowed down.  what’s the point of hurring now?  It’s going to be at least 20 minutes until the next train.  But all of a sudden there was an announcement of an approaching L train to Brooklyn!  That never happens so soon!  My fucks turned to Yes’s.  All I had to do was insert a few dollar bills and I would be on my way.  The machine handed me my metro card.  I swiped it at the turnstile.  “Insufficient funds” read the screen.  I tried again.  Same message.  I looked back to see an angry mob of hipsters with plat shirts and skinny moustaches glaring at me.  The girls in the crowd were no happier.  Layers of makeup, spandex and high heals, rock-n-role vintage t-shirts.  The boys and girls behind me were incensed by my inability to go through.  I didn’t blame them for feeling and looking so irate.  For they would surely miss the arriving train unless I stepped away from the turnstile.    I gave my card to the train agent. And he SLOWLY, EVERY-SO-SLOWLY examined it with his hands.  He even brought it up to his nose as if to smell it.  What the fuck!!  Please!  Just let me in! I’m late for tea!  I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date! No time to say ‘hello goodbye,’ I’m late I’m late I’m late!  Finally he let me in through the gate.  I sprinted down the steps to catch the train but it really was too late.  The train was gone.

FUCK! It could be another 30 minutes till the next train.  I immediately realized the distress I had created in myself.  And I redirected my attention to the man playing music right in front of me.  He strummed a guitar and jingled with two tambourines, each one attached to a foot.  Every step he took made a jangling noise.  I watched him intently, realizing how my tardiness really brought me to this moment of serendipity – to enjoy the music.  This guy was absolutely amazing.  People trickled onto the platform, and stopped to watch.  The train riders formed a half-circle around the performer.  He made eye contact with everyone, smiling at each person and nodding his head as he jammed.

And then he made eye contact with me and descended the music to a quiet hum.  “Hey man!” he shouted at me.  “You look just like my best friend!  About 30 years ago we traveled the country on our motorcycles.  That’s it!  You’re him 30 years ago.  Amazing!  That was in the 60s.  I was young, excited, full of energy.”

“You still are full of energy!” I said.

 “Yeah you’re right,” he said.  He looked so relaxed, so happy, so confident.

 As we talked, the audience who came to listening to the music were now listening to our conversation.  I secretly hoped that the train would be delayed for 30 minutes because I had such a strong desire to hang out with this guy and listen to more music.  But within moments of this hope, I heard the announcement of the arriving L train in one minute.  I almost blurted out,  “I wish the L train would not be coming so soon so I could hear more o your jam.”  But I didn’t say that because I really wanted to go see Izya.  I placed $2 into his open guitar case and thanked him for the conversation and for playing.  He thanked me for listening.

I entered the L train with an uncontrollable smile.  My thoughts were none.  I felt empty and happy.  It was nirvana. Emptiness and joy.  I whipped out my Moleskin notebook and jotted the notes of this experience.  As I was writing, my eyes stumbled upon a girl across from me.  She was also holding a notebook and pen.  She was looking right at me.  I loved her modest grin, which seemed to whisper, ‘Hello fellow reflector of thoughts. Happy writing to ya!’

Then I felt crazy intense gratitude for the entire chain of events that led me to the present moment.  But I was also interested to say hi to the girl.  I got up from my seat and slumped over to glimpse at her notebook.  This is what the notebook said: “I am grateful for:” and then there was a list of 10 things she was grateful for.  “Serendipity,” I thought to myself.  I bent down to her eye level and said, “I’m sorry to peep at your writing, but I love that you are thinking about gratitude.  I was doing the same thing.”  She shared her enthusiasm about the practice of being grateful.  I shared my own excitement about it.  I wished her the best of luck and left the train at the Morgan stop.

My 5-minute walk to the loft was heavenly.  I couldn’t stop smiling.  I didn’t bother wrapping myself in thoughts of why I was happy.  I just was.  Emptiness was the game.

 I was not late for tea.

 

I am the Egg Man

7 Aug

My daily elevator ride between the 8th floor of my apartment and ground level is rarely a solitary ride. I’m often accompanied by Thai folks doing the same thing as I – that is, riding the elevator. Duh! Today I began my ride on the first floor with a guy carrying several bags of groceries. He hit number 11 for his floor and looked at me to tell him what floor I wanted him to push. “Pa-eed” I said – 8. He understood right away and pushed the button for the 8th floor. When people understand and respond to my Thai (not the alcoholic drink), I can feel a new part of my brain, left dormant for most of my life, light up like a Christmas tree. In other words, I get excited when people know what the heck I’m saying.

He asked me where I was from. I gave him the quick rundown: I’m a teacher at an international school, I’ve been here for three weeks, and I’m from America.

The elevator arrived at the 8th floor, the doors opened, and on my way out I quickly introduced myself and asked for his name.

“I am the Egg Man,” he said with a smile.

If you’re a Beatles fan, I know you know the song that was queued in my head: “I am the eggman…aaahhhh, they are the eggmen…aaahhhhh, I am the walrus – cookoogachu!”

“You are the egg man?” I asked with a curious grin.

“Yes!” he said with a huge smile showing all his pretty white teeth. “I am the Egg Man! I’m a DJ. The-Egg-Man. I play at the Hollywood club.

I took out my cellphone and gestured that I was ready to type his email in my phone.

“Egg,” he said.

“Egg?” I responded.

“Egg,” he repeated. I’m The Egg Man.

“You are the Egg Man. Ok I got that. But what is your email?

“Egg,” he said again.

Meanwhile the elevator doors continued to close. But I stood in the middle and made sure that nobody would be going anywhere until I had his email down right.

I gave him my phone and told him to just type it in. The first letter was an X.

“Ah!” I exclaimed. You’re not the Egg Man. “You’re The X-Man! DJ X-Man!”

He smiled and nodded his head in agreement. “Yes yes! I am the Egg Man!”

I laughed. He laughed. We both laughed without knowing why the other was laughing. It was good fun.

“Ok, DJ X-Man,” I said. “Sa-wa-dee-kap! Have a good night. I’m looking forward to seeing your show!”