PICKING ON 90’S BANDS. I’M NOTHING IF NOT TIMELY.

Posted in Jiving Ditties on September 5, 2011 by butthorn

We have Sirius XM satellite radio capability in our car but we don’t subscribe to it.  It costs money, and I don’t like exchanging that for goods and services, especially if it means I’m going to be securing the jobs of people I don’t even know.  The Sirius people send us a lot of mail intended to entice and/or guilt us into subscribing to their service, with envelopes that declare things like “Commercial-free music!”, “Unparalleled selection!”, and “Hope you’re enjoying your terrible local radio stations, if you can hear them over the cries and growling stomachs of our children!”  Most recently they’ve been kind and desperate enough to offer us two weeks of free XM radio, and while en route from errand to errand I’ve found myself mostly listening to Lithium, a station that plays all 90’s “alternative rock”, which back then meant “alternative to complete silence” as it was pretty much the only thing on the radio at the time.  I still like a lot of that stuff in spite of myself, both for the nostalgia much of it unavoidably drudges up and because I’m a sucker for a good melody, a trait that even the worst of that genre’s lot could generally lay claim to.

Perhaps as a middle finger to the typical syrupy, lovey-dovey lyrics of the majority of the popular songs in the decade that preceded it, but more likely because they were all high on black tar heroin, 90’s “Buzz Bin” bands were prone to penning lyrics that either made no attempt to make sense and were just there because instrumentals typically don’t sell, and maybe it all means something and maybe it doesn’t but who cares man, it’s the 90’s (Beck, Cake, Soul Coughing, Primus, Presidents of the United States of America, Ween) or they were willfully downbeat exercises in hopelessness-wallowing the likes of which we all occasionally find scrawled in old stinky notebooks in our parents’ basement (pretty much everyone else).  Sound and attitude prevailed; prose, by and large, took one for the team.  But it was a new dawn for music, and people were trying some new things, or at any rate things that previously hadn’t gotten a lot of airplay.

That being said, I have some questions for some of you 90’s bands:

LIVE

Well, jeez! Doesn't anyone knock anymore?

Oh boy.  Remember this goofy bastard, smooshing his face into your face and wagging his 80-foot long ponytail all over your television, spastically gesticulating in front of a mildly interesting tree and shirtlessly delivering to a driving beat the singularly unwelcome news that he is the only person in the world who cares about you?  Re-meet Live, one of the more humorless participants in the grunge-lite phenomenon, and for awhile there one of the more financially successful as well.  In 1994 you couldn’t enter a room containing an electronic device of any kind without frontman Ed Koyaanisqatsi blatting and braying a four-minute flood of embarrassing pleas and inane platitudes all over the lucky inhabitants of said electronic-device-containing room.  There was no escape.  You could have locked yourself in a empty room on a remote island, and within minutes you’d be farting the chorus to “Selling the Drama”.  Live was there for you, whether you wanted them or not.

But what were they going on about?  And why were they so insistent on sneaking unpleasant imagery into omnipresent songs that would be playing in Rite Aids for the foreseeable future?  The chorus of “Selling the Drama” contains a lyric that for all the world sounds like “Yay, now we won’t be raped”.  Yay, indeed!  But why won’t we?  Is it because we’re listening to a notoriously unsexy, rapist-boner-deflating band?  And why is no one there to catch the placenta at the beginning of “Lightning Crashes”?  Sure, maybe you lose some emotional heft and encounter pentameter problems by changing it to “Her placenta falls into the pan conveniently placed under her bed by a thoughtful nurse for just such a purpose”, but still, it’s a gross way to begin a song, and what kind of Mickey Mouse hospital is this?  “Here comes the placenta, Doc!”  “Aahh, just let it fall on the floor.  I’ll kick it over near the trash can later.  The baby’s dead, anyway.  Hey, does anybody else feel that…I don’t know, kind of a rolling thunder chasing the wind sensation?  Anybody else getting that?”

I have to give Live and Ed Campcucamonga credit, though, for always having delivered their incomprehensible, overwrought message with the utmost conviction.  “Hey, man, this is criminal, this hard line symmetry of people and pets” may or may not mean a blessed thing, but it sure sounds like it does.  “Tell me about it!” you want to reply, shaking your head in awe and disgust.

SILVERCHAIR

Before finding Christ and modifying their style to accommodate a younger, more optimistic fanbase, Hanson was originally an Australian quasi-grunge trio known as Silverchair, who foisted a briefly ubiquitous, catchy enough single called “Tomorrow” on the listening public back in 1993 or 4.  It’s this one:

I only have one question for Silverchair, and that is: From what tap is the supposedly very hard to drink water coming from?  Surely not from the aforementioned nonexistent sink?  Quibbling aside, as songs about overweight men learning about patience in underground bathroomless communities with undisclosed water sources of notably poor quality go, “Tomorrow” is easily top-ten material.

CREED

There is no meat left to beat on the dead horse that is Creed.  You’re punching the ground, maybe a little mane hair, or part of a hoof.  That’s just going to hurt your hand.  But it never fails to amuse me to point out the fact that, on top of all the other asinine lyrics and embarrassing Spike TV appearances that stemmed from this band’s success, Scott Stapp manages to inject nine – count ‘em, nine – syllables into the word “again” in the first verse of “Higher”, one of their biggest and most unavoidable hits.  It’s the usual drawn-out, “hunger dunger dang” bullcrap employed by many better and worse similar bands, but sometimes I like to pretend that this is simply how Scott Stapp says the word “again”.  Perhaps after running through a take of this song, he may have said something like, “Hey guys, that wasn’t bad, but I think we can do better.  Can we try that one a-geh-ee-yeh-yeh-ee-yeh-ee-yen?”

Sorry about posting a Creed video.

PEARL JAM

Eddie, it's not that funny. My mom even calls it "Tar-jay", for fuck's sake. Did you really think you just made that up?

A high school friend of mine who was worldlier in the ways of music then myself once lent Pearl Jam’s “Ten” CD to me, unrequested, telling me I just had to check it out.  Upon checking it out as instructed in the comfort of my bedroom, I remember my initial thoughts being something along the lines of “Well, at least now I know what it sounds like when a man with no asshole tries to take a shit”.  Fast-forward a year later, and all of a sudden I’m wearing Pearl Jam tee-shirts under the plaid flannel shirts my mom bought me at T.J. Maxx and supplying my friends who had cable with blank Fuji videocassettes and asking them to try and get the “Evenflow” video on tape, so clearly something happened in between those two events.  As with most all of the bands I enjoyed back then, I know nothing of their current output, but to this day I’ll still happily and gutturally caterwaul along with “Alive” in the car whenever WKIT or WTOS deigns to throw it on.  I have no real beef with Pearl Jam. They are good at playing guitars and going bluuuuuurrrrggggghh.

But what, please, is happening in “Yellow Ledbetter”?  Surely as a self-respected, bestselling musician and vocalist you cannot simply go “Nog a zee gog, a bliggy ziggy goggy nanny yay, and a corn and a bank and a sock and a gank and a cola at Denny’s” into a microphone while your bandmate plays a sweet if cribbed from Hendrix riff in the background and then release it as a B-side to overwhelming acclaim that continues to this day, can you?  Well, we all now the answer to that by now, and oddly, it’s this blatant, brazen meaninglessness that seems to have assured the song’s ongoing longevity in our collective culture consciousness.  Again, it sure SOUNDS like it means something, and what could be more angsty and 90’s-ish than badly wanting to mean but not having anything to mean about?  When Vedder screams “I don’t wanna wear that black soda bag!”, you truly hope that he doesn’t have to, and yet fear that he probably will.  Just like we all do.

Wear it with pride, friends.  We’ll see ya next time.

I’M TOO TIRED TO VERIFY THE CORRECT SPELLING OF “CURMUDGEON”

Posted in Mr. Bitch Goes to Bitchtown on August 26, 2011 by butthorn

It has recently become clear to me that I am an old person.  A smelly, closed-minded, shriveled, horrible to be around, incontinent, inattentive, stuck in the past, paranoid, dirty minded, uninteresting, all-around poop in the potty old person.  The reason I have come to this conclusion, or this conclusion has come to me, which is the same thing so forget I wrote that, is due to the fact that I live in a college town.  The very college town in which I once attended college myself, back when I was a somewhat younger old person.  It is a nice little town to look at, very clean and pleasant to walk around in for the most part.  Its citizens will not trouble you for spare change or cigarettes, for they are wealthy, and don’t smoke.  At most, they may flash a barely perceptible derisive sneer, a look that conveys something along the lines of “I don’t recognize you, but you seem poor”, after which they will continue on their merry way, thinking about NPR and organically grown vegetables.  If you were to attack them, or even simply ask for the time, they would no doubt simultaneously wet and soil their belted khaki shorts and begin vomiting and crying, which would be way worse to deal with than the barely perceptible derisive sneer, so it’s best to let them have their proud moment of judgement and carry on with your business.  They are not really harming anything, and on occasion some of them will even surprise you by being genuinely pleasant provided you keep the conversation light and don’t talk about poontang or nutsacs or, God forbid, organically grown vegetables.

That’s how it is in the summertime.  A calm, cool breeze blesses sparsely populated streets.  Amidst the relaxed, tanned families, one can easily find an empty booth in one of the few humble eateries about town at any time of day or night.  Short of the occasional comfortably ratty Red Sox cap, few feel the need to wear hats.  While people do look at their phones from time to time, they do so simply to check for messages of voice or text, and then close their phone upon continuing their walk, that they might better see where it is that they are going.  Traffic is steady but purposeful, en route to earning money for the purposes of family sustenance or to spend it on sensible things like hammers and assorted crockery.  When lawns are mowed, the people mowing them wear headphones not to listen to the latest smash hit by DJ Fuck Yo Momma and the Bitch Shooters, but to actually protect their ears from possible and permanent impairment.  It is Sunnytown, USA, and its beaming blandness is at once irritating and wonderful, depending on how one chooses to process the information on display.

Then fall comes.

This evening I drove my poor-smelling, essential-fluid-leaking maroon station wagon to the Thai take-out place just down the street from our apartment for the purposes of picking up curry puffs (an unfamiliar but exciting-sounding appetizer this place started making recently) and delicious yellow curry with fluffy rice and tender pork as a reward to myself and my wife for another week of not killing one another when I couldn’t help but notice a trio of fleshy, fresh-faced young women walking directly in the middle of the road, all three squinting and smiling wanly at their vibrantly hued cellphones.  Now I’m all for fleshy, fresh-faced young women in most any capacity, but when they’re shuffling down the street in the middle of a fairly busy main road and preventing me from shoveling hot, starchy, fowl-flesh slurry into my yearning esophagus, I really have no choice but to run over them with my vehicle.  So I killed some people tonight, and I’ll pay for it later, no doubt.  But the curry puffs were excellent.

Walking in the opposite direction of these oblivious ninnies were a pair of deeply dopey-looking young fellows, backwards of cap and saggy of short, striding with the confidence that only an exquisitely empty cerebral cortex can supply.  They, too, were walking down the middle of the road, despite there being a clearly visible sidewalk with plenty of room on it for people to walk on, even people who don’t know how to dress themselves and spend every waking moment of their boundless spare time texting one another about bath salts.  But no, nothing but the middle of the road would do for these gents.

I made no attempt to disguise my disgust, looking directly at both parties in question and sighing as loud as I possible could, but they all just kept on galumphing.  In the end, I drove directly into their midst, and we all sort of maneuvered around one another.  I’m not even sure I was visible to any of them.

So as you age, do people in the age group of, say, 13-24 just suddenly come across as utterly devoid of value, to the point where it seems like it would feel great to really cause them some serious physical harm in a perfect world where they weren’t actually stronger than you?  To the point where working out at a gym doesn’t sound like such a bad idea after all, if only to possibly give you the ability to maybe hospitalize the next person who says the word “dude”?  Or have kids just gotten really, really, really dumb?  And mean?  Is this how my friends and I looked and sounded to people with responsibilities and interests that no longer involved parties or sleeping till noon or occasionally walking to a series of buildings and sitting in a series of rooms ignoring a series of middle-aged nerds?

Well, at any rate, looks like I’m surrounded by fuckin’ idiots till May!  WHOOOOOOOO!  MORE COWBELL!  PLEASE, I BEG OF YOU, MORE COWBELL!!!!!  WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

MY BLOGGY AND ME, WE’RE THE BEST FRIENDS THERE COULD BE.

Posted in Buddhahorn, Marvy Movies on August 1, 2011 by butthorn

WOW, YOU REMEMBERED HOW TO LOG IN TO THE SITE. I’M SURPRISED AND IMPRESSED.

Suck it.

I’VE MISSED YOU, TOO.

Yeah, well, busyness and whatnot.

SO WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN UP TO SINCE…OHHHHH, APRIL, WAS IT?  MAY?

I’m too depressed to even look at the date of my last post.  I deliberately avoided it.

BEING THE BLOG ITSELF, YOU’D THINK I’D BE ABLE TO TELL YOU THE DATE.

Which only serves to prove that you’re not really a sentient blog, and rather you’re me writing in all caps.

CAN’T WE COMMIT TO THIS ONE FANTASTICAL GIMMICK?  I THINK PEOPLE IN GENERAL ARE STARTING TO GET NOSTALGIC FOR THE FOURTH WALL.

What have I been doing?  Lots of going to work…

WHICH GOES WITHOUT SAYING, AND WE’VE AGREED TO LEAVE WORK AT WORK.

And I’m beyond 100% fine with that.  What else?  Lots of dealings with the child.

AND HOW HAS THAT BEEN?

It’s been a lot of things, but most often it’s either a near-exact 50/50 mix of exciting/poignant or boring/frustrating.

HE’S EITHER THE REASON FOR OR THE BANE OF YOUR EXISTENCE.

That’s inaccurate and glib at best, but thank you for trying.

HE’S STARTING TO TURN INTO A PERSON.

Yeah, that’s true enough.  He can say, or rather verbally express without necessarily using the accepted English phrasing for, a surprising number of things.  He still favors “Ba!”, a noise he has always used whenever something catches his eye that he either wants you to mutually appreciate or explain, but with a slight upturn at the end it doubles for “ball”, a plaything he likes and we now have many of, all over the house.

HOW ARE YOU DEALING WITH THE ADDED CLUTTER?

Kiddie clutter is easier to clean up than adult clutter.  You just throw it all into a toybox and call it good.  But unless it’s a situation where I’m puncturing my foot on a plastic penguin while trying to bumble my way to the bathroom in the middle of the night, most of the time I kind of like all the toys and stuff lying around.  It reminds me that he’s asleep in the next room and I’ll get to hang out with him tomorrow.

SO IT’S A STY, THEN?

Not really.  Our new place is fairly attractive in a pleasingly old-fashioned Maine kind of way, so even if things are a little messy the overall atmosphere maintains an air (if not necessarily a reality) of order that none of our previous apartments have been able to manage.  By and large we all seem to be very content here.

“SEEM”?

I can only speak with any degree of certainty for myself.  My wife and child seem in very good spirits, but I can’t read their minds.  Stop looking for probs, bloggo!

PROBS ARE WHERE IT’S AT, HOMES.

By the way, I think I should let you know that as I type this I’m also watching a movie where a two-headed gorilla is attacking people in a grocery store.

THAT SOUNDS GOOD.

It’s this movie:

WOW, I WISH I HAD EYES FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE OF WATCHING THAT.

Well, you can have mine after I gore them out once it’s over.

SIGHT AS A CONCEPT IN GENERAL BEING ALL DOWNHILL FROM THERE.

Right.  Anyway, we were talking about words that Freddy can say.

WERE WE?  LAND, THAT MUST HAVE BEEN INTERESTING.

Somewhere my wife has written a list of these but I don’t know where it is so these are just of the top of my head: Other than “Ma-ma” and “Da-da”, there’s “wa-wa” (beverage, including but not limited to water, usually milk actually), “negnet” (magnet), “decks” (animal crackers), “suh” (sun), and the self-explanatory “wow” and “uh-oh”.

THE VERY DEFINITION OF ENTHRALLING.

You’re just mad because you have nothing to gush about.

IN WHAT MAGICAL, GUSH-WORTHY REALM IS “DECKS” A SUITABLE STAND-IN FOR “ANIMAL CRACKERS”?

It’s really closer to “cucks”, I guess, which is sort of like “crackers”, right?

IT’S ALMOST MORE CRACKERS THAN CRACKERS.

Didn’t White Zombie sing that?

TO WIDESPREAD CRITICAL ACCLAIM.  I HESITATE TO BRING THIS UP GIVEN THE MAUDLIN AFFAIR THAT WAS YOUR LAST POST, BUT HAS ANYTHING COME OF YOUR QUEST FOR ASIAN-FLAVORED MENTAL ENLIGHTENMENT?

I’m reenergized in that arena!  I have a handsome, spiral-bound meditation book that is plainly and incisively written, and I sit on a dog pillow in the attic and think about Sendoh!

GREAT, SENDOH!  WELL, THAT’S TOPS!

Tops is the word!

REALLY SOMETHING!

Sendoh, whom I will feel free to identify for you as only myself, my wife, a select handful of geeks and anyone who came of age in 1990’s-era Japan knows who he is, happens to be a character, and a relatively minor one at that, on my current favorite program: “Slam Dunk”:

I’VE NEVER KNOWN YOU TO BE A FAN OF EITHER BASKETBALL OR NON-PORNOGRAPHIC ANIME.

I’m not!  At best both concepts typically bore me, so this proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that old trope that we don’t choose what we enjoy, but rather what we enjoy chooses us.

WELL, YOU’VE DONE SOME IMPORTANT WORK HERE.

I initially started watching “Slam Dunk” on Hulu because I couldn’t think of anything in particular I wanted to watch at the time, and I was scrolling through their…hold on, the thing with two heads is competing in a dirt bike race now.

HE IS NOT.  IS HE REALLY?

Yes, and he’s fighting amongst himself while doing it.  The white old man head doesn’t want to be involved in the race.

HONKIES DON’T KNOW HOW TO HAVE A GOOD TIME.

If only they could loosen up a little.

IT TOOK YOU FIFTEEN MINUTES TO COME UP WITH THAT RESPONSE?

Sorry, I’m completely into this movie now.  There’s a lot of cop cars getting wrecked in a variety of truly exciting ways.

DAMN IT.  WHY DO I HAVE TO BE A STUPID BLOG THAT DOESN’T GET TO WATCH ANY FUN MOVIES?

I think the thing with two heads is about to have sex with someone.

STOP TWISTING THE KNIFE.  YOU WERE ABOUT TO TELL ME ABOUT THIS SENDOH.  WHICH ONE OF THE GUYS IN THAT VIDEO OF THE THEME SONG IS HE?  IS IT THE HUGE REDHEAD GUY?

No, that’s Sakuragi.  He’s the main character and is extremely funny in an over-the-top egotistical way.  The show is frequently hilarious despite the cheesy seriousness on display in that video.  Sakuragi is a high school freshman who joins the basketball team in an attempt to impress a girl, who happens to be the little sister of the star player, a big guy named Akagi who thinks he’s an idiot and is constantly punching him in the head.  Over the course of the series he discovers and displays a true talent and fondness for the game, and while that’s the focal thread of the show, the writers spend a lot of time with supporting characters as well, and throughout the viewer is privy to the inner monologues of nearly everyone who becomes involved in the story, however peripherally.  It probably sounds like too much to keep up with, but it’s compelling enough that you hang on everyone’s every word, so following along is generally not an issue whether your attention span is as decimated as my own or not, and even if you did happen to get lost along the way a gruff narrator enthusiastically provides an exhaustive synopsis of the story thus far at the beginning of each episode.  As I mentioned, every side story is treated with the same level and weird combination of humor and respect that Sakuragi’s saga is afforded, so one is left with a very thorough understanding of this mini universe of bullheaded, insecure young athletes and the paunchy coaches who try to tell them what to do.  Allow yourself a few episodes to get used to it, and you may find yourself as hooked as my wife and I.

IN NO WAY DID I REQUIRE THAT MUCH INFORMATION.  SO ANNIE LIKES THIS SHOW AS WELL?

Yes, a LOT, and she has even less interest in anime and basketball than myself.

SO SENDOH IS A GUY IN THIS SHOW WHO INSPIRES MEDITATION?

He is!  In me at least!  While most of the main characters in the show are good at playing basketball, Sendoh is fluidly, effortlessly good.  He does what he has to do to get the ball into the basket, without getting upset at the opponents who attempt to psyche him out and block his path.  He knows they’re just doing what they have to do as well.  He is one of the few fictional characters in any medium that I’ve encountered who seem as close to perfectly centered as one could hope to be.  He’s in the moment, and while he’s as susceptible to fatigue or injury as any human who regularly engages in a fast-paced, physically demanding sport, he never lets his desire to win or his aggression towards his opponents distract him from the task at hand.  He basks in victory and accepts defeat as they come, and revels in any challenge that leads to one or the other.

HE SOUNDS LIKE A HECK OF A GUY.

This is Sendoh:

VERY HANDSOME.  ARE YOU GOING TO GET A JAZZY POINTED HAIRDO LIKE HIS AS WELL?

I think I would have a hard time getting to sleep with that much hair on my head.

SO THINKING ABOUT THIS SENDOH CHARACTER HELPS YOU IN YOUR MEDITATIVE EXPLOITS?

No!  In fact it’s a hindrance!  What the idea of being like Sendoh does is inspire me to take the time out of my evening to actually sit down and attempt to get my mental affairs in order.  If I could attain even a fraction of the confidence and compassion displayed by this nonexistent cartoon character from a Japanese cartoon from the early nineties, I believe I would be a happier person, or at any rate would enjoy being around myself more.  But the problem is if I concentrate on Sendoh as some type of mantra or an object to fixate on, I just end up thinking about cartoons, or about my historic lack of natural abilities when it comes to team sports, and it becomes a depressing distraction.  He’s something of an inspiration in that he represents to my mind the idea of being perfectly centered, and as such he’s an impetus for me to go upstairs and sit down and do the thing.

SO IN SOME SENSE YOU’RE TRYING TO PURGE DISTRACTIONS FROM YOUR BRAIN?  WON’T THAT ESSENTIALLY ELIMINATE YOUR PERSONALITY, IN YOUR CASE?

Well, what IS my personality?  It’s just a set of behaviors that others have come to expect and that I’ve come to rely on to get me through the day.  Distractions will happen whether I want them or not, and I will always be “myself” to varying degrees, but being a slave to either of these things won’t lead to anything much that resembles progress, or, failing that, contentment.

YOU’RE TRYING TO GAIN CONTROL OF YOUR BRAIN.

That’s the idea.

NEAT-O.

It IS neat-o, in a way I may never fully understand.  Actually the neat-o part is you don’t have to understand it, you just have to do it.  Normally I hate doing things, but…

MAYBE YOU JUST SAY YOU “HATE DOING THINGS” BECAUSE PEOPLE EXPECT YOU TO BE NEGATIVE AND LAZY, BOTH TRAITS YOU CONSTANTLY REINFORCE TO GET LAUGHS AND TO AVOID HAVING TO WORK AT ANYTHING.

Say, you’re pretty perceptive for a blog!

AND YOU’RE FAT!

Cheers!

SEE YOU IN 6 – 8 MONTHS!

It’s a date!

A MOSTLY FAILED EXPERIMENT, RECONSIDERED.

Posted in Buddhahorn on May 2, 2011 by butthorn

I attended every single meditation class.  It was an enjoyable experience.  Blogging about the classes became a chore very quickly, but I felt like I’d created an obligation that needed to be fulfilled.  This, quite logically, resulted in me not only failing to continue to blog about these classes, but flat out avoiding the act of even logging into my blog for several weeks.  I will not live up to my promise that I would write an entry for every class.  Furthermore, I have done a very bad job continuing to meditate now that the series of classes has ended.

I feel no need to apologize, but I’d like to try to explain myself, if only to try to get to the heart of why meditation, an activity in which I assure you I am truly interested, is thus far failing to fully catch on, to become part of my daily, or even weekly, routine.

SO IN THE COURSE OF MEDITATION, YOU DON’T REALLY TRAVEL TO A MAGICAL LAND WITH BUDDHAS FLYING AROUND ON MAGIC CARPETS AND FLOATING FLOWERS AND DUCKS AND STUFF?

Either that, or I’m not doin’ it right.  The results are not immediate, and difficult to process.  You have to put in some real grunt work.  While a lot of people probably wouldn’t equate “work” with “sitting motionlessly with your eyes closed”, well, I urge you to try it sometime.  It’s work.  And while work is apparently not a bad thing according to people who have found success and happiness through its application, the fact of the matter is that luck was also a huge factor in the good lives of those condescending, fortune-favored pricks, who were placed here by God simply to torment poverty-stricken, idiotic cowards like you and me.  Work is awful.  The hell with it.

THAT’S ALL VERY WELL AND GOOD, “BUTTHORN”, BUT IF YOU JUST SIT AROUND DOING NOTHING YOU’LL NEVER…WAIT A MINUTE, MEDITATION IS SITTING AROUND DOING NOTHING!  WHY DO YOU HAVE A PROBLEM DOING THIS AGAIN?

Like I just said, it’s more strenuous than you might imagine.  It’s nothing like being sprawled on the couch with a brewdog, watching reruns of “The Larry Sanders Show” on Netflix, an activity I highly recommend, way more than meditation.  Your brain goes into overdrive (during meditation, not “Larry Sanders”).  You can actually physically feel your brain thinking in your head.  Subjects and feelings arise, many foreign, unwelcome, long-dormant…most likely some unholy fusion of the three.  There’s an element to it of self-psychiatry.  At the end of a particularly lengthy session, I often found myself very aware of my temples.  They throbbed and felt weirdly cold.  I would drive home in a confused but not unappreciative daze.

I THOUGHT MEDITATION WAS SUPPOSED TO BE RELAXING…

Yeah, no shit, me too!  It isn’t!  Not the way I do it anyway.  The teacher routinely stressed to us that there was no “right” or “wrong” way to meditate, but my brain just as routinely dismissed this as so much hippie bullshit.  Tell me how to do it so I can do it!  Otherwise we’re just sitting here quietly stressing ourselves out!  Right?  I dunno.  I kept waiting for a “key”.  A revelation…something.  A few times I felt like I almost had it, which would encourage and excite me momentarily, but then I’d think “well, what if this ‘almost’ feeling is as good as it gets with this stuff?  If I devote hours and hours of my life to this practice, only to get this close to a breakthrough of some sort, why put myself through the torture when I could just as easily lie on the couch and watch ‘Larry Sanders’?”  “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” is probably what it all comes down to, though.  Man, I hate that phrase, due it seeming like it’s probably true.  If there’s anything I hate more than meditation, it’s venturing.

SO YOU HATE MEDITATION?

Nah, I’m just frustrated with it.  I want it to be something that it maybe isn’t.

WOULD IT HELP FOR YOU TO GO BACK OVER YOUR LITTLE MEDITATION JOURNAL FOR INSPIRATION OR “CLUES”?

I’m glad you brought that up.  You know what’s interesting about that meditation journal?  It completely fucks my entire meditation experience.  Which is totally not what I would have expected.  For my money, there are no experiences so solid that they cannot be improved upon by filling a cheap notebook full of asinine thoughts dedicated to the doings and feelings associated with said experience, but meditation, I have to say, appears to be the exception that proves the rule, a phrase I’m not sure I entirely understand and probably shouldn’t be using.  All I know is if I’m meditating, and that little blue meditation journal is resting on the floor beside me, just waiting to be christened with my pithy observations on and canny interpretations of my “sit”, then I, a longtime people (and apparently notebook) pleaser, am going to be all too tempted to oblige it by mentally steering my thoughts in a particular and more entertaining direction, hamfistedly carving jokes out of nothing, or worse, out of potentially helpful realizations.  While in the act of meditating, a turn of phrase or a silly description would come to mind, and I’d strive to remember it for later inclusion in the journal, passing it off as “automatic writing” when in fact that would have been the very opposite.  And that extends pretty directly to the blog.  Knowing that I’d set the expectation that I’d be dedicating an entry to every class, I desperately eavesdropped on my fellow students, hoping to snag an out-of-context bon mot for later use, frantically searching for a statement or mildly amusing but generally mundane events that I could exaggerate into something even passingly anecdotal.  As opposed to, you know, listening to the teacher, or, you know, meditating.  Commenting on everything around you is a lot of fun, and it can lead to some good and interesting writing, but I think in looking for a freakshow or a “fish out of water” comedy I at least partially cheated myself out of what could have been a much more beneficial experience.

SO ARE YOU DONE WITH IT, OR WHAT?

Nope, just done writing about it.  From now on, it’s just me, my brain, and a pillow or a wadded up sweatshirt – whatever’s nearby; the idea of buying one of those special meditation cushions makes me uncomfortable.  You and I will just have to find something else to talk about.  There’s lots of possibilities!  Rummikub, Swiss chard, non-holiday Charlie Brown specials, the tattoo of David Paymer I’m thinking of getting on my chest, pumice…

(By the way, if you’re trying to figure out why your head’s up your ass about something, it turns out that pretending to discuss it with a no-nonsense, passive-aggressive disembodied voice who speaks in capitalized bold print is actually a pretty effective learning tool.  I may solely rely on this method of soul-searching for the foreseeable future!)

MEDITATION CLASS THREE

Posted in Buddhahorn on February 28, 2011 by butthorn

So what do I remember about meditation class numero tres, now that it was two weeks ago and every waking moment of it has flitted from my brain like so many freed moths, never to return?  Well, I went to the Sea Dog, how ’bout that?  How that for a Zentastic evening?  Nothing says “the teachings of Buddha” like overpriced mozzarella sticks.  I did not have those, nor do I know whether they’re even offered by the Sea Dog, so that’s more of a lie than a joke.  Same diff!

Assists your hamburger in preparing an excellent repast!

I never go to the Sea Dog because it’s located under a bridge and thus I forget it exists.  It’s also kind of expensive, and on top of that it’s one of those places that’s only really good if you go with a bunch of people for some reason.  But all the parking spots were occupied downtown, then I took a wrong turn and ended up in the Sea Dog parking lot, so that’s how that went.  I order the Hungarian Goulash, because I don’t know what it is and it’s the least appealing sounding item on the menu – a method of entree selection I highly recommend.  I assail my gullet with beers while waiting for the tiny pointy-haired tan fellow to bring me my unfamiliar vittles.  In the end, guess what Hungarian Goulash is?  It’s Hamburger Helper!  Nothing more, nothing less!  I mean, maybe they might have sprinkled on some fancy-dancy herbs or added a splash of free range yak gravy or somesuch something or other, but that was old-fashioned, third-grade-on-a-Wednesday-night Hamburger Helper that the tiny pointy-haired tan fellow brought to me on that plate!  Thankfully I have a soft spot for processed grocery aisle comfort foods such as this, and while I was taken aback, it would be inaccurate to say that I was 100% disappointed.  Hamburger Helper, I’ll tell you now, goes very well with cold, good draft beer.  The Sea Dog makes very tasty, if distinctly unmanly, oft-fruit-based beers.  They taste nice and they make you feel nice.  If that makes me less of a man, kindly accept my haphazardly shucked scrotum as dutiful penance for my enjoyment of sweetly flavorful ale.  Making up for the mild letdown of the “goulash” was a legitimately delicious warm blueberry crumb cake with drizzled caramel for dessert, which also melded magnificently with the beer.  I savored each succulent bite, reveling in the fact that I am an overweight woman in my late 40’s.

Having left a decent tip on the table and an even more generous one in their toilet (a poop), I go out into the freezing station wagon, where I sit and wait for the heat to come on.  From there it’s off to my usual chair at the library, where I’m fortunate enough to get the opportunity to read “Wilson” by Daniel Clowes in its entirety.  80 brisk, smart, funny pages of expertly illustrated misanthropy, “Wilson” is a guy in his forties who aspires to a zest for life that time and again proves impossible in the face of so many stupid, boring idiots.  There’s not so much a plot as a string of “gags” that usually end with Wilson blurting something appallingly hurtful to a stranger, or cradling his head in pain and disgust.  Pure hilarity, in other words.  If you like “graphic novels” and hate “people”, you should find a lot to enjoy here.  I liked it right off the bat and look forward to reading it a second time.  

Inspired by a yummy dessert and a terrific book, I stride to my meditation class with purpose and drive.  A very sad little Dunkin’ Donuts cup is bravely propping the door open, and I wedge the cracked remnants of its carcass back between the door and the frame before bounding and then in rather short order trudging up the four flight of stairs, at the top of which I find The Intimidating Chiropractor and Teacher making spiritedly stilted conversation.  Teacher asks me what I do for a living, a question I have never enjoyed for a variety of reasons:

A) Who cares?

B) It’s always one of the first things people ask you, implying that your answer is a framework over which their impression of you will be built.

C) It all but ensures that I won’t end up being friends with this person, because I am generally so unenthused about whatever drudgery I’m putting myself through in order to fund utility bills and Hungarian Goulash that the bitter deadness of my reply will discourage them from ever speaking to me again.  Seriously, ask me about my penis size or my most traumatic childhood experiences, but don’t ask me about what I “do for a living”, or my opinion on anything happening in the sky or anything happening in a stadium for that matter.   Small talk doesn’t break the ice for me.  Small talk is the fucking Manitowoc QM-45A.

I manage to tell her what I do without puking or implying that she is a bad person for politely conveying interest in my “livelihood”, but as I feared the conversation shudders to a halt all the same.  First impressions: I make bad ones.  I suppose I resent the fact that I’m being made to jump through bland hoops in order to establish any sort of relationship.  Can’t we just skip right to the whiskey shots and anus jokes?

People start filing in and we get out the pillows/cushions, form the circle and get situated.  We do a quick “sit” – ten minutes of meditation sans Teacher’s lulling, intermittently inspirational narration, which typically gets saved for the intense, balls-out meditation that wraps up each class, time permitting.  People crack their backs, knuckles, necks.  Buttocks are shifted.  The Inappropriately Dressed High School Girl wanders in late, clad in a sheer orange blouse and a miniskirt.  Not long after her is The Unsettling Psychiatrist, wearing shorts and a look of consternation.

The sit ends and Teacher says things that make it clear that we will be focusing on the concept of generosity in tonight’s class.  I’m not one to shower others with gifts and good deeds, and I flatly refuse to share my food, so this is a quality I can always stand to hear more about, but be that as it may I’d rather we get talking about less grounded affairs.  I’m running dangerously low on siddhis, that’s all I’m sayin’.  But whatever, sharing is nice.

This guy comes up if you Google "generosity sharing", and I gotta admit, that is one generous-looking son of a bitch.

So next we have to pair up with somebody and talk about generosity.  I hate this idea.  I of course am paired with The Unsettling Psychiatrist.  “It’s not a two-minute subject, is it?”, he says.  He then launches into an unstoppable diatribe about his child and his patients, how they ask too much of him, how he asks too much of them without realizing that he’s asking anything at all, and can anything really truly be given to anyone without expecting something in return?  I realize as he says this that even with nine-month-old Freddy, I feel pangs of hurt and even anger if he doesn’t smile or giggle in response to one of my stupid faces or when I make the stuffed Tigger fall off the toybox and impale his rectum on the Fisher Price Rock-A-Stack.  I make mention of this using the few words I manage to get in edgewise, and The Unsettling Psychiatrist nods enthusiastically and is sent off on another tangent that is cut short by the sound of the singing bowl being struck, yet he continues to whisper a mile a minute.  I can’t hear any of it.  He’s really got a lot going on.  What a fascinatingly horrible occupation.  How do you not take that home with you?  He trails off, gets resituated on his brick and faces forward again, jaw set and brow furrowed.

The difficulty of approaching a conversation as something other than simply enduring what another person has to say until it’s your turn to speak is dwelt upon, and exemplified in the many hyper interruptions and oblivious repetitions that naturally occur throughout the discussion.  We are here for ourselves, and is there beauty in that?  Does there need to be?

Final meditation time comes quickly, as it always does in these fleeting meetings.  At this stage in the game I’ve mostly conquered the physical discomfort obstacles inherent in the practice, and my back, ass, knees, and even hamstrings are now able to withstand prolonged period of focused inactivity, allowing me to zero in on what I’ve come here to try and do.  I’ve been – Jesus, my wife just started watching “High School Musical” on instant Netflix.  Sorry, I’m…what’s even happening?  Why is this…what…I can’t even process this, nor what might have led to this decision.  I’m totally lost now.  My train of thought is just…because I’m not gonna be able to avoid looking up at the screen every ten seconds.  I mean, obviously some inane part of me wants to watch this too.  Zac Efron has 27 pounds of hair on his head.  Everyone looks like they’re made of ice cream.

OK!  So home meditation: I’m okay at it!  I’ve skipped days here and there but I’m making an effort to meditate nearly every day, not a difficult task because I very much look forward to it.  Everything is imperceptively different in imperceptively different ways following each session.  It’s like taking a mild muscle relaxant and then blissfully chipping away at an enormous mountain with a tiny rock hammer.  You know there’s progress, but it’s really hard to see, and somehow that’s the fun of it.  But in the classroom setting, with Teacher intoning platitudes that threaten pretension but only border it due to the clear good intentions on display, I pretty well dive headlong into my own brain.  I get a weird body buzz.  I remember a kid I hated that used to ride my bus who used to hit rolls of gun caps with a rock to pass the time.  His ears were caked with bright orange wax, as though crayons had been squashed into them, and he was capable of a surprisingly not bad Reagan impression.  It occurs to me that I have done pretty well in life for having put far less than 24 hours of actual effort into it, and my mind is briefly blown at this realization.  I think of all the cats I have known, and relive how I felt in their respective presences.  An itch makes itself known in my love handle, and I have to devote some of my mental energy to attacking it while leaving just enough free to contemplate the character of Ron Swanson on the show “Parks and Recreation”, and what a funny and masterful comic creation he is.  I imagine burying my face in Ron Swanson’s clothed stomach and inhaling the essence of his sweater, and how that would probably smell like fresh wood shavings.  I think about inhaling the clothed stomach smells of a random string of people, some familiar and some nonexistent, and imagine them reacting in a variety of comic ways.  The itch has been vanquished, but another will come.  I feel yellow.  I’m so close to something.

The bowl is struck, and we all set about trying to snap out of it enough to make our way out of the building without falling all over each other.  The Unsettling Psychiatrist stays behind to say a lot of stuff to Teacher.  My temples feel like they’re pulsating – this always happens but it’s super strong after a class.  It feels like holes opening in my head, and the wind blows through them as I walk back to my car, which is loud when I start it, and which doesn’t want to go up the hill that it needs to go up in order to get me home.  But I am patient with it, and I do not call it a shitfucker or a sharting mcfucksucker like the old, misaligned me might.  We’ll get there when we get there.

2.9.11

Didn’t want to tonight but did and it was prob 2nd best one yet.  Feel pretty genuinely relaxed + was agitated before starting.  Started open eyes than gradually closed.  Closed may be deeper.  Both are interesting.  Did not have my usual problem with back + leg pain!

2.10.11

Sick still.  Stuffed nose.  Let myself slowly tip over + it felt cool.  Not very into it tonight though.  Work kinda shitty right now, affecting thoughts.

2.13.11

Skipped 2 nites – bad!  2nite sat up against wall – helps a lot but is that cheating?  Also the room is now messy + I played a movie game in conjunction w/breathing.  Not sure if this all counts but I do feel pretty relaxed.

2.14.11

Meditated in dark with candle – very nice.  Zoned out quite a bit.  Managed to take note of breathing more than usual.  Ignoed itch on neck and it went away.  Scratched bad heel itch though.  Almost fell asleep – that would be a pitfall of candle.  Really liked doing it this way though.

2.15.11

Did a “generosity” meditation.  Feel very affected by it.  Legs were in extreme pain but was very zoned and it evened out.  Both feet apparently fell asleep – had no idea.  Having trouble snapping out – am I supposed to snap out + is ultimate goal to always feel this fucked up?  The “submerged” feeling again – heavily so.  Don’t really want to move.

MEDITATION CLASS TWO

Posted in Buddhahorn on February 18, 2011 by butthorn

The second time you do anything is the worst.  It’s only the second time you’re doing a thing, and already it’s work.  You don’t feel the magic of the excitement of the unknown.  You’re not wide-eyed.  You have expectations, and when have those ever done anything good for you?

I put off doing a blog for the second meditation class.  It just kept not happening.  I’m having to play catch-up already, given that I just got back from my third (quite enjoyable) class.  And it’s not even like the second class or the evening itself went terribly.  For dinner I went to a very cozy Chinese restaurant called The Panda Garden, and despite a glaring lack of both pandas and gardens I enjoyed my dining experience, more for the tidy cavelike atmosphere and excellent service than for the food, which was good but not the britches-cummingly scrumptious taste sensation I was hoping for, which is what I get I guess for trying something new rather than just getting the tried-and-true Pu-Pu Platter that I always get at any Chinese food place and unfailingly love.   Wanting to branch out a little bit, I went with the Moo Shu Pork, and it was pretty tasty really, I don’t know why I’m feeling the need to downplay the meal so much.  Apparently if I don’t get crunchy, fried bird lumps that can be easily dipped in duck sauce or nasal-passage-searing mustard, I somehow feel like I haven’t had a true Chinese food experience.

The wonton soup I ordered for an appetizer was rather disappointing.  Maybe that’s why all the negativity here.  It was chicken broth with a couple of forlorn, scrotal wontons bobbing around in the tiny ceramic bowl, their blanched, flavorless corpses a regretful affront to the very idea of the noble if somewhat antiquated soup course.  Panda Garden is not alone in its failure to realize the full potential of this particular soup.  I order it pretty often at different Chinese places, and what I’m usually brought generally gets the job done, but only just.  There is a place in Portland (Maine, that is.  I don’t know from the other Portland.) called the Oriental Table that serves a wonderful wonton soup, combining a bold broth with fresh wontons and some kind of interesting crispy thing that might be a vegetable of some sort sprinkled on top of it all.  I have yet to encounter anything approaching its equal.

But the Moo Shoo Pork was quite good, although I don’t really know what was in it other than pork and noodles.  And it came with tiny pancakes, which I ate like breakfast pancakes but in hindsight were probably supposed to be used like a tortilla to put the Moo Shoo in and thusly make little Chinese burritos, which is exciting because Mexican food and Chinese food don’t get to play together too often.  That black stuff in the lower left was somewhat alarming.  I put some on my finger and licked it.  I don’t remember what it tasted like, but I recall that it made me upset.  The waiter came by many times to refill my water and ensure that everything was to my satisfaction.  He said, “You’re welcome” every time I said “thank you”, which really stuck out and made me realize that this isn’t something people say too often anymore, in my experience.  Usually you get a “yup” or the ever heartfelt “no prob”.  Those are certainly the phrases I opt for whenever I’m thanked.  Saying “you’re welcome” almost feels too personal.  The waiter’s extreme politeness improved the quality of the food, and I made sure to include actual money as part of my tip in addition to the customary expectorant-plumped napkin and drawing of a penis I typically leave as payment for a meal well served.

A young mother and her two mildly rambunctious but essentially well-behaved children were also dining in the restaurant while I was there, and I overheard her offhandedly tell the waiter that she and her current husband had their first date at The Panda Garden, a quick story that the waiter reacted to throughout with several very pleased “Oh!” sounds (probably not how you’re imagining it, you gross pig people.  although that would have been a funny response to a mildly interesting anecdote…), and as they were leaving, the waiter mentioned to an older Chinese gentleman near the host stand, who I’m guessing was the owner, that the woman’s first date with her husband was at their restaurant, news which so delighted the older man that he pulled out a little basket of colorful toys of some sort and began rapturously giving them to the two kids, repeatedly declaring “One for you and one for you!  One for you and one for you!”  It about killed me, and I was thankful for the hot tea to blame tears on.

From there I went to the library, and spent a disspiriting fifteen minutes or so with Richard Roeper’s “Schlock Value”, one of those “this is why I think everything sucks” books that we all like so much because we’ve given up.  The very sight of Richard Roeper makes me feel like I’ve lost an unimportant argument with my least favorite relative, or perhaps like an acquaintance that I thought at least kind of liked me has physically harmed me in some small but painful way, possibly via a Smurf bite.  He exudes petty dissatisfaction, and has never made me want to either watch or avoid a film based on his take.  Why did I pick up his book, then?  Because I love books about movies more than either books or movies, and the “Mad” magazine-lookin’ cover caught my attention.  And I like “this is why I think everything sucks” books, because I’ve given up.  Or there’s hope for me yet, maybe, because even though he’s not wrong about Drew Barrymore and Chris Rock making terrible movies (with, respectively, “E.T.” and “Pootie Tang” being notable exceptions, although really neither of their contributions are all that essential to either film’s success) and while I’ve no reason to doubt his claims that Russell Crowe and Michael Moore are depressing people to have to encounter in real life, I just found no reward wallowing in the badness.  And a blandly crappy mood was born.  Thanks, Rich!  As Roepers go, you’re a distant third behind Stanley and Helen.

So from there I went to class (after changing my clothes in my car, which was not in any way an improvement over my experience in the dressing room last time), and before we go any further I’d like to introduce a few characters.  These are fellow classmates who stand out for one reason or another:

THE INTIMIDATING CHIROPRACTOR:  A burly, moody-seeming back-cracker who has shown up faithfully to all three classes so far.  He has done nothing to warrant my fear of him other than be large and frown a lot.  Like myself, he finds the accepted meditation position physically unbearable, and evidently has taken up the practice of meditation while walking, something that interests me but not to the point where I dare ask him about it.

THE UNSETTLING PSYCHIATRIST: A floppy-haired fortysomething male with a penchant for shoehorning unrequested/upsetting information into conversations that clearly weren’t set in motion in the hopes of encouraging his participation.  He always wears shorts to class, which you don’t expect of a psychiatrist somehow.  Frequently makes mention of the unbearably depressing nature of his patients’ lives.  Oh yeah, and instead of a blanket or pillow, he sits on a brick.

THE INTERCHANGEABLE OVERLY ENTHUSIASTIC MIDDLE-AGED WOMEN: There are three or four or perhaps seven or two of these in the class.  They’re bright and early and ready and rarin’ to meditate.  They like to talk before class, during class, and after class.  They all say the teacher’s name a lot.  Their spirit is inexplicably irritating, but they always have a smile and a hello for you, so in the long run fuck me and my bullshit.

THE UNASSUMING ACUPUNCTURIST: Not an overly dynamic presence, but notable in that she’s an acupuncturist.  You don’t run into those every day, I suppose.  On the heavyset side and prone to wearing mildly sarcastic tee-shirts.

THE INAPPROPRIATELY DRESSED HIGH SCHOOL GIRL: Pretty well says it all.

THE EMPTY NESTER, HER DAUGHTER, AND THEIR TALL SMILING FRIEND: I only call her The Empty Nester because that’s what she calls herself.  The Empty Nester stands out from The Interchangeable Overly Enthusiastic Middle-Aged Women by being rail-thin and always looking like she’s just barely keeping it all together.  I get a heavy several-packs-a-day vibe from her although my only evidence is that crazed questioning facial expression, so I could be wrong.  Her daughter, on the other hand, is portly and relaxed.  The Empty Nester and Her Daughter brought Their Tall Smiling Friend with them to the second class.  She seems very nice.

That’s the cast thus far, though there are a good deal more who attend that simply smile and listen and don’t talk about themselves or display easily labelled quirks.  I’ve been to three classes so far, and each time it seems like a completely different crowd.  There’s always someone there who wasn’t there last time, or maybe people are getting frequent haircuts, I don’t know.

I arrive at the studio, and Teacher is milling around in the entryway, there to let people in as nobody involved with this building seems to know how to prevent the door from locking at 7 PM.  With her is The Intimidating Chiropractor, who is regaling her with a story about some lackluster customer service he recently received at a printing company.  It’s not the type of story that does its listener any good, and I feel bad for the Teacher that’s she trapped in it, but not bad enough to hang around in the cold entryway and try and likely fail to overtake The Intimidating Chiropractor’s anecdote with a better one of my own.

I make my way up the stairs to find The Unassuming Acupuncturist waiting by the shoe benches with an Interchangeable Middle-Aged Woman, who is making the Acupuncturist stand in front of her so she can read the funny things on the back of her shirt.  It’s basically a list of problems that the tee-shirt wearer supposedly has, most of which are related to mental issues and stress but which also, somewhat alarmingly, includes diarrhea.  “Diarrhea?!” the Middle-Aged Woman repeats with loud incredulity, just as The Unsettling Psychiatrist arrives.  “Well, good evening to you, too,” says The Unsettling Psychiatrist.

This is what you get when you google "Dissatisfying Meditation". It really couldn't be more perfect.

I’m sorry to say that I don’t remember much else about the second class.  Part of it is because it was a couple of weeks ago now, and my memory isn’t the best, but even trying to relay the experience with any clarity back to my wife immediately upon returning home had been a chore.  We sat in a circle, the Teacher said some stuff, and we meditated.  A yoga teacher sat in on the class, right next to me in fact, and she made it a point to work a lot of painful-looking stretches into her meditation, which negatively affected my concentration, to say the least.  Yoga pants: they’re downright pornographic.  Also I had a pretty bad cold, and everything was aching.  It didn’t click like it did last week, and I spent the session snuffling and worrying that I was wasting money, which of course I was, given that I was spending my meditation class worrying about wasting money.  It didn’t work out all that well.  I left dismayed, wanting to turn my back on the whole thing.

This is the part where I usually give up, waaaaaaaay early in the process of whatever it is I’m trying to get into.  I hit walls early, and I succumb to them.  On the drive home, I was aware of my dissatisfaction, but I was also more aware of how I operate than usual.  I would continue my home meditations and I would return to class the following week, putting as much stock in the discouraging, seemingly unproductive classes as in the invigorating, momentum-filled classes.  Whatever it is, be with it.

Below are my journal entries, ending with the one I did during the second class:

2.2.11

Used white noise app on iPod.  Thought then it might be cheating but remembered can’t really cheat – is that true?  1st used special meditation app but felt wrong.  Took off glasses again, eyes open in baby room.  Worked pretty good.  Focussed on rug.  Thought about Videoport & Dennis’ party, wanted to go.  Able to achieve tingliness.  Lorrie came in to get something & I stopped.  11 minutes.  Felt weird w/her coming in though I should have been able to keep going.  Not at that point with it yet.  But this room will work fine.  Undecided on white noise, maybe should just deal w/house noise.

2.3.11

Forgot about meditation & drank a few good gulps of not great but OK wine from Austria then Annie reminded me to meditate.  No iPod this time, just me in the diaper room.  Rug works well.  Things got pretty tingly but how much was wine-caused?  Will try not to meditate drunk much.  Had “The Viking” and 2 R. Kelly songs stuck in my head.  Thought about blog which is distracting – maybe even unhelpful.  Still it “worked” tonight better than last night but again need to consider the Austrian wine factor.  Disappointed that I forgot almost.

2.5.11

Tried to do it while pooping – nope.  In diaper room again.  Closed eyes this time.  What was good about that was could see a little purple orb of light floating that I could focus on.  Kept almost “getting it”.  Kinks & Warren Zevon in head.  Plow going by outside – comforting.  Annie opening snack in kitchen – angering but I calmed it down quickly.

2.6.11

Tired & coming down with cold but this went pretty well.  Songs in head as usual, thought about high school friends.  Light was annoying in room – can you meditate in darkness?  Why not?  Seemed close to some kind of unplaceable breakthrough but lost it or maybe just stopped.  Legs/back get uncomfortable.  Prob need to get in shape – sad that even sitting is hard.  Anyway pretty good session.

2.7.11

Stuffy nose sucks dick but still zoned out pretty good.  Eyes open – I like it better.  Focussed on big baby face on Pampers box and it worked well.  Might need to figure out what to sit on.  Rug hurts.

2.8.11

OW!  Back!  Pretty zoned out though.  Kept wanting it to end – doesn’t seem good.  Did feel whole self slowing down but almost in a submerged way, not really relaxed.

I thank you all kindly for sticking with me to the end of this post, and I will probably have one for the third class up within the next couple of days, given that I have to crap it out before it all falls out of my brain.  Be well.

MEDITATION CLASS ONE

Posted in Buddhahorn on February 5, 2011 by butthorn

Despite a pretty nasty snowstorm in progress, my first meditation class has not been cancelled, something I’m mostly relieved about.  Due to the weather I opt to pass time in downtown Bangor until class begins, rather than going home first.  I like the idea of downtown Bangor more than the reality of it.  I have a real problem with cities and I’ll never fully trust them.  My brain is convinced that the bad must outweigh the good when you’re dealing with a human gathering of that size, even one as relatively modest as Bangor.

But a snowy weeknight, it turns out, is probably the ideal setting in which to experience an urban area of any sort, if you’re as crowd-averse as myself.  Young attractive twentysomethings who like to be loud in the out-of-doors en route from one watering hole to another don’t seem to want to engage in that particular activity when snow is falling out of the sky.  Ditto for crazy vagrants, parents out to show their kids a good time by shrieking threats at them in public, and small groups of impractically clothed high schoolers emboldened by a lack of supervision.  Those few outside during this time probably wouldn’t be there unless they were enjoying themselves.

I hardly downtown know her!

Having reverified the location of the yoga studio, I enter a nearby cafe whose name I can’t spell from memory and don’t feel like looking up but which my wife tells me is pronounced “Jackamo’s” for a flavorful if costly smoked pork panini, a microscopic but appreciated bag of chips, and a very good no-frills coffee.  I enjoy my food, the free wireless, and the 90’s alternative music playing in the background as I loiter, until the personable waitstaff amiably eject me from the restaurant so they can close.

My intention at that point was to go to The Grasshopper Shop (a local gift/novelty/clothing/housewares establishment that I used to love browsing in back in high school but have since not given a lot of serious thought to) in the hopes of at the very least acquiring a pen, as I had forgotten to slide one into the spiral binding of my sassy new meditation journal that I bought at Target (who, it needs to be said, does not offer the breadth of meditation journal selection one might be led to expect of such an established retailer).  There was also a rather hurriedly constructed but eye-catching banner declaring “30% Off Everything!” out front that no doubt would have resulted in my buying one or two something-or-others.  As it happened, Grasshopper closed up Shop at six, much like, it turns out, each and every store in downtown Bangor, except for the “4:20″ bong shop (not really a place to go without a particular goal in mind) and a comic book store that I didn’t end up finding until ten minutes before class was to start.

Having resigned myself to an hour of talking to my wife on my cell phone in the car about things like coldness and darkness, I am reminded by said wife that the library doesn’t close until 8 on winter weeknights.  Thanks and bye, wife!  After urinating in a bathroom refreshingly free of rapists and homeless people, I thusly spend an agreeable twenty-five minutes with a fluffy Leonard Maltin book touting unheralded but ostensibly worthwhile films until making my way back to the yoga studio, where I find the lights to be off and the door to be locked.

I call the number you were supposed to call to find out if class was cancelled, the same number I had called not two hours earlier and been told that it wasn’t.

“Hey, is the meditation class really happening?”

“Yup, it sure is!”

“Well, why is the door locked?’

“What?!”

“The building is completely inaccessible.  I’m pulling on the door and it isn’t opening.”

“Well, uh…a class is in there right now.  I guess you’ll just have to go in when they come out.”

“Are you not at this building?”

“No, this phone number goes to another place.”

“Thank you very much for your help.”

More people show up and we all stifle the urge to huddle while waiting for something to happen that will allow us access to the building.  Soon enough (well, not really), a skinny guy who doesn’t look like he cares about anything appears, fumbling with a keyring, and we all follow him inside.  (He didn’t end up having anything to do with the yoga place; there were a bunch of businesses in there, most of them unrelated to delving into ones inner psyche.)  We clomp up some stairs, encounter some coathooks and places to put shoes, and put these to use.  The door to the place is closed, and no one seems to know if it opens directly into a room where people would be intently contorting their bodies or if there is any kind of foyer or waiting area.  One of the braver among us ventures inside, and reports back that there is a room for us to wait in.

Sadly, not the actual studio.

There are more of us now and we all tiptoe inside.  The warmth and relief that the sight of a good hardwood floor provides is immediate and just shy of a little much in here.  There are plants to beat the band, all over the place, mostly around the perimeter but of note is a tree dead center in the floor, placed there, the teacher later tells us, to catch drops from a leak in the ceiling.  There are calming hangings artfully displayed, and everything is very clean and well organized.  It does not feel like Maine.  They have done a good job creating a relaxing space, neither half-assing nor overdoing it.  I’m comfortable and it feels okay that I am in here.

The teacher shows up – pleasant, nondescript, mid-to-late thirties I’m guessing – and I ask if there are changing rooms.  I am the only person who did not show up wearing what they intended to meditate in, and inner peace does not seem achievable in a button-up dress shirt and somewhat ill-fitting black khakis that I have been dribbling piss and farts into all day.  I am directed toward a small nearby room with nothing but an easily brushed aside black curtain separating my denuded flab from my fellow students gathering in the waiting area.  All but assured that someone will casually stroll in any moment and expose my pouchy nakedness and ridiculous underpants to a roomful of appalled yet strangely titillated onlookers, I spastically change my pants in record time, as though at gunpoint or competing for a sizable cash prize.  I will not be doing this again.

When I return from my frantic wardrobe change, I find that a good fifteen more people have materialized and have all taken seats in a circle on the floor.  They have somehow acquired blankets and little tubelike cushiony things to sit on.  I find the closet that contains these neatly folded and arranged items to my left, but am dismayed to find that these enlightenment-seeking dickbags have taken all the little tubelike cushiony things.  I have to make do with two blankets, which sucks and is not the same.  I also find that the only unclaimed area in the circle is of course right next to the teacher, which everyone knows is where the smelly kid sits.  In keeping with the belief system of the hour, I realize that if I am the smelly kid, then I am the smelly kid, and I plop my blankets down next to the instructor, who is engaging in the not very Zenlike activity of checking her email on her cellphone.

Check out these Christmassy-colored hamstrings, if you can tear your eyes away from that slammin' rump!

I try to fashion a comfortable ass nest out of the two blankets, with middling success, then dutifully fold my legs into the universally accepted meditation position, which we always used to call “Indian style” but I’m guessing probably don’t anymore.  Given that it’s been quite some time since I’ve played “Duck Duck Goose” (too long, really), my limbs and body in general require some reconnection with this position, and the reunion is less than joyful.  My hamstrings have always possessed the flexibility of cinder blocks (I have no idea what it feels like to touch my toes), and soon I’m enjoying a constant pinprick sensation throughout my thighs.  Despite the pain, it feels oddly righteous to let my hamstrings suffer like this.

So the circle is completed, and the teacher tells us that for the first ten minutes of class, we’re just going to sit here.  “Do we have to be quiet?” asks a middle-aged woman who I’m not sure is in the right room.  Yes, Barb, we do have to be quiet.  The ten minutes is an eternity.  I can actually hear my hamstrings telling me to go fuck myself.  Someone’s stomach to my right keeps making silly noises.  I think about how one day I’d like to turn a room of a house into a replica of an old, small town, mom ‘n pop video store, stocking it with found VHS from thrift stores and yard sales, creating perfect genre sections of 50 movies each, buying and rebuying VHS, whittling down each section until it is flawless.  Then just going in the room and looking around with deep satisfaction, maybe setting up a viewing area with a small but heavy TV, a clunky VCR (preferably a top-loader), and a somewhat uncomfortable plastic chair.

The teacher strikes a small bowl made out of a rock with another piece of rock which makes a new agey sound signifying that the ten minutes are up.  We all look around to verify that no one got anything out of that experience.  Despite this, the room has an energy that seems to promise controlled adventure.

Teacher starts out talking about seats.  She points out that the woman who asked if we had to be quiet before is using a nifty cushion expressly designed for meditation.  “It’s inflatable,” says the woman.  “I keep having to blow it up.  I got it at Border’s.”  I am unhappy with this information.  Teacher asks the woman to pass the inflatable meditation seat from Border’s around the circle.  This, lamentably, takes place.  I practically volleyball “bump” it to the next person when it gets to me.  Then the teacher decides to hand around her own (admittedly pretty snazzy) innovative meditation seat.  This too is strange and unwelcome.  Anyone else have anything they’ve been recently rubbing their ass on that they’d like to give an entire roomful of strangers the opportunity to handle and examine?  I watch everyone carefully to try and catch someone in the act of nonchalantly sniffing the teacher’s meditation seat, but either my eagle eye fails me or we’re a relatively well-adjusted bunch up here.  Were I teaching a class, I’m not so sure I’d implement this method of ice-breaking, but then again I’m new to all this.

This being the first class, nothing terribly meaty is broached.  We’re gonna try to do this, you might wanna buy this book, when you get home you should give this a shot when you get a chance, we might have someone else come in and talk about something or other.  We go around the room and introduce ourselves.  I make an exceedingly lame funny that nonetheless elicits a fair amount of laughs.  The girl to my left mentions she is here to deal with stomach problems, probably explaining those noises from before.  A big, Mexican-seeming chiropractor is there to access new parts of his mind.  A high school girl is stressed out (and dressed like the world’s most laid-back underage prostitute).  A psychiatrist and his wife are there.  He wants to be more of a help to his patients, who are beginning to bum him out.  Wife declines to chime in.  Another woman is afraid of becoming an “empty nester” because her daughter is going to be leaving for college soon.  Said daughter is taking the class with her to keep mom company.  So far only the psychiatrist, who is never not smiling, stands out as a potential wacko to watch, and maybe the woman with the Border’s seat who apparently equated “meditation” with “rowdy gabfest”.  Teacher spends a few minutes introducing us to the book that accompanies the class, an item I have neglected to purchase but now may having gotten a look at it.  It comes in a cool slipcase.

Finally, to close out the class, we actually do it, we meditate.  The teacher mellowly intones calming statements about breathing and focusing and everything in life being simultaneously vital and no big deal.  Most of my classmates close their eyes, but I take my glasses off and leave my eyes open.  I immediately feel like something different is happening.  Twinkling and tingling.  Teacher advises us to accept any sound we hear rather than attempting to block it out, just let it happen, and as if on cue some yutz in one of the adjoining businesses immediately begins singing, of all things, “Bump and Grind” by R. Kelly, in an intentionally overwrought but robust baritone: “MY MIIIIIIND’S TELLIN’ ME NOOOOOOO!”  By some miracle, I am able to recognize the humor without cracking up and destroying the trance.  It helped that my mind really is tellin’ me no.  I can apply the lyric to the situation at hand, so that it becomes a statement of fact rather than the most unexpected and hilarious thing I’ve heard all week.  Minds don’t really want to meditate.

Teacher drones on and on pleasantly, the gist of it all appearing to be that everything is important but nothing really matters.  This is pretty comforting.  It’s like, “Thank God I own this ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ DVD, and what difference does it make whether I go to work tomorrow or not?”  The soothingly intoned reassurances coupled with the warm overhead lights and expertly stained floor results in me zoning out real quick.  The twinkling and tingling continue.  What is most difficult here is an ongoing internal argument: Am I really meditating or is just a combination of trance-friendly components that’s causing me to feel like I’m abnormally at peace?  Whatever the case, my usual desire to check out what everyone else in the room is doing is really not there at all.  Maybe that’s because I’m pretty sure they’re all sitting still with their eyes closed, and that’s not terribly interesting to look at.  In general, it feels something new is happening, but I question it throughout, and it’s hard to stop.  My mind’s telling me no.

Teacher hits the weird bowl with the rock, and we are done.  Those of us who have brought journals take some time to scribble down a few things.  This is not so much the automatic writing that my friend Joe can tell you about (although I intend to explore that as well) as it is quickly jotted notes that aim to sum up how we feel that particular bout of meditation went.  Things we noticed and felt.  Being that you’ve just snapped out of la-la land, however, the disassociative choppiness of automatic writing is unavoidable.  This is what I wrote after my first try:

Light.  Hamstrings killing me.  Wanted to laugh @ guy singing R. Kelly but was able to recognize humor w/o laughing.  Feel like it “worked”.  Distracted by imagining sounds of Matt + Joe’s voices.  Kept eyes open but took off glasses which seemed to work.  May try eyes closed next time.  Back feet + hamstrings all hurt.  Need to be better @ sitting.  Shimmering quality – result of lights or meditation?  Surprisingly easy to mostly forget stress.

Workmanlike observations here at the outset.  Matt and Joe are two of my best friends from college, and for some reason I heard Matt yammering in one ear and Joe yammering in the other; neither of them saying actual words, just complete gibberish in their very distinctive respective tones of voice.  It was initially like they were trying to distract me, but given that what they were saying was meaningless nonsense – “gabbita blabbita bluhblubhbllblt gluhbhllbgglb” – I could assign it my own meaning, and soon enough I was deriving actual encouragement from their unexpected “presence”.  As it happens, the act of assigning meaning to everything is something that meditation seeks to curtail, according to the teacher, but this early on it served as a convenient crutch.  It’s really interesting that Matt and Joe  both “showed up” for this class, but given that they’re both very important figures at different points in my life, it makes sense that any type of serious introspection would access those guys in some form, however insanely distracting that form may have been.

Teacher tells us we need to try to meditate every night from here on on, and take notes.  Not sure how this will play out at home with the baby and clutter and whatnot, but it feels like such challenges are probably necessary to actually get this stuff to work.  You can’t be a professional wolf-killer if you don’t have a bunch of wolves constantly attacking you, that’s how I look at it.  With the first class under our belts, teacher immediately turns to me and asks about Freddy, who I brought up in my silly introduction earlier.  I say he’s doing well, almost nine months, trying to talk and crawl.  While we make small talk, it would appear that all the middle-aged women in the class are lining up to talk to the teacher, all looking as though they have the most wonderful news to share with her.  I leave her to it, picking up my blankets and putting them back in the closet.

Outside the storm has calmed down considerably.  The streets are still pretty empty, but I narrowly avoid having to bumble my way through giving a raggedy-looking pedestrian no doubt inaccurate directions to somewhere or other when another unlucky soul passes him first, and judging from his flummoxed mannerisms is probably doing no better a job than I would have.  I sympathize, and I mentally thank him for taking the hit.  Though I suppose if it had been me, I could have said, “It is not important that we reach our destination, but that we gain wisdom from the journey.  I think Hammond Street is over by that store that sells the robotic sex heads, but I’m not totally sure.  No, actually I’ve lived around here all my life, but I don’t drive much, and when I ride I mentally play complicated movie-related games rather than paying attention to what roads the driver is taking.  Namaste!”

There is quite a bit of snow to brush off the car, and I do a very thorough job clearing it all away.  The air is crisp and I feel alert in it.  I start the car.  From here I am not sure of the best route to use to get home, as my station wagon does not like steep hills, and the most direct route involves driving up what essentially amounts to the side of a cliff, and at this point probably a slippery one.  I decide to take an unfamiliar street that appears to point in the general direction of home.  This turns out to be an unenlightened route, one that forces me to double back almost half the distance I drove in order to avoid having to get on the interstate, as my station wagon does not like going over 45 miles per hour.  Normally getting lost like this, especially in my home state, causes me to freak out and whimperingly rattle off every obscenity and racial slur known to man, but the snow is pretty under the streetlights and the buildings are interesting on this unfamiliar street.  I feel very good about this first class, and am excited to make my way home and tell my wife about it.

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