01 May 2007

The Big D in SF: Part 1

The Dalai Lama, right, listens to Imam Mehdi Khorasani of the Islamic Society
of California during a discussion of ways to promote understanding and lessen
religious intolerance among Muslims and people of other religious faiths. During
his public talk in San Francisco last Sunday, His Holiness said that since 9/11 he
has become a particularly staunch defender of Muslims. (Genaro Molina/ LAT)


Sorry I haven't written in a while, but I was down in San Francisco over the weekend getting a triple-dose of the Dalai Lama. Teresa and I flew down for two days of teachings and a public talk. The whole experience was quite blowing of the mind, so forgive you me if speech mine disjointed becomes. Random observations will I make, rather than unskillfully trying linear thinking to execute. Bicycle underpants; yet frequently razorblade? To be sure. Dilute dilute OK!

Here are the points, in no particular order:

San Francisco is desperately trying to become New York, if only inasmuch as everyone is pissed off to beat the band and is as surly as a legion of wet cats. Why? Search me. (This is not my imagination, by the way. I've had it confirmed by a few returning SF ex-pats.) Never in all the years that I have visited that city have I seen unexpurgated rage on the streets and roadways. One guy actually leapt from his car amdist a sea of tourists at the corner of Union Square to accost another driver. Nor have I ever been exposed to such unpracticed rudeness by metro transit operators. I say "unpracticed" because they're bad at it. They don't seem to have been at it for very long, like their Cheerios only got peed in just this morning. New Yorkers, on the other hand, have had nothing but pee 'n' Cheerios for breakfast since they cut teeth. I can credit New Yorkers for their attitude as they seem to come by it honestly if not genetically. San Franciscans, on the other hand - well, what the fuck, you guys? The last hundred times I visited you were all goodness and light. What happened?

Speaking of surly nutbags - we're at His Holiness' public talk on - what was it - Sunday. First of all, I have to tell you that it's a whole different environment than the teachings. The public talks are always for the scenesters, the same people who would be there if it were Howard Zinn or if it were, hell I don't know, Dave Matthews/Trey Anastasio Duet Nite. They're the curiosity-seekers and a few of the stinky rich Marin County former hippies who dropped $25 large to sponsor the event. So - first nutty experience - I'm walking down the concourse to enter the auditorium, and the guy walking in front of me stops, so naturally I run into his back. Lo and behold it's fuckin' James Hetfield of fuckin' METALLICA. (Per the Chicago Manual of Style, 3rd Edition, METALLICA must always appear in all caps. Otherwise it's just not metal enough. -Ed.) So. Yeah. That was weird. I had half a mind to tell him not to listen too closely to His Holiness. Otherwise it was going to drain the angst out of all his music, and then where would he be? Just another douchebag greasemonkey working in a body shop.

So second nutty experience: The Dalai Lama is taking the stage, getting ready to do his talk, when all of a sudden some guy in the front row starts shouting, "Dalai Lama! Dalai Lama! Can I give you something?" And of course His Holiness cheerfully toddles over to the corner of the stage to accept whatever "gift" this wingnut has to give him. Needless to say, the boys from the Secret Service found absolutely zero humor in this bullshit, and started closing in on the nutbag. I, on the other hand, was in my seat twelve rows back, feeling like I'm watching a movie - you know, like the part right before the killer jumps out of the closet or the starry-eyed nutbag in the first row gives the Dalai Lama a live hand grenade. So now here's the Dalai Lama, extending his hand to take whatever it is that this guy has, and the Secret Service dudes are lined up alongside him, and all of a sudden, Mr. Wingnut hucks - and I mean like pitching a baseball, not a lob - an apple at the Dalai Lama. And then the Secret Service guy closest to the Dalai Lama does this ossum kung fu move and whacks the apple out of the way. I got the impression I was seeing hundreds of hours of Secret Service training in action. I don't think it would've mattered if it were an apple or a grenade or a flaming hedgehog that the guy threw. That Secret Service agent would've done the same thing. And now because of his quick-thinking and bravado in protecting the life of the Dalai Lama, he will receive total consciousness. Nice perk.

So yeah, they bottled Mr. Apple-Hucking Dipshit up and scuttled him out of the auditorium and all was well in the world again. The rest of the talk went off without a hitch.

While I'm on the subject of nutbags (I am, aren't I?), this is the third time I've been to a talk by the Dalai Lama (but only the first time I've been to a teaching), and I've noticed each time that all the white people at the event look like they've been beaten with pillows. Look, you don't have to tell me how my prejudice regarding white people lurks only scant millimeters beneath my skin. (...or on top of your skin; have you seen a mirror lately? Or your parents? What the hell is wrong with you, anyway? -Ed.) But all the white folks have their hair on sideways and have that faraway look in their eyes like they've been beat to shit with a big-ass feather pillow, and if they take ten more steps they're going to fall right the hell down. I know how contact between disparate cultures usually freaks people out, so maybe it's that. We come from a largely war-like culture. So do the Tibetans, come to think of it. They were #1 in the pillaging business way back when. But then they met the Dharma and it freaked them out so hard that they became pacifists. Maybe this is what I see happening to the white folk at these gatherings.

Although I did see/hear a guy in a t-shirt that had the Jewel In The Lotus mantra printed on it give a resounding FUCK YOU! to a cab driver at the event. Change comes slowly I guess, even in the presence of His Holiness.

More next time,