Monday, December 21, 2009

How Does It Feel To Be Alive?

It has been quite chilly here lately, not so one would have to close the windows or anything, but my fingers feel kind of frozen when I’m cycling, so I got a pair of Pearl Izumi “Softshell Gloves” that I am very happy with. They are warm, but not bulky, and don’t interfere too much with operation of that crucial piece of equipment, the bicycle bell.

I dribbled something light colored down my at-home sweater not long ago, which meant it was time for its triennial dry cleaning. I had noticed a place on Valencia St. that does environmentally friendly cleaning, so I stopped there on my way to work one day to see what the hours are and so forth, and was surprised to see it was just one little room containing two banks of lockers, devoid of human life.

I took a flyer from the box by the door and studied up on the details. The place is called Laundry Locker, and they do indeed do environmentally friendly dry cleaning and regular laundry, but they don’t stand around waiting for you to hand them a garment. You create an account online, and then you go to any of about a million locations in San Francisco, put your thing in a locker, go online and regale them with the details of your laundry need, and then wait for an email (or text message on your phone) saying it’s done! Normally I stay away from this newfangled stuff, but I decided to give it a whirl, and it worked out very well. My sweater came back shredded and full of holes, just the way it was when I dropped it off, except clean.

I did attend the memorial gathering for my co-worker Chuck, at a location of the company I work for. There were maybe 25 people there, most very well known to me. Chuck’s widow was there, and two of their sons. It was about the saddest event I’ve ever been to. There were a couple of Employee Assistance people there to facilitate, and several photos of Chuck, and we sat in a circle, and anyone who was so moved could share a memory or thought. Most people didn’t, and there were many silent minutes, and a lot of red eyes and sniffling, but it was kind of nice just to sit there with so many familiar faces, quietly remembering Chuck together. The silence, as we held it together, didn’t seem particularly awkward. I introduced myself to his kids afterwards, and enjoyed talking to both of them, two smart young men.

Chuck was only 52 when he died! Several days later, I dreamed I saw him outdoors in front of a beautiful purplish mountain. He was dancing, spinning around, with a look of pure joy on his face.

Four days after my one and only visit to C., I got a call that she had passed away. I’m glad that worried and unquiet soul is at rest.

Saturday December 12 was the final day of my Establishing the Path of Practice class at the San Francisco Zen Center. We were there from nine a.m. until five p.m., and did a variety of rituals and exercises to recognize the ending/beginning. We also meditated in the zendo and had lunch together. Just before five p.m., we did a closing ceremony and each received a small gift and a document signed by all of the teachers, and then we did some group photos, and then I went outside and there was Mr. Bull lounging in the driver’s seat of a rented car with Metallica on the CD player, but not blasting since it was right in front of the Zen Center. It was a rather fine moment.

We picked up burritos (that Mr. Bull had pre-ordered) and headed down to San Jose, to the HP Pavilion, for the Metallica show. The place apparently seats 17,000 and was pretty much full, though not utterly sold out. That’s a lot of Metallica fans!

Mr. Bull mentioned that she prefers to store items in the trunk of the car prior to being at the event, so as not to attract thieves. She added casually that, no no, she wouldn’t mind being seen at the Metallica show with someone carrying a backpack; till then, it had not occurred to me there was anything bad about having a backpack, but I left it in the car, and indeed there was no one else there with a backpack. I said I supposed she didn’t want to be seen at the Metallica show with someone in a yellow raincoat, either, but she said I could be as square as I want to be (in so many words)—she said she’s old now and doesn’t care anymore.

We ate our burritos sitting in the backseat of the car in the parking lot. The line to get into HP Pavilion was unbelievably long, and people had already been filing in for an hour. I never saw any mention of opening bands, but there were two. I don’t know the name of the first one—we missed them—but the second was Machine Head. The people in line with us didn’t seem particular friendly, but they didn’t seem like out-and-out thugs, either; well, some probably were. There were a few children there, and people of our generation, some people with grey hair. I would say the average age was as high as 28 or 30. (Which is fine with me. I would have been happy if everyone there had been 80.)

We were fairly high up, since we didn’t decide to go until somewhat late in the game, but this is not to say we couldn’t hear. It was extremely loud, of course, and we both dispensed with our earplugs, since this was once in a lifetime. The stage was huge and James Hetfield, Rob Trujillo and Kirk Hammett (my cat Hammett’s namesake) kind of wandered from station to station; Lars Ulrich was of course detained at the drum kit. Kirk moves quite gracefully. He evidently keeps up with his yoga. We were probably 150 feet away from the stage, but it was still fantastic just to be separated from Kirk and James by nothing but air.

They had flames shooting out of boxes on stage at various moments and we were struck by the fact that the instant the flames appeared, we could feet the physical heat fairly intensely, despite being pretty far away from the stage. They played my favorite song from the new CD and the first song of theirs that Mr. Bull ever loved, and much else.

Quite a wonderful day and evening.
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