nder the black heart of the city with Kye Soen, a new life emerges from the quaking

ground. Some bastard of evolution, this — how can it be? Run for your lives! Run! Ha ha… Only with violence, as I’d hardly disconnected from the last dialogue before boarding the subway for another day of peril, this one beginning at 6AM. The sky has been pink for a week now. I don’t know what it means. I enjoy the people out, the inner–city mix of races, social strata. People stand over me but it’s accepted here, so I don’t feel dominated. Still, I would stand on something higher than them if it was available. The sweet morning air gives way to our pressing madness. How many blue–collar heroes are left here? Whatever warriors have made it through the downturn are now legends, gladiators. You can hear the crowd behind them, wild. As for me, I shuffle behind a couple of Asian kids scribbling in a notebook. I look at the pretty girl with her boyfriend more than once, she’s radiant. I hope it goes well for her. The subway fills to the brim, until the brakes are moaning. They must be made of titanium. I stare so intently out the window that my friend is drawn to it, but I was only trying to work this out. I look again, on his insistence. He was right. It was lovely

U

A FEW NIGHTS ON THE TRAIN

MORE WISDOM FROM KYE SOEN’S WILDERNESS

e i g h t e e n . THE

TRAIN TO NOHO

through the singed glass, all the soft colors of morning. Another train, a different scene: morbid. It so easily falls to this. A nicely dressed lady sits beside me with an enormous purse, pointy shoes. Is this a funeral? The sun burns into my retinas — UV rays, vitamin D — how long will I live? There doesn’t appear to be any murderers on board. It’s so quiet, cold. The man beside me reads a book. Remarkable. It must be pornography. He holds it out at arm’s length as if it’s suspect. Maybe it’s one of my essays. I should write another book just so I can leave copies in random places. I’m going to scout out a few release points: the park, the subway entrance. I’ll describe the scene that it’s in, the person that picks it up, start a dialog — turn the place into a totem, an archetype. The cover will be a photo of the place, with the book in it! The train to downtown takes some time, enough that the people onboard begin to know each other, their scent. If there were something we had to do together, if we were put to the task, we would already know things, fall into a pattern, organize. We are extraordinary. The lady with the bag gets out, so we’ve lost a porter. I suppose I could carry more. The sun rises too high for my tastes. What can be done about it? I move to the other side. *** It wasn’t until the papers went through that I began to notice the strange conditions that I’d faced. I can’t say they were hardships, but I certainly paid for the freedoms I enjoyed. It was a very good strengthening phase, a constant test of adaptation. If you don’t own the place you don’t have the privilege of following your own way, or turning off the tap. You’re always entertaining, whoever appears, and since everyone knows you’re sleeping on the couch it’s doubly hard, or it used to be. I’ve had so many difficulties with this, until these last few retreats. Now I’m happy anywhere, and genuinely love all the strange cats that pass through the Monterey house. A good time to leave.

But it wasn’t about me, really. I was moving to see Kye Soen’s oldest through high school, as he was accepted in the gifted program in North Hollywood, and all his friends were there. Kye Soen was at UC Berkeley, so we pitched in together for him. I’m very happy to be spending time with the boy. He has a wonderful, fresh mind, very smart and vulnerable. There’s so much to learn! I hope I can clear some obstacles for him and give him the sublime nurturing and care he deserves, teach him how to drive a truck and all. I don’t know about women. Moving from the South Bay to NOHO, money was moved from the back of the pile and placed near the front, which took some adapting to, but it wasn’t hard because I was doing it for the boy. That was another change. I was no longer holding my own against the shit storm, but carving out enough space for two. I’d also be commuting three or four hours a day on the subway. The move was a massive change of personal freedoms, a rewire unlike any I’d experienced. It was time. I’d spent too long adapting to the flow of the Monterey house. I could tell because disconnecting was somewhat jarring. Always the struggle to write, to record these things flowing through me, now a river of time for this, and a quiet environment. Time had shifted, my own time. I was the rabbit who wanted to return to the cage, at least today. Fortunately, I don’t follow my emotion. But the South Bay had had its fill of my and thrust me out on the cold pavement, on through the banana trees, all the way across the mountain, past Universal City to the end of the line. It was quiet there, the people friendly. My first commute I nearly fell asleep before the first stop. The move was exhausting, the smell of fear and death and pancakes. The mountain opened its bowels and we shot through like a cold bolt of lead. Inside, wood–like statues froze in the speed–waves, a vibrat-

ing pulse, a rising noise floor — a heightened state. The drug of sleep began to wear off not long before 7th and Metro, the black heart of LA. You could feel the trembling. Here there’s enough density to fuse the signal — to its own entity. These are the only places where I feel this. Interestingly, the most bleak and forbidding. I watch a young couple playing with each other in the parking lot, of course they were in harmony: pulling arms, testing each other’s strength, my lesson for the day. We have to know each other. I’d just went through another of these with Kye Soen, just a moment with her where I realized the other side of this, that people are just what they are. Someone saw us together and thought we should get married. We are very synchronized after all the years, harmonious in the sense that we are very comfortable together. I tried to explain where he’d gone wrong, but you can’t explain things to people. They have to figure it out themselves. You can paint the scene, illustrate it, but they have to discover it. So, when the inevitable lecture began, what Kye Soen delights in, a chiding, insulting barrage of ubiquitous information, as if I’m incapable of grasping the thing and seeing what it is, at once, the man changed his mind. “Oh, I see. You’re not the right type for her.” I carried this for some time, a question I couldn’t crack. Who would be the right person for her? Someone more domineering? I felt inadequate, not able to correct the flow of hate, not enough man for her. Then I spent some time in the car with her new partner, who pleaded with me like a lost boy in the wilderness. No one changes, for anyone. They’re always the same snarl of plumbing, the same arrogance, and it’s not your job to straighten everyone out. There’s too much of that already. It’s not productive. How long did it take you to figure out this life? Are you prepared to stop the machine, to rewire the synapses? Hell no! If you decide to change anything, there must’ve been a cataclysm. To that end, isn’t that what the Bi-

ble’s getting at, the hard work of the evolution of the soul? If you really want to affect change without resorting to the end times, crucifixions, and plagues, you have to do the hard work of self–realization. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. From the point of view of the Absolute, it hardly matters. Leave everything as it is, the world will manage without your second–guessing, micro–managing. You should take a page from the big Lebowski, knock out that waistband, get a pair of furry slippers… am I taking this too far? For all of Kye Soen’s unbridled fury, she’s got her place. A badger is really good at being a badger, and there’s no one better at it than her. In fact, if we’re ever running low on badgers… so I let her be what she is. If she would only allow me the same, but how am I to put this together? If someone has a defect, should they be thrown out? She certainly doesn’t want to hear about being a white American from the South. The night was full of swan songs, sad musings on the faces on passing trains, empty escalators pressing stair treads beneath the floor, flickering lights that come back to life when it’s time. I caught another train, watched the car lights down on the 110. The door opened at LAX to a flood of deranged people. If I had the courage to film it. A fight broke out in the seat in front of me, but it was only men being men. They worked it out. Everyone got real busy with their cellphones after that. Man were they piling in. You’ve got to take the night train to Watts sometimes. It’s really marvelous! I don’t know why I love them so much — to Rosa Parks. “Kiwi/Strawberry two for a dollar.” “That’s a good deal.” The lights were flashing there, the ones overhead growling, so old. I saw the train in the distance so small it reminded me of Riverside, so I mistrusted it. Some of those lights look like a train, you think they’re moving, you swear it’s getting brighter. I don’t know why everything flickers so much. It

wasn’t a train — probably someone’s porch light. I got tired of staring at it and watching other trains receding down the line. The rest was a shuffle from light pole to… “DVD’s, CD’s, Movies, Music…” Crying babies, poor ladies who need change, who take all that I have. The night is here, with the people on the train. The only way to fathom the depths of despair is to plunge through the heart of it. “Who’s running this mutha fucka?” Dr. Dre on a broke radio. We haven’t got anywhere near the core with all of this, but allow me to illustrate this world — that you can discover it on your own. If I’ve learned anything from Kye Soen, it’s to leave the damned thing where it is. I owe her so much, for the river that courses through me has been averted. Impossible! I can say with certainty, friends, that everything is in the right place.

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