Sunday, October 31, 2004


It being Halloween and all, I'd like to share this FAQ I found on the web at

Q. How do UFOs connect with the coming of Maitreya?

A. There is a relationship. What the UFOs are doing, put very broadly and simply, is preparing a platform for Maitreya. Most of the UFOs visiting this planet come from Mars and Venus. Most of them, even the Venusian ones, are made on Mars, which is a kind of great industrial planet. All of them are of subtle, etheric, not dense physical, matter. They can lower the vibrational rate of that matter until it comes within the range of our sight, so for a limited period they are visible. Normally, unless you have etheric vision, they would be invisible, but to the Martians, the Venusians and so on, they are visible because they are in that same kind of energy. If you went to Mars, you would see nothing, yet there are more people on Mars than on this planet. Their technology is thousands of years ahead of ours at the present time, but when we have the new Technology of Light, which will be as soon as the planet settles down, the principle of sharing is governing and there are no wars, the Technology of Light will give us all the energy we need directly from the sun. This is how the people on Mars and Venus and elsewhere receive their energy. That will speed up our evolution tremendously from a technical point of view.

Our planet has exerted on it, from a great body in space, a force which pulls it very slightly off its axis, and if it had not been corrected by the Space Brothers, then all life would have been very painful; we would have had cataclysm and so on. They have put around the planet an energetic ring of light which keeps it intact on its axis, and so long as they patrol the planet and keep that going we are safe. They also, so far as our karma allows, neutralize much of the nuclear radiation which we pump into the atmosphere from our nuclear power stations. They also go down into the oceans and neutralize waste which we have dumped there and which otherwise would kill off marine life and further poison the planet.

The planet is already polluted to a degree which is now dangerous. Pollution is the greatest killer of all diseases of humanity, and much of it is of nuclear radiation. The advice of Maitreya and the Masters will be to close down immediately all nuclear-fission power stations in the world. They could be replaced tomorrow with a safe, fusion, process of nuclear power, as an interim measure before the coming Technology of Light.

Q. Does Maitreya say there is really life on other planets and there are other beings who come to the Earth just to protect us?

A. Maitreya has not so far said so directly, but recently he spoke of other beings in space, far advanced, who have always protected humanity. All the planets, without exception, are inhabited. In my experience, UFOs are absolutely real. They cannot usually be seen by us because their normal state is on the higher etheric, not solid, physical levels. When we do see them, this is because they lower the vibrational rate of the vehicles to come within our vision, as a temporary manifestation. They are there all the time in their thousands and even millions. They help us in many ways and without them this earth would be a very painful place indeed. They mop up a great deal of the nuclear radiation which we release into the atmosphere through nuclear experimentation. Even if a test is underground, contaminated, poisoned dust flies up into the atmosphere. The space beings have ‘implosion’ devices which neutralize this nuclear radiation. Without their assistance our rivers and streams would be undrinkable; we would, literally, be dying. There would also be large numbers of deformed babies born. All this is a result of our misuse of nuclear energy. Without their help we would be in a very sad state.

Q. Do you think there is any threat from the people on other planets?

A. Absolutely not. Their intention is totally beneficial - in fact, without their help this planet would not be liveable in at this point. We owe them an enormous karmic debt.

Q. Has there been interference in world affairs by extra-terrestrials?

A. All Hierarchies of all the planets in this system are in touch with each other, and everything that takes place in an extra-terrestrial sense takes place under Law. All the planets of our system are inhabited, but if you were to go to Mars or Venus you would see nobody because they are in physical bodies of etheric matter, finer, subtler, than gas. If you were to go there and had etheric vision they would be as real to you as they are to each other, but if you have not etheric vision - and the bulk of humanity do not as yet have etheric vision, though some people here and there have the beginning of it - to all intents and purposes these planets would seem to be uninhabited.

There is ample evidence in the craft which we call UFOs to show that there has been a surveillance of this planet for many years (at least since 1945, but in fact since the beginning of time). This means that this planet is kept intact. There is a huge star out in space which is exerting a magnetic ‘pull’ on our planet, hence the growing incidence of earthquakes over the last 180 years.

What we call the 'Space Brothers', the people who use the vehicles we call UFOs, who come mainly from Mars and Venus but also from Jupiter, Mercury and a few other planets, have put around our planet a ring of light which keeps it on its axis. It is very slightly off its axis, but this ring allows it, within karmic limits, to be held so that the poles do not flip, which is predicted by many prophets of doom to take place. It will not take place, nothing can shift that ring of light which is put in place by our Space Brothers. Without their help this planet would probably be in chaos. One of the major activities of the Space Brothers is to neutralize the pollution with which we are destroying our planet - caused in the main by nuclear radiation which is pouring out from the nuclear powerhouses all over the world. Every underground nuclear explosion also puts into the air dust which is totally contaminated by nuclear radiation with a half-life of thousands and thousands of years. Within karmic limits they mop up as much radiation and pollution as possible - otherwise this planet would by now be unliveable. Pollution, according to the Masters, is already the number one killer in the world. It so diminishes the activity of the immune system that people succumb to many diseases such as pneumonia, influenza, AIDS, HIV and so on. The very air we breathe, the water, the soil, is totally polluted and we are destroying the very planet which we need for our continued existence and that of our children.

One of the major things which will happen after the Day of Declaration is the turning of the attention of humanity really strongly to the cleaning up of the environment and making this earth viable again. Every human being, of whatever age, will be involved in this process. As soon as the needs of the starving millions are met, as soon as the process of sharing is under way, then the attention of all must turn to the support of our eco-systems, otherwise there will be no planet.

One of the main factors in maintaining our eco-system is our Space Brothers: we owe them an enormous debt. There are various tales in magazines and newspapers of people being taken up, experimented on, and things being inserted under their skin and so on. All of this is totally untrue. There is not a single instance of such happenings. All of these stories are the result either of the fevered astral imagination of people who want to feel these things and do so in an astral sense, which they then describe to others and so build up a climate; or work of certain negative forces in the world whose aim is to keep from the public the reality of the extra-terrestrial connection of this planet. All the planets at Hierarchic level are interconnected and are all in communication. This solar system acts as a unit - it is not one planet and a whole lot of dead planets. They are all teaming with life at different stages. We are at a midway stage; Venus is unbelievably evolved compared with this planet, as is Jupiter, Mercury, Saturn and various other planets. They have no need to carry out experiments on us; they know. They are so advanced that they can make the UFO craft which are made from etheric matter. They create the crop circles as a means of letting us know, obliquely, that they are here - that the Space Brothers are real. Only they could simultaneously, in fields all over the south of England, in a few seconds, create unbelievably complex and beautiful crop circles. The technique is programmed into the vehicle; they only have to hover and in a few seconds the work is done.

Q. Will Space Brothers work more openly in the world in the future?

A. Yes; the process is already beginning.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Top 10 List

First, allow me to understate that this was not the most exciting Saturday in my life. I slept late, did a little grocery shopping, and then went up on the roof and cleaned off the debris from four hurricanes and the autumn so far. I collected a total of 15 large bags of branches and leaves, and only stopped then because I ran out of leaf bags. Afterwards, I was soaked in sweat, smelled like exhaust from the leaf blower, and needed a shower and a nap, both urgently, and couldn't decide which to do first (I'd like to say that I did them simultaneously, but I'm not sure how to do that, so I'll confess that I took the shower and skipped the nap). Since I have nothing much to say, however, let me share this "Top 10" list I found in the newsgroups (in slightly different form - I edited it some for my own purposes):

From: Hell Pope Huey
Date: 26 Oct 2004
Subject: 10 Things To Hate About Everyone

1. People who point at their wrist while asking for the time.... I know where my watch is pal, where the hell is yours? Do I point at my crotch when I ask where the toilet is?

2. People who are willing to get off their butt to search the entire room for the tv remote because they refuse to walk to the tv and change the channel manually.

3. When people say "Oh you just want to have your cake and eat it too". What damned good is a cake if you can't eat it? Idiot.

4. When people say "it's always the last place you look". Of course it is. Why the hell would you keep looking after you've found it?

5. When people say while watching a film "Did you see that?" No,loser, I pay good money to go to the cinema and stare at the damn floor.

6. People who ask "Can I ask you a question?" You gave me no choice,did you, sunshine?

7. When something is "new and improved!" Which is it? If it's new, then there has never been anything before it. If it's an improvement, then there must have been something before it.

8. When people say "life is short". Life is the longest thing anyone ever experiences. What can you do that's longer?

9. When you are waiting for the bus and someone asks "Has the bus come yet?". If the bus had come, would I be standing there?

10. People who ask me if I went to Budapest last summer because I'm a Zen Buddhist - sure, Einstein, everyone knows the Buddha was Hungarian, and that Zen is an Eastern European tradition . . .

I may also have an eleventh: Blogger's spell checker. It's got to be one of the world's worst! While composing the above, I misspelled "slightly" as "s-l-i-g-h-l-t-y," transposing the second- and third-to-last letters. Blogger's spell checker found the error, but instead of figuring out the transposition and suggesting the correct spelling, it offered only the word "saleslady" as an alternative. Where's the "i," where's the "g" and where's the "h" is "saleslady?" Where are the "a's" in "slightly?" Aaargh!!!!

That's it for now. Happy Halloween, and don't forget to turn your clocks back an hour!

Friday, October 29, 2004

Major "Ka-Ching!"

The following, in slightly different form, appeared in today's New York Times:

A. Bart Giamatti, the former baseball commissioner and avid Red Sox fan, once said that Fenway Park was the place to understand Calvinism in America, to learn that people sometimes fail and that failure can build character. "There's a crack in Calvinism now," said Leslie Epstein, a novelist who is chairman of the creative writing department at Boston University and whose son, Theo, is Red Sox general manager. "Now, we're going to have to find something else. Maybe Bostonians will be secretly wishing for a Kerry loss so they can wail about that."

But enough about baseball, already. This afternoon, I picked up my car from Buckhead Jeep while I was out running around in my rented Buick LaSabre doing work stuff. The cost to repair the window that wouldn't stay up and that had been held in place with duct tape since last Friday was going to be about $230 (ka-ching!). As long as they were inside the door, I also had them fix the lock (the keyless entry wasn't working) - another $180 (ka-ching!). That's $410 (ka-ching!) - before tax (ka-ching!). But as long as they had it in the shop, I took their advice and got the oil changed, filters replaced, differential serviced, etc., as well as a full tune up (points, sparks, timing, etc.) so that the total, including the $410 for the door, was about $1,300(ka-ching!). But it got worse.

All that was last Wednesday. After the maintenance was done, while they were out test driving the car, they heard a "funny noise" from the underbody and checked it out - it turns out that the power transfer unit was shot and needed major repair, including a new transfer case. The part alone was over $1,000 (ka-ching!), and wasn't even in stock. They said that it would be Friday (today) before they could even get the part delivered.

At first, it all sounded like bullshit to me, and I resisted getting the repair done, but the Service Rep kept insisting that I could do what I wanted, but he wouldn't recommend actually driving the car around with the transfer the way it was. It could go out at any time, he warned, leaving me suddenly in a powerless car, say, on the highway, or alone late at night. So I told him to go ahead and do it.

So instead of renting the Buick LaSabre for one day (Wednesday) for about $40, I had to rent it for three days at a total cost of $140 (ka-ching!). After turning the car in to Enterprise, I walked back up Piedmont Road to Buckhead Jeep to bail out my car. I knew it was all going to be expensive - I was expecting it to be about $3,400 - but when I went to the cashier, with service and all, she wanted a little over $4,000 (ka-ching!)! I talked and haggled with the Service Rep for a while, and he knocked about $150 off the price, bringing it just under $4,000. Now, $150 might not sound like much, especially considering the total size of the bill, but on any other day of the week $150 is a lot of money, and I wanted my car back, so I took what I could get, and gave the cashier my MasterCard and paid up.

I feel like I've been raped. It's nice to have good credit, though . . .

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Boston Wins Series, 4-0: Red Sox Erase 86 Years of Futility in 4 Games

Confessions of a Red Sox Fan

Last night, Boston beat St. Louis in Game 7 of the World Series. I've been an ardent Red Sox fan ever since I moved to Boston in 1975, although I haven't lived there in many, many years. If you cannot understand why I continued to cheer for a team that had consistently failed to win the World Series since their last championship in 1918, when Babe Ruth was a pitcher for them, you will probably never understand me at all. So let me try to explain.

Fenway Park opened in 1912, six days after the sinking of the Titanic. The Red Sox played New York in the World Series during that inaugural season. Game 2 of the three-game series ended in a tie, so after seven games, the series was tied, 3-3-1, and it all came down to the 10th inning of the eighth and final game. Boston's Smokey Joe Wood gave up a run in the top of inning, but the Sox rallied for two runs off the Yankee's Mathewson in the bottom of the 10th to beat New York 3-2.

Six years later, the Sox won the 1918 World Series, due in part to the pitching of one Babe Ruth. The next season, the Babe set a major league record by hitting 29 home runs in a single season. However, after the season, Boston sold Ruth to the rival Yankees and the next year, Ruth broke his own record by hitting 54 homers in one season for New York. Perhaps as a punishment for one of the stupidest transactions in baseball history, the Sox were not to win another World Series that century.

It's not as if they never came close, however. They won the American League Championship and were in the World Series many times, including 1967, 1975 and 1986, but bad luck, incredible coincidence and even possibly some sort of cosmic spiritual force prevented them from winning another Series championship.

For example, in 1949, the Red Sox were having one of their best seasons in years. Ted Williams was having a 150-run season (the last major league player to do so). Williams was back from a fighter-pilot stint in World War II (he was later to serve in Korea) and just eight years off his blistering .406 season of 1941. However, the Red Sox went to New York with a one-game lead and two games remaining on the schedule, and lost both games and the pennant.

Their bad luck continued through the next several decades. In 1960, Ted Williams hit his last home run in Fenway Park. A Red Sox pitcher has not thrown a no-hitter since Dave Morehead in 1965. In 1973, Tommy Harper stole 54 bases, but was the last player on the team to get as many as 30 in one season since that year.

However, in 1967, it seemed that their luck was beginning to change. Carl Yasztremski led them to the American League Championship and the World Series, but they lost the championship to the Cincinnati Reds.

Between 1972 and 1986, the Red Sox were in first place eight times after July 4, but won only one division championship during that period. In '72, they were in first place as late as September 26, but finished the season half a game behind Detroit. In '73, they were in first place on July 10 and wound up finishing the season eight games behind Baltimore. In '74, they led New York by seven games on August 23, but finished the season in third place, seven games behind the Orioles, who were in third place by eight games on August 29.

But in 1975, Yaz led the team to another American League championship, aided, in part, by two rookies, Carlton Fisk and Freddie Lynn. As I said, I moved to Boston that year with my family and got caught up in the World Series frenzy, although I was the only one in my family to do so. I took large amounts of teasing and abuse for my new loyalty.

The '75 Series was a classic by anybody's standards. The Sox came from behind to tie the Series up at three games each. I think everyone has seen the film clip of Fisk in Game 6, waving his arms at his fly ball, urging it away from the foul pole and into the bleachers for a tie-breaking, game-winning home run. But in keeping with Boston tradition, the Sox lost the seventh game and the championship, again to the Reds.

My family delighted in teasing me about he loss. "Wait till next year!," they taunted. However, instead of converting me to a Yankees fan like them, the teasing and humiliation only made my loyalty stronger. My logic was, if and when they do win it all, and if I were to have maintained my loyalty through all the intervening years, it would justify the teasing I endured in 1975 and the following years. A Red Sox championship would validate my support of the team through all those years of losses. Redemption would be found in continuing to support the team, through thick and thin, and the longer the quest for a championship, the sweeter, the more rewarding, that redemption would ultimately be.

In '76, the year after their World Series loss to the Reds, the Sox named Don Zimmer manager in mid-season and finished in third place, and rebounded a little the next year and finished the 1977 season at 97-64 and second place.

In 1978, the Red Sox led the Yankees by 14 games on July 19, by nine on August 9. I was a regular at Fenway that year, figuring that this would certainly be their year. Yaz was still playing well, Fisk and Lynn were in their prime, and another young player, Jim Rice, was leading the majors. The Sox fell 3 1/2 games behind the Yankees in September, again subjecting me to chants of "Wait 'till next year!," not only from my family, but also my college roommate, a native New Yorker. But Boston won their last eight straight games, finishing the season in a dead tie with New York and forcing a one-game playoff - surely this was the year of redemption.

I remember the game well. It was played in Fenway but tickets were virtually impossible to get. My roommate (the Yankees fan), my girlfriend (a Sox fan, of course), our buddy Greg (Yankees) and I all watched the game together on a small black-and-white t.v. I had bought a six-pack of beer and a bottle of Jack Daniels for the game: beer to celebrate Red Sox runs, and the whiskey for consolation if the Yankees scored.

The game was almost a metaphor for the entire season. The Red Sox started off strong in the early innings, and Yaz put Boston ahead with a home run in the second inning. However, in the middle innings, the Yankees came back, and in the seventh inning, the Yankee's Bucky Dent (who, I believe, will be forever known in New England as "Bucky Fucking Dent") hit a three-run homer off Mike Torrez. The hit was just a little blooper that might have been an easy pop out in most other ball parks, but due tot he unusual architecture of Fenway, it became a home run as it cleared the Green Monster. The Red Sox struggled to get back in the game and got close, but Yaz popped out in the bottom of the ninth, unable to score the tying run. The Red Sox lost the game, 5-4, and the division went to the Yankees, the eventual World Series champions.

The gloating and high-fiving on the part of Greg and my roommate was unbearable. My girlfriend and I wandered outside, buzzed on the consolation whiskey. The glaring sunshine of the afternoon hurt our eyes after a day spent indoors watching television, and the annoying blare of traffic got on our nerves. The headline on the mid-afternoon edition of the Boston Globe read "RED SOX AHEAD - Yaz Homers in the Second." I bought a copy of the paper thinking it may become a collectors item, a sort of "Dewey Beats Truman" of sports memorabilia. It didn't, but I kept the issue for years anyway, finally discarding it several years later after it was used as impromptu packing material during a move. But once again, the redemption had been denied, and each passing season made me cheer for them all the more strongly to validate my loyalty for the previous, losing years.

I could go on (but I won't) and recount similar stories of 1986 and Bill Buckner's missed ball against the Mets in Game 6 of the World Series, or of 2003 and Aaron Booone's home run winning the ALCS for the Yankees. I no longer need to open those old wounds, however. Once again, just like in 1978, the Boston Red Sox won their last eight straight games, but this time in the post-season, and last night, Boston beat St. Louis in Game 7 of the World Series. They've finally won. Redemption is mine, and it is sweet and it is rewarding. There is joy in Mudville. I've waited 'till next year, and this is it. 1918. 2004.

And finally I can say it, what I've wanted to say ever since I bought the Globe on a Boston street corner in 1978:

Hey, New York: Who's your daddy, now, bitch?

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

The Red Sox won Game Three

of the World Series last night, 4-1, and without the drama of the eight embarrassing errors of the first two games. They're one game (9 innings) away from their first World Series victory since 1918, but I still don't feel comfortable. Those "Calvinistic clouds of self doubt" still circle around my bald head. How's this for a script? - after being the first team to come back and win a seven-game series after being down 0-3, they turn around and become the second team to lose a seven-game series after being up 3-0.

But I don't think that's going to happen either, and even if it did, it wouldn't matter because we still beat the Yankees! Kirsten was right, the Yankees are a virus, and the Sox are the cure. It's a new millenium, baby. The Boston Red Sox are the team of destiny. I think. If we can just keep from committing those errors . . .

I'm working from home today. Okay, well, I'm not working right now, I'm blogging, but technically I'm working from home. I dropped the car off at Buckhead Jeep this morning to get the driver's-side window fixed (it won't roll up, and has been held up with duct tape since Friday), and then walked a half-block down Piedmont to Enterprise and rented a 2004 Buick LaSabre. I've got a report to edit, so I have billable work for the day, and at 2:00 ComCast is coming over to install a digital phone line and the locksmith who let me in my car on Friday is coming over to re-key the doors to the house. So right now, I'm at my home computer, listening to Harold Budd and trying to find the motivation to start editing that report.

But before I do that, I have to tell you about the horror that appeared in my mailbox yesterday. Not my email Inbox, but my real, honest-to-God, brick-and-mortar, U.S. Postal Service mailbox. When I innocently walked down the driveway to pick up the bills, advertising circulars and other assorted trash that I typically get in the mailbox, I found (drum roll, please) . . . a membership registration to the AARP!!! That's right, the American Association of Retired Persons. As in Old Persons. As in I-turned-50-last-summer-and-I'm-going-to-die-soon, life-as-I-know-it-is-over, do-not-go-gentle-into-that-good-night, fucking senior citizens!!!.

According to their letter, for only $12.50 ($29.50 for three years if I think I will live that long), I can be a bona-fide, card-carrying member of the AARP!. Apparently, membership will provide me access to their group health insurance and allow me to join any one of their 2,700 local chapters. Plus, I get a subscription to Modern Maturity magazine, which they apparently have wisely renamed "AARP - The Magazine."

Bastards. I don't know how they got my age or my new address. And I imagine this isn't the last I've heard from them. Actually, though, I may join, just so I could walk around with a Membership Card in my wallet and be able to say, in case I ever need to, that I'm an honest-to-God, card-carrying old fart.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
- Dylan Thomas

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Email From London

As part of my continuing attempts

to reach out to my evil corporate bosses, I have developed an interest in American sports, including the Red Sox in baseball and the Miami Dolphins in football.

Obviously, I can keep a distance from the material. All the rivalries that exist in baseball or football pass right over me. It's an intellectual exercise for me: I remain above the fray and disengaged.

So, last week, when my colleagues from New York were visiting, I was able to helpfully and systematically explain how "the Sox" would certainly triumph over the Yankees (despite being down 2-zip at that moment). How the 20th century was the Yankees time, whereas the 21st century is our time. How the Yankees are, if you will, a virus - and the Red Sox are the cure.

I can't remember much of the response, it was like blahblahblahblahRodriguezblahblahMatsui(or was it chop suey?)blahblahblah.

Given the results overnight, I thought I might call them this afternoon (when they come into work) to discuss these points further.

Isn't it great the way sports bring people together?

- Kirsten B.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Bush Outsourcing the Bulge

Forget the stolen Iraqi explosives. Forget the shortage of flu vaccine. Forget the embarrassing lapse in military intelligence that led to the ambush and execution of 49 freshly trained Iraqi soldiers. The Bush Bulge continues to be the real talk of Washington. On NBC's "Meet The Press," Tim Russert seriously asked an administration official what was up with the hump. The official responded "Perhaps he was picking up signals from Mars, Tim," and laughed it off as something for conspiracy nuts. When Russert pressed him again by saying "No, seriously. People are truly curious," the official again laughed the question off and "chalk(ed) it up to bad tailoring".

Today the president tried to lay it to rest once and for all on ABC's "Good Morning America," by confessing, "I'm embarrassed to say it's a poorly tailored shirt." The problem with this explanation, of course, is that the presidential tailor in question turned out to be French -- a man with the classically Gallic moniker, Georges de Paris. And that instantly raised a troubling question in red-state America: What the hell is George W. Bush doing outsourcing his tailoring needs to some Frenchy named "de Paris?" And why does he need to go overseas when Paris is obviously less skilled at producing a smooth-fitting jacket - or shirt - than any off-the-rack designer at Bloomingdale's?

The headache for the White House only got bigger when The Hill ran a photo of de Paris, who was revealed to be an eccentric-looking gnome of a fellow, with a shocking white cascade of curls that put one immediately in mind of, well, a French poodle. A miniature one. Unless the president enjoys being made to look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame (written by another Frenchman) by incompetent -- or perhaps malicious -- Parisian gnomes, it's time for Bush to explain why he's not bringing this American job back home.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

We had a pretty good weekend in Panama

City Beach. After all of my misadventures on Friday, we got down to Panama City around 8:00 p.m., and loaded up the boat for the morning.

On Saturday morning, we headed out on Captain Bill's El Tortuga. There were five of us: me, Capt. Bill, my friend Mike C., John the Astronomer and Matt from New Orleans. A nice small crew for a dive trip.

Saturday's weather was delightful: sunny, warm and calm. Our first dive was relatively shallow over some sandy flats and to a nearby jetty. We saw a few grouper and schools of assorted "bait fish." Mike C. found a sea spider on the jetty, and played around with it for our amusement, letting it crawl over his arms and shoulders. Our second dive was at an old sunken barge. Here, visibility was pretty low (about 5 feet), but I managed to make out some clown fish, angel fish, and another couple of grouper. The barge itself had some big holes that looked like good moray habitats, but none came out to greet us.

That night, after dinner, we watched the Red Sox win Game 1 of the World Series, 11-9.

Sunday was overcast and a little breezier, and the seas had about one-foot swells. It was still a fine day, although New Orleans Matt got seasick when we stopped and let the El Tortuga roll in the waves. Our first dive was back at the barge, where we were hoping for some better vis, but were disappointed to find it about the same, and our second dive was back at the jetty, with about the same result as yesterday.

We got back to the dock around 1:00 p.m. and headed home. Instead of riding back with Capt. Bill, I let Matt from New Orleans travel with him, and rode instead with Mike C. and John the Astronomer. We had to drop Mike C. off in Tallahassee, where he was meeting his wife for a week in Florida, and John the Astronomer and I rode back together to Atlanta. By the time we got back to the unsellable condo in Vinings, Game 2 of the World Series was already on the radio. I listened to the game as I drove the Jeep, with its driver's side window held up with duct tape, back to Collier Hills, where the house had not been burglarized over the weekend, and there I watched the Red Sox win Game 2 of the World Series, 6-2.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

The thrice-aborted Panana City dive trip

did not start off well at all. Friday morning, after I had packed all my diving gear, clothes and everything else that I thought I might need for the weekend into the car, I headed to the office for a few hours of work. However, on the way, I stopped at a neighbor's house to drop off some Homeowners' Association paperwork. I hopped out of the car to put the envelope into her mailbox and left the car running, but as I was closing the mailbox, I heard the car door swing shut. "What I think might have just happened better not have happened," I thought, but sure enough, when I came around to the driver's side, I found that, in fact, I was locked out of my car, with the keys still in the ignition, the engine running, my cell phone on the dashboard, and my luggage in the back.

What to do? I tried all of the doors and they were all locked. I tried jimmying the windows and the doors, but the security was pretty good - I couldn't get into the locked car. I could easily have walked home to get my backup set of car keys, but the house was all locked up for the weekend, and I would have had to break in to enter. Alternately, I could have broken a car window, so the choice seemed to be between breaking glass in the car and breaking glass at the house.

Fortunately, I had to do neither. Up the block, a minibus had pulled over to the side of the road. I think the driver was looking to take a quick nap between runs, but he allowed me to use his cell phone. I dialed 411 and told the operator I needed a locksmith in the Howell Mill Road area. She connected me with one shop, who told me that it would be over an hour before he could make it to me, and when I tried to paint the picture for him (I was standing on the roadside next to a locked, running car), he gave me the number of another locksmith in the area. I called the second number, and although he initially referred me back to the first locksmith, since the first shop was closer to my car, he finally agreed to come right over, although he did say it would still take him about 20 minutes.

While I was waiting, the neighbor, to whom I was dropping off the paperwork, came walking by (she had been out jogging) and was understandably concerned to see a strange man leaning against a running car in front of her house. However, after we made our introductions, she expressed her sympathy for my situation and talked to me for a while. Unfortunately, she had been the victim of a recent robbery at her house. It seems that on a recent night, while she was parking her car, a thief slipped in to the open garage behind her and hid behind a trash can until she went into the house. After she had gone to bed, the thief slipped into the house through an adjoining door, grabbed her pocketbook from the kitchen counter and ran out, setting off the burglar alarm (it hadn't gone off earlier because he had followed her into the garage). Once she had realized what had happened, she called the police, who later found her pocketbook in a nearby park, and her credit cards, checkbook, etc. scattered all over the area. The thief had taken her cash, but discarded everything else. He still hadn't been caught as far as she knew.

Well, that didn't comfort me much as I stood by my locked but still-running car. She went on, however, almost ranting, about all of the break-ins and crime in the area. She recounted stories of car keys taken from houses in broad daylight to steal the vehicles, lookout crews watching for residents leaving for work and then looting the homes, and various other breakings-and-enterings. "Every house in this entire neighborhood has been hit at least once, if not more," she said, leaving me to wonder if she was just the over-reacting victim of a recent burglary, or if I had really moved into a major crime zone. "I'm buying a gun," she announced. I was actually relieved when the locksmith finally arrived, but as an ounce of precaution, I hired him to re-key all my locks and provide a few other security upgrades for my house after he successfully opened the passenger side door (at a cost of $60 - ka-ching!).

I finally got to work around 10 o'clock, and had to leave by 1:00 in order to meet Bill, the captain of the boat I would be diving from, for the long drive down to Panama City Beach. However, while driving over to the unsellable condo in Vinings, the designated rendez-vous spot for Captain Bill, I rolled the driver's side window down, and found to my enormous disappointment that it wouldn't go back up again. My immediate suspicion was that the locksmith had done something that busted the window mechanism as he broke into the car, but that didn't make any sense since he had entered from the passenger side, and it was the driver's side window that was stuck open.

I didn't want to leave the window open all weekend out of concern about 1.) the weather and 2.) crime, especially after my neighbor's stories (even though I was going to leave the car at the UCV and not in Collier Hills, there was still a history of automobile break-ins in the condo complex). I tried every way I could think of to get the window back up, from repeatedly switching the control button from the "up" position to the "down" and back again to pulling it up with my bare fingers, but it wouldn't respond.

Since I still had a few minutes left before I was supposed to meet Captain Bill, I quickly drove over to a Goodyear dealer, the nearest mechanic, and explained my dilemma - I needed to get the window closed before I met someone in about 15 minutes, so could I get some help not necessarily fixing the window, but at least securing it for the weekend? However, I think the person at the counter thought I was just trying to avoid paying hourly mechanic fees, and said "No way, can't help you. We'd have to take the door apart and that simply can't be done in 15 minutes. Sorry." I asked how long he thought it would take, and he estimated "a couple of hours," in a tone that implied "don't let the door hit your ass on the way out."

So, I slowly started to realize that I now had a situation on my hands that would take the rest of the afternoon to deal with (although not at that mechanic), and that I wouldn't be able to drive to Panama City Beach with Captain Bill. In fact, I probably couldn't go diving at all this weekend, unless I wanted to leave the driver's window open (which I didn't) or drive down alone that night or the next morning. So, reluctantly, I called Captain Bill and told him that due to the present unfortunate situation, I looked like the thrice-aborted trip finally had to be terminally aborted, at least for me.

As it turned out, though, Captain Bill was not far at all from where I was calling, and suggested that he swing by with his tool kit to see if together we couldn't figure out a way to fix the window. We met, and using pliers, vice grips, and screwdrivers, managed to pry the window up into a closed position, and duct-tape it shut. I then parked the car at the UCV, loaded my luggage into Captain Bill's pickup, and off we went, finally, for the five-hour drive down to Panama City.

Friday, October 22, 2004

"The press has bravely and nobly eroded the

public trust. What I'm advocating is the media come back and work for us again. . . The bias of the media is not liberal. It's lazy and sensationalist."
- Jon Stewart

Meanwhile, while I was watching all those baseball games, what else was going on in the world? Let's see, last Friday, Daily Show host Jon Stewart appeared on Crossfire and called bow-tied conservative co-host Tucker Carlson a "dick" on national t.v., and said that Crossfire was "partisan hackery" that did little to advance the cause of democracy.

"You have a responsibility to the public discourse, and you fail miserably," Stewart said.

"You need to get a job at a journalism school, I think," Carlson responded.

"You need to go to one," Stewart shot back.

Carlson chided Stewart for lobbing softball questions when John Kerry appeared on The Daily Show last month. Stewart looked genuinely appalled. "I didn't realize - and maybe this explains quite a bit - that the news organizations look to Comedy Central for their cues on integrity." When Carlson continued to argue, Stewart shut him down hard. "You are on CNN," he said. "The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls."

Carlson complained that for a comedian, Stewart wasn't being very funny. "Come on," he said, "be funny." "No," Stewart replied, "I'm not going to be your monkey." Later, Carlson told Stewart that he was "more fun" on his Comedy Central show, leading Stewart to call him a dick.

Meanwhile, last Wednesday, Courtney Love was back in court and pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct for hitting a clubgoer on the head with a microphone stand during a performance. The Judge granted Love a conditional discharge, meaning her case will be sealed after one year if she pays the victim $2,236 to cover medical expenses, joins a drug-treatment program and does not commit any other crimes. If Love violates the conditions, she could face 15 days in jail.

"I just wanted it to be over," Love said after the hearing, wearing a long, light-brown suede coat lined with fur. "I played a rock show. I didn't do anything. I wasn't on drugs. Playing a rock show had nothing to do with drugs."

The case stems from an incident in March, when Love hit Gregory Burgett, 24, of Kentucky with a microphone stand as he watched her show at a Manhattan nightclub. Burgett needed three staples in his head to close the wound, and Love was arrested on misdemeanor charges of reckless endangerment and third-degree assault. Those charges were reduced to one charge of disorderly conduct. Asked outside court whether she had met or spoken to Burgett, Love replied, "I don't know who that was, but he has a medical bill and I'm paying it."

Love also faces a felony assault charge in California for allegedly attacking a woman with a liquor bottle at an ex-boyfriend's home in April. A preliminary hearing is set for October 27.

As for me, I'm off to Panama City Beach for a third attempt at a twice-aborted dive trip. The first trip was called off on account of Hurricane Ivan, and the second due to forecast thunderstorms and five-foot seas. The forecast for this weekend looks much better - sunny, highs in the lower 80s, and 1- to 2-foot seas. I might finally got some underwater time in.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

With 4 Home Runs, Including One Grand Slam, the Red Sox Eliminate the Yankees with a 10-3 Victory in Game 7 of the A.L.C.S.!

'Nuff Said!

But, no, I can't leave it at that. Words truly escape me, but to quote Katagiri Roshi, "You have to say something." But what can I say?

I moved to Boston in 1975, and saw the Red Sox come from behind to tie the World Series up at three games each, only to lose to the Reds in Game 7. In 1978, I saw Bucky Dent's home run end the Sox' season in a one-game playoff. By 1986, I no longer lived in Boston, but still watched with horror as Bill Buckner's notorious 10th-inning error cost the Sox Game 6 of the World Series, and then saw the Mets go on and win Game 7. And then there was Game 7 of the ALCS a year ago. When David Ortiz hit a homer, I thought, "That's it. We can't lose now." And them along comes Aaron Boone . . .

1918. Bucky, Buckner and Boone. What a legacy. But still I cheered for the Sox.

Bob Ryan put it well in today's Boston Globe: "What they did as a group will now be toasted and recounted for decades to come, and it should be. What we just saw was a tribute to 25 athletes and a coaching staff that refused to acknowledge a 100-year history. Baseball teams don't come back from being down, 3-0, they were told. They didn't buy into it.

"The week of baseball they gave us would have been phenomenal under any circumstances, but when you're the Red Sox playing the Yankees, it is never a normal circumstance. To come within three outs of being swept in Game 4, to persevere in that extraordinary 14-inning Game 5, to receive the kind of gritty pitching they got from Schilling in Game 6, and then to put everything together in spectacular fashion in Game 7, and to do it all against the Yankees, was an off-the-charts display of class and determination.

"One year ago the Red Sox lost a traumatic Game 7 in this very park. It was talked about incessantly. Last Saturday night, the team lost a 19-8 game in Fenway. It was another frustrating chapter in the great Yankee-Red Sox drama. Elimination was imminent. The entire relationship between the Red Sox and their greatest rival seemed fated to remain an endlessly repetitious story in which the dynamics would never change. Call it Groundhog Day. Call it Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown. Call it Sisyphus pushing his rock up the hill. They all apply. Down, 3-0, and having been humiliated in their own park (19 and 22 hits), the Red Sox were regarded as toe-tag material -- again.

"There was only one place on earth where there was any hope, and that was inside the Red Sox clubhouse. The single most alternatingly stressful and exhilarating week in Boston sports history is over. I need a beer."

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

"What he did was completely unprofessional

and really hurt his team. It was an unprofessional play and he knows that. He has to brush his teeth and look at himself in the mirror in the morning."
- Kevin Millar, commenting on A-Rod's chop to Bronson Arroyo's arm during the 8th inning.

Those gritty, never-say-die Boston Red Sox have made history - no team in the history of baseball has ever come back from an 0-3 deficit to force a Game 7. Never in basketball history, either. It's only happened in hockey, and then you have to go all the way back to 1975.

Last night, though, the Red Sox did it. By beating the Yankees 4-2, they have forced a Game 7 tonight, despite losing the first three games of the series, including a humiliating 19-8 beating last Saturday.

You gotta love it.

I missed the first 3 innings of the game. However, I got home from karate class just in time to see Boston score four runs in the 4th. As the game ran on, though, those Calvinistic clouds of self doubt kept circling round my head as I wondered if these cursed Red Sox, who never manage to win the big series (including the biggest series of all, the World, since 1918), would really hold on and make history by winning their third straight. Especially after New York scored runs in both the 7th and 8th innings, making the score 4-2.

The Yankees weren't above their usual gamesmanship to try to reverse their fortune. Later in the 8th inning, with Jeter on first, Alex Rodriguez hit a ground ball toward the plate. The Sox pitcher, Bronson Arroyo, picked up the ball, put it in his glove, and went to apply the tag. A-Rod, however, took a wild chop at Arroyo's glove, knocking the ball out and down the first-base line. The first-base ump immediately signaled Rodriguez safe, even though A-Rod a.) went out of the baseline, b.) never touched first base, and c.) is not allowed to use karate in a baseball game. Jeter, meanwhile, ran home and the scoreboard immediately read "Boston 4, New York 3."

"That was unprofessional. That's against the rules," Kevin Millar said. "If you want to play football, strap on some pads and go play for the Green Bay Packers."

The call was eventually reversed and the run taken back, but the fine New York fans, not satisfied with merely booing and chanting "Bullshit!," began throwing balls, water bottles and whatever else they could find on to the field. Even The New York Times, which you would expect to be at least slightly partisan to New York (i.e., The New York Times) said "The Yankees are one loss from sinking to an inglorious place in baseball history. Their fans beat them to it last night." Riot cops in full battle gear eventually had to be brought on to the field, resulting in the bizzarre and somewhat apocalyptic sight of the rest of the eighth inning played with riot cops lining both left and right fields. By the ninth inning, of course, the cops were removed so as to allow more fielding room for the Yankees while the Red Sox were at bat.

No matter, though. The Red Sox held on, despite allowing two men on base and the winning run to come to the plate during the 9th. History was made. The series is tied, 3-3, and Game 7 is tonight. Please don't call me after 8:00.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

A lesson on patience (the kshanti paramita)

I left work early yesterday in order to get home by 5:00 p.m. to watch the first pitch of Game 5 between the Yankees and the Red Sox. However, I knew I wasn't going to get to see all of the game because I had to open the zendo, just like the Monday before and just like the Monday before that, etc (rhythm). Whatever happens during the game will happen, I reasoned, whether I watch it or not, so I settled down to watch the first several innings of the game.

The Red Sox jumped to an early, first-inning 2-0 lead, but the Yankees scored one run in the top of the second, reminding New England that they can score again at any time, and tie the game up (or worse). The game continued for a few more scoreless innings.

At about 6:45, I left the house and arrived at the Zen Center at 7:00. I tried to listen to the game on the radio on the way over, but could only find it on one very distant AM station. I could barely make out what the announcer was saying over all the static, but that was still better than nothing. Since the Zen Center doesn't open until 7:30, I was hoping that I could sit in the parking lot for a little while longer and listen to another inning or two before I went in, but when I arrived there was already one person waiting to enter - and I was the only one with the keys.

Whatever happens during the game will happen, I reasoned, whether I listen or not, so I turned off the radio with the score still 2-1 and unlocked the Center's door, and settled down for the evening service.

So I missed the game from 7:00-7:30 as I prepared for the evening service, and from 7:30-8:30 for the service itself, and from 8:30-9:00 for the post-service dharma discussion. No problem. By 9:00, four hours had passed since the game began and it was surely over by then, I reasoned, so whatever happened had already happened. But as I drove from the Center to the unfortunately named Thai Coon restaurant for post-service dinner with a few friends, I turned the radio on AND THE GAME WAS IN EXTRA INNINGS!

As best as I could determine over the poor reception on the radio, the Yankees came back and tied the game up (actually, as I later learned, they actually took a 4-2 lead in the sixth inning, and Boston came back and tied it up in the eighth). I could not determine what inning they were in, but as I listened, Bronson Arroyo got back-to-back strike outs on A-Rod and then Sheffield (the box score later informed me that it was the 10th inning).

I was in a dilemma. Should I go in and join my friends for dinner and miss the rest of the game? Should I stay here in the parking lot and keep listening? Should I high-tail it on home and watch as much of the game as I could still catch? It was already about 9:15, and I wasn't sure how much longer the game would go on (remember, it started at 5:00) so I figured that whatever happens during the game will happen, whether I watch it or not, so I turned off the car and joined Arthur and K. for dinner.

We got out at 10:30, and on the way home, the radio was now covering the Cardinals-Astros National League playoff game. "Ah, the game must be over," I thought. I listened carefully all the way home to hear if they mentioned the final Red Sox-Yankees score, but heard nothing. At home, I turned on the television to catch the score on ESPN, but as the channel I had been watching hours earlier came on, I saw, to my amazement, that THE GAME WAS STILL ON!

It was now the 14th inning. Game tied 4-4. Officially the longest game in American League Championship Series history already. Johnny Damon was up with one out and no one on. He walks. One on, one out. Next, Cabrera strikes out. One on, two outs. Ramirez walks. Two on, two outs. David Ortiz due up next.

Ortiz can lay claim to being the most clutch performer in Red Sox history. He had homered at 1:22 of the morning of that same day to win Game 4. Now, 23 hours later, he has the chance to do it again, and he works the count to 2-and-2, then starts fouling off pitches. On the 10th pitch, Ortiz dumps a single into center and the ball drops to the field! Jeter doesn't even bother to throw the ball to the plate, Damon runs home from second, and the Red Sox win, 5-4, to bring the Series to 3 and 2. Game 6 Tuesday!

Now the lesson in all this is 1.) don't ever count the Red Sox out, but also, 2.) be patient. As disappointed as I was to have not seen much of the game, what did I actually miss? Nine innings of scoreless baseball? No big deal. A three-run Yankee inning? I wouldn't have wanted to see that anyway. A two-run Red Sox comeback in the 8th - that's all I really missed. And if I had to choose between that and seeing Ortiz' 14th inning heroics, I'd take the 14th every time.

So, I had managed to pull myself away from the game and drive to the Zen Center, open up and greet early guests, go through the entire service and post-service discussion, have dinner with two friends, and drive home, all without missing any of the essential drama, the hit that people will be talking about for years.

Patience pays.

Monday, October 18, 2004

What?!! The Red Sox won?!! Unbelievable!

As Dan Shaughnessy reported in the Boston Globe, "Down three games to none, and down 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth, the Sox last night rallied to tie the game against indomitable Yankee closer Mariano Rivera. They won it in the 12th inning at 1:22 this morning when Ortiz hit a Paul Quantrill 2-and-1 pitch into the Yankee bullpen to give the Red Sox a 6-4 Game 4 victory at Fenway Park. The game lasted 5 hours, 2 minutes, and many of those who stayed for the finish lingered even longer into the morning."

The Red Sox will start Pedro Martinez in Game 5 today at Fenway and Curt Schilling in Game 6 tomorrow in the Bronx if they get that far.

Ortiz' homer is being compared to Carlton Fisk's in 1975. But no team in baseball history has ever come back to win a seven-game series after trailing, 3-0. Ditto for the NBA. Of the first 25 baseball series which started 3-0, 20 ended in sweeps. You have to go to hockey and the 1975 New York Islanders (who came back against Pittsburgh) and the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs (vs. Detroit) for any glimmer of hope.

But there was no hope, nothing, not even a glimmer, at 11:30 last night when Rivera was on the mound and the Sox were three outs from elimination, end of season, and humiliation.

There was also a nice piece is yesterday's Sunday New York Times about the virtues of losing, or rather, the virtues of cheering for teams that lose. The point was that people who cheer for losing teams tend to be more resiliant in life, have better attitudes about life's successes and failures, and appreciate the long-sought-after victories when they finally do come more than the fans of perennial champions.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

There's an article in the travel section of today's Sunday New York Times about Corsica, where L. and I went on vacation about this time last year. Strange, last week, they ran an article about Budapest, where we vacationed this year. The Budapest article opened with a passage about the Gellert Hotel, which is where we stayed, and the Corsica article showcased Calvi, the town in which we spent our Corsican holiday.

Are we trend setters, and the Times reporting in our wake, or is it just my mind, clinging to any references to its own experience that it can find?

This morning at the Zen Center was interesting enough: we had an exceptionally large group of newcomers, including about a dozen seventh-graders, so we had to move the regulars into the small newcomers room and hold the beginners' instruction in the main zendo. It was a great opportunity to teach meditation to a large group, and it was refreshing to hear the open, honest, unpretentious questions of the young.

That afternoon, I really got into the yard work - beyond just the usual leaf blowing, I also raked up at least four full bags of leaves from around the yard.

After laundry and a little food shopping, I finally settled down to watch Game 4 of the Red Sox-Yankees. The Sox are down 0-3. Tonight is New York's chance to complete the sweep. The Red Sox took an early one-run lead (their first of the entire series), but New York came right back and took the lead away.

Eighth inning: New York is ahead. Mariano Rivera is coming to the mound. The Red Sox are going to lose this game, and be swept. I cannot watch anymore.

I'm going to bed.

Saturday, October 16, 2004


A few thoughts on the presidential debates:

Last Wednesday's third and final debate was a bit of a disappointment, not because Kerry didn't overwhelmingly win, but because the whole thing gave me a sense of deja vu - the content sounded just like the previous two debates. Was anything new actually said?

I suppose with the polls tied 48-48, and the race so polarized that voters are not likely to switch candidates no matter what either one says (anyone who is still undecided at this point is either retarded or lying), the strategy now is probably just to get the better turnout. Whoever motivates the larger constituency to turn out at the polls and vote will be our next president. So both sides just keep repeating the time-tested mantras that seem to most motivate their followers, or try to scare the public with what might happen if the other candidate were to win. Bush's comments about "the most liberal Senator in Congress" wasn't meant to dissuade any Democrats from voting for Kerry, but to mobilize Republicans to show up and vote to prevent "another Ted Kennedy" from being president. Similarly, Kerry's litany of complaints about Bush's record don't sound like reasons to vote against him to Republicans, but reminds Democrats what they need to go to the polls to prevent. really nailed it when they said, "We heard all sorts of things in the six hours of debates that came to a close Wednesday night in Tempe. We heard about 'hard work' and a 'comprehensive strategy' in the war on terror. We heard about 'going it alone.' We heard George W. Bush start and abort a weird joke about altered documents from CBS. We heard both John Edwards and John Kerry make gratuitous comments about Mary Cheney's sexual orientation. And God knows we heard a few things about No Child Left Behind.

"Here's are some words we didn't hear:

"Chads. Butterfly ballots. Disenfranchisement. Ralph Nader. Dick Cheney's energy task force. The Arctic National Wildlife Reserve. Duck hunting with Antonin Scalia. Fuel efficiency. SUVs. Mars.

"Bush's bulge. Jim Jeffords. Paul O'Neill. Richard Clarke. Valerie Plame. Venezuela. Peru. Haiti. Hunger. MoveOn. Lawrence v. Texas. Jim McGreevey. Martha Stewart. The lockbox.

"Jose Padilla. Yaser Hamdi. Guantanamo Bay. The death penalty. Miguel Estrada. Judge Roy Moore. Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Texas Air National Guard. Alabama. AWOL. The order to shoot down civilian aircraft. 'The Pet Goat.'

"Ahmed Chalabi. Jessica Lynch. Danny Pearl.

"Terror alerts. The Presidential Daily Brief. Condoleezza Rice. Fishing. 'Greeted as liberators.' Abu Ghraib."

Pretty good, but here's a few more words that both the candidates and left out:

"Skipper, the island is sinking." Teabagging. "Don't open that closet, McGee." Albania. Biscotti. "De plane, de plane!" Walnut hull dye. World's Largest anything. Congressman Wayne Hayes and Fanne Foxe. Spruce Goose. Gandy Goose. A-Rod's batting average. Burl Ives. Rubber bullets. The Time Tunnel.

Harlequin Romances. Dame Edna. Any mention of any classical composer or performer. Encyclopedia Brown. "Jane, stop this crazy thing." Bernard Buffet. Parchesi. Moulin Rouge. Frappe vs. milk shake. Motherfucker.

Pastiche. Beer bong. Xenophobia. Xylophone. Sunny Tufts. "Ix-nay on the atulence-flay." Flibbity jibbit. Marlboro Man. Chrome. Herb Albert. Allen Sherman. K-Tel's Funky Sounds of the Seventies. "Toss my salad." Those glow-in-the-dark sticks that they sell at rock concerts.

Remember when Bush said, "I remember going on an airplane in Bangor, Maine, to say thanks to the reservists and Guard that were headed overseas from Tennessee and North Carolina, Georgia. Some of them had been there before. The people I talked to their spirits were high. They didn't view their service as a back-door draft. They viewed their service as an opportunity to serve their country"?

What did he think they were instructed to say to the Commander in Chief? According to Gen. John Abizaid, US Central Command Commander (no, the title is not a joke. He really is the Central Command Commander. Well, okay, it IS a joke, but military people seldom see the humor in it), "None of us that wear this uniform are free to say anything disparaging about the Secretary of Defense or the President of the United States. We're not free to do that. It's our professional code. Whatever action may be taken, whether it's a verbal reprimand or something more stringent, is up the commanders on the scene."

Cheney's remarks about John Edwards' attendance at Senate votes were also a mistake in retrospective. No only did he leave himself open to the inevitable documentation of every time they met after he said "Tonight's the first time I met you" (including the photographs of them sitting side by side at a Senate prayer breakfast), but it also ignores the fact that Edwards' attendance was better than Gephart's or Lieberman's, who were also running for president. The fact is, no vote was affected by any of their absences.

But all of this is probably just my way of avoiding the ugly fact that the Red Sox lost (again). 0-3. Sunday's game is just a formality - the best the Sox can hope for is to avoid getting swept. That doesn't mean I won't watch it - my New England stoicism borders on masochism at times - but it DOES mean that I won't enjoy watching it.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Rained Out

Another rhythm - beginning and ending the week, at least Monday and Friday nights, at the Zendo. I went and sat this evening after work, just like I did the week before, just like I did the week before. It's nice to sandwich the week's samu between the two services.

The Red Sox v Yankees game tonight was postponed - apparently, it's raining in Boston. The series resumes tomorrow, so it will compete with college football, but I think I can handle it.

Another unstructured, or at least only lightly structured weekend. Karate (class 2) at noon tomorrow. Open the zendo Sunday morning. Outside of those stopgaps, it's all unstructured. Free time. No plans. Kinda scary . . .

Thursday, October 14, 2004


Coming home from work tonight, I saw that the patio was once again covered with leaves, and will need a good leaf blowing this weekend. It seems that I've had to use the leaf blower every weekend since I've moved here, many weekends to clean up after hurricanes or thunderstorms, other weekends just because it needed to be done. But I've come to enjoy the regularity of firing up the leaf blower, pulling the cord and hearing the engine cough to life, just like the weekend before, and like the weekend before that, and the weekend before that.

Autumn is definitely here. The color of the leaves is already starting to change, and the leaves that are dropping on the patio are now dry and brown, not the green twigs and leaves that fell following the hurricanes and thunderstorms. It's actually kind of amazing to me that the seasons actually do change, and just like the repetition of the weekly leaf blowing, I appreciate the rhythm of the changing seasons.

All the time, there's all kinds of rhythms going around on all kinds of frequencies and cycles: quick, short-interval rhythms like my breathing and the beating of my heart, to daily rhythms like hunger-eating-defecating, and weekly rhythms like the leaf blowing, opening the zendo on Monday nights, filling out time sheets on Fridays. Women are also intimately tied to the monthly rhythm of the lunar cycles, which is probably part of the reason why women often seem to be more in tune with their bodies than men, who have to leap from their short-cycle biological rhythms all the way out to the annual rhythms of the changing season.

As I live longer, I start to see even longer-frequency rhythms, like whole generations rising from infancy and growing and producing new generations of their own. I also see population change as suburbs, even cities, spring up where I remember open space and green trees. If I look hard enough, I can probably even see climate change in eroding beaches, now-dry creeks, and retreating glaciers.

These rhythms create patterns, and in patterns there is energy. Breaking patterns releases energy - from the block-busting bursts of energy released when the patterns of an atom are broken by fission or fusion, to the life-enhancing energy experienced when we break the pattern of our daily routines and do something new.

But it's easy to get caught up in these patterns and rhythms, though, and not even realize it, and then have your entire life pass quickly before you in 4/4 time before you even know it. I am now 50 years old and, not to sound too morbid about it, realize that soon I will be dead. In 20 years I will be 70. 20 years may sound like a long time to some, but as I look back to 1984, it doesn't seem like that long ago, and in the same amount of time as 1984 until now, I will be 70. Worse still, time goes faster with the passing years - the tempo of these rhythms increases with every year (is it almost Halloween again?). If 30 to 50 passed like one long breath, I will be 70 in the blinking of an eye.

Please don't get me wrong - being 70 is not all that terrible. As they say, it's better than the alternative. My mother came down and visited me this summer and she is now 70, and still working gainfully, sharp and aware, and still very alive and vibrant. But if 50 to 70 is but a blinking of an eye, 70 to 90 will be a nanosecond, and after 90, let's face it, I will be dead.

So, as the Zen Masters ask, since death itself is certain, what will you do with your life? And since death itself is certain but the time of death is uncertain, what will you do with this day? With this moment?

Somehow "shopping" doesn't seem like the appropriate response.

But meanwhile, I can just sit and listen to all of these rhythms play themselves out - the rhythms of my body, the rhythms of our society, the rhythms of the seasons and our planet. And realize that this thing that I call "myself" is but a single beat in a larger rhythm, a single note in a symphony if you will, and by increasing my awareness of the entire suite ("the music of the spheres" comes to mind) I can lose myself, literally, in these rhythms. You may not like the way this music ends, but you have to admit it's got a great beat and you can dance to it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004


There was an article in the on-line New York Times today about the thermal baths in Budapest, and it featured the Gellert Hotel and Baths, where L. and I stayed last August. I tried to email the article to her, in part to break the silence that has developed between us again, but the email feature failed on two attempts, and I took it as a sign that it wasn't meant to be so quit trying.

Today was also my long-awaited and much-anticipated first karate class at Atlanta Kick. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I still enjoyed the class. The ratio of women to men was about 5:1 - nice, and not at all what I expected - and even higher for the kickboxing class as I left. I was probably the oldest person in there by 10 years, but still got a lot of smiles and "Hi's" from the women . . . The class did really make me aware of how much flexibility I've lost, though, but I still managed to work up a good sweat, got in some cardio workout and even learned a little karate. Next class is Saturday at noon.

But what, then, is a Zen student doing in karate class (besides ogling the women)? As the Bhuddha said, mind and body are one, and body practice is no different than mind practice. In the Chinese of the great Chan Masters, the word "shin" meant both mind and body - there was no differentiation. Taking responsibilty for our lives means taking responsibility for our bodies. As Daido Loori wrote, "Body practice means realizing the Way with the body as well as the mind."

Afterwords, back in the majestic and palatial confines of the Collier Hills abode, I channel surfed between Game 2 of the Boston-New York ALCS and the third and final presidential debate between Bush and Kerry. Flipping back and forth made me realize, though, how I was looking at both just as some sort of entertainment or diversion, but in reality one wasn't really all fun and games, one will still be remembered and talked about years from now, one matters to our lives. Yes, the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry is important . . .

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

The Tao of Baseball

". . . And though it is like this, it is only that Yankees, while hated, flourish; and Red Sox, while cherished, fall."

The "greatest rivalry in sports" continued tonight with Game One of the ALCS pinning the Boston Red Sox against the New York Yankees. The Yankees won, 10-7, leading the game by 8-0 at one point. But Boston still almost rallied to win, putting the tying run on third base with two out in the eighth inning, bringing the tying run to the plate with one out in the ninth, and forcing the Yankees to use Mariano Rivera just hours after he flew back from a funeral in Panama.

And what is it with the press and Yankee tragedies? It's not enough for the press just to report that the Yankees have won, they have to try and dramatize it by saying that they won in the face of some enormous hardship - if Joe Torre's brother doesn't have cancer, then it's the September 11 attack on the World Trade Towers or a family funeral in Panama. It's not like there isn't tragedy in the other dugout - the First Noble Truth is the universality of suffering - but the discriminating minds of the national press can only see the suffering on "their," that is, New York's, side.

Anyway, it was a roller coaster of a game: Boston's new ace pitcher getting pounded for six runs in one inning, a seemingly insurmountable New York lead in Yankee Stadium, the Red Sox rally putting the tying run at the plate twice, etc.

It's going to be a fun series.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Genjo Koan

Last year, around Thanksgiving, I went to Zen Mountain Monastery in Mount Tremper, New York for their "Eight Gates of Zen" introductory workshop. On Saturday night, I had worked up the courage to go to dokusan with their sensei, John Daido Loori. I told sensei that I had been practicing shikantaza for about three years, but that I felt that my practice had lost its vitality, had lost some of its vigor. At the time, I was looking for someone to blame - my teachers, the Atlanta sangha, friends, anyone but myself.

Daido Loori asked me a few other questions about my practice, I think to gauge the depth of my understanding before answering, then asked me if I had ever read Dogen's Genjo Koan. Even as I answered "Yes," he quoted the opening stanza for me:

"When all dharmas are seen as the Buddha-Dharma, then there is delusion and realization, there is practice, there is life and there is death, there are buddhas and there are ordinary beings. When the myriad dharmas are each not of the self, there is no delusion and no realization, no buddhas and no ordinary beings, no life and no death. The Buddha's truth is originally transcendent over abundance and scarcity, and so there is life and death, there is delusion and realization, there are beings and Buddhas. And though it is like this, it is only that flowers, while loved, fall; and weeds while hated, flourish."

"Dogen mentions practice in the first line," Daido said, "but not in the next three. Why is that? What is this practice he is referring to?"

I had no answer, so Daido instructed me "Think about this carefully. Work on this question."

My ego was thrilled: John Daido Loori had given me a koan to work on! But after that thrill faded, I did contemplate the opening stanza of Genjo Koan for many months, and still had not arrived at a satisfactory answer.

One of the problems may have been the nature of the translation. As quoted above, which I recall is close to the way Daido Loori said it to me, the translation is by Gudo Nishijima and Chodo Cross. In the introductory Notes on the Translation, Nishijima Roshi comments, "I like the translation from which Master Dogen's Japanese can be guessed." Well, the Japanese flavor can certainly be tasted in the words. Unfortunately, though, they're a little hard to make sense of grammatically. "When the myriad dharmas are each not of the self . . ." What exactly does that mean?

In order to get a better understanding, I looked up alternate translations on the net. Prof. Masunaga Reiho has the following translation:

"When all things are Buddhism, delusion and enlightenment exist, training exists, life and death exist, Buddhas exist, all-beings exist. When all things belong to the not-self, there are delusion, no enlightenment, no all beings, no birth and decay. Because the Buddha's way transcends the relative and absolute, birth and decay exist, no delusion and enlightenment exist, all-beings and Buddhas exist. And despite this, flowers fall while we treasure their bloom; weeds flourish while we wish them dead."

The grammar is a little less obtuse, but the meaning still isn't quite there. And although he exchanged "practice" for "training," the question as to why it only appears once still isn't clear. And the use of double-negatives around "delusion" creates still more questions.

The San Francisco Zen Center provides this translation:

"As all things are buddha-dharma, there is delusion and realization, practice, and birth and death, and there are buddhas and sentient beings. As the myriad things are without an abiding self, there is no delusion, no realization, no buddha, no sentient being, no birth and death. The buddha way is, basically, leaping clear of the many and the one; thus there are birth and death, delusion and realization, sentient beings and buddhas. Yet in attachment blossoms fall, and in aversion weeds spread."

That helped a lot. "When the myriad dharmas are each not of the self . . ." is merely saying that all things are empty, that is, they are without an abiding self. Without an abiding self, they have no "they," thus "there is no delusion, no realization, no buddha, no sentient being, no birth and death." But still, what about this practice? Bob Myers offers a very plain-spoken, direct, and, well, English version of the stanza as follows:

"As truth dawns on the world, you look at things and you see the question of enlightenment, you see practice, you see beginnings and see endings, you see saints, you see sinners. But once you've stripped things of their selves, you no longer see confusion, nor enlightenment, nor wise people nor normal people, nor birth nor death. In the end, finally, life and death become one, confusion and clarity become one, life and death become one, the holy and the mundane become one. For at its heart the true way transcends all opposites. But these are just abstractions. You know the flower blossoms you so adore? They will nevertheless wither and fall. You know the weeds you so detest? They will nevertheless flourish and spread."

Reading that, it starts to become clear that to strip things of the self is the practice, and the perspective of the second line is from practice-enlightenment (the Atlanta Zen Center has t-shirts that read "practicenlightenment"). Since practice and enlightenment are one, and it's already been stated that there is "no enlightenment," it would be redundant to say "no practice." And finally, when a subjective view of the dharma merges with objective enlightenment, all become one, and what then isn't practice?

Finally, speaking of the subjective and the objective, Eido Michael Luetchford of Great Britain provides this incredibly direct translation:

"When we look at the world subjectively, we can find concepts like deluded, enlightened, we can define what is Buddhist practice and what is not, we can give value to life and to death, and we can distinguish between buddhas and ordinary people. But when we look at the world objectively, delusion and enlightenment cannot be found (i.e. are just abstract concepts), buddhas and ordinary people all have exactly the same physical makeup, and life and death are just states of matter. The truth that the Buddha taught is not contained in the area where we analyse and discriminate, and so life is just living, and death is just dying, sometimes we are deluded and sometimes we are clear, some people are buddhas - awake to reality - and others are not. And above all this, things are just as they are, sometimes as we want, sometimes not as we want."

It's really not very necessary to add anything more to that. Gassho to all the translators who went to the effort to put their versions on line, and gassho to the Monday Night crew for helping me struggle through this.

Of course, since the truth that the Buddha taught is not contained in the area where we analyze and discriminate, this intellectual explanation is not true understanding, is just another abstract concept, until it is fully realized, and until it is put into, dare I say it?, practice.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Who Needs Football?

I guess I'm just a non-conformist. Sunday, when it seems that all of America tunes in to watch their favorite NFL team, I left the television off all day. Not only that, but the Braves played a must-win Game 4 of their best-of-five series, which I understand they won, although I didn't watch any of that either.

No, I got up this morning and resumed my slothful ways from yesterday, but sans sports. I brewed up a big pot of coffee, read a few back issues of The New Yorker, and generally stuck around the house. Eventually, I did get in the jeep and headed to Bloomingdales and bought myself four new shirts for the office next week (ka-ching!). Flush with the enthusiasm of consumerism, I then headed back to Bed, Bath & Beyond to use the second 20%-off coupon I got in the mail on a set of kitchen knives (you know, one of those wood-block deals), as well as a terry-cloth bathrobe and a replacement bath mat for the one I tossed away after it turned out that it was the source of the stench (ka-ching!).

But even materialism can get old. I stopped at Barnes & Noble next, but despite a lot of browsing, I just couldn't find anything that I could convince myself that I wanted (except for a vanilla latte at the Starbucks counter). So I headed back home.

Probably the most productive thing I did all weekend was finally straighten out the closet. When I moved in here two months or so ago, I just randomly threw everything I had into the two closets off the master bedroom, and instead of re-organizing my clothes, I had just sort of gotten used to the random order: "Let's see, where are the grey dress pants? Oh yeah, between the University of Pittsburgh sweatshirt and the green button-down shirt I never wear." But I guess inspired by the combination of new Bloomie shirts and the wooden hangers from last week's BB&B shopping, I finally arranged all my clothes in some semblance of order (at least to me): pants on the lower rack and dress shirts on the upper in one closet, and casual shirts, sweats and tee's in the other closet. However, there's still enough randomness that you don't have to classify me as totally OCD.

So I guess I've pretty much made it through an unexpectedly unstructured weekend. It never did rain here, but it was overcast enough to let me believe that it was storming down in Panama City. I'm not sure when Mike and all are planning to re-schedule the trip, but in the meantime, I've got to start planning my leisure time better. At least I have my list of things to do still pretty much left to accomplish.

Saturday, October 09, 2004


As I said, I'm not very good with unstructured time. Oh, last night was okay: I stayed at work listening to the Red Sox game - at least until Vladimir Guerrero's seventh inning grand slam tied up the game, at which point I left the office and drove to the Zen Center. I got there right at 7:30, just as the services were about to begin. On the way home, I found out that Boston came back to win the game in extra innings - a three-game sweep into the ALCS! At home, I watched the second Presidential Debate before going to bed.

This morning, however, I slept until 9:00. Despite the long list of things to do that I composed yesterday, I spent most of the day vegging out and watching sports, although little of it was to my liking - the Braves lost Game Three of their series to the Astros, and the Bulldogs lost their first game of the season to Tennessee. Not a great day for Georgia teams. The Yankees won their series today, so at least I have a New York-Boston ALCS to look forward to.

I didn't quite spend the whole day in the house, however. At halftime of the Bulldogs game, I went out and fired up the leafblower. But that was about the extent of the physical activity today.

As the evening settled in, I thought about going out, but kept getting distracted - or distracting myself - with little side projects: laundry, reading, burning a few Miles Davis CDs to make some more room on my hard drive. I finally decided to just bag it and resign myself to spending a quiet day at home.

But tomorrow, as they say, is another day.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Not-So-Smooth Sailing

Panama City Beach - The Gulf Coast states are in for a wet weekend, with 20 mph winds from the east whipping up rough, 4- to 5-foot seas. Saturday's forecast for Panama City Beach calls for a 40% chance of scattered thunderstorms, increasing to 80% chance of t-storms on Sunday.

The best part of all this? I'm not there!

My plans were to go scuba diving this weekend with my friend Mike C. and others, leaving after lunch today for the five-hour drive down to Panama City Beach. I emailed the forecast to Mike on Thursday, but he simply replied, "you'll be getting wet anyway." So I packed up all my dive gear last night - BC, fins, snorkle, wet suit, regulator, etc. - and brought it all to work expecting to leave from there for the beach. However, Mike called me in the morning, saying that, gee, the weather is starting to look awfully grim, we're not going to have much fun anyway, let's cancel the trip.

Hard to argue with his logic. The weather's all the same once you're under water, but getting out to the dive site in 5-foot seas and thunderstorms is no picnic.

So it appears that I now have an unplanned weekend in Atlanta on my hands. Now, I'm not very good with unstructured time, but there is a lot going on this weekend. There's Game 3 of the Red Sox-Angels series this afternoon, and Round Two of the Presidential debates and Game 3 of the Yankees-Twins tonight. Tomorrow there's a full slate of football games, including Georgia-Tennessee, as well as Texas-Oklahoma, USC-California and Florida-LSU, not to mention Game 3 of the Braves-Astros series. And if I ever get sick of watching sports on TV, there's the six or seven unread back issues of The New Yorker that I packed in my suitcase for this weekend, not to mention an equal number of The Economist. And I have at least a half-dozen books that I've bought at various times this summer that I've been meaning to read someday.

Of course, if I want to get out of the house, there's Friday night, and Saturday and Sunday morning, services at the Zen Center. And I can start that new membership at the karate/kickboxing place. Or I could join a gym and go work out. Hey, I could go shopping (ka-ching!)! Or running!

The house could definately use a good cleaning - a ceiling-to-floor scrub down. I saw the first hints of mildew on the grout between the shower tiles this morning, and you definately want to stay on top of that. Plus the leaves all over the patio and driveway are just begging for a good leaf-blowing.

I could burn some CDs and make some room on my hard drive. I can finally get around to setting up the stereo and hanging the pictures. There's two ceiling lights that need their bulbs replaced.

I can go to PetSmart and pick out a puppy or a kitten (maybe one of each) and take home a pet or two! Maybe I'll meet a girl there and fall in love, and we'll get married! We can raise a family and then retire up in the mountains and spend our golden years together in a cabin somewhere. The kids will come visit us with their kids, and we'll watch our grandchildren grow like weeds and wonder where all the time went . . .

First things first, though. For now, I'm just gonna watch the Red Sox game, and take it from there.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Someone Finally Gets It

Today, another email from a concerned blog reader arrived. My friend K. sent me the following:

From : K.
Sent : Thursday, October 7, 2004 1:17 PM
To : Shokai
Subject : a thought...

Took a look at your blog sounds like you're dealing with a lot lately. Thought I'd drop you a note to say that your adherance to your practice in the midst of your suffering is an inspiration to me as I practice with my own. Romance or work or whatever the circumstances - it's all practice fodder. Thanks for being a friend, and a keystone of the Monday Night crew. Hang in there.

In gassho,


P.S. I've been laid low with a flu-like virus along with some of my students this week, but I'll still be participating in my first arts festival ever this weekend. Wish me commissions...

Gassho back to you, K. I'm glad that someone understands why I'm doing this.

Maybe I should commission a portrait . . . (ka-ching!)

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

The Shopping Spree Continues

Okay, so the Braves lost their first playoff game today, but what else can I buy? Let's see, now, I got a 20% off coupon from Bed, Bath & Beyond in the mail the other day - it expires on October 12 - and, separately, they sent me a flyer. To show my appreciation for their considerateness, I went there and bought a new silverware set and wooden clothes hangers (ka-ching!). Feeling very domestic, I stopped on the way home at a karate/kickboxing place and bought myself a membership (ka-ching!). I guess I want to learn karate. . .

Gee, materialism can be fun!

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Phone Call from L.

Tuesday started with a crisp and beautiful autumn morning - temp's in the low 60s - clear and sunny. The leaves are not changing color yet, but seem to be dropping onto my patio faster than they have been in the past (at least when hurricanes aren't blowing through).

Maybe it was the bliss of the morning, but I went off to work without my cell phone. Many people call me on my cell during the day - co-workers, clients and friends, but also L. - although it has been a while since she called. I'm past the stage of grief where every time the phone rings, I still think "It might be her," but I was still sufficiently motivated to get the phone that during lunch I drove the 10 miles back to the house to retrieve it.

In the afternoon, B., one of my co-workers, was in my office talking about taking his professional registration exam, when the newly-retrieved cell phone started ringing. I didn't want to interrupt our conversation, so I silenced the ringer while casually looking at the caller I.D. screen. It was L.

Whatever B. was saying after that sounded to me like the muted trombone used in the old Charlie Brown cartoons when adults were speaking - "wha, wha, wha, wha, whaaaaaa." I had totally tuned out of the conversation, and was wondering what L. might have wanted. It was late in the afternoon (4:30-ish) - maybe she was calling to get together for dinner tonight? Maybe she wanted to make plans for the weekend? I also wasn't sure how much longer she was still going to be available to take a return call - maybe she was heading to some meeting somewhere - and I felt a great sense of urgency to call her back. So I cut B. off at the first pause in his conversation, saying, "I need to return this call," holding the phone in my hand like it was a very important client trying to reach me.

L. hadn't left a message - the screen only indicated that I had missed one call. Undetered, I dialed her number, and after the usual "Hi's" and "How you doing's," I told her that I saw that she had tried to reach me, and, well, what's up?

"Well," she said, "I was looking at your blog . . . "

Uh, oh. This sounded like trouble. Was she upset that I was posting her emails on line? Was she going to take issue with the way she's been depicted? I couldn't think of anything good that this was going to lead to.

" . . . and it sounds like I've caused you a lot of distress," she continued, "and I honestly haven't meant to." She was particularly concerned over my comments about her lunch with G. She reminded me that she had told me weeks ago that she had run into G. at Starbucks one afternoon, and that he suggested having lunch. She wasn't thrilled with the prospect, and was actually quite stressed out because she had missed an office meeting to have lunch with him, but at the same time didn't want to be rude to him. I told her I understood that - in fact, I thought that I had acknowledged that much in the blog.

"We didn't talk about you at all," she assured me. "Frankly, it's none of his business, and he was polite enough to not ask any personal questions, nothing about you and I, but even if he did, I wouldn't have told him anything."

"He mostly just talked about his career," she said, "and some of his thoughts about Zen."

I told her that I understood, and had only written it in my blog to show how, in my grief over our break up, I torture myself with fantasies and delusions. But as the conversation went on - she trying to console me, and me constantly insisting that I knew, it's no big deal, etc. - it became apparent that this conversation was the extent of her consolation - she had no intention of getting together to talk. That realization, set against my unrealistic expectation that perhaps she had called to have dinner, resulted in anger starting to rise up in me. At first, I wanted to use the anger against her.

"I'm on my way over to Emory to teach my class tonight," she said, confirming that even if I were to suggest dinner, she wasn't going to be available that evening anyway. So in my anger, I tried to belittle the course, implying that she was teaching some sort of glorified adult education, Learning Annex course, and not a fully accredited, college-level class. "No, this is my Marketing class, my third semester teaching," she said, "don't you remember - I taught it this time last year?" Of course, I remembered, but I wasn't going to let her know that.

But it was obvious to me that my anger was not only peevish and small, but also self-defeating. Did I really want to make her mad at me? What good could come of that? So my anger turned inward from its initial, outward focus, and I started using each of her comments as weapons to beat myself up with. Of course, she and G. didn't even talk about me - see how unimportant I am to her life?, I began thinking. She had even said that she only looked at this blog "once in a blue moon" - if that wasn't an indication of how insignificant I was to her, I don't know what was.

"Oh, and I'm getting a promotion at work," she said. "They're making me a vice-president, maybe even a senior vice-president." My mental self-victimization continued - she's succeeding fine without me, thriving even, flourishing, while I'm miserable, caught in a unfullfilling job, with little hope of significant promotion. I wanted to lash out again, and say something like vice-presidencies are a dime-a-dozen in a field like marketing, where even the lowest personnel get lofty titles in order to impress potential clients. But, fortunately, I acted wiser, and just grunted out a perfunctory "congratulations."

So she was sunny, upbeat, and obviously trying to be compassionate, while I was turning morose, self-pitying and bitter. We wished each other well, and hung up without even a hint of seeing each another any time soon.

It was now past 5:00 and time to go home, so I needed to pull myself together and cheer up. The Buddha said we cause our own suffering, and I needed to let go of my anger and my self-pity. Or at least, stop clinging to them. So what do the tough do when the going gets tough?, I asked myself. They go shopping!

Since I'm heading to the Gulf this weekend, I figured I'd get some new clothes specifically for the trip (something I rarely do). But first, I stopped by the unsellable condo in Vinings to see how the UCV had fared the hurricane season. Everything looked fine, and I was even starting to feel cocky enough by then to leave a business card with a "call me" written on the back on the door of the pretty young girl who lived in the next-door unit. I got back into my Jeep and from there drove over to Buckhead and the Patagonia store and bought a Capilene zip-front long-sleeved t-shirt, a windbreaker, expedition shorts and a fleece jacket (ka-ching!). From the Patagonia store, I drove to Eatzi's and bought more pre-cooked food than I could possibly eat between now and the trip, including a mixed-green salad (with cucumbers, mushrooms, feta cheese, cajun chicken and Greek dressing), meat lasagna, vegetable lasagna, pork scallopini and herb-roasted turkey (ka-ching!). On the way home, I stopped at Office Max for blank CDs and slim-case covers (ka-ching!) and then at Publix for general grocery shopping (ka-ching!).

And, oh yes!, the baseball playoffs began today, and the Red Sox won and the Yankees lost! Separate games, to be sure, but still the best of all possible outcomes. The Braves start their series against Roger Clemens and the Astros tomorrow.

Once home, I put away the groceries and clothes, and eating the salad, watched the Vice-Presidential debate on t.v. I even made myself a cup of my favorite Good Earth tea, as I savored the notion of Friday's second Presidential debate.

Cool clothes for the weekend, good food for the week, baseball and presidential playoffs on t.v. all week . . . See? Life ain't so bad.