and now for something completly different…Calistoga Christmas

30 12 2010

The day started out with the promise of rain. The weather spirit kept it’s promise later that morning.

By the time we got on the road it was starting to rain pretty steady. We made our way out into the boonies of the bay area, wine country. It is a nice drive no matter the weather of the day.

As we crossed from the boonies into deep boonies places with names like Yountville, Oakville, the views took on a different feel with views of the foot hills holding hands with the clouds.

There is something about towns out in the middle of nowhere that make a man of color get a chill . One knows to slow down and do not speed through places like that. If possible do not stop just slide on through.

Well before you get to Gernyville just after Oakville is a small town full of hot springs and spas, out in deep wine country, called Calistoga .

A fairly cool town. They are used to having a large group of diverse people come through. LZ has been wanting to visit. So instead of Christmas presents, this was our present to each other. Christmas day in Calistoga in wine country. We wanted to it some wineries however they were closed on Christmas day.

We modified the plan to Wine tasting on Sunday, the spa on Christmas. After we got in and settled we found the one restaurant that was open and had a small shared lunch. A salad and calamari both were good.

After that we headed to the spa fir a treatment. Being thrift minded I went for the foot reflexology. LZ followed suit. We were able to gave it done as a couple in a shared room.

The foot massage was good, however was more like foot massage than reflexology. Having studied reflexology and even gotten a certificate, that I felt some thing was missing in the technique. Much more of a ohhh this feels good, than a healing session.

Afterward we headed on to the pool and Jacuzzi. Water pumped in from the mineral springs is relaxing and said to be healthy to the skin. Great it was indoor. It was cold and rainy !

Next up was a light dinner at a local place. One of maybe two places open it turned out to be a pretty good place. The food was good and we got a small discount from the “passport” book given to us at the hotel. With it when visiting places listed in there you got a discount. Seemed like about 10%, better than nothing!

Also with this passport book we were able to do wine tasting at a large number of places for free. The average price for tasting at each winery was about 10.00. There was One that was 20.00.

The next morning at the hotel the breakfast was Free. It was fairly good. Fresh made waffles, juice, eggs, cereal, bagels, pastry, some other stuff which I forgot. I was able to leave the table with the ahhhh,

enough feeling.

So after breakfast and checkout, it was time to hit the wineries .  LZ had eight places on her plan.

It was another rainy day but not too cold so it was alright. We went to one place that had dogs tuning around that came out to meet every car that pulled up. LZ being a dog lover liked that.

Another placed we stopped had a cat that came to the car to meet us then followed us around. As we were ready to leave yet another cat showed up.

We made several stops throughout the afternoon, however did not make the 8 planned stops. We did do six. By the time we finished those LZ was floating pretty well. I held back since I needed to drive.

Dinner was at a place called “mustard”. Kind of a diner grill place. we did not ($$) over do the eating and had just a small order, which was enough.


That was or last stop before making our way out of the valley back to our island home, with as expected LZ sleeping most of the way.

It was a nice little get -a-way that was not expensive for the two of us to celebrate Christmas and the end of the year.

The rest of the pictures HERE

This maybe the last time…

21 12 2010

… or next to the last, post for the year

Kung Fu

Sat was the Christmas party at Shifu’s. As usual there were new faces and lots of food. I took it easy on chowing down that night. One plate, some wine and that was it. I thinking passed on the desert. I did not break out camera this time because pictures of a table of food and people sitting around eating gets kind of old to look at. I had not heard anything more about the jam however had brought along my acoustic Bass just in case. The Jam never happened, a bit of a bummer but not really a surprise. One classmate did bring a electric keyboard along for his son to “play” on. Another real musician showed up would could play keyboards but he had to leave as soon as he arrived as his son was sick… Bummer! The rest of the evening was spent with the regular chat other than Shifu’s partner and I had a long conversation about Shin and Zen Buddhism.

Music Axes

Back stepping to the subject of music and Basses. A while back I went to LA to pick up my late brother’s Bass guitar, a six string model. I already had one of those but since this was my brothers I felt I should claim it out of hock ( pawn shop).

So now I have two six String Basses I had planned on selling mine. It is very nice but not as expensive as my brother’s , still a very nice Bass and I like the finish. The natural maple. When I was in LA on the retrieval mission I showed my brother’s Bass to a Kyudo friend who loved it. He is a hopeful Bass player. I received a call from him over the weekend on a musical question and the topic came up about my brother’s Bass, which lead to speaking of mine.

As it turns out he was interested and wanted to see a picture. After viewing it he was hooked. He asked about cost and/or a swap. I really did not need anything more than cash these days. However it did occur to me I planned on buying a inexpensive Yumi to take on the Zenamaran for my ceremonial shots in route to Nihon. I told him my need, but I still needed money. After some consideration on his part a deal was made. I will be getting an old 17/18 kilo Yumi of his plus some pictures of dead haoly presidents on green paper in exchange for my Bass. So it worked our nicely. It is good when a plan comes together. The Yumi is much stronger than what I have been using , but, I was told in Nihon by a Sensei, mine was too light for me. 18 kilo maybe too much, but I have shot a 16/17 with no problem, my form has improved so it maybe good for me to use a stronger bow, like using a heavier straight sword.


Now since I am on the topic of Kyudo. That was a smooth segway , ne!? I read on the Mu blog a seminar is coming in April of 2011 in Nihon. After an invitation to stay with the family of this same Kyudo Bass Player I very briefly dreamed of attending, even as I was talking with my friend I said very doubtful. I made the mistake of asking LZ to get some details from Japan about the event. I was quickly shut down on any fantasy of attending with a passionate telling of the cost involved (-_-). So much for that. It would have been so much more interesting than testing in Minnesota this summer, just south of the boonies in the middle of nowhere. Anyway I knew from the beginning it was out of the question, it was just a bit of mind diversion fun.

What is real though is RSD’s 2 annual 108 +1 Arrow shoot on New Years Eve. Anyone else going for it?? If you do not know what I’m talking about. In Japan they ring the temple bells 108 for each sin, to release them ( sort like that). We are doing a Kyudo version, with arrows.

This up coming year is the fifth year of this blog. Does not seem that long. In appox 630 days we’ll be off to Japan. Wonder should I start a new one then forom there… The sailing blog will continue throughout. This one…hmm, well still I have time to think. Maybe Zen’s Sekai- I …Nihon

Thurs Kyudo – Dojo Spirit

18 12 2010

It had been a couple of weeks since going down to the Kyudojo. Since my Thursday work has been canceled I have that night sort of free again. Chan was also canceled so… Kyudo time.

The traffic was brutal! The hour drive took 1.5 , not really too bad considering it was rush hour. Once there and after a quick stop at the Japanese market for some supplies,

I made it to the dojo to be greeted with a surprise of no one being there …for the most part.

The class time had been set back to 8:00pm instead of 7:30. Ok, that will make it a bit better for the next trip down. I can leave a little later. Nice ! except for the driving home later part and getting up at 4:00 am. At least the next day is Friday and it is only a 4 hour work day. One of those Yin and Yang things.

Anyway, the others showed up a bit a later for a total of 6 of us. A nice size for the small Dojo.

We did a couple of rounds in formation with Sensei watching and adjusting. The only comment I got during that time was my right shoulder/hand seemed to be raising some on release. I was able to correct it by relaxing more and not forcing the hand back.

Next Sensei went through tournament timing for those that were interested. He asked if I was planning on going to the upcoming TaiHai. I said, I’m not really into it, I’m kind of burnet out on tournaments. He said, ” yeah, that can happen”. He worked with a small group on the timing and I helped a student who was having problems with her draw.

It was nice practicing with a full group. I’m not sure if anyone is going to be in the Tai Hai as yet, they are all rather new. However as I like the students there they are good kids,

I’ll go to support the school spirit which seems to be developing and do some photography. I’ll be a quiet supporting presence. I think that would be a good thing.


Sat. flows Kyudo to Chan

6 12 2010

Ahhhh, it was my weekend of no work, Yay!! It was all about me nice change. I got to sleep in for real on Sat. even though I woke up at 5:30 or so, I stayed in bed and went back to sleep until hmmmm , 7:30 I think. It was nice, it was also cold, but that was Ok, as I did not have to go out in it!

So after a nice uninterrupted morning Zazen, I did some misc things, and then started to prepare to head out to Kyudo Practice @ 11:00am. Traffic was ok which is always nice. Of course it was Sat morning.

I arrived at the Dojo, I was expecting a small class, but was really surprised to see only one student. No matter I changed and made ready. I was asked in the changing room if I wanted to wait until next week on Thursday night, to recieve my Menjo. I laughed and said no, let’s get it done, I’m a low key kind of guy. So the first order of business was my being presented with my Shodan Menjo. Yay me! (^_^)

Nidan testing is about 9 months away. I have a couple of months before getting really serious. After seeing how the Shodan test is, I do not think the Nidan will be that much more difficult. Nogami Sensei (Hanshi) already said I shoot at San Dan level. I will need to crack down on the Kyohon study though. I think the Sandan is when it starts getting tough for both book and practical.

Then we practiced. We went through Tai Hai a couple of times. Sensei told me about the correct breathing for the full sequence of kneeling. I thought it felt backward. However I just did it. He said he just learned the correct pattern recently.  I just said, oh really. It felt weird and against all my other breath training , but as I said, I just did it.

After a couple of rounds of Tai Hai kneeling shots. we were to do standing form free practice shots. I got one shot off, before my wrap on the Yumi came off. (-_-). I had redone the wrap and It was not on glued enough so the most of the rest of the class time was spent me redoing my wrap.

Sensei had picked up a cold during Thanksgiving and was coughing a lot. I said off hand. Good thing you are not dong a TaiKai. He relies with oh yeah, there is a Tai Kai coming up in Feb. If your are not working… Yuk (>_<). I dislike tournaments, I did the Tokyo thing, because it was the first and I wanted to get the full experience and I was already there . Sigh.

So now I’m asked if I remember the timing for TaiKai. He , Sensei said I will not teach it today, because I do not want to confuse the new student, but you can review. That was before my wrap came off. So after  I re-glued , it says ok, I’ll just ask you some question since you have to wait on your Yumi to dry.  (>_<)!

I have not thought about tournament timing or anything to do with a tournament since leaving Japan. I could not answer a single question . (>_<) Sigh! I would really rather just attend a seminar on basics, form, shooting, test practice, not not not a TaiKai. Sigh. Oh well, I’ll have to put in some practice time. I do not expect to care about even placing, but I will do my best… more so in front a … well never mind…I’ll do my best…. if I go!

After Kyudo I headed off to Chan practice. It had been a while since I saw part of the main group other than my few  sisters at the Berkeley Shanga. Also the San Jose group had has gotten a permanent meeting place, I wanted to see that. I arrived a little late for the meeting, which was ok, this was the English speaking group and they were talking mostly with the beginners who had just joined. It was somewhat small room, but it was about half full. I was surprised, as were the older members to see me. Since I said It would be difficult for me to attend and I did not say I would be there that day.

As I was told the room was small but nice, it had pleasant vibes already even from the short time they were there. I missed the opening ceremony for the grand opening, so I’m sure they had the elders there to add Chi to the place. Anyway it was nice, there were a few pictures up of Shifu of course along with some Buddha items.

I spoke with those I knew after the session, and we took a group picture after that with a few who stayed behind after the meeting and were not to bashful to take a picture. It was insisted that I take a picture alone to prove I was there…I do not know why Shijie thought I needed that.?

There will be a one day retreat in Montery in Jan. Since the big controversial Kyudo Seminar in LA was canceled for that weekend, I am making plans for the retreat, since I already had planned that day off. It will be a good spirit re-charge and to see the group elders.

Meditating in a group is like doing Tai Chi in a group the Chi/Ki is much stronger. I needed the fix!



3 12 2010

The weather has warmed by about 5 degrees, it has helped my attitude. I hate being cold, and freezing. LZ says it is training. Good Kyudo Training, good Zen training. Yeah yeah, I hate it. I do not function well in the cold, I’m a tropic baby…Cold Sucks

Anyway, my mind set is better this week, I’m back to the training, and using the morning at work as my training time. I found a spot that is sort of out of the way. I can sort of see the lot ( I just have to go out from time to time to walk the lot) and I am sort of protected from the “hawk” ( wind chill) , as well as protected from casual view. I do not like feeling like on on display while doing my drills. So the Lot Dojo is born…

The five a.m. starting work time has thrown off my Zazen morning sitting. I feel 4:00 is too early to do meditation, also too easy to fall back to sleep. Now my routine is to walk the lot, then do a bit of Motion Chan and stretching, with some basic breathing. Then do Zhan zhuang ( standing meditation) followed by some walking meditation. I recall some masters saying doing meditation while engaged in the world is superior than doing meditation on the quiet of a mountain top. It is the focus/power/source behind maintaining a calm mind while doing Shaolin Kung Fu, engaged in combat, sailing in a storm, doing Kyudo.

Once these parts are done, I do some Tai Chi ( yang 24), I can still do it in the secluded area I have selected, as it is just wide and long enough, enough for me to move freely. Even with my layers of clothing I can still move enough. Perhaps it adds to the training. I have visions of elder Chinese in the mountains of northern China  practicing in my head. This is how I feel, with my layers. One pair of thermo pants under the street pants. 1 Silk Long John top, 1 cotton termo top, 1 long sleeve t-shirt,  1, short sleeve T-shirt, 1 heavy cotton sweater, then my dress uniform shirt, followed by a Uniform jacket with liner. Gloves, heavy boots, two caps and scarf around the neck. The last few days with the slightly warmer temps I have been perfect outdoors.  These are temps in the low forties. When it get down in to the 30’s I’m still cold…and suffering!

Anyway back to training, after Tai Chi, another meditation  walk around the lot. I can be seen by incoming staff, I can be seen by the watching camera of the office big brother. Following that, Hsing Yi and Mantis back in my lil Dojo, followed by another walk.

The next section is Kyudo, starting with Ashibumi, I can do this out in the middle of the lot. I can be seen and no one knows what I am doing other than just standing. I can work on my foundation, and my vertical heaven and earth reach. From time to time, I extend both arms and expand from the center like doing Kai, but from a Zanshin position ( people think I’m just stretching) . Next I go back to the Lot Dojo and get a few practice imaginary shoots in from Ashibumi through Zanshin using a heavy elastic band .

This helps keep my mind off of the job, other than watching all that happens with no mind, I can be detached yet alert to my environment. It has helped me not think about how little money I am making or the only 2o hours a week, or the rejection from the applications, or the failing health of the economy and if I will have SS money when I finally can be ready to set sail or any of the other numerous downers.  I can be unattached to these thoughts and just in the present…at least at work.

and sing to myself ” Look on Bright Side of Life

The final hour of my shift is spent walking listening to my iPod play Japanese language lessons. Little by little I am improving on many levels. Artistically well, I guess it, that part of me will just go dormant, hibernate until the “winter” is passed.

This weekend I will get a chance to recharge more, I’m not working anywhere, this one is for me. Kyudo class, then to Chan practice with some elders Sat. day time. Sat evening is a lighted boat parade. I can take some night photos. Capt Mary will come down to my Boat to check it out on Sunday and give me some feedback on getting up it setup to travel across the Pacific. You “By Land Blog” readers do not know about her, she is my sailing mentor. She shows up on my “By Sea blog”. Other than that I’ll spend some time working on the Zenamaran ( boat) and doing some Zazen on the ZenCat (boat)

This upcoming Weds will be the last class Shaolin class of the year for the city. It has been suggested by the students we have a pot luck. This will be the first for my school even with all the years of teaching. This is the first group that have had the spirit of we are a class, this is our group. This is why they are my favorite students. They have the spirit even though we do not a regular school as such. It really is not the place that makes the school it is the students.

The Pot Luck Jam at Shifu’s is coming in a couple of weeks. That should be interesting.

For the end of the year ceremony,  My Sempai and I will do another 108 arrow shoot at our private Dojo, RSD. It will be a good way to end the year.

So there will be a few more post before the end of the year. Staying with me eyes on the Bright Side of life.

Life can be like a musical… at least in your head