This past Sunday turned out to be an interesting day. Woke up, late as hell. I was supposed to meet a friend as she was going to let me tag along with her to visit her Thai Buddhist temple in Berkeley. It was a beautiful warm day and aside from the admonishment I received for not being punctual, we were off to a pretty good start. Met up at the Civic Center in The City and jumped on to BART(for what I thought was going to be my last BART ride due the impending strike an all). My friend, who's an ace cook, stayed up all Saturday night preparing a feast especially for the monks at the temple. She needs good karma and so do I. So between her cooking it and me schlepping it, hopefully we'll scrape up enough good merit to get us though these dog-shit days of health care woes, never-ending Middle-East wars, and a tits-up economy.
The Temple has been in Berkeley for about 25-odd years and every Sunday they host a huge Thai brunch where you can get a hefty plate of tasty Thai food for very little and sit and eat in a sunny court yard. It's kind of like a weekly church spaghetti feed in which the proceeds help keep the temple running. It's only open for three hours between 10 am and 1 pm. I couldn't believe the size of the crowd and I was told that this was a slow day. I also learned from a temple member that they used to have longer hours but a few years back, but when the neighborhood started gentrifying a few years ago, the neighbors started bitching. This in my opinion is tantamount to moving next to an airport and complaining about noisy jets! But hey, that's gentrification, even in the People's Republic of Berkeley! That is what happens when croc-wearing, stroller-pushing yoga moms move in and start organizing. By the way - I have nothing against yoga, moms, crocs, or strollers. Oh bloody f-ng hell, I think you get the point already.
Since I came with my friend, I didn't actually eat the food from the brunch as I was given the honor of eating from the pot luck brought by the regular temple members. Despite feeling like a like fish out of water, the Thai people were all nice and treated me warmly. I sat on the floor with them and dug in to the colorful looking, home cooked fare: spicy beef stews, yellow curry chicken, Thai omelets and a bunch of other good tasting dishes. Later, my friend took me into the small prayer room where she taught some young children and myself how to make an offering and a prayer. I'm not a big believer in the supernatural and that sort of thing but I went along for the experience (kind of like sitting and standing and kneeling and standing again at a Catholic mass; you just follow everyone else and hope to baby Jesus and all the chubby little angels that you aren't the last one moving!). I made my prayer for world peace but I also added a special rider prayer that I can get my samsaric ass, along with my family, back to Los Angeles as soon as f-ng possible.
Afterward, I shook a can of sticks until one fell out. Using the corresponding number from the stick, I matched it to my reading. I have to admit that what it said about me was frighteningly accurate and my friend, who is all too familiar with my personality flaws, had a right good laugh. So, after feeling slightly clowned by the buddha, I gave my offering in form of some good-ol' American greenbacks with the hope that some of my karma would be transformed, or at the very least, that the monks could use the money to buy some cool new shit at Costco. But that, however, was not the end of the journey.