Other Writings

by Red Dog Pieface, Peter Bailey


This publication of Other Writings is by Chris Church.


Among Peter’s very last words…

“I love everybody.”

 

 

 

I Love Everybody

I love everybody. I love everybody so much that I can’t love anybody. If I pick out someone in particular, it is just so I can love the everybody in her. Any broad is every broad. Take my kid—I don’t put decent clothes on him, they say, I let him run around Grant Avenue naked. He was born that way. Clothes aren’t real. There’s a million kids in China without decent clothes, going barefoot in winter. How can I put clothes on Matthew then? Hah? Answer me that. If we would seat China in the UN and allow free trade, maybe I could take care of my boy again. But then if I did, what about the guy down the street who beats his kid every night, the guy that’s always down the street? No, I cannot. This is a free country, and a man is free to beat up every kid in the world in his own woodshed if he wants to. See, they’ve got you caught. Look at all the mamas and papas in the world. But everybody takes care of nobody—and is busy like hell about it.

You can’t stay here. They’ve got it all down to a Wall Street science, and the only thing to do is to take off from some airport and just come down somewhere else. This is here, so you gotta make it universal. Gotta float. They can’t lick me. I got plenty to give. Just stay out of this fleece street here where everybody lives. Why should I leave Grant Avenue? Everybody lives here. This is fleece street, the flea market where even the fleas fleece the fleas! Ha ha ha ha! You can’t escape the fleeces. It’s just too mucking human, up to here. Who accepts it? Only the dung-beetles. Like Aristophanes. He was the greatest dung-beetle of them all, right on top of the heap. He knew the world was a hole in the ground, and he told ’em. Nobody accepted it. But I accept it. I walk in it, up to my eyes every day. I breathe it, talk it, eat it, smoke it. That’s just what this world is, man. But nobody knows it, everybody pretends it isn’t here. I’m the only one who sees what this world is made of. That’s why I’m not here, man. What sane man would want to live here? That’s why the world only has crazy people in it.

They’ve tried to get me. Oh, I’ve been down to Agnew four times, but they always have to let me go because there is nothing wrong with me. I’m the sanest man in the world and even their kookiest psychiatrist can’t prove different. I slip through every rigging test because I’m not there. How can they catch you if you’re not even there? But you gotta do it right. You gotta really make it a floating world, man. You’ll find wine is better than food. A buck’s worth of wine will keep you going longer than a buck’s worth of food, and then when you’re wined up, it’s easier to scrounge. Have you had dinner? Stuffed the fleeces down your old fleece-hole yet for this twenty-four hours? Why don’t you ask me and my buddies along? Make it a universal meal. Don’t just feed yourself. Feed everybody.

 

 

 

1066

The night thrilled to itself. The restless horses’ nostrils grew round and fuzzy with it. The untouchingness of the two armies drawn up on the field of the night thrilled so much the standing oaks had never grown so still. Lord Percy could scarcely draw on his limpid leather gloves, the hairs on the back of his hands thrilled so erect. A dog gave birth and the moon waned. Shadows beneath bushes crept closer to their sole masters and the whole earth was bent in suspension as in the other side of the rainbow. Le Duc de Guise said “Faugh!” to his silent thrilling self and rabbits humped closer in their burrows dreaming the moon was a fox. The clouds, that other world, trilled and trailed bits of light at their edges in a great surround of the field, holding all the action and battle to come in a cup of mist. The birds in their multitudes and careful silence allowed their mute holy ghosts to soar between the two camps. A sergeant broke wind: the dawn came and the fight began.

 

 

 

The Lapidary Fairy Limericks

1

There once was a lapidary fairy
whose tool was both fluted and flarey.
He facetted baguettes
in the sphincters of faguettes
from Stockton to Tucumcari.


2

A lapidary fairy (don't quote us)
has oft been observed to coat us
with petroleum jelly,
then ram to the belly
to polish the jewel in the lotus.


3

A lapidary fairy, no fool,
using movements excessively cruel,
will grind all the facets
of up-ended assets
to polish the lotus’s jewel.


4

A lapidary fairy from ’Stamboul
with an extr’ord’n’ry ruby-tipped tool
likes to fill up my ass
with finely-ground glass
to polish the lotus’s jewel.


5

A lapidary fairy named Basil I
met, seduced by the facile-eyed
tip of his tool…
I offered my jewel—
he lined it with lapis-lazuli.


6

A lapidary fairy, quite pissed
at failing to slam my amethyst
jewel full of come,
cried, “Tool, don’t succumb!
This is just the right mill for your grist!”


7

There was once a lapidary fairy;
of Gary I should have been wary—
for his tool of carnelian
first got me to kneelin’—
Now I’d do hara-kiri for Gary.


8

The fists of a lapidary fairy
were rough as a whetstone with hair. He
greased up the larder
of his partner and harder
would shove till the poor lad cried, “Mary!”


9

His tool is no jeweler’s blunder—
more ready and rubicunder
than what I’ve been getting.
He fashions the setting:
two pear-shaped pearls spread asunder.


10

In a lavender cinema’s recesses,
the lapidary fairy sighs yesses
as his ruby protuberance
with unwonted exuberance,
from setting to setting progresses


11

A lapidary fairy in a closet
cried out in the dark, “What was it
that grew so in size
right there ’tween my thighs
and left such a large deposit?”


12

Oh shame on the lapidary fairy,
with habits perverse and contrary!
with his diamond drill bit,
he formed a snug fit
in Mechelangelo’s David’s derriere.


13

The lust of a lapidary fairy
for lumberjacks sweaty and hairy,
caused him to push
through circular bush—
to the ring in Pierre’s reliquary.


14

There was once a lapidary fairy
who far from the norm did vary.
Instead of women,
he preferred a persimmon
in the crotch of a stud named Gerry.


15

A lapidary fairy’s quotidian
of sex is eleven obsidian-
tipped inches to slake
his passion and take
his head into space non-Euclidian.


16

In a lapidary fairy-
tale, the witches share e-
qual billing with princes
who loll sucking quinces
while The Queen tastes a drop of curare.

 

 

 

WAYS OF DEALING WITH THE HOUR OF EMPTINESS
(—by a recovering alcoholic)

  1. Go to a movie. Think about going to a movie—
    which one and why.

  2. Sit zazen 20 minutes in room.

  3. Do improvised tai-chi on roof (or in room),
    relating movements to arthritic problems.

  4. Loan paper and pens to the emptiness. Let
    whatever wants to appear on the blank space
    have its way.

  5. Stay in the dew before it drops. Consider the
    forest of human tears. Consider rain forests.
    In 20 minutes, find the drop that is you.

  6. Make up a short story. Call a friend (not
    a support person regularly used) and tell
    them the story, and then hang up.

  7. See a porn film, gleaning its aesthetic irony.
    Masturbate for pleasure. Question the mark.

  8. Look three people in the eye (in as rapid
    succession as possible) without saying
    anything other than a grunt of recognition.

    Zen Center halls & Muni bus are excellent for this.

  9. Go to an AA meeting.

  10. Whine and wheedle to yourself in lusciously
    whimpering enjoyment of your totally
    unenviable position. Stick with it. Writhe!

  11. Return to “go” and rejoin the human race.

    — 11a.  Take up “skateboarding for seniors.”

  12. Make a new list.

                                                 Peter Bailey
                                                 8-12-85

 

 

 

Figures Bowing on the Stairs

Having recently returned from a month-long alcoholic recovery program, I look at my life at 300 Page Street with different eyes and ears and feelings. Had I expected Buddhism to be some kind of great Disposall in the kitchen of my soul? I find I have built into my own odd practice some of those very compulsions and addictions I’m trying to overcome. I’ve asked Buddhism to act as the family I was never allowed, and my practice to bolster an essentially low self-esteem through outward shows of spiritual superiority. We’re all probably addicted to something; I might even be addictive toward Buddhism, and I wonder if others may find themselves in the same predicament.

I still use shyness and physical difficulties to avoid sangha commitments and say, “Oh, I can’t do that. Count me out.” And I will think to myself, “Oh, M. wouldn’t understand how I feel about too much ritual, so I won’t bother trying to tell him or ask how he feels about it.” Therefore for me the chief addictive carry-over from alcoholism into my own practice is isolation.

Relating Buddhist principles to an alcoholic recovery program? From the outset it was both easy and difficult, trying to mix Christian theism and dualistic thinking with Buddhist oneness and nothingness. Mottoes like: Living in the Now, Easy Does It, One Day at a Time, are OK: surrender of the ego, implying tough love are OK. But what of the ‘Higher Power’ to be discovered and submitted to, specifically defined as greater than oneself, with gobs of “god” strewn about the moral landscape? The very language of Alcoholics Anonymous tends to tie a Buddhist in knots.

Meanwhile, back at the beginning... In mid-February in a Mountain Study Center class on the Four Unlimited Abidings, we were asked to tell our names. When my turn came, I said spontaneously, “My name is Peter and I’m an alcoholic.” The instructor practically fell off his chair, but I had said the magic words, had finally admitted to myself and others this unremarkable but difficult truth, had begun to surrender to the fact of how unmanageable my life with alcohol had become. I didn’t know what I might be getting into, only that it was necessary to speak up. Just saying the words “I am powerless” reverberated with my experiences of Buddhist humility.

Within a few days and the help of a Zen Center facilitator, I was off to a small hospital within the City for 28 days of an alcoholic recovery program. The expense was borne mostly by Zen Center’s enlightened employee insurance plan. I was excited and scared, and surprised to find how affected I was by the social stigma associated with the word ‘alcoholic;’ I felt ashamed. Yet I both wanted to tell everyone (so as to rid myself of the hidden guilt I had been carrying inside me), and I wanted to hide the fact until I was ‘all well’ again—my injured pride was fighting for its life.

The surroundings were more like a motel than a hospital, with semi-private rooms and a large dining/socializing space, and all the conveniences—barrels of caffeine-free coffee, thunderheads of nicotine-loaded smoke, and a huge refrigerator filled to overflowing with sweets and goodies. The time was highly structured, with group therapy sessions of various types two or three times and an AA meeting once or twice daily. There was meditation time (a half hour each morning) as well as exercise time, lectures, study hour and free time. But we were basically occupied from seven in the morning until ten or later at night, and our most meaningful activity was preparing for and enduring group therapy. We left the premises at first only to attend AA meetings and to take supervised walks. Phone calls were restricted and we saw visitors only on weekends.

The thrust of all this structure was to force our attention and feelings inward toward the group and away from the world outside, that world we had been coping so poorly with via drinking (or drugs or combinations of the two). Within a few days, I had dealt with my shyness in groups by presenting it as a difficulty for me, and had sufficiently de-toxed to respond to the life around me. What had been anonymous faces slowly turned into individuals who expressed “Don’t be afraid—we’ve been where you are and are all in this thing together.”

Soon I was able to witness breakthroughs when people who’d been in the program for several weeks really accepted the excruciating pain of their illness. They actually looked different—the shape of their faces and features, their carriage had changed. They usually broke down and cried, or silent tears ran down their cheeks (and ours, too). These moments of exposure were very difficult, but we all felt better afterward and they drew the group closer together.

My turn came soon enough. The group pulled out of me how, in my alcoholic dysfunctional family, I had been forced to bury my feelings so deep I could no longer identify what they were. Soon I was able to blubber in public, and tears came out of my eyes stemming from the pain and loss of a missed childhood. During another session, I expressed my deep anger concerning D., which was as much about my own victimizing of myself as resentment against his actions and his uses of me, and I felt cleansed and grateful to have dealt with that karma.

The level of emotional truth in the group often rose so high that we could tell instantly as a group when someone was lying or withholding vital information (the two, I found, are almost identical). Likewise, the group was able to recognize a breakthrough, a surrender into the truth. We could do this as a group spontaneously and in unison, in a deeply experienced circle of feeling. Once again this struck a correspondence with sangha experience. In one therapy breakthrough, C. and M. reached the same point of acceptance together and the rest of us witnessed an offering of tears passing back and forth between them, until it became a gift they were presenting to each other.

Toward the end of my tenure I began to feel the power and necessity of attending AA meetings. By hearing over and over again people sharing their difficulties and triumphs, the depths to which they had sunk and heights to which they had climbed, I began to hear my own story faintly, at first as unique, then as one familiar to many, and finally as just one variant on the same story everyone was sharing.

In the hospital recovery program at first we were required to follow a very structured format, and now at ZC I am forced to find my own. I need meetings, meditation, do-good lists, where-I-went-wrong lists, and I feel my way into a self-created controlled environment of time, space, mental focusing and human contact based on AA principles. This structure is necessary for me in my condition—that of a new-born vulnerable child (for one of the things revealed was that I never had a childhood, but went from infancy directly to a kind of adult responsibility due to my dysfunctional family). Both counselors and AA ‘pros’ say it takes at least a year before I’ll be able to grow out of this unformedness into self-sufficiency. The tendency to slip back into old alcoholic patterns will never be overcome; I was born with it and it is well-established in my system.

Both peers and counselors in the program saw ZC as my chief co-dependent; that is, the ally enabling me to continue drinking—covering for my illness by not accusing me too sharply of shortcomings, by turning the other cheek when I was noticeably, shall we say, reeking? And with the kindest intentions in the world enabling me to avoid the confrontation that alone could turn me around.

ZC’s tacit ways of relating to someone’s troubles have been of two kinds: first, to whelm with hot tea, homeopathic emoluments, warm blankets, volunteering to take over house chores, etc.; the second, to maintain a broad psychological distance in which the overstressed person can work out dilemmas an neuroses undisturbed, with help proffered only when asked for.

I feel the need for more active therapy. And I wonder if other students may not want this, too, whatever their compulsive behavior may be focused on—that we need more direct one-on-one confrontations and open sharing of practical and practice difficulties in order to help us avoid isolating one from another, for isolationism is a deadly enemy of humility and gratitude. After all, these Eighties are the Addictive Decade, and we are helping every sentient being when we help one another.

Formerly, figures bowing to me on the stairs represented this co-dependency. The kindly interest in my trouble and the respect for personal space were an over-protective trap. Now that the facts are out in the open, the same behavior begins to act as part of my positive support system. The figures bowing to me on the stairs are now making me stronger.

 

 

 

Why is the World Full of Light and Shadow?

Why is the world full of light and shadow? I don’t know and I don’t care; it’s enough to feel my two bodies every day and the night covering me over each time it comes around, to walk me down a street, through a park up a hill, down to the sea— As the sun shines the colors dance, all sings without needing and whole spirits rise in release, sealed; if the brightness above our heads mutes by clouds, all colors about us whisper a pleased “Sshhh!—now you may enjoy the true tongues of our being—the buzzy muzz of oranges and ochres, the plop of a red, the bumptious threshold at yellow’s stoop, a cycle of men’s pinks, the colorlessness of your own muscles when you see only them, devilled umbers rumbling marvelously, feet-color as pearl, the low hum of velvety lavender, folds of soft grays, sharp green’s bitter edges and wide consuming fields, blues so indeterminate neither head nor heart knows where either is—and the purples and the browns!—don’t miss the small snails of iridescence which creep out from under the skirts (those great brown and purple ones) to wave their question: and ‘what am I and my color?’” …The clouds   now   are another situation—hazy glazes, grumpy declarations gathering snow like a ball, chinchilla sussurations thinned and shredding so beyond what our own rods and cones can handle we feel thinner ourselves, lifted up or on or in into a blue having nothing to do with watered milk—ah! watered silk!

We find both twilight and dawn are languages with outlaws, and that color does not fill up the space we do.

But now night flips her whole bolt open in a great shivering mess of tipped fabric, shot with light through which only she and the body encompassed know how to present as darkness, the kind to surround what the day can present, enveloping with seal, creased edge, spreading shimmer, jewelled pearl withheld but quivering like the eye of Garance in a little black net catching all light falling into the trap she has nothing to do with, her duty being to shred the twilight’s responsibilities and to welcome the dawn to a world full of light and shadow.

                     8/21/80

 

 

 

Around the Riverbend Story

Riprap Man wants to go from his village to another village. “I’m tired of these bugs.” It is far; every other village beckons and tells. He wants to seek her on the top of the mountains. He wants to seek her in the depth of the valleys. Riprap Man likes her—if he brings enough wealth to exchange, she will be interested; there is so much to exchange. He goes to the mountain top, falls over a cliff and is picked up by Question Mark. He goes to the valley bottom and drowns in the river and is picked up by Question Mark. Coyote appears in a dream as Water Ouzel. Coyote speaks to Riprap Man: “You’re a funny Water Ouzel, trying to go just in one direction constantly. Don't you know an ouzel flips a way for one short flight, then stops, bobs up and down to check the four directions?” Riprap Man: “Yes, yes I know that he does that that he does—and then what does that become?” Coyote says: “Well, if you check by bobbing the four directions, you don’t have to worry about the fifth one!” Riprap Man dreams a StraightArrow Dream: —the arrow is loosed at dawn: heads straight for a mountain; but, just before it’s about to pierce the rock, a waterfall gushes forth to deflect the arrow’s path down into a bed of the stream. The arrow catches itself in a sapling tangle, bent almost to breaking point by the violent rush of the river current. Suddenly a lit vine shines into the entanglement and—ah, Ha! the arrow is hurtling over the mountain (We see it only as Rainbow, that thing only one can see) until it shoots, it jars the bottled banks bing and bam against the shores until with curt reality it shoots into the mouth of Kingfisher who thinks it is a shining fish; so he wings back up his usual tree post home. “What’s this,” he chokes, “some kind of joke?” and spews the arrow straight out along its original path. Coyote, just then, runs up to throw a succulent troutling into Kingfisher’s gaping maw. “Jaw on that,” he snickers as he continues to pursue the running arrow. “Hey, wait, you wingy-ding,” he hollers after it. Now turns around four times or so and the Shaggy One stops to sniff around a lot. “Gol’ Dingy, this here arrow knows its own flight by keeping its height!” Just then and just before the just of the last then, Riprap Man spins his wheels a bit and says real loud to Coyote, “Meanwhile back in the sweathouse…” and Coyote acquiesces meekly with “including those dotdotdots, boss?” Riprap Man says, “The arrow continues level. O borrow the eyes of the eagle, Coyote, for I know you can; find the line of the arrow. True, it crashes into mountains, falls into rivers; danger is at every point continuing its unbreaking curve. O, Coyote, you are faithful and clever; build me a trail to where I want to go. The way is blazed by tocks of arrow-thwocks; that’s how it’s known; that’s what it is. Chop that trail: I’ll help it. And in the dark when you stumble, twist a little light so it shines on thee.” Coyote says, “Thanks for nothing,” and he turned away and went back up over the mountains and down through the river bottoms and right smack on the way he met Kingfisher and WaterFall (who was all this time just who-who you thought she was) and they both stopped to pass the time of day. “This is no time of day to pass,” whined Coyote. “I’m exasperated, I’m disappointed. Why can’t we see the whole arrow’s length all the time, as well as this ‘time o’ day’?” WaterFall gushes, “We can, we can,” and Kingfisher gulps in accordance. WaterFall gushes, “We can, we can,” and Kingfisher gulps in accordance. And Riprap Man gets to wherever it is he wants to get to.

 

 

 

Copy of manuscript labeled “3-shirted Chris”

Thanks for the cigarette. I’m not a bum, you see, just temporarily out of funds; which is a temporary state I’m almost always in. But since any state is a very transitory thing, this present condition doesn’t bother me a bit. In fact, I quite like it, especially with a cigarette to cloud up the air a little. The secret, my dear, is to be self-sufficient and not attached to anything. I rather like the Japanese phrase for their geisha life. They call it The Floating World. It bears out my contention that we’re all floating. Quite a charming thought, really, if you look at it in a certain light. We’re on a lovely boat floating among the stars, drifting with the expanding universe, drifting out toward—well, further out.

Apt, very apt for all of life, I think. Who knows where we’re going or what we are tied to? We can’t begin to trace down our roots. I prefer to think we don’t really have any, that what we consider solid is just a lot of loose ends hanging down, a mad tangle, my dear, that we foolishly try to make sense of. Ah, no, humanity is like the seaweed in the Sargasso Sea, drifting aimlessly if you like, and yet as law unto itself if you’re in it. Why not call the clump of weed itself the root? And enjoy the floating sensation?

Those geisha girls knew what they were about, after all. And they were self-sufficient in their way. They only carried a fan, but that fan could be everything—screen, tray, umbrella, weapon, anything at all. I’m self-sufficient, too; every worldly possession is on my back. Rather like a cocoon at times, what with four shirts and my jacket and raincoat, but that’s a protection on occasion. You know, people just don’t walk up and start inane conversations with someone who’s wearing four shirts. Then I have sketching and writing materials with me, so I’m always ready should my tired muse awaken. And this thermometer in case I should fall ill. It is quite accurate, you know; I just picked it up one day. Then I have this supply of paper napkins from restaurants, very handy for all occasions. Handkerchiefs, towels, pudding, all sorts of uses. Here, let me wipe the beer spillings off your table for you. This is such an untidy life we pass through, my dear.

And then I carry my library, of course. Very small, but there are some things one needs to keep by one. A few scientific journals with important articles on the cosmos, Dante for politics, Goya etchings for art, Shakespeare for romance, and the Bible so I’ll know what people are talking about.

 

 

 


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Copyright © 2000 by Peter Bailey