Viva Las Vegas

Viva Las Vegas

I was surprised how well it went getting to Vegas. The airport in Japan was easy and fast. Not much of a line or anything, immigration was smooth and simple. Plenty of time just to wait for loading. S.F. Also went fairly smooth. The airport had some high tech check in that was fairly easy. One still had to go through the customs part. 
A guy, the boarder guard, says, what are/ were you doing in Japan? “I live there” I say. Oh I did not know that, he says. Duh, I think, how / why would you? I give him the short run down on my Japan life. Oh, he says ok, have a nice day. Ok bam, done I am back in the states. I grab my bag and get oriented. I make my way to the next airline in domestic travel. Once there I look for food. 
Nothing really interesting or that I can eat. I spot a veggie burger, at one place of the three or four I see. $12.00 with fries!! dayammmm! I look around more nothing, I am sort of hungry and not knowing when I can eat again, I settle for the way over priced burger. I am not pleased. It was only so so, for real not worth the $12.00. I remember to be grateful for the meal and that I have money to purchase it. I eat and head for the gate after checking in. Again it is smooth. I am feeling blessed next stop Las Vegas. My Kung Fu brother is picking me up.
The flight there is smooth, I am surprised how few people there are at the airport. Later I find out it is because I came in via the international terminal. Once landed I head for the baggage claim. I am only slightly surprised to see slot machines right away. I grab my suitcase and seek out my “Shaolin brother”. I walk around and even go outside at one point. Hot hot hot! Still no see. We had not setup a meet point. Just playing it by the flow. I go on line and find a message from him saying where he is. After a bit of effort and another trip out into the heat, we hook up!
We head to his school, there I am greeted by the students and meet his daughter who I have not seen since she was just an infant. Now she has a two year old of her own. We settle in to the office and hang out. There is a class going on, being lead by his son. I have seen him grown up before but still it is “strange” remembering.
Later there is a couple of award ceremonies being held, I am invited to help with the event of awarding certificates and ranks. It was simple but sort of fun. 
Throughout the evening I am meeting his students. Him and I get to talk some about old times, friends, classmates and my ceremony the next day. I am to take the Buddhist precepts there in the temple and become ordained as a monk of the LinJi ( Rinzai) Chan, Lohan sect. 
Finally we head out for dinner. There Is a restaurant around the corner, sort of a corner. We are in a mall area in and called Chinatown. We go to a restaurant called “Kung Fu”. A Chinese/Thai place. There is a story behind the name, it is one of the last restaurants from the popular Kung Fu era. Several restaurants had that type of name.
The food was good, they had a vegetarian menu. I had been wanting some Thai food it was on my list of eat stops. I had green curry tofu, also spicy green beans with tofu. Yummm. Too busy eating to take pictures. We ate and talked, and finally took the rest home as it was too much! The Thai ice tea was also good. After another brief stop at the school we went to his home, where we crashed out shortly after. I slept easily, I did not get much sleep on the 10 hour flight, stuck in a middle seat, between two people who spread their arms out on both rests.
Currently I am writing this from another airplane seat. This time heading to Phila, The force is with me I got an aisle seat. But that is jumping ahead of the story…
The next morning we are up not too early but sort of. I was up first and did some stretching and meditation. I was not sure of the full plan, but I knew part of it was my ordination. We headed out for the school again. My “brother” had a class to teach. Again I meet some more students, a couple of them were quite pleased to meet me, they said, they had heard lots, they were coming to my ceremony that night. I was flattered and surprised.
The class started I went into the temple section of the school. There I hung out, meditated and practiced my shakuhachi. It was quite enjoyable peaceful. It was a good re-centering for me. The class was about 1.5 hr or so. Afterward we prepared the room for the evening ritual. I also got to play, well sort of more of an attempt to play a Tibetan horn. After all was in place and I had been given more instruction about the evening, we went out to lunch.
The choice for lunch was Mexican, another one on my list. Before hand I pulled rank on my brother, the Abbot and said. ” I am paying for lunch, you paid for dinner.” Oh yeah, he says! Says who?! Me, I come back with, I am your Sihing ( sempai). He laughs. The Mexican was good, it was a lot, a lot a lot. We could not finish it all. I have a Japanese size stomach now, for him it was just too much also. We both left some and pushed away from the table, with full bellies. Before going home we stopped at another shop, a herb, vitamin, health-food type place that also taught Tai-chi and yoga. The owner was a friend of his and a student. I felt right home in the shop, my kind of place, reminded me of our old school’s health-food store section. So after picking up a few small items went home. We needed a nap! Him more than me, still after I took a shower, I also took a nap!
5:00 came we returned to the school. An evening class had started, I meet more people. I received more instructions and it was suggested I sit in the temple to met the arriving priests. Little by little people came in, I was surprised as was the Abbot. I was told one had brought along a long-sleeved formal robe for me to wear. I changed and finally it was time for the ceremony.
I took my seat in front of the altar in the middle of the room. There was a lot of bowing on my part, myself alone and sometimes with others I had to repeat verses, and precepts, more bows, sometimes half bows, sometime full bows. It was a good thing my knees are better these days. Incense, water on the head, more bows, saying vows and then the transmission and it was over. I received my new Buddhist name and became an official Chan priest in the Lohan Order. Wow!
Everyone offered congrats, and the attending local priests and I took a group picture and it was done.
Some people left almost right away, still a number of them stayed. Some just went into the studio to practice. I felt I should give something in return to those who turned out for the ceremony and to those who helped with it. I told the Abbot and he recalled the group into the temple. To show my appreciation I gave my first public performance on the shakuhachi. I played the part of the Honkyoku song I am learning and improvised some to extend it. I was so nervous my notes were not smooth as they should be, however, I doubt if anyone noticed or could tell.
Afterward the Abbot gave a brief lesson on some Buddhist practices and chants from the handbook he is putting together. After I finished speaking with a few people, I joined him.
Then everything was done, we changed and went home. Still full from the afternoon lunch we did not feel like eating, we just chatted some and went to bed. At first I sleep right away, but later I awoke and could not go back to sleep for a couple of hours, that part sucked.
The next morning we went to breakfast at iHop. It had been a long time since I had been there. It was good. Then off to the airport.
I did something different and checked in outside at the curb. I was told my suitcase was too heavy it would cost me another $100.00 to take it. Ehhhhhhhhh! I was told I could take somethings out, there was a scale over on the side, then come back in line. I took a few things out and packed them in my carry on and my backpack. Ok, now my bag was ok and I saved $100 I was told. I am thinking, how weird. I just moved some things from one place to another, but it is still on the same plane with me. Oh well. I was off into the wild blue yonder, via JetBlue. Mata Las Vegas, see you another time…maybe.
I was off to Phila, for the next part of the adventure…


The UPSA tour


So far things are going smooth. I arrived at the airport three hours ahead of take off, thinking that I would be there with enough time not to rush. Things went so fast, no lines at customs, check in went quick and security was also fast. I made it through everything in one hour. I was shocked. I got to hang out for the next two hours, reading and on the internet. 

I received a email form my sister saying mother was being placed in DNR unit that evening. She is eating a little but very very little and gets agitated when someone tries to force her to eat more. Stubborn to the end. I am hopeful and have a feeling she is waiting for me to arrive. Even though she will not remember me. I had this sense that is what is happening. I recall, LZ’s father was on his death bed when we came to visit. We had been hanging out with sister and had everything done when we got the call from the hospital that we need to get there now! Once we did he was gone shortly afterward. I am thinking this will be the case here as well.
As I write this I am 3.5 hours from landing in S.F. From there I will fly to Vegas. I will visit the Lohan buddhist temple for a day before flying on to the east coast. I may have to cut short the first day plans there of seeing my kids and go on to see my mother, depending on the news over the next day or so. She is not sick, perse, just weak from not eating, I am sure she is just tired of this life and ready to move on to the next plane.

If I am able to visit with my kids before hand, I want to have a little family jam session. My grandson plays drums, my granddaughter play flute. I think one of my other grandson plays some guitar, there is a piano at the house which i will use, it will be a memorable experience for all of us to play together. My maternal grandfather was a musician, I never played with him, but I took my first music lessons with his violin. My father was a singer, as was my mum, but only in church. it is interesting that only my eldest son and now his kids carry on with that music line. His other two sons are graphic artist. I was a graphic designer before I retired. So the artist gene runs strong in my clan, whereas my other siblings, other than my youngest. Brother who was also a professional musician and graphic artist, none other artist are in the family.

Another little bit of out of the box from my clan is my eldest son, became a Muslim, and I a Zennie. The only ones in the family that I know of that stepped outside the traditional Christian line. I do have a cousin who was briefly a Seven day Adventist, but she returned to the Baptist fold after a while, however did remain a vegetarian. Everyone else I know of in my fam. is, was /are firm Baptist, there are , was a few ministers in there. Overall though I am the “black” sheep of the family, I have always been the one who was “out there”, the hippie, the rebel. I wear the label proudly. I think my grandkids will also step outside the box, at least a couple of them. It will be interesting to get inside their heads a bit now that they are older and stating to think for themselves.


Birthplace – UPSA

Little by little it has been coming together. I have been working on this for several months. It has had it’s ups and down, but slowly worked out. Now finally the trip to the motherland land is only a couple of days away. I am tempted at time to say returning home. However Japan is now my home. I really feel more at home here than there. Also with the events in the news these days it is a scary place to visit much less live there. It is a blessing to be be here. 
As a person of color one learns early in life to be cautious with encounters with police. One learns how to act, talk, body language, keeping your hands in sight. None of what is going on now is new, what is new is the public knowledge of it and the blatant show of police evil. White people learn early how to do business, succeed in school, business, get laid and subconsciously how white privilege works. Black kids ( mostly) and others of color ( less) learn how to survive close encounters of the police kind.
This trip is a fairly big event. Being my first time returning to the motherland in three years. I sort of feel like a different person, of sorts. It is of sorts a spiritual journey. Confronting some real life changes. My mother is going into a hospice, paying respects to my passed away Kung Fu Shifu ( sensei ), the last time I will see several aging relatives and past relatives ( inlaws), becoming a full blown Buddhist, seeing all my grandkids, a lot of stuff happening this trip. It is a big deal, at least to me. I have a lot of ground to cover. San Fransisco, Las Vegas, Phila, Virginia, Los Angeles, and some points in between. Chan practice, Kung Fu, Kyudo…
It will be good to see some old friends and family, funny thing I feel more connected to some of my friends than family. Perhaps that is normal, one can choose there friends, family is chosen for you.
Well here it is D-day in a few hours I will be off on my pilgrimage to the United Police States of America, UPSA for short. I wanted to finish this and post before now, but, life happens and I have been busy preparing.
So , my first stop will be at the Lohan Buddhist Temple and school of Shaolin in Las Vegas. I will spend a day or so there with the Abbot, my Kung Fu brother, resetting myself spiritually …

La Migra

La migra

If you do not speak Spanish, you may have no idea what this is means. La Migra. I posted at La migra on my Facebook page, my wife says, why do you post things that make no sense. They do , I said, if you understand, just because you do not, does not invalidate my words.
So what is La Migra, you say. This is what Mexican say when talking about Immigration: police, dept., office…
I had to go to immigration a couple of weeks more or less ago. My visa was running out. This time I could apply for a new visa extension also a permanent resident status. I thought I had it already, but no, one can not get permanent resident status right away, I had/have a spousal visa. The “gaijin” card. The “green card” of Japan. Much much easier and cheaper to apply for than the US card. It cost me hundreds of dollars and all kind of investigation question to get one for LZ. The “Gaijin”card will cost about $80.00, once!
The process was pretty simple for dealing with a government. Now I am the waiting mode. However the Migra visit was only part of the story for the day. I had spoken with a Shakuhachi acquaintance about a flea market near me. It was being held at a temple in Downtown Osaka. The Buddhist temple is listed as the oldest Buddhist temple in Japan. It was sort of on the way to “La Migra”. I figured how to stop by on the way to immigration. 
I found the place without too much problem. I had to ask a few people but I made it. The place was big. Later I found out much much bigger than I thought. I was in a rush when I arrived so did not have much time to look around. What saw was impressive. Cool stuff , a lot of cool old stuff. I love cool old stuff!!!
When I first entered, I was stopped by a Monk who spoke English for a chat. Longer than I wanted, but had some interesting things to say. I had to comments however as I was in a rush I did not want to engage him too much. He started speaking to me as if I knew nothing of Buddhism, then when I checked that, he raised the level but still like a beginner. I smiled and nodded. I found it interesting that he spoke of his begging as his job. He had lived in the states, he owned a house in Japan, and wanted to return to the states. Too bad I did not have the time to really chat. Some things I could have debated with him on. Buddhist are the only group who are, have been non violent (something like that) peaceful, there is no God, No Buddha, a couple of other statements which I have since forgotten.
Anyway, I did a quick walk through of the grounds, then went to immigration. After getting done with them I went back to the flea market. Sadly it was over. People where closing up.
I did however get to see the full size of the grounds and market area/size. I was impressed. This is a monthly event, same dates every month. I will be returning in Aug, since I am traveling most of July. Even LZ wants to attend. It also turns out I know someone who live just across the street from the temple. So it may turn out to be a nice meetup next time.