Excerpt from:

View from the Back of the Bus

by Chi Ciccarelli


   I got involved with the New York Poets' Theatre doing abstract and non sequitur plays by Diane DiPrima, Taylor Mead, Leroi Jones (Amiri Baraka) and other avant garde writers as I was learning my craft and paying the rent.

Assistant stage manager.
Third guy from the left.
The guy on the floor.
The Zen priest.

   Not much money but a lot of experience.


   Then, one day, Diane and Alan Marlowe took me to a Zen teahouse called The Paradox. While the owners, Richard and Aramita O'Kane, were yinned out and incapacitated somewhere in Mexico, people from the neighborhood would volunteer to cook what was left of the meager supplies of whole grains, 'brown' rice, bancha tea, and gomasio (toasted sesame seeds and sea salt ground together in a suribachi mortar and pestle). Gomasio on steamed brown rice is mana from Heaven.

   I read the Macrobiotic recipes, leaflets, and newsletters written by George Ohsawa that I found lying around the kitchen and felt that I was, at long last, home. When I ascertained I could sleep in the cellar and volunteer myself to the tasks at hand I quickly moved out of the cushy apartment I shared with my beautiful girlfriend Robin, and moved in with the cellar critters. Robin didn't understand that I was truely obsessed, that I had found my Spiritual Calling, and wanted me to come back to our apartment. I told her I needed to be alone at night in The Paradox, to study and read, to awaken in the morning ready to shop, cook and clean. I was becoming a Zen monk.

   After the first few days, I parlayed the money I took in and bought vegetables, beans and seaweeds. I had found My Holy Grail. Inexpensive, nutritious food and knowledge with real substance. A way to evolve to my fullest potential thru study and application. I learned recipes from other Macrobiotic restaurants in the City. The concept of whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, vegetables, herbs, sea veggies, fish and dried fruits resonated loud and clear in my heart's mind, and the flavours and textures were very satisfying, aesthetically. The nutritional concepts seemed sound. I stopped drinking beer, quit smoking tobacco and herbs and avoided all 'refined' white sugar and white flour products and meat. My mind became so clear from my Way of Life (Tao) that I was in a constant state of bliss, and the feeling of impending doom was gone. The vision of a Natural Community was becoming real. The Paradox became successful again, and young John Hammond and other musicians and poets, as well, would play and have readings from time to time.

   I was honored to meet Michio Kushi who gave weekly lectures about the Unique Principle of Yin/Yang and Macrobiotics, in general. When the owners came back to their thriving establishment and met me for the first time they were very happy to see that Love prevailed. They asked me to stay on-but it was their baby. I was invited by Michio to be his Macrobiotic chef at the Genpei Restaurant in mid-Manhattan on 47th St. and 5th Ave. He was negotiating with the Japanese owners (who were white rice, sugar and meat eaters), to include a Zen Macrobiotic cuisine on the menu. I accepted Michio's offer and spent the Spring and Summer on Martha's Vineyard helping Mrs. Kushi with the kids (Norio, Haruo,Yoshio and Midori). and the twenty room house where people from a far and wide gathered to share seminars, great cooking, tai chi chu'an and Aveline's warm hospitality. The white rice guys didn't want to go for the brown rice option. But it had been a wonderful Summer.

When I returned to Manhattan I was informed that the Living Theater was having an open casting call for a new play called The Brig.


1960/2005 - by Chi Ciccarelli