My name is Tenzin Kharma Trinley. In English that means “The Activity of the Buddha Teaching.”
There are only two reasons that I haven’t killed you or several people just like you yet—Sergeant Pepper and LSD. I grew up as Doug Rose, the lone Jewish maniac in a Sicilian Mafia neighborhood. At fourteen years old I became the only person to ever take Killer Tortoricci’s best punch and not go down, as well as the only person to ever back down a half dozen mafia kids at knifepoint. This earned me enough respect to survive the rest of my childhood, and the nickname “The Crazy Jew.” The neighborhood folks looked at me as an emanation of Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, the legendary Jewish gangster famous for violent insanity, altruism, and the idea that has since become Las Vegas. I was surely on the road to becoming a contract killer at about the same age that puberty kicked into high gear.
As all this was happening, I was also busily trying to kill myself. In my teens I was brought to a hospital, supposedly already dead from a drug overdose. They gave me a shot of adrenaline in the heart. It didn’t work. One doctor pronounced me dead. Another said no. He gave me another shot. That one worked.
Non-Sicilians on the fringe of the mob never did well in the long run—not in Brooklyn in the 1950s and 60s. Even the organization’s best friends, if not full blood Sicilian, could count on eventually being used as a fall guy to take the rap for a full blood Sicilian “family” member. I was saved from this and many other deadly fates by hallucinogenic drugs and a collection of thirteen songs.
My diet-pill-and-tranquilizer-addled parents listened for years to their unstable child whine about getting a dog. They finally gave in with the promise that in two weeks we would drive from Brooklyn to the Long Island Bide-A-Wee animal shelter and adopt a canine. I had big plans for the animal. Its name would be Assassin. I immediately built a dummy of old clothes stuffed with newspapers. The plan was to teach the animal how to attack and kill humans. I impatiently prepared for the day when Assassin’s training could begin.
As my plans were taking shape, fate kicked the shit out of them. I guess it would be more accurate to say that fate knocked me into a whole new world where plans like mine simply weren’t relevant. Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album was released and I started doing LSD during that two weeks of waiting to adopt the dog that would have become Assassin.
The dog was instead named Sergeant Pepper. She became the gentlest, kindest dog in the neighborhood. She was also a big hit with all the neighbors because in the 1960s, my German Shepherd/Boxer mix was the only female sergeant in existence. She was especially popular with the old folks, who laughed until they near wet themselves at the concept of a female sergeant. They would cross the street through heavy traffic to place a hand near Sargie’s head. She would bump her head up into that hand, begging for petting. Everyone obliged with a short laugh and a long smile.
The dummy I had built for Assassin’s practice was eventually used for a harmless Halloween prank and then destroyed. Well, harmless except for being thrown out of a fourth floor window with a scream, in an attempt to scare the shit out of that pain in the ass, Mr. Perlmutter, as he walked by below. It did. He peed himself.
I have spent the rest of my life as a wannabe do-gooder instead of a short-lived hitman. Long and painful work has been spent in an effort to more completely convert the violent and crazy tendencies into kind and considerate habits.
Now, over five decades later, I have almost completely dissolved the personality of that deranged teenager. It took a lot of cross country travel without ever driving a car, a lot of study without classrooms, and some do-gooder efforts and charity projects to benefit others—often while remaining homeless myself. It also took a consistent faith in no describable thing and a consistent determination to go any place. There was no cell phone full of friends’ numbers and no bank account for backup. This was not always a rewarding modus operandi. Evolution was not a smooth path for me. Mistakes were made. There were several slips, falls, and blatant fuck-ups. There still are some. But they are now a lot fewer and milder than they used to be. The whole process is described in the books Fearless Puppy on American Road and Reincarnation Through Common Sense. You can also find out something about it in the About Author/Media section’s TV/radio interviews and newspaper articles at the website.
The best explanation of how I turned myself from a semi-crazed animal into a more or less decent human being is contained within this old Cherokee legend.
A boy asked his grandmother, “Why are some people so good and some people so bad?” The eighty-year-old Cherokee woman answered, “There are two wolves that live inside every person. One is good and one is evil. These two wolves are constantly fighting with each other for possession of the person’s spirit. They may find occasional places to compromise out of necessity, but essentially they are always at war with each other.” The grandson responded, “Which wolf wins, Grandmother?” Grandmother smiled and gently stroked the boy’s face. She powered her gaze right through her grandson’s eyes and into his heart as she answered, “Whichever one you feed, my love. Whichever one you feed.”