Pulse of the Country

05_31_2017_rainbow

Image: of a bright double rainbow appearing over at the time of writing of this article, may it be auspicious!

Pulse of the Country

-Where to go, or just follow the artists?

Let me pretend to “take the pulse” or,

Is there such a thing as too much writing about nation-wide trends? I believe not.

For the simple reason that no single piece of writing or even a good number of these can describe all unexpectedly “Oh, soo good”, even if ever-so-slight turns in the point of view.

While it is my goal to promote a very niche idea of going on a spiritual (Specifically Buddhist) retreat in a rural setting, the roots of the procrastinations in this article are all drawn from the current economic trends that are very visible if one have encountered websites dedicated to phenomena of what can be called vanishing of locally based neighborhoods. We all remember the earlier trends in that direction, when the often global big chain stores were to blame for closures of local bookstores and coffee shops. Well it is clear that we have entered new phase when even these big chains of brik and mortar stores are under threat from even harder to define internet suppliers of everything to your door. While people of past decades may have looked with a frown towards Barnes and Noble it is what we are losing to amazon.com that has organically grown to be a marketplace for everything delivered to your door, overnight if so desired. And so many landmark business of my home town of NYC that provided a network of my life, defined my days are now gone.

This is a very well covered phenomenon with this website as one of the flagships: http://vanishingnewyork.blogspot.com

A stroll north from Canal Street legendary art supply store: Pearl Paint, up the West Broadway in SOHO part of New York City with visits to all the storefront galleries and a number of bookstores, we had Rizzoli Books and Spring Street Books to pass hours of our lives looking at many books and looking within in contemplation on various philosophical issues. Now-a-days, Pear Paint building is turned into a luxury condo apartments and the Spring Street books is just not there anymore. While Rizzoli Books managed to move with the times somewhere in the uptown by opening up in a new, different location, the SOHO neighborhood is no longer same, or ever will be again, or so  it feels. All in large part due to the popularity of these parts and NYC as a whole and obviously the raising rents and a very substantial increase in demand for space of every kind. These types of trends are possibly even more visible in the Williamsburg part of Brooklyn where in the past local anchors for the community varied from Polish Sausages shop to small Coffee shop (The L Café) to the dive-like bar on the corner. Whole blocks and now gone, demolished and are replaced with new construction and in the center of it all we have the Whole Foods, Apple Store and Trade Joe’s, none as we know are family owned or unique or possibly geared towards anyone on a limited income.

Writing above I do not have a sense of regret as many may have for obvious reasons. More of a sense of: That was then & This is now. Although it may feel as in so many ways unwelcome push to the personal move, I also have recognition of necessity of such.

We read all over the place about Renaissance that Cities like Detroit are undergoing when it comes to the flourishing Art community and how everyone expects to have increase in the population of writers next. And so I can see this idea of why people that create, which by definition is not necessary a healthy business idea, sometimes it is just for this elusive increase in art, philosophy and ideas to contemplate on in forms of visuals, architecture, sound, for all of us. This is why these people would happily move to a completely different city all in order to live in a very affordable set-up. Their focus is that: the art and if art is the focus a condition of affordable place, nearly free from worry of overwhelming bills becomes a major support in it’s creation.

Here is a story of how City of Detroit is giving writers housing:

https://nextcity.org/daily/entry/why-detroiters-are-giving-free-houses-to-writers

Coming into focus on the issues that I saw as central for my life of now over 25 years, in the Buddhist community of nearly all countries where Buddhist ideas took up we have this idea of stepping back, to refocus, to contemplate, to do a “retreat”. About 22 years ago I have rented a small apartment in above mentioned neighborhood with a huge feel of back-water, the Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The starting monthly rent was $525, about 15 years into my stay I was told by my landlord that his goal for that apartment is to bring the rent up to two thousand a month. All because I suddenly found myself in the middle of a very popular part of most popular city. And in fact it felt possibly low, if compared to the overall development.

After moving to the quiet upstate NY town of Binghamton I found out that this town comes as (surprise!) first in the list of comparative prices on real estate to the tax rates.

And while it is possible to complain about taxation pretty much always, Binghamton taxes are not remarkable, it is the property values that are low. While taxes for a major local town, a county seat with popular University considering these real estate values can be lower, it is these actual prices for the houses that could come up.

Here is the article that gives this conclusion: bargains are all over here and with abundance:

http://www.pressconnects.com/story/news/local/new-york/2017/04/06/binghamton-leads-us-taxes-compared-home-values/100088892

Considering that this is a very non urban type of town with a lot of trees, surrounded by totally rural farms and forests. It is nothing short of a perfect place to sit in the back yard or the front porch, listening to birds and breathing fresh air as minimum or doing any sort of retreat one may want to engage in. Provided housing bills are even if existent are possibly lowest in the whole country.

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What’s What goes “Upstate”

Summer Retreat 2005

While recently in Palyul Retreat Center I was able to distribute a whole bunch of free copies of my book What’s What, asking people for the reviews. Many took a copy and I am very happy with this, if later on any of you forget to make a review or dislike making a review, this is still just perfectly fine.

A Lama who I bow to the feet of, a master of appearances and realizations when I asked them if it is alright to leave a copy asked me if I have an extra copy to spare…

-Simplicity beyond any idea of simplicity. I just pray to be even a little bit like that and because I seem to have seen a master like this, maybe my life is not completely wasted.

Now several people had surprizing rejection towards taking a fee copy or a copy at all.

Some one said they do not read books.

Some one said they do not know English.

And some one said they object to the idea of a fee copy.

Some other person expressed  that was very hard for them to reach an understanding in regards to who wrote the book and why. –I kept saying that I wrote it but do not like the idea of saying that I did “write” it. Rather that I “made” it because it came about in somewhat organic way, is based on talking to people online and in person and does not establish my understanding as anything special, but rather shows off my willingness to write, comment, think out loud and to think of these as serious and not serious in same time, but possibly worthy of a book.

As example of a conversation that I heard, It is based on a quotation passed online. It goes something like this.

In order to understand what this is about one has to know definitions of:

Theism and Atheism, these can be summed up as “Belief in a solid, substantial god or entity “above” reality of this life” and conversely in the case of Atheism rejection of belief in any such entity. So, for example to say “Buddhism is atheist” is fine because it is possible to term Buddhism as religion, philosophy, spirituality, discipline of meditation, anything along these lines. But within this “Buddhist doctrine” (Buddhist as in awakening) we do not teach or learn of any entity like that, it is simply not there in no way similar to the idea of a “god” or creator.

Then to the discussion:

Some one said “Can you imagine, I heard that Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche said that if an Act of Buddhist Refuge is uninformed it is a theistic action!”

-My thoughts on this, within Buddhism we have a very important idea of learning and getting used to new information and new points of view on already available information.

It can be done in a complex way of memorization of whole books or in a simple way of meditating on a single point.

So, it is very likely a possibility that “Act of Buddhist Refuge” is not really explained all that clearly in common, every day language beyond offering of water bowls to the images of awakening or bowing down.

And that is my selfish “claim to fame” I somehow would like to not be a bridge builder but that very bridge that will bring people that are moving towards learning contemplation and meditation on what other much greater scholars and practitioners have already made available in many languages, all conveniently available everywhere, all you need is an interest and an open mind.

So, please support the book by getting a copy, recommending it, reviewing it, and obviously supporting your coffee mug with, as I said earlier, it is of that perfect size to do the job.

https://www.amazon.com/Whats-What-Hearsay-Buddhist-perspectives/dp/1534887237

Then there is an attempt to write at least one more book, that speaks to the today and here is the fundraiser for that:

https://www.gofundme.com/2bnfz38

Steve makes it out of the crowd and past the horizon

Chokor_Duchen_2016
Myself and Steven in front of the Palyul Retreat center temple on the Buddha’s Festival day of Chokor Duchen that selebrates 1st historical teaching given by Buddha Shakyamuni.

A while back I undertook to work non-stop hours, In fact there was a time when I had two jobs that I worked 7 days a week and I think it went on for a stretch of six months at one time, before I took a single day off.

In one job I had to cook a hot steam table of Food Emporium Supermarket that used to be on 68th street and Broadway. That I did two days a week. In my effort to enter into the supermarket experience from my recent cooking experience I also took a deli counter job in Gourmet Garage of West Village and that I did the other five days a week. Coming off five years of cooking in a full service restaurant and having run a kitchen, none of the duties were hard to perform and I actually took these jobs in order to have an easier career.

In the West Village I have often had customers that were regulars and I got to know their names, what they do at work and were they go on vacation, or what books do they read and what TV shows they watch. Crucially, some of the regulars had special requests, as in my sandwich should be made like this and like that, not too much mayo and a one and a half pieces of provolone cheese only. None of these requests ever bothered me and my goal was to in fact try and remember the specifications so that the customers would not have to repeat them selves.

One of the customers, Steve had an interesting personality, he was pretty paranoid about the sandwich that was very exacting and never changed that it was very easy to memorize, but had to just be really made the way he wanted and I was able to win his sandwich trust completely to the point  when he waited for me to make while standing aside. Having taken off the list the “sandwich issue” Steve turned out to be very courteous and intelligent person who is a theater actor with interest in Buddhism, art and literature.

After making Steve’s sandwich for a good number of months we connected on facebook and later on when I moved to run cheese department and moved stores completely I would see that he seems to follow my posts sometimes and that went on for about five years. In 016 he reached out to me and said he really wants to come to the Palyul Retreat Center and as I have written many times that I would be only too happy to help anyone make it there, I just had to do it.

Steve took a lot of pictures, appeared to be extremely happy and for sure had to accumulate a ton of jump-start material on Buddhism.

As back in the day of the deli talk we talked about journey that takes place after death and I suggested to him to get a book popularly known as “Tibetan Book of the Dead” and most commonly available one is a slim volume made available by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche through the Shambhala: https://www.amazon.com/Tibetan-Book-Dead-Liberation-Through/dp/039473064X

-Copies on amazon for a 0.01 and you only really need to pay the shipping..

Then after Steve came through the Upstate Retreat, I had to set him up with my favorite “manual” type of book that does include nearly anything for many interested people to contemplate for years…

https://www.amazon.com/Enlightened-Journey-Buddhist-Practice-Everyday/dp/1570620210

Much like choice above copies of this unique book can be had for a penny, and I have obtained a few to give away.

Then there is loose rambling of your’s truly, the misleader of wrong views, no matter how well intentioned, not available for a penny too, but I am happy that I was able to articulate some sort of a book, so it is out there:

https://www.amazon.com/Whats-What-Hearsay-Buddhist-perspectives/dp/1534887237

So, this is quite a journey that at the outline is pretty magic, to be able to fish out a picky sandwich customer out of a hundreds of customers and put him through facebook posts and with no direct effort into the Tibetan Buddhist Temple to receive teachings and liberating empowerments to rest in the sun on the lawn. To set him up with a bunch of books to take home.

Well, I had very little to do with all this, thanks for coming through on this Steve, I wish that complete non judgmental positivity increases in you life without bounds.

Upstate NY Summer Retreat

Chokor_Duchen_2016

What can happen, a job, family, vacation. You end up expanding a lot of energy at the job, get used to that the most. Family comes along and say there is a vacation. A week-long vacation in so many ways for so many people have to confirm to their “process” of what the nine to five is all about. Schedule, advance booking, expectations met, almost met, dashed. Upon your return to “normal” to the routine of every day, there is a chance to formulate the complaints and compliments of the choices made for that brief one week period of time away, designated as time for rest but all too often spent as time attempting to rest because familiar routines are not in place.

Now imagine some one with an interest viewed by society as not normal, crazy in fact. Some one wishing to stay in a cave, seriously. All this spiritual pursuits of the area of life designated as “not-for-profit” as in the type of a corporation with the tax exempt status. If one were to look these matters online the loudest chores of voices heard: “You must run your not-for-profit as a business, it is business and must become one, to be a success”.

At the above one shakes head and thinks, oh geat time to get my business going, or this is unfortunate because I am lousy at business and now looks like this is just another business type where I will fail.

At the outset though it is important to consider that this cycle of life, what we call the Samsara is sustained by constant actions of like and dislike, all the time going for one extreme or the other, in fact this is what in worldly terms is thought of to be healthy, the like of pleasure and dislike of pain, it is just ever-so-pervasive that Buddhist ideas of them to be sustained by causes and conditions and possibility of freedom from pleasure and pain through knowledge about causes and conditions and of freedom become hard to understand.

Myself living in proximity of great Buddhist center, the Palyul Retreat Center of upstate NY I am able to now and then get away and stop by in there. There are many thousands of people that call it home, or home-away-from-home. To come through during Summer one month retreat, which is possible in one week study blocks or as a visitor during the weekends is sure to put you in touch with the spirituality of no goal, of sitting down and minding your speech, mind, body, surprisingly in an organized way, but that part is up to you.. –There maybe a few hundred people around you and quite a few very busy walking back and forth. It’s a very unique place.

The Upstate of Community

20160402_134234 (1)Dear friends,

It’s now several years since I started talking to people in person and publishing bits online about alternatives to living in some of the most expensive cities there are. For example, last nearly 25 years of my life were spent in New York City. And if you are familiar with the situation there, well I moved into a rental apartment in the part of Brooklyn called Williamsburg 20 years ago, that particular neighborhood became a kind of symbol for development of. For all sorts of prices for everything going up!

Why do we live in places like NYC? Comfort? Culture? Companionship? Wide availability of jobs? Because we are from near-by?

-Many reasons to many people. However there is another possible reason that may need to be unpacked a bit. Many people are used to the idea of impersonal big city where it is possible to  get lost to be found. It is similar to a dive jump into an ocean where you find a treasure at the bottom. If you stick around and are brave enough you are bound to win that lottery by living in a place like NYC. The whole idea of “If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere”

To that there is no argument if your plan is to be well dedicated to a job for which you would need for you to be in that city. And if it’s a job that does pay well, you will eventually be able to get into an apartment of your own!

However observing my own life patterns I can say that in a traditional sense of the word I have perfectly wasted soo much time doing things that are not meant to be “productive” in any material sense of the word. Take for example painting pictures, years spent on that. Writing online, at times hours of many evenings went that way, often times to no audience at all, all without any expectation to be read, just stuff to be written. Study of Buddhism with all the prayers and meditations and associated books, oh that’s a good one, – major anti samsara-productive type of thing. Think of books, most of their stories take place in India or Tibet, most people around me can not reliably place these countries on the map. Prayers are for non-conceptual release of suffering beyond anything that people can think of as Thanksgiving and Black Friday shopping. Oh and the meditation, that requires to sit down and do nothing. Yes, nothing.

There are some smart people that try to hope, in a last ditch effort kind of thing that if they align everything well in their life and propitiate wealth deities they will also accomplish wealth and comforts in very substantial, material sense of the world, within this life.

I however was never a person that could do many things in same time and achieve good results in any. Sense of focus is a good idea. So, if one knows that working two jobs and going without days off will undermine your health and meditations on things will become difficult because within these years of work, work, work. One too many times it was necessary to not take a “sick day” off.

So, what I am talking about here is something along the lines of the discussion of the community building, the “Choying”, the idea of minimizing bills all in order to be able to get by without stress of needing too much.

General Direction is to identify an affordable area near by to an active Temple and move there, as rural as possible. With the hope of not working too hard on a samsara type of job, but to be able to sit down, collect your wits, think about your life for a moment, possible to recover your emotional and physical health to a point where greater degree of calm is possible.

My ideal location at the moment is Upstate NY.

If job of some degree is important one of the smaller towns in and around Binghamton area. Area called Southern Tier and is just north of Pennsylvanian border.

Where the actual community building is concerned.

The specs on the plan are something like this.

Walking distance to the Temple.

Purchase of land with hopefully existing plumbing: septic and well.

Total size not to big, to minimize the tax bill (with septic and well there is no sewer and water charge). So, in a very optimistic setup no more then 20 acres. If situated near a state land, the trees, wilderness and such will be in abundance, naturally.

For accommodation, mobile homes, single wide. Mobile homes are not known to be classified in same way as cars and when not permanently attached to the foundation pay no real estate tax. It should not prevent anyone from making the interior and exterior just the way they like….

This small write up will be tagged on this forum with “Choying” that was title of previous discussions that I had posted in the past. Welcome to read all these.

http://www.choying.org/tag/choying

The responses so far are very limited but save from one are very positive.

south_fog

Talking cheese at Old Barn Hollow

Downtown_Binghamton_at_NightAfter walking around a little on the 1st Friday of the month during Binghamton’s Art Walk, we nearly always end up looking into the great Local store Old Barn Hollow. It is now in the middle of the Art block on the State Street.

Today they had some cheese samples and I ended up walking towards the owner and telling them that their Miranda unpasteurized Blue Cheese is some of the best blue cheese available. It is slightly aged, along the lines of great English Stilton..

We talked and I thought that my prior cheese department work should come in handy and I should share about the cheeses that I sold, sampled and enjoyed.

Here is my small cheesy write up.

http://www.oldbarnhollow.com/

Old barn Hollow, a real wonderful store. -Indeed, and I wish them all sorts of increase.

My primary focus is Buddhist study and contemplation. As in USA Buddhist community is not very big or active I worked all sorts of jobs, to get by.

So, I have worked in NYC in Food Emporium(A&P), Gourmet Garage(Chain of 6 gourmet supermarkets that has volume of over 10K a week in their cheese department sales), Union Market (Chain of 5 gourmet supermarkets that has volume of over 10K a week in their cheese department sales)

A small review of my favorite NY State only cheeses based on 5 years of experience as a cheese department head in NYC.

https://www.facebook.com/cooperstowncheesecompany/

Bob and Sharon are great people, making great cheese at Cooperstown Cheese Company

My favorite are Jersey Girl and Toma Celena. They use unpasteurized milk, for flavor, tradition and curiously for safety reasons, as I discussed with them in person, it is nearly perfectly always the case that a farm selling unpasteurized milk will always keep it extra clean as opposed to the farm expecting to pasteurize it somewhere down the line.

Here is a local ad showing a little of their info on milk type and pricing.

http://www.firehousemarketcooperstown.com/cheese/

(somehow their website is not up and I seem to remember looking at a different one, that I can not find now)

http://www.5spokecreamery.com/

These people are making OUTRAGEOUSLY good tasting cheddar types of cheese.

The Tumbleweed is a rich and delicate, it is covered in natural mold, rind much a like French Cantal.

And Crawford is the strongest cheddar that you will ever taste, rich and full of flavor, it comes in cloth-bound cylinders, it is cave-aged.

They own their own herd, so milk does not need to be moved very far or processed in any way, it is made “next door”. As the only real reason for pasteurization of the milk used for cheesemaking is transportation and storage (we are told by huge companies that want to continue transportation, storage of over a month on the shelf and no competition from local milk-man that it is “safer”) in this instance it is as fresh as it can get.

http://nettlemeadow.com/ One of my favorite cheeses, ever.

Kunik made by Nettle Meadow, it comes in small wheels of 0.75 to 0.5 of a pound. A triple cream made with goat’s milk and jersey cow’s cream. While, young, middle aged and old it has distinct, amazing taste.

https://www.oldchathamsheepherding.com

Here is the company that makes cheese from the black sheep’s milk (some of the richest milk available to a cheesemaker).

https://www.cowgirlcreamery.com/library-of-cheese

An excellent website out of California, “Library of Cheese”

-Their red Hawk is in the class of it’s own, Washed rind (bright, fire brick red color) soft ripened…