Friday, January 22, 2010

That Sound

A man and his wife had just crossed the railroad tracks.
The snow made a temporary journal of their travels.
It had just turned to dusk as they walked to their car.
They were talking about a movie they had just seen.
At first he heard a sound; but could not connect it to anything.
Then he felt something smack him in the side, just above his right hip.

If this was an scene from a comic book, the sound would be graphically registered as a "splattt-tt" or a "tha-wock".

The man looked up and saw a SUV with the passenger side window rolled down.  It was too dark and the windows were too tinted to see anyone. Darkness surrounded the vehicle, as it slowly drove away.

The man was dumbfounded.
He looked down at his side and saw a dark stain growing on his jacket.

The only thing he could say to his wife was, "Why ? "She answered his question with a question,
"Would an explanation even help ?"
They went back to talking about the movie.

Seeing is deceiving, hearing is believing.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


The night before she had gone to a seafood restaurant. She was seated directly on a floor of clear, glass tiles. The tiles were about 18” square and 1" thick cast glass. It reminded her of the "rustic" glasses with tiny air bubbles frozen in a bluish vitrification. She sat atop an architecturally sized aquarium. The entire floor below appeared to be about 15' deep, painted that awful aqua-toothpaste color community pools are sometimes painted. She pointed to a fish and a guy in a hachimaki opened a trap door and used a net on a very long pole to snare her dinner.

She arrived with a small, independent film crew. Not exactly sure what the director's vision was; she thought a little escape was in order. The young filmmaker went for a walk by herself. She knew nothing about Kyoto. Sighting a mountaintop, she headed down the many winding streets and alleys ways. The tiny vans and pick-up trucks sounded like motor scooters as she navigated to the outskirts of the city.

Now the dense urban collage transitioned into a sparsely populated landscape. Suddenly, the many possible options narrowed to a single pathway that snaked into a green bamboo forest. The trail rose gently, but it was easy to follow. She was young, and felt happy to be alone.

There was an open grassy area after the bamboo forest ended. Ahead, she saw something she never even imagined existed. Glowing, unmistakably in front of her, was a forest of pink pine trees. The trail now became a carpet of pink pine needles. Sunlight filtered through the pine needles; making pink light on the pink forest floor. As the wind blew through the trees, the swirling needles, became pink sparks that jumped into the air, from an imaginary camp fire. She thought she might never leave. Maybe she would just live there forever. For the first time in over an hour she stood still, breathing in the pink moment.

The trail got much steeper. She found herself pausing for a second before pushing forward. At this point, she could rest and hold onto the wooden rail. The cedar wood felt clean and perfect to her touch. A carpenter of great skill had constructed this spectacularly humble structure. She continued to pull herself up using the rail. When she reached the end of the rail, there was a rice ball placed on a simple but beautiful ceramic dish. She thought about picking it up, even tasting it; but she thought it might be the wrong thing to do.

The incline became extreme. If she were to stand erectly, she might lose her balance and topple backwards. The trail changed dramatically, it narrowed to a path about 10" wide. Steps were replaced with embedded stones, whose natural surface was sculpted to fit her hand exactly. One crouching step after another got her to a stage where directly above her 7 or 8 nearly vertical hand holds. For the first time she wondered if she should keep going? What could possibly be at the top of this remote place? She thought about the rice ball and something inside her made her reach up to the next stone.

As she pulled herself up from the final step, she wondered if she had enough strength to climb down the mountain. Standing up straight for the first time in 40 minutes, she took a deep breath. In front of her were a "torii" and the mountain's cliff. A torii is a ceremonial gateway, meaning "where birds reside". This torii was different. About seven feet high, this gateway was constructed from cedar. Hanging from the torii's horizontal member were two amber colored ropes. The ropes were attached to a cedar plank that formed a swing. The torii framed a magnificent view of the highest mountaintop in the distance. The sky was a color it had never been before.

She sat down on the swing, looked over the edge and pushed herself off. In that moment she swung out into a space that was no longer mountain, it belonged only to the sky. Her toes stretched out. She leaned back as far as she could stretch and the mountain disappeared. She looked up and saw sky for the first time.

photo credit: Michael Levin "Torii Gate"

Monday, January 18, 2010


It was frightening, to consider of all the things he did not know. The fact was, he never really had a job before. In college, he studied sculpture. His youthfulness did not realize the world was not going to come to him.
A temp agency had sent him to a grand, old department store, across from Union Square,in San Francisco. He had no experience.
Together with seven Chinese kids, they would do inventory in a stockroom on the top floor.
The view was magnificent. They did not have palm trees in the Midwest. The young sculptor noticed, rich people had a particular fondness for things; he knew he would never need.
By noon they had accomplished very little, but had become very hungry. Everyone put down their pencils and clipboards and took the creaky service elevator to the ground floor. They were a group of kids cutting down alleys, and taking shortcuts through stores.Their happy voices made conversations and they spoke as if they were excited about living.
Not so surprisingly, they arrived at the gates of Chinatown. All the buildings seemed pressed together like the shiny skin of ducks hanging, gleaming and glowing. They entered a building, ran up 4 flights of narrow, twisting stairs, dodging annoyed waiters and cooks gesturing angrily. Reaching the top floor, they walked across rooftops, under lines of laundry and entered another building. Through the noisy chaos, smells of fish and garbage, they descended 3 more flights of stairs, to a table set for eight.
There were no menus and no one spoke English. He only really knew one Chinese dish to order.
It was the best bowl of noodles he would ever eat in his life. Actually, he ordered the same thing for the next 4 days.

Sometimes not knowing is the key to learning.