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Wednesday
Apr012015

The Teachings of Lone Mt. Roshi

The old man emerged like steam off coffee, slow, kinda swirly. He looked like Ben Kenobi might look if Ben Kenobi had long white hair and a long white beard, so more like Gandalf but without the wizard hat. No lightsaber. But he did look rich with Force, though old and decrepit. In fact, he would have blended right in with the jagged desert rocks had he not steamed into slow, swirly emergence.

“Excuse me, sir. But are you Lone Mt. Roshi?” Jon asked him, wiping sweat from his brow.

“It depends who’s asking!” he cried and held his staff aloft. “I am no gold sandy beach for sunbathing tourists with cocoa butter and floppy hats!”

“Huh?”

“Who’s asking?”

“My name is Jon, sir, and I have driven my Saturn Vue 3.6 miles and scaled these 600 feet to seek refuge in your wise council.”

“Do you know, Jon, when you’re smoking crack and your mind is racing about how you’ll obtain more crack before you’ve even enjoyed the boulder in your pipe?”

“Indeed.”

“This is not good. Think hard on this.”

“But—” But nothing, for Lone Mt. Roshi had dissolved into the rocks like cream in coffee.

*

Several years later, Jon drove his Saturn Vue 3.6 miles to summit, on foot, Lone Mountain’s 600 feet and Lone Mt. Roshi taught him how to tie a noose.

“No, dummy—over, then under, around, around, around. Like this!” All afternoon they tied nooses. When Jon tried to talk or ask questions, Lone Mt. Roshi gazed wordlessly at the Las Vegas Strip until the questions were no longer questions; they were nooses.

“There!” Jon had mastered noose tying as the dark swallowed the sun. Orange and violet death spasms. 

“Well done HA HA HA! Very well done, Jon. But what good is the perfect noose without sturdy, weight bearing beams in one’s garage?”

“But—” 

*

Several years later, Jon drove his Saturn Vue 3.6 miles to summit, on foot, Lone Mountain’s 600 feet and Lone Mt. Roshi was very pleased with Jon’s earnest will to pass through the Twin Gates of drug addiction and suicidal ideation.

“Addiction and death are but mendacious escapes from the wily labyrinth of selfhood! Merely artificial sweeteners when I have come seeking sugar!” Jon announced in keeping with a unified coffee metaphor.

“Very good,” said Lone Mt. Roshi, rubbing his beard and nodding slowly, “Next time, bring tea.”

Friday
Mar272015

A Slam And A Caw

All the fascinating people with the golden things to say were at a different party, earlier tonight. And tomorrow morning you will wake up in the wrong bed in the wrong house on the wrong planet, asking yourself how it happened that you arrived in this body and world and the tenacious situations created at their intersection. The toast will be burnt. The coffee too weak. The day too not what you dreamed. But then you will seek comfort, and find it for awhile, in a religion or philosophy that looks on the bright side. Good things are coming. Good things are coming. And you had good things, once, back when it wasn’t this, and, hey, chin up—it won’t be this forever. So you walk down the wrong street in the wrong city and imagine how good it will be when you finally do all the right things and wrest satisfaction and happiness from the throat of this life. It will be too hot outside and you’ll remember with a sigh that it was too damn cold not long ago. You imagine the conversations you’ll soon have with the people you love and they will forgive you or chase you away and you will play a kind of conversational chess down these contrary paths, crossing out what not to say while storing away all the golden things. And they will finally say please, stay for tea or tell you get bent and, when they do—either way—you will be very kind and magnanimous. And you will learn to play guitar and write songs that are already written except, this time, you wrote them and all the people love you and weep when you sign your autograph. When you die, they will be sick to their stomachs and all the cars will stop. The streets will be flooded with mourners mourning double, mourning both for you and a seat in the overcrowded church. The crammed mourners in the church will be in violation of building safety codes and the mourning firemen will pull wailing mourners outside, for their own safety, while the mourners inside form a line to the podium to say all kinds of golden things. Then a car door will slam and a crow will caw and your long paragraph of delusion will end and skip a line.

Because that slam and that caw just then, when it was now, will slam and caw through all your fantasies in a way that messes with your sense of tense. You will think I am someone who just heard a slam and a caw. No. I am someone who just thought “I am someone who just heard a slam and a caw.” No. I am someone who just thought “No. I am someone who just thought ‘I am someone who just heard a slam and a caw.’” and so on; you will chase yourself to the nearest edge of the moment until you and the world embrace in seamless weirdness that was always right here. It’s always right here, even when you’re not.

You will walk home then, down the golden street. Enjoy it while it lasts. It won’t.

Thursday
Mar262015

Rising and Falling

They sat on the little girl’s bed. All the things of the world arose from the dark, cautiously, then suddenly: there, shining out in the shine, morning. She was 9.

“I don’t want to go to school, Mommy! I’m afraid to go to school!”

“Why?”

“Because there’s a quiz and I won’t know the answers! It’s too hard!”

“Oh, baby. It won’t be so hard. You wanna know what’s harder than not knowing the answers?”

“What?”

“Being a little girl who’s afraid of not knowing the answers.”

“Huh?”

“Sitting here in your cozy pajamas on your comfortable bed. Talking to your sweet mother and breathing, too. Over and over constantly breathing. Now that’s hard.”

“No it’s not.”

“Let’s make breakfast.”

Friday
Feb272015

What In The World?

The ship is leaving and the people are squinting, trying to see through the irrefutable fog. Just dropped you off; cried all the way home. How are you 11, today, as it rains in Las Vegas? Is it not still somehow now that on you the kitty is jumping? Nostalgia's not but a wilted abstraction for craving the stars. What I mean to say is that I am stunned. Amazed at such a thing as a you and a me, time, and this nonstop speechless world.

Thursday
Jan292015

Just This Sock

Just this sock. All I must do, Franklin thought, is slide my foot into just this sock and that is enough, for nowforever. It’s all that can be done. Franklin had just emerged into consciousness, a goofy facade of togetherness and continuity in sharp contrast to the soupy reach of sleep’s oblivion. This impossible transition never failed to infuse him with confusion, this finding himself a person in a bed in a bedroom in a sociocultural milieu that arose hand-in-hand with him, awakening. What the fuck? Bam! KapowAnd there he was, not all the myriad this thats or other things, but Franklin, this particular creature with a nose and elbows, getting out of bed, getting dressed, one thing at a time. Such was the linear nature of being Franklin. However, previously sleeping, he had just then so recently been “not Franklin,” dispersed, gone, everything else, that the shadow of everything else clung now to Franklin like a hidden secret, quietly informing who he waswhat he was, his essence, his FranklinnessSo much so that, now, his putting on this sock was not merely a man putting on a sock in isolation, but ratherheld together by everything, arising with everythingit was, in actuality, a living expression of the entire galaxy of intimately interwoven everythings. Twelve crows cawed. An old woman, gnarled with wisdom, walked down the dusty road. A yellow flower, animated by the spark of ancient religions, smiled at the ominous spider. A big stone by the sea waited and waited. Stars burned. The butcher separated meat from bone. You ached with the same desire that drives the tides. There is kindness. There is crime. All of this is made of time. And Franklin, with his whole heart, in-the-world-with-everything, slid his foot into just this sock on a wave of presence that broke across the empty ocean and, there, where wave is water, he glimpsed the grand vacancy from whence everything emerges and everything vanishes, where nothing might be anything, maybe, possibly, isor—and he laughed, laughed, laughed, and said “There is no landlord; the rent is always paid ha ha ha!” How was your morning?

Sunday
Jan252015

The Path To Treatment Was Long And Meandering

The path to treatment was long and meandering.

The driveway, with a 10 mph speed limit, wound lazily through a bunch of lush landscaping and statues of various religious figures. Treatment centers have it all wrong. The road to recovery does not roll through Eden. We had barely entered the triumphant iron gate to begin the long sober journey when Skip yelled Stop! Shit. Bryan winced. Here was the true path to treatment, a maze that often ended before it started. Bryan and I froze in the front seat, speechless, angry. We didn’t turn around to look. We didn’t want to see. That’s how it was with Skip. You just stared straight ahead and waited for what would happen because something always happened.

He got out and I hated him as he stumbled toward the front of the car. We had driven 3 hours and he was about to fuck it up and I hated him. I hated him for constantly fucking up and for always fucking up at the very last second. He climbed on the hood and muttered something about readiness and sobriety and Plotinus. Bryan and I were a pissed off choir of admonition: C’mon! Get off the car, Skip! You’re gonna get kicked out before you sign in! Off the car! Get off the car! Christ, Skip! Get off the car!

But he just stood on the hood, clutching two beers.

Bryan and I spoke with our eyes about how we should just drive. We shrugged our defeated shoulders and shook our tired heads. The only alternative was sitting there until he needed more beer. Bryan took the car out of park and smirked. We lurched forward and Skip fell to his knee. How could this end well?

But he regained his composure and popped open a beer. He tipped the can to his mouth and posed like a statue in the garden as the car crept toward recovery. Bryan laughed in disbelief as I stared ahead. Skip switched poses with every deep gulp, mocking the gravity of his own demise. Inside my chest occurred a blurry conversation between hating and loving. Which was which? My eyes met Bryan’s and we laughed and laughed.

Skip popped his 2nd beer, this hilarious failure.

Friday
Jan162015

Smoke

Sometimes, when I listen to traffic and feel lonely, I miss cigarettes. The best thing about cigarettes is the perpetual need for something that is readily attainable. Nicotine is nothing like Truth or Justice. You have to fight for Truth and Justice and all you get in return is pepper spray, probably, or maybe a big welt from a rubber bullet. But nicotine is easily ingested by inhaling tobacco smoke. So you crave and satisfy, crave and satisfy; it’s like little Hero’s Journeys all day long, freeing you from the plague of identity, launched into the archetypal cycle of mythical time. As night follows the day and the snake swallows her tail, Mr. Jones knocks and you spark one. Too bad they kill you.

Your life wants to kill you. Get lonely and let it. What’s the worst that could happen? I read a story this morning about a little boy watching the smoke from an incense stick burning by his dead mother at her funeral. It made him very pensive and lonely and he got hip to evanescence. Say it with me now, slowly: 
evanescence. Disappearing, vanishing, fading away. Smoke has a lot to teach. Smoke’ll get you lonely. And to die from loneliness is the only way to flower into light. 

The man I rent a room from threw a New Year’s Eve party at his house with a big bonfire in the backyard. The smoke appeared to me as a ghost using the alchemy of fire to eke out a brief haunting presence. Memory. Old friends. Up in smoke. The smell stayed in my coat. Midnight came and went. The people came and went. Like everything else in this great big world. I quietly considered some resolutions: run, listen to smoke, keep burning, stay alive. When the fire was out and everyone had gone, I ate a piece of cherry pie in the dark. I don’t remember things as sharply as when I was a younger man. The future is none of my business.

Saturday
Nov222014

Before Shutting Off The Lights

“Let’s walk the dog.”

“We don’t have a dog.”

“Baby, please. Don't be so frustratingly literal.”

“How then? Figurative?”

“Yes. Metaphorical. Like a simile.”

“Like a woman with a dog.”

“Exactly.”

“Like a trip to Spain in springtime.”

“Yes. Freed from the tyranny of selfhood. Out, into the world.”

“Like opening the curtains.”

“Throwing them open with pomp and grandiosity.”

“The white sail in the black breeze.”

“Lake Michigan!”

“Is the ice cube, I wonder, happy or sad to melt in a glass—”

“Of water or lemonade?”

“Water.”

“Overjoyed. Remember? Like the curtains and Spain.”

“But still melting itself. It might be sad.”

“I suppose there’s no telling.”

“Or both somehow.”

“Comes to the same.”

“Like sex and the dream.” 

“Yes. Let’s walk the dog.”

“Let’s.”