It was with a little reluctance and sadness that I left Hopi and Dick's place this morning. It had been like being home again, or vacationing with my parents. The atmosphere was very quiet and relaxed, with NPR's Morning Cup playing softly in the kitchen or Terry Gross's Fresh Air interviews wafting upstairs while I wrote.
But I did get under way at about 11:30, and went down the little country lane to Deer Park Monastery. The parking lot was full today, and it turned out that classes were going on in the main temple. A man in attendance there told me I'd arrived at just the right time, as the dozens of students were busily talking and eating lunch in the cafeteria.
I walked up the traditional steps to the temple and pulled open one of the massive wooden doors. I'd been expecting something like what I've seen in the many YouTube videos I've watched of monks meditating in dark, incense-clouded chambers, but beyond the heavy door, I found a modern, brightly lit hallway with a display about Tibetan Buddhism and some literature about the lama (teacher, or guru) and offerings of the school. But just around the corner, here's what I found, except it was completely empty:
I didn't stay too long, as my stomach isn't feeling well these days (road food, different water, etc.) and I'm feeling a push to get home, although I don't even know where that will be. Today is Day 20 of my trip! Geez. The glamor of it has worn off a little, and I seem to be entering a new phase of just putting my head down and getting it done. I'm tired. But this part of the adventure is as least as instructive, if not more so, than my honeymoon period of traveling on Days 1-14.
I meditated in the quiet of the beautiful temple for 15 minutes or so and left feeling a little better. My intended destination for the day was Chicago, so I set my phone and we were off. I stopped an hour or so later at a 7-11 to fill up the Mini, and thought I'd pick up a thing to hold my phone where I could effing see it. The stupid thing I bought back in California dropped my phone onto my right foot every time Mini hit a bump, and I was ready to tear it off the dash, automotive adhesive be damned. So I found another thing, a 7-11-brand plastic device that was supposed to attach to the car's air vents. I asked the man at the counter, who patently hated his job, whether I could return it if it didn't work. He stared at me blankly with no response. I asked him again, a little louder this time. He suddenly threw his hands in the air, waving them at me in a shooing fashion, saying, "Yes, OK! Yes! You can return it." Man.
So I took the ten-dollar plastic device out to the Mini, and the stupid thing wouldn't attach itself to anything except one of the corner vents, which left no room to actually fit the phone into it because of the door frame. "Oh, shit," I said to myself. "This is gonna be great." I walked back into the store and the man saw me coming. He hunkered down further in his little chair in the corner and hunched his shoulders up around his ears, with a big frown on his face. "It didn't work," I announced helpfully.
After a long moment he stood up as if by an act of supreme will, heaving a tremendous sigh of utter disgust. He glared down at me. From then on, he would only communicate with me using hand gestures, which consisted of sweeping, imperious movements toward the card reader. I was trying not to burst out laughing at this point. At last, we finished the return process. He handed me my receipt and stood for a moment, glowering, before throwing himself in a heap back onto his stool. "OK, well, thanks," I offered brightly. There was no response from the corner.
A few hours later, I arrived in Chicago thanks to the spying, rat-face Google lady. It wasn't easy, though. I had flashbacks of driving down to LA to see Cisco at his school, where all you could see ahead were miles and miles and miles of crawling cars shimmering in the heat. Google maps, I solemnly believe, craftily keeps big-city people from killing each other by saying "8+ minute delay" on the map, but for like 20 times in a row. We know your tricks, Google! We're watching you, too!
Anyway, I finally got to the Hyde Park apartment of my dear friend Beth Browning, who I met two decades ago while working as editors at ABC-Clio, a reference publisher in Santa Barbara, California. We became fast friends, and walking into her place today was like no time had passed at all. Her husband Mikael is a foodie and connoisseur of eclectic music, and tonight introduced me to several interesting groups that were all new to me. Like this bass saxophone player Colin Stetson, whose album Never Were the Way She Was has blown my mind. I sent it on to Cisco, who's working on reinventing jazz.
Well, it's really late now, because I so enjoyed talking with Beth and Mikael and didn't start this post in earnest until 1AM. Now I'm hungry again, so it's time to raid their fridge. The rain just started here, and is pouring down on the lovely urban garden Mikael has created out back. Thunderstorms are forecast for Cleveland, where I'm headed tomorrow, so I guess no camping again.