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On the Road with the Other Me

This time last year, Ron Kaye locked and loaded a certain admirable meme and fired it at City Hall. I have no idea where it landed--last I was there, I detected no scuffs. The meme was "a conspiracy of consciousness" and it indicated not only old City Hall and new City Hall but more unusual suspects too. It was somewhat about undeclared lobbying and somewhat about the way extending Council term limits were sold to the City, and somewhat about...Ron Kaye, I suppose, because it concluded this way:

"I guess it's not a conspiracy if you conspire openly and publicly."

I read that as a wringing of hands. I have felt the same way.

So last week I fled some of these various conspiracies of consciousness that we have come to live with in the City. I fled them entirely. I fled them to take a vacation, and also to promote a book I have on Kindle that I have told you about.

° ° ° ° °

First stop was Berkeley, which has long served for me as a peace pilgrimage site over the years. Although I never went to college there, Berkeley was one of two schools to which I applied, and had I not got into the other one at the last minute, I would have gone to Berkeley. And I certainly made up for not going there in the summers in the 1970's, when I hung out at Leopold's, on Telegraph, in Strawberry Canyon, around the Rose Garden, rode the Humphrey Go-Bart nearly daily, &c.

It's not 1978, and I'm not into nostalgia either. But I did like my life back then. It's 2011 now, and here's a photo of me from last week, in a full lotus at our rented cottage there. I put this photo in black and white because it reminded me so much of my 1970's days there, and also of a particular photo of the poet Gary Snyder up at Berkeley in the 1950's--and let's face it, I probably wouldn't be meditating in a backyard garden at Berkeley in the 20teens, nor even much around here, had I not spent so much time there in the late 1970's--which I wouldn't have done had I not been captivated in the 1970's by the idea that Snyder was doing this in the 1950's (by the way, Snyder's still very much alive and in his 80's, still in the Bay area, still writing poetry).



I hope you're not wondering what I'm like, but if you are, that's what I'm like when I'm not writing. And yes, I am otherwise completely inflexible, and yoga instructors generally mope when they see an inflexible guy go into a full lotus.

Here's another, in color, of what I was looking at while meditating, princess flower petals gathering around stepping stones.



Then we went to Big Sur. I was seeking peace there too.

I forgot to meditate while at Big Sur (I guess I'll have to go back!) but we went to Pfeiffer Beach (which is one of my favorite spots on the planet) and I did do some of my usual contemplation there. When I first went there, about thirty-three years ago, you had to hike through a thicket for two miles to get there. Now you drive a bumpy one-lane road through the thicket--it's really barely an improvement, but I have to admit at this age that I'm glad you don't have to walk such a long ways through a blind path anymore.

And this time while I was there, I encountered a couple of those improvised rock balancing sculptures such as the kind that you see on Tujunga Canyon near the golf course, or on Venice Beach--but here's one incorporating a huge piece of driftwood at Pfeiffer Big Sur...



It reminded me of a dead elephant seal we had seen on that very beach four years ago--a dead elephant seal, resurrected, full of life.

It was also a great pleasure to promote my book at the vaunted and ramshackle (and nearly empty) Henry Miller bookstore there (the Janus-like photo is of me looking one way and Henry on the back wall looking the other way--perhaps disdainfully but probably he is experiencing an unsettling flash of recognition too).



We then spent a night in San Luis Obispo, where people in a certain arts community always receive us very warmly. We are one of their conduits to LA, the big city, &c.--and we're probably pretty friendly even on top of that. As I've done poetry readings up there before, I was asked to read a poem about music in the middle of one of their musical performance nights (I declined--I thought their event should be about the musicians themselves). But I got a chance to recommend a label I know in Silver Lake (Dangerbird) to some of the musicians, and felt as though I had fulfilled my purpose there by doing so. I hope they follow up.

Did I raise my consciousness? I must have, because I came back not only undisturbed by all the conspiracies of consciousness that were so readily observable in the City, in my new state of heightened awareness--but I also came back actually admiring a Scott Johnson post...

When you come back from such a trip, you're reluctant to let all the zazen go. You want to keep holding onto it. I had a note from Ron Kaye, employing this very term that astonished me a year ago, "conspiracy of consciousness"...I saw the whole term differently--I even rinsed away its sinister elements entirely...I also saw a post about a Gift I liked..imaginative and writerly, not overly pedantic...and it all indeed continued to fit the zazen of the trek. You want to keep the tour-stops running a little longer; I have; I'm still in this zazen mode.