Bloomsday in Dublin, 2006
"Owing to the death of former Taoiseach Charles J Haughey, and the state funeral on Friday 16th June, all Bloomsday events at the James Joyce Centre, 35 North Great George's Street, Dublin 1 have been cancelled as a mark of respect. The Board of Directors and the staff of the James Joyce Centre offer their condolences to the family."
NOTE: Today is officially Bloomsday, the day James Joyce's modern novel "Ulysses" takes place (June 16, 1904). I plan to "blog" my day in tribute to Joyce, so this will be a long and probably mundane stream of consciousness ramble, in the spirit of Leopold Bloom's day of wandering through the streets of Dublin and coming home to his cheating wife Molly. It's an experiment that I shouldn't be doing because I barely have time for everything else I need to do; therefore it's a "grand idea," as my grandmother used to say.
Friday, June 16, 2006:
Wake up bleary-eyed at 6 am and look at the digital alarm clock. Remember it is 10 minutes fast. Roll over and sleep another hour. Wake up again and the little dog jumps up on the bed in anticipation. Sits on chest. Begs to be petted, so I oblige. Won't let him lick my face though.
Finally up, cursing the Angelina Jolie film that kept me up til after 1 am. She wants to save the world, a real crusader with very puffy lips. Get on my computer to find spam and more spam. Who are these people with so much time to waste my time? Feed the dog his daily ration of dry food. Now he is vomiting under the bed--choke, cough, gag. Poor little guy--clean it up with tissue paper and throw the wad in the toilet. "It's OK, it's OK, there, there... is your tummy upset?"
7:43 am and I need to get ready to go to work, to take a shower, brush the bacteria off the teeth, clear out crusty nostrils. Should I meditate? Check the Joyce Centre site and find all activities canceled due to a funeral, just like Paddy Dignam's funeral. Hmmmph.
Just clipped my fingernails, little crescent moons collecting in the sink wetness. One bird chirp, chirp, chirp relentlessly. A low-flying plane, or is it a helicopter, goes by overhead. The commuter train makes a loud sound pulling out of the Rockridge BART station, competing easily with the highway traffic. Sunny bright day so far. Will probably be hot. Glad I did my laundry last night. Should I do push-ups? Good question, screeching brakes somewhere down on College Ave.--probably a big delivery truck.
8:22 am and I just showered and shaved. It will be a good day because Pop-Eye came over and licked my right foot in the shower--he likes the water drops, I guess. I shaved in honor of Buck Mulligan, even though it's Friday. Question--what was Mulligan's Stew--vague childhood recollection of a TV show or something that I really liked. Now it's time to meditate, walk the dog. I did 50 push-ups and 30 crunches earlier, not bad, especially the push-ups.
Sat on my zafu for 29 minutes, cut short by a minute for several reasons. Wonder if I'll get to see Noah's dharma tonight in the city with Vinny? Big question after phone call last night to yolanda asking her to take Pop-Eye out tonight and feed him. She called while I was sitting, the phone right there underneath me but no way to answer without a total disruption of the session. I saw the hummingbird in the tree outside my attic window! Always good to see him, that long tiny beak, and I think he has a nest in my tree. In fact, he might be a she, a mother with little wee ones in there getting fed. The hummingbird kept flying away in a hurry and returning to the same spot in the branches, but there are so many green leaves I can't see the nest, just her silhouette. I have a voice message from Yolanda who lives next door. I will listen to it in the car. Need to get going, walk the dog, buy my bran scone and English Breakfast tea. Should I ask out the attractive one behind the counter at Peaberry's? Want to, she always says hello warmly. Just her kind nature. Feels too awkward to break that barrier between daily customer and barista. She seems so agreeable though, and that scar across her chest--makes her sympathetic. The doorbell is just ringing. Al my roommate is up, but he's in his underwear in the kitchen. Better go get it.
9:27 am and I need to leave for work finally, and yes, late. Nobody at the door earlier. Just Al standing on the porch in quickly pulled on shorts and a green and white striped Adidas shirt with his hair sticking up in the air, saying what a glorious day it already is. Planning his day on unemployment--going swimming at Strawberry Canyon pool. "You should have seen this woman there yesterday," he says to me. "She was obviously a serious athlete, maybe a track star. That's what I decided. Such definition, incredible."
Yolanda called while I was meditating and said she can take Pop-Eye out in the afternoon, but she has plans later. Then she asked if I have a hearing problem, why I had my TV up so loud last night. "At first I thought you might be acting out," she says, "But then I decided you just can't hear well." THanks Yolanda. She said not to let my feelings "bottle up" if I have a problem with turning my TV down at night, that I should communicate with her either verbally or via email. Yes ma'am. She is so attractive, too, I swear. And a massage therapist. Too bad it didn't work out. I didn't say much to the barista. The other one, the tall raven-haired woman who asked me once if my name was Greg, she waited on me, got my tea for me. I paid in quarters--$1.15 and let her keep the dime, plus I dropped another quarter into their big fish bowl of a tipper.
Drove to work and arrived at almost exactly 10:30 am. Wrote in the car while stuck in traffic, mostly on the bridge, as follows. Traffic stopped on the long Richmond Bridge under old glory blue sky. Behind white Chevy Astro van with TelePacific Communications sign on back and side. Driver of said vehicle tosses out a butt onto the bridge and see it was a cigarillo with plastic white mouthpiece like a toy saxophone. Can see Mount Tamalpais all green and volcano-shaped and San Quentin below it with cars in the parking lot glimmering like jewels, symbols of freedom. Listening to the new CD comilation put out by The Believer--"Cash it in on PCP... fruit of the vine, fruit of the vine..."
I was just interrupted by a woman named Victoria (I think) on my work phone, insistent ring. "Are you taping the benefit event tomorrow," she asked rather hurriedly, without much introduction except her name. I assume she must know everything--that I have been solicited by Sara to videotape the whole day's event, being in Communications as I am. I think this woman does it for a living (videography) and wants to take over. But I'm wrong--she's just a "customer" of the center (we call them yogis) and she's upset that it's sold out and she's left on the outside wanting in. I console her as best as I can. We plan to videotape this event, I tell her, which is unusual for us, and she says that's a really good idea.
Back to the bridge... I called Yolanda back and it went straight to VM with a bad connection, so I left a message without being sure if she would get it or not--disconcerting. Said sorry about the TV volume last night, talk to you about it later. Thanks for taking care of Pop-Eye. Still on the bridge, wasting precious time. ARAMARK truck in right lane, so large and white. Ah, look out, left lane ends up ahead due to a tar truck in trouble. Trailer came off, big ugly caboose full of black tar-like materials. Men standing nearby on phones looking about. 10:08 and late. Too much honey in my tea, bottom of mug is treacly sweet. Finally clears and we're off like race horses at the Derby. Now in Marin along Sir Francis Drake Blvd. Best bumper stickers in Marin: pink one says WE ARE CREATING ENEMIES FASTER THAN WE CAN KILL THEM. New film opening today at Fairfax theatre--NACHO LIBRE with Jack Black. Good Earth is on Claus, hmm. "God is Still Speaking" in Marin County--I see it every day, this banner.
Saluted the big stone our place is named for on the way into work past speeding cyclists in black tights. Said hello to the four horses in the pen and drove in. Frank, one of my bosses, knew what I meant when I wished him a Happy Bloomsday. Well, he went to Dartmouth. Warm, warm day already. Frank just walks by, tells me he's got a new Tibetan incense to burn at home called Awaken that is so strong he can barely stay in the room while it's burning, has to open a window. OK, now I have to prepare a big mailing for our volunteer named Denis with one "n" (he specified over the phone). They are setting up lunch for the Thai Forest monks outside across the meadow. 11:09 am. Kevin emails me back the following, after telling me he will add Donald to our white list (his typos):
"In this case, there was actually were an unknowing spammer. Someone at pimout7-int.prodigy.net was using that point to relay spam, and it looks as though Donald was logged in at the network point sending his email remotely via the Saybrook email server. So, the error message was valid, and Donald was an unfortunate bystander."
Sometimes I think we're all just unfortunate bystanders.
I just hung two buns and read from the book "James Joyce" by John Gross (out of print). He says: "One of the great achievements of Ulysses (is) to demonstrate as no previous novel had done the sheer density of the individual's mental life, the incredibly rapid succession and complexity of thoughts as they swarm past. And this plenitude gradually takes on a moral aspect: faced with such superabundance and so much inconsistency we surely ought to be a little more chary (charitable) than we were before of passing simple definitive judgments on other people."
In the news today:
Shoe Bomber Strikes Iraq Mosque; 13 Dead
By SAMEER N. YACOUB, Associated Press Writer
Friday, June 16, 2006
(06-16) 11:28 PDT BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) --
A shoe bomber blew himself up inside an important Shiite mosque during Friday prayers, killing at least 13 people and wounding 28, as violence persisted in the capital despite a massive security operation aimed at restoring order. The streets of Baghdad were largely empty of cars due to a four-hour driving ban supposed to prevent violence during traditional Islamic prayers held every Friday. There also is a curfew from 8:30 p.m. until dawn, and a weapons ban.
Meanwhile, my volunteer has arrived and he is working on the mailing. Mary Ann came in and I introduced her to "Our volunteer, Denis." She said, "Huh, you have a volunteer dentist?"
1:08 pm and I just returned from lunch. Denis the volunteer is still here in the office--"just stretching" at the moment. He is wearing a navy blue visor that promotes his favorite sport--bocce ball. They served us tofu hotdogs, potato chips, corn on the cobb and salad for lunch. Watermelon and chocolate cake for dessert. The cake was only for staff. The temperature keeps rising out there today, well into 80s, I'd say. We've just learned that a certain important psychologist was rushed to the hospital this morning. He is the headliner for our big event tomorrow which is already sold out--several hundred attendees registered. Apparently the last time he had to be rushed to the hospital for something similar, they kept him there overnight for observation, so the event tomorrow is quite iffy now. Actually, I would be very surprised if he is able to do it. We hope he recovers quickly but in no rush. I may have to stay late to help send out an email to everyone notifying them that this event has been canceled. That breeze in through the windows sure feels good.
3:26 pm and still no word on the good doctor's health. In all likelihood we will have to cancel the event. We've closed the windows in our trailer office and the AC is on, blowing right down out of the ceiling onto my bare head (and when I say bare, I am not mincing words). Our most important person has called me twice this afternoon to discuss the event tomorrow. He says we will obviously have to cancel without our special guest. I agreed. Many people are likely to be quite disappointed though. There was a crazy shirtless guy with long stringy hair in the bookstore earlier acting strange. He actually asked if he could have a discount on his merchandise for no reason! (I say this somewhat tongue in cheek.) Somebody asked our caretakers to go see if he was just a little weird or an actual problem. I saw him briefly and he just looked kind of overexcited--maybe the heat is getting to him.
Meanwhile we have to send out an important email soon, and the only guy with the know-how to do it from the tech side is currently at a conference for something personal at Yale on the east coast. He just sent me an email that he is ready to go. This is like some kind of NASA launch suddenly. Here is our recent email string:
him: Ready - I just need the text. The callee list has been sent to Irene. Peace.
me: The text is ready, but we are still waiting for final word. I'll let you know as soon as it happens.
him: Ok - I am going to go to Border's version of the Yale bookstore. I will take my trusty cellphone with me. I will be back in 30 anyway.
It occurs to me that people get fired over this kind of blogging. I've removed a few things just to try and keep it above the line. Maybe this really was a dumb idea. I hope not. I'm staying late and getting work done. Expect a long break now.
It's 3:55 pm.
4:55 pm and we have a positive update on the prominent psychologist's medical condition from Sara, whose email is as follows:
RE: Text for cancel netmail - NOT NECESSARY
thank goodness... All indications are that he is fine and will be here tomorrow as scheduled.
It's 6:37 pm and I'm finally leaving work, driving over the GGB to see Noah in the city at 3rd and Fulton. Must be there in less than an hour though. Parking tough. Two sets of twin fawns were out front in the meadow late today, with their doe moms. The event for tomorrow is still on after all!
Someone says potatoes make you happy. Why not? Explains the Irish mehaps. The truth is emptiness, yes, but what the hell does that really mean? It sounds so, well, hollow.
It's 11:46 pm now, by the way. I just ate a late, late dinner at the Crepevine ( I had the Kyoto crepe with tofu, spinach, bell peppers and peanut saunce) on the corner in our neighborhood and then walked Pop-Eye again. I don't think Yolanda took him out after all, or fed him. Poor guy. Maybe she forgot. Maybe I'm mistaken. Al joined me at dinner. We sat on the sidewalk at a table he chose after he decided the one I chose wasn't right for him ("I can't sit here," he said.). When he was done eating, he licked his plate, literally, in big broad strokes, having ordered a dessert crepe with ice cream (vanilla) and nutella on top (also bananas and strawberries). I told him he was the most uncivilized man I'd ever seen, no manners, a real p-i-g. He said his mother would agree with me, but that he couldn't see wasting such fine chocolate sauce. I mentioned the invention of the spoon. Too late.
I can backtrack to earlier this evening because I took notes after leaving work. Here goes those notes:
7:13 pm and over the Golden Gate (red) with white sails in the shapes of little triangles cutting through the dark dappled bay--clearly a regatta in action. Now turning and whooshing through the General Douglas MacArthur Tunnel along Park Presidio off 19th exit. A lady in the car next to me at the red is putting on lipstick, her window rolled down, rolling her lips together, checking them, licking, tucking. Turning now onto Balboa and getting closer to my destination.
7:18 and even closer--6th, 5th, 4th, and ahhh 3rd, now Fulton, yes and park up the street facing east. Make it on time and see Noah outside smoking a cigarette in white t-shirt (not black). We almost wave to each other, there is an acknowledgement, but something holds both of us back. Or is it just me? I should have waved or gone up and said hello. Social leper, really, blast. There are younger people with tattoos everywhere swarming inside like hip bumblebees in black with no yellow stripes. Yellowjackets, should I have said? I take off my shoes, ascend the stairs, face the music.
Seated in a folding chair in a back corner. Other seats taken. More room this way. A bookcase behind me with titles under glass like "On the Mother," "The Philosophy of Love" and "Letters on Yoga." My favorite title is "Minstrel of Love." What again is a minstrel, in said context? Vinny is already seated and says it's not time yet when everybody suddenly stops talking at once. "Introduce yourself to somebody sitting next to you that you don't already know." I just sit there, stiff as a clam in the shell. Meet no one. Finally we meditate--that's why I'm here, I think.
Vinny talks us through the meditation like little children, guiding the way in the dark. Are we blindfolded? Good question. Noah is sitting next to Vinny, pale shaved head, wicked tattoos curving up the back of his neck on both sides. Vinny says things like, "If you want to change something about your experience, then you need to let that go, accept the moment just exactly as you find it." Smell of people's hot, stinky feet. It's hot in the room, like Bikram yoga class. I feel like I have to cough no matter what. Get up, step over the young hip urban African-American guy with cool cut-offs, get to the bathroom, drink water from the spout, cough it out (not the water, just the throat). Go back in. Repose. Traffic outside on Fulton with open windows. Vinny's voice. The faintest singing bowl being tapped three times. Hands together, bow it out.
We are on break. People are talking madly like the Beats before them in a darkened room at midnight with smoke in the air, only now there's no smoke, no drums, no drinks. We sip silence, drown in mental masturbation. Looking around, I feel older for this crowd, no I am at 40 too old to really relate to many of them. The ones who know me are not rushing up to say hello. I am too easy to ignore, apparently, not that I feel sorry for myself, quite the contrary. I'm doing well, really. Still, I feel like Leopold Bloom amongst the young medical students in the corridor at night, Stephen Dedalus one of the gang. Nobody will follow me later nor will I follow them.
One big dude I see everywhere has on a bright red t-shirt and on the back it reads: "Happiness is a pile of wood and a pig."
A guy standing nearby says to a girl, "This is San Francisco, nobody ever shows up on time." So true, so true.
Vinny starts it back up with, "Welcome everybody to this hot-ass room." That phrase echoes in my head for a while. I write it down. They take questions from the audience. In answer to one, Noah tells us boldly, "Following the breath is the kindergarten of meditation... It won't lead to transformation... It's not going to change the core causes of suffering in your life." Noah is not one to sugarcoat his dharma. (12:11 am already. Still counts, I think.) Noah continues, "Even full enlightenment will not free you from pain. If you think differently, you're in delusion. The Buddha was a realist." This is not all he says, just snippets.
Vinny speaks and quotes Sun Me (sp): "Every moment of thinking is keeping us from the freshness of what is happening."
Somebody's cell phone goes off and makes a strange musical sound that Noah moves his head to like he's dancing--"Lack of mindfulness is a lack of free will," he points out to much laughter. "The fucked thing is, present time awareness is not our natural state." Then he talks about the Buddha's concept of "monkey mind" which "swings from branch to branch." We constantly ask, "How can I avoid pain and hold to pleasure?"
"Our instincts say RUN and (in this Buddhist practice) we're being asked to sit in the fire of life (to achieve freedom, liberation, to being awake) when everyone is asleep. Challenge: Are we willing to do the work?" Most aren't, he reveals. The room is quiet. Did they hear? He says what a pleasure it is to be back at this place, to see friendly faces, to be with the "sangha" (that he helped found). It ends with Vinny leading a last moment of silence and mentioning the baskets outside for donation. Noah is giving Dharma Punx t-shirts out for $10 each (usually $20) so he doesn't have to take them back to Los Angeles. I almost take a white tee, but don't have ten on me. Leave two for two stickers that say, "SERVE THE TRUTH, DEFY THE LIE." Also take a little button, drop five in the teacher basket to prove I'm generous at heart. Noah is outside by the corner fire hydrant when I leave, smoking another cigarette and chatting with three punks (affectionately, please).
12:22 am and yes, I'm done, yes, that's it. Enough for this going like mad Bloomsday yes I say yes I do Yep.
Oakland, California 2006