In this email, is my upcoming March Memoir Writing Class, sale price.
Recording Dates for my comedy album recording and this excerpt from my new memoir, WindowShopping For God.
EXCERPT FROM WINDOW-SHOPPING FOR GOD
The last time I went to the Buddhist temple it was snowing. There was a new Sensei – a woman who spoke rudimentary English and loved reciting koans. Koans are a riddle or puzzle that Zen Buddhists use during meditation to help them unravel greater truths about the world and about themselves. Zen masters have been testing their students with these stories, questions, or phrases for centuries. It’s a Buddhist form of the Rubik’s Cube.
And this one was no different. “A young man and a young woman in a small village from warring families who fall in love. Knowing they’d never be allowed to be married, the boy said to the girl, “Meet me at the dock after sunset, and we will escape our families and be together.” That night, under the moonlight, he waited for her, and when she arrived, they paddled to the nearest village to make their life together.
Within months she became pregnant and they decided that their families couldn’t continue to hate their union with a new grandchild on the way. They paddled back to their village, and when they got to the dock, the young man said, “You wait here. I think it will be safer for me to go tell your mother and father, first And then once the coast is clear I will come back and get you to share what they said.”
The young man knocked on the door, and when the father opened it, he began to weep. “Thank God you’ve come. Ever since you left my daughter has been asleep in a coma.” The young man was bewildered. As he approached the bedroom, he saw his beloved sleeping, and he kissed her. As she woke up and said, “I’ve been dreaming about you.” Which story was true? Was she with him the whole time or was he her dream?
Sensei said was supposed to meditate on this and she sat on her beautiful pillow and closed her eyes.
Don’t get it? Well that’t the point. A koan is supposed to disrupt your thinking in a what the hell way.
After this story 10-minute discussion ensued with many tall thinkers who made my brain feel like a ball of wool after the cat had got at it. Then the Sensei asked us to return to sitting Zazu (sitting on the pillow) and think about what the koan meant.
This might have been what monks called entertainment. A great puzzler for them to noodle on living in some Japanese monastery up in the mountains. After all they had taken vows of austerity and celibacy so they didn’t have anything better to do.
But me I was looking for peace. I had come to the temple for one hour to stop worrying about my brother. Kevin was supposed to die 14 months after his diagnosis. But he was still alive after two years. Two years! I had driven back and forth for two years. Two years we laughed, we said I love you; we sang country songs. We had tens of “thousand-dollar moments,” and now everyone was falling apart. While Mom prayed for a miracle the rest of the family countered by praying for his suffering to end. He was in very little pain-so maybe our prayers were so we wouldn’t suffer any more. None of our pleas had any impact so I began researching the death process. I found out there is a dying chart. A chart that will tell you how close to death you are. I don’t know if the chart is actually meant for the dying person. I can’t imagine googling that if you were gasping for breath. It is graded one to five. One is life. Five is death. I checked it every day. Kevin hovered between a three point five and a four for weeks. No matter how much we all begged the power that runs the universe to release him from this mortal coil, the death dial didn’t budge.
Yes, I was annoyed. It was taking much longer than I ever imagined it would. And all I could think about was that I come from a big family and if everyone in our brood was going to take this long to die, I was going to be stuck in a hospital or a funeral home – for the rest of my life.
Then he started hiccupping. It was excruciating watching his tiny body wracked with paroxysms of hiccups. This went on for ten days and didn’t stop until he got admitted to the hospital.
In the movies, death beds look noble. People make their peace and say all the loving things to their friends, and they exhale. But in real life people linger. And the ones sitting vigil get exhausted and everyone gets upset by the wrong things.
We had been gathering around him like this for two years. Now we were in the final stretch and stuck in a room making small talk. Asking why is Starbucks coffee so bitter. Then ranting about the price of hospital parking. Can you believe how they ding you? That is not right? I am going to write to somebody. This was our family. We were always going to write somebody or tell somebody off. But by the time we bitched about it for a couple of hours we always lost our head of steam and did nothing.
We expanded our hatred to bigger things like the hospital system, the Church, even the people who brought casseroles. We can’t eat any more God damn President’s Choice lasagna. How much fucking money is that guy from President’s Choice making from people with cancer? We spent one whole visit trying to figure out President Choice’s lasagna profit margins. There are 20 people on this wing with four wings to a floor and there are 18 floors in this hospital so if only fifty percent of those people buy one lasagna per household during a two year illness well how much is that? Give me your phone, I need to use your calculator.
We were devolving quickly. And on one of these trips back and forth, I got the bright idea to get off the highway and take a tour through Prince Edward County. This is a beautiful part of Southern Ontario, full of rolling fields and home to the well-known Sandbanks Provincial Park. This beach was where I went to sit so many times before to ponder the deeper things of life. On this cold bright winter day it did not fail me. I gazed out at the lake with Gus tucked inside my coat; my breath and the heaving ice the only two sounds I could hear. The sun forced me to take my coat off and I could feel my skin get red. After an hour or so, I felt some repair. Driving down the provincial road to get to the main highway, I was cranking George Jones’ “The Race is On” and imagining myself running back to Nashville, not to sit on a bus with common folk like I had before, but to return to become a country singer. Whenever life got hard, it was my fantasy to run away and join a band. I loved country music and what better place to go and sing. As I planned the songs for my first album I pulled up to a stop sign, and was so caught up in my thoughts I accidentally rammed the car in front of me. A light tap, a nice woman and a female cop arrived and I thought all of us were sisters of the travelling pants but before I knew it the woman in the dinged car had driven off and the cop issued me a $400-ticket and a citation that said I had lost six points within short order.
Furious, I pulled back on the highway.
Could this day get much worse?
Yes. Yes it can.
About an hour out of Toronto, I realized I had missed my pit stop and needed to pee. The traffic had slowed down to a crawl as I was inching along, ten kilometres an hour doing my Kegel’s. I couldn’t hold it so I looked at my dog Gus, sitting next to me in the car. He’d be absorbent. But no, I can’t do that. That would be wrong.
I began reciting over and over again in my head I’m not going to pee my pants. I am not going to pee my pants. My bladder will not defeat me. I have survived divorce, a premature baby, teenagers. I will control my bladder.
I yelled at my smartphone, “Siri! Where is the nearest coffee shop?!”
“Sorry, I do not understand.” I saw a turkey roasting pan in the back seat. It was still there from Thanksgiving. I couldn’t reach it.
“Siri, throw the roasting pan into the front.”
Siri shot back, “I do not understand.”
Would it not be a useful skill set if Siri could throw me the items I needed? Now that would be a smart-phone.
I saw my exit up ahead, and as I squeezed my ass I slowly edged onto the off-ramp. There was a Harvey’s Hamburgers up ahead with clenched buttocks, and teeth I sang their theme song: It’s a beautiful thing. I was going to make it. Nope. Nope. I couldn’t do it.
Traffic wouldn’t allow me to get even close to the hamburger joint, so I was forced to pull over on a side street. I covered myself with my coat, then pulled down my pants and placed the turkey pan in its proper place underneath my haunches.
There was a slow, gentle rain. Oh, a soft, heavenly, Leonard Cohen “Hallelujah” kind of storm. It was the worst and best thing all at once.
Then suddenly, a horrible thing happened. The angle of my dangle wasn’t right. When I was younger, I was like an assault rifle. Now, I was like a sawed-off shotgun. It was spraying everywhere. I would have to detail my car.
Eventually, when I got back to my apartment, I called my friend and told her of my day and without missing a beat she said, “Well next time…”
“Next time? There is not going to be a ‘next time.’” Did she think I was going to make a habit of peeing my pants?
“…Next time, fold up a diaper and put it in the glove compartment.”
“I think you are missing the point. Everything is just going so wrong.”
To which she replied, “What do you think the universe is trying to teach you?”
To not call you.
I’d been running back and forth trying to wring out every last drop of our relationship all the while knowing it was a losing proposition. And after yet another visit I got a speeding ticket, lost points and then to top it off, I peed my pants, so the universe didn’t seem to give a hoot about me.
I was exhausted from trying to see the future, so I went to the Zen temple to get a little peace, and instead of just sitting here like I do every Sunday I am now supposed to figure out what this damn koan meant. So screw the universe and those two lovers. Kevin was my fucking koan.
Sitting there breathing in and out, it felt like my head was on fire. There was smoke coming out of my ears. But luckily the buckets of tears I was shedding would put out the fire. My eyes were exhausted from trying to see the future. As I sat there on my frayed thin pillow sobbing, snotting and wiping mucus away with my sleeve. As I sat there weeping my way to nirvana those bony-assed ectomorph meditators just sat there with their eyes cast down, looking a few feet ahead of them, not moving a muscle.
Buddha said there was suffering, and there was the cessation of suffering. I know my suffering was no worse or better than anyone else’s. Still, they didn’t make a move to comfort me. I found this kind of neutrality cruel and unfeeling.
When the bell rang, I got up, bowed to the buddha statue, put on my shoes and left for good. I wasn’t a Buddhist. I never was. Okay maybe I was a pseudo Buddhist but those days were over. I was sick of pretending they knew better than any other religion. No more Buddhism. No more koan bullshit.
As I walked out on the street past the building next to the temple, I remembered when it used to be a Baptist church.
In those days, I’d watch all those women waltz up the church steps with their brightly coloured dresses teetering on high heels- so high you could get a nosebleed wearing them. Those beautiful black and caramel-skinned women with fascinators the size of sunflowers growing out the side of their heads. I could almost still see them inside the church, swaying and yelling out, “Amen and praise Jayzus!”
I could hear them singing, “Take me down to the river to pray.” I began to think maybe I should’ve been a God-fearing Baptist. They might not let you dance, but if you were crying, they would’ve had the decency to offer you a Kleenex.
Do you want to write your memoirs? Join my spring workshop coming up on March 16th. It’s reduced in price, right now. Check it out?
Want to come to my Comedy recording. I am having two tapings. May 1st and May 8th 2pm. SoCap. Toronto! Tickets on sale next week!!
UPDATE: My niece,Maggie has raised 1253.00 in donations for period products for Lennox and Addington Interval House! Thanks to all of you who shared on social med and donated. Check out how well she is doing here! it ends on Feb 14, 2022