14000 Tinkers Creek Rd.
Walton Hills, OH 44146
by Ray Zinn
The last time I saw my good friend Beau, we had just finished a bottle of Black Velvet and no fewer than a half-dozen sundaes at East Coast Custard. It was around 3 a.m., the Witching Hour, and we were walking through the elm-lined streets of a quiet Northeast Ohio suburb when he asked me a question that, until this day, I'd failed to answer. I decided that a sandwich review was as fine a delivery system as any in this communications-addled world.
When I wake up each morning, I stumble, bleary-eyed, into my office on the south side of the old brick bakery where I live in Cleveland. There, in the corner, I sit Zazen for 20 or 30 minutes. I hear my neighbors walking on the street below, and I hear dogs bark at the rising sun. I empty my mind. The whole point of sitting is to sit. There's nothing else to it!
Then, of course, I go about my day. Coffee in the French press, toothpaste on the toothbrush, the whole thing. I struggle to remain in the present moment (who doesn't?), but I take the mindset that I harvested on my zafu that morning and bring my mind back to the now. I commandeer my presence, best I can. When my thoughts wander, I picture a river; I watch the water (my thoughts) flow past me and I revel in the continuous, self-repeating nature of the moment.
This is the sort of thing that has improved my outlook on life immeasurably. That's important in a city like Cleveland, where nincompoop leaders and rah-rah civil society will do everything possible to wear down the slightest inclination toward rational thought. The point is: We aren't separate from nature, from the universe, from the undulations of Cleveland. We are a subjective manifestation of the universe, experiencing itself anew with each passing stitch in eternity. (I tried explaining this during public comment at a Finance Committee meeting earlier this year, and I was promptly and forcibly removed from 601 Lakeside. The tapes of the meeting have been destroyed, according to the mayor's lackeys. And those in attendance were made to sign extensive NDAs before being granted egress to the Willard Park Garage.
I meditated on the gentle crest of Mall B until dawn that night.)
There are problems in Cleveland, and, certainly, there are problems in the United States. Something foul is rippling through society, and I fear that it has more to do with how we communicate than any authoritarian political machinations. (Though beware the demagogue's calls to dismantle our public institutions!) My concern is that technological conveniences rather inconvenience our ability to think and speak clearly, to share ideas in a coherent manner, to empathize and to grow. We give our own minds short shrift with our digital yammering, and we end up rallying mindlessly around mere symbols. Endless points of reference. Memetic yearnings.
The real revolution is in our head. We won't achieve much of anything out there until we can conquer the short-circuiting circus of the mind. Watch your breath flow in and out. Let the madness of this world drift down the river. Avoid all calls for party unity, avoid appeals to base instinct and tribalism, avoid God.
What was the question that Beau asked me?
Oh, I've quite forgotten at this point. We were far too busy embracing the moment—engaging the very zeal of life—for me to retrace our steps now. We had a grand old time, and that's the important thing. We're onto the next present moment, always.
The reuben at Tinker's Creek Tavern is fine, and the Swiss cheese is melted just so. It's a nearly perfect rendition of the classic sandwich, and maybe that's just it: I was looking for something more? Then, as I came to the last bite of 1,000 Island-slathered marble rye, bursting with a final morsel of corned beef, I realized that the sandwich had all but come and gone -- before I had a moment to enjoy it!
Immediately after lunch, I said good-bye to my colleagues; they traveled back to the office, and I wandered down to Tinkers Creek, which flows serenely along the restaurant's gorgeous patio. I found a long slab of shale, baking silently in the sun. Folding my knees in full lotus, I sat Zazen on the stone and brought myself back to the place I'd left my mind.