Buddha in the coffee shop

Buddha in a coffee shop

This is not actually my cover of the classic Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) album Buddha And The Chocolate Box originally issued in April 1974 when I was still in junior high. It is, rather, a simple observation of what I saw today, what in fact I see almost every Saturday, when I got to Side Street Espresso to write: a Buddha in the coffee shop. He’s been hanging out there for several months.

He weighs nearly 700 pounds and is about 40 inches tall (sitting, of course — I’m not sure how tall he’d be if he stood up), and he was handcarved of white-grey marble in the Quang Nam Province of Vietnam. He was purchased there and brought to Alaska by Suel Jones, a former U.S. Marine who fought in Vietnam.

Mr. Jones is offering him for sale for $3,500 as a fundraiser for Veterans for Peace, & I hope somebody will pick him up (being very careful of their backs, of course), because it’s a good organization — including veterans both male & female of all eras and duty stations from the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39 to the conflicts going on now in Iraq & Afghanistan & everything in between — & it’s doing good work — drawing on the personal experiences & perspectives of its members to raise public awareness about the true costs & consequences of militarism & war, and seeking peaceful, effective alternatives.

Here’s a closer look at him.

Buddha in a coffee shop

You can see him for yourself at Side Street Espresso at 412 G Street in downtown Anchorage, phone (907) 258-9055. Side Street is open Monday through Saturday from 7:00 AM to 3:00 PM.

He’s so beautiful — if I could afford him, & had the space, I would bring him home myself. But at least I have this orange round-bellied little guy, who I picked up in the antique shop below my apartment when I lived in Seattle in the late ’80s. (I bought the oranges & cinnamon & beads considerably later.)

Orange Buddha

I was pretty tired this morning because I’d stayed up quite late, so I didn’t get much writing done today. Nor, I’m afraid, did Barbara — because I was gabbing away pretty heavily. About all kinds of stuff. I was tired, but I felt good, and the Vietnamese Buddha made me feel all the better, because the peace & balance within him was so demonstrative of the thing I was thinking about most as I talked, about Job — yeah, that one, the guy in the Bible — & his integrity— the integrity that he held onto all through the storm of his hurts, & the accusations of his “comforters” who repeatedly insisted that all the harms that had befallen him & his children were because of some sin they were sure he must have committed—but he hadn’t. He hung onto his integrity like someone holding onto a pole in the midst of a great storm, & ultimately the Voice from the Whirlwind vindicated him.

I look at the Vietnamese Buddha, sitting stately & serene & upright, & I think, were he beset by his own storms, that balance & integrity & inner peace would see him through, too.

Though the storm would probably mess up his clothes & his hair, at least if they weren’t made out of grey-white marble.

Well, Job’s been an important figure to me for a long time. I’ve got a couple of poems based on him, one of which — “Sermon” — I’ve posted here. I’ll have to find the other. Maybe some of the other stuff I’ve written about him too.

[Update 1/9/10: I’ve now posted the other poem, “Job 42.13.”]

It has been a good day, despite my not getting as much sleep as I should, & despite it being quite cold — hovering around 0 degrees Fahrenheit today (-17 Celsius), depending on what part of town you’re in. This sweet little puppy tied up outside one of the shops on G Street near Side Street was shivering some in spite of its fur —

Puppy on G Street

— but I was dressed well for the weather, & enjoyed my walk along 36th Avenue & C Street after I got done with my bank errand down on 36th (I took a bus there after Side Street). It was beautiful out. Here’s the pictures to prove it.

36th Avenue

Midtown Anchorage

Midtown Anchorage

Midtown Anchorage

Besides, I was on my way to Barnes & Noble.

Barnes & Noble in Anchorage

I wisely bypassed all the 30%-off copies of Palinocchio’s book of lies & got some books on Tibet & Nepal. Research, don’tcha know — environments with low atmospheric pressure (compared to sea level) are what I need to know about for the story I’m working on right now, which is called “Breathe,” & is about Pina Chomko, the first person in 3 centuries in the Project of which she is part to breathe the free, if thin, air of a planet. Cool stuff. Or rather, Cold stuff.

Then I came home and rowed for the first time since last May, lazy butt that I’ve been. Rowed 50K. Erg.

Feel great.

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