Things don’t always go according to plan

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The new McDonald’s Hapless Meal.

Things don’t always go according to plan. This morning, as a cost-saving measure, I decided to go to McDonald’s to get my morning coffee. You can get a large coffee for a dollar. Plus a free re-fill (which I’ll save for tomorrow). So you get two large coffees for a dollar. Such a deal!

So I’m waiting on line. This young black guy on line ahead of me is ordering his food. But when the cashier rings him up he realizes he’s a dollar short. He turns to me and says: 
“Could you spare a dollar?”
“Sorry,” I says.
He turns to an older black guy to his right. “Can you spare a dollar?”
“Sorry,” he says.
So now he’s sort of fumbling around trying to figure out what to do.
“Here you go,” I said, handing him a dollar.
“Thanks, man,” he says.

I did it in part to be generous. But I mostly did it because I hate waiting in line and wanted to get through this transaction with no complications as quickly as possible.

So I drink my coffee. But right before I decide to go back to the counter to get my free re-fill the clock strikes noon and McDonald’s is suddenly flooded with dozens of lunch-time customers. So now I’d have to wait in line for at least 20 minutes if I want to get my damn re-fill. Screw that. I get up and split.

So instead of getting two large coffees for a dollar I ended up getting one large coffee for two dollars.

“The best laid plans of mice and men. . .”

Man versus Raccoon: A gripping tale in handy blog-like format

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Had an odd scene at my campsite last night. Got up there around midnight and my feral cats were eagerly waiting for me. So I dumped out a can of cat food into the cat food dish.

But before my cats were able to eat much of it, a goddamn raccoon showed up. Now I can barely afford to feed my cats. I can’t afford to feed the goddamn raccoons, too. But the raccoon doesn’t care about that, the theivin’ bastard. The raccoon reached out with his front paws and started pulling the cat food dish towards him. So I grabbed the dish and pulled it back to the cats. And the raccoon grabbed the dish again and pulled it towards him. And I grabbed the dish and pulled it back. So we’re locked in this weird tug-of-war over the cat food dish, pulling back and forth. Me and the raccoon. I’m whispering under my breath “Would you get OUT of here, you!” I can’t really shout at the raccoon and scare him away. Because that would just scare my cats away, too. And then the raccoon would just come back as soon as I got into my sleeping bag, and make off with the cat food anyways. So I was stuck in this bind.

And I felt strangely ridiculous. That I was stuck in this jam. And I couldn’t out-smart this dumb beast, the raccoon. I’m the human being after all, and on top of the food chain, supposedly. But the fact is, when you live in the deep, dark woods, you’re on THEIR turf. And all the wild critters in the woods have a distinct advantage over me. For example, they all have much better night vision than me. And they’re also much more agile when it comes to traversing the hilly terrain (and I have the black-and-blue marks on my body to prove it). And considering how much alcohol I’ve usually drunk by this point, they’re often more clever than me, too. So it’s their world, and i just live in it.

So finally I just conceded defeat and poured half the cat food in one dish, and the other half in another dish. And set up separate dining facilities for the cats and the raccoon. And they all commenced to eat in peace. The End.

It’s weird how something that seemed so light-hearted at the time ended up turning out so grim

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This photo of the Naked Guy popped up on the internet the other day. Probably around 1993. And it gives you some idea of what the Naked Guy’s life was like back then . For several years (before he got crunched by the authorities) he went around naked just about everywhere he went — to his college classes, to the store, to the park, whatever.

It was a surreal sight to see the Naked Guy suddenly go walking by the streets of Berkeley. And you can bet he inspired a wide range of reactions: shock, disbelief, laughter, outrage, as well as sexual attraction (for he was a really good-looking guy and his body was regularly compared to a Greek statue). And later, after he had garnered large amounts of media attention (including the TV talk shows and PLAYBOY magazine) he got the “celebrity” reaction (“Look Ethel, it’s the famous Naked Guy!!”).Image may contain: 1 person, sitting

But the beaming smiles on the two women’s faces in this photo shows how most of Berkeley reacted to the Naked Guy. Like the whole thing was an outrageous joke. But a GOOD joke. And we were mostly laughing WITH the Naked Guy, not AT him. Berkeley always prided itself on it’s hip streak of rebelliousness, thumbing our noses at conventional mores and values. Berkeley was ahead of the curve on many things — we had black mayors, decriminalized pot, supported gay rights, etc., long before things like that were accepted by mainstream America. And maybe the Naked Guy’s crusade to liberate the American penis was another one of those things.

But mostly we enjoyed the Naked Guy for the sheer zaniness and wackiness of the whole thing. It was hysterically funny.

It was only later in retrospect that we realized it wasn’t funny to the Naked Guy. In fact he was dead serious about the whole thing. It was a righteous crusade to him. And in his head he had this whole crazy manifesto where the naked thing was just a part of this life-or-death struggle to overthrow the “fascist racist patriarchal Judeo-Christian system” that led all the way to violent revolution and overthrow of the American government. He was THAT serious.

I don’t think hardly any of us were aware of that aspect of the Naked Guy as we were enjoying his shtick. And we mostly watched with sadness and surprise as his life played out to its grim conclusion.

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Another casualty of the Winter of 2017

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TIMBER!!

On this day in 2017 this big tree on the Berkeley campus collapsed and died. It was a casualty of the brutal rainstorms of the winter of 2017. We ended up getting 38 inches of rain that year — about 15 more than usual. The tree got water-logged and rotted out and died.

And it was symbolic to me. Because a week earlier Hate Man had collapsed and died, too. Another water-logged victim of the winter of 2017. A mighty tree and the mighty Hate Man. Gone gone gone.

Then they buzz-sawed the tree into a big pile of sawdust and left it sitting there. And whenever I looked at it I felt this weird synchronicity. Because Hate Man too had been reduced to a pile of cremated ashes.

A kundalini Yoga story

 

No photo description available.PART ONE

I’ve resisted writing about this story for a long time. For a variety of reasons. But I finally figured what the hell, why not write it. And I can always delete it later if I decide it’s something I don’t want to share.

I started doing Kundalini Yoga in 1996. And I did it consistently on a daily basis for the next 6 years. And it really seemed to work. The more I practiced Kundalini Yoga, the more my mind and my soul seemed to get stronger and purer. Neurotic and psychotic tendencies in my psyche seemed to resolve themselves one after another. And I actually started to become the man I always hoped I could be. And I really thought there was a chance that I might actually be able to attain Spiritual Enlightment.

Now Kundalini Yoga is considered a science — a spiritual science — more than a form of religious doctrine or theology. It’s experiential, as opposed to theoretical. You experience it — like doing a scientific experiment on your psyche — and then come to your own conclusions.

The basic premise of Kundalini Yoga is that there’s this dormant spiritual energy that resides in the spine of the human being, this Divine energy. Like a coiled snake. And as you practice Kundalini Yoga, this divine energy gradually awakens, and rises up from the base of your spine, systematically cleansing and purifying all the different “chakras” in your system along the way. Until it finally reaches the final chakra at the top of your head — the “sahasrara” — and your Third Eye is permanently opened and you attain the Highest Spiritual State. Or so the theory goes.

Now one of the weird by-products of doing Kundalini Yoga is that, the longer you do it, the more you start to attain these “occult powers.” As your psyche because more purified, more powerful, and more focused, they just naturally arise in you. In my case these powers expressed themselves along the lines of that ancient spiritual concept: “Whatever you think will manifest.” For example I would be wishing for something, something very specific. And shortly after the thing would magically manifest in my life. It really was a form of magic. And it kept happening over and over, to the point where I concluded it was beyond coincidence. And this power really was manifesting within me.

Conversely you can use these occult powers in a negative and destructive manner. For example you can use them like the “voodoo doll” principal, wishing harm on an enemy, putting a curse on them. And you really have the power to inflict damage on other people.

For this reason, the spiritual masters have always strongly advised NOT to use these occult powers as they arise in you. Because they’re nothing to play around with. And they can cause all sorts of problems, accrue all sorts of bad karma, and retard your spiritual development. For one thing, the novice is like someone with the mind of a child who’s suddenly been granted the physical power of Hercules. So there’s a real danger in using these occult powers in a reckless, immature and destructive manner. And, even more importantly, if you use these powers for personal gain — to get rich, to gain power, to get sex with beautiful women, whatever — you’re using these powers to bolster your personal ego. Which is the exact opposite — and runs exactly counter-productive — to the whole point of Kundalini Yoga. Which is to gradually TRANSCEND your personal ego and merge with the Infinite. So, like I said, messing with these occult powers can really retard your spiritual progress.

So anyways, by 2002 I had been doing Kundalini Yoga for 6 years. Now according to the science of Kundalini Yoga, the process usually takes about 12 years. Working intimately with an enlightened Yoga Master, the yogi systematically goes from a novice until he finally reaches the Highest State. So, by 2002, I was at about the half-way point of the process. Getting higher and higher along the way. Until things suddenly started going south.

PART TWO

So anyways by 2002 I had been intensely practicing Kundalini Yoga for 6 years. And I had kept getting higher and higher. Until suddenly I stopped getting higher. It’s like I hit a glass ceiling. And could rise no more.

There were a variety of reasons for this. I started doing drugs and alcohol again. And I started using the spiritual powers I had attained for personal gain, for ego enhancement. Instead of in the pursuit of spiritual wisdom. You’re aspiring towards the Highest State after all. So there’s little margin for error. You have to be very pure. And I wasn’t. If it was easy to attain there’d be perfected Enlightened Masters hanging out on every street corner. But that’s not how it works.

So I began to get a little bitter at this point. After all the effort I had expended on Kundalini Yoga it looked like I wasn’t going to attain Enlightenment after all. Along with the happiness, love and satisfaction I had hoped for. And craved. So I started backsliding spiritually. 

Along with that, the Telegraph scene that I had invested years of my life into, was also backsliding. Getting more and more dreary and dysfunctional. Whatever magic had previously been in the scene was slowly but surely being snuffed out.

So one night I was hanging out by myself at “my” spot — the corner of Telegraph and Haste by Cody’s Books. And I started to get more and more angry how it had all turned out. This beautiful dream that I had aspired to had turned into a barren harvest that I was reaping. So in my mind I began cursing the whole fucking scene. Over and over. I even spit on the ground several times as an expression of my contempt. That whole FUCK THE WORLD!!! feeling. I curse you all!!

Now here’s the weird part. The very next day I showed up, like usual, at that corner of Haste and Telegraph. And I was surprised to find that the whole block had been roped off with yellow police tape: “DO NOT ENTER.” My first thought was: “Uh oh. What have I wrought.”

I ran into long-time Telegraph street person Crazy Allen and asked him if he knew what was going on. I could tell Allen was distraught.

“Yeah it happened a couple of hours ago, ” said Allen. “This guy was putting some money in the parking meter right down there on Haste Street just below Cody’s Books. When this crazy guy started stabbing him over and over. For no reason. I was screaming at him to stop. But he wouldn’t stop. I went running looking to find a cop. But by the time the cops got there and arrested the guy with the knife the other guy was already dead.”

“Holy shit,” I said.

“Yeah,” said Allen.

The next day when I read the newspaper articles, it turned out the killer was a guy with mental health issues. But no previous criminal or violent acts. He just seemed to snap. For “no reason.”

Of course I couldn’t help wondering if the negative psychic energy I had stirred up the night before was what had caused it. It was still spinning on that spot, like a little psychic hurricane of bad and destructive energy. And this guy — who already was in a precarious mental state — happened to step into that vortex. And it was enough to trigger his psychotic episode.

At any rate, the papers said it was the first homicide on that block in like 100 years. So it was a pretty rare thing to happen.

For a long time afterwards whenever I walked by the spot where the killing took place, I would notice the blood stains that were still on the sidewalk. And I would think about the whole thing all over again. And all the different issues in my mind. That I would wonder about. Over and over. But would never be able to prove one way or another.

At any rate, my spiritual progress pretty much came to a dead end at that point.
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The last day at my vending stand

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I remember my last day at my vending table on the Cody’s Books corner. It was right before Thanksgiving, 2009. … 

My friend Duncan had died 5 months earlier. And it just wasn’t the same without my old vending partner. Plus, the ruthless Telegraph mogul Ken Sarachan had recently bought the Cody’s building. So all the signs said that the party was over. And it was time to pack up my pop stand.

A big rainstorm was forecast to come in that afternoon. And you could feel it coming in the air. So I quickly packed up all my vending stuff before I got soaked. As I went to grab my cardboard “25 Cent Books” sign a huge gust of wind suddenly hit and sent the sign flying in the air down Haste Street. I considered running after it and trying to save it as a memento. But it seemed symbolic. Let it go. Cast your fate to the wind. One part of my life was ending. And a new part of my life would soon be beginning. Whatever that would be.

I managed to get all my vending stuff packed into my shopping cart just as the rains hit. This sudden outburst of pouring rain. I forget if there really were explosions of thunder and lightening. Probably not. But that’s how it seems in my memory. This sudden explosion of rain pounding down on the pavement.

I put a plastic tarp over my shopping cart, and stashed it in the corner under an awning, then ran to this doorway on Telegraph to get out of the rain. The doorway of the Kingpin Donuts shop, boarded up and vacant at the time. And I stood there by myself as the rain came crashing down. People were running up and down Telegraph frantically trying to get out of the rain.

And I suddenly started laughing. This loon laughter. Not quite hysterical, but almost. That kind of laughter where you’re so overwhelmed by emotion it just bursts out of you. And it’s not much different than crying. Laughing and crying are the same thing at that point.

And I thought back to all the memories of all the years at that vending table. 19 years ago when we had first started. With such great hopes. And now 19 years later it had come to an end. And I was overwhelmed by this flood of memories. It was like the tape of my life was on fast speed. And all the scenes rushed by me. One after another. All the dramas at that corner over all those years. The triumphs and the tragedies. The lives and the deaths. And it was almost too much for my brain to take it. Just overwhelmed by all the things I had experienced, it was mind-boggling.

And I stood there in that doorway. As the rain came crashing down. Laughing and crying and blubbering to myself. 

And that’s how that ended.