New York City Diary

Words and pictures from my interesting life in New York.

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Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Friday, February 11, 2005

Blue & Gold

I'm not working today. Esquire just closed the April issue and there wasn't much going on, so my boss asked me to take a day off. For me that's bad, because as a freelancer, I don't get paid when I don't work. Money has been pretty tight lately, and I'm knocking myself out trying to save a few bucks here and there. I'll survive I guess, but since President's Day is coming up, I'll end up losing a good chunk of change this month. Ramen noodles, anyone?

Instead of checking facts in Esquire stories today, I went to the dojo for a karate class at 12:30 p.m. and a meditation class at 1:30 p.m. Meditation is a very interesting class. There were about 25 of us in the third floor dojo, and we spent an hour doing breathing excercizes and sitting on seiza benches finding inner tranquility and recentering ourselves in a large, candlelit room with wooden floors and the low rumble of traffic on 23rd Street and Sixth Avenue below us. A very unique experience.

One very basic Zen meditation, and perhaps the toughest one, is to "just sit." Just sit and do nothing else. Do not think. It's almost impossible. We try to get as close as we can.

I can get as far as just focusing on my breathing and tuning out my problems outside the dojo, but it's tough to avoid the random thought that tears through your brain like a kamikaze. After a few minutes of meditative breathing you sort of get to a different level, though. Today I was a bit more busy at meditation, because as a black belt I was assisting in the class, using a ceremonial wooden sword and striking people on their shoulders to help their meditation. The strikes are voluntary and it's done in a very ceremonial manner. It doesn't hurt much but the slight sting helps you relax afterward.

The black belts (myself and three others) then led our groups in a "walking meditation" slowly around the dojo using soft Zen walking steps. Japanese flute music was playing. After we finished, Kaicho wrote on a chalkboard the Japanese characters for an expression that translates to "the cow drinks water and produces milk, the snake drinks water and produces venom." He told us that the message is to produce something positive with the circumstances you are given.

Not working when everybody else is working gives you a different perspective of the city, and it also reminds me of the time I was unemployed. You get to go out in the middle of the day and you see a lot more children than you normally see, especially when they all flood out of school at around 3:00 p.m. Those elementary school kids are great. The junior high and high school kids ... well. Could I possibly have been that obnoxious when I was that age? I know I was a little bit obnoxious, but these kids are breaking new records every day. New York high school kids. Fantastic.

Speaking of obnoxious, on my way to the dojo I went to the bank and then to David's Bagels on First Avenue for an onion bagel with egg salad (delicious). As I was leaving, this older white woman was being really obnoxious to the woman behind the counter. The people who work at David's are pretty sharp, they don't screw up orders very often, but she claimed she told the lady no sugar in her coffee when I was sitting right there and heard her say "coffee, three sugars." She told the poor girl behind the counter that she was a son of a bitch (why not just bitch?) and that she should go back where she came from. (They're Asian, possibly Thai, I'm not sure.) Then, the people behind the counter were saying "did you pay for that candy?" because the woman had a candy from the jar by the register. I didn't see her take the candy because I was at a table reading am New York or Metro or some such but at this point I could easily believe that the woman tried to steal a candy.

Apparently this woman was with her daughter, because a slightly younger-looking woman with her said "forget about ma, we won't come back here." At this point I was just getting up to leave to go to the dojo, and I was really tempted to say something to her, but I didn't because I figure the woman had to have some real mental problems, and wasn't entirely responsible for her actions. Then again, maybe she was just an asshole.

This posting is called Blue & Gold because that's the name of a bar I'll be going to tonight at approximately 7:30 p.m. in honor of William Pelkey's last day in the Esquire production department. He's taken a job with Marie Claire, which is on the third floor of our building.


Blogger Jenn said...

Interactions with obnoxious NYC high school kids on the subway and obnoxious ladies in line who like to demean sales clerks makes you appreciate meditation at the dojo (not to mention Keicho's lessons) even more.

5:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Mental problems" are no excuse for insulting or offensive behavior. You shoulda kicked her inna head.

Märt Päntan

5:32 PM  
Blogger x said...

Reminds me of a quote from the great odd-metal outfit Primus: "funny thing about weekends when you're unemployed - they don't mean quite so much. 'Cept you get to hang out with your workin' friends..."

Also: meditating was not a "very unique" experience. Unique is a binary modifier - it was either unique or it wasn't. My God I'm a loser.

5:54 PM  
Anonymous Mr. Pelkey said...

I just like having my name mentioned in Victor's Blog.
And the important thing is that Victor had a good time.

4:17 PM  

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