Friday, July 31, 2015

Full Moon Zen

I saw some zen in the full moon last night.
Or rather say I saw some zen
In the moon’s reflection.

For I’d carefully placed a bucket
Half-filled with water
In a little clearing out back between the palm trees,
To catch the moon’s reflection
If it happened by this way.

Ha! Ha! So big and glorious an object
Caught in my old bucket!

I approached the bucket carefully,
Hoping to see the moon I’d caught.
How it gleamed in the dark water!
A perfect little moon.

I gazed into the bucket
And reflected upon the moon's reflection.
Then, emptying my mind,
I found some zen there.

After awhile I turned from gazing into the bucket
To look upon the real thing
Hanging in the sky overhead.
How it gleamed in the dark sky!
A perfect little moon.

Hmmm, I thought.
It’s wonderful to have a moon above us.
A friendly influence in high places.
A heavenly cameo shining brightly
To light our way in the night.

A moon to ponder upon and gain courage from.
To inspire both the lovesick
And the lunatics.
And the rest of us too.
(Although lovesick or lunatic
Probably covers everybody.)

Oh moon!
Forever flying the skies you make friendly,
Thank you for your zen.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Hardly a Horse Kiss

   I’ve been writing about horses and the love of them lately… and the problems and accomplishments this has historically led to in the Pliers family.  
   But I promise this should be the last for awhile. 
   It’s another story about horses and love. 
   Only it’s not about loving horses, exactly.
   Nor even kissing them, which we can all, including the horses, be thankful for.

   It’s a story about a boy and a girl …
   And love’s first kiss. 

   In 1967 Stephanie P. was the flutist of the Olive Vista Junior High School orchestra.
   I was in the orchestra too, playing second trumpet.
   It may surprise you to learn that the second trumpet in a junior high school orchestra doesn’t toot his instrument constantly during a song. Not even if he’s any good. There are many times where you just sit and wait. 
   It was then that I would look longingly at Stephanie. 
   My eyes had no will of their own, and when not actually doing something to help me play the trumpet, they would wander over to Stephanie. She sat opposite the brass section, at the front with the woodwinds. She looked so serious as she waited to play, a little frown of concentration marring her perfect features. Even seated she was taller than those around her, like I was. She was so beautiful! Her strawberry-blonde hair was long and straight, which she pulled back behind her ear before she lifted her chin and began to play. How graceful she was! She was a good player, too, with a strong, sweet tone.
  We had become friends while in the orchestra together, both liking to laugh but taking it seriously enough. She lived in the foothills of San Fernando on a ranch, where on this day I was visiting her. 
   It was a warm, dry afternoon, with a dragon’s breath of hot wind trailing through the air, as they often have in southern California. After a light lunch which her mother made Stephanie and I went outside. We slowly walked along beside a fenced-in pasture which held horses. They caught my eye as they pranced and galloped in the sunshine. To my amazement, they trotted over at Stephanie’s call. 
   “I thought only dogs could do that,” I said.
   “Don’t be silly,” replied Stephanie. “Horses are way smarter than dogs.” 
   The horses snuffled up the treats she held out for them and nodded their thanks. I didn’t particularly care for horses at this stage of my life, but I tried to hide my distaste from Stephanie as we stood together in the sunshine. 
   Disappointed when the treats ran out, the horses eyed me jealously, snorting their contempt. Their giant muscular bodies glistened in the sunlight.
  “I love horses,” I fibbed, hoping both Stephanie and the horses would overlook my obvious insincerity.
   “Really?” answered Stephanie. “Barbara said you said you hated them. Big, stupid, smelly things, she said you said.”
   That sounded like something I would say. 
   “On, no, not me. Honest,” I insisted. I put my hand over my heart and continued, “That wasn’t me. Why, I love horses. They’re so… so big and strong.”
   It was an autumn afternoon, with dusty light beaming through the trees and the buzz of insects everywhere. Some flowering shrubs nearby gave off a heady scent. We stepped away from the horses in the pasture and strolled over to an ancient oak tree with large, spreading limbs. 
   Stephanie and I strolled together under the tree, circling round its massive trunk, holding hands and talking. She forgave me for my lack of equine love, but suggested I was wrong to feel that way. I said horses were okay, but I liked motorcycles, which was probably a dumb thing to say to a girl but I was a fourteen-year-old boy and couldn’t get it right all the time.    
   Stephanie was wise for her age, and was sweet and patient to all kinds of big, dumb animals.
   We laughed together and watched as grey squirrels froliced in the oak tree’s dappled limbs.
   After awhile we walked back into the sunshine and returned to the paddock. 
   The sun felt good on my skin after the cool shade beneath the tree. 
   The horses were on the other side of the pasture and were grazing with heads down.
   We stopped at a corner fencepost, turning to face each other. I looked into Stephanie’s eyes. The pupils were green with flecks of bronze. Her hair played about her face in the warm breeze, and some strands of it caught in her mouth. With a laugh she reached up and hooked them away. 
   I asked if I could kiss her.
   “Okay,” she said. “If you want to.” She closed her eyes, puckered her pink lips and lifted her chin. Her eyelashes were golden in the sunlight. Perfect little freckles dotted her nose and cheeks. Her lips parted slightly. 
   “I want to!”
   “Wait a minute!” said Stephanie. 
   She took the gum out of her mouth and stuck it on the fencepost. 
   “Okay,” she said, and resumed her former position.
    I leaned forward to kiss her, closing my eyes as our lips touched. As we kissed the breeze blew those strands of strawberry hair gently against my cheek. She tasted of Wriggly’s gum and smelled of horses and leather. It was a good kiss, spearminty and sweet and somehow musical, like she was. Her lips were soft and warm. Something inspired me and I nibbled her lips gently. I heard her sigh, whether from love or from boredom I couldn’t tell then and will never know now, for her father caught us kissing and boy, did he give me a chewing out! 
   What language! I’d never heard such words! Obviously, he came from a home where swear words were permitted, perhaps even encouraged!
   “Go to your room, young lady!” he ordered Stephanie.
   “Stay right where you are, buster!” he ordered me. 
   He phoned home and my mother was despatched to collect me. I waited by myself in the kitchen, sitting at the table with the leftovers from lunch. It was a very lonely forty-five minutes waiting for my mom to arrive.
   “You’re too young to be kissing anybody that way,” said my mom, driving me home. “That comes later, honey, with love.”
   “We weren’t doing anything wrong,” I answered, hoping in my heart it wasn’t completely true.
   Love. That was my mother’s cornball idea. 
   I wanted romance and adventure! 

   Stephanie seemed to lose interest in me after our interrupted first kiss.
   I blame her father for that. Him and his ferocious cursing.
   Although for awhile I wondered if it was because of faulty kissing on my part.
   As you can imagine Music class wasn’t as much fun anymore. During rehearsals all I could do was sigh and watch Stephanie from my place in the brass section while I awaited my turn to play, an impossible chasm yawning between us. 
   Geez I thought, it was just like Romeo and Juliet …
   “Rusty!” barked Mr Olinski, the music teacher. “Wake up! Please pay attention.”
   “I wasn’t asleep, sir,” I objected.
   Maybe I hadn’t been asleep, but I had been dreaming.  
   “You were giving a pretty good imitation of it,” snapped Mr O. 
   The class laughed. Everybody liked Mr Olinski.
   “Now, give me an f sharp,” he ordered.
   Alas, my tootling lips went wanting for warm human contact that semester and I had to make do with the cold, indifferent, brassy mouthpiece of my b flat King Cleveland student trumpet.
   I gave Mr Olinski an f sharp. 
   We moved to New Zealand at the end of the school year and I never saw Stephanie again.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Zesty Zen Monday

More offerings from 
Rusty's Zen Moments.

Wren Zen (pg. 44)

The gentle morning sunlight,
(For it gets pretty hot around here in the afternoons,
And is anything but gentle)
The gentle morning sunlight
Fell upon a female wren
As she perched upon a statue of Buddha
That resides in my garden.

How beautiful she is!
In her feathery mantle of rich camouflage.

From atop Buddha’s head she eyed the situation.
She has a sharp eye
To match her beak.
Spotting something of interest,
She flew away.

She had only paused a moment,
But there remained behind a wonderful residue of good zen.

I ask the same of you.
Not that you fly away.
Any fool knows that humans cannot fly unaided.
No, I ask that you pause for a moment,
And have a good look around
With a sharp eye
To see what’s what.

Because with zen,
One seeks enlightenment,
An understanding about things
That will make life bearable.
And you’ll never find enlightenment
Or anything else, 
With your eyes closed.

During the years they have lived in my garden,
This wren and her husband have reared many children together.
They work as a team and share the duties.
Building a home, finding sustenance, raising children.

Here in Florida with our light winters
They hatch a brood of up to three chicks,
Two or three times a year.
That’s a lot of wrens!

More than the red-tailed hawks, 
Who also like our Florida climate,
Can usually consume.
For they must feed their young ones too, yes?

Life and death!
Nature’s balance!

Zen at work.

With the passing of the years
I have watched this miracle
Many times.

Always with amazement.

It’s a Good Thing I’ve Got My Zen Along (pg.41)

What is the aim of life?

That’s a big question.
I don’t know exactly.

So it’s a good thing
I’ve got my zen along
To help me figure it out.

My Zen Loves a Laugh, Part 2 (pg. 60)

My zen’s got a great sense of humor.
It loves a laugh!
I’m glad of that,
Because who enjoys 
Being around a sourpuss?

Yes, my zen loves a laugh.
Especially at my expense.
But I don’t mind.
I can afford it,
Because it doesn’t cost a thing.

My zen is laughing at me all the time.
Laughing at me to remind me
How senseless it is
In this crazy world
To take things too seriously!

Ha! Ha!
Have you ever noticed how contagious laughter is?
Ha! Ha! Ha!
Oh boy! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!
Ha! Ha! Ha!

Uh oh.
I think I just peed myself.

Words (pg.59)

The following is a list of words 
My zen and I wish we could do without.
  1. No

Zen and the ISS (pg. 57)

My zen and I got up early this morning
To see the International Space Station fly past.

It being in low Earth orbit,
(That’s 249 miles above the equator,
Which doesn’t sound like low anything to me) 
You can see it with the naked eye
While standing in the street 
In front of my home in Florida.

As I understand it,
Sunlight strikes its giant array of solar panels,
(Which is bigger than a football field),
And the reflected light from these panels, 
Light composed of both particles and waves,
Is shot out into space
And caught by our upturned eyes
As we stand upon the earth.
Then by a further miraculous procedure,
Which I haven’t the time to explain,
From our eyes to our brain.

Thus, we witness the ISS.

But only If you know when,
And where, 
To look.

That’s the zen of it!
Knowing how to look for the miracles 
That are happening around us
All the time!

You ask me how 
I happen to know when and where to look
For this particular miracle that is passing overhead?
You wanna know what makes me so clever?

I have a smartphone app.

At the touch of a screen on my handheld device 
I am shown where the ISS is at any time.
This app also predicts within the minute 
When the ISS will pass over my current location.

(My current location supplied by another miracle, satellite GPS.)

It even has an alarm, this app, 
So that I might remember 
To go outside and look into the sky 
(At the right time and place)
To witness this scientific miracle.

So my zen and I got up early this morning
To see the International Space Station fly past.
After consulting my smartphone app,
I stood in the street in front of my house 
And looked up.

And, while waiting for the ISS to appear,
I experienced a zen moment.

Into my mind 
Sprang this thought…
Uncounted eons of karma, 
Trillions of years of human DNA,
The entire flow of the endless universe,
Everyone and everything that had ever gone before
Had lead to this exact moment!

(As it does,
Let us not forget,
To every moment!)

I was aware and in the moment.

Big stuff! 
Pure zen.
Oneness with all.

Buzz went the alarm on my smartphone.
So I emptied my mind of these marvelous thoughts,
And looked up into the heavens
Where the app told me to.

The ISS appeared out of the Earth’s shadow at 5:37AM
And passed directly over my house.
Or seemed to.
It only took a couple of minutes 
To cross the central Florida firmament from horizon to horizon.

It looked exactly like a bright, steadily moving star.
A beautiful star traversing the long sky with abiding purpose
And, miracle of miracles,
Carrying human beings!

It’s been circling the earth since 1998.
Traveling at a maximum speed of about 17,000 MPH.
Completing approximately 15 1/2 orbits per day.
That’s 16 sunrises and sunsets every day!

How marvelous to think that humans 
Have continually inhabited the ISS  
For almost 17 years.
What magnificent intelligence this feat represents!

Almost unimaginable zen!

What more evidence do we require 
That human beings are descended from the gods?
The gods who fell to Earth
From the skies above.

So why worry?
We’re as perfect 
As the gods 
Could make us.

Don’t let being human 
Hold you back!

Accept yourself completely 
For the miracle that you are!
And then become…
Unattached to that.

Friday, July 24, 2015

A Star is Porn

   How I Acquired The Non De Plume
 of Rusty Pliers
Made Porno Movie History.

   I was writing the other day of horses and how they have influenced the Pliers family in one way or another since 1927, when my great Uncle JB was hung for stealing one.
   Later, as a young boy in the 1930s my father fell off a horse and couldn’t go to the toilet unaided for months. Don’t worry, the fall didn’t bust Dad’s kidneys or break his pee pee or otherwise damage his plumbing. That wasn’t why he needed help going to the bathroom. 
   No, in the fall he’d broken both his arms and temporarily couldn’t … reach it.
   That’s why he needed help in the bathroom! 
   Then in the 1950s came me. I’ve never broken anything and have always, ever since I can remember, been able to reach it. Perhaps for awhile in my teens there was even a time when I couldn’t leave it alone. 
   But life has a way of balancing out.
   All that personal interest in my plumbing served me well when I found myself in the porno industry in the nineteen-seventies. Because as in all professions, one must know and rely upon one’s equipment. I’d been bumming around Europe for a couple of years trying to paint. Yes, it was the artist’s life for me and that meant no money, so when I was really broke and couldn’t borrow anymore from anybody I answered an ad in a hippie newspaper in Paris and found myself, after a most memorable screen-test, with a ticket to Denmark and a few francs in my pocket.
   And I thought, not for the first time since becoming an artist, “What have I got to lose?”
   Back then as now, one needed a speciality to set oneself apart. Well, while we were filming I happened to notice a pair of vice grips in the opened drawer beneath my partner’s naked ass as we were humping on the kitchen counter.
   Seizing the opportunity, I introduced the vice grips in our next scenes. To everyone’s surprise the actress found it extremely stimulating so I pressed her buttons so to speak with every utensil in that drawer, including an eggbeater, the ice tongs and a funny little move with a spatula. 
   The scene was very successful. 
   Especially the happy ending.
   We did it in one take. 
   “Viola!” cried the director. He was French. My partner was from Germany. We were filming in Denmark. Yes, it was very cosmopolitan. We’d even had a little Italian for lunch.
   But he didn’t mind.
   “A star, she is born!” predicted the French director, only he didn’t mean her.
   He didn’t mean me.
   He meant the vice grips.
   So that night after a few Danish beers with the German porno actress and the rest of the crew (who were mostly Spanish) I acquired the non de plume of Rusty Pliers. We tried a few others but the German porno actress said Rusty was the best.
   She said it suited me to a tee.
   So my name became Rusty Pliers and my specialty became Fun With Tools. Hand tools mostly. Rusty ones if possible. 
   Ha! Ha! You should have seen the impossible situations they invented to have a man with a toolbox fornicate repeatedly with an enthusiastic partner! Oh boy! It makes me laugh to this day!
   Show business. There’s no business like it. That’s for sure.
   But no animal acts. I was very particular about that!
   One has to draw the line somewhere.
   We made a pretty good living in Europe in the late seventies in the porno industry, me and my tool-belt. But I blew it all seeing the sites and having fun. And I’ll say right now that nobody was ever hurt, in a way they didn’t enjoy, in the making of those great old tooled up XXX videos starring Rusty Pliers.
   But excuse me I wander.
   We were speaking of horses.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Artistic Pride

   What is it with my family and horses?
   I might have mentioned my great uncle JB was hung for being a horse thief. That was in Texas back in 1927. He stole from a famous singing cowboy his equally famous horse.
   For some infamous barnyard fun. 
   We don’t speak of it round the Pliers family table. Not in the presence of the young ones anyway. 
   Then my dad, when he was little, fell off a horse and broke both of his arms. 
   I used to love it when he told that story, because he always looked so embarrassed when he told it. Like falling off a horse and breaking both your arms was a silly thing to do. I especially liked to hear how he had to let his mother (Dad was fatherless from an early age) help him go to the bathroom. 
   Ha! Ha! Boy, did that make a funny image in my mind!
   Like Uncle JB, Dad was from Texas, but I suppose unlike JB he wasn’t much of a cowboy. Or a horse lover. Not as a child anyway.
   Then we come to me. Ironically the first time I ever sat on a horse was at the home of a Disney animator. The ranch really, of John Lounsbery (master animator and one of Disney’s original nine old men). This was in the late 1950s. My father (whose name is John Ewing, for you history buffs) had just started working for Disney and Mr Lounsbery was his new boss.
   So our family was visiting his family, to get to know each other. 
   I couldn’t have been more than five or six years old.
   It was a picnic party. After a barbecue lunch I wandered from the picnic tables to where the horses were fenced. I stood and looked at the huge glistening animals shaking their heads and snorting in the sun. 
   They were so big!  
   As I stood there my dad came from behind and lifted me up and sat me down on one of them.
   I cried and cried!
   Dad thought it was funny and took my photograph while Mr Lounsbery stood by in case I should fall. I suppose he didn’t want me to break my arms like father like son. I remember he wore a real cowboy hat and the most beautiful cowboy boots, red and shiny in the fine California dust.
   (I’m sorry to say the photograph was lost during our move years later from California to New Zealand. I was fourteen then, and when I happened upon it quite by accident as we were packing to move… Well, let’s just say that no one has seen that photograph since. But I paid the price for my youthful vanity. My young conscience racked me for years about tearing up and throwing away that single stupid photograph!)
   I sat upon the horse crying. After I’d about cried myself out, my mother came and rescued me, saying to the men they ought to be ashamed making me cry like that. 
   She laughed as she scolded, like she always did.
   But it wasn’t the men that had made me cry.
   It was the horse.
   I had been terrified! 
   They laughed gently together, the men and my mother, so I knew I wasn’t in trouble for crying, which made me feel better so I stopped sniffling and calmed down, then my mother took me and sat me in the dust under a tree with some toy cars.
   It wasn’t until I started to draw that I began to appreciate horses. Drawing opens your eyes to the world around you and the beauties of nature at every turn. Later when becoming an animator I had to study horses and their amazing poetry of motion so that I might work with them in the movies.
   An animator must exercise close observation of his subject in order to analyze and later artfully reproduce its particular movements. 
   I mean mind-numbingly close observation! Not everyone can do it. You ever met an animator? If you have then you’ll know.
   We’re a special breed.
   Anyway, with my observation of horses came understanding. With understanding came appreciation. With appreciation came admiration. With admiration came love.
   As an artist I’ve learned that it helps your performance if you are in love with your subject.
   You should have seen all the stuff we had to learn about horses for our performance with Khan in Disney’s Mulan (1997). I say we because more than a dozen of us drew and animated Khan for the movie, under the supervision of the great Disney animator Alex Kupershmidt. 
   Khan was a watershed experience for me. It was my first chance to ‘lead’ a character, as we called it, in a Disney feature. That meant that I had more responsibility for my character than I had before, that I could take more ownership. Ha! Ha! That suited me! With other artists, designers and animators I helped bring Khan to life from the germ of an idea in the director’s mind about the Fa family’s old war horse to the final poster of Khan and Mulan that graced the theater marquee at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, where Mulan premiered with great fanfare.
   I attended that premiere. Walked the red carpet. Hobnobbed with the big shots.
   I felt like a god that night!
   After being in the business for twenty-five years and working at Disney for seven, my dream of being a Disney animation artist had finally come true!
   Hey world! That’s my work up there! Me! What do you think? I did that!
   (Me, and well over three hundred other talented, dedicated artists and technicians let’s not forget. I'm bigheaded, but not that bigheaded!) 
   About artist’s reference let me say this. The trick is to learn all you can inside and out about your subject right down to the fingernails… then forget the facts and animate it from the heart!
   We lived and worked with Khan for close to two years while making Mulan.
   It was made the old-fashioned way. 
   Drawn by hand, one frame at a time.
   There are sixteen frames per foot of film.
   There are ninety feet of film per minute.
   An animated feature film is eighty to one-hundred minutes long.
   Do the math and you’ll come to the same conclusion we did.   
   You don’t have to be crazy to be an animator, but it helps.
   It ain’t easy, as we used to say with a laugh before we worked all weekend to finish the scene.
   Drawing horses till our hands ached.  
   Mulan was released in June, 1997.
   I’m still very proud of Khan. 
   He is beautifully animated and exquisitely drawn.
   Hard to believe that was nearly twenty years ago.
   I guess it’s true that no one forgets their first great love.