Today, I parked my truck on the street, next to a woman who was slumped into a chair on the sidewalk. She wore a vacant stare as she mumbled to herself of death and filled a syringe from a vial. I did not stop to ask if it was heroine or insulin.
Next to us, a few folks were completely engrossed in demonstrating to each other and the world their street-smart hoodlum personas.
The air was filled with the aromas of fried food and urine.
I watched a man discover an abandoned beverage, inspect it, then consume it.
As I began to walk, I watched an old man dig through garbage cans in search of California Redemption Value (cans and bottles to be recycled in exchange for pennies), with such grace and dignity.
The cops were eating donuts.
A street car rang its bell, so I stopped and waved to the passengers. One man saw me, and waved back with a smile. I smiled in return and signaled “Hang Loose.” “Hello, I Love You, Goodbye” was implied. The streets were full of people hustling and bustling. No one noticed each other, except he and I.
Then I stopped to purchase myself a cup of hot coffee and a bar of dark chocolate, because I could. They were delicious. Next, I passed the Hilton, where hotel rooms are only $200 a night. The valets were busy.
Eventually I reached my destination – a fashion boutique, where handbags for cosmetics retail for $295.
It was a celebration. We drank cheap sparkling wine, the kind that gives you a headache before it gives you a buzz. We called it Champagne, and pretended we were classy. There were dozens of women there. I could not tell if they were beautiful, or plain or ugly, because I could not see their faces, beneath the layers of paint they wore. One woman was very friendly to me. I liked her too. We conversed, but I could not figure out how to convert this interaction into intimate engagement, so the moment passed. I caught a married woman checking me out. She was embarrassed, I was flattered. She wore a large diamond ring, as did many of the others. I imagine that the value of the jewelry worn by the patrons of that fashion boutique could have fed an African village for a year. And I can only imagine the African children who lost a hand, a limb, an eye, an ear, or their lives, so that these women could wear their diamonds. I considered buying an elegant keychain with leather tassels for a friend of mine, but it was 55 dollars. Hell, I could go back to my truck and get a blow job for 55 bucks.
As the party ended, I encountered the night watchman. His name was Tony. I asked about the bracelet that he wore. He was an old Chinese Buddhist. We shook hands and smiled. Gazing into each other’s gleaming eyes, we needed not speak of our mutual understanding, that the ultimate truth is one of awareness and compassion. Then I returned to the streets, where the rich and pretty people carried shopping bags full of newly purchased goods, and did their best not to notice the disenfranchised, dining on the waste of others, and urinating in the streets. As I drove away, I was cut off by a man who urgently needed to arrive at the next traffic stop, one car’s length ahead of me.
Driving home, I began to cry. For all the children who lost a body part or their lives as “collateral damage” in the diamond trade. I cried for the countless victims of the oil wars, as I burned six gallons of gasoline, so that I can afford to drink coffee and eat chocolate, and live this life of luxurious slavery. I cried for the people who have gone mad, because of the hardship in their lives. I cried for the discarded old men, finding redemption in the garbage, while bearing grace and dignity. I cried for the people who hide their true selves from the world, behind contrived behaviors and appearances – for I too have played that game.
Now my stomach aches. Is it the coffee and chocolate? Is it the stressors in my own life? Is it the sadness of the seemingly rotten core of our “civilized” society, which appears to be anything but civilized?
Nonetheless, all things considered, today was a good day. We made a handsome profit selling cheap champagne. Everyone who mattered was happy.
About The Author
Isaac Freed resides in Northern California, where he as stumbled upon numerous opportunities for personal growth and self-realization. He achieved enlightenment in 2012. It lasted for about a week.
Having studied the teachings and practices of shamans, gurus, masters, teachers, healers, guides, therapists, philosophers, drunkards and hobos, Isaac cobbled together for himself a mosaic of wisdom and understanding, over time. Then one day, he dubbed himself Swami Pranayomama, and wrote a book about it. He calls it How To Not Give A Fuck In Ten Easy Steps (The Modern Lay Person’s Guide To Enlightenment), while only pretending to be enlightened himself.