Starting O, Elfishly

Le Comedie Keebler

Starting O

One can always start over.

This life is neither overly funny nor overly miserable but perfectly both, a maha-miscegenation of opposite states.

Therefore, it is neither the tragedy mask nor its cheery counterpart that I wear to write my minor blogistics, but a face in imitation of the Buddha’s—that great unifier of antitheses.  How?  His characteristic, light-hearted non-preference.


A special exhibit brings the Buddhas to Paris.  They don’t wince at the small attention-span of the crowds: their faces are fundamentally composed.  But imagine: three-thousand years into Nirvana, Buddha got caught chewing gum– oral fixation!–by the Karmic Cavalcade.  He tried to wink in bemusement, as if to warn the other Arahants in the hood that Buddha-nature is just what you make it, but his face was (oops) made of stone: dang.  Dharma was drool from the open mouth of Time, agape at the world.

The faces of the Buddhas of Shandong, housed in Musee Cernuschi in Paris, look out from a backdrop of maroon walls with such clarity of feature and such smooth bone structure that I wonder if Nirvana does, indeed, alter one’s physiognomy.  Jonathon Kabat-Zinn, MD & MJ– Mindfulness-Junkie– claims as much for the effect of mindfulness on one’s biology, so why not a countenance re-chiseled by an eternal tryst with unadulterated reality?

I hear the command of the status-hungry teen in Dazed and Confused: Wipe that face off your face, bitch!

One can always start over, Richard Freeman says, and this process begins simply by saying Ah.


Aw, Shit: Brief Interlude on Expletives.

In the episodes below, expletives occur.  I weigh their usefulness.  My conclusion?  Expletives, far from being the white trash of hermeneutic anthropologists, not deemed worthy of a moment’s further study, can instead be a light unto themselves, as Krishnamurti advised each of us to be.

I’ve come to relate to expletives (caveat: sloppy conceit about to unfurl!) as Tupper-wares containing the true messiness of feeling, which are set on the formal table-top of the reasoned and reasonable line of writing.  Observe children, having newly acquired language, who almost always laugh when an adult lets a curse word rip.  They pick up the crass supplement as inevitably and irrevocably as a playful dog goes after a wet stick.  The curse word then becomes the mantra of the moment– shit shit shit– a mantra which tends to mortify the attending adult.

But the expletive needn’t mortify.  Let it, instead, be the tie that binds a statement to its true emotive root: the tapas in language that is difficult to suppress, and which has a primal grist to it.

Anyway, the dialogue is imagined, and what follows is imaginal, and so the expletives therein also serve to bind you back to the real, the idiomatic & the possible.

A Coy Consumer

[Entering the shop on Ave Bosquet, ketchup and sugar cereals visible on display in the windows].

Me: How much did you say this shit pie crust costs?

Real McCoy: Five Euro.

Me: By which you mean five Euro?

The problem with the world is hyper-literalism.  It is hard to boil the problems down to one, but if I had to pick, I would pick: literalism.  As in: literalism.

Me [aside]:  The pilgrims would not have charged an ex-pat five fucking Euro for Keebler products!

[aloud]: My, this pre-shucked corn in shrink-wrap looks so pastoral!

Real McCoy: That’s Expenso-Corn.

Me [aloud]:  Genetically related to the one’s the pilgrims supped on?

Real McCoy:  Incontrovertible.

Me:  How ‘bout that Libby pumpkin pie filling for seven Euro—

Real McCoy: Cinderella’s Chariot.  That aluminum can is a reliquary.

Me:  Fairylicious!  Like the story of Thanksgiving!  Once upon a time there was a little dollar that was persecuted by all the other currencies of the world–

Real McCoy:  France was busy dry-roasting Protestants when Thanksgiving happened.    If you want cheap crust, go back to USA.

Me:  [aside] Me thinketh the Salesman doth wax metaphorical!

[aloud, louderAll the little dollar wanted was for its worth to be recognized as equal.  To be free to worship G(old) in an environment of tolerance…

Real McCoy: And would you like some Sweetened Condensed Milk?

Me: The dense are always sweet.  It’s their coping mechanism.

Real McCoy: [with superb British annoyance] We’re closing five minutes ago.

Me:  Dollar, dollar, whereforeartthou my dollar? Deny thy father and refuse thy name.  A dollar by any other name would smell as–

Real McCoy:  I can’t take poets complaining about price tags.

Me: Can we start over?

But despite this blog’s diadem of dialectic, the aforementioned Keebler was, in fact, purchased.  Thank you, J, for breaking the mostly broken bank.

Lafayette and Leftovers

In Paris, thanks-giving happens not once a year, but every time one leaves a shop, or receives what one asked to be given.  The legendary dinner party, hosted by the friendship-knows-no-fences Indigenous of North America for their unexpected guests, passes unacknowledged and (sic) uncelebrated.  Rather unfair, I think, considering the French government did benefit from the ensuing entanglement of their (then) nemesis Great Britain with the maverick-y nouveau-colonists (no, Palin, we forget you not!).  Those colonists not only ate, but begat and besieged, until they were ready to bite their thumbs at the Crown– thanks, Shakespeare!– and do other unmentionables to the axial skeletons of their generous, crop-smart hosts.

native land in savasana

Marquis de Lafayette, imprisoned in Austria after his return to France from the front lines of the American Revolution, where he was BFF with Washington (who later requested L ship him a French donkey: an inside joke?), was forced to eat his meager provisions with his hands.  The guards were titillated, watching this nobleman make do without the refined intermediary of cutlery.

But Lafayette had gone to America as an bored trust-fun kid with a penchant for adventure and liberty, and as something of a military idiot-savant.  So he assured his guards that all was well, he even preferred to eat this way (or so says the children’s biography), for he had done so many times with his indigenous friends in America.  Aw: learning from the people of the earth how to dispense with fork, knife and spoon!  Our anatomy provides the same equipment, for free, conveniently attached to our carpal bones.  Perhaps it was this meditation sui manu which also led him to contemplate manual labor, manumission and man hogging the vote.

What would he think about the fact that the Native Americans remain largely invisible, that the price of our pumpkin pie was and is high?  It is easy to glorify eating with your hands when you can afford to eat.

The pilgrims chewed their lips, I suspect, when they realized there weren’t going to be any leftovers.  No doubt if they’d had Tupper-wares full of expletives, they would have popped the lids off.  After all, who can dress entirely in black and not cultivate an attitude problem?  As it was, they might have prayed that in this land of spaciousness—wherein God could practically pole-vault over the nebulae—someone, or something, would continue to provide for them.  The dollar, contemplating its own face before it was born, made no comment on the matter.  Likely God hid behind his favorite cloud, which was shaped (say some eye-witnesses) as a turkey leg.  He put their prayers on the shelf of ozone, to have as a spiritual midnight snack.  You see how imagination makes problems?

But I can Start Over.  Ah.


They tell me the sky is a scattering of certain light

They tell me the sky is a scattering

They tell me the sky is

They tell me the sky

Why is the sky true?

Some people say: think less, you’ll be happier!

But keep taking away words and ideas of the real and what remains?  Existence as a big blob, like chewed gum.  Paris has sharp lines in it, as an old person’s epidermis.  When the sky lets its grand blue nature show shyly through the clouds, there is nothing left in life to reckon with.

But from our kitchen, we have to crane our necks dramatically to see sky—Orpheus would be proud.  The smell of pie lingers, a foreign invader, and the funk-smell of aluminum cans emptied of their claustrophobic comestibles.   There is a residual odor of ingredients that have been forced into creative unity by the oven’s heat; whether or not foodstuffs find this oneness as liberating as certain yogis promise it is, is fundamentally unknowable.  You can use the tried n’ true method of mastication to interrogate the pie on this matter.

Scientists tell me the sky is a scattering of blue light.  But you cannot sue a person for not understanding.

Liar Liar Pants On

Hilter came to Paris once after the German occupation.  He stood in front of the Eiffel tower and had his picture taken.  Then, like a good tourist, he left.

deficit or danurasana

As the day veers toward twilight, the Eiffel tower is flaming.  An old man jogs shaking one finger in the air, as if the dirt perimeter of Champ de Mars has been very, very naughty.  An old lady walks bent over so she can see her own feet, which rotate laterally and are clad in royal blue shoes pointed at the tips; I suspect she is the matron anciens of the Keebler Elves’ French outpost.  A large dog barks at the tree where the starlings bark back, the weeping branches gigantically alive with sound.  Suddenly, the starlings cease altogether and the dog waits, its tail alert.

I leave the park to its gypsies and exercisers.  Tonight there is no one in the grocery store.  Raised urban, I consider this the portent of an undisclosed emergency.  In agrarian settings, one watches the forbearance of birds and other animals, which always seem to have a certain prescience regarding imminent disasters.  But here, one must observe the patterns of cue at the grocery and read them as an augur would: too empty or too full when it should be otherwise, c’est mal.

I’ve taken to their non-organic (yep) bloated Braeburn apples, which get a suitably oversized bin unto themselves.  Industrialized agriculture, anyone?  It’s like being raised in a Xerox machine. These apples were likely given good lives, and they taste (fib of fibs) like pomme pur, whose sufferings were nurse-maided by loving migrant orchard field hands.  What would Michael Pollan say?

I imagine Hilter looking at the picture of himself, the exposed grand edifice in the backdrop, and smiling.  Was it a clean smile, like the Buddha’s?  I wonder if H framed it, if he heard the starlings, if any living thing dared to bark.  I wonder about the perfection and symmetry of this apple, which I’ll eat for breakfast, and its crisp edges, and the tragedy of needing to have things only one way.

The Café is OK, if you’re an Elf

What about writers in Parisian cafes; where are they all now?  I’ve been hiding out on the rug in my apartment to do my scribbling, well aware that in Paris, the myth of café-compositions is still writ large.  So, sated by the offerings of elves and done defying tradition, I pursue this a little.  Turns out in the good ol’ days of J.P. Sartre (can one properly have nostalgia for nausea?) and E. Hemingway (aw, alcoholism avec suicide, so quaint!?) writers regularly patronized– or even camped out in– the cafes here because the apartments they could afford to live in were shit-holes.  Like Keebler crusts?  Perhaps– but lacking the particular hole (for shitting) that is an asset to a domicile.

For these apartments were without toilets or anywhere to cook food.  So, rather than entertain in a squalid square-inch of a rental, writers spent the day and the night in the café—which was, at that time, affordable—and drank coffee by the gallon.  Even genius is pragmatically oriented around the bladder and the belly.  That and the antidote for gargantuan loneliness, which can enshroud the word-trafficker: other beings, being others.

the fire in the belly

This Table Is The Buddha

This table holds everything sacred: But the whole universe is on this table!– RF, paraphrased.

I suspect the Buddha also would have enjoyed “sitting” in the cafés, whether in the snaking, cobble-stone bowels of the city or in the brilliance of the fashionistas boulevard.

Here, like everywhere, the Buddha could hold open his empty palms.  Therein, emptiness would shine like a new dime on the grubby sidewalk.  The many worlds whir around his ears as mosquitoes in rainy season.  He is so busy starting over he has not begun to solidify experience.

It’s O.K. if you live in a shithole, he might teach; emptiness costs less than a cup of coffee!  Unless you live in Boulder, CO (remember, this is the worldly Buddha’s caveat, I’m just a Brooklynite receiving dictation!) in which case the present moment, vacuous and voluminous at once, may be packaged and sold to you.  And you’ll buy it, because you’re ready to taste the pie in the sky, and to hold your own close while talking about letting it go.

And in Starbucks, the little man opens his laptop, and sighs.

Calvin the Non-Aesthete

John Calvin sits on the edge of his cot.  It is the metaphorical Wednesday of the 1500s: in relative terms, somewhere in the middle of a long century.  He is at one of those familiar junctures where he’s come to a firm decision in himself; he gathers up all the aesthetics he can find, including those posturing as dust mites, and stuffs them into a shoe-box.  Then he puts a brick on top of the box to secure the lid.  Then, as one who’s niggling doubt induces sweeping gestures of self-fortification, he cinches the pile with a chastity belt—and folks, these exist, metallic and teethy, in the Museum of Erotic Art in Paris—in his new and institutionalized Calvin-cosmos, there will be no fucking aesthetics.

He puts the entire contraption so far under his bed he has to squat down every day to be sure it is still back there.  This may have been the beginning of the style known as minimalism or of what Freud would term repression.  Calvin is likely pleased that music will no longer interfere with celestial conferencing.  The elect will be distinguished by their ferocious commitment to boringness.

F agrees with me that there is something comforting and something terribly discomforting in his approach.  Imprisoned aesthetics?  OK.  But she’s wondering about free will.

The Elves et Al

“And love, which is true attention to whatever and sometimes/ some one. . .”  –Robin Blaser, who died (just this summer) with love’s rattles at play under his xyphoid process.

But how to place the attention…?

The Keebler Elves suggest a processed-crust kind of love.  The Buddha, a psychological wet-t-shirt kind of love.  The Native Americans, a kind of multi-directional earth-as-my-eyeball kind of love.  John Calvin, a Spartan affection.

But none of my imagined creatures or peoples can quite tell me how this is done– and perhaps that is the best and the worst of the problem.  The world and all its weirdnesses, including the unruly imagination, are only here for so long, and all explanations and all manuals temporary assets, like disposable contact lenses.

As for me, I wake each day bearing a kind of unbearable love.  The best I can do is to disguise it as a blog.  And now, fellow traveler, I’d like you to take off my mask, as it is time to start.


peu a peu


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5 Responses to “Starting O, Elfishly”

  1. rickyb Says:

    In the right context, of course, all words can be like that “little language lovers use” (Woolf). I, for one, would never want to inhibit a wordsmith like you with any prescriptions to the contrary– you are a supple writer & thinker, Sara Nolan &, as usual, I was delighted & instructed while reading your latest entry. Can I recommend the poems of Ikkyu to you? Zen poet of the sacred & the profane, but mostly the profane– he couldn’t help himself. In other words, a kindred spirit.

    much love,


    • Sara Says:

      beloved rick–

      bring it! can you post some ikkyu right here for the profane and sacred masses? 24hr yoga could use a little dose of the haiku, and the self that disappears in favor of the poem’s estate–

      and haul woolf out of the water for a minute– i’m hungry for more of her intimations. she’s got me chasing characters that are self but not self in the back chambers of my brain– where the light bulbs blew out–

      bring it, o master of the verse!

  2. (0v0) Says:

    You have me laughing now. I keep re-reading the hoodwinking Keebler episode this time.

    Shinzen says he looks at body language to discern if someone is classically enlightened. When he talks about such things, everyone in the zendo sits up super straight and tries to get a mystical look in their eyes.

  3. Sara Says:

    the keebler elves sit up straight too when shinzen walks by. on day four of the meditation retreat, one is overcome by such intense longing for pie that the rest of reality is like a threadbare, moldy bathing suit: no need to ever put it on again!

    owl, can you post a photo of a mystical look in the eye?

    or maybe it is the eye itself.

  4. (0v0) Says:

    Pie. The first gate to the One.

    The problem is that I don’t have the slightest idea what he means by the “body language” of enlightenment. Is it in the eyes? Adding to my confusion, he talked once about nearly mistaking a homeless man for one who had seen the no-self… because harsh life on the street had almost completely driven the ego from his body.

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