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Silver Sunsets

“The last shall be first.”

When the horses reached the quarter pole, just before turning for home, Silver Sunsets galloped contentedly, exactly where he wanted to be — in last place, thirty lengths out of the lead.

Casual bettors, who picked Silver Sunsets by his number or the way he looked in the post parade, are tearing up their tickets in disgust.  In thirty seconds, they will regret this act.   They will watch, in utter amazement, as Silver Sunsets begins a furious stretch run, weaving in and out of traffic, passing horses as if they were standing still, crossing the finish line in first place.

Silver Sunsets was a top-ranked thoroughbred during his two-year old and three-year old racing seasons.  I remember him now, twenty years later, because of the lessons he taught me.  Be yourself and; it is never too late to do your thing.

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Impressions of Sedona

Majestic and Magical Sedona

I turn left on the two-lane road leading to the town of Sedona.  The world outside transforms into something much different than the one I am accustomed to. 

Towering red-rock Mountains appear unexpectedly.  The striped hills are radically different from the ordinary-looking mesas overlooking the surrounding terrain.  For the first time, the advertisements promoting this area ring true.  I get the distinct impression there is something special here.  There is suddenly hope the three thousand mile plane ride and the hotel suite awaiting my wife and I will prove to be a wise investment after all.

Sedona is a spiritual spa for die-hard vacationers as well as world-weary travelers searching for a way to resurrect their lives from an assortment of disappointments and failures.  I am not here to seek advice from healers, psychic or life counselors.  I am here to discover the heart and soul of this city out of time without the help of a tour guide.

Sedona is amazingly clean.  There are no signs of litter in the streets or sidewalks, no unsightly garbage dumps to mar the town’s bright aura.  The buildings, homes and streets all look brand new.  Most of the architecture is a sort of southwest modern with earth tone colors alternating with pastels.  It seems as though a beautiful, uniquely designed church abides on every street corner.  No two homes look alike, yet no building seems out of place.  There is an underlying unity of design but not at the expense of individuality. 

The single-story adobe-style homes at street level and the larger mansions in the mountains have no bars on their yawning windows.  They all look expensive, probably worth hundreds of thousand dollars each upwards into the millions.  Incredibly, you don’t see gates in front of the winding driveways.  There are no traffic lights clogging the two-lane road running throughout the town.  Instead, they have what the locals call “round-a-bouts.”  Here, the visitor finds an honor system where vehicles yield to the one reaching the four-way intersection first.  Anyone who doesn’t obey the code is sure to be a tourist.

I spend most of my time here in art galleries and walking around slack jawed, agape at the rock formations, multi-colored mountains, and fiery sunsets.  I feel “buzzed” every waking moment.  Even shopping, which I normally hate, feels like an acid trip.  The town itself, I think, is one huge energy vortex.

Young people flock here as if drawn to the area by the magnetic power of the town’s famous energy vortexes.  Many of the transplants have fled small towns where they grew up throughout the west to taste big city life.  After living in places like Houston, Phoenix, and Santa Fe, they search for something else.  They find it in Sedona, where small city values couple with new vistas of financial and cultural opportunity. 

Everyone you meet here seems to be from somewhere else.  Heaven is likely to be quite similar, come to think of it.

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The Not-So-Hidden-Truth About Starbucks

I am trying to write my second novel.  It is not easy, to say the least.  I am confident, however, that this is a universal truth among authors attempting to write their first or seventy-first long piece of fiction or non-fiction.  The reasons for this difficulty may vary from author to author.  My main roadblock seems to be the increasing disenchantment of sitting in a room all by myself for long periods of time.  Again, I suspect I am not alone in this predicament.  The problem apparently extends far beyond the relatively small segment of the population on planet earth attempting to write novels.  I know this because I have recently taken my laptop to a local Starbucks to resolve my isolation problem.

The Starbucks I now regularly inhabit is not your everyday Starbucks. Management recently retrofitted the place with long tables, benches actually, with stools and a strip of electrical outlets underneath to plug in battery cables.  Droves of people come here, not just to chat and caffeinate, but to do WORK! This includes college-students doing real, actual homework, not wasting time on Facebook.  Freelance, self- employed, and independent contractor types also hang out here.  These people, like myself, are hard at work, despite the distractions of noisy conversation and often-times idiotic, piped-in music.  I find this phenomenal and wonder,”Why do we come here?”  Many, if not all of us, are surely not homeless.

I can only speak for myself.  I come here to overcome loneliness—to make some sort of connection.  And I’m happy to report that my new strategy is paying off.  I’m writing my novel on a regular basis, slowly but surely.

Now that we may have some insight into the reason for the overwhelming success of the Starbucks chain, I would like to come to the point of this piece.  Many years ago, I began listening to Prem Rawat speak about an inner experience of peace and contentment.  At the time, I did not have to go to Starbucks to be around people.  I had a full time, good-paying job, a girlfriend, my parents and cousins to surround me.  Yet, something was missing.

Mr. Rawat’s message of peace captivated me in a way nothing had previously.  I followed up on his promise to reveal a source of peace and contentment within myself.  I practiced the techniques of what he calls Knowledge, and, to make a long story short, I have not been in the least bit disappointed.  Well, perhaps that statement is not entirely true.  I had the idea shortly after receiving the techniques of Knowledge that I would not need anything else, including people.  To make another long story short, that idea turned out to be foolish and a bit funny, now that I look back on it.

But there is a point here, somewhere.  Oh yes, here it is:  I need outer connections—with colleagues in my chosen profession, with friends and family, even Facebook connections. Thanks to the experience of Knowledge, I’ve learned that I need something else.  I need a connection with myself for my life to be complete.  I’m not going to put a name to what I’ll call “myself,” because I’ve learned that names are insufficient to describe it.  I will just say this:  I was looking for a missing piece of the puzzle of my life.  Prem Rawat helped me to find it.  Now, I feel my life is complete.  It is full, not stuffed with things on the outside, but from within.  And my connections on the outside are more fulfilling, because I am a more full and complete person, with more to offer to others.

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Zeda and the Jumping Fish

We sat on a flat rock overlooking the pond with the lines of our fishing poles dangling in the fresh water.  Actually, the poles we used were not real fishing poles.  They were made from tree branches strung with nylon lines and hooks my Zeda bought from a nearby bait and tackle shop.  My Zeda could not afford to buy real fishing poles, so he made them instead.  I didn’t mind.  He said they would work just fine.

The early morning sun glinted off the pond and the side view mirror of my grandfather’s 1953 Plymouth sedan.  The reflected light was so bright I had to squint to see.  My stomach rumbled.  I thought of the roll beef my mother had packed for lunch.  The roll beef and Kaiser roll sandwiches wrapped in wax paper sat in a brown paper bag next to my grandfather.  We had found one of the only shady places to sit in this tiny corner of the Essex County Reservation.  We had the pond all to ourselves.

“You said we would have a better chance of catching fish if we got here early.  I think you were right, Pop-Pop.”  I always called my grandfather Pop-Pop when I wasn’t calling him Zeda.

“The water is cool near the surface in the early morning,” Pop-Pop said.  “Fish like cool water.  They go deeper in the pond as the sun rises and the water near the surface gets warmer.”

“I hope we catch a lot of fish,” I said.

“A good fisherman is always patient, tateleh.  It is important to remain patient in any situation and twice as important when you are waiting for a fish to bite.”

I wasn’t used to sitting still for very long.  It was almost magical, however, how calm I could be when spending time with my Zeda.  I found everything that came out of his mouth interesting.  I loved the way he played the role of different characters in the stories he told.  He could do anything he put his mind to.  Right at the moment, he was fishing with one hand, reading from a small book in the other, and talking to me.

Something big crashed into the mirror of the pond’s surface.

“Pop-Pop.  I think a meteorite just fell.  We learned about them in school yesterday.  The big meteor comes into the atmosphere and breaks up.  Then smaller pieces fall out of the sky.”

“It’s not a meteorite, bubaleh.  The fish are happy.  They freulich in the water and jump out when the spirit moves them.”

“Wow,” I said.

There was a second splash about a hundred yards away.  “There goes another one.  I’ll bet they all start jumping now.”

“They aren’t going to make it that easy for us to catch them,” Pop-Pop said.  “Fish have more brains in their Kuphs than the average person gives them credit for.”

“If fish were stupid, it wouldn’t be fun to try and catch them, right Zeda?”

“Correct,” my boy.

“Could we go fishing every day before school and on the weekends too?”

“Well, we could go on any day during the week, but not on Saturday.  Saturday is for the mitzvah of observing Shabbas—something your parents seem to have forgotten, ankeleh.”

And so it went, back and forth between us the rest of the morning, until it was time to eat our delicious roll beef sandwiches.  We didn’t catch any fish that day.   I can’t say I was disappointed.


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