Notes to Poem:
Neighborhood License Plates

Peter Y. Chou

Preface: This poem brewed in my head for over ten years after seeing the license plate 4ETU315, that I associated with "Ides of March". Since then, I've deciphered hundreds of California license plates as mental puzzles. Jotted some 60 license plates in my Mountain View neighborhood. 16 license plates were selected for this poem. Car models bearing 3 letters that triggered the words & phrases are given. To protect the privacy of car owners, numbers were not included. Photos of three cars are included as VWL reminds me of Wei Wu Wei, and PPB of Philosopher Paul Brunton. These two sages have inspired me greatly. Entire license plate 6UJA104 also shown, since the numbers were part of dream when the message came. It was fun writing this poem and compiliing these Notes on automobiles (terrestrial) & visionary sages (celestial).

Commentary on Poem: "Neighborhood License Plaes"

"The Ides of March!" I shouted at
the license plate in front of us—

California License Plate on car in front of us
triggered "Ides of March" & "Et tu Brutus?"

Scoops #118: Julius Caesar Assassinated
March 15, 44 B.C. (Front) issued 1954

Scoops #118: Julius Caesar Assassinated
March 15, 44 B.C. (Back) issued 1954
It was at a stop sign when I saw license plate in front— 4ETU315 that triggered my outburst "The Ides of March!" at the number 315. The "ETU" reminds me of Caesar's last words "Et tu, Brute?" ("You too, Brutus?") cited in William Shakespeare's 1599 play Julius Caesar, III.1.1286. This event happened over ten years ago. My friend said "You don't drive. You never got a license plate. All numbers and letters on plates are selected at random, except for vanity plates where there's an extra fee." The image of 4ETU315 license plate was rendered in Adobe Photoshop— copy & paste numbers & letters from various California plates found in Google Images. Recalled 1954 Topps Scoops Trading Cards had one on Julius Caesar. Found it to be Card #118 and downloaded it above. Wrote essay "Brutus & Horace" (1-14-2007) after reading Robert Pinsky's An Explanation of America (1979) that shed more light on Brutus. Dante portrays Brutus as three of the world's greatest villians— Judas Iscariot, Brutus,
nd Cassius— being tortured in Hell by Satan. (Inferno XXXIV.61-69). But Pinsky's poem offers another view. Photo Sources:
4ETU315 License (; Scoops #118 Front (; Scoops #118 Back (

Never asked the driver whether
he was a descendant of Caesar
or a Roman historian.

The Assassination of Caesar (1798)
by Vincenzo Camuccini (1771-1844)

Julius Caesar Silver Coin
Minted January 44 B.C.

Ides of March Coin
Minted by Brutus, 44 B.C.
When the light turned, never caught up with the car in front to ask if his license plate was random or a vanity plate. Since there is one number in front of 3 letters of California license plates, the "4" could represent 44 B.C., the year Caesar died.
Concerning descendants of Julius Caesar, the last one died in the 5th century. Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) who wrote
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in 6-volumes (1776-1789) is considered the greatest Roman historian. Recent Roman historians include Theodor Mommsen (1817-1903), J.B. Bury (1861-1927), M. Rostovtzeff (1870-1952), A.H.M. Jones (1904-1970), Moses Finley (1912-1986), and Peter Brown (b. 1935, Princeton University).
Photo Sources: Assassination of Caesar (; Caesar Coin (; Ides of March Coin (

Since then I've been deciphering
those three letters of California
plates on the streets as a puzzle.

Sherlock Holmes

VWL (Montebello Ave)

PPB (Montecito Ave)

3 Letters in California license plates
During my walks, I feel like Sherlock Holmes unravelling those 3 letters. The number of combinations of 3 letters in a 26-letter alphabet is 26x26x26 = 17,576. Without repetition, it's 26x25x24 = 15,600. Of course, there's no right answer to those 17,576 letters-combinations, so any conjecture may be valid. I try to injeect some spiritual message so my day be more illuminated. VWL License Plate (Toyota Prius, Montebello Ave): Conjectured as "Valiant Wise Lover" to be Wei Wu Wei (1895-1987), a valiant self-enlightened Irish sage (see next stanza).
5PPB722 License Plate (Ford, Montecito Ave): "PPB" conjectured as "Philosopher Paul Brunton" = "Promotes Philosophic Balance" (see stanza 8). Symbolism of 5: "The esoteric meaning of the star is "Philosophic Man", that is, one who has travelled the complete fivefold path and brought its results into proper balance. This path consists of religious veneration, mystical meditation, rational reflection, moral re-education, and altruistic service." Paul Brunton's Notebooks #24250) Symbolism of 7: "What are those seven steps?" She answered: "The first is Tears, the second Prayer, the third Work, the fourth Rest, the fifth Death, the sixth is Life and the last is Pity! "And what of the seven lessons that man must learn, O Mother?" And She made response: "Pleasure is the first and easiest, Pain is the next, Hate is the third, Illusion the fourth, Truth the fifth, Love is sixth and Peace must be learnt at the end." (Paul Brunton, A Search in Secret Egypt, 1935, page 286) Symbolism of 22: Hebrew alphabet has 22 letters. In the Kabbalah there are 22 paths between the Sephirot. There are 22 Major Arcana cards in the Tarot.
6UJA104 License Plate (Montebello Ave): See last 3 stanzas (10-12) trying to decipher the 3 letters and numbers.
Sources: Sherlock Holmes (; VWL Car on Montebello Ave (; PPB Car on Montecito Ave (; UJA Car on Montebello Ave (

Valiant wise lover (VWL: Prius)
will light lantern, (WLL: Ford)
marry the princess. (MTP: BMW).

Prince Valiant (1937-1971)
by Hal Foster (1892-1982))

Wei Wu Wei

Diogenes with Lantern (1780)
by J.H.W. Tischbein (1751-1829)

Princess Natalie
Prince Valiant was my favorite Sunday comic strip in the New York Herald Tribune (circa 1950s).
The "wise lover" is the Irish sage Wei Wu Wei aka Terence Gray (1895-1987). In Ask the Awakened (1963), he writes in Chapter 35 "Alter-Egoism"— "There is no such thing as 'love' in reality. What we see to describe by the word is emotion experienced in certain highly personal channels, charged with possessiveness, shadowed by jealousy, with its counterpart 'hate' ever ready to take its place. Sages do not love or hate: they only know pure-affectivity, which does not pass through egoistic channels and which cannot be interpreted at all. From our viewpoint we may mistake that for love, but such is an elementary failure to understand. Sages cannot know love-hate, for that is affectivity polluted by an I-concept." Gray achieved an international reputation as a playwright (1926-1933), but at 38, his little empire crumbled, humiliated by a satirical revue put on by the Cambridge Footlights. Gray departed for the South of France to run the family vineyard and the racehorses which were kept in England and Ireland. In 1955, Gray translated Hubert Benoit's La Doctrine Supreme, a classic in Zen literature. Fortune turned his way when Gray's horse Zarathrustra won the Ascot Gold Cup in 1957. In the same year, at age 62, Gray married a 27-year old Russian princess H.S.H. Natalie Imeritinsky from Georgia (May 15, 1957). His new life really began in 1958 when he became a mystic. Under the name of Wei Wu Wei, Gray published eight books in his own personal style of Zen Buddhism. Princess Natalie phoned me when I was at Hotel Sorbonne (August 1979), invitinng me to visit Wei Wu Wei and her in Monaco. Since I spent my last three days in Switzerland with Paul Brunton, couldn't make the trip to see them. However the three letters from Wei Wu Wei and his gift of signed book Open Secret will remain priceless treasures from this Irish sage.
Photo Sources: Prince Valiant (; Wei Wu Wei (; Diogenes with lantern (; Princess Natalie Imeretinsky (

The enlightened hermit (TEH: Mercedes)
uncovers Zen eyesight (UZE: Ford)
discovers wisdom home. (DWH: Nissan Sentra)

Tarot Card IX: Hermit

Buddha's Zen Vision

Symbol: Wisdom Home
Used Tarot Card IX to represent The Enlightened Hermit. The 9th trump or Major Arcana card in Tarot decks, the Hermit carries a staff in his left hand and a lantern in his right hand. In the background is a mountain range. This image may depict Diogenes of Sinope (412-323 B.C.), Greek cynic philosopher who made a virtue of extreme poverty. He carried a lamp in the daytime, looking for an honest man. Such a man of authenticity would be one who has abandoned his ego for cosmic consciousness. The Hermit withdraws from society to explore his inner self through meditation. Having found inner peace, he comes out of isolation to share his wisdom with others. In Ten Oxherd Drawings, Zen Master Kakuan (12th century) depicted the final stage of enlightenment as "The Sage Enters the Market Place" (oneness with humanity). The distant mountains in the background of Tarot card IX may have been the hermit's former abode where he enjoyed the bliss of serenity. But now he is actively engaged in everyday life, out in the street, helping others to realize their true nature.
Zen eyesight is Buddha's vision when enlghtened under the Bodhi Tree, saying "I am awake!" (circa 500 B.C.). Buddha means "The Awakened One" or "The Enlightened One". The lineage of enlightened masters on transmission of Buddha's dharma lists 28 masters before Bodhidharma brought it to China (circa 600 AD). Sage Wei Wu Wei writes in Asked the Awakened (1963), Chapter 16: "Vertical Vision": "an awakened sage lives and thinks vertically. If his body is flowing horizontally in the stream of time like the rest of mankind, his mind has acquired the vertical dimension which rises at right-angles from each moment of that time-river... Vertical vision is a consequence, not a method. It cannot be practised. But the understanding of it, its being envisaged, may point towards the state of wisdom from which it will result." Paul Brunton's Notebooks (Vol. 16 1988): “The sage has no sense of conflict, no inner division. He has expanded his notion of self until it has embraced the universe and therefore rightly he may say 'the universe is my idea.' He may make this strange utterance because he has so expanded his understanding of mind. Lesser men may only say 'the universe is an idea.'”
Wisdom Home is not some house made of wood or castle made of bricks and mortar, no matter how elegant they are. The sage after realizing that this world is maya (illusion), abides in the mind that is infinite and eternal. That's why the sage of Elephant Mountain, Lu Hsiang-shan (1139-1192) can proclaim: "The universe is my mind. My mind is the universe." I like the house image of sloping fingers on top tilted to make a rooftop, and square-shaped fingers on the bottom for side walls and the floor. With the clouds in the blue sky and green field in the background, this photo is just perfect for the symbol of "Wisdom Home". Paul Brunton was the consultant of several members of European royalty that he never mentions in his books. What is it that these people of fame and fortune lack, that they visit PB's small apartment in Switzerland? It must
be PB's wisdom & compassion which he generously shared with me during my fourteen visits to his home (1972-1979).

Photo Sources: Tarot IX: The Hermit (; Buddha's Zen Vision (; Wisdom Home (

Missing lost key (MLK: Dodge Caravan)
found violet color (FVC: Lexus)
giant rainbow circle. (GRC: Honda)

Missing Lost Key

The Golden Key

Violet Color

Giant Rainbow Circle
Missing Lost Key: The Golden Key is a fairy tale written by George MacDonald (1824-1905). It was published in Dealings with the Fairies (1867). A young boy listens to his Great-aunt's stories about a magical golden key found at the end of a rainbow. One day, he sees an immense rainbow and sets out to find the end. The sun sets, but as the forest is in Fairyland where effects are reversed, the rainbow only glows more brightly. He finds the key, then it dawns on him that he does not know where the lock is. After climbing a precipice, he enters a chamber where the colors of the rainbow appear as columns of light. His friend Tangle is waiting for him. She shows him another door that his key unlocks, opening onto a glowing stairway to the land they were searching for, from which the shadows fall. As they start to climb, the story ends.
Found Violet Color: Violet appears after blue and indigo in a rainbow (ROYGBIV). It's a slightly bluish purple although the named web color violet has a bit more of a red tone. On the color wheel, violet is halfway between blue and magenta. Violet color has a dominant wavelength of approximately 380-450 nanometers. The color's name came from the violet flower viola. Amethyst is a notable violet crystal, its colour arising from iron and other trace elements in quartz.
Giant Rainbow Circle: Full circle rainbow was captured over Cottesloe Beach near Perth, Australia in 2013 by Colin Leonhardt of Birdseye View Photography. He was in a helicopter flying between a setting sun and a downpour. When sunlight and raindrops combine to make a rainbow, they can make a whole circle of light in the sky. But it's a very rare sight. Sky conditions have to be just right for this, and even if they are, the bottom part of a full-circle rainbow is usually blocked by your horizon. That's why we see rainbows not as circles, but as arcs across our sky.
Photo Sources: Missing lost key (; The Golden Key (; Violet color (; Rainbow circle (

Art never dies (AND: Acura)
to lasting love (TLL: Mini-Capers)
unfolds inspired music. (UIM: Pontiac)

Art Never Dies
"Ars longa, vita brevis"

Lasting Love: Tristan & Isolde (1881)
by August Spiess (1841-1923)

Tristan and Isolde (1859)
by Richard Wagner (1813-1883)
Art Never Dies: Ars longa, vita brevis is a Latin translation of an aphorism coming originally from Greek. The Latin quote is often rendered in English as "Art is long, life is short." The aphorism quotes the first two lines of the Aphorismi by the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates (460 BC-370 BC), considered as the "Father of Medicine".
Lasting Love: Tristan and Isolde is a tale made popular during the 12th century through Anglo-Norman literature, inspired by Celtic legend. The narrative predates and most likely influenced the romance of Lancelot & Guinevere. Joseph Campbell on Tristan & Isolde: “Isolde was engaged to marry King Mark. They had never seen each other. And Tristan was sent over to fetch Isolde to Mark. And Isolde's mother prepares a love potion, so that the two who are to be married will have real love for each other. And these two youngsters, they think the love potion is wine, and they drink it and then they’re overtaken with this love. But Brangene, the nurse of Isolde, realized what had happened. She went to Tristan and said, 'You have drunk your death.' And Tristan said, 'If by my death you mean this agony of love, that is my life. If by my death you mean punishment that we arc to suffer if discovered, which is namely execution, I accept that. But if by my death you mean eternal punishment in the fires of hell,' in which thesc people believed, 'I accept that, too.'” Guy de Maupassant's short story "Lasting Love" (1882).
Unfolds Inspired Music: Richard Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde was composed 1856-1859, first performed June 10, 1865 in Munich. In a letter to Franz Liszt (December 16, 1854), Wagner wrote "Never in my life having enjoyed the true happiness of love I shall erect a memorial to this loveliest of all dreams in which, from the first to the last, love shall, for once, find utter repletion. I have devised in my mind a Tristan und Isolde, the simplest, yet most full-blooded musical conception imaginable, and with the 'black flag' that waves at the end I shall cover myself over— to die." The tonality of Tristan was to prove immensely influential in western Classical music. Wagner's use of musical colour also influenced the development of film music. Bernard Herrmann's score for Hitchcock's classic, Vertigo, is heavily reminiscent of the Liebestod, most evidently in the resurrection scene.
Photo Sources:Art Never Dies (; Lasting Love: Tristan & Isolde (; Unfolds Inspired Music (

Goodness grants beauty (GGB: Mini-Coopers)
transmits wise compassion (TWC: Honda Civic)
promotes philosophic balance. (PPB: Ford Freestar)


Beauty: Helen of Troy

Wise Compassion

Philosophic Balance
Goodness Grants Beauty: "Beauty, Truth, Goodness" are the three transcendentals humans should aspire in life (Plato's Phaedo). Plato describes the "idea of the good" in Republic (508e2-3). Once Plato gave a public lecture entitled "On the Good" which so confused the audience that most walked out. At the end of the lecture Plato said to those hearers who remained: 'The Good is the One". Plotinus' wonderful insight on Beauty in his First Ennead Sixth Tracate, Part 9 (250 AD): "Never did eye see the sun unless it had first become sunlike, and never can the soul have vision of the First Beauty unless itself be beautiful." I've selected Helen of Troy to represent beauty, as she was said to have been the most beautiful woman in the world, who was married to King Menelaus of Sparta, but eloped with Prince Paris of Troy, resulting in the Trojan War. Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus (1604) has the famous lines "Was this the face that launch'd a thousand ships / And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?"
Transmits Wise Compassion: Jnana (wisdom) and karuna (compassion) are the two attributes of a sage or enlightened master. A Zen Master said that both wisdom & compassion are needed to be enlightened. They are twin wings that allow birds to fly. In my first meeting with Paul Brunton in Montreux, Switzerland (August 30, 1972), I recall his deep wisdom and broad compassion. I told myself, Buddha and Jesus must have existed, since here's a living sage with all their attributes. Although PB told me "I am not a guru", he transmitted wise compassion during my times with him. This spiritual energy he imparted inspired my scientific research, poetry writing, and living a peaceful life.
Promotes Philosophic Balance: When seeing the license plate 5PPB722 on a Ford (Montecito Ave), I'm reminded of Philosopher Paul Brunton. While PB wrote a dozen books on mystics and yoga (1934-1952 ), he had tankas of Chinese philosophers on his walls during my visits (1972-1979). PB's writings on this subject— "The real philosopher feels what he knows: it is not a dry intellectual experience alone but a living one." (#8125). "The philosopher achieves what is rare— a cool mental detachment from things or persons, united with a tender feeling for them." (#8242). "Philosophic balance is not to be defined as the middle point between two extremes, nor as the compromise of them. It is determined on a higher level altogether, since it is determined and regulated by the intuition." (#25433) Wrote poem "On Balance" (Montreux, 10-24-1978).
Photo Sources: Goodness (; Beauty: Helen of Troy (; Wise Compassion (;
Philosophic Balace (

Crossing the corner lawn daily
at Montebello & Montecito
to catch Bus 40 to Foothill College

Montecito & Montebello

Corner of Montebello Ave & Montecito Ave
Montebello means "Beautiful Mountain"
in Spanish and Montecito means "Little Mountain". Since I don't have a computer at home, I take Bus #40 at Rengstorff & Montecito daily to Foothill College Krause Center where there is computer access. Bus #40 runs every half-hour Monday-Friday, every 45 minutes
on Saturday, and every hour & 10 minutes on Sunday. So I run across the lawn at the corner
as a shortcut to catch the bus. Photo Sources: Montecito & Montebello (;
Corner Montebello & Montecito (

I pass by the car's license plate
that stumped me for quite awhile—

Toyato Camry: License 6UJA104
Running across the lawn at the corner of Montebello Ave
& Montecito Ave on my rush to Rengstorff Ave, I pass
by a Toyato Camry with License Plate # 6UJA104.
While most three letters trigger an immediate phrase,
this one did not. Riding Bus #40 to Foothill College,
I usually read San Jose Mercury News Comics Section
and the Sports Section. However, often my mind is still
in turmoil over "UJA" wondering what it really means.
Some of my ruminations are in the next stanza.
Photo Source:Toyato Camrey (

Union Jack Adventure?
Unite Jason's Argonauts?
Understand Johnny Appleseed?

Union Jack Flag
Falklands War Adventure

Jason & Argonauts
(1990 comic book)

U.S. 1317 (9-24-1966)
Johnny Appleseed
Union Jack Adventure?— While the British flag Union Jack has flown all over the world, colonizing many countries, it is the Falklands War (April 2-June 14, 1982) that may be described as "Union Jack Adventure". Argentina invaded the Falkand Islands on April 2, 1982, which had been a British colony since 1841. Britain dispatched a naval task force on April 5, and assaulted the islands. Argentina surrendered on June 14, 1982, returning the islands to British control.
Unite Jason's Argonauts?— The Argonauts were a band of heroes in Greek mythology, who in the years before the Trojan War, around 1300 BC, accompanied Jason to Colchis in his quest to find the Golden Fleece. Their name comes from their ship, Argo, named after its builder, Argus.
Understand Johnny Appleseed?— John Chapman (September 26, 1774 - March 18, 1845), better known as Johnny Appleseed, was an American pioneer nurseryman who introduced apple trees to large parts of Pennsylvania, Ontario, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, as well as the northern counties of present-day West Virginia. He became an American legend while still alive, due to his kind, generous ways, his leadership in conservation, and symbolic importance he attributed to apples.
Photo Sources: Union Jack Flag (; Jason & Argonauts (mycomicshop); Johnny Appleseed (

My best guess came in a dream—
Perfect Unfolding Joyful Attention
as Heaven Embraces Earth.

License Plate: 6UJA104

Joyful Attention

Heaven Embraces Earth
Passing by this license plate 6UJA104 so often, the numbers and letters rattled in my head as I tried to find a satisfying solution (above stanza). Like Kekule's Dream of a snake biting its tail that revealed the circular structure of the benzene ring C6H6, it came in a dream just before waking (hypnopompic state). 6 is the first perfect number, defined as an integer that is equal to the sum of its divisors. Hence, the divisors of 6 are 1 + 2 + 3 = 6. UJA— Unfolding Joyful Attention:
Mary Oliver ends "Upstream" from Blue Iris (2004) with this insight: "Attention is the beginning of devotion." Learned from Subramuniyaswami that Attention is also the first step of mindfulness, followed by concentration, meditation, contemplation, and enlightenment. As spiritual practice, have joyful attention in all your daily activities. 104: The number "1" or Oneness symbolizes "Heaven". The number "4" symbolizes "Earth" (4 cardinal points, 4 seasons). The number "0" or "O' symbolizes "hug" as in XOXO "hugs and kisses". So "104" is heaven hugs earth or "Heaven embraces Earth".
Photo Sources: 6UJA104 License Plate (; Joyful Attention ( Heaven Embraces Earth (

— Peter Y. Chou
    Mountain View, 4-23-2018

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