Thursday, January 31, 2013

How I Spent My Christmas Vacation: The Great Alien Mayapocalypse of 2012

 Hi Y'all!

view of impending doom from my mom's balcony
Over the holidays, I traveled to ground zero of the end times, Lake Atitlan in Guatemala.
Those of you who know me well know that I adore all things alien and/or apocalyptical - movies, books, conversations, but especially Actual Real-Life Apocalypses.
Plus my mom lives right on the lake, so I had a front row seat to what I was hoping would be the spectacle to end all spectacles.

The next village over from my mom's is a place called San Marcos. It is overrun by a serious contingent of new age types who for years have been busily sleeping under pyramids, consuming a rainbow of psychedelics, drinking stinky herbal tea, channelling, crystal-gazing, proselytizing on various esoteric subjects, and waiting for the mother ship to arrive.

And now the end was nigh!
Oh, the excitement!
The anticipation!
The sheer entertainment value!

So with all this super-hoo-hoo-hippie-hype, plus my own intrinsic love of the odd and unlikely, I was really hoping that the much-rumored Crystal Alien Spaceship would rise up from depths of the Sacred Lake and invite me on board.

Wouldn't that be something.

And, not wanting to deprive my own tribe of the possibility of interstellar travel, I had magnanimously offered to swing by in said spaceship to pick up my friends in Austin for the great exodus.

Now THAT's what I would call a proper apocalypse.

But, alas, the universe had other plans.

 Here's what actually happened:

  • The wind blew really really hard.
  • A bunch of people (including yours truly) threw a bunch of candles into a big fire while chanting in Quiche Maya and other, less obscure, tongues.
  • Most yoga classes were cancelled due to the end of the world.
  • There was plenty of restaurant seating because the bulk of the gringo population were in the wilderness doing ceremony.
  • A volcano erupted (which is not nearly as dramatic as it sounds, since Lake Atitlan (and most of Guatemala, for that matter) is ringed by volcanoes).

Some of my friends came outside and waited for me at the appointed time, then went about their business when I didn't show.

I was in bed asleep by 10:30.

Stupid Lame Apocalypse.

So now we are in day 39 of the new cycle. In another 5000 or so years, the end will again be nigh.

And next time, there had better be a damn spaceship.

peace out,

Friday, January 25, 2013

Goodbye, Big Al

The path at Tassajara. That's my cabin on the right.
Dang, can you believe it's been almost 2 years since my last post?

Actually, one of those years doesn't count, since I spent it in the non-technological monastic wilderness of Tassajara.

During the summer, I spent a lot of time telling people how, when, and where to chop vegetables, each day bookmarked by a good long sit in the zendo doing some wall-staring.
I also went on a lot of hikes, which you would do too if you were surrounded by all that beauty.
During the winter, I sat and stared at that wall for hours and hours (and HOURS) on end.
When all was said and done, I very decidedly decided that there IS such a thing as too much introspection. Time to go...

Anyway, I've been back in Austin for the past year, settling back into a new/old life. It has been beautiful and challenging and, as always, I've come back with a renewed appreciation for home.

Over the Christmas break this year, I was inspired to resume this blog...I went to visit my mom in Guatemala, where I was at ground zero for the
Mayan Apocalypse. Good stuff, man. I want to tell you all about it - volcanos erupting! crystal spaceships emerging! other stuff too!

But more on that later.

Right now, I'd like to say goodbye to my friend Big Al.

 Yesterday morning, Al committed suicide. I can't say that this came as a huge surprise (not that that makes it suck any less). He had been struggling with his demons for quite a while. He didn't hide from them or from us. He couldn't.

Soon after my return from California last year, he asked me to meet him at Flipnotics. He wanted to talk about my experience at the monastery, about his own search for peace. He knew I could relate.
 We sat and talked for a long time. Although I shared my own history, I didn't push him to share his mental and emotional struggles. I figured that maybe he just needed a break.

I saw him often during the past year - at dance, Maria's, community gatherings. We were friendly, but never spoke again in such an intimate way, and that's ok.

  I think we all feel the urge to do that shoulda-woulda-coulda trip when someone chooses to take their own life. Yes, suicide is a selfish act. It leaves the rest of us in the lurch, going "What the fuck just happened? What could I have done differently?"

But I believe it can also be an act of ultimate self-compassion to end the suffering when the pain becomes too great to bear.

I get it.

I truly hope you're in a better place now.

You are dearly loved, and your absence is deeply felt by all who had the privilege of knowing you.

  Rest in Peace, Big Al!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I Could Really Go For Some Bacon About Now!

Hello my lovelies,

I have now been at this ZenFarmAstary for over 6 weeks, staring at a blank wall and dealing with inanities, insanities, insecurities, inequanimities (and other 'i' words too)... I am now on the home stretch of this little adventure in emptiness, which will come screeching to a ceremonious halt on April 12th after 7 days of sesshin, which I believe is Japanese for "sitting all day every day for days on end until your head explodes."

Just in case you were wondering, here's what my typical day consists of:

I've been feeling a little sketchy lately
I get up at 4:00 (and not I'm not talking about the civilized afternoon kind of 4:00, either! This is pre-rooster temporalism.), at which time I attempt to dance/stretch/splash/will myself awake in order to go sit in the dark for a couple of hours. Usually, there are copious amounts of caffeine involved...fortunately, hopped-up beverages of all sorts are bountiful here.

Sadly, I have yet to perfect the art of sleeping while sitting in the Lotus position.
There's a Japanese monk named Yuto who sits beside me in the zendo who is a master sit-up-and-sleeper, but he hasn't been able to convey any useful pointers about how to nap without falling over onto your neighbor's lap (and man is THAT embarrassing!).

Around 6am, after the sitting business, we do a boink-load of full prostrations, which is awesome. It is awesome not because I love bowing down (which i most definitely do not - i've got real issues with that stuff), but because it's really good leg exercise - squat, bend, lower, raise, unsquat,, are my thighs strong!). Then we chant in a monotonal pseudo-satanic japaneezy kind of way, bow some more (you go, glutes!), go clean some toilets or mop a ceiling or rake rocks or some such activity until a bell rings then it's time for food and on and on like this throughout the day - sit, bow, chant, food, work, sit, bow, chant, lather, rinse, repeat ad infinitum (well, until 9pm - seems like infinitum sometimes). There is also some zombie-walking thrown in here and there for good measure, which I actually really dig...any excuse to move like a freak!

Alas,  although I am soon leaving Green Gulch, I am not yet returning to Austin;
I'm heading back to Tassajara for a few months... and here's the deal: it's off-grid and wilderness-bound.

Ain't no computer, ain't no cell reception, ain't no easy way in or out, and the valley's too steep for the pony express. That leaves the good 'ol u.s. postal system, smoke signals, and a single outgoing phone line that occasionally works.

So here is my request: if you'd like to stay in touch, send me your address via computer asap (before the 12th) OR send me a letter with your return address to :

Jean-Marie Dwyer
c/o Tassajara Zen Mountain Center
39171 Tassajara Road
Carmel Valley, CA 93924

Write me and I'll write you back!
Try it - it's fun (really)!
AND if you include some dark chocolate or something equally exciting in your mail, I will also throw in a free mystery gift (while supplies last...)!

So that's that.


In other news...
It has been raining here.
A lot.
Radical Super-Saturation, dude.

The other day I  went hiking by the beach and tried to scramble up the side of a hill but instead of solid ground it was pure soft squishy mud disguised as solid ground and we're not talking a little bit of mud here people and I ended up stuck in muck up to my calves but that's pretty much par for the's just not always so literal is all :)

However, in the past few days the climate has magically transformed into a sunny and glorious spring.
Hanging out here is like walking around in a postcard.

Bucolic, 'tis...

There are also lots of critters, including some really large, slimy, and poop-shaped-and-colored banana slugs, which I personally don't find so bucolic, but then again, they might not think I'm so hot, either...

Ok, that's all I've got for now.

I'll do my best to get another post done before I go radio-silent again.

And remember: every time you write me a letter, a kitten gets it's wings!



bucolicism, part deux

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Zen of Rubber Duckies

Greetings and salutations from green gulch farm!

I will make this quick, as I am due in the Zendo in a few minutes...


Here's my life in a teeny-tiny nutshell:

I'm doing a 2 month retreat in a zen monastery which features:
muir beach
  • An infrared sauna (nekkid style)
  • A basement replete with computers, workout equipment and free clothes and stuff
  • A big honkin' bathtub with complimentary rubber ducky
  • A 20-minute walk to Muir Beach, which is a beautiful thing... 

Yesterday was Tangario, which means a bunch of chumps sitting and staring at a blank wall for 16 hours. This is a traditional Zen proving ground type should all be a downhill ride from here!

I gots to go slap on some black and sit-n-stare a little longer...tomorrow's a free day, so I plan on going hog wild and wash my underwear, baby!!!

more later...


    Saturday, January 8, 2011

    New Year's Cockapocalypse


    Cocker Rage
    A few years ago on a fine spring morn, I found myself with a cocker spaniel attached to my face.
    After prying the dog off my newly pierced lip, then once again off my newly mauled finger, I made a shocked and bloody beeline to my friend Morna's front door.
    A little while later, when the ER doctor started sewing me up, I whacked him a couple of times.
    It was nothing personal, you know? I'd just had enough of various life forms attacking my face with sharp objects.
    After the second whack, the doctor politely asked me if I'd please stop hitting him, then turned back to his work as a glorified seamstress...

    I am telling you this because yesterday afternoon I found myself with a dentist attached to my face, and I felt that same urge to whack him silly. This time, however, I exercised superhuman powers of restraint and kept my whacking limbs firmly clenched and glued to my lap.
    That's what they call personal growth, people! (plus a healthy dose of wanting him off my face ASAP, and when you start swingin', things seem to take a bit longer...)
    I go back for Dental Torture, Phase II on Monday with the firm intention of NOT clobbering my assailant. Ah, sweet pain...
    Also, in order to preserve my newly pearly whites, I'm going off coffee, tea and other staining beverages. Heaven help the people around me for the next few days (that would be Penny...sorry in advance, P!)


    It's Not Me, It's You
    Do you ever have people in your life who don't act the way you want them to? Yes?
    Well, I have a couple of people like that Right At This Very Moment, and I am other than thrilled with them.

    To these people I now say:
    • Why must you be SO who you are?
    • Whose universe is this, anyway?
    • Don't you understand that your life is all about making ME happy?
    • Fuckers.
    A while back my friend Lisa gave me a shirt that says: "It's Not Me, It's You".
    To all those people out there who are not behaving to my satisfaction, this shirt's for YOU!
    (insert big raspberry here)
    So there.


    How I Spent My New Year Vacation
    Penny and I chose to spend the early part of New Year's Eve seeking out one of Bangkok's infamous "ping-pong" shows. For those of you who've never heard of this, it involves women in go-go bars shooting ping-pong balls out of their hoo-hoos at great velocity. I also have it on good authority that certain bar girls are able to open beer bottles with said hoo-hoo. Ouch.
    Normally, I don't go in for this kind of thing...however, this sort of spectacle is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and seeing as how the apocalypse is coming and all, it's best to ping-pong while the ping-ponging's good!
    However, in what was probably a fortunate turn of events, we were unable to find such a show, despite being in one of Bangkok's infamous red light districts, Soi Cowboy.
    After watching some supremely uninspired pole dancing by girls wearing numbers on their g-strings (yes, everyone's up for sale), we headed on home, where we found a raucous Thai rock-and-roll band playing to a mostly whiskey-soaked Thai audience. I danced like a weirdo, counted backwards from 10, and brought in the new year with a fresh cold coconut. Yummy!

    The next day, I had another coconut (man, I love them coconuts!), then followed the heaving masses into the local Wat, where, after lighting a candle and some incense, I was whacked on the head several times by a monk with a wet stick while crawling on my knees.

    Happy New Year's!!!


    A Dream I Had Last Night About the Apocalypse
    It's really happening and I am among those in the know, maybe some branch of the military
    and the apocalypse is caused by man, by carelessness by a bomb dropped in the sea a chain reaction of epic proportions
    and my crew and I know it's coming
    and it's time to evacuate that the end is nigh
    and we're in a movie theater passing the time then it's almost time to head out
    and we put on what will be the last outfit we ever wear go to the bathroom for the last time everything that happens from here on out will be the last time
    so I tell my small crew of maybe 5 people to take their time to do what they need to do to fully experience their last ablutions
    so when the commanding officer shows up we're not ready and I stall her for a while until she grows impatient
    and I go to the bathroom door and bang and try to act tough and impatient too
    and I even give them to the count of ten which I belt out in the strongest meanest voice I can muster but they're taking their time just like I told them to so I have to light a fire of urgency
    and they get dressed and we go outside and Armageddon is already well underway
    and the sky is an odd shifting array of orange and gray and brown
    and red
    a storm to end all storms brews above while the ocean roils heaves breathes is scary and ugly and poised to blow to explode with a deadly force and velocity
    and we make it to our plane just in time and fly just out of reach of the tsunami (safe now for a moment, but this is not going to end)
    and we land watch wait
    and I'm with a friend and Drew Barrymore and my friend and I leave the observation platform go singing and dancing on the tarmac the wind whipping like crazy
    and many people join in singing sounding joyfully expressing full of energy and life until this curmudgeonly old salt storms up and chastises us for our behaviour is angry and frustrated because we don't seem to realize the gravity of the situation when actually this gravity is why we are expressing joy one last time to the fullest
    and I'm full of energy elation boundlessness and so we leave the freaking-out man and go into the nearly- deserted streets of San Francisco the wind is whipping violently in all directions the sky's grey and rumbling
    and a couple of people are braced against the wind heading up the hill a mother and her boy of maybe 7 and he's glowing with a bright white Aura and he's happy and his mom is letting him call the shots it's his special day his last day and her demeanor is both resigned to the situation acceptance and deep love and selflessness and generosity towards her son
    and my friend and I pass them and we are running up hills down hills leaping yelling frolicking with the endless wind boundless joy boundless energy
    and we find a small old pool hall only one pool table
    and it is abandoned except for a group of Japanese engineers young
    and geeky who have pulled out all of the building's wiring in an attempt to create the most ambient atmosphere possible, to manipulate the lighting into something soft colorful festive
    and christmassy
    and sparkling
    and candlelit
    and this seems like as good a place as any to bring in the end.



    Tuesday, December 28, 2010

    Scammed and Scrammed!

    Greetings from Hanoi!

    In the past couple of weeks I have:
    • Come uncomfortably close to being scammed (and quite possibly held for ransom) for $26,000 by some Philipinos in Saigon. It's an unbelievable story and would make a great movie-ette!
    •  Quickly fled Saigon (see above)
    •  Been really really hot, then really really cold
    •  Seen a bunch of overpriced tombs and pagodas while starving on a bunk dragon boat in Hue.
    •  Eaten at least a gazillion spring rolls. 
    •  Gone on a very long hike to see some very short phalli (yes, that's what she said!), the enormiosity of which was grossly exaggerated by TBWSNBN! (see previous blog post)
    •  Lost all my shirts except one. Lost items include my "cowgirls need more than an 8 second ride" shirt, which I am still mourning. I think it must be somewhere in the vicinity of Angkor Wat - dang.
    • Realized that apparently all the stupid t-shirts in stupid Vietnam are made of synthetic material which I refuse to wear (see dot #6)
    •  Been up the coast via sleeping buses to: Na Trang, Hoi An, Hue, and now Hanoi. We had to skip some places on southern itinerary due to dot #1 (see above).
    •  Come to terms with the fact that everything in this country is marked up about 400% for honkies. I am not exaggerating. It gets exhausting  bargaining for a cup of coffee, a bunch of bananas, a place to sleep - argh!
    •  Bought a ticket to Bangkok. (see dots # 1-10 above). We fly out tonight on Quatar Airlines. I ain't never heard of Quatar Air - have you? Please send energy of the "happily and safely airborne" variety!
    •  Tried and tried in vain to log onto Facebook. Damn commies have it blocked. Not too big on freedom of speech. Facebook's dumb anyway - screw it!
    • Acquired a kickboard and have been toting it around since Saigon- man, I'm such a swim-dork! At least it doesn't weigh much!

    And now I am off to pack once more...
    I'll be back in Thailand by this time tomorrow...will write more later from civilization, where it's warm and safe and they have soft clothes!


    Friday, December 17, 2010

    Bible-Backed Python Survives Saigon

    There are approximately 10 million people in Saigon, and somewhere between 6 and 7 million motorbikes. There may or may not be some sort of road rules; if there are, no one, and I mean NO one, is following them! So crossing the street, any street, is an excercise in blind suicidal/homicidal trust. The Book-Which-Shall-Not-Be-Named (ok, it's Lonely Planet, but shall herewith be referred to only as "TBWSNBN") suggests the following tactic for crossing the street without getting maimed, killed, or otherwise hideously impacted:

    How to Cross the Street and Live to Tell the Tale
    If you don't want to wind up like a bug on a windshield, pay close attention to a few pedestrian survival rules when crossing the street, especially on the streets of motorbike-crazed HCMC and Hanoi. Foreigners frequently make the mistake of thinking that the best way to cross a busy street in Vietnam is to run quickly across it. This does not always work in practice, and could get you creamed. Most Vietnamese cross the street slowly - very slowly - giving the motorbike drivers sufficient time to judge their position so they can pass on either side. They won't stop or even slow down, but they will try to avoid hitting you. Just don't make any sudden moves. Good luck!

    Penny is blind in her left eye, which we have found very helpful in street-crossing. We put Penny on the side closest to oncoming traffic (that would be the left side, yo), while I hold onto her right arm and look straight ahead. This way, neither of us can see what's barreling towards us and therefore we cannot freak out/freeze/otherwise put ourselves on the brink, 'cause we just don't see 'em coming. So far, this seems to be working alright. That said, if you don't hear from me for a couple of weeks, then perhaps this wasn't such a great tactic after all... :)

    motorbike blur


    There's an old Vietnamese man who walks around our neighborhood with a bible and a pink back scratcher - you know, one of those plastic jobs with a claw on the end. He makes daily rounds through the streets talking about jesus and heaven and sinners and hell and what's gonna happen "when you kick the bucket". I'm not sure where the back scratcher fits into the picture. Maybe he uses it for some good ol' fashioned bible-thumping when he gets far enough into his spiel. I've found that saying "NO JESUS!" in somewhat loud and devilish voice usually makes him mosey on over to the next potential recruits. Mind you, I wouldn't mind a good back-scratching, but the price seems a bit steep...(also, where the hell did he learn a term like 'kick the bucket'?)


    A couple of days ago, we went on a boat tour of the Mekong Delta which was, surprisingly, as good as it sounds. We went to a honeybee farm and drank fresh honey-lemon tea with a sprinkling of bee pollen, then proceeded via our wee little canoe to a coconut candy factory, which was vaguely reminiscent of that famous "I Love Lucy" episode...same same but different, as they say.

    But wait, there's more!

    At said factory they had, somewhat incongruously, a 20-liter jug of snake juice, which allegedly increases a man's virility.

     Since I am:
       a) not a man; and
       b) virile enough already,

    I drank some just for the heck of it. It was quite nice, actually, if you're able to overlook the 10 or so snakes coiled up in the jar...
    snake juice

    During said tour, we made friends with three wacky Indonesians, including a fabulously gay guy self-named Ivan the Bitch,  and made plans to meet up later for a  "must-see" Vietnamese Water Puppet show. This was hands-down the most dorkazoid activity we've engaged in on the trip thus far. So afterwards, we went out with the 'nesians and washed the experience down with a heaping helping of grilled fish, self-sauteed beef, and a fresh coconut chaser. We followed this with a foray into an ultra-posh club called the Q-bar. It was full of backlit bars and  feather-boa chandeliers and a DJ who played crappy house music and had never heard of Queen, funk, or the Village People.
    I ask you, what kind of DJ is that?
    Nonetheless, we danced the night away, as the Indonesian trio were dance ho's on a par with yours truly. Dance, baby, dance!


    Oh, yeah - before I forget: I put a mofo python around my neck and here's proof:

    crotch python

    Luckily, that was before I drank the snake juice, or things may not have turned out quite so well. I'm pretty sure that pythons don't take kindly to people drinking the juice of their kinfolk!

    I am now shutting my cake hole.