One of the only good things about Scout going deaf is that he can’t hear me sneak out when I’ve had enough. Like tonight: For two days he’s been buzzing around the periphery, hugging the walls inside the house, counting off the perimeter of the lawn on the out, panting his ass off, no matter how much water he drinks, and looking particularly glassy-eyed and sharp-snouted. So I left, and drove the twenty minutes to Love Lane on a back road, with my Reggie and my reading glasses and my mind on a glass of wine.

By the time I pulled into Mattituck, it was still light, but the moon, nearly full (and huge), was taking up the sky, being quietly beautiful and bright. There was no one around—just me and the moon and the streetlight down a ways, shining against the dusk. This is my favorite time, the way everything light gets bright, and you can feel the edge of the night brushing up against you.

It was dark after a glass of wine, and I glided back up that country road wanting to go twenty in a fifty-mile-an-hour zone, the warm wind, the warm night, the warm wine, the lightening silently, pinkly flashing behind the clouds—even that yodelling clown Chris Isaak didn’t ruin it, the soft drive home.

Scoutie and I went out for a long walk down to the water after, and his feet slipped through a grate right outside of a restaurant with a plaque outside saying it was the oldest single-family owned restaurant in the country. Inside was an overall hefty older woman with a tattoo where sailors like to put their anchors. Poor Kooks. He doesn’t even register pain, just rights himself and keeps buzzing, his tongue dripping spit and his eyes like mirrors.

Anyway, the thing I meant to say was that I realized something about renunciation while I was driving: This world with its moons hanging heavy like pears, and it’s silken nights, and it’s fruit-flavored sedatives, it’s not what we need to give up. All that stays—we can keep it. Kooks stays and the fat, tattooed woman stays and you stay and even I stay, for now. I could feel it, though, what was extra, on that happy ride home.

Light Like Fire

All day today, sitting at the desk downstairs at L.B.’s house, I kept seeing fire out of the corner of my eye—that is, brightness waving just over my shoulder: a candle flame. Feeling recently senile and greatly tired from middle-of-the-night dog walks, every time it flickered to the left of me, I wondered how I’d forgotten lighting a candle and putting on the desk.* And then I’d look, and, of course, there was no candle. Instead there was a patch of sunlight on floor, and, in the sunlight, the fluttering shadow of leaves outside the window.

*Years ago I went to interview Francis Ford Coppola, for a story on “Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula,'” at his vineyard in Northern California. Among the things Coppola showed me was the room of his own—a freestanding, one-room building, with windows all around, that was part laboratory (I think he said he was looking for the cure for cancer), part place to write, and part hang out. The thing that made the biggest impression on me from that room, besides the sense of office as clubhouse, was the single candle in a glass jar, sitting on a counter top burning in the middle of the day.

Is This It?

So I was just driving out to Greenport with Scout hyperventilating in the backseat this afternoon, listening to some yet-unreleased Reggie Ray MP3s. Right as we were rounding a particularly beautiful bend in a back road (blue sky, newly turned soil, green everywhere), Reggie was talking about how the totality is in each moment—how even in a moment of longing for someone or something you can’t have, you can find everything you need—and I was thinking, “I don’t get it.” (This is nothing new.)

Just then a wind came up, and the tree up ahead did a little hula dance, its flower skirts twirling in all directions at once, and, all of a sudden, a veritable blizzard of little white and pink petals fell like fat, fragrant confetti all around my car. I laughed, Scout laughed.* And then, around the next bend, just in case he and/or I didn’t get it, was a yellow street sign—the kind put out by the county—on which was one word: “Church.”

I read it outloud to Scout because, even though the message was completely obvious, he can’t read, and I didn’t want him to miss it. Then I remembered that he can’t hear either. Judging from the depth of his enthusiastic love, though, which he’s been raining down like sudden petals all his life, I’d say he knows just what Reggie is talking about, and I’ve been missing it right there in the backseat of my car.

*Not fact-checked.

(Artwork: “Greenport, Long Island,” by Robert Ward van Boskerck, circa. 1880s-1890s)

Introduction: Toby and Angela

A few months after we finished the Vajradhatu seminary, in 2000, Toby, Angela, and I were standing on the sidewalk outside someone’s tenement apartment in the East Village one evening, wondering why so many of the older Vajrayana Buddhist practitioner’s that we knew were so crazy and/or nasty. I’d asked my friend Berkley about this earlier (she came up with that crowd), and she’d said two things: that Buddhism isn’t about getting nicer—it’s about becoming more who you are; and that if you see a sadhaka (such aforementioned advanced practitioner) behaving in such a way, you can bet that they don’t practice.

Anyway, Ang and Toby and I were a little worried about this—were we going to end up nasty? So we made a pact. We all promised that if any one of us started behaving badly, the others would use a codeword that meant, “Believe it: It’s happened to you.” That code word, we decided, was “crazy/nasty.”

The fact is, though, that ten-and-a-half years later, both Toby and Ang have become giant softies. Ang is finishing her chaplaincy residency at a Vets Hospital in Seattle, and will be going into a long retreat in the fall (if you want to donate to that, write me at deitch(at), and I’ll tell you how), and Toab has just set up shop doing brilliant acupuncture and herbs out on the edge of Chinatown here in New York.

When I get down about whole momentous endeavor, I think of them, and get my crazy/nasty ass back on the cushion.

This is a Bad Post

I was walking down 95th Street between Columbus and Central Park West this afternoon, and saw two old people sucking serious face on the sidewalk. It was jarring and intriguing—she had silver bun and he had a terrible comb-over, a backpack on his back, and was about a foot shorter than she was. I couldn’t help but go out of my way to get a better look at them: Turns out she was probably my age exactly (to the day—and a double Pisces to boot), and he was, oh, probably, like, eighty. (Don’t get me wrong: I know some super attractive eighty-year-old men, but this wasn’t one of them.) He was shuffling, and they were holding hands the wrong way—she had the man’s position: over rather than under. If she hadn’t have been looking for her contact lens in his stomach with her tongue a moment before, I would definitely have assumed that he was her father.

So I thought, O.K., that guy must be really interesting. I’m not kidding—like a famous concert pianist, or, like, the poet laureate, or the guy about to invent the cure for cancer. Maybe he’s Don Delillo, or a former Nobel Peace prize winner. He didn’t look rich. Then I thought, No, if he were any of those things, he’d be with a younger, sexier chick—not a Weight Watcher in a pair of mom jeans.

So this is the point. I mean, rhonestly: how many judgments can you fit into one fantasy? All day I’ve been noticing how not a detail—not a person, not a flyer (Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl—ugh), not a dog owner, not a parent, couple, mob of teenagers—goes by that I don’t judge as good or bad, like or dislike, and then pretty, fat, cute, gay, angry, oh great shoes, and/or obnoxious.

Earlier, after I picked up car up from the Ludlow Garage (good) where I paid $600 (bad) for a new alternator (good), after having broken down on the L.I.E. (bad) with Scout (terrible), I sat down in a cafe (good) on Clinton Street (good), and plugged my computer in (really, really good). I was writing a work-related letter to someone (anxiety-provoking), two pages, single spaced (bad), and a few minutes after I sent it off, the guy next to me (not sure yet), said, “I couldn’t help but notice that you mentioned Pema Chodron in the letter you were writing; I think she’s great.” (Very, very, very bad.) And yet I liked him.

The point is, wow, by the end of a day’s worth of judgments, I’m exhausted and a totally sick of myself (good—I deserve it).

Ten-second Rant: Slowing Down

Here’s my latest category, which I’m guessing I’ll be using a lot: It’s called Duh.

I’m thinking about why there’s so much to do, and not enough time to do it in. I liked it better when there was more free time—when you did your job, and then you had time for yourself and time for your friends and family. I understand that because I have less time left in this lifetime, the minutes seem to go by faster; the years do not seem go on forever, anymore, the way they did in the old days when I was younger and deadlines fewer and less pressing. But I don’t think relativity of time is it.

People are more anxious all around. They seem more desperate about what they need, and they all need it at least soon, and often now. Maybe that’s it: maybe I am pressuring myself to meet other people’s deadlines in a time frame that makes it impossible for me to have a more restful life (and, in turn, do better work).

Yeah, phew. I think that’s it. Maybe we all need to slow down. (Maybe if one of us starts, another of us will follow, and we can build what used to be a given—time to do nothing—back into our culture.) Maybe we need to make more realistic schedules for ourselves and others, and when we assign jobs (and take them), we could do it with the understanding that time and space are a necessary part of a happy life. This doesn’t mean, though, that we pay and get paid less.

I feel stupid saying this, so I’ll cover that over by saying duh.

Life During Wartime

So. Where were we? That Talking Heads video put me in mind of a job I had when I was in college, making color xeroxes at an art supply store in Soho called Jamie Canvas. There was the big storefront on Spring Street, and in the back was a room with a funky old plastic stereo, this newfangled copy machine, and me, twenty or twenty-one, broke, working for coffees (light and sweet) and boxes of spaghetti. The reason I bring this up is because I played the Talking Heads album “Remain in Light” over and over again in that room as artists stood on line, waiting for their turn at the brand-new machine. I’d dance, they’d step up, we’d experiment with color, etc., I’d pretend I wasn’t making extra copies for them, and everyone felt happy.

I had a bench in my room, and sometimes my friends would come by and visit while I worked. I was having an affair with a married man at the time—he was actually a great love of mine, Joe, and you’ll hear a lot about him here and there—and things were getting a little wonky with his wife. It was 1976 or 1977, I guess, and Joe and his wife had one of those open marriages (please don’t be reading this, please don’t be reading this). She insisted that we be friends, so, being Young Deitch with the faulty wiring (and being curious yellow), I said sure.

Anyway, on this day, with “Psycho Killer” and “Take Me to the River” in the background, Joe’s wife, who is no longer in this incarnation and so won’t be complaining about this blog, was sitting there, in her house dress, like, a million years old, kvetching about something he had done to offend her, when Joe walked in.

Now, I was looking at her because she was talking to me, and I didn’t see him. He was looking at me because he loved me, and he didn’t see her. She ran out the back door into the alley, and he sat down on the bench. There. That’s the story. And here’s the movie:

A Disclaimer: Truth Is Beauty

Some people get very offended when you write about them. I guess the reasons vary. I know they feel hurt when they don’t see their own images of themselves reflected back (I get that); I guess they feel territorial about their experience (that makes sense). Maybe they feel made fun of. (One time I wrote about how the director Paul Verhoeven had the first three buttons of his shirt undone while I was interviewing him on the set of “Starship Troopers,” and his publicist called me and asked me to apologize.) Sometimes they think your story is incorrect—not at all how they remember it. But what is memory but a fiction created by the person who’s remembering? What is life but a dream created by the dreamer? Anyway, I apologize for offending anyone. I will add your names to my list of people I never mention.

So folkaramas, just in case you thought this blog was “true,” it’s just Deitch, the no one behind the non-curtain, creating something out of nothing for no reason. I try to tell you when I’m lying, but truth, as I implied above, is a pretty deep and slippery subject, and is neither reflected in facts alone, nor in what crosses our minds. If this makes you mad, and you’re policing my blog (which, by the way, is not fact-checked, and will not be fact-checked) for possible offenses rather than just enjoying it, then you might want to consider going away—this really is a no-cop zone, and, more important, why upset yourself?

Mind Protection

That bird out there in the fading light could be saying, “Cheater, you’re a cheater.” It’s dusk, and the dogs have eaten. I’ve eaten, too. All animals in the neighborhood, I’m guessing, have eaten, or else they’re hungry now: “You’re a cheat, you’re a cheat,” she says. Oh, wait, listen: she says, “We’re three, you’re a cheater.” Some bird must have really fucked up.

The Buddhists say that any transition like this one—day to night—is a particularly vulnerable time. That’s why Buddhists do protector chants at dusk. It makes sense: We are leaving one thing, and going to another—we’re thinking ahead, or looking behind—and we get distracted, lose our awareness (lose our wallet, lose our keys, lose our minds): “We’re three; you’re a cheater, you’re a cheat.”

May everyone be fed tonight.

Here’s a song for you:


I saw two middle-aged women attempting to push a twenty-five-foot red wooden skiff on wheels across the FDR Drive service road at 96th Street yesterday. Actually, one was “directing traffic” and the other was “pushing,” but really what was happening was the director was so panicked by the prospect of getting the boat across the street that she was running back in forth in front of the cars stopped at the light (mine among them), looking around her like she was being spat on from every which way by invisible angry clams. The pusher had her hands on the boat, but mainly she was making clownish faces as if every time she shoved the skiff an inch further from the river, an invisible sea god doinked her but good with his barbed, sea-god anal probe.

Of course, it being New York, everyone but the cop on the corner perked up—we don’t often see such a sight (the boat, not the nautical doinking; we see that all the time)—and the atoms on that normally Qi-dry corner started colliding. Then, suddenly, out of nowhere, three handsome young men in a variety of shorts and athletic shoes converged from three directions, pulled the probe out of the pusher’s butt, lifted the boat out of her hands, and took off with it. The director acted like she was stalling the traffic and waving the boys on, but they didn’t need waving on: They were sailing.

Memoir: Within You, Without You

I’ve been putting this post off since I started blogging, for a variety of reasons which will become obvious. It’s about a pivotal experience in my life, though, and the holding back of it is junking up the works. So I’m going to proceed.

When I was sixteen, I got a hold of some organic chocolate mescalin, and took it one afternoon, with my friend Merry, at the garden apartment in Port Washington where I lived with my mother and younger brother Peter. (Ian had moved out already, and was living at the old whorehouse run by the male nurse with the snake named Barbara.) Anyway, Merry was not a particularly good friend, but we were doing a little bit of hanging out that summer; she took the mescalin with me—mixed into a glass of water, I believe, though it could have been milk—but left shortly after, to go have dinner with her parents (a strange, nerdy couple who I don’t think I ever saw not cuddling and kissing and flirting with each other). I don’t remember asking her how that worked out, that dinner, though I can’t imagine having had a conversation with a grown-up that night, let alone my P.D.A.rents.

What I do remember is sitting on the dock outside my apartment by myself after it had gone dark, watching the water (the apartment complex was on the Sound). It was black, and not rough, but roiling. No, not roiling—it was dancing. That’s the point: the water was dancing. Soon I started to notice that the leaves in the trees around me were shaking. No, not shaking—they were dancing. In fact, they were dancing the same dance as the water (and the night clouds and the night wind). And then I started to notice that I was breathing. No! Not breathing—I was dancing! Every cell in my body was dancing, the same dance as the water and the trees and the clouds and the wind. The night birds were dancing, the candy wrapper skipping by, the stars were dancing that same dance.

Now you surely think that I was on drugs, and was imagining this. But I have known ever since that night decades ago, that the thing that I perceived then was the way that things are: That we are all made of the same thing (call it atoms, call it space, I don’t know), and that there is something (I’ll get to that) that hinders us from seeing this.

Around the time that I was having this experience, Ian dropped by. He was seventeen at the time, or maybe just eighteen. I told him what was happening, and he got all excited. He did not do drugs like this at all, having too fragile a mind, but he was, and still is, a philosophy nut, and was pretty sure that I was having the kind of mystical experience he’d read about in some of his books.

I don’t remember if I got to this by myself, or if Ian led me here, but I saw very clearly that night (by now in my room where I was playing the Beatles’ “Within You, Without You” over and over again) that the thing that was in the way of this feeling of being one with everything—this dance—was wanting things.

I hadn’t realized how much I wanted up until then: I wanted to be happy, I wanted a boyfriend, I wanted to be on my own already, I wanted to get into a good college, I wanted to be successful—I’m sure I wanted a few more pairs of jeans and another pair of Cons (I had blue ones—maybe I wanted black or white). I wanted so many things for my mother. I wanted to not be in so much pain.

On this night, my wanting had ceased. I checked it out—I didn’t want anything. Except I wanted this experience to go on forever. I remember Ian saying that I would never have the experience again—not, that is, until I died. At the time of my death I would stop wanting again. I cried about that, there in my room with my big brother beside me.

There you go. When I think of my life, I put the experience I had the day after my father died together with this one. In my mind they are two beads, side by side, on the rosary that is my life so far.

Three years later, some months after Ian had had his first breakdown, I started to see the therapist I’d see for the next thirteen years. I remember telling her about this experience with the chocolate mescalin, and I remember her response. She said, “It sounds to me like you’re closer to death than to life.” I was nineteen at the time, and her words sent a terrifying shock through me. That did not sound good. So right then and there, sitting in her office, I took that mystical experience and I shoved it so deep inside me, that for many years I barely thought about it. And then, one day, I realized that my therapist had been wrong.

(Artwork: Kaz Tanahashi)

Not Waving But Drowning

So I woke up this morning weepy and depressed. I’d been working flat out for a few days, the kind of thing where you only get up from your computer to pee or scavenge for more chocolate (and maybe take a wine break at 7), and when I was done, the deadline having been met, I found myself far afield, having drifted out to sea, far from what makes me happy.

So Scout and I bundled ourselves into the Volvo, and didn’t even mind getting stuck between two giant trucks on the Cross Island—we were on our way out to L.B.’s: to the birds and the trees and the backdoor wedged open by the big white wooden block, and the occasional car going by. To the bright water always off in the distance, and the silence. To the flower petals on the ground, and the clover in the grass.

I’d like to make a pact with myself, and see if you want to do it too, to not let my job wash me away; to always be able to touch, from anywhere I might be swimming, the thing that makes me happy. For me, right now, this means the country; this blog; and practice.

Sorry I drifted off.