Thursday, November 22, 2012


The Zen teacher Ummon (c. 862-949) once said, more or less, "When you can't say it, it's there; when you don't say it, it's missing." La-la-landers of all stripes will explain this if you ask them. That's why they're called La-la-landers. Nevertheless, I think of Ummon on Thanksgiving Day ... Ummon, the chef who offers up a scrumptious meal on an empty plate... the kind of plate La-la-landers will tell you is empty.


-- Comes up nippy and clear.

-- Finds the rest of my family in New Jersey having made it through two intense days of mourning and churching and burying (Matt, 23, died last Friday) and now faces a holiday celebration that may be as tasty and warm as any that preceded it and yet this go round, the warmth accentuates the chill.

-- Finds the stove here still on the fritz. Next week, small-appliance maven Dave will come and replace broken parts, but for the moment, cooking brownies is out of the question and frozen sweet-and-sour chicken is on the microwave menu.

-- Finds my body reacting badly to a new and improved cholesterol medicine -- one that, after four or five others, stood some chance of not producing the aches and pains that are sometimes side-effects to so-called statin drugs. Now the aches and pains kick in anew.

-- Finds the television advertising an orgy of "Godfather" movies later in the day. If I can get by the dialogue I almost know by heart, I may watch one or another and remember that Mario Puzo, the author of the best-selling, page-turner novel, once wrote a couple of small books about Italian immigrants in New York ("The Fortunate Pilgrim" was one) ... and they really were very good tales even if they didn't make much money.

-- Finds me remembering actor Jack Palance in the frothy B-comedy "City Slickers." Palance played the part of Curly, a gnarly cowboy whose wisdom contrasts with the ignorance of the city slickers who have arrived in his western domain to partake in a 'real cattle drive.' It is Curly who advises that the "meaning of life" is ... "just one thing."

"One thing." What's the matter with a gaily printed dress? What's the matter with a burnished cuff link or a well-oiled lawnmower? What's the matter with a shoe lace or an empty Coke can? What's the matter with desperation? What's the matter with La-La Land or empty plates? What's the matter with Thanksgiving? What's the matter with what seems to have something the matter with it? It may be hard to pay attention for the first time in this life, and it may seem advisable to take up this spiritual persuasion or that, but frothy, B-comedy wisdom strikes me as right on target....

Enough, in its actuality, to make any (wo)man happy.

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