Fuel • 29 May 2010

The arcade downtown fills up with church light these summer mornings. Nobody’s on campus now except a few cute young juniors, clawing at their temples to try to make the words come out faster. It’s 80 degrees by 9 am and at Comet they’re serving an espresso called the hairbender—smooth as skyr (another new vice), but with an electric bitter that leaves the tailfins of my tongue glowing for an hour after I finish.

Shinzen likes to say that meditation on the senses offers endless subtle delights—a “palette” of experiences akin to appreciation of fine wine. And just as people expend great effort to learn to taste wine, so too can they cultivate refined perception on any dimension: sight, body-awareness, and so on. Such a hard sell for the bourgeois meditator!

Tasteless cretins!!! You are failing to appreciate yourself on an aesthetic level!!! You need some zen egghead, or at least a decent yoga teacher, to teach you to have a life!!!

This is the best way to turn brilliant academics toward a different kind of life of the mind. On the surface, the appeal is both consumerist and insanely egoic – but the bait and switch happens quickly. Sensing finally kills the need to shop to fill the void; and true experiences of flow render pissing contests over taste… tasteless indeed. It just takes a little sleight of hand to get behind the idiocy of the middle class mind.

Anyway, this morning I took up my tiny espresso cup and saucer like a cocktail and strolled the arcade. The peaked windows really are the same as those of my dad’s church – the building he’s been preaching in now for twenty years. The church is an arc turned upside down with the very tip of the hull knocked out and replaced with glass; the arcade, the hidden backbone of U District, is a great stone corridor of Lost Boysey businesses—antique jewelry, tobacco, a very old “international” travel agency, a “psychic medium.”

From now until Art Week in July (“the world’s largest art fair!,” says the town-proud neighbor who had me over for a brilliant meal of grilled Michigan vegetables and cheeses), I’m afraid Ann Arbor is just going to keep getting cuter and cuter. Let’s talk about this. (1) Wednesday night, sixty neighborhood residents gathered at one of about a thousand nearby parks and then toured the best backyards of the old west side, sampling home-brewed teas and garden salsas and learning how to plant to the rhythm of the blooms—so you have flowers from April to July. That’s what you get in a brainy town with a hardworking, community-minded, vaguely OCD populace: great damn gardens. Furthermore (2), every Friday, about 200 people show up at a house on the hill for the “breakfast salon”—in which everybody meets everybody over local omlettes and talks crafting, canning and pets. It’s not as white and over-40 as you’d expect; and last week they were playing the Kinks. Also (3), next week there’s something called the “loop de coop.” Yep, a Parade of Homes for chicken residences.

Even with my rations of cuteoverload.com cut all the way back to 5 minutes once a week, I’m so close to critical levels of cuteness that I’ve booked a hotel in downtown Chicago for the weekend. Chicago is kind of seedy and self-serious, right? I’m spending the time there with an aggressively hip English prof who only consorts with a tightly policed company of hipsters… though I can’t get there without traversing hundreds more miles of sweet green Michigan. Good thing I have the entire catalogue of Gordon Lightfoot on CD. Gordon, through his scruffy cuteness, is always reminding the ladies not to get too attached.

What else? I had the most graphic nightmare of my adult life on Tuesday night. I was drowning, black sludge sliding down my throat from openings near my ears, coating my feathers so I was glued to the ground. I woke up crying and couldn’t get back to sleep. Spent the next day feeling like a drowned rat. Or baby pelican, I guess.

Why can’t we mobilize for war when it’s against not some aggressor but our own unconscious addictions? Don’t talk to me about how angry you are at some scapegoat-symbol like BP or Obama unless you (1) no longer plan to get on an airplane ever again, (2) drive something that doesn’t use gas and (3) are organizing a new version of Freedom Summer to liberate turtles from sludge in 2010. 

In better news, Angie is giving me Stockholm Syndrome. She’s got ten years on the other biker chicks, and is by far the strongest of the pack. (Cycling, like ashtanga and triathlon, is technically dominated by practitioners in their late-thirties and beyond.) Her soundtracks are all early boomer rock, ZZ Top, AC/DC, the stronger Elton John. We’re doing intervals to Sweet Home Alabama and I love Rock N Roll, and she’s up there gritting her teeth while the traps, neck and face muscles remain perfectly relaxed. (She may be the only exerciser in town who has teased the traps away from jaw from the arm muscles: most people walk around in a mild Cro-magnon screen-lurch.)

The only relief with Angie is is accidental to her music, because those old rockers smoked and sang so far past their energetic limits that there are heavy exhalations built in to the end of every chorus. Hip hop has changed all that: these guys who compete for the strongest, longest hard-driving rechaka and can sustain a sprint for the duration of an entire track. When I try to keep pace with the hip-hop, I find myself pushing single breaths further and further, in a way that keeps the heartrate low and prevents me from sweating. It doesn’t make much sense.

I did figure out how to breathe – much shorter, which brings the sweat; and afterwards the alveoli feel so open, like the pores of the face on hot days. After so many years of playing the edges of oxygen narcosis by esoteric means, it’s nice to fill the body with that substance with something as straightforward as a work-out. A little cardio is good.

Listening to Angie’s 80s mix and using the intercostals to sweep the ribs wide enough for big, heaving lungs, I looked in the mirror and thought of my ribcage like the gull wing doors of Marty McFly’s Delorian. Long and low over the ground, hips working toward level as if on an axle, flux capacitor in the sacrum tapped in to the gas tank…. spinning out, just hoping to combust a garbage-gasoline-plutonium fuel cocktail into transcendence.



  • e&sj
    Posted 29 May 2010 at 7:11 am | #

    Your nabi cakra is all lit up in that kool photo – burning down the house talking heads style. And yes, a little cardio is god. The cycle spins on many levels. But soon will you let us know your watts per kilo, no?

  • Posted 29 May 2010 at 8:15 pm | #


    Nico covering Gordon Lightfoot’s song I’m not saying.

    Also, the Editor wants to edit this post down in to three separate entries, because there is no unifying theme.

    Maybe I’m still way too dense a blogger, and at the same time way too vague. Anyone sense that it hangs together?

  • Posted 29 May 2010 at 9:34 pm | #

    Do you have any cycling caps yet? They are especially cool. I take you to store when in town.
    As a new blogger who got a novelist friend to review some preblogs, I’d say the Editor was technically right (thats whu we like them!), but then again I like your blog because its a one-bowl brain meal, sometimes toasted, sometimes with dressing, sometimes some hot sauce.

  • Posted 30 May 2010 at 12:50 am | #

    Well, I thought there was an underlying theme, despite what your Editor says. Maybe, because I have mounting anxiety over the oil spill and since I am not planning on doing any of your three suggestions, I need to immerse myself in talk about chicken coop tours, bourgeois meditators, mix tapes with ZZ top, and Back to the Future references.

  • e&sj
    Posted 30 May 2010 at 2:46 pm | #

    we should all have that nightmare, then perhaps we will wake up to our collective rape of the Mother. Alas, until a giant oil and sludge spitball ruins our prom dress at 65mph and we are permanently petrol-ly disfigured not much will happen. I struggle with that oil shame of modernity as it creates hypocritical tension in the emotional body. Even by writing this on an iPhone I have to some degree contributed to the gang rape. Yet, at the same time this is the story of humanity’s trapse across the Earth-field of time and who am I to deny what I am part of? Indeed, what is the skillful action here? To deny and stick one’s head into the oil sands or to acknowledge fully and be overwhelmed by deep & unreproachable & perhaps buzz kill sadness? Can one have fun at a penthouse party knowing full well there is a basement debasement of torture, rapicious exploitation down below?

  • Posted 30 May 2010 at 5:33 pm | #

    I like the one-bowl meal image! I’m down with collage/association/chance in blog posts. When things get tied up too tidy and tight, meh.

  • charusheela
    Posted 31 May 2010 at 4:44 am | #

    Well, then, who do we blame? If not the faithful. Those who believe in government to protect us psuedo libertarians from ourselves a la Hope. Bloodless spinning of words. Eager to pull in the tainted fish in the sea. This is a rather philosophical corundum we have ourselves in these days. And no way out. Well, maybe Senchin.

  • Posted 1 June 2010 at 1:26 am | #

    You are not the oil slick, you are the ocean…

    Home from Chicago. That was… interesting. Exhausted. Sleeping now.

  • Posted 2 June 2010 at 8:49 pm | #

    Thanks for saying it. I have about ten unfinished drafts in my draft-box.

    Pelicans, owls, all things with wings
    Here’s the ground
    and it smells like tar.

  • susananda
    Posted 4 June 2010 at 10:17 pm | #

    It hangs together for me..

  • RE
    Posted 4 June 2010 at 11:09 pm | #

    Please keep drinking espresso.

  • Posted 6 June 2010 at 12:39 am | #

    Hi. Working Friday, so did not get to blog. Maybe tomorrow.

    It’s so beautiful here. There’s a flood watch on tonight, which means that it’s likely to storm but dramatically tonight—much stronger than anything so far. It’s already begun to rain, and we’re sitting downstairs with the windows thrown open, listening to the drizzle along with an old Smog record, Red Apple Falls, along with a lot of old Cat Power. Music from rainy nights in the west. I’m catching up on all these things you have sent.

    RE, Patti Smith’s book is wonderful. It’s rare I like a writer so much, especially in a sort of autobiography like this. The way she describes walking through Paris, seeing the headline about Jimi Hendrix and knowing the meaning even though she couldn’t read the words. Ginsberg buying her a sandwich. Her love for RM. A good way to read this history – from the point of view of a node in the net.

    Stan…! I had to un-bait my breath already, but sheesh! Admiring your sanity under the circumstances.

    Rebecca… thank you for the drawing. I’m excited.

    Jamie sent this, the intro to Kramer and Alstad’s latest. I’ll excerpt it below. This reads to me like a letter to the young people a few generations behind them, a set of ideas and instructions for side-stepping delusions they and the rest of us have all fallen in to for periods of time. It’s easy to read and (compared to earlier writing) compassionate/ unpretentious even though they’re integrating more or less everything. I feel like they’ve been reading a lot of modern Indian philosophy (the Krishnamurtis especially), practicing a lot of surya namaskara, and keeping one eye on the Integral movement and the other on pop culture. They’re still ever so odd, but this is promising…

  • Posted 6 June 2010 at 12:42 am | #


    …We pay particular attention to worldviews because each is a lens that takes in and inte-grates experience that affects one’s attitudes toward life and the future, bringing hope or hopelessness. They also lead to life stances that can become fixed, such as optimism, pessimism, skepticism, indifference, cynicism, and even nihilism…. We have found both the “being” and “becoming” worldview foundations to be in their own ways deeply enmeshed in either/or thinking.

    Either diversity is the basic reality or unity is; either you are attached or non-attached; either you’re competitive and feeding your illusory ego, or you are cooperative in the realization that you are connected to everything; either you are in thought, generating no-longer-existent pasts and non-existent futures, or your mind is quiet and experiencing the timeless ecstasy of “now.”

    Worldviews are constructions of the human mind as people attempt to glean some understanding of the situation and circumstances they find themselves in. Many worldviews are generally not put together out of conscious intention, but rather are pieced together through personal experience and such cultural accretions as tradition, science, social climate, intuition, and desires about the way the world should be. In a less globalized village, people have tended to incorporate worldviews as a whole; local religions, and more recently the scientific mindset, are popular examples. But more and more people are eclectically combining their beliefs from the global marketplace of ideas. We contend that any construction of human thought (including of course our current one in this book and the one from thirty-five years ago) is potentially fallible and needs to be subject to revision through the feedback and changes that life brings. Worldviews that are fundamentally unchangeable, no matter what, are authoritarian and increasingly outmoded because they cannot cope with a rapidly changing and diversifying local and greater world….

  • Posted 6 June 2010 at 1:15 am | #

    By the way, cuteoverload is really good this week.

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