You know those stickers that some people have on their cars, that give them parking privileges at clubs or beaches? I’ve always coveted those—like, wouldn’t it be great to live in a place where you needed one of those stickers, and, better, wouldn’t it be great to have one of those stickers, and an old car to put it on, and a dog or two, and a beach to take them too? This is a city kid talking.

L.B. came back from the town hall today with two of those stickers—one for her and one for me, Deitch. I am now the official bearer of a sticker that allows the Volvo to park at several beaches up and down the North Fork. How did this happen? L.B. rocks. And so does Scout and Jotto. The beach rocks. You rock. Life is good. You should come.


The Elements: Water

I’m not going to complain about the heat, because everyone around here is feeling it. And, truth be told, I’m on a peninsula surrounded by water and covered in grass and trees which are doing some fine, green breathing for the community. Still, I’m sitting in LB’s kitchen drinking a cup of coffee and sweating, the dogs poor hot panting messes on the cool kitchen floor.

Two things, though. While I was out getting the aforementioned coffee, I saw the Long Island Sound in the distance—blue sparkling water, choppy and dotted with bobbing things of a nautical nature. Just the sight of it brought on the sense memory of the anxious moment when you hit the water—hot to cold, dry to wet, air to no air, light to dark. Talk about transitions. They say that sneezing and, like, orgasm, are glimpses of the experience of enlightenment (or something like that), and if I were on that panel, I think I’d add diving into cold water.

But also, today, at the coffee place, an empty cafe in the style of old-timey places (actually, I think it is an old-timey place), the young guy who made my latte yesterday was sitting down at an upright piano, playing perfect ragtime for the only other customers—a portly middle-aged couple with bad haircuts. It really was a moment out of a David Lynch film, and, even though things are rather difficult at the moment, due to some issues of the heart (not literal), it made me happy.

Thank you, dharmakaya, for allowing us our minor reprieves.


I forgot to tell you that the other day, on my way out to the island, I pulled off the L.I.E. because Scout was jumping around in the backseat in a particularly frantic way. There had been a huge thunderstorm about an hour or so before (on the radio they were saying it was a tornado), where it rained until you could swim across the road. Do you remember? Anyway, the sun came out halfway through the storm, and the rays through the heavy rain sent sparks everywhere.

I pulled off at the Great Neck exit, and made my first left, onto a suburban street with large houses, and cheap-ass cars. I got Scout out of the the Volvo just in time, and after I cleaned up after him, we went for a little walk. About halfway down the street, we encountered a woman in her forties in black leggings and a black sleeveless turtleneck. Her hair was black and poofy on the top, and she was wearing black high-heeled sandals. She was very tan, and she was clicking around in the middle of the street talking to herself. “I can’t find my garbage can,” she said to the trees and the sky and maybe to God. “I can’t find my garbage can. It blew away.”

I really liked her—she was like my past—and I was tempted to offer to help her. But I felt uneasy—after all, I was a trespasser with a bag of poop in my hand, and, guess what?, nowhere to throw it away. (No garbage can.)

The Fight

Scout has been asleep on LB’s deep blue kitchen floor all day. I walked up the road and rented a post office box. Jotto sometimes barks at people walking by the house, and then he stops. I did laundry, including Scout’s bed, which he peed on when he was staying with his dog sitter, whom he bit three times. I hung my jeans on the picket fence. I checked my email all day long. I tried to stay awake, but fell asleep. Last night I felt like I was being poked with hot knives. Today I feel like I’m made of hot lead. The only comfort is the moments of silence, flecked with birdsong. I am lost.

I can find the Buddha in me (and in you), but more easily I find myself, at two or three, curled up on the stairs between my bedroom and my parents. I know this lifelong pain will never end.

(Photo by Sally Mann)

Sexy Dreams with Famous People: Arnold

Really? We were in the same place at the same time, that’s all. There were other people around. I must have been younger because I felt like I used to, not like I do now—I was more malleable, insecure, attractive. I had not yet found my big sword. He didn’t have an accent. All of a sudden he pulled me up against him and kissed me like he cared, and then whispered in my ear, “I’ve grown to love you very fast.”

BLECH! (Hang on, I have to take a cheese grater to my tongue—scrap, scrap, scrap, ow!)—and spray the area with insecticide. How do you get this damn button to work? Oh, there. Sphish-sphish-sphiiiiish.) I won’t describe his body because it’s not fair. It really wasn’t Arnold. I’m sure his body is nothing like a soft mattress with one yucky lump.

Anyway, when I interviewed Arnold in the nineties, he said he liked my boots. And it’s true: they were really nice, expensive, brown suede ropers from Bergdorf Goodman. The thing was, though, that I’d read a bunch of interviews other writers had done with him before I went to see him, and in them, he complimented the writer on something about their appearance. So it was his PR move; or maybe it was his chick move, I don’t know. His facade, in any case, was seamless—it was meant to be charming, but instead, at least for me, was gruesome. (It didn’t help that he was orange.) I just don’t find inauthenticity attractive.

I’ve grown to love you very fast. Poor Arnold. Poor Deitch.

Upon Leaving Berlin

Though I’m not leaving Berlin until very early tomorrow morning, I’ve packed my bag. I’m in that part of the transition: if it were a children’s slide, you’d be climbing the ladder, not quite yet to that place where you sit down, and get ready to take off. This morning, every step of the climb feels heavy.

This has been an odd year for me. For a year up until last July, I lived in a huge brownstone owned by the middle-aged children of a couple who had lived there for fifty-something years. The children had been born in the house itself, they’d grown up, left, the couple had carried on, the husband had gotten sick, the wife had cared for him, he’d died, she’d carried on, and then she’d died. All of their stuff was still in the house when I moved in with Maud, Scout, and Bodhi. (Maud decided to spend her last year in college living in the house, which was big bonus for me.) The couple’s waterbed was still full. The cabinets in the kitchen were filled with their dishes. But some of the ceilings were literally coming down, and there was years of piss on the floor in the master bath. Anyway, I lived there for a year, and friends came and went from all over the world. It was very otherworldly—like something out of an early Doris Lessing novel—but it worked.

When I left, I didn’t know where to go. Bodhi had died, Maud had gotten her own place, Scout was beginning to get sick. Rents in New York were not like they once were—you can’t really find a home there that’s more than a box, if you don’t have a lot of money. I don’t want to spend more than half my income to live in a box. So I’ve been living here and there on and off—crashing at Julia’s, crashing at L.B.’s, trying to figure out what to do.

The fact is that this little pad where I’ve spent the last twelve nights in Berlin has been as much a home as any I’ve crashed in for the last year. And because I’ve not been relying on the kindness of people who care about me to live here, there’s been a quality of “my-ness” to it that I’ve missed.

It is that quality of “my-ness,” though, I think, that might be tripping me up in trying to imagine myself putting down roots. Who am I anymore? What do I want (besides to practice, and write, and be happy)? My office is my computer; I could live anywhere. My colleagues are all over the world, sometimes in and out of retreat. I don’t even know who you are. You could be someone who googled “ladder,” and ended up here (hello and a warm welcome). After Scout dies, it will just be me, whoever that is.

I think I am a person climbing the ladder of a slide. I imagine that at some point I will get to the top, sit down, and push off. I am hoping that I will land, and that when I do, I will be home.

On the Way to Senefelderplatz

The deity is on the U2, going from Wittenbergplatz east, towards Pankow. She has one face, four eyes (plastic frames), two arms, and is whitish in color. She is wearing an orange leather jacket, tight-fitting, with an orange plaid shirt—the tips of its collar like daggers, pointing south. In her right hand, a sharp pencil, in her left, a book. On her lap, a white patent-leather bag with a black patent-leather handle, adorned with sequins in the shape of cartoon houses on a Paris street. The lights at each station hit the sequins and fly off in all directions, touching the other dakas and dakinis, the buddhas and the bodhisattvas, waiting to get on or off the train.

She looks at me with her wrathful gaze, her iPod’d ears. I look away.

In the distance, beyond her, are the orange roofs of the German palaces (and everywhere the charnel ground). A yellow train streaks diagonally across the sky in front of them like the trace of a star.

Remember: she is like the reflection of the moon on water.

Ten-Second Rant: What's Affordability?

Reading the New York Times this morning, I came upon this little article called “Affordable Boutique Hotels in New York City.” In it, the writer says,

The trend began about three years ago, with a trickle of boutiquey places like the Pod, the Ace and the Jane — which offered a patina of style without the premium prices. It has accelerated in recent months, with a raft of new hotels promising cool design, nods to local flavor and wallet-friendly rates of about $200 to $250.

Let’s call this the Abu Ghraib syndrome. A group of people, together too long without perspective from the outside world, agree on a set of truths and ethics that a person coming in from the outside would be appalled by. What’s wallet-friendly about $200 or $250 a night?

Who stole our wonderful, artist-friendly city?

I know: We know who stole our city. I just feel pretty upset that I can’t afford to live there anymore, and I feel disgusted with the Times for being complicit in this Republican, rich man’s perspective.

Doing Laundry on Rinpoche's Birthday

I feel like Rene Zellweger.

O.K., so I went out again with my dirty clothes on my back, after having Googled laundromats in Berlin, and ended up in an empty place in a younger, hipper part of town. In the laundromat, all the signage about detergent and money and machines was in German, except one: Achtung! No change! On top of that, this was a laundromat out of “Bladerunner,” and there was this large Fifties-style computer with many buttons and lights and numbers, and it seemed to run the show. You put the money in it, I figured out, and then you punched in the number of the machine you’d already put your clothes in (the machines, large and orange, were numbered in a lovely blue. Do you already know about this?) It was much more complicated than that, though—believe me—and I didn’t have exact change. Fuck it, I wanted clean clothes. I started feeding the Dr. No computer Euros and it kept asking me for more.

The thing is that it’s so damn great knowing you’re fundamentally safe but having no idea what’s going on. That is, it’s a relief from living in the groove that’s worn pretty deep.

So, anyway, Rene. She was a newcomer to Hollywood when she auditioned for “Jerry McGuire.” I know this because I interviewed her about it before the film came out. It seems that the director, Cameron Crowe, liked her, and he set up an appointment for her to meet Tom Cruise at the studio (I can’t remember which—maybe Sony). Anyway, she was waiting tables for a living at the time, and, on the day that she was supposed to meet Cruise, she’d done her laundry. Unfortunately, she ran out of money before she’d had a chance to put her clothes in the dryer.

Later that day, when she got to the lot before her meeting, she parked her car and just sat there for a few moments, laughing out loud. How absurd was it, she said to me, that she was about to meet Tom Cruise, and she’d just had to hang her clothes all over her apartment, having run out of money?

Life is like that, I find, sometimes.

I didn’t run out of money, but I was so psyched about having worked that big computer and sat in the empty “Bladerunner” laundromat doing a little meditating in front of the big orange washers with lovely blue numbers, that I just couldn’t wait for the dryer. I wanted, instead, to rush home and hang my laundry on doorknobs and the back of chairs. I felt like I was about to meet Tom Cruise. No, much, much, much better: I was about to go out into the afternoon sunlight, dance around the bicycles on the sidewalk, buy a bag of milk and some bananas, and be among the Berliners, drinking beer and watching the game, and the kids, and the night.

Drunk and Dirty in Berlin

I take it as a compliment, that not one but two people stopped and asked me for directions in German this evening. The first one probably had to do with the fact that I was humping my laundry up the street, socks hanging out of my pack like a newly bought bouquet; the second with the fact that, having had the big glass of wine, I was weaving down the wide, cobblestone sidewalks with rosy Alpine cheeks. (By the way, what does “Einschtein, bitte” mean? And if the word schmuck means “penis,” then why is it on so many storefronts? )

Anyway. It was a crazy idea, shoving my laundry into my backpack and another plastic bag, and wandering the neighborhood looking for a laundromat. I’ve been around these blocks some, and I haven’t seen such a thing. At one point, though, I walked by a trio of hipsters talking on the sidewalk outside a store, and realized that they were leaning up against empty washing machines, all in a line outdoors. Through their legs I saw that the machines were Miele, and empty, and—a really good sign—their portholes were wet and steamy.

I lost my nerve. I couldn’t do it: “Excuse me, but are these washing machines, like, for, like, strange Americans?” One of them, a pretty, spikey-haired brunette in black, looked at me, and I ran up the street, my socks bouncing on my back. It’s good that Julia finally taught me how to wash my underwear out in the sink like a pro, or tomorrow I’d be using a wife-beater as a diaper.

Berlin on the Wind

My studio is on the third floor of an old building. It has two huge windows that swing inward, rather than sliding upward, and they face a courtyard with a single tree that reaches in all directions. During the day, what sounds like a huge crow caws in a loud, raspy voice, and a baby, probably newborn, cries intermittently. If I hadn’t have been listening carefully, I might have thought the child was a duck, quacking rather than wailing, sometimes near to me, sometimes from the inner rooms of the apartment where he stays.

Tonight I heard voices from down in the courtyard, speaking happily in German, and I realized that, because I don’t understand the words, they are not language to me, but instead merely sound, like the caw and the quack. It was a relief, the no storyline, but instead a sudden wave across the wind—a bell chime; a balloon, let go, flying by.

Berlin Morning

So I’m running late this morning, and I rush to the local cafe I’ve begun relying on around the corner. Though there are a line of cafes on that same corner, I come to this one because of the name: Anita Wronski. Anyway, it’s so early that the Asian man who does odd jobs is just wiping down the outdoor tables, and setting out the blankets that go on the back of each chair, and the dog—half bear, half shepherd, with brown, black, and white spots—is standing in the doorway watching him (and now me). I have heard tell that people come back as dogs when there’s been some sexual misconduct in one of their previous lives, and if that is true, this guy did some terrible things. He sports a big, shit-eating grin.

Anyway, being in a hurry, I push past him, and go up to the scrawny grey-haired German man behind the bar. I ask him if he’ll give me a chai latte and a croissant to go, and he shrugs, and I think that means that they don’t do to-go, but for me he will. I don’t know why I think that, but body language is pretty powerful stuff, and I’m getting a “I don’t like it, but I like you” vibe. He goes over to this little nook in the wooden wall then, and he rings one of those bells that you see in the movies at motels—you know, it’s round and sits on a table, and you slap your palm on it and it dings. Then he goes back to unpacking boxes or mopping the floor.

I wonder if one ring means chai latte and croissant, but when five minutes go by and he goes back and rings again, but this time twice, I wonder if one ring means “Get out of bed,” and two rings means “You have one more chance.” Suddenly though, the wall behind the nook parts (turns out it’s a sliding door), and there are a pair of feet at eye level and the dog, peering down into the room at me. Oh my god, it is the most delightful thing I may have ever seen. So I guess the kitchen is, like, a quarter of a floor up from the restaurant.

The feet, the dog, and the scrawny German man talk, he comes back saying that croissants are still in the oven (or something). I say, “Is there anything else?” And he pauses. I think I may have stopped his mind. He says, “Do you want a butter croissant?” And say yes enthusiastically, not sure what the croissant I ordered was (I’m so late now I have to take cab rather than the subway, but I can’t miss this, whatever is happening here), and he says something to the Asian odd-job guy.

I imagine a butter croissant being lifted from the oven just a moment early. I imagine growing to be 300 pounds and yet being very happy. Time goes by. More time goes by. And then the Asian man appears from the front door (I didn’t see him leave), with a bag in his hand. He hands it to me. It is a croissant that he just went out and bought.

I drink my latte and eat my croissant in the cab across Berlin. The driver does not speak any English (we figured out where I was going by searching a map together), so I know he won’t talk to me. Crumbs are all over my sweater, and the tea is sweet. I will have to return the favor to someone, sometime, somewhere.