Saturday, November 10, 2012

Vietnam Journal (Spring 2002)

(2 May 2002) The airplane flights were very tiring. Thankfully, in the airport at Inchon S. Korea, you could rent a shower for 1/2 hour for 8000 won ($6 US). It was well worth it.

I arrived at Noi Bai airport outside Ha Noi and took a taxi into the city at 11 pm. It was difficult to find a hotel, but the young man sleeping behind the locked doors awoke and let me in. Next morning I arose at 6 am to go back to the airport. Riding in on the minivan, I saw the plane lifting off, just as we pulled up to the airport, dohhh!

Map of Hué

The travel agent helped me to exchange my ticket for an afternoon flight, and I arrived safe and sound in Hué by 2:30. The next adventure was in finding my artist friend Lê Thừa Tiến. He had waited for me in the morning, so when I got to his house, he was gone...quite a comedy of errors.

After walking to the Hué College of Art to look for him, I walked back and plopped my bags outside his gate to wait. Some women workers were mixing concrete and rolling wheelbarrows up to the 3rd floor next door. Everyone looked at me, and some laughed and said "
làm việc"(work)! 

The neighborhood where Tiến lives (and where the college is located) is in the Citadel, an ancient fortress built for the Nguyen dynasty in the early 19th century.

Randall - Thien Mu Pagoda, Hué

Later Tiến showed up, much to my relief. He took me to the family home where I am staying, and introduced me to an elderly husband and wife, An and Thao, and to their son Thinh who is about 30. Their home is beautiful, I have a room w/attached bathroom. The home has plaster walls, an open airy plan, and a wonderful garden all around the yard.

My adventures continue, I am happy to be with such a generous people as the Vietnamese, though I miss my family. They are very full of life and joy, even when working hard.

(3 May 2002) The last few days have been a whirlwind of activity. I have been working like crazy with two assistants to build the sculpture. It turns out the festival opens in two days, gulp!

But, it is good, since I have a plan and some good helpers. The two young men who work with me, one is 23, the other 32. They work (
làm việc) hard and fast, but keep stopping to challenge me to arm wrestling contests.

Friends Showing Off

Tuesday we chose the site for my piece, which will be located on the river walk next to a main entrance (good luck!) We dug the foundation, made steel
(tron) supports, and poured concrete (be tong). Then Wednesday we laid two courses of bricks. Thursday (yesterday) we worked 3 shifts (morning / afternoon / evening).

Which is great, except Mr. Hien, the sculpture director loves to party! So at lunch we eat a big meal and drink lots of beer (bia) then we rest before going back to work. At 5 o'clock out comes more cases of beer. We drink, we talk and then more work.

My two helpers and I were about "three sheets to the wind" by then, but somehow we finished the brick work around 10 pm, singing songs and arm wrestling, as crowds of onlookers circled around us.

Randall - Carrying Water at Sculpture Site

Walking back to the family home where I am staying, late in the evening. It was a hard day's work, and I'm very tired, and as I walked across the river dam road, and down the street, I forgot which side street they lived on.

I searched in vain, looking for some familiar signs or stores. One was a 5-course snake restaurant, another a photo copy store. I walked and walked and walked . . . then I came to a sign reading 'Hué' with a line through it.

I realized that I had walked to the edge of the city in the dark (oops!), and turned around. By now it was around 10:30 pm (late here)and as I walked back I saw a sign and tried the side street... yes! In the darkness I found the family home at last and climbed over the locked gate.

With that I'll close the story for today.

Hué - Traffic at Night

(4 May 2002) Last night, Mr. An had gone to look for me (he is 65) - he walked (li bo) into town, and came back when he didn't see me.

This morning I apologized for not calling them.

Today, I am quite exhausted! But, one more days work, and my piece will be finished, I think. There is a large stone (da) to put on top.

Randall - Working on Sculpture

(4 May 2002) Finally I finished my is just as I had hoped, and many people stop to look.

An's wife Thao (she is 55) has let me borrow her bike. As I rode to lunch with the other artists at the hotel, I was hijacked by a wedding party along a side street!

They brought me in to the cafe where a young man was singing and an electric piano was being played. In moments I was swarmed by generosity: food, beer, friendship, it was very festive!

Randall Garrett - Seven Story Mountain
Public Sculpture in Hué, Vietnam
on banks of Song Huong (Perfume River)

(5 May 2002) Last night was the opening ceremony of Festival Hue. A giant performance with thousands of people attending. I will tell you more about that next e-mail.

Vietnam must be the most surreal and strangely wonderful place I have visited. Every moment is a new friend, and unexpected happenings...sheer craziness!

(6 May 2002)  The last few days have been alternately crazy and peaceful. The Festival Hué has the city insanely full of people and traffic at times, i cannot begin to describe.

But the performances are inspiring. Tonight I watched the traditional Cambodian dance troupe, and then the Hanoi water puppets performance (I saw them last year in Hanoi). The main show I wanted to see was cancelled tho' - the circus (xiec). I hope to see it in Hanoi.

Fishing Boats - Hué

I decided to park my bike and walk, as my ass was so sore from riding. By the end of the evening, my feet were every bit as sore! I took a back pathway, and rode a small wooden diesel-powered boat across the river to get back to the family house I am staying at. That was fun.

(7 May 2002) Today, I was invited by a new friend, a young 23-year old Buddhist monk named Trần Quốc Phương to visit his monastery, on the outskirts of Hue, called Chua Bao Quoc. It was founded in 1674. Phương joined the monastery as a novice at 11, and is now 23.

He is a gentle and kind young man, and showed me all around. Walking hand in hand he showed me the clean swept monastery grounds, garden sanctuary, and temple.

Tran Quoc Phuong at Langco Beach

(8 May 2002)

Last night was special, as I went with Thinh, the son of the family where I stay, and his friends to an Ao Dai (pronounced "ow-yi") fashion show on the bridge crossing the river.

Hundreds of young ladies wearing the traditional Vietnamese dress modeled along the runway across the bridge. It was on national TV here.

Festival Hué - Fashion Show on the Bridge

(9 May 2002)  I have been so worn out from all the craziness at the Festival Hué, that I took a detour yesterday. I rode my bike to Thuan An beach, about 13 kilometers (8 mi.) outside of Hue.

It was so hot, and I was lonely, but I decide to enjoy myself by walking in the waves along the beach. The beach was very beautiful and quite empty, save for a few fishing canoes and thatched huts. I ate prawn and drank warm beer over ice in a tiny lean-to cafe run by a family on the beach.

Randall - Thuan An Beach

I rode back mid-afternoon and am nursing a healthy sunburn, but it was worth the sights and sounds of the water, and farms along the way. Slowly passing over a bridge, past fishing boats, an abandoned Communist stage in a field, on lonely dirt roads.

This morning I met my Buddhist monk friend Phương for coffee, worked on some drawings, and then went with the symposium people for lunch on a boat.

Am trying to slow down a little and pace myself, so as to not collapse. I miss you so, and hope all is well.

Randall with Certificate at Guest Home

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Dream Journal (abridged) - October

Indian Assassin Getaway

I am an assassin in India, escaping on a three-person bike with the two Indian men on my team. We have just completed a job and are escaping. Looking back as we peddle furiously on our bike, I watch as the townspeople chase us down the street. Getting away now, going down a steep hill, one of my accomplices says to the other, "why are we going this way?", to which he replies "because of this", and gestures as the ocean comes into view at the bottom of the hill, a cove with huge rolling waves. We ditch the bike on the muddy beach and head toward our canoe and stashed gear, ready to complete the getaway.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Desert Mountain Landscape at Night

Night time, I am on a mountainside in New Mexico. Moonlight creates a bright contrast across the rocky landscape, as I come out of the mountain retreat house to take a photograph. But, the moon sets before I can, and all is in darkness. However, my glasses reflect a small amount of light onto the ground, so I am able to see the beautiful rocks scattered across the landscape.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Runaway Train Pursued by Generals

 I am on a runaway train that some generals are trying to stop. They are on bicycles. From the ground now, I see the train running over them at high speed. They have heavy equipment which runs into the back quarter of the train and derails it, but the rest of the train barrels on. They have dug up a section of the tracks, but I know this will not stop the train. None of this has happened yet, as I flashed forward in time to see it. Returning to the present, the train is still barreling down the tracks at high speed.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Garbage Dump / Bliss Experience

Standing in a large hole in the ground, a garbage dump. I begin to climb out, over the trash, along a very steep ledge. As I continue along it, I look down at the ground far below, and start to lose my footing. Letting go of my thoughts and cares, it suddenly feels exhilarating. Moving nimbly, I come to the top of a sweeping hillside panorama, looking down across a giant dirt playground. I cross joyfully down the hillside in a looping arc, filled with bliss as I run with complete abandon.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Little Bolshevik Thugs

Night time in a small room of a larger building. As I move toward the door, a small Bolshevik looking guy wearing a cotton tunic, tiny gold-rimmed oval glasses and a floppy cap, blocks the entrance, flanked by two cohorts. He brandishes an open knife. As I try to move past them, he presses the knife against my chest, through the fabric of my shirt. In the hall now, with both hands, I grab him by the tunic and turning rapidly, lift him up against the wall. His knife falls to the ground. Reaching down, I pick up the knife and holding it, release him. Admonishing him, he and his two friends slink away into the darkness. I feel a little sympathy for them, at their failed thuggery.

 - - - - - - - - - - - -

Self-Immolation Guru

A guru is instructing devotees on self-immolation. He gestures to a small box-like kiln where a body is burning. Pulling it out, he sets it on the floor, in kneeling posture, still smoking and glowing ember like. I am terrified and realize I cannot do that. I kneel before the burning body in veneration, and notice a severed head behind it. The eyes are staring back at me, fully alert.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Passing Through Mexico (Dream Sequence)

In my dream, I am passing through Mexico.

Just north of the border, I come across Pedro. He has a box full of powerful fireworks, and is setting up some cool pyrotechnics on the desert plain. I ask him where I can get some too. He says, "just across the border", pointing out into the desert in the general direction of Juarez. I head that way.

Watching now as Owen Wilson drives a bright gold 1970s hot rod erratically through the desert. Russell Crowe is sitting in the passenger seat, bracing himself through the open window. Flashing across the landscape, the car skids and upends itself, hood pointing down into the sand. After a moment the car begins shaking and flips over onto its top.

Panning out and back from the scene as Mexican workers on scaffolds build a hotel. Something seems odd as they all start dancing a choreographed routine, like dancers from a Michael Jackson music video. Turning the corner I see Johnny Depp standing near the back of the hotel courtyard, and realize this is a movie he's directing. I say "this isn't going to end well".

Driving now in a tiny blue car on a pothole strewn highway near Mexico City with bad brakes. I am going way too fast and swerve to avoid the potholes. Pushing hard on the flimsy brakes, I exit and turn up a winding road toward a house on a bluff. Stepping out, I see that it overlooks an electrical power plant sitting next door to an indigenous tribe and village far below.

The people of the tribe and their village are covered in ash from the plant. I move around the yard atop the bluff overlook to try and position myself to get a photo to show others of this tragic convergence of modern and indigenous life.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

creation story

there, among the ruins, up into the eyes of mercy.
racing thoughts, a watering in my mouth, the scent of a lilac.
mocked now by all the things I could have done.

the laughter after the joke, the ringing in my ears.
ecstasy giving way to fever and delirium.
a sensing of the all expansive, yet nowhere to be found.

seeing it all so clearly now, like a gift.
stumbling somewhere between waking and sleeping.
so subtle, always there, just waiting.

walking around barefoot in my dreams.
feeling…I am not this, I am not this…
and where are you now, and what are you thinking?

i remember, it all seemed so easy then.
the stroke of a brush, a gentle caress.
imagination taking form.

feverish, an apocalyptic snowfall,
riding downhill in graceful arcs.
catching a snowflake on my tongue.

in creation it appears, there is no limit,
out of nothing, infinity springs forth.
a dab of paint, the breath of life.

Earth dissolves into water, water dissolves into fire,
fire dissolves into air, air dissolves into the void.
grace and karma, sister and brother.

Listen, engage the world through a child's eyes.
exhilaration, riding on a narrow ledge over such a deep chasm.
a land shrouded in fog, swimming now, far out in the ocean.

this tidal wave of Samsara.
droning feedback rushes through, coursing upward,
In such proximity, yet always just beyond reach.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Mindfulness (on the Go)

It can be a real challenge to stay present and balanced in today's world. We all have our routines that hopefully include an active creative and spiritual practice, but even with that, there are times when things get really busy and you feel out of sync. So, what can you do to stay centered when things are moving too fast?

You may be driving to work, getting your children ready for school, answering e-mails at your office, and lost in the jumble of your thoughts. So, most importantly, stop for a moment and begin to pay attention to your breath. This will always bring you back to the present moment.

Then, take that moment you have just opened up and expand on it, by creating an impromptu sacred space, wherever you are. You can do this completely within your own thoughts. As you follow your breath, turn off the radio or the television, and give yourself the room to focus on your thoughts and intentions.

We don't always realize this, but the various forms of stimulation we bring into our environment affect our mental outlook, both to our benefit and detriment. Radio, television, and the internet are deeply influential in that regard.

With that in mind, I like to open up the silence in my morning drive time by improvising a new mantra each day. Yesterday, I began to chant the simple "Alleluia" chorus that I remembered from my days of going to Catholic Mass. As I chanted this mantra, I began to visualize my heart chakra, and to literally see the doors of my heart opening, and the word "Alleluia" written in calligraphy on a scroll that unrolled from my heart and extended into space.

Visualization exercises such as these are invaluable to reframing your perspective and manifesting positive activity in your life. My intention with this particular visualization is to sketch it in my journal, but this will have to wait until my schedule slows just a little.

This entire chanting meditation only took a couple of minutes, a brief interlude in an otherwise busy day. And yet, it completely changed my outlook, from a compulsive rush to activity, into a more reflective and relaxed place.

There are any number of ways that you can reset yourself throughout the day. A quick step into nature, even if it's just a small green space in the heart of the city can work wonders. A song on your playlist, whether it has words or just a positive instrumental vibration can inspire you. Briefly focusing your attention on a lit votive candle or the feeling of the water as you shower, can both help to calm the mind.

Basically, anything that gets you to pause for a moment and puts a smile on your face can refresh and bring you back to mindfulness, no matter how simple it may be.

As an exercise, and a go to reference for when times are super busy and you don't feel centered, make a list of all the different ways that you can take a moment and find yourself in the midst of a busy day. By doing that, you will be better prepared for when those days come along.

So next time I'm chanting my mantra out on my morning drive, and see you, I'll wave to you as a reminder to us both that this day is ours to create and be mindful of the beauty within and around us.

Have fun creating your life (even on the run) today!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Inspiration (to Breathe and Create)

Do you sometimes feel stuck? Stuck in your life situation and wishing that you could be somewhere else and your life could be different? While we are called to be present in this moment and its circumstances, it is also, so important to creatively imagine that place we are stepping into next.

Let's try this!

Today I choose to live from a place of inspiration. I will find my higher place and begin to reimagine my life. When fear calls, I will use it, by acknowledging and then shifting the thought to a higher vibration, one of trust and adventure. Trust, that by following my heart, I am walking the true and honest path for my life, and that I will be rewarded for that. Adventure, in that I can let go of fear and dive into the excitement of the experience as it unfolds.

By making the transition from fear to inspiration, I open up to possibilities that did not exist before this moment. When we are in a place of fear and mistrust, we shut down physically, emotionally, spiritually. It is our attempt to find a safe and secure space, but it also closes us off from the limitless possibilities that exist when we are in co-creation with the universe.

Being inspired does not mean that we keep our heads in the sand. On the contrary, we are intended to be fully aware of our circumstances. As the twelve step programs tell us, we are to make a fearless and honest appraisal of our lives and selves. But, once having done that, we are then free to imagine our life, and the great potential that it holds for us.

Let's do an experiment today, and try the following:
The root word for inspire in Latin is inspirare. It literally means "to breathe in".

Take a few minutes to be in a quiet place. Be aware of your breathing. Breath coming in, breath going out. Your breath is the first sign that reminds you of the place of inspiration.

Now settling in, open your journal and write for a few minutes on how you see your life, just as it is right now. Next, take a few minutes and step into the place of your imagination where you can see your future life, just as you want it to be. Write as complete a description as you are able.

There is a gap, an unknown space between those two experiences, one of the you in the present, and one of the you in the future. Don't try to understand how you will get from this place to that one. Rather, focus on that feeling place of where you want to be. Visualize it as much as possible throughout your day. Draw, write about, or collect pictures that represent your new life. And, throughout the day, repeat this prayer as often as it comes to mind:

Today, I open the doors of my heart. I open them to life, to new experiences, to all the potential that is in me.

Have a wonderful day as you live from the heart!

Sunday, February 26, 2012


all sustenance involves the taking of life in some form,

so we enter into it with awareness and gratitude

for the dying that nourishes our living,

and when the time comes,

we give our bodies as an offering in return.

Friday, February 10, 2012


the heart traverses much in its journey

youthful exuberance gives way to experience

faith slips into the mysterious unknown

ecstatic peaks and the dark abyss

the bare desperation of the dying ego

brought down in violence by its own hand

glimpses of something more subtle

dreamlike just out of reach

by candlelight a path in the darkness

cuts through the here and the now

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Into the Black

When darkness beckons, dive in to it.

The only loss is to avoid what you are feeling.

They all are parts of you in search of liberation, anyhow.

Nothing to fear, no need to numb the sensations, just down.

Now, feeling all the way, down deep, into the black.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Fall into Winter 2011 look through my own eyes, as though through every set of eyes that has ever been. (vaishnava expansion)
embrace your mental projections, the gods, the devils; embody all the forms, rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief. play, explore, dive in, on and to and through them all to that infinite expanse, the unmanifest, upon which we act, always.
i don't generally believe in prophetic language, but I do believe we create self-fulfilling prophecies. having said that, I wish the apocalyptic crowd a happy end of the world, and join in with the consciousness raising bunch in hopes for an uptick on the One Love spectrum. 2012, let's dive into it. yeah, it had been a tough year for Kenny, but he was damn sure gonna make sure it ended with a bang. one week to wring holy hell outta this teardrop universe, before the bottom dropped out o' things, and they realized he was the one left holding the bag. pool halls, beer joints, dolls and thrills, they all waited for him, just around the corner to eternity.
humming on these, the shortest days of the year, "here comes the sun, little darlin' and I say, it's alright", while trying to steer clear of the frenetic, consumer orgiastic moment.

three nights ago, an owl flew across the road in front of me. this morning it was a hawk, swooping down to grab it's prey, oblivious to the downtown traffic. so what sooth do you say, my feathered friends?

the anger, the frustrations...wait, let go, watch them floating, momentary panic, unfulfilled desires...slowing now, emptiness...injustices and self-inflicted pain, slowly, back to the moment...there, expansive space without limit, overwhelming gratitude, you can't get it wrong, you have as long as you need to work it out, peace.

night falls and traffic rushin' / electrons and booties bumpin'
all along the city streets / neon lights the night to keep.

last night a small snake glistened on the wet sidewalk below me. i watched as it coiled and uncoiled in fluid motion, and considered how it functions as an emblem of wisdom, or conversely evil and corruption, in various spiritual traditions. to me it looked like beauty personified: power, direction, elegance, grace.

as I walk to work downtown, along this section of sidewalk I like to pretend that I am walking along the edge of a building, and how it might feel different if I weren't afraid.

and so we find it, in the shadowy, winding alleyways: the heart festooned, a garland both beating and bleeding. if it is that we can look with eyes of compassion, a pathway opens, however slim, into the third noble truth.

liberation comes, not by blinding epiphany, but through a thousand million moments, trench warfare liberating one chakra at a time. here it is the Svadisthana that finds expression, the gut, center of feeling and connection. beauty resides there, flawed and vulnerable in the darkness, shining all the more in its proximity.

Middle-aged guy, looks like Napoleon Dynamite walks up to my office door, looks at the placard, and says "I'm Randall, I buy books". I thought he was a student, come to mock me. Then I saw the earnest look on his face, and the stack of books in his arms, and realized he was speaking the truth.

look inside, look outward, it is the same infinite universe in all directions. even now, we are just touching the surface.

outside rain falls steadily, for many hours now, inside wood floors are mopped, thoughts ebb and flow in the stillness, Johnny Cash on the radio.

watching the eight worldly conditions flip like coins through the air.

Purusha and Prakriti sittin' in a tree...

'what's next mr. riff', she says.

walking the beautiful wildflower strewn minefield that is 21st century earth.

if you want to feel the gravitation to and away from those nearest you, ask yourself which ones among them teach you to love, and you will know the answer.

Here's the last question and answer from a recent e-mail interview:

-If you could curate your dream exhibition, what would it consist of?

Let's see. A table or bench made by young Jesus the carpenter. A street art installation made by some kid who hangs out in Garibaldi Plaza in Mexico City. The carnival carousel that looks like a giant Chinese paper lantern. The most awesome school diorama ever which blends fact and science fiction. With a performance by an aging punk band that has traded in its amps for strange, handmade acoustic instruments and ambient sound.

Note to my egoic self: i have to chuckle at the lengths you go to draw me in, but i don't play the game anymore. i recognize your illusion and...this mental space is liberated. :)

looking back with eyes of compassion and experience, at all the effort, at all the desire, at all the mistakes, i know i'd smile at my foolishness, and do it all again.

Walkin' down Continental Ave, headed to the gallery, mindin' my own business..."Hey, know who you look like? You look like that...m-th-rf-kn' rock-n-roll singer from back in the day. What's his name?"
cast away your cares, poor Rodin, their weight is nothing but the illusion you so carefully tend to.
tonight, the bright and morning star, it leads the moon across the night sky...teach me.
this is my path to liberation: to recognize when conditioning arises, to feel it's ebb and flow in my body, and not respond to it's pull.
Student at campus art reception says, "art is like the Blob, it's always moving". Not quite sure I got it, but I like the analogy nonetheless.