So I went see Mr. Satori again, if you remember him from my old blogs. He was there in his shop as usual - off in the far end of the room sitting on his dark purple zabuton in the lotus position on the same two-foot raised tatami platform. His eyes closed with a half-full saké cup in from of him.
He didn't sir as I opened the old-fashion sliding wood and fogged glass entrance door to his coffee shop - appropriately named Zen Coffee.
I stepped in. Paper shoji covered the two windows letting the outside light in but blocked out any view to the street Four tables and stools for unlikely customers fit in the small room. And where the tables were, the floor was concrete. This was not that unusual for a Japanese mom-and-pop shop serving ramen or drinking spot "a snack" for salarymen. But then again, Zen Coffee is not a usual shop either.
The room was nearly barren. You see Mr Satori's Zen Coffee shop had to be that way. His shop doesn't even serve green tea.
Over the years that I have infrequently visited this shop, Mr. Satori has looked pretty much the same - very little change with age. Perhaps he was always already old. His long white beard was a little longer, but not much. I wonder if he ever trims it. His long white hair pulled back - looking like an eccentric brother of Mr. Miagi in Karate Kid.
Mr. Satori served only one kind of coffee - black, served in a small cup with no handle. You might say Zen Coffee is 180 degrees from Starbucks which has at least 20 different flavors of coffee and 5 different sizes - plus all those scrumptious expensive snacks. But it is also often hard to get a seat at Starbucks.
Zen Coffee is unique. Coffee served with koans, not scones, if you get my drift.
Either something had been bothering me or I just wanted to see the old geezer for some odd reason again. Anyway it was I who came to him and not he coming to me. Or simply I was looking for something different from the usual Starbucks and the like coffee shops clones.
My eyes scanned the room looking to the best seat in the house, not that any particular one table would have made much a difference in this one small room. Anyway, I chose the table sort of nearest to where Mr. Satori was sitting and parked my ass down. Mr. Satori continued to sit in the lotus position. Eyes closed.
I was always pretty much amazed by those people you can sit in that zazen position - A. I'm not that flexible; B. the position is not natural; and C. I just can't do it - never could, never will.
After I picked my seat and settled in, Mr. Satori opened his eyes. and recognized who I was - or maybe not. I was just another customer - though perhaps he has very few customers these days. In those few times I have gone there, I've only ever seen one or two customers.
But before I could say a word or order my coffee. Mr. Satori asked, "If you were to find enlightenment then what would you do?"
It was unusual for him to start of with such a question - a zen koan if you will. In the past, before bringing the coffee, he would first come over and whack me on the head with his bamboo stick and call me "Stupid boy". So, I was a bit surprised by his new shop's strategy.
OK I'll play. I thought to myself. I mean, how can I be one with the universe and everything in it? I can't grasp the Milky Way which our own galaxy let alone trying to get a handle on infinity and beyond. Also I have no interest in becoming one with my cat's litter box.
"A coffee" was how I replied to his question about enlightenment.
I thought for minute before asking, "So Mr. Satori, so how do you become one with the universe?"
Mr. Satori came bearing my cup of coffee. He put it down at the table next to were I was sitting and in a flash pulled out his stick which he had tucked in is obi belt, and whacked me on the head.
"Stupid Boy," he said.
Frankly at that moment I was a bit pissed off. The customer is always right. And this is Japan.
Then I thought about Starbucks around the corner and down the street, and their coffee served in paper cups with plastic lids.
I reached over to the next table and picked up the black coffee in the simple cup he had purposefully prepared for me.