dragonfly flits, body iridescent blue
rests in bright sun on stem of green hue
flags blow gaily in warm summer breeze
clouds form and dissipate above ironbark trees
— Lee Emmett, from his poem “Atisha Buddhist Center“
Photo from Yogananda’s Self Realization Fellowship center here in LA.
Palm trees and a few stars above L.A. from my sister’s apartment in Culver City.
Three days in LA. So far, so good.
After an uneventful flight in from Missoula, my sister, Eve, picked me up at LAX and took me immediately to her favorite Mexican restaurant, Paco’s Tacos. After filling up on beans, rice, and fresh tortillas (probably not vegetarian, but we’ll let that slide for now), we made our way to a little bar near her apartment called “The Cozy.” The place and its patrons could have been taken right out of Missoula. It’s a mix of Charlie B’s and Als and Vics with the addition of a beautiful shuffleboard table, which kept us occupied until the wee hours.
Sunday, Eve and I hiked up Topanga Canyon north of Santa Monica. There we found some great views of the smog – I mean city – to the south. Then it was off to the very beautiful and serene Self Realization Fellowship center; essentially a man-made oasis in the midst of L.A.’s man-made chaos. There one finds extraordinary gardens filled with wildlife and flowers along with shrines devoted to each of the major religions. We ended the night at a very cool cafe, “The Wood,” near her apartment where I continued work on my presentation for Monday at UWest.
Monday started early for me (6am, which for me is early). I had to catch a bus at 7:30 which would eventually – 10am according to the plan – drop me near UWest to meet up with Danny, check out the campus, and still have some time to finish preparing for my talk.
As I told Danny, I have a love-hate relationship with giving talks and writing papers. I love it because it’s just amazing to be able to share the work I love. But I hate it because I’m both a perfectionist and a procrastinator, so I want all of my work to be just right, but I don’t want to start working on it until tomorrow.
Anyhow, buses being buses and me being me, I got a tiny bit lost on the one connection I needed to make along the way. Using my horrible Spanish skills and relying on the not-too-shabby English of a woman at the bus stop I was waiting at, I discovered that my stop was on “el otro lado de la freeway.” Oh. So I made my way to the freeway (the Santa Ana) and got further instructions – more “otro lado” kind of stuff. I eventually made it almost to my stop when I made the mistake of calling Danny and getting directions from him, “get on the 62 to the 287 and then the (I don’t remember after that)…”
I got on the 62 and asked the driver where to get off for the 287 and with wide eyes she shook her head and said, “I don’t know about that…” Then she had me call 1800-commute. The operator there immediately redirected me off the 62, back onto another 62 (going the opposite direction) and onto the Montebello 20, which I was supposed to be on in the first place. That one brought me close enough to UWest that the very kind Danny and his wonderful coworker Corrine could come pick me up. All in all it was a 3 and a half hour adventure of buses, wandering around East LA, and speaking Spanglish with kind old ladies.
After a tour of the UWest campus and lunch, I hunkered down in the library to finish up my talk. The talk itself went very well. The small audience was mostly monastics of varying traditions, so the Q and A brought many great insights. And thanks to Bill at UWest, the talk was recorded and should pop up on their website and here in the coming weeks.
Post-talk and discussion Danny and I had a bit to eat and then I was back on the bus heading West into LA’s purple hued sunset. Two hours later, at last, I was back in Culver City with Eve.
All in all, it’s been great. I’ve been a witness to far more generosity than I ever would have expected in a big city like LA. It has been wonderful to catch up with my big sister, who I typically see only about twice a year these days. And Danny and everyone else at UWest have my sincere gratitude. Oh! And the photos! These and many more are due to the wonderful generosity of the ever-lovely Julie who entrusted me with her amazing camera.