See more articles, reviews, fiction and poetry, including more of my writings, at group blog PLUTO'S REALM.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Taking It Personally: A Bit More About Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate

Sunday's blog rambled all over the place, as a result of which, while discussing Brad's book, I omitted a pattern or collection of coincidences that really brought it all home to me. I doubt that these trivia will add to anyone's understanding of the book (though they might tell you more about me, upon which subject, if you have been reading this blog for a while, you are unfortunately becoming an expert, against your will). Maybe it's an explanation of how, when something comes home to you, it comes home in a big way. Maybe it's just a rare (again, for me) illustration of how having had some connection to events in a published work, however minimal, gives a bit of insight. Maybe it's because I become so obsessed about my own issues that I see them everywhere.

Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate: A Trip Through Death, Sex, Divorce, and Spiritual Celebrity in Search of the True Dharma does clear up a couple of factual questions I (we?) had. When we'd met Brad the first time here in Nashville, chronicled herein, Brad's wife Yuka was one of the unexpected joys of our retreat; she helped our fledgling retreat cook get through three days' worth of overly complex vegetarian, Japanese and Thai recipes, sent us gifts afterward (and Nat, where are all those chopsticks? I'm sure the food has gone bad), and generally was a ray of sunshine at that odd and pivotal event. I'd noticed she wasn't mentioned much in his blog anymore, or at the 2008 ASZC retreat he led [and that link has a version of last blog's pic with me in it; see I was there]; I hated to see it confirmed that she was really gone. Hope things are going well for her.

Then there were some weird little geographical links to Brad's life that I found both just odd and insightful. Of course anyone who read Hardcore Zen knows Brad's basically from the Cleveland area, and I'm from Nashville. My mother was from Ohio, and grew up there and in Texas. So it was interesting to me to discover that Brad has family in Knoxville, TN, whom he regularly visits (which we knew from trying to match schedules with him, but he talks about it in the book so I can mention it here). I went to UT Knoxville from 1975 - 1979, so I know that turf, or did. What got me about his one geographically is that his parents, prior to the events of the book, had been living in the suburbs north of Dallas. Now, a lot of people have relatives in Dallas, but my mother's sister's family had all grown up in a suburb of Dallas which used to be called Lewisville, though I think their little segment has now been split off as Highland Village. Another little split-off part of the same incredibly overdeveloped suburb is what used to be a little country junction that had no name when I used to visit here, but which is now known as Flower Mound, which is apparently the location of the Funeral Home which had Brad's mom cremated. Another weird turf I know.

The final geographical coincidence (I won't count L.A., where lots of people live for a while. I lived there for about three months and didn't like it much either, except for the beach and Hollywood) was Mansfield, Ohio. It shouldn't have surprised me to read about Zero Defex playing a show there, since it's just up north of Cleveland on Lake Erie, but still, it's where my mom grew up before her mother remarried and moved them to Texas. Of my mother's Ohio relatives, I remember mostly a bunch of retarded-acting guys in white wife-beaters pulling up in campers to occupy our lawn in Manchester, and this one real pervert. But I do remember Mansfield.

But the one real factual-world resonance of this book for me was the job situation. Now, in this dying economy, as the U.S. moves into the sunset, it probably seems like anyone with a job shouldn't complain about it. And I shouldn't be either, as when it's gone I don't know how I'll ever find another. But still.

Of course, Brad was luckier than me. His job situation in the period covered by the book was indeed deeply strange; as the lone US employee of an overseas corporation that shifted management as soon as it sent him here, he had a position with no real duties or direction, no input or power to get things done, but a continuing duty to report. This was already his situation, apparently, when I met him in early 2006, though I didn't realize the scope of it til I read this book. Actually, his situation, though it must have been frustrating since he really did want to help promote Godzilla and Ultraman in America (and note that the names of his employer and the trademarked entities are disguised in the current book, though not in the previous ones or his blog; legal advice from the publisher, NAL?), sounds really sweet in some ways. He was being paid by the Japanese company to live in L.A., write his books, set up his Zen teaching operation, and then he was free (and somewhat funded) to travel all over the country promoting his books and trying to help shitty little Zen operations like we were in 2006. I'd kill for this kind of funding with freedom.

I, on the other hand, also have a job that makes no sense. I quit my previous job last fall,, in despair at falling commissions and the ridiculous situation of trying to work in a department headed by the managing attorney's mother. I was just about ready to start looking for another one, about a month later, when I got a call out of the blue, from the HR person of the company for whom I now work(?), based on a resume I'd forgotten I had online. So yes, those things actually do work, randomly. They wanted to hire me to start a new commercial department specifically for a new client. It paid enough at the base to minimally pay my bills. As the job market had already deteriorated, though not to its present level, I thought I'd better accept.

However, the new client fell apart within weeks after I started the job. They've never really been able to find anything for me to do since -- I keep getting minor projects assigned, which get yanked away about the time I get them organized and running. Most of the time I have nothing to do at all, and as of this week I don't even know where the last set of files I was working, have gone. I'm supposed to get some work which had been brought in for me but foolishly placed somewhere else, soon. I guess. Yesterday, with my old files gone, I had nothing to do at all until I jumped in on the project with the busy people amongst whom I sit.

Otherwise, mostly I've been surfing the internet. Repeatedly, and compulsively. Which, if you work with internet disabled like a lot of people do, sound great. But not for eight hours a day. As that old commercial hinted, you really do get to the end of the internet. Plus, the situation is not such that I can concentrate on doing anything like writing this blog. I tried it once, and it didn't turn out too well.

But now, I'm getting reassigned, and they're going to move me. And where they're putting me, I might not have the internet. And if that happens and they don't give me a full workload, I'm going to go stark raving bonkers.

See, unlike Brad, I'm not free to roam all over the US. Or even all over Nashville. I just have to sit there. It ain't zazen.

I can't complain, really. I'm sure that everyone in management knows I've cost a lot more than I've brought in, which is essentially nothing, ever since I've been there. And they still keep me; it's like they don't know what to do with me but don't want to let me go. Which is a good sign, of course, and speaks well of them as humans. And I still get a paycheck, which is a lot better than a lot of my friends, these days, although I don't know how long my employer will see fit to keep it that way if I can't make them some money, which is what I'm used to being very good at doing.

But enough about me....

At this point, Brad Warner is still scheduled to be one of the leaders of our Easter Weekend Zen retreat, so if you're interested, watch this blog.......

No, the silly little click inside arrow on the pic of the book above doesn't work. Believe it or not, the only picture of that book cover I could find on the internet is that little one from Amazon. Sorry. But you can go to the real link in the text and buy the book.

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