So, I’m a nice enough guy usually: certainly not a murderer or anything, but would I hurt a fly? Well, that’s where it can get tricky.

One fly comes and I’m cool. Ditto for two and three. Four flies starts to get worrisome. By the time there are seven flies in my kitchen, I am crazy with disgust for them and luckily it is time to go to bed.

I leave the kitchen door open, hoping to not find them there tomorrow. Hoping that they will somehow develop brains in the night that will lead them away from the closed window.

I get up earlier than usual the next morning, before the sun is up. All seven flies are asleep on the ceiling. Unmoving on the ceiling.I feel for them being asleep. I relate to them. I drink my tea and write some notes and they are still unmoving on the ceiling. I feel differently about them.

I leave to go to a cafe and come back to moving flies and, even worse, sitting flies on food left out.

Normally, I start killing at this many flies, but now, I don’t. I’ve seen them sleeping. Upside down.


I go to glaze pottery for Amma. The ashram in California is planting trees. Tens of thousands of them; like everything her organization does: be it hospitals, schools, homes for disaster relief victims etc etc etc.

Making art and then giving it away, leaving it there as I drive off is very liberating. I do my best and leave. There is no exhibition to worry about, no sales to hope for. I have a bit of a hope (as I stand in the balcony watching next month when Amma is here) to see someone in the line to be hugged, who has bought my pot with it’s seedling in it, taking it to Amma, who will hold it for a moment and then pass it on to someone else who will also pass it on and eventually it will be planted.

The seedling is the important thing, the glazed pot is just the carrier. I don’t even know what happens to it in the end. Perhaps it gets broken to release the grown seedling, which is, of course, no longer a seedling.

As I am glazing pots, I am talking to a woman also glazing pots. At one point in the conversation, she refers to the divine plan; as in one can’t argue with it or control it much. I tell her, not without sadness, that I don’t much believe in the divine plan anymore. I used to but…
This is received by understandable silence. I think of a New Yorker cartoon I saw a couple months ago where the person is sobbing, head down on the desk, the caption reading , “There is no Santa Claus, no Easter Bunny and no God!”

Still, I don’t think it’s quite as simple as that.

Holes Drilled in the Past

Saul had always wanted a nice drill press but never allowed himself to buy one. Somehow, he just couldn’t justify it.

“Aw, I don’t drill soo many holes.”

The fact was, that he did.

When he was in his fifties he realized really just how many holes he did drill and therefore one day almost by surprise he came home with a big box from Home Depot and a nice new drill press inside.

Funny thing is though, now he doesn’t drill so many holes. The drill was bought for all the holes drilled in the past, the hard way.

Still, he’s glad he bought it. Makes him feel secure. Like, just in case.

Finger Prints

In Oakland,to teach after school classes you need to be finger printed. The law is there to protect kids from sex offenders. From kids who might find themselves alone with such a teacher. Even though fingerprints don’t change, they take prints every year in case your criminal record has changed. Irregardless of my moral behavior, I teach a chaotic class of twenty kids in a public area of the school.

This is expensive at $100. a year. The woman in charge of this is inaptly named Angelica. She emails me and gives me a half hour window on a certain day to come down to an unpleasant neighborhood and put my hands on the screen to be recorded. I email back and tell her that I can not come then and ask if I can (please) have this done at a convenient time at my usual place.

I receive no answer for weeks, after which she emails me again with another half hour slot I can’t make. She signs her email “waiting for your response”. I email back as previously. Again, I recieve no response for weeks. When I call I get a swift short recording in almost broken english.

After a month of teaching I start to feel like I really do have to get this yearly request fulfilled as I am supposedly breaking the law, although I’m feeling that I’d have a case to argue otherwise.

I go to my usual place run by a chinese couple. They also speak broken english. The wife is her usual unfriendly self and the husband is warmer and helpful.

There are three people before me in line for this process. Their IDs are mexican passports and they speak no english at all. I translate for them. The woman in charge of this group is beautiful and young; dressed in dark pinks with thick hair easily flopped atop her head. The young man has on one of the best beaded Guadalupe hats I’ve ever seen. I compliment him on it. Initially, I am unsure whether he is her mate or her son but the way she then brushes his hair (also thick) away from his face, tells me that he is her son. The other one is maybe her cousin.

They clean one of the schools. She is carefully handing over three hundred dollars! in cash. The most important part of what she wants to know, and what I am translating, is about the line with the 6 digit government number which will get her a partial reimbursement for this process. It’s only $25 but she is adamant about getting it.

When it is my turn, the wife, in her slightly sour self,  asks me “So, you’re going to be a teacher?”  I say, “I already am a teacher” in a tired way because I am sick of being in a room without windows. “What do you teach?”, she counters dryly.  When I say “ceramics”  she lights up like a bulb. “Really?!  Can you teach me?  Can I make this?”,  she says as she touches a four inch light green ceramic pot housing a small fake tree. “Yes”, and for a few minutes we talk ceramics and it is the first time I have seen her look alive in all the years I’ve been there.

Then I go with him into the closet like area with the machine. I am amazed (again) at the comfortable and easy way he takes each finger and rolls it around on the screen. I think of how many hands he has held and how he does it with nothing extra and it is somehow actually enjoyable.

When I get home, I scan and send the fingerprints and form to Angelica.

Five minutes later I get three emails from her. The first two are auto-response explanations about how is she out of the office until some unforseen time. The third one is actually from her. She says that under no circumstamnces whatsoever will they accept fingerprints done anywhere else but the Oakland Unified School District office and that she is there from 8 to 5 every day and that I need to come down there, pay again, and have them done again.

She is waiting for my response.

She won’t get one.

What’s gone

I look at the framed photograph on the window sill of my mother with my daughter and all of a sudden my mind jumps to “she’s gone” and for a moment I wonder “who?”

The sure side comes in and says “Mom died”  but somehow my daughter in the picture as a three year old is gone as well. An almost seventeen year old is not a three year old.

Still part of the three year old remains, just as part of my mother remains.

Here and not here. Like most of existence; here and not here. Partly somewhere else but where?

In Another’s shoes

I notice a tourist couple, with their map, disagreeing sort of, but not quite enough to be decisive. Then one makes a move away down the street toward the tunnel and the other begins to hasten after.
The tunnel is dingy and dark while (on their map) one street over is the more exciting and unusual. Who would willingly walk through that tunnel? is what I’m thinking. In all the years I’ve lived here… is what I’m thinking.

So I try to help. I say, “Do you need help?” thinking I will now tell them how to walk through the grand gate guarded by dragons, one block over (on their map).

They ignore me. They do not understand english and are speaking a language I don’t understand but am guessing is eastern european by the way they look.

At first I am irritated and mumble to myself, “They don’t think they need help but they do.”

Then I see that they need to walk through the tunnel and I need to return to my own business.

Waking Up

After watching the digital clock for a while, she decides on getting up at four in the morning rather than lying in the darkness any longer. It’s the darkness in her mind keeping her up anyway. Better to turn on the lights.

She almost falls asleep on the train going to her morning class and almost asleep again coming home. So when she gets home, she lies down and goes to sleep.

She wakes up in the dark. This is rain dark, not night dark. Wondering why hunger follows afternoon naps, she opens the frig to find it mostly empty.

After the cashier has rung up the grocery cart with two hundred dollars worth of selected items, she realizes her wallet is on the kitchen table at home. She explains. She goes home. She comes back.

The cashier is kind, and he says, “No worries, You are not alone”, meaning this happens all the time.

Confused at the payment keypad between “CLEAR” and “ACCEPT”, she decides on “ACCEPT” because it’s green and likes that he has told her she is not alone.

Outside, near the entrance to the grocery store, someone has permanently written in once wet cement “The Dali Lama” under an also permanent sentence.

The sentence says, “Find hope in the darkness and focus on the light”.