9-9-9

Yeah, you know the date today already and I’m sure you’ve read about how it’s lucky in Japan, unlucky in China, how it’s the devil on his head and all that,  but I don’t ascribe to numbers even though 9 was my lucky number growing up because it was my baseball number and because I thought it was a cool number to have as a lucky number, truthfully nothing lucky ever happened to me with the number 9, so I won’t belabor this whole 9-9-9 thing any longer.

I woke up a minute before my alarm clock went off. I hate when that happens because it feels like you got robbed somehow of a minute of sleep. Oh well, I only need 6 hours of sleep anyway. Some people say, insist, they need 8, 9, 10 hours of sleep. It’s a boring conversation so I won’t go on, even more boring than hearing about people’s “wacky” dreams. I don’t really dream, except when driving over the hill into the valley, so I’m lucky, I guess, not to bore people with tales of how I was in a hot air balloon but it suddenly became a submarine and there was a girl I liked on board but when I went to kiss her she turned into a sea monster and then without cause we both were sitting in class naked but were giant lollipops instead of mere human and sea monster. Yeah, lame.

After years of hardline Atheism I’ve finally come to accept God… as a metaphor. There is a God inside me and it’s me. Yeah, ‘I’m spiritual but not religious’ is a common refrain these days but what does it really mean. Is there anyone who will proudly claim to be a materialist? We all think there is something under the surface brewing that causes this magical experience called life, just most of the intelligent people don’t claim to know what that thing is, and especially don’t think it’s Him.

I’m Buddhist, but that doesn’t mean I believe Buddha levitated or turned water into wine. I’m not sure Buddha existed, and it really doesn’t matter. Sometimes when I’m meditating I picture the seasons happening in my chest. When I breath in it’s the hot air of summer filling my lungs, when I breathe out winter escapes in my exhales.

FDR was a Buddhist when he said, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

When I’m jogging and I feel my heart drumming wildly like Jon Bonham and sweat is pouring down my chest like the mighty, mighty Mississippi my thoughts work in meditative patterns. I wrote this entire blog in my head, or rather it wrote itself while I was busy watching the intersections for cars and admiring the hydrangeas in front yards.

I hopped over a curb and thought, ‘wouldn’t it be nice to be a bird and alight from tops of trees in programmed cohesion with my flock.’

If I wasn’t Buddhist I would be a pagan. People think that’s weird but I just think of paganism as a religion with a bunch of middle managers, help spread the responsibility around.

One day every religion will by a myth. All of us will be dead ancestors. It’s nothing to get sad about, or to fear. It’s something to get up and dance over, to toast your friends and loved-ones now, and say, “blessed are those who live for tonight, for we are the party-makers.’

Happy Devil On His Head Day, y’all.

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Trash And Buddha And Hand-held Misery And How They All Come Together In The Receptical Of My Heart

Trash blows around the parking lot below my window. Where does it all come from? There’s a cup from the taco shop three blocks away sitting by my front tire. There’s a squirrel running on a wire, delicately traversing from a tree to a rooftop. I can sit here for hours and watch nothing happen. Watch it all slowly with the eyes of an enlightened vagabond. The front page of last week’s newspaper has plastered itself against the garage door.

It’s Thursday. Another week almost gone without finding the words to insert in the parenthesis of my life. (   ?   )

Love. Money. Drugs. Clothes. Drink. Jokes. TV Sitcoms. Home Decor. Religion. Travel. Politics. CNN. Video Games….

It’s all finely designed distraction from your original mind. Peace… the only drug worth doing. The rest is just hand-held misery. Portable poisons, take with you where ever you go.

We seek constant entertainment.

I coil in fear from having nothing to do. I must keep doing something. Writing. Eating. Drinking. Reading… even meditating keeps me distracted from sitting in peace. Take a deep breath I tell myself. You feel that? That’s your life blowing in and out.

Buddha pushes a shopping cart and stops to look in a trashcan. His hand disappears and he shifts through it for empty cans, pulls one out.  I can see that someone had been drinking Modelo Especial and realize it is mine. When you shake it you can hear the lime wedge rattle like a castanet.

The economy is going to hell. I’m between jobs myself but I realize that hell is a place in your mind and not anywhere the economy can go, so I disagree with myself about the economy going to hell, it’s just bad right now, and then I realize that I do it all the time, disagree with myself — that is the only true hell. Discomforted Mind. Unsure Mind. Untamed Mind. It’s hard having a mind built on contradiction. I say I am an artist and belch and then down two shots of Makers Mark and order two more and tell the bartender I am a Buddhist too!

If I was either, I’d probably be more miserable. That’s the irony. A more tortured Artist. A more aware Buddhist. No. I’m probably better off just being plain-old me. A pretender of the Arts. A mocker of Buddhism. Another soul cast amid the splendid beauties of Mara: the pleasures that are really obstacles, the highs before the lows. Samsara is the routes I cling to to escape the suffering, the discomfort and all that, boredom, unease, insecurity. Feeling like every second you must be a movie star, or loved, or admired, but feeling like you’re never any of these things… that’s Samsara.

My heart feels like an empty vessel, a trashcan waiting for abuse, both the mean and pleasurable kind. Come throw your love, your criticism, your affection, your praise, your anger, into it. Come fill me up with the trash it craves. Craving the cringe. Yearning for the irk. That’s how this life gets you. There’s Samsara on every billboard in L.A. It’s what keeps the economy floating until it sinks like the piece of shit that it is.

Yeah, I’m not feeling very good right now and that’s alright! It’s  just how I feel and there’s no escaping it.  Not right now…

When I’m looking at the clouds I don’t see shapes. I see tiny molecules of water suspended in the sky.

I tell myself to smile… fake it… Buddha laughs at me every time I get like this.

“It’s okay,” he says, “You’re human.”

Ventura Blvd. Deities

It was a hot April day in the city of angels. My friend called me at midnight to see if I wanted to toss the Frisbee. “There’s no moon out,” I told him.

I just finished a root beer float. Dr Brown’s Draft Root Beer and Double Rainbow French Vanilla. After catching up on this week’s episode of Lost I’m up in the loft staring at a statue of Buddha throwing his hands in the air, wondering why he’s smiling like that.

Like I’ve already said, there’s no moon out, so the only light in the sky is coming from a billboard on Ventura Blvd.

I can’t make out the image but being illuminated and exalted in the air, to the uninitiated eye, it’s easy to mistake the billboard for something worshiped. Perhaps that’s all the statues on Easter Island were: Advertising.

Church steeples and the golden arches are not that different.

This section of Ventura Blvd where I live hosts a hodgepodge collection of spiritual assistance. There’s the Scientology center. A Shaolin Temple for karate. A New Age bookstore. And a Starbucks. All within a block of one another. Those modern deities and theologies share the same sidewalk, the same public space; like the Gap and Foot Locker at the mall. Mocca Lattes and Krsna.

L.A is home to many an inquiring soul. Willing to buy anything.

A friend was over earlier and we discuss the role of religion in society. He suggested that anarchy would ensue if religion would to ever disappear. I argued things would mostly stay the same.

I don’t believe it’s the fear of retribution that keeps us in line. We act from an internal morality that exists outside indoctrinated theology. It’s for our species benefit not to kill each other, to not sleep with other’s mates, so that we won’t kill each other, to not steal, so that we won’t kill each other, and on and on.

I believe Gods have proven to be disposable over time.

Religion are caterpillars, myths are butterflies. Butterflies and lady bugs, they’re the only insects people beckon to land on them.

Myths are endearing cultural artifacts, no more dangerous than bedtime stories, while contemporary Gods still have the power to cause people to believe in falsehoods. Modern Gods can still “strike us down” — that is, if you believe they can. It’s tragic, in my eyes, to go through life never knowing the truth: that we are divine.

We are the higher power to whom we supplicate.

Religion is an act of stealing that away from us.

And there’s always another God ready to take their predecessor’s place.

To receive our stolen tribute.

Lately I’ve been trying to imagine what the next God(s) would look like.

Who’ll replace the man in the sky with the white beard and angels with harps?

What will the churches for this God look like?

I’m predicting, although I won’t be around to witness it, that the next God will be incredibly small. A nano-God. The size of a cell perhaps. Or the electron inside a cell. The next God will be within. A pulse, or a receptor in your brain. The next God won’t be so old, it will always be being born. It will be personal. A feeling. It will have a million names. It will take any shape you wish.

The next God might be a freckle on the cheek of your lover.

A song, you once heard, that made you feel good.

And there will be no churches.

Say it! I have abandoned my child.

Bob’s Big Boy, Buddha, and More

This weekend some buddies and I went out for a late night dinner at the wonderfully old school Bob’s Big Boy in Burbank. It was filled with USC fans that looked like they were members of the class of 53′, barrel-shaped bellies proudly wearing the red and gold held up tables of food. I was surrounded by their voracious appetites, the men wiping crumbs from their lips and excitedly talking about the game.

Since when did Bob’s become the after party spot for senior Trojan fans?

Even though my friend and I weren’t sharing plates we each held fundamental reservations about both ordering the chicken fried steak. We felt uncomfortable ordering it if the other guy was too.

“What’s up with that?” I wondered aloud. “What does it matter?”

“I don’t know, but if you’re getting it I’m going to get something else,” he grumbled.

“No, you can have it,” I told him. “I’ll get the fried chicken.”

More and more gray-haired Trojan fans arrived and took their places in front of plates of food and their wives as we enjoyed our meals and talked guy-talk while the Saturday night revelers sped by in their dark cars, heading for some apple martini-flavored salvation.

A gentlemen strode in casually wearing sandals, shorts, and a thin white tank top and with the longest, flowingest white beard to give God himself a run for His money. The man’s eyes were tiny marbles set deep in a cheerful face. I could see from across the room they sparkled with a kind of mad joy only found in the truly enlightened, or insane.

And right then I understood the Truth, the one with the capital T , there is no difference.

The saints and the syphilitic both shiver under the weights of their consciousness. The asylum inmates talk in tongue, the churchgoers shout out nonsensically to imaginary people. Rock stars author gospels more in tuned with my living soul than a dusty hotel book.

I used to think this homeless guy near my house was Buddha because he had a round stomach and never talked and had a sorta serene look on his face always. He seemed at peace with his possession-less existence, as if it was by choice, he never begged. Something else unique about the man, he never made eye contact, always aimed his stare at the space in between people.

He was suffering, assuredly, yet somehow for some reason I nominated him my personal Buddha. I looked at him for inspiration, taking some cue on how to be, admiring his ability to sit on the bus bench for hours and not give in to want or boredom, as if he hid a secret in his bedraggled being.

Then one day I passed him a few miles from where he normally hung around. He was stumbling forward with a determined yet faltering gait, as if some immortal beast was nipping at his heels. I was surprised to catch him muttering and snapping at the air around him. He was indisputably mad, out of peace within himself, it was crushing to see a saint of yourself come crashing to earth so predictably.

Since then I’ve left the random idol worship alone, until the man in the tank top with the white beard that ordered pancakes at midnight on Saturday. Just when we were touching napkins to our lips and symbolically dropping them on our plates I turned around and quickly studied him sitting there under the amber lamp with the ridge veins cascading down the chandelier forming an oval over his head, his soul radiating a holy glow. (I’m assuming I don’t need to explain the image he cast.) As he poured maple syrup, he caught me staring, gave me a knowing wink and took his alms with one giant, jaw-grinding bite. His wife sat across from him smirking over his rude table manners. He might not be Buddha, but there was something there to aspire to, a gentle contentment and glow.

Outside, the night hadn’t cooled down at all, it was almost 90 degrees at one o’clock in the morning. How could it still be so hot with the sun nowhere to be seen?

Driving back to the apartment, saying goodbye to my buddies on the sweltering sidewalk, the stars above mere pin-sized dots on the mauve roof of the world, I had a vision of myself twenty years from now, eating pancakes, a long white beard sopping up the syrup, my wife shaking her head at something I said, and I didn’t mind it at all.

21st Century Cross

It is no secret that I’m an atheist and adamantly so. What may surprise you is that I am fascinated by religious iconography, especially the cross and prayer candles. I am also partial to saints.

The symbols are interesting to me, despite being a non-believer the passion behind faith is awesome to ponder. Religion is a force in the world, albeit one I watch from the sidelines, a mover of man you can’t help but to address as an artist.

I messed around with the cross, incorporated some of my heroes.

I have made a bunch of these with different gems. Different colors.

I plan on making more once I get off my sinfully lazy butt.

Here’s a closer look.

Left to right:

Underneath is Johnny Cash, flipping the bird. Probably before June, while he was still drinking and hell-raising.

What’s it all mean?

I could ramble off a short discourse about the polemical nature of art and its intersection with religion and culture and commerce and how in America, in the 21st Century, we worship celebrities – and our adulation often brings them down, sorta like what’s-his-face, they set themselves on fire so we can stay warm – even religion itself has produced celebrities through televangelists and novels like the Left Behind series; why can’t we mash it all up and come up with our own modern allegories?

But that would be a lie.

I just think they’re cool.

Now, who wants one?

Sorry about the picture quality folks, rounded glass is a riddle to photograph.

God in L.A.?

I think God has forsaken L.A.

That’s okay, He doesn’t really fit in around here anyway. Don’t bother looking, He’s not on any of those star maps either.

There was a wild river that was the lifeblood for the Native Americans in this area for hundreds of years before we came along and sealed it in cement, at least we had the decency to kick the Native Americans out before we did that.

It now looks like this.

There were creeks everywhere too, now they’re just the names of our streets.

One day, far, far from now, some form of people will study our graffiti like ancient Sanskrit, trying to deduce the meaning of our religion, our way of life.

In this scenario, taggers will become unlikely Gods.

On my quest to find religion in L.A. I come across the question:

Is it possible to worship a sewar?

Mitt Takes a Hard Stance Against Polygamy

I know Romney is a Republican and that comes with a stricter “moral code” than the rest of us, that whole ‘my shit don’t stink’ bullshit they’re inhaling over on the right, but Romney’s comments tonight concerning polygamy was really going over the top. Even for an elephant.

Now he’s blowing smoke up all of our asses.

From Rueters: The former Massachusetts governor, whose great-grandfather had five wives and whose great-great-grandfather had a dozen, said in an interview to be broadcast on Sunday that the practice banned by the Mormon church in 1890 was “awful.”

“That’s part of the history of the church’s past that I understand is troubling to people,” he said, according to comments to be aired on the CBS network’s “60 Minutes” television program. Excerpts were released on Thursday.

“I have a great-great grandfather. They were trying to build a generation out there in the desert and so he took additional wives as he was told to do. And I must admit, I can’t imagine anything more awful than polygamy,” he said.

That quote looks more phony than a green Spiderman on Hollywood Boulevard.

It goes back to Romney’s entire campaign, his hunter gaffe, the flip-floppity on abortion, his carefully enameled smile, the guy stinks of pandering.

Really, Mitt? You can’t imagine anything more awful than polygamy? I know you’re just trying to dispel any ties to the practice, and trying to show how mainstream you and your faith are, but don’t you think that’s a little much?

First, there are many things worse in the world than multiple wives. War. Poverty. Environmental calamities. All things that your party seems to take appallingly lightly. I won’t get on some Maxim, Frat-boy rant about how you could even argue that polygamy, maybe just for a night, might even be fun. I’m just saying, the argument could be made. Point is: spare us your mock penitence, your holy outrage.

This is what you should do.

Tell the reporter that what your great-great grandfather did out in the desert with all his wives is none of his business. While you’re at it, tell him to forget the fact that you believe in a religion founded by a con man too, the L. Ron Hubbard of the 19th century.

I wonder if Mormons consider it bigoted to compare their religion to Scientology, and I wonder if Scientologists would consider the Mormons’ complaint bigoted.

I see their ideological quibbling unfolding in vaudeville fashion. The two sides expressing their umbrage at being compared to the other and defending their religion with “facts” at their disposal, the rhetorical arguments growing evermore outlandish, snowballing, ending with proclamations about Joseph Smith’s magic rocks and Xenu’s alien space ships.

I would pay money to see them debate the merits of their “faith” on a stage.

What a show it would be.

They’re both wasting their breath, anyway. We know what the one true faith is.