Monday, February 22, 2010

Seeking Back-Alley Seamstress, No Questions Asked

I don’t know if I mentioned here that, besides my ailing hospice lady, since deceased, I had a co-worker in Des Moines whose cancer had recurred. I had never met this co-worker in person, but we had had some nice conversations via email, so I got inspired to go visit her, and asked my team lead if she would be interested in joining me. She said she did want to do that, and obtained our plane tickets (not a business expense, of course).

I was under the impression that Des Moines was approximately halfway across the country, which I thought meant it should take about two hours to fly there. Turns out it’s in the Midwest and there’s no such thing as a direct flight from San Francisco, so it takes as long to get there as it would take to get to, say, Ypsilanti, MI.

My team lead described the seats we’d ended up with and I asked if she might be able to get me an aisle seat for one flight. She said, “I’ll try, but there are only 13 rows on the plane.” When I told my mother that, she said, “Oh, it’s probably one of those little regional carriers that crashes all the time.”

(Lisa C. later reminded me that I had, in her very company, flown in a plane with fewer than 13 seats.)

After we had the flight reservation all squared away, my team lead unfortunately got a terrible case of flu and our co-worker’s doctor nixed our visit, so we arranged to go in March. Then our co-worker took a turn for the worse and we decided to make the trip the weekend of February 27, which meant my trying to rebook the flight with Expedia when the original reservation was made by my team lead, employing the credit from that trip. I won’t go into how difficult that was; I will merely say that if you are tempted to have someone you’re not related to buy you a plane ticket on Expedia, just don’t do it.

I was grumbling to my mother about the daunting nature of communicating with Expedia and she replied “Inner circle travel lip.” Huh? She explained that in the world of the cartoon character Pogo, “inner circle lip” referred to jargon that the uninitiated couldn’t understand.

Eventually, our new flights were booked, but it was too late—about two days after my hospice lady died, so did our co-worker, 15 minutes after a hospice worker had prayed with her. My co-worker was remarkably upbeat through so much of her illness and I trust was at peace at the end.

I lately decided to break down and buy some pants recognizable as such by others and obtained some from Lands’ End that seemed OK. I told my mother they were nice and baggy, so all I needed was to have them hemmed up so they’d end several inches above the floor.

She wrote back, “Hemmed up real short? I am afraid that, just as an ethical surgeon will not do just any operation (‘Move my kidneys to my knees’), an ethical seamstress might refuse to ‘high-water’ your pants. You have to find a sleazy, back-alley, low-down cheese-ball sort of seamstress. Be careful!”

Good advice there. It reminds me of a friend, a lesbian, who told her hairdresser that she wanted something that was short on top and long in the back, but he said that he would not “perform the lesbian bi-level haircut.”

I have really been enjoying being at the San Francisco Zen Center. I have long wanted to know more people who meditate—to have friends who meditate—and it is marvelous to be able to visit this beautiful (Julia Morgan) building that is chock full of such people. They also have many ways for the public to get involved—you can go meditate there, hear talks, take classes, do periods of intensive practice, eat dinner, and I’m sure much else.

I am there lately for the meeting of my own small group every two weeks, for Paul Haller’s Thursday night class (for a few more weeks), and this past Saturday, I did a one-day sitting there, from 5:40 a.m. to 9 p.m.

I went the evening beforehand for orientation and dinner, which was fun. I got to meet some of the people I’d be sitting with the next day, which included two folks from my EPP class last year.

As for the sitting itself, it was unbelievably difficult. There was probably not one second free of physical and/or emotional pain, and at 9 p.m., I was amazed I was still there. At some point, I promised myself I wouldn’t cry in the zendo, but after the fifth time I did that, I settled for merely trying not to sob audibly.

The mantra for the first half of the day was, “Just one more second, one more second,” and the mantra for the second half of the day was, “I will never, ever, NEVER EVER do a one-day sit here again.” Which I will not. If you ask me, one day in the zendo is harder than a month at Spirit Rock.

Yesterday I meant to cook, but I spent the whole day recuperating from the day before. By the time I did my journal and wrote down my dreams, it was five p.m., which means I got to see my young friends at Chipotle today and will do the same every day this week.
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