Monthly Archives: May 2012

Dishwasher reloaded

The best way to get your mind off something is to put it on something else.”


The sink suffers in shamed uselessness. From its steel basin, a polychromatic, jagged landscape of ceramics and plastics, steel and china rises up. It’s packed tight with a lifeless menagerie of dishes, cups, bowls, silverware — even a few items I can’t identify. The sink’s faucet is held  prisoner — jammed tight between two imposing, cymbal-sized plates.

Still, despite the mess in the sink, the kitchen cupboards are nearly bursting with more of the same. Overloaded, their screws have stripped from the wall and the cupboards have managed to partially free themselves and tilt toward the floor in a frozen, precarious bow, honoring the great god gravity.

Looking at all of this, I stand quietly and feel my patience slipping away. It’s clear to me that my wife’s feverish mania for thrift store tableware has gotten so bad that it threatens our very lives. I must act.

I rise early in the morning and make my way to the kitchen. Stealthily, I box up the excess dishware in an effort to liberate the sink. As its burden lightens, it creaks an appreciative, metallic moan. I quietly drag the boxes into our walk-in closet, which then becomes a look-in closet.

But my work isn’t over. Because we must rinse the tableware before it goes in the dishwasher, I need to determine the best, most efficient schedule for moving the dishes from the sink to the dishwasher. Unfortunately, this proves to be a challenge as I unravel the rat’s nest of risks. I discover that each new factor — a guest for dinner, a midnight snack, for example — leads to even more possibilities for too many or too few plates.

Lost in these thoughts, a vision engulfs me. The potentialities connected to the dishwasher issue appear and blossom into giant chrysanthemums with each petal another risk to account for. I look at one of these petals, and it multiplies itself, spreading into more petals. The other petals on the flower do the same.

I have reached kitchen nirvana, a place beyond words, even logic.  I stand at the edge of rational thought. On the doorstep of yogis and Zen masters, I am about to push the doorbell and enter a place that takes even the most devout searchers years of quiet, focused meditation to find.

“Why are you staring at the dishwasher?” My wife’s voice pierces through and shatters my world into a million shards. Luckily, I still hold tight to a glowing, heavy jewel, one that lights my path as I journey towards a more fluid understanding, a grander truth.  It whispers into my ear: No matter how hard you try, you can never predict every potential risk before you. When you load the dishwasher, keep this in mind: If the dishwasher isn’t full, wait. If there are more dishes than space, leave some for the next day.

That evening I fall asleep quickly, skipping the usual grappling with insomnia that had become a nightly habit. In the dream that soon follows, I am on a golden hill at twilight. The summer day’s heat is slowly fading while a light, welcome breeze softly caresses my face and tussles my hair. Above me, the stars begin to poke through the darkening velvet. Around me, life celebrates in chirps and scented blossoms. And then, in the sky, two massive platters appear. They rise, and then explode into flowery fireworks that fall to earth, fading into oblivion, absorbed by the night.

I stretch out on the soft earth, still warm from the sun. The show continues  and I think to myself, “Tomorrow, the living room!”


The unemployed — now even more self-absorbent

It’s crowded in my head these days as I search for enlightenment. That is, when I’m not searching for a job. Both Yoda and Grasshopper are here. And they’re not alone. Doubts, regrets and self loathing are here as well, flitting about like bats hunting insects in dusky autumn skies.

So how do I keep the bats at bay? The Japanese practice directed focus and meditation, but I just run. And with so much free time, I can run for hours, crushing those little devils with every step.

From my have-not hamlet of Hawthorne, Calif., I drive to the coast, just minutes away, and then step onto Los Angeles County’s sandy frontier. I like to say I practice urban “beachfare.” It’s a ring-less circus of high school parties, volleyball games, extended families, strolling lovers and even fishermen. Weekends are the worst. It’s as if the Southern California megalopolis finally had enough and vomits a portion of its masses onto the grubby, sad strip.

Yet somehow I find peace as I run this living, swarming obstacle course. The Pacific’s rhythmic roar overpowers the din within and without. Its green, briny waves curl and crash, and then spread out like a white foaming carpet onto the shore: A cosmic mahalo — both hello and good-bye — reminding me that my visit is a short one, at best.

With each uneven, soggy step, I tell my story. And the beach absorbs each word, acknowledging my existence with a long string of size 12 footprints, chronicling my efforts for a few moments, but then wiping them away.