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    Run For Your Life, Black Hockey Jesus!

    Talking To Bikes

    Today, my daughter asked if she could go in the garage and talk to her bike. I told her that she needs no permission from me to talk to her bike, that it’s her fundamental imaginal right to talk to her bike, so hurry up, and please never stop.

    My chest caught halfway through an inhalation. Please never stop.

    I just told a woman last week that I had a seven-year-old daughter and she said “Oh I LOVE seven! Don’t you love seven?” and I said “No, actually, I hate seven. Seven is the worst thing that could ever happen to a child. Watching the dominance of my son’s imagination take a backseat to the horrors of our soulless dwelling in the house of ‘Realism’—reason and science—was the hardest event of my parenting career, by far, and believe me I’ve seen a lot of shit and puke. I don’t know what I’m going to do when I lose my daughter. I’ll feel so, so alone.” The woman was sorry she asked and required elaboration.

    “I just mean that she talks to things.” I explained. “Has imaginary friends. She’s immersed in a world that lives and breathes and I’ll be sorry to see it die. I’ll miss it. I’ll miss her relationship to it.”

    My favorite post that I ever wrote was about this purple cup.


    When you live alone, it’s easier to form relationships with things that entail conversations. I talk to my bed when I’m making it, grateful for its service. I address my dishes, washing them in the sink; they bear so much, true companions. If you think these things are dead, part of you is dead. In the imagination, everything has soul. All you have to do is take the risk—leap—talk to your laundry, and listen. Does it respond? Is it just your imagination? Indeed. Where is “your” imagination. In your head? What if that was the big mistake? If, rather than our imaginations being inside our own heads, we existed inside Imagination, ourselves merely figments of some big Dreamer.

    Can you imagine?

    All of us merely figments of one big Imagination. Talk to your silverware. Talk to your dead friends. And listen. How much are you willing to risk? How much attention can you afford? Because, in your attention, everything lives. Spend it all. Spend it all. Pay attention!


    I put my ear to the door but I couldn’t hear what they were saying. Not the content. But just the outlines of their muttery form. My daughter— she talked and talked, paused, gathering a response, and continued. And I thought Please never stop. Believe in Santa. Believe in the power of your cotton stuffed bunny. Believe in all the voices that constantly speak to you. They never stop. They don’t. We just learn to ignore them. Little girl: Keep in touch with your bike.


    And This Is You

    You wake up rooms. When you walk in the door, everything cheers. Welcome! Whatever you look at swoons in the glow of your attention: people, tables, memories, spoons. Yes. Even spoons. The spoon you ate your soup with was instantly in love, lived only to serve you, to be with your hand, to touch your lips—it’s still, to this very day, writing poems that mourn your loss. Everything aches for your lively gaze. The whole room is tense, trembling, waiting to arise in your view. The menu sings. The smug table mocks the others. Your glass of wine gasps with every single sip. And the floor—the wooden floor’s past and future cohere with meaning in the event of propping your stance, your walk, and the booth in which you sit. It recalls its origins, built by cursing men with swinging hammers, aware of its inevitable demolition, all unquestionably justified by the presence of your feet. And the people, men and women alike, see you and forget themselves. They are ghosts with no memories. They can’t look you in the eye. They feel like weeping and can’t say why. The flickering candle is humbled, silent, content to merely light the way.

    Don’t wonder who this is about. It’s about you. You wake up rooms.   


    Why I'm A Bad Zen Buddhist, Or Maybe A Good One, Depending On How One Defines Presence

    For Karen Maezen Miller


    Everything, all of it, rises with music. The twinkling toy music of the ice cream truck. July rises and the kids leave the front door open, sprinting in flip-flops, screaming to hurry and for money. You find a couple bucks, scrape the change off your desk, and hope like hell that the truck has fudge bomb pops. Because if you don t get a fudge bomb pop today, right now, you will melt. You will melt into an insubstantial puddle of selflessness. The sun - it wants to kill you and your only defense today is a fudge bomb pop. However, the ice cream truck is out of fudge bomb pops. Motherfucker. Life is suffering. But there are ice cream sandwiches and faith. The kids are smiling. The ice cream is cold and refreshing, finding its meaning in relation to the sweltering sun because, here, on the white sidewalk, extremes aren't opposed - they embrace - arising together with the twinkling toy music of the ice cream truck.

    And everything rises with the sirens. The whining wail of the cops on your tail. The night rises, strobing in blue and red and you can t pull over because of all your outstanding warrants. There's no escape, you think, and you consider driving off a bridge. But that's no escape either, you suspect. Where could you possibly go? As you accelerate and another cop joins the chase, your racing mind slows way down - nearly stops - and memories fall like calm raindrops. You remember the house you were born in. You meander through all your old homes and rooms. Houses. Apartments. Long forgotten identities. Was that you? The 19-year-old dishwasher at the Italian restaurant? You don t know. You can't be sure. Because your long life of alternating crimes and triumphs has left you with only one certain maxim to live by: keep... moving.


    I had the pleasure, last Sunday, of spending a day at the Hazy Moon Zen Center in Los Angeles, for an introduction to Zen Buddhism s approach to various practices: sitting, walking, bowing, chanting, eating - even washing dishes - all led by the incomparable Karen Maezen Miller and her fellow priest, Gendo.

    I confess to being a Zen dabbler, it being one node in a constellation of many connected interests that reflect and inform one another: Nietzsche, Heidegger, the post-Jungian psychology of James Hillman, Bob Dylan, Deep Ecology, all the arts of abstraction with an emphasis on Dada, Shamanism, the New Physics, Rimbaud, addiction, insanity, death, and Gary Snyder. I also dig The Mountain Goats like nobody's business.

    But Sunday, somewhere between watching Gendo bow and listening to Maezen speak, I slipped through a crack of being a Zen dabbler to being completely lit on fire. I won t tell you the secrets Karen Maezen Miller told me. It wouldn't mean the same thing to you and if your path leads to her, she's there to be heard. I will tell you that she is elegant in both movement and speech, she's tiny and yet erupts with incisive authority, she laughs like a song, and she has great feet.

    She gave a long talk to close out the day. She spoke to me so directly that I couldn't maintain her gaze and I frequently hid my face behind my arm to smudge off tears without (hopefully) getting caught. And because it was a beautiful day in Los Angeles, the windows were thrown open and there arose a moment when her speech, like knitting, weaved in between the sounds of an ice cream truck's music and police sirens. But she wasn't disturbed and, even though they carried me away like a bad Zen Buddhist, they didn t disturb me either.

    Because there's always ice cream and jail and a Zen priest in the middle. We arise together. We're all in this together.



    When I was but a wee blogger, I was a student of the now defunct Dad Gone Mad. I asked him questions like: How often should I post? How often should I post? How often should I post? As you have by now discerned, I was a very ardent wee blogger.

    Thus spake Dad Gone Mad: good blogging is not about the quantity of blog posts; rather, it’s about the quality of blog posts. This sounded good to me, like something Ben Kenobi might say, catchy. And so, since my daughter’s birthday, I haven’t posted because I’ve been muted with not shit to say. I still don’t have shit to say. I thought about writing a post that said a bunch of things with a strikethrough that crossed it all out, essentially unsaying itself in a way that’s either mystical or postmodern, but decided it was too much work and also pretentious.

    So I said nothing. Don’t we all?

    But I keep getting emails that ask me if I’m dead, which—nevermind—or drunk. And, no, I’m not dead, unless I’m Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense, which would be so cool that it makes the hair on my arms tingle, and I’m not drunk. But I could be dreaming or in the Matrix, both possibilities that keep shit interesting. You should never be too convinced of what’s real.

    I don’t know what else to tell you. If you’ve read this far, whose fault is that?

    I’m not going to AA. I don’t want to talk about it.

    I went to Baton Rouge to visit my buddy, Bryan. We ate sushi at this place called Tsunamis and I met a tiny woman with little bird bones who instantly smote me with her charm. She was all magic with pixie dust sparkling around her head and face, announcing her presence like some fated thing. So hot. She was a mere hair’s breadth away from me falling in love with her until she criticized Eminem. I challenged her to name one person who could spit rhymes like Eminem. ONE! The ho was speechless. I couldn’t even finish my spicy tuna. I’ll never find love.

    I’ve resumed, after many years, my sitting practice, which, I must confess, makes me nervous. My friend Skip taught me how to sit. Skip taught me everything and then he killed himself, which makes a student pause, much like when the Dad Gone Mad scandal that rocked the Blogoverse called all my approaches to blogging into question. I’m not drawing some correlation between zazen and suicide because that would be shoddy science, but there’s strong feelings bound up in my folded legs and erect spine. The smell of incense. Listening to him tell stories. I’ll never shut up about him. Everything I say is just talking about him.

    I like the way the stillness complements the mad activity of running. I sit and run every day and listen closely to the conversation between them. They have a lot in common. They both like tea. I can’t find love because love finds me.



    You asked me to dance—it was the last dance of Sweetheart Night—and my initial instinct was to turn you down because, Sweet Face, your daddy is a writer, which is to say that I prefer to be no one. I don’t like to appear. I go to great lengths to avoid long gazes and conversations, all the tricks of being duped into being someone, opting rather to hide between the lines in the shadows of words.

    But your eyes are big and blue and you know how to blink them perfectly in a way that leaves me no choice but to dance the last dance with you at Sweetheart Night. So I scooped you up in your pink dress and blue necklace—you had a flower in your yellow hair and red ladybugs in your newly pierced ears—and all 54 pounds of you clung to me, tightly, with the force of that old need that motivates all the best characters in all our favorite stories to become more than what they are, gazing at stars.

    Holding you, swaying there in the school cafeteria of red arrow pierced hearts, my self consciousness fell away and I was able to just hold you, swaying there, in circles. I began to hope the song would never end, for this moment to somehow stay—imagining that perhaps the secret of living inhered in an endless dance with you.

    I wished someone would take our picture. Film us. Capture us in time.

    But, closing my eyes, I soon realized that what I wanted to remember was bigger than our image. We were something else that night. Not just a father and daughter to be snatched from time, frozen in it. We were time, the result of it, the empty place where the endless past and the infinite future collide, exploding in a slow dance of breath and beating hearts.

    I had an interesting conversation with your brother the other day about when he was 5 and you were nothing. Where were you? we wondered. How could there have ever been a world without you? It’s completely resistant to being fathomed or imagined. Because you are so here. You are so triumphantly here. I should know because I was there when you arrived, pink and screaming. And I was there when you took your first drunken steps. And when you began to articulate a world inside your house of mad babbling, I was there. I heard it all. You screamed DADA from the bathtub and I became a new song.

    And when this enormous blue and green eyeball opened for the very first time, we were there. Do you remember? When, together, we tricked the nasty green witch, stole all her magic, and returned it to the trees and the grass and the clouds in the sky? Do you remember when we lined up all the scientists and sentenced them to death? We built a little fire and, for as long as we could, we kept it sheltered from the rain. But the wind always wins, all fires end, and our bones fell to the ground like snowflakes. Do you remember? When the sun exploded to keep its deal with the dark? We were there. We were never not there. Entangled in this web of our slow dance at Sweetheart Night.

    Remember this, I told myself, breathing slowly and letting our dance scar my memory. And then I prayed that you remember it too, that you would hide our dance in a secret treasure box in the basement of your mind. You can always find me there. Look for me.

    Happy Birthday, Elle Bee. The whole world is singing that you’re 7.


    Dead Hooker Sutra

    It was after my son found the dead hooker in the bath tub that I began to question my moral integrity. “What’s with the dead hooker in the bath tub?” he asked. “Her? She OD’d.” I replied. “Why do hookers do drugs in your apartment?” he asked. “It’s a function of the single life.” I explained, “When you and your sister aren’t here, it’s all loud music, fringe sex acts, and buckets of cocaine.” It was then that I became oddly self aware and, like I said, began to question my moral integrity.

    Am I okay?

    I asked earnestly. But it quickly occurred to me that it was a stupid question so I told my son to do his homework. The hooker was beautiful in a dead kind of way. I remembered her laughing the night before, and crying. She lived a full life. Like everyone else, she was made of camera tricks and dreams. Regardless of how I felt about myself, her body remained, there, lit by the mystery of being, on ice. I could’ve loved her. But who can say for sure in this smoky maze of mirrors, shadows, and errant projections?

    “There’s not really a dead hooker in the bath tub.” I told my son, helping him develop variables for algebraic equations. “I know,” he said, “I’m not stupid. But why would you even write about a dead hooker in your bath tub when there’s not really a dead hooker in your bath tub?”

    “Because last night, after we sat for 30 minutes, the Zen guy gave this talk about allowing the veneer of Korean ritual to give way to however Zen would appear in the West. Then he said ‘Because Zen is not India. It’s not China or Korea or Japan. Zen is—‘ and he SLAPPED the wood floor, hard, with his hand and tears flowed down my cheeks because I knew I was face to face with all the Patriarchs before my parents were born and three pounds of flax and a bunch of shit like that.”

    You’re going to be okay. Yes, you.

    Even if there’s a dead hooker in your bath tub, listen to me. You’re going to be okay. She won’t be there forever.


    The Story

    So there you are and you hate your life—I mean, you do, but you spend a lot of time trying to deny it and spin it certain ways, relativizing it by comparing it to people in 3rd world countries and so on—plus, you’re insightful enough to know that your life isn’t actually this substantial “thing’ that has absolute value, one way or another. It, your life, is lodged—all bound up and tangled—in the context of the stories you tell yourself about it.

    You wish you had a different life, a different story. You lay in bed a lot and stare at the ceiling, crying, dreaming up a story in which you’re noticed and seen and loved in all the ways you envision real love occurring and the subsequent feelings of contentment that flow out of this realer love in which you actually appear. That’s it, isn’t it? You crave proof of the fact that you appear in the world, day in and day out, and that this perpetual appearance is beautiful. That’s not too much to ask, is it? To merely be noticed as someone who appears? You are that which thus comes, flashing into the morning like a smile on the day’s face.

    The only reason anything appears at all is to reveal itself as something beautiful and worthy of notice. Flowers, fish bones, empty tin cans, you.

    But these are just stories, you tell yourself, chastising yourself, and you wonder which one is true. I mean. Couldn’t you just tell yourself different versions of the story you’re already in? Re-write it? Make it better? Could you? Do you think? And then your dream story—isn’t that just a fiction you use to cast a shadow on the story you think you hate? Seriously. If you’re brave enough to seek your dream and find it, won’t it eventually just collapse into your new real story, the newest thing for you to hate while wishing for the next something else?

    Which story is true and which one is false and to what extent are your stories real versus interpretations that can be amended and why can’t you sleep? What are you missing?

    Here, fatigued and hungry, you realize that this idea of your life being a story you can write via your own will toward positive thinking is just another story, a story one step removed from the self-involved stories about your biographical life. You follow me? This new You is a bigger You than the little yous striving toward happiness and you just kind of look at yourself—dissociated, feeling kind of weird—torn between the story of your life and what your life might be and it strikes you as—I’m sorry—ridiculous. You get a little kick out of yourself.

    But now some deeper Youier You sees the You looking at the little yous and it occurs to this Youier You that this could go on forever, an infinite regress of losing track of which you is really you. Your ego just cracked open like an egg from which oceans and stars are pouring through a crumbling dam and what you do not know swallows what you thought you knew like the dark swallows the sun at dusk.

    It occurs to you then that all the stories these infinitely regressive yous tell themselves are merely the dreams of a hibernating polar bear who sleeps on page 270 of a magical book that a gentle old woman reads to her grandchildren in a castle made of sand on heaven’s highest cloud. This must be the Ground of Being, you imagine, the myth from which your life—indeed, all our lives—emerge, and you are stunningly peaceful, no longer torn asunder by the vicious circle of your contradictory stories because you are birds and fish and trees. You. Me. We’re everything between.

    But, of course—you suddenly realize—that the last word’s not in some mythological book about a dreaming polar bear. That’s just, AGAIN, another story you’re reading, right now (now now now), on the Black Hockey Jesus blog. That’s where you are (not). Put your hand to the left of your screen. Look at it. Read these words. Look at your hand again. Wiggle your fingers. Look around. Read this out loud:

    What’s the story?



    The deck of cards are huge, a brick, in her tiny hands as she offers them to me. “Can you shuffle, daddy? My hands are too little.” Her word shuffles free from the question’s context, shuffling into new meanings. I flash through the places I’ve lived and the people I’ve loved. Life is long and crazy and it’s tough to keep track of yourself. To be blessed with a long history of crossing paths with an interesting band of loonies is also to be frequently cursed with nostalgia. I miss the rich constellation of friends I had when I was 22. I miss Skip. I miss Jenna.

    “We better teach you to shuffle, kiddo,” I tell her, “Shuffling’s as important as reading and cleaning your ears.”


    I need a few more bookshelves—books are strewn about in piles in the “dining room” where there’s no dining table. The kids are staying with me more and more frequently and, at first, I was concerned about having no place to eat. I feared that the kids would go back to their mother and complain: “Dad’s place sucks. Dad doesn’t even have a fucking table! We wish dad would die!” And so on. Like that.

    But I’ve heard that when life hands you lemons, you should just have a picnic, so who am I to argue with misconstrued clichés? We spread a blanket on the floor (an old blue blanket covered with images of Disney characters that my dad gave me when I was a very young boy—one of my earliest memories was anticipating what was inside the gift wrapped box it arrived in) and eat our meals cross legged. They think it’s weird and fun because children are weird and fun. We’re just happy to be together, sharing food and stories.

    Since the separation, I’ve found myself much more attentive to the kids against the background of inevitable shuffling. So as they gush enthusiastic tales with their mouths full (devil take manners) about whatever they’re currently plucking from the spontaneous tree of language, I hone into the content and smile, seeking insights into who they’ll be and where the world will fling them.

    Will they soon move to Phoenix, Portland, or Los Angeles?

    And further, to what careers will their constantly blossoming and wilting desires lead them? Will Jackson study Engineering at MIT or blow off college altogether to bang the drums in a band that plays songs about depression and girls, touring the US in a rusty white van? And will Lucy expand on her exploding love for writing into many successful collections of quirky short stories that thwart the reader’s expectations by resisting closure or will she stick to her current plan of becoming a runway model?

    I sit with them during our picnics, already a ritual, aware of the skulls beneath their lively talking faces that smile—skulls that will outlast all our desires and hopes and digital prose. Who among us can afford to not learn how to shuffle?


    “If you see those old friends out there / Tell them that I send my love.”

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