Sunday, June 30, 2019

Update 12A

Trauma & Therapy

Painting Therapy
A Visit to the Buddhist Temple

An early rendition of the bird-man by Jerry Langdon

I was invited by Priest Bobue Horaguchi to attend his session on Painting Therapy, which he conducts every Sunday at his Santa Monica Temple. I remember visiting his temple last year to discuss an article I was working on for the blog. We discussed the history of Triads in the early days of the railroad reaching the West Coast thanks to the labor of Chinese immigrants. The Triads were paid to protect the interests of the workers of Chinese descent, but they also watched out for Japanese, Black, and Italian workers as well. There was much profit in the protection racket, and it was with this growing income that Chinatown was built. In Los Angeles, Chinatown, Little Italy, and Little Tokyo are adjacent to each other.

Horaguchi's teachings helped me to understand the backdrop to the conflicts between cultures in dealing with crime. It was believed at the time that the Police were not doing enough to stop crime against the Chinese community in Santa Monica.

I rode the train to Union Station and caught the Big Blue Freeway Bus to Lincoln Boulevard by the Santa Monica Pier. It was walking distance from there to the temple.

On the way to the Temple, I saw remnants of an old shrine to a missing girl. Her picture was torn off, but the flyer was still up, water damaged by rain and wind. I remembered this place. It was covered in my blog last year. Suddenly, behind me, a young girl tapped my arm. When I turned to face her, I saw a teenager standing with her mom, (she looked like a smaller version of the older woman). "Hello, Professor Servante," said the mother. "I hope you remember me. I am Mrs. Hanasaki. And you must remember my daughter, Norie." It was more a statement than a question. The young girl bowed politely and said, "That's me in the poster. Are you going to the temple for the painting classes?" I told her yes. "Good," she said, "we can walk together."

Along the way, Norie told me that she send me the updates on her school friends in trauma, the church-going one and the one in a coma.

We continued the walk in silence as I tried to remember her friends. Mrs. Hanasaki walked a few feet ahead of us, as if she were giving us space to talk. Norie broke the silence. "I heard you're seeing a psychiatrist."
"Who told you that?"
"Priest Horaguchi."
"Why would he tell you?"
"Because your trauma and mine are similar. Nightmares, right?"
"Right," she said, answering her own question. "My friends Suz and Brie also have similar problems."
"How so?"
"Suz has nightmares, and Brie can't wake up from her nightmares."Brie's the one in a coma."
Norie sighed and said, "I'm sure she's having nightmares though. When me and Suz visit her, we can see her REM movements, you know, the eye flutters. Her body doesn't react, but her eyes always seem active when we're visiting, according to her mother. When we're not there in her bedroom on a visit, her eyes don't flutter. Suz and me seem to be the trigger. Is that the right use of the word? Trigger?"
"Yeah, it's used a lot today by younger social media kids. It's a simplification of a reminder for the traumatic event of one's life."
"You talk like your blog."
"Thanks, I guess."
"I'm glad you're here for the therapy. Suz won't be here today, but when you come next Sunday, she'll be here to talk to you too."
"If I come next Sunday. Wasn't the best train ride over here."
"I'm sure Priest Horaguchi can pick you up."
"I live pretty far away."
"Not according to him. He says you live a stone's throw from the ocean."
"I live by the mountains."
"Ocean. Mountain. Stone's throw. You have to think like a Buddhist priest to see the connection."

Before we entered the Horaguchi Temple, the girl told me not to be so shy, that the others there are outgoing. Then she said something very, very familiar. "To understand painting therapy, you have to surrender to the Buddhist frame of mind. Don't be a buzzkill."

My head started to ache.

Priest Horaguchi had coffee available. Everyone but me was having tea. Horaguchi told me to stop staring like it's the first time I've seen Asians drinking tea. Some cliches are true, he said and laughed. "Sugar-free cookies if you like," he offered. "Still got a few calories, but no sugar." My nervous stomach told me not to eat anything. I slurped the hot coffee, impatient for it to cool. The caffeine should take the edge off my nerves. It worked. My headache subsided. I poured myself another cup as the late arrivals sat around the two tables pushed together to fit at least a dozen painters. 8 people in total showed up.

"Let's begin," Horaguchi announced.

There were three volunteers from Santa Monica College Liberal Arts Department to walk among the 8 artists to help us. With what? I didn't know. But I learned quickly. A young girl came over to me and praised my materials, a box of colored pencils, a box of 100 colored crayons, and a Sketch Pad. She told me the first thing I needed to learn was "perspective". We started with "two-point" perspective. I followed her instructions without really understanding what this had to do with therapy.

This was my first attempt to do a two-perspective drawing. I put to points at the upper left and right of the top of the page, and then I tried to draw a house with walls and a roof that coincided with the two points. I got lost very quickly as you can see. The volunteer told me to try another one.

This is my second two-point perspective drawing. It looks like a M.C. Escher puzzle house. 

The third drawing was a bit more satisfying, simple, and it actually looks like it's somewhere close-by with a horizon behind it. I like this one for some reason. 

It was about here that Priest Horaguchi, the therapist, saw my drawings and told the volunteer that we are not trying to teach drawing but to help draw out suppressed memories in a safe medium. It was here that the therapist told me to draw whatever came to my mind at that exact moment, not to think about it, just draw. 

Without thinking, this is what I drew. The sun, clouds, mountains, and that's supposed to be water flowing down from the mountain under the sun. Funny, but I knew these did not look like mountains, but I liked the sun in the middle.

When the therapist saw my drawing, he asked me how it made me feel. I told him it reminded me of my neighborhood without all the houses, all nature, no people. He said, Good. Draw another. 

This is a drawing of the San Gabriel River Basin. I tried using the two-point perspective, and I got confused. So, I added a tree in the corner. Don't know why.

The volunteer stepped in when the therapist moved on to another artist. She told me to forget about the two-point perspective and just draw anything. 

I drew a bird. I couldn't get the tail right. Or the wings. Nice head though.

The volunteer said, Good. Now try to expand on the bird idea, but take it in a new direction. 

So I drew this bird with human arms. The talons look more like high-heels than claws. The creature is reaching up for the three birds flying overhead. Yeah, those three "M"s are birds. At this point, the volunteer was saying "Good" over and over instead of telling me how to draw talons. She asked me how the drawing made me feel. I told her that it made me feel like a bad artist. She apologized for the whole "two-point perspective" thing and to concentrate on how I feel when I draw what I draw. I looked right at her, eye to eye. She smiled and said, "That's what Priest Horaguchi wants." I nodded and said that the drawing makes me remember something vague. She said, "Good. Go with that feeling and drawing another bird like this one."

I drew this next. A combination of an owl and a "I don't know what". It too felt familiar.

Without waiting for further instructions, I drew this. It's the owl again, only this time it looks more human. I kept on going.

Here I drew a bird-man. The volunteer called the therapist. The both nodded. Horaguchi said that now we're getting somewhere. I told him that I didn't want to draw anymore. He insisted, One more and then you can stop. He sounded like my physical therapist who always asks for five more push-ups when I've reached my limit. I know the extra dive into this area that is bothering me is supposed to be healthy, but it's scary too. I felt uncomfortable, like an anxiety attack was coming. Maybe too much coffee. 

Then I drew this one. This was my extra five push-ups, my dive into the man-bird image buried deep in my head. Only here I separated the bird from the man. On the left, that's a "plague doctor" with the infamous beak mask; he's staring at me on the right, and I'm staring back at him to show him I'm not scared, that I know he's just wearing a mask, that's he's not really a bird. This was my favorite picture. The therapist said that I was avoiding the man-bird by creating a "safe" bird, a masked man. The other drawings were real birds with human features, features that scared me. I told him that I liked the drawing. He said that was because it was safe. Safe was not therapeutic. He walked to another artist. The volunteer told me to draw one more picture. 

I drew this. It's supposed to be me, but I don't look anything like that. That looks more like me in the picture above with the hoodie and the beard. I think I was diving deeper into that safe place. This was a grotesque version of a little boy. I think. Anyway, it seemed like a good place to stop. 


There was about twenty minutes left in the session. No one bothered me as I went to pour myself another cup of coffee. I watched the other artists at work and noted that the volunteers were very young. Both Norie and her Mom were artists. They didn't look like traumatized victims. I wondered if I looked traumatized to them. Before I left, Norie asked me to see my drawings. When she saw them, she smiled and said, I knew it. Birds, huh? Me, too. There part of the nightmares. Yours, too? I shrugged and said, I don't know. I don't remember. That's why I'm here. She added, Well, I've been here longer and I can tell you that you're on the right track. She pointed to my house drawing and wanted to know what that was. "Two-point perspective", I told her. She laughed and said, It needs a little work. We always get different volunteers. Some of them think it's drawing classes. When they find out we're trauma patients, they get uncomfortable and some of them quit. These three volunteers are all new. Are you going to be okay getting home? Sure, I said. She smiled nervously and said, You quit early. I responded, My first time, that's all. And maybe too much coffee. Then she pulled my drawing of the bird-man in the suit. When I first drew this guy, I stopped drawing too. You drew him? I asked. Yes, sir. He's scary. Yes, he is, I agreed. Do you know why? she asked. No, but that's why I'm here--to learn. I'm glad you're here, Professor. Then this teenage girl hugged me. Caught me off guard. Her Mom came over and put her hand on my shoulder. See you next week. 

I said my goodbyes and walked to the train station. I dreaded the long ride home.


In my next update, I will summarize my second session with Painting Therapy. I also look forward to talking with my new friends and fellow trauma sufferers. 

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Poetry of Today

Featuring William Cook

William Cook is the author of the popular psychological thriller, 'Blood Related' and editor of 'Fresh Fear: An Anthology of Macabre Horror.' He is also the author of two non-fiction books: 'Gaze Into The Abyss: The Poetry of Jim Morrison' and 'Secrets of Best-Selling Self-Published Authors.' Father to four daughters, William lives in New Zealand with his wife and family. Always seeking to better his life and writing, he strives to produce the best quality books on interesting subjects that will satisfy his growing audience.

If you enjoy psychological thrillers such as James Patterson's Alex Cross novels, James Ellroy's 'Killer on the Road,' or Bret Easton Ellis's 'American Psycho,' take a look at William Cook's 'Blood Related.' Best-selling author of 'The Manitou' and 'Descendant,' Graham Masterton says after reading 'Blood Related' that: "William Cook tells a gruesome story with a sense of authenticity that makes you question with considerable unease if it really is fiction, after all."Fans of Dan Poynter, Joanna Penn or Derek Murphy should find Cook's 'Secrets of Best-Selling Self-Published Authors' of interest. [Amazon]

I've been reading the works of William Cook for many years. His Fiction and Nonfiction books, essays, and stories hold a prominent place on my bookshelves filled with classic and modern Horror; his books are always within reach of my work table. For when there is a pause in my own work-schedule, it's easy to reach over and randomly select one of William's books to fill those empty moments when my Muse naps. But, it is his Poetry that always requires my full attention. His verse creates universes within universes. His words transport you into a familiar unknown, for you know the words, but you visit places that can only be found in those words. That's the magical skill of William Cook--to take you into the poetry.

So, it is my pleasure to announce an upcoming fiction book by Willaim Cook. He writes, "My new collection 'Deeply Disturbed' is due for release end of June. These poems are from a new collection I'm working on called "Beyond the Black Gate", but I'm not sure when it will be completed as it seems to have a life all of it's own." For more information and further updates, visit here

ARTWORK by William Cook. For quetions or quires, click here.


Poems Previewed from "Beyond the Black Gate" (A work in progress)

When the Train Arrives

I can feel it in the distance, approaching
the big black train of thought
rumbling around and over the back of my cerebellum
as it does every month or so
wild horses galloping alongside in the swirling smoke
my mind shudders as the track bites deep
the black train seemingly heavier
with each revolution of its razor-sharp wheels

its approach is no less daunting this time around
indeed, its passage is inevitable
carved in the blood-stone of my brain
as they say – like taxes, death, time – unavoidable
like a bad dream it surely annexes my mind
with its heavy chugging presence
an overbearing weight so much more substantial
than the dark billowing clouds of despondency it spews forth
that now cloud my waking days

the horses gallop in the dark
from the corner of my eye I see their riders
loom from the black fog
only to disappear then reappear
a glint of steel, the scythe’s blade
bone, so white, foreign to this realm
the death’s-head skull smiles at me
a taloned finger curled in my direction
as a deathly whisper intones me entry
to the first carriage waiting
the hulking weight now parked in my frontal lobe

unbearable darkness stifling movement
any escape is foregone, pointless
until my brain rattles and the black train departs
rolling back whence it came
once more, dragging its veil of darkness from my ravaged mind.



it’s not a colour or a season
or a feeling or an excuse
rather, a lack of . . .
reason . . .

it’s a numbness
a lack of air
a breath half finished
a heartbeat cut in two
suspended in a bubble of blood
in the constricted muscle of your heart
cloaked in anxiety
this ocean of despair
swells inside against you
drowning hope in the pit of your gut

it’s fear
and regret
and remorse
all bundled up in pain
that just won’t leave
like an unwelcome visitor in the night
or a sick parent
hovering in a dull fever
between life and death
fingernails embedded in your bleeding hand
while the reaper floats overhead
sharpening his glinting scythe

it’s all of this
and nothing.


Medicated (a Retrospective Itinerary)

Fly-spray on toilet paper
Asprin and coke
Lysergic acid diethylamide
Psilocybin mushrooms



Without Tomorrow

Everything seems slightly askew today
The pictures on the wall hang crooked
The murky sky outside is filled with malice
I keep dropping things
My socks don’t sit right on my feet
My clothes don’t fit right on my skin
I can’t shake the clouds today
There’s not a door shut in the house
Cupboards, closets, hang ajar
Lids for everything are nowhere to be found
The carpet is out to trip me up at every step
And the crackle from the dead radio
Is scratching my brain
My skin crawls under the shower
The water burns pleasantly
Then gushes in frozen stabbing bursts
Until I get out and slip violently on the wet floor
Pulling an inside thigh muscle in the process
I stand naked, fit to puke, as I look in the mirror
I don’t understand what I see
The glass isn’t cracked, the mirror hangs
Perfectly symmetrical on the white wall
Pristine but with a touch of condensation
Yet a stranger stares back out at me
His face rearranged, misshapen
Like Frankenstein or a car-accident victim
Almost exploded in its surreal countenance
The eyes swim in the fleshy pool
The yellowed teeth roll slowly down,
like sheep falling down a scarred hillside
The patchy hair twitches like tall grass in the wind
And the obscene pink tongue lolls from one side to the other
Turning blue then purple, chameleon-style
As it begins to twist like a snake
in what was once a mouth, now a gaping black hole . . .
A fraction of a second before my mind caved in
I was saved by the white light
I woke on the bathroom floor, my head bleeding
Cold, naked, bloody – much like when I was born
I crawled into bed and prayed to a god I didn’t believe in
That tomorrow would be better, than it was today.



Before the medication
the lights weren’t as bright
the sun didn’t burn my skin
and make me dress to excess
careful as to not leave flesh exposed
the tics, lay dormant then, but emerged
not long thereafter – a slight flick of the head
as if my hair was still long, annoyingly so
but the emotion of life trespassed
forcefully at every turn, the dreams
rolled into the night – a locomotive nightmare
that bled its sour aura into the morning light
while the psychosis of tumultuous youth
cracked its whip and splattered my mind
with violent thoughts, taboo entreaties
and obsessive coital tendencies.
Before the medication, I was naked
beneath my armour – pure, dressed in black
kindness and love served dollops
of self-loathing, whenever passed my way . . .
After the medicated ingestion
I lost the life’s edge, the razor-sharp violence
of everyday extremes
I who was once the bludgeoning river
now ran weak, merely part of the water
like a leaf on the surface of a dirty stream
the brain numbed to the point where
everything misted, fuzzed at the edges;
bloated leaden life – manageable, barely.
Ten years blurred – bad eyes in the fog
limbs like lead and lost to direction
each erection, a failed attempt at self-immolation.
Beyond the medication, years passed
the sun burns warmly on my naked flesh
I swim with the current, now circumfluent
with everything but still out here on the periphery
I see a flash of something, a sliver of memory
a murmuring vision, as I learn to live again.