Category Archives: Bay Area

Entering the path of do-goodery

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All kinds of changes are afoot here at Chez LazyBuddhist. In addition to becoming a half-time college student, I’ve started down the path of do-goodery.  In my mind, I always thought of myself as a do-gooder, but it was all intent and not much action.

Living in Richmond, California, I can see around me a lot of need.  Less than a mile away from my cozy enclave of Point Richmond is the neighborhood of the Iron Triangle and the community of North Richmond.  Richmond’s reputation as being a dangerous place to lives mostly comes from the crime, gangs, poverty, addiction and hopelessness in these two areas. In addition, both are directly downstream from the Chevron Refinery, so the health of the neighborhood is not good – the pediatric asthma rate in those neighborhoods are so high, hospitals may as well hand out an asthma inhaler with every new birth.

Three years ago there was a crime committed that got nationwide attention: the gang rape of a 15-year old girl at a school dance at Richmond High. Even now as I write this, my heart hurts for the girl, for our youth, and also for the community. At the time, I wanted to find some way to help to stop the cycle senseless violence that so many young people in our city seemed to be involved in. But, nothing presented itself in a way that made sense for me.

Fast forward three years later. This week I started volunteering at Richmond High as a writing coach through an amazing program called WriterCoach Connection. (Go ahead, click the link and go read about them, especially those of you in the Bay Area who are looking for a well-organized, worthy group to volunteer with. I’ll be here when you’re done.)  I had learned about the organization from a couple of writer friends of mine who had volunteered with them in the Oakland schools.  They both seemed to really enjoy it. So, when I learned they were expanding their program to Richmond, that’s when I knew I found my foothold into community do-goodery.

Most of the volunteers I trained with were Richmond residents – parents, grandparents, retired educators, writers – who, like me, wanted to find some way to help their community.  Even after six-to-eight hours of training we were still nervous about our initial encounters with the kids. Would they like us? Would they see we had no idea what we were doing? Would they even be willing to accept our help? How am I supposed to help a kid compose a thesis statement when I barely remember what one is myself? Oh sweet Buddha, what in the hell have I gotten myself into?

Read the rest of this entry

Retreating

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On his way out of the office yesterday, one of my staff members stuck his head in my doorway.

“Have fun at your retreat! Bye!” he said before dashing away.

Fun? Is that really the operative word for what one does at a silent meditation retreat? I decided to I simply thank him for the kind wishes rather than debate whether ‘fun’ was the correct word. As a matter of fact, a number of people had said the same thing to me as they were leaving.  Perhaps, it being so close to the holiday season, they were under the impression I was off to some kind of Buddhist version of Christmas.

I’ve worked with this group of people for the last three years so they have grown accustomed to my occasional trips to Spirit Rock to go dwell in silence for a week or so. I would say there are three basic opinions of my desire to do retreat:

  1. Slightly envious. There are a couple of people whom I consider my work sangha (aka “The Namaste Bitches” – it’s not as harsh as it sounds, it’s all in the enunciation).  When we have the luxury of time, we talk dharma, turn each other on to teachers, and generally support one another’s spiritual endeavors. When I’m debating whether or not to do a retreat, they are always firmly pro-retreat.  I think they see me as their retreat proxy. One of them has young children at home, and right now she just can’t be away for days at a time. The other is too young, cute, and gay & living in San Francisco to be spending time in silence in Marin with a bunch of mostly middle-aged straight people.  He calls me boring and I call him a slut.  But hey, we’re sangha, we can do that.
  2. “Not my cup of tea, but if it makes you happy.” I would say most of my colleagues fall into this category. They can see some appeal of spending quiet time someplace pretty, but a week in silence meditating six-to-seven hours a day, plus another two or three hours zombie walking, is not something they would choose to do for themselves.
  3. “Why don’t you go somewhere fun instead?” One of my colleagues, someone whom I now consider a good friend, really tries to be supportive and mostly holds his tongue when it comes to my spiritual quests, but still asks me, rather gently, “wouldn’t you rather travel with your partner and see someplace you’ve never seen before, and you know, maybe talk?”  He loves to travel and would someday like to find a boyfriend with whom he could go to exotic, romantic places.  I think he thinks I’m wasting a perfectly good boyfriend by insisting on going to retreats by myself rather than spending my vacation time with my beau.  The other colleague is not so gentle. When I told him I was going on retreat, he screwed up his face and said “another one? Didn’t you just do one of those last year?”   He’ll then ask how much these things cost and then tells me how much of a vacation I could get ‘somewhere fun’ for the same price. And when I tell him I happen to enjoy going on retreat, he’ll once again screw up his face, and ask “whyyyy?”   It’s at this point I tend to get really distracted because he looks so much like an ex-boyfriend of mine. That is, if my ex was gay and Asian. They have the exact same hair cut, vocal inflections and gestures.  It’s really uncanny, and a bit disturbing too.

So, tomorrow I head over to Spirit Rock for a week-long Metta retreat with Sylvia Boorstein. I’m looking forward to it. Who knows? Maybe I will have fun. But, if I can find a few moments of peace and love in my mind, that will be worth the price of admission.

Weird happenings at Chez LB

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You know you still may be a wee bit too relaxed upon returning from a  meditation retreat when you encounter a noose hanging from your walnut tree and instead of saying “holy shitballs! it’s a fucking noose!”, you simply go “Huh. I wonder what that noose is doing there?” and then head off to work as if you didn’t have a fucking noose hanging ten feet from your back door.

It’s not a very big noose.  You couldn’t hang a person from it, though you could  fit a cat or small dog.  But, no question, it’s a noose, complete with a hangman’s knot.  I guess my immediate thought was that it had been there for a while, hidden by the leaves that had recently fallen.  Perhaps it was left by my landlord or some arborist during a tree trimming adventure.  That really is, by far, the least alarming theory, and this morning that explanation sufficed.  Though, I figured I’d make a few phone calls to my landlord, the Boyfriend, and a neighbor, who are the only people who have any reason to be up near my back porch.

It wasn’t until I started hearing back from those folks that I started to become alarmed.  My landlord wants me to call the police. A little extreme, I think, but I’ll consider it.  My neighbor was thoroughly creeped out and may be a little frightened to associate with me now.  But, it was the Boyfriend’s reaction that made me realize how crazy this is.

“Hey hon, do you recall seeing a noose hanging from the walnut tree lately?” I asked nonchalantly.

There was a pause of several seconds. I thought maybe we had lost our connection. Finally, he sputtered, “What? Did you say . . . noose?”

“Yeah, a noose. A small one, but a noose. Have you seen it before?” I blithely asked.

“A noose?  Like with a hangman’s knot? A fucking noose?”  he asked incredulously.

“Yeah, yeah, a noose.  I figured it’s been there for a while and we just didn’t see it because of the leaves.  My guess is that a tree trimmer left it there.” I said as if everyone had a fucking noose hanging from one of their trees.

“A tree trimmer wouldn’t use a hangman’s knot. They would just use a loop” he said with some impatience as if I should be fully familiar with the type of knots used by arborists.

“Oh, OK.  Just checking.  I’ll look at it in the morning and figure out whether I should inform the police.  Talk to you later. I have to go to a meeting.” I said rather abruptly.  I just didn’t want to hear his conspiracy theories as why I would have a fucking noose hanging from my walnut tree.

Maybe it’s the inner stillness that remains from the retreat or maybe I’m fooling myself, but I’m not that worried.  I like my story that it is the remnants of a tree trimming adventure, and I think I’m sticking to it.  But, in case you never hear from me again, please tell the police about that stupid fucking noose hanging from the old walnut tree.

Update: Even though ignorance was indeed bliss in this case, I decided to break my bliss bubble and follow up on my theory that it was simply some rope left over by a tree trimmer.  So, I Googled “Aborists, Marin County” and called the one that sound vaguely familiar.

LazyBuddhist (LB):  Hi.  Uh . . . I have a kind of weird question
Aborist Chick (AC):  Oh, aren’t they all?  Shoot.
LB: OK, so . . . uh . . . well . . . OK, so during the course of an aborist doing his or her job chopping some limbs off a tree, would they ever use a hangman’s knot on the rope they use to grab the limbs?
AC: A hangman’s knot?
LB: Yeah, you know, the kind they use when they make a noose.
AC: A noose.
LB: Yeah, a noose. Do they ever create a noose type loop when working on a tree?
AC: Nope. No nooses.
LB: Are you sure?
AC: Yep.  So, ya got a noose in your tree?
LB: Yep.  It’s not a human size noose though.
AC: Squirrel sized?
LB: What, are you implying I have suicidal squirrels?
AC: No, not at all. I’m sure your squirrels are very happy.
LB: They are, thank you very much. No, I would say it’s kind of Corgi sized.
AC: I think I can safely say we never make Corgi sized nooses during the course of our work.  Anything else I can help you with?
LB: No, I guess I need to go call the police now.  Thanks for your help.
AC:  No no no, thank you. This story has made my day and will no doubt provide much laughter to colleagues.  Good luck with that noose.

My neighbor thinks I’m an asshole

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I’ll admit it.    I’m a bit of a people pleaser.  Not pathologically so, but it does matter to me if most people like me.  So, that’s why it bugs me that my neighbor thinks I’m an asshole.

It all started a couple of weeks ago when Pretty reappeared after a month’s absence.  I was outside watching her eat.  She tends to feel safer when I am standing nearby, and since she already seemed pretty fragile, I was taking my job as protector fairly seriously.  Next thing I know, a neighbor’s Chihuahua comes barreling towards her, which causes her to dash for cover.  I said, to no one in particular, “god damn it!”  and when I looked up, my new neighbor was a few feet away from me.  He looked a bit taken aback by my reaction.

“She wasn’t going to hurt the cat. She just likes to chase them” he said.

“No, I didn’t think she was going to hurt her. It’s just that this little cat is really fragile right now . . . ” I started to explain. 

He called for the dog, then picked her up and walked back to his house without saying much else. 

For the rest of the day I felt bad that I had come off so rude to this new neighbor who had seemed so nice when I met him the first time. I thought about writing a letter apologizing for my rudeness and to ask him if he could kindly keep his dogs on a leash when walking through my (OK, my landlord’s) property, or carry them in his arms so that they don’t harass my Pretty.  After all, he does pass through my yard while walking his dogs. 

But time passed and I never left that note.  I watched a few times from my window as one or the other of his Chihuahuas made a beeline for the area where I feed Pretty.  If  it wasn’t him and his two Chihuahuas, it was another new neighbor and their Chihuahua.  In the last two months, there has been a Chihuahua explosion in my immediate vicinity: five freakin’ Chihuahuas within a 50 yard radius.   Look, I have nothing against Chihuahuas – they’re dogs and they are going to do dog stuff like chase cats and eat their food.  I get it.   What I don’t appreciate is how people let them go unleashed, figuring they’re tiny and harmless and don’t need to contained.   But, for the sake of being neighborly, I refrain from yelling out my window “keep your goddamn Chihuahuas out of my yard!”

In the meantime, my landlord started working on my house.  After a few days, noticing how people were constantly using his property as a through way to get to an alley that serves as a shortcut, he decides to fortify a fence to make it more difficult for people to pass through, and then slapped  No Trespassing/Private Property sign on both sides of the property.  While I have sometimes been annoyed by people cutting through, I thought his approach was a bit heavy-handed and less than neighborly. 

Apparently the neighbors got the message, though.  I didn’t see the Chihuahua Man crossing by anymore.  That is, until this morning.

As I was guarding Pretty I saw one of Chihuahua Man’s dogs a few yards away. She was barking in my general direction, but she didn’t get too close.  Knowing that her owner couldn’t be too far behind, I waited until I saw him so I could talk to him.  I still felt bad about our previous interaction, and I’m sure all the No Trespassing signs that went up shortly thereafter didn’t help the situation.

“Hi!” I waved and smiled.

“Hey” he nodded sans a smile.

“Listen, I wanted to apologize for our interaction a few weeks back. I didn’t mean to be rude.  I was just upset because the cat is really skittish and she had just come back from being missing for a month.” I explained.

“It’s not like she was going to hurt her. She just wanted to eat her food.” he said sounding somewhat defensive.

“No, I didn’t think she was going to hurt her.”  I started, but opted to change the topic since he clearly didn’t grok the whole feral cat thing.  “Also, despite the new signage my landlord put up, you’re free to pass through.  I haven’t had any problem with it.”

He continued to look at me impassively. 

I nervously continued. “Considering our last interaction and the timing of the signs, I just wanted to let you know that I have no problem with you or your partner passing by.  Those signs were not directed at you.”

“Yeah, well, that’s how we took it.” he said with no sign of softening.

“So, feel free to use walkway, but if I could just ask you to either have your dogs in your arms or on a leash when you pass through so as to not bother the cat.” I said in a manner that was probably more pleading than firm. 

“Yeah, fine. Thanks.” he said with no emotion. 

Never once did he break a smile.  I mean, this was all a silly misunderstanding. I’m a good person, really, I am.  Like me, won’t you? 

So, we’ll see where this goes.  Hopefully, all will be well in the neighborhood. But, if he continues to let his dogs harass my Pretty, well . . . you think I’m an asshole now? 

Dear so-called “anarchists”

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Fuck you.

Seriously, fuck you.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, that’s not very Buddhist of me. But, well, tough shit.

I’m so sick and tired of these spoiled white kids all decked out in their hoodies and  black bandannas attaching themselves like some parasitic fungus to valid protest events and movements.  Their sole purpose is to wreak havoc and destroy any private property in their path. They’re like two year olds who don’t get what they want and throw a screaming tantrum.  But instead of just laying on the floor kicking their legs and screaming, these punks run around and toss bricks through windows and light trash cans on fire. They purport to be mad at the “the system”, and by smashing windows at Foot Locker or Starbucks, they’re sticking it to “the man”.  Whatever, dude.  You guys are idiots.

I used to see these fools on the periphery of the anti-war protests of the Bush years.  They were the ones who broke off from the peaceful marches and started destroying shit, bringing in a heavy police presence.   And in the media, the tens of thousands of peaceful protesters and their message becomes a mere side story while the more mediagenic story of a dozen or so punks destroying a Starbucks takes the lead.   Thanks for helping out, guys.

There hasn’t been much for the last few years in terms of organized protests.  No marches, no rallies.  These days people just sign a petition or two online and call it a day.  At least that’s what I do. Who knows what the so-called “anarchists” have been doing for the last few years.  But, I can imagine the major collective boner  they got when it came to the protests surround the Oscar Grant shooting and the Mehserle trial.

Around 2:30-3:00 last Thursday, it was announced that the verdict was to be read at 4:00 pm.  People in my office who took BART into work made a beeline for the door in hopes of getting on the train before the verdict was read. The company I work for evacuated – yes, evacuated – their downtown Oakland offices and told everyone to get the hell out of Dodge – the sooner the better. Based on the riots that ensued about a year and a half ago shortly after the shooting, people were nervous about potential violence.

But, Oakland – community groups working in conjunction with the City – did some serious planning and communication. They made space for people to gather and vent their frustrations and anger.   And it worked.  Once the involuntary manslaughter verdict came in, people started gathering downtown.  There was heavy duty police presence to keep it contained. People were angry and frustrated with the verdict. Who can blame them? But, the protest itself was peaceful.  Despite the constant media messages that it was going to get ugly, it didn’t.

That is, until night fall, when the anarchist cockroaches  came out to play. And an event that should have been seen as a powerful protest and show of community solidarity became just another damn Oakland riot.

Do they care a whit about Oscar Grant? I doubt it, otherwise they would have heeded the family’s pleas for non-violence. Do they care about African American community and their tenuous relationship with the police? I don’t think so, otherwise they wouldn’t have done their damnedest to make it worse.  I seriously doubt they give a shit about anyone except themselves.

So listen, you so-called “anarchists”, no valid movement for peace and change needs your help.  But hey, I hear the Tea Party may need some help at their gatherings.

Sittin’ on the dock of the bay

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A Friday late afternoon on what feels like the first day of Spring and a trip to a Ferry Point Park is order. I find myself a bench facing the water and simply jot down my observations. All is quiet except the electronic bonging of the buoys on the bay. The sun warms the side of my face and my right arm. In the distance is San Francisco.

I watch a couple of young dudes who have hopped the fence on a dock that has been deemed dangerous. They hang out and just goof in their over-sized shorts. A sailboat ambles by letting the subtle breeze dictate its pace.  Further down the trail an old couple argue their old arguments, their voices slashing at the quietude.  Three young people in matching magenta hair are all “dude” and “shit” and one of them proclaims her belief in aliens as they walk by.  A pregnant woman and three small children (possibly more as their other children straggling behind) make their way towards the old ferry landing with their fishing gear. The little boy hides behind the stroller and then peeks out and says “hi”. A white guy in a cabbie cap, a neat blue button-down shirt and dockers walks by smoking a cigarette. He doesn’t say “hi”. Perhaps he had a long week at work and is not feeling up to forced pleasantries.

Two kayakers paddle into view, their boats close enough to converse without shouting, but mostly they are silent and the only sound is the rhythmic splash of their oars. A pair of trim women, probably in their 50’s, walk by looking comfortable and serene. I imagine that perhaps they are yoga buddies, but today since it was so beautiful opted to go for a walk instead. And then it is quiet again.

Soon a young Asian woman comes along pushing a young boy on his bicycle. The bike looks new, modern, but his metal training wheels with the chipped yellow paint look like they may have been passed down or found at a garage sale.  A few minutes later an older Asian gentleman is pulling a very young girl on a very tiny bike with even tinier training wheels. The man has the bike on a make shift leash pulling the girl along as her legs dangle idle.

At the beginning of the trail, right at the water’s edge, I see a lanky adult in a vest and a Tilley hat pulling a  neatly dressed small boy close and whispering in his ear. I can’t tell if the move is to comfort the child or to admonish him.  Their dog, still listening to ancient instincts, starts to point at what I can only guess is a bird in a bush.  As they walk closer I see the lanky adult is probably the child’s grandmother.  As they walk by the woman greets me kindly and the child turns to watch me write.

“She’s writing a ticket” he says getting the older adult’s attention.

“No, silly, she’s just writing.” she says as she turns to me,  “he’s a little obsessed right now with getting tickets.”

“I got beat up by a bully today” the boy tells me.  Looking at his outfit it looks like he may attend a private school where those sort of things are not supposed to happen.

“Oh, that’s awful” I said.

The older woman once again pulls him close. “He did the right thing and told the Principal”. The boy looks up at her. “Didn’t you?”

“Yeah, I guess” sounding a bit worried. “But” he said changing the subject “I knew she wasn’t writing a ticket. I was just joking”. He stepped away from her as if to establish his autonomy.

The grandmother doesn’t fall for his attempt at changing the topic and continues “I asked him how he was going to deal with that bully and he said he was going to change schools.”  The hopelessness in that statement stunned me. “But, we’re not going to do that, are we?” she said changing her focus back to the boy.

“No. I’m going to go up to him and tell him he owes me an apology”, he said somewhat mechanically but with confidence.

“OK, well you take good care of yourself and know no one deserves to be bullied and it’s not your fault.” I said with some conviction even though I had no idea what I was saying.

The boy waved good-bye and they walked off with the grandmother’s arm once again wrapped around his shoulder.

LB’s big adventure

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I’m know I’m kinda funny this way, but I like my sleep. I need my sleep.  And probably like every middle-aged person (at least the ones I know), I don’t get enough of it.  And that’s not because I’m out partying or feeding a crying baby. No, like millions of us, I suffer from insomnia.  And it sucks.

So, I’ve taken Benedryl, Melatonin, Valium, some kind of anti-itch medication that is like Benedryl-lite.  I’ve tried lulling myself to sleep with recordings of rain, and new age chimes over some weird supposed brainwave pulsing thing. My sleep hygiene is decent – I don’t watch TV in bed, the room is dark and quiet, and I tend to go bed around the same time each night (albeit rather late).  And all of these methods have worked – for a while.  But still there are those nights where I toss and turn and turn and toss and end up wandering around the house muttering to myself until 3 or so in the morning. It ain’t pretty folks, ain’t pretty at all.

The one thing that has worked for me in putting me to sleep (though not necessarily keeping me asleep) is marijuana. While that sedating effect was less than beneficial in my 20’s when I was a big ol’ unemployed, unmotivated pothead, it’s just what the doctor ordered for me in my 50’s.

California is one of 13 states in the US where medical marijuana is legal.  All you need is a note from a doctor that marijuana would benefit whatever condition your suffering from.  I believe there is an official and long list of ailments, and  insomnia is one of them.

Of course, you need to find a doctor who is supportive of medical marijuana.  And since I work in management at the same place where I get my health care, I decided against asking my personal doctor for a recommendation.  Instead, after obtaining my medical records which confirmed my diagnosis of insomnia, I looked at the websites of a handful of clinics in Oaksterdam that do medical marijuana evaluations and chose the one that had an available appointment on Saturday.

The clinic was in a well-maintained older building in downtown Oakland.  The office itself, however, seemed a tad temporary, as if they could pack up within an hour or two and not leave a trace.  But the receptionist was pleasant and professional and asked me to fill out a three page health history form.  She attempted to take my blood pressure, but the machine wasn’t working.  Oh well. The waiting room was not exactly comfortable nor inviting with its cheap Costco folding chairs and a vinyl couch that looks like it was found in the Free Stuff section of Craig’s List. The six or so people waiting there were a mixed bag. Some of whom seemed quite respectable, while others, if I saw them on the street, I would probably pull my purse close to me.

After waiting a while, the doctor called me into her exam room. Like the rest of the office, there wasn’t much to distinguish it, but it served its purpose.  She reviewed my medical history form and the records I bought in to support my diagnosis as well as the prescriptions I had been given for my insomnia.  I was pleasantly surprised that it really did seem like a clinical visit and that she was caring and professional.  For some reason, I expected it to take just a couple of minutes with a shady doctor who simply went through the motions before signing my letter.

At the end of my visit I was given my official medical marijuana recommendation letter as well as some information about how to get an official identification card, though most dispensaries will accept just the letter.  And with that, my next stop was a dispensary.

After doing some research on Yelp and the California NORML website, I opted for my first visit to be to the Haborside Health Center in Oakland.  Seriously, visit their site and watch the video.  It’s pretty freakin’ amazing.   Very professional, clean and welcoming.  After getting a tour of the facility and getting my letter verified, I got in line and waited for a “budtender” to call me over.  The sales counter looks like a cross between a bank and a jewelry store.  My budtender was a hip looking young fellow who, by the look of his eyes, had been sampling the medicine.  Yes, that’s right. Don’t call it pot or weed or any other slang. It’s medicine.  Anyway, the selection of medicine was overwhelming.  You could get it in edible form, tincture, aerosol, butter, and of course, good ol’ buds.  There were probably at least 20 varieties, all marked with their concentration of THC.  After telling my budtender what I needed it for, he gave me a recommendation for a certain strain, which I got along with with a bottle tincture that you can drink rather than smoke.

On my way home, my car smelling of some really stinky bud, I felt as if I had been a very naughty girl. At one point there was a CHP officer in the lane next to mine and I got really nervous despite being everything being on the up and up.  This is going to take some getting used to.

Later that evening, I took my medicine and watched the movie Man on Wire.

Well, I watched part of the movie.  Within minutes I was fast asleep on the couch.

A warm and fuzzy story

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For the last week or so I’ve been trying to work on a somewhat serious posting, but after writing that initial surge of words, it has gone nowhere. It just sits in my drafts box and taunts me.  So, for the sake of putting something up on these ol’ internet tubes, I think it’s high time for an update on things cute and fluffy in LazyBuddhist’s world:

The visitor bunny:  the story of the little visitor bunny ended with me dropping the bunny off at the Berkeley Animal Shelter in the loving and caring arms of  Annie, the  lady who takes care of the cats and bunnies.  She had assured me that he would sent off to the rabbit rescue shelter within a week.  This was confirmed by Judy, the kind hearted rabbit rescue lady.

So, after a week, I call the rabbit rescue place to see if the visitor bunny had arrived.  Judy wasn’t in so I was stuck talking with her assistant, Amber.  What can I say? I don’t like Amber.  She doesn’t strike me as a great employee (she messed up Mr. Binkles’ first boarding reservation there) and she always has this tone on the phone like she’d rather be out smoking a cigarette.  In fact, I dislike Amber so much I have actually hung up when I heard her petulant voice answer the phone rather than Judy’s charming southern drawl.  (Yeah, despite being 50 I can still act like I’m 15, so what?)  But, this time I just wanted a quick reassurance that the visitor bunny arrived as expected. “Can you be more specific?” she complained “there are a lot of black and white rabbits here.”  I could hear the roll of her eyes.  “He should have arrived within the last week” I explained trying to sound pleasant despite my urge to slap the sass out of her.  “We haven’t had any new bunnies arrive since about two weeks ago” she answered with less attitude.  “He might have gotten adopted at the shelter. That happens sometimes.”

That weekend I stopped by the Berkeley Animal Shelter to see if I could talk to Annie.  The place was a madhouse.  It looks like they are working with the barest of budgets as they appear to be understaffed.  But, despite the fact that they seem busy as hell, you can tell these are good people who are trying their best under difficult circumstances.  When I asked for Annie, I was pointed towards the back where all the animals are held.  I found her by the two rabbits they had for adoption. With the constant chorus of dogs barking (over half of whom are Pit Bulls), I don’t know how anyone can think.  She vaguely recalled meeting me before. Finally, it dawned upon her and her expression changed suddenly to that of someone who misplaced her keys.  “Oh, right!  Where is that bunny?  I remember taking him in, but I don’t remember adopting him out. Oh my!”   She suggested I talk to Dave, one of the overwhelmed front desk employees to find out what happened to the little guy.

It took a bit of searching, but Dave eventually found the little guy’s record. “That was Clarence. He was adopted a couple of days after you brought him in” he said matter-of-factly. Annie seemed a bit surprised  and even a little disturbed  as I assume she is responsible for screening the potential rabbit adopters. I was disturbed too knowing the little guy went out the door without the potential adopter being vetted.  That was the main reason I wanted some guarantees that he would go to rabbit rescue because I know Judy would  make sure that he went to a good home and would be properly cared for and not put outside in a hutch to be left alone and ignored once some child has grown bored with it. Annie said she would follow up on the little guy and would give me a call.

A couple of days later I got a call from Annie with the good news.  The little guy got adopted by a rabbit savvy woman who also had a spayed female indoor bunny.  She had done a home visit and saw for herself that he was in very good hands. I could hear in her voice she was very happy and touched by the little guy’s good fortune.  I got a little verklempt when I first heard that message. In fact, I get a little verklempt every time I have replayed for anyone who may be interested.   I’m just ridiculously happy for the little guy.

Breaking the pattern

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This is the way it usually goes:

Step 1: stray or abandoned animal shows up on my doorstep or is dumped in my office.
Step 2: I say “No, I do not want/need another pet.”
Step 3: “OK, well, I’ll take care of it until I can figure out another situation for it or find its owner.”
Step 4: said with feigned resignation, “oh, OK, well the other animals have accepted it, so I guess I’m keeping it.”

That has been the pattern for all four of my current pets,  and has been the pattern for pretty much all my pets during my during my adulthood. That is, until last week.

One evening, about three weeks ago, my co-worker Patricia texted me – “I found a baby bunny in the park. You want a bunny?”  I immediately texted her back. “No, but I can advise you how to take care of it until the SPCA is open tomorrow morning.”  “Oh never mind”, she texted back, “we’ll just leave him here tonight and come back tomorrow.”  “That would be a death sentence for the bunny – raccoons, dogs, etc. – easy to keep him overnight and keep him safe” I responded back with some urgency. “Oh, OK.” she finally relented.

The next day she told me that her 10 year old nephew was going to keep the little bunny.  I kind of cringed when she told me that since children have notoriously short attention spans when it comes to small animals.  But, I proceeded to send her a plethora of links on the care and feeding of bunnies, and offered to bring her some hay.  I was happy to act as bunny consultant as long as that meant the bunny wasn’t ending up on my doorstep.

But, let’s go back to Step 1, shall we?  While I may have avoided having the bunny land on my doorstep, I didn’t dodge having the bunny dumped in my office.  As I feared, the nephew showed no interest in actually taking care of the little creature, and for close to a week had kept it exclusively in a 2′ x 2′ Rubbermaid storage box.  Well, that’s not completely true, they let it out once, only to have their two foxhounds terrify and attack the little guy.

Patricia brought the rabbit into the office on Monday to let me “see it”.  What a cute little guy.  It wasn’t a baby like Patricia said, but a full grown English Spotted Rabbit.  He looked in good condition, though I quickly saw that she had taken none of my advice re: his litter or food.  Once she told me that he hadn’t been out of that box for 5 days, I offered to let him hop around my office for a while, though I still insisted I had no intention of taking him home.  Apparently, no one in the office believed me.

I could tell he was so happy to get out of that damn box.  He did a few laps of my office,  and then proceeded to check everything out. Finally, he stretched out near my feet, looking quite normal and well adjusted, especially for a little guy who had been through so much.   And unlike my two bunnies, he didn’t fuss when you picked him up, so we also got in some major snuggle time.  What a sweet, sweet little guy. And soft?  Insanely soft – made Mr. Binkles feel like a damn brillo pad.  But, still, I had no intention of taking the bunny home.

When 5:00 came around, Patricia came in to say good bye to the bunny.  “What?  No! Listen I spoke with a couple of rabbit rescue organizations and they recommended that you take him to the San Francisco Animal Control Shelter – they work with Save-A-Rabbit.  He’ll be fine.”  I said somewhat unconvincingly. “Thanks for taking care of Mr. Bunz!”  Patricia said as she flounced out of my office.  I could have sworn I heard some of my co-workers laugh in the background.

So, now we’re at Step 3.  Of course, I could have taken the little guy to the SF Animal Shelter.  But, I wanted to talk to Judy, the rabbit rescue lady in Berkeley first.  Maybe even try and get him placed with her. But she wasn’t in, so I had no choice but to take the little guy home with me.  Really, I had no choice.

When I started the day, I had no idea I would be taking home a rabbit, so I was ill-prepared.  But, I figured as long as I kept him away from Mr. Binkles and Mrs. Peabody, everything should be fine.  Since the sun room is the only thoroughly bunny proofed room, I put him in there – separate from my two buns, though they were able to see each other. Perhaps that was a mistake.  Binkles was FURIOUS.  Fit to be tied.  Fire coming out of nostrils.  That was one pissed off bunny.  When I let him out for his free time later than evening, one of the first things he did was to come over and take a big bite out of my arm.  Mr. Binkles was not pleased.

Later that evening, I moved the visitor bun into my office where I could close him off and seperate him completely from the other two.  But, that didn’t fool Mr. Binkles.  As I sat in my office with the little guy, I could hear Binkles pacing back and forth at the door, like some kind of jealous enraged lover.  This was not promising.

For the next week I tried to make it work, hoping the Mr. Binkles would eventually calm down. The house ended up being divided into two different turfs: Mr. Binkles and Mrs. Peabody had the front part of the house, while the back part belonged to the visitor. Moving between those two turfs became increasingly difficult as one of the bunnies was always waiting at the door trying to get at the other.  And finally it happened.  Mr. Binkles slipped underneath my feet and charged towards the little visitor bun. An ugly and ferocious fight broke out.  Tufts of fur were flying.  Not wanting to stick my hand or my foot into the middle of that melee, I grabbed a shoe and placed it between them. I was then able to pick up the visitor bun, but not before Binkles once again latched himself onto the little one with his teeth.  I had a hold of one bun, but I ended up lifting them both up.  Grabbing Binkles’ jaw, I was finally able to get him disconnected from the visitor.  Everyone got put away for the night so that mommy could take a Valium and try to figure out what to do.

I was finally able to get a hold of Judy, the rabbit rescue lady.  She assured me that if I took him to the Berkeley Animal Shelter that after a short holding period he would be transferred to her care.  That was the reassurance I needed.  I would be able to track the little guy’s progress, even visit him on the weekends until he gets adopted.

After Binkles and the visitor bun got a taste of each other’s blood, their obsession with each other just grew worse.   Granted I knew some of this aggression was happening because the little guy wasn’t neutered.  And sure, I could have had him neutered, and then after the hormones died down tried to bond him with my other two.  That process could have taken two months or more, and even then there were no guarantees they would get along.  Step 4 looked like it probably was not going to happen.  I hated giving up, but knew what I had to do.

I was surprised how emotional I got when I gave him up to the Berkeley Animal Shelter.  He really had a lovely, sweet personality.  I was relieved when to see that the woman who handled the bunnies was clearly such a gentle soul.  She reaffirmed that after his neutering, he’ll be sent to Judy’s rabbit rescue.

Good luck little guy.  I hope you find a permanent home where you can be happy and loved.

What to do about Richmond?

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I live in Richmond, California. Yes, that Richmond. The Richmond that often finds itself in the news as a gang-infested hell-hole. It’s not all that unusual to read about a spate of four or five shootings over the course of a night or two. Hell, a couple of years ago it got so bad that there was talk of bringing in the National Guard as a back-up.  When many people think of Richmond the words that may spring to mind are “violence”, “poverty”, “gangs”,  and, my favorite, “the armpit of the Bay Area.”   And now, you can add to that list “gang rape.”

That’s not the Richmond I live in.  Like many of us who live in nice neighborhoods in sketchy cities, we identify ourselves by our neighborhood.  So, when people ask where I live, I don’t say Richmond, I say Point Richmond just as others may say they live in The Marina, or the Richmond Hills.  When I say Point Richmond, the words that spring to mind are “quaint”, “historical”,  or “nice”.  Yet, here in quaint, historical, nice, Point Richmond, we are less than a mile away from the Iron Triangle and North Richmond, the poorest and most violent neighborhoods around.  And Richmond High, the sight of that horrendous gang rape is only three miles away.

My first reaction to the news of that gang rape was incredible sadness.  Sad for the victim of such depraved, animalistic violence, and sad for my city that will once again be dragged through mud as a place that breeds young men with no sense of right and wrong, no remorse, and whose basest instincts are given free reign.  And yet I also feel sad for those young men who perpetrated this crime. No one wants to grow up to be a monster. No young child says “when I grow up I want to spend most of my life in and out of prison.” Yet, this is the life they, their parents, their community, and their culture have created for them.  Of course, they deserved to be punished severely. But, how will that change things?  Yes, the community will be safe, for a while, from this particular group of young men.  And yes, patrols will probably be increased in that area and new lighting installed. All of that is good and long needed.

But, what about the deeper issues?  Is there a whole generation of young men in our midst who have no capacity for empathy or compassion?  How do we keep our girls safe, self-assured and strong in a culture where that simply isn’t a priority?   How do you instill a respect for living beings and life itself, when clearly, too many see life as cheap, for others and for themselves?

I want to help, yet I am at a loss as how I can.  I am not a parent, a social worker, a community activist, or a civic leader.  I am simply a citizen of Richmond, California, saddened and horrified at an unspeakably inhumane crime, and what it says about our young men , our city, and the culture that has created them.

Spidertown

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No need for faux spiderwebs for Halloween at Chez LazyBuddhist.  No, at this time of year, my yard becomes Spidertown.

two spiders do battle outside my kitchen window

two spiders do battle outside my kitchen window

I’ve lived in this neighborhood for about 12 years now so I’ve become used to the annual spider invasion.  It usually happens in the latter part of the summer or early fall.  But, it does seem that each year these damn spiders are getting bigger and bigger.  You would think I lived next to a nuclear power plant rather than merely an oil refinery.  One big guy has a web that is probably close to three feet in diameter.  It’s right next to my walkway, which is fine with me.  When he starts to encroach across my walkway?  Well, bub, you’ll find out who is the bigger and more dangerous species. With the flick of this yardstick, I can bring down your days of work.  So, don’t even think about expanding across my walkways, ‘k?

Sure, now I sound all bold and brave when it comes to my eight-legged friends.  And normally, I have a live and let live philosophy when it comes to spiders.  But, if I’m surprised by one by walking into its web, or having it lower its creepy self in front of my eyes while driving 65 mph, I become a damn shrieking fool.  (And yes, I did have a stow-away in my car reveal itself to me while I was driving over a bridge at 65 mph.  I completely and utterly spazzed out for the entire length of the bridge until I was safely across and found a place to park, lept out of my car and fully shook out my clothing, hair and car to make sure he wasn’t on me.  I didn’t find him that morning, but I scared him enough to go take cover, only revealing himself a couple of days later when he started spinning a web in the back window of my car.)

Sleeping driveway spider

Sleeping driveway spider

I’m not the only one who spazzes out when encountering a spiderweb.  One  fall day a couple of years back, a young. outdoorsy looking man was canvassing my neighborhood for the Sierra Club.  I was at the back of the house, so I called out to him to meet me at the backdoor. He walked right into a huge spiderweb and started freaking the fuck out.  I tried my best not to laugh, but there was something so deliciously ironic about seeing this big rugged nature boy completely lose his shit when walking into a spider web.  I know, bad Buddhist, bad bad Buddhist.

Despite my fear of spiders, I’m not a spider killer.  If there is a spider in the house, we strike a deal – you stay over there, and I stay here. And since most of the time they are places I care not to be, we’re cool.  I let them have the ceiling, the upper part of the walls, or the basement.  Enjoy yourself Mr. Spider. Let us co-exist peacefully.   And if he fails to understand our agreement about boundaries, well, that is what the boyfriend is for.  He is not a spider killer either, but he is adept at capturing them and taking them outside.  Good boyfriend, good good boyfriend.

walkway spider w/ 3 ft wide web

walkway spider w/ 3 ft wide web

This year one of the spiders have located himself right outside my kitchen widow.  Every morning is like my own personal episode of Nature.  One morning, there was the turf battle (see pic above) where these two pretty equally matched spiders kept attacking each other.  It was fascinating, especially how this one spider would curl up in a ball and play dead.  When the other spider came over to poke at him to see if he was still alive, the curled up spider would spring open and start wildly attacking the other one.  Unfortunately, that spider that got attacked wasn’t the smartest spider, as he kept falling for the other one’s play dead ploy.  I could have watched this for hours, but I had to go to work.  When I came home, there was only one spider left – the victor.  Now I watch him work on his web in the morning with all the grace of a harpist plucking at the strings.

At a safe distance I can appreciate the effort and workmanship that go into making these massive webs.  And that the way  I like it – at a distance.