One of the reasons I believe in jazz is that the oneness of man can come through the rhythm of your heart. It’s the same any place in the world, that heartbeat. It’s the first thing you hear when you’re born — or before you’re born — and it’s the last thing you hear. — Dave Brubeck

Saturday, April 8, 2023

Out of Bounds, Off Limits

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This is where Issan "Tommy"Dorsey Roshi began his career as a drag artist.

In a friend’s kind of online bio she said that “Zen is essential to my practice, but I'm not a Zen teacher. It turns out I'm too heretical for institutions and that's a good thing. There's much seeping in that doesn't fit the forms. The ecology of erotic emergence overflows.” I thought of her and Issan when I saw this picture of military police preventing entrance to a legendary San Francisco gay bar. If I am perhaps distorting her remarks to dig down deeper into something she intimates about the groupthink that seems to go hand and hand with the kind of rigorous practice that is normally delivered and fostered in western zen centers, forgive me.

“The Black Cat” was one of San Francisco's first gay bars to offer regular drag shows. It was the San Francisco jumping off point for one of the great first generation American Zen teachers, Issan ”Tommy” Dorsey Roshi.

These days Issan wouldn't have a chance in certain parts of America, the country he put his life on the line for. But he seized on the chance of practice as soon as he encountered it and that gave him another life.

Rei, it’s always out of bounds and off limits or it ain’t Zen.

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