N  a  p a  l  m     H  e  a  l  t  h     S  p  a  :     R  e  p  o  r  t     2  0  0  8






Long Beach, Long Island New Year’s Day Night


(after reading Cliff Fyman's ATLANTIC HOTEL IN LONG BEACH)


I drank beer all the way from Strowbridge, Mass.

Vinnie driving, he newly clean from H and teaching high school

me desperate to get away from my wife who'd told me 

just hours before that she was leaving the marriage

(this after playing happy beside me in the mountain snow all day with her family)


Vinnie let me ramble but to my: "I can't believe it--we were gonna be famous 

rock and rollers" said:

                                                "Fame's a bitch goddess worse than yr wife."


            We drove on, the hours a numb blur of stabbing headlights.


From his house it was a few blocks to the once grand boardwalk

fresh snow lay thick and muffled every sound but the ocean’s

love for the brilliant white sand.


There was a pit where once a grand hotel held the newlywed dreams of couples 

long since grandparents or in graves under snow.


Visiting from California, I'd never seen snow on the beach before and wanted to make 

a vow to rescue beauty from depression but I hadn't had enough to drink.


The moon shot out from the clouds so that the world was black and white

and everything seemed new and broken at the same time.






“Don’t know how you folks can live in a place like that

where everything burns”

the dump truck guy said before hauling away trash

3000 miles from our home in the Santa Cruz Mountains where

       at that moment

50 m.p.h. winds fanned burning madrone, pine, oak and redwood.


      The forestry dept. evacuated the Tibetan Buddhist conference center

my neighbors in safety were on TV, some waving,

some interviewed: “Well I got up at 5:30 to pack important papers

and the dog—say hi to Pard.” (camera on Australian sheepdog)

               My diabetic cat went into shock being driven through the flames

The orchard was on fire

Our teacher had time only to take his mother, wife, dogs and cell phone

Everyone gathered downhill at the market to field calls and to check where

the fire was by calling our friends who’d stayed to fight.


A retreatent struggled to take a heavy metal statue of Vajrakilya Buddha

with her but left it in the front yard— wrathful guardian covered in ash—

her cabin later incinerated behind it.

    Guilty pang of giddiness hearing I too might have lost my home

—such freedom!

    no more weddings to cater, eager nervous brides on telephone

    no more aching feet, appetizers or spinach ricotta stuffed pasta shells—

but then dread and worry—no more income for the center or me…


That night in the Catskills we heard reports from teachers and friends

everyone up late eating, drinking too much and sleeping little.

The next day we began our return no new reports—the Governor

declared a disaster— but only two cabins and the redwood

wedding amphitheater gone.


The conflagration raged through other canyons, our land became the

firebreak, the line 40 firetrucks and forestry crews from around the state

drew in the sacred dirt.


They saved our home and everything that would remind us of home

and the dining hall and kitchen where I work, and the World Peace Stupa

where we’d buried treasure and swords, guns and broken wedding rings

and the meditation hall’s thirty-five foot golden statue of Padmasambhava

where we practice Buddhism to accept impermanence

            and they say: Practice as if your hair were on fire...


The inferno was only a quarter contained three days later

flare-ups behind the bookstore and above the three-year retreat camp 

smoke hung thick in the oily air but the danger passed

heading somewhere else

for now.