I met a wonderful woman once when I played my guitar. I played on the corner. I played for change, for food, for smokes, to meet girls (or boys), to pass the time. You’d be surprised how often cuties will pick you up off the street and take you home with them if you sing a few songs on the sidewalk.
It was the summer of ’92. on the sidewalk off of Avenue B & 8th I would run through the ten or so songs that I knew by heart until I’d collected enough change to buy a 40 oz. of cheap beer. Then I would play until I could afford a second… and a third. The taste improved with each one. This night I had amassed a small crowd. Some regulars and some new people. It was going well and I was working on my third 40 oz. Then she walked up. She parted the crowd and offered me an apple. The symbolism was lost on me then. She sat down next to me and we sang a few duets. She was as huge a Tom Waits fan as I was but I’d never seen her before then. She just came up, sat down and began singing along and something just clicked.
She had the most hypnotic eyes I’d ever seen and lips that I just wanted to snack upon. The few people left around us began to realize that they were witnessing something intimate and soon we were alone on that sidewalk under the stars. I handed the guitar to a homeless friend so that we could talk and he could make some money but after hearing him play, he was amazing, I told him he could have it. We sat and talked all night. We talked about history, science and religion. We talked until the sun came up. She was a brilliant woman. Her name was Bambi and she made my heart skip a beat.
She came back the next night with a new guitar. She told me she was doing some traveling and asked if I wanted to tag along. I let her know that I couldn’t drive. But she said she’d find a use for me. I interpreted that to mean that she was bringing me along for sex and for conversation. And that was cool with me. So off we went.
We jumped into her big green van and visited a bunch of beautiful towns as we zig-zagged across the country. Picking up and dropping off like-minded travelers as we went. We stopped at a little place outside of Austin to visit a spiritual and impossibly beautiful friend of hers who had been invited to a Buddhist conference with the Dalai Lama in Tuscon. Her insanely beautiful friend (honestly every time I looked at her I had to remember to breathe) asked us if we wanted to go and see the Dalai Lama. He was speaking on patience at the 5 day event. I knew nothing about the subject or the man himself, so my answer was yes. My answer was always yes. But this was the first time I’d been in the presence of two people that radiated so much beauty. I would have followed them into hell.
I wrote His Holiness a letter. Pen, paper, envelope. And I told him my story of addiction and homelessness with a pure heart. I told him that I couldn’t afford the conference fee but that I was very interested in attending. It would seem that even enlightenment has a price tag. He liked my story and offered me, what they called, a scholarship. And with the big green van, we wouldn’t need a room.
On the 2nd day there was a receiving line as the Dalai Lama made his way from the hall to the elevator to go up to his room. The crowd had gathered to shake his hand or otherwise get a piece of him. I stood back because I sort of felt sorry for him. Every one was pawing at him. He smiled and was extremely gracious but I felt that the crowd should have shown more respect for his personal space. Still I had the hugest smile on my face even after only two days of being in his presence. He stopped. Parted the crowd in front of me and came over to shake my hand. He had liked my letter and wanted to meet me. I was so used to people stepping over me or ignoring me but here was a great man who was sincerely happy to just shake my hand.
Meeting His holiness and listening to his lectures twice a day as he read from the Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, as well as the other speakers, the amazing Robert Thurman among them and taking the Bodhisattva vow is one of the most significant series of events in my life.
I love Jesus but I would no longer consider myself a Christian. And you could say that it all started with a woman and an apple. But really it had begun earlier that day in a little church downtown. This place served meals to the homeless after a short service. There were lots of churches that served but this one had the best music. I just can’t worship without good music. As I knelt at the altar and humbly asked Jesus to accept my apology for constantly letting him down. I finally just asked him to guide me. You lead. I follow. He took me by the hand, led me out of the church and pointed me toward the Dharma. It was exactly what I needed.
Bambi and I parted company somewhere near San Francisco. She dumped me on the side of the road and drove off into the sunset. Perhaps she had gotten what she needed out of me. Or maybe I stopped being interesting once I had found a center in myself. She had way too big of an ego for Buddhism. Maybe she thought her work with me was done. I don’t know. She was heading to the far east. China, Tibet, Japan. I didn’t have my passport. So maybe it was that. I really don’t know but I hope she found her bliss. Thanks to her I was well on my way to finding mine.