Saturday, January 14, 2006

My winter vacation Part 2

My trip part 2

If you have not read Part 1, please do that first.

So, from the moment I saw my family-Aunt Mary, Beth, and Uncle John at the airport I have been so close to tears. And Mary and I just finished talking about thanksgiving and Christmas and the engagement announcement and Grammy and Sarah and life and death and I just feel like crying. I don’t know if this is happiness of sadness. I can’t place this feeling but I can feel the place where it is strongest: right behind my eyes, so close to tears. I want to hug my mom right now.

We all took a walk around our hotel before dinner and this city is the New smashing into the Old for sure. Most of shanghai, that is, all the tall buildings were build not more than ten years ago. And construction is everywhere. My dad said that more offices were built in Shanghai last year than exist in all of New York City. And these buildings look like something out of the future. But the streets and the life flowing above them appear to be very third world. I was immediately reminded of India. We saw someone trying to sell a box full of puppies on the street. A homeless beggar lady followed us mumbling words we couldn’t know, or wouldn't know, but of course we understood. She didn’t stop following us until I stopped, looked her in the eyes, and said sorry.

Shanghai museum was fascinating. There was a monk there who made me feel safe and comfortable, and there was all this Tibetan art that made me feel sad, sad that the art of that culture would be put into a history museum (Chinese, if you remember, invaded Tibet in the fifties in an atempt to destroy its culture and people). I met a couple from Lawrence at the museum, the girl of which I knew from the Art History department. Crazy small world! Sarah met us this morning (We met her in Shanghai to see her last concert of her China tour with Oberlin University). She is so beautiful and positive. She talked freely about finding mold and broken ceilings in their hotel room as being amusing and even exciting. Her positive energy was palpable. You could feel it as soon as she walked though the door. I feel honored to be her cousin.

I just got back from Sarah’s concert and what a show! Music's divine. and I fell in love with most everyone on stage. Young, attractive, collage musicians. You know to me musicians have always had an aura about them, like they are secret geniuses, angels come to earth to show us what heaven sounds like…and to show us what humanity is capable of. But they are more than human. They are like movie stars. And they have this gift, this skill they have been working on since they were babies. I guess I have been working with lines and colors since i was small, and maybe I have a type of mysterious aura about me, but these young musicians! God they were glowing. All so focused, and yet so relaxed and playful, and so absorbed in their art, many of them made the famous orgasm face people often make while making or appreciating music. They were alive and graceful and I wonder if I will end up marrying a musician. I wanted to become friends with every one of them.

Jan. 3rd.
This morning in meditation I had a very wonderful sense of expansion, like the back of my head opened up as a transparent funnel to let in the space and light of the room as well as the clear, bright, spacious sky-mind.
When I stated the meditation, focusing on my breath, my awareness or sense of self was focused behind my eyes and on my breath. But then slowly, over the course of about 30 min, I pushed back and out, opening up until the idea of someone sitting on a bed meditation was just another thought or sensation occurring in front of my expanding awareness.
We spent the day wondering around the new city and old city. There are neighborhoods built in the twenties, old red brick and broken walls and windows next to skyscrapers not a year old. We stumbled upon Jeff, one of the musicians and Sarah’s friend. He is beautiful and smart and funny at night we went to the Jazz club on the top floor of our hotel and Jeff borrowed Sarah’s violin and jammed with the band. And he blew me away.. Brilliant young man. He asked me to teach him a magic trick so I did and I hear he was working on it in his hotel room into the early morning.

Wed Jan. 4th.
Today I learned many horrible things on BBC news. 30 killed at a Shia funeral near Baghdad. And 11 of the 12 minors died. The 30 killed got next to no coverage in comparison. It was a suicide bomber at a funeral. How low. How awful.
And heavy landslides kill 200 people on some island, the landslide caused from illegal logging. And in Pakistan the earthquake survivors living in tents are now dying from the snow and sleet. How horrible. How cold.
I am enjoying a warm cup of tea on my soft bed, watching the news. I had an amazing dinner today, and a Chinese massage.

This morning during breakfast we all talked as a family about movies and music, the power of art, the war, and sexuality. Sarah has many friends who are transgender and so we got to talk about gender issues and tolerance and peace and progression, it was so wonderful listening to my family talk so positively about these issues.

Back to the news, the media is really milking how angry the minor’s friends and family are. They were waiting at the church when they got the news about the death and then got angry. Not trusting God, not mourning with compassion, but with anger. That is so sad. There is so much suffering.

Thinking about my future. I still don’t know if I want to go to grad school and study Buddhism with Robert Thurman, or with someone else, or painting, or psychology and social work, or Integral studies in California. Or maybe go to a monastery in India for a while. I really want to work with dying people, with hospice perhaps, or with a dying center, the Zen center in Sand Francisco is calling my name. I just don’t know.

Thursday the 5th
Today I learn that Ariel Shoran is fighting for hiss life after suffering a stroke.
We just got back form visiting a Taoist shrine and the highlight was walking though a market---fresh fish, live birds being slaughtered right before out eyes, eels, pigs feet, large fish hanging on lines next to clothing, a bra, a shirt, a squid, we saw a leper, no, we saw a human with leprosy, on the grown, on leg gone, one arm. Lettuce and carrots, and boxes of guts and scales and blood in the gutters…it was all beautiful and awful. Dried carcasses and bloody piles of leftover animal parts and smiling old people and fish hanging and birds in cages. However, lying beneath the buying and selling and laughter of the human beings, beneath the smells and slicing and suffering, beneath all the form, lay the movements and colors and textures of a rich and overwhelmingly active world, dancing and shimmering across or through or as my awareness. The colors, the life, the suffering, all of it sparkles and shines with Suchness, with Spirit. Mary bought us all steaming hot rolls, soft and delicious, and we ate them together in the cold, the steam hanging in the air with our smiles. It felt good to buy something in the market; we were taking so many pictures.

The Buddhist temples have been newly built, poorly painted, cheesy, with the cries of street sellers barking out from the sidelines, and merchants selling buddhas in plastic and worshipers prostrating to the walls. (I must remember that many of the temples in china were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. Mao, who is also responsible for the Tibetan massacre or genocide, is featured on all the currency). I feel next to no connection to these temples. Not anything like in Kyoto. But, all the same, I am with my family, my wonderful family, and I am reminded of the desires and struggles and faiths and hopes and humanity that shouts out from every corner, within me, and without me.

Of these pics from the market, please notice the pigs’ feet, the old dulled knife leaning against the block still speckled with pieces of pig, the wet cardboard, the dying flower on the sidewalk, and the feet of the seller, who is smiling at his display and my interest in it.
And in the pic of the chickens, please notice that they try the are lying across

The sun came out today, bringing a wonderful light and a bitter cold. Writing this was difficult, my hands are so stiff. Today is “David’s Day” because it is my last day here. We visited the Xian Yang Road market, which specializes in counterfeit and illegal goods. Yippee! Although, I would say that the market we went to earlier was selling illegally obtained goods—pigs’ feet, fish heads, and chicken necks, all stolen. At Xian Yang Road we were followed by a handful of smiling men and women with pictures of Rolex watches and name brand sunglasses and bags waving in our faces. “wanna buy a watch? Need a bag?” It was funny when a man approached and quietly asked, “Hey, you need any chopsticks?” I got some DVD’s, like Narnia, Lost inn translation, Requiem for a dream, Sayuri, I heart Huckubees, King Kong, Flight Plan, Life Aquatic, Super size me, Curse of the Were-rabbit, Mystic river, Sin City, and a few others, all for about a dollar a piece. It was actually really fun, until we saw a man pulling around a deformed baby with a big head in a wheel barrel begging for money, the baby making horrible screeching sounds, eyes rolling around. That wasn’t very fun. They followed us for about a block.

I love how much my uncle john is like my dad. “Well we WERE womb mates” he reminds me. “and when we were being born it was a womb with a view.” My grandmother had three sets of twins.

Riding away from them, waving and smiling, in the taxi. I look out at the cascade of towering cranes and construction, I miss them already, my eyes water up but I smile. What a wonderful family. I must have done some incredibly virtuous things in my past life.
Tokyo part 2

Riding on the subway I saw something amazing! A commercial plastered across the subway tunnel wall, like a flipbook, the images sped by and appeared to move like a giant TV (like the trippy scene in the old Willie Wonka movie speeding down the chocolate river on his boat). Must have cost a fortune, considering it takes 24 frames a second and these were large posters and the ad lasted at least 5 seconds.

At the station I saw a blind man with a stick finding his way using the raised lines on the side of the hallways. Then I saw three blind people all holding onto another blind person using a stick, they make a wrong turn. They were all laughing.


Butoh is type of dance that began in Japan in the 50s but has now spread all over the world. I first saw a picture of it founder, Kazuo Oho, hanging in the office of my Advisor Roger Shimamura. I asked, “who is she?”
“That is Kazuo Ono, the famous Dancer from Japan.” I had no idea it was a man, for the picture showed what looked like an old Japanese woman with white paint all over her body, holding a flower and smiling.
I later saw this type of dance in the movie “Baraka.” I can still see my friend Josh Magarel mimicking the Butoh dancer’s face in that movie. But even more frightening was the part of the movie where a line of butoh dancers slowly walked off stage, waving goodbye, and moving as if they were under water, or dead. If you have seen the film you might remember the scene.

So, one night in Tokyo, our friend Julia from Brazil said she wanted to go to a special new years performance at the Butoh studio in Yokohama. Julia is a fellow artist (actress and dancer) who I met in college and who explained to me one day that her love of life and zest for craziness comes from a near death experience she had on a bus in Brazil. “After that I said I would never waste another day.” She was absolutely marvelous, and my ticket to an extremely moving adventure.
We made our way up the narrow streets of Yokohama to a tiny studio on top of a hill. Greeted by a handful of other dancers, all of whom had the vibe of art, one of which was the famous Kazuo Ono’s son. I felt like Yoko Ono would be showing up shortly, it was that kind of crowd. I was surprised to see some foreigners there, some Italians and another westerner.
We asked Mr. Ono if we could take pictures, and he said absolutely, just no flash. Before the dancer arrived, three students, including Mr. Ono, began to slowly walk around in front of us hold various objects, walking as if in meditation. It was very calming to watch.
The lights went down and the door behind us opened. A woman appeared in a cloak, here eyes wide open as if she was in shock, I don’t remember if there was any music. She made her way to the end of the room, walking slowly, rippling her body so it looked like she was walking through a strobe light, or like she was half robot, slowly running out of batteries. It gave me the chills and made my eyes water. She got to the door, slowly opened it. The creaking echoed into me. Then, suddenly, the door shut, and she was gone.
Amazing! Wonderful performance! I thought it was over.
Then the door opened and a masked creature appeared. I will not go into the details of the dance, but will say that it drew some emotions and states of awareness out of me that felt new and free and fresh and painful and deadly and I will never forget it.

Afterward, the dancer left, changed, came back and hung out with us (this is her.). We al had a party, with wine and chocolate and croissants and sushi, must have cost a fortune, great food, and to think, our tickets were less than 20 dollars! I talked to this old lady about butoh (the one holding the branch). She said, in English, that butoh helps her contact her deepest thought, and it can help you release your deepest thoughts, and in doing so, you give the audience a chance to do the same. I almost started crying. Then, the announcement came. “THE teacher is awake. Lets go say hello.”
We left the studio and went in to the house next door. There, we entered a quiet room and saw, lying upright on an electronic bed, the famous Kazuo Ono, 99 years old. Many people began to cry, out of joy, I think, for getting to see their teacher, their healer, one more time. One by one they went to him, kissed him, thanked him. His daughter told us to take pictures. Here is a drawing I did.
I heard he had his last performance when he was 97. 97! He fell asleep on stage. Here are some words and pics from this teacher I found on the Internet.

"The dancer's costume is to wear the universe."
"My art is an art of improvisation. It is dangerous. To succeed, one must first reach the very depths of the human soul, and then, express it..." He explains that for his dance, we must not try to control the body, but to let the soul breathe life into the flesh. "Be free! Let go!"
“Being free is not doing what we want or what we think. On the contrary, it means being liberated from thought and will.”
"You are happy because you are free. You smile: a flower blossoms in your mouth."
[One time in his class] He approaches a student who is holding his arms above his head. He indicates the limits of space thus formed and tells him, "There is an entire universe here." He then adds, "Paradise is at your fingertips." To another he hints, "I am glad to be alive!" Then for all to hear: "You are glad to be alive!"
He guides the student so that he can become like "the creator of the world, he who has no identity, he who existed before the appearance of the individual. Then, all is but a game."

Pretty cool old man, yes?

I feel a familiar connection to this man, to his students, and to his art. We’ll see. I think I might start studying it. I know my friend Josh already has.

Today i met my friend Nori, who is a lovely, lovely man, and we went to the Edo museum. The next day, the 9nth, we went to Kamakura where the great Kannon and the great Buddha are. Both were breath taking. Tonight I will take the night bus to niihama.

I missed my bus! I don’t know how this happened. Very dreamy. Very spooky. I though I read the time 10:20 on the ticket. But it was actually 7:50! What!? I tried to figure out what happened and I couldn’t find the time 10:50 anywhere. What the hell.
Strangely, very strangely, I had just enough money to buy another bus and train ticket to get me home. I took at train to Yokohama and got on their bus (they had an open seat, thank god!) to Okayama, and then a train ticket to Niihama. What was strange is that I left my bank card (by accident) inn niihama, so I couldn’t get any more money, and I had just enough, 12,000 yen, about 100 dollars, in my wallet. So weird! And I wouldn’t have had it if Kazu wouldn’t have given me back the gift money I tried to give him. But I could have left it on his desk, but then I though that he really doesn’t want it, and I might need it. Crazy world.
SO, I though it was meant to be. I pumped as much divinity into my predicament as I could, so that everything that happened afterward had a meaning. IT was beautiful. I saw the sunlight rise over the sea and islands and it was holy. The end.

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