It’s Friday, so this must be the train to Prague. I am typing this dispatch from seat 95, car 22, on the 9:10am Ceske Drahy train from Vienna to Prague, calling at Breclav and Brno. My ticket is in Czech with a smattering of indecipherable English phrases like “first minute Europe” here and there. I have been assured it’s all correct by my Viennese host who also could not read most of it. Do they take Euros on this train?
The last time I was in Prague was in 1974. It was still behind the Iron Curtain in those days. My family lived in Nairobi then. My dad worked as a purchasing agent for the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company. Firestone gave its international employees a certain amount of “home leave” every year. But they didn’t insist they go home. So my dad spent his home leave allowance taking the family all over Europe.
Here’s what I can remember of our trip to what was then Czechoslovakia. We went to a pub commemorating a character called Good Soldier Schweick. I got a little Schweick doll. My dad rented a car and, at one point, we bumped into a parked car while getting out of a parking spot. We decided it was best to just go and hope we hadn’t done too much damage rather than risk a diplomatic incident.
Our hotel room did not have a toilet, but there was one down the hall that served everyone on the floor. The toilet paper had a camouflage pattern on it and felt sort of slick and waxy. It’s funny the details I remember. The streets seemed to all be made of cobblestone, it was always twilight, and everything looked sort of brownish green. There were no billboards or advertisements.
We were told that the Czechoslovakian authorities would not necessarily follow us or spy on us, but that they would know where we were at all times. I wondered if the radio in the room also contained a hidden microphone. There was no TV in the room. TV’s were not common in European hotel rooms back then, at least not in the ones we stayed in. Although I remember seeing naked boobs on a hotel TV in Greece or Italy. I think that one was in the hotel restaurant.
I’m not sure if any of this is accurate. I’m not sure if my memories of hanging out last night at a bar on the Danube River with two expat American Zen monks and my Austrian host are accurate either. But I think I drank cider and talked about the Three Stooges and the scandals surrounding Joshu Sasaki Roshi, their teacher. The bar had a section in which sand had been poured and beach chairs were set on top of it. But we didn’t sit there.
I spoke at two places in Vienna, a yoga studio called RE:TREAT and a Zen center called Bodhidharma Zendo. Throughout this tour, I have been reading audiences chapters of my forthcoming book Letters to a Dead Friend About Zen.
The book is fashioned as a series of letters to a friend who died of cancer while I was on a previous tour of Europe. Actually two of my friends died of cancer on that tour, both within a month or so of each other. One had been the drummer in my first ever punk rock band and the other was a guy who I shared the infamous Clubhouse in Akron, Ohio with. The Clubhouse was a rundown house in Akron’s North Hill district that was home to several guys in several bands and played host to one of our scene’s most grisly suicides. For the purposes of the book I have combined my two dead friends into one dead friend and added some aspects of other people I knew into this composite character called “Marky Moon.”
I’m recording these readings and the Q&A sessions that follow. These will form the basis of the audiobook version. It will be the world’s first live audiobook! At least I don’t know of any other audiobooks that were recorded before live audiences. Maybe they exist.
I’m not quite sure if or even how to include the Q&A sessions in the audiobook. But I plan to include at least parts of them. They’ve been pretty interesting.
This is a test run for a new podcast that I’ll debut later this year. The podcast will be called Letters to a Dead Friend About Zen. In each episode I will read a brand new letter about Zen written to my dead friend “Marky.” After I read the letter, I’ll take questions and comments from the audience. Hopefully the discussions will be as lively and interesting as the ones we’ve been having on this tour. I plan to record a couple of episodes of the podcast, too, while I travel.
We just stopped at Brno. A gaggle of little Czech girls just trotted by wearing tiny hats with Hello Kitty backpacks on their backs. It looks like they got on another car, though. There are abandoned buildings next to the tracks and what looks like the remains of a factory. I can hear Czech, German, and English being spoken by the other passengers. Someone is playing hip hop at the other end of the car. They switched it off now.
I’m hoping that this new podcast will reach audiences outside of the usual Buddhist nerds. Nearly everyone else in this filthy business I’m in preaches to the choir and pitches their stuff solely at the same predictable crowd that will buy any book with a picture of a lotus on the cover. It makes good sense. That’s where the money is, after all. The so-called Upper Middle Way. I’d like to see if I can reach a different audience. We shall see if the gamble pays off.
My upcoming events in Europe are listed below. All of them are open to anyone who wants to join regardless of experience. Please come and have a listen!
The comments section is closed, but you can write to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
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IT CAME FROM BEYOND ZEN and SEX SIN AND ZEN are now available as audiobooks from Audible.com! You can also get Don’t Be a Jerk, Hardcore Zen, Sit Down and Shut Up and There is No God and He is Always With You in audio form — all read by me, Brad Warner!
June 7, 2019 TALK Prague, Czech Republic
June 8, 2019 RETREAT Prague, Czech Republic
June 12-16, 2019 DOMICILIUM RETREATnear Munich, Germany
June 19-23, 2019 BENEDIKTUSHOF RETREAT near Wurzburg, Germany
June 24/25, 2019 TALK Nijmegen, Netherlands
June 29-July 2, 2019 HEBDEN BRIDGE RETREAT, England
July 4, 2019 TALK in London, England
ALL THESE EVENTS TAKE PLACE WHETHER I’M THERE OR NOT.
Every Monday at 7:30pm there’s zazen at Angel City Zen Center (NEW TIME, NEW PLACE!) 2526 Kent Street, Los Angeles, CA, 90026 Beginners only!
Every Saturday at 10:00 am there’s zazen at the Angel City Zen Center (NEW PLACE!) 2526 Kent Street, Los Angeles, CA, 90026 Beginners only!
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