Did everybody sign up for our 3-day Zen retreat in Mt. Baldy May 9-11? No? You only have one more day to get the discount. Better hop on that!
I recently bought and read David Giffels’ book The Hard Way On Purpose. I’ve known David ever since we both played in bands at The Dale near Akron University in the early 80s. His band was called The Difficult. The story I heard was that they were originally called The Cult. But when the British band The Cult became popular they became the Diffi-Cult. Then David told me much later that wasn’t true, that they were called The Difficult from the beginning. However, I like the story I heard better, so I’m sticking with it.
This is a really good book and it’s gotten tons of great press. So I’m not going to exactly review it here since there must be a couple dozen glowing reviews you can read all over the Interwebs.
This book is about staying in Akron, Ohio in a way that I did not. Like many of the people David grumbles about throughout the book, I got out. People leave places like Akron and it’s not hard to understand why. It’s not a place of great opportunities. The weather can be extremely nasty. It’s hard to be a non-conformist there. Devo got out. Chrissie Hynde got out. The Black Keys stayed for a long time but finally got out. Le Bron James got out. Even the Rubber City Rebels left the Rubber City. And in 1993, so did I.
Unlike David, I’m not really from Akron proper. I grew up in Wadsworth, a nearby suburb. When I went off to college I went to Kent State, not Akron U. These are important distinctions within Akron. Outside of Akron they don’t matter at all. When I’m overseas I have to tell people I’m from the nearby and much bigger city of Cleveland and even then they don’t know what I’m talking about half the time. But I am not from Cleveland! Oh no. Definitely not.
As David points out in this book, people in Akron are weirdly proud of their city and we’re kind of defensive if you try to put it down. Even though we, ourselves, do it all the time. But it’s like when someone criticizes your idiot brother. You may agree that your brother’s a dope, but you’re not going to tolerate anyone outside your family saying so.
I moved back to Akron for a year and a half in 2010. But I didn’t make it very long. For this I feel like kind of a weakling. You have to be tough in Akron and you have to be good at making things on your own. Awful corporate chains like Wal Mart and McDonald’s thrive there. Place like that are killing America. Why does anyone go to them, ever? Guitar Center put our much better homegrown places like Akron Music Center and Lentine’s out of business. That’s a real shame. Why did we let ’em do it? Why do we keep on letting them do that shit?
Here’s one thing David neglected to point out in his book, by the way. Akron has a much better public library system than Los Angeles or Philadelphia. Both LA and Philly have nice enough central libraries downtown (not as nice as Akron’s, but they’re decent) but their branch libraries are sketchy and scary and their system for getting stuff to them is inefficient and unreliable compared to Akron’s.
I only really understood that I was from Akron when I went away. I first noticed it when I lived in Kenya as a child. But I didn’t quite understand it. When I moved to Chicago as an adult, I started to get what it meant to be from Akron. When I moved to Japan, the place I’d dreamed of living since I was 8 years old, I started getting weirdly nostalgic for Akron. While living in Tokyo I wrote a book about Akron called Gill Women of the Prehistoric Planet. If I’d called it The Prehistoric Planet On Purpose maybe I could’ve been interviewed on NPR about it like David was.
The greatest thing about David’s book, though, is the section about my friend and bandmate Jimi Imij, lead singer of Zero Defex. David spends a few pages describing how Jimi is the quintessential Akron person and he’s right. Jimi is an amazing human being and I’m glad to have served with him all these years. You’ll get to see us play together in Akron on May 16th. Don’t miss it!
I thoroughly enjoyed David’s book. It’s not about Zen or meditation or anything like that. But it is about real life. And that’s important.
For the last couple years I have been somewhat half-assedly trying to establish a Zen center in Akron. I’m still poking away at it. I really think it could be a great thing and I want to do it. It’s just a matter of how to make it happen. But it will happen. I promise that much!
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Speaking of real life, your continued donations make my real life possible. David Giffels’ book got featured on NPR. Mine get featured on very nice well-meaning radio shows that reach about 1/150th of the people an NPR show reaches. Donations are what I live on. Thank you for your support!
Registration is now open for our Zen & Yoga Retreat at Mt. Baldy Zen Center May 9-11, 2014
The events page is now updated! Take a look at where I’m gonna be!
You can see the documentary about me, Brad Warner’s Hardcore Zen, at the following locations:
• April 17, 2014 Los Angeles, CA
• April 20, 2014 San Francisco, CA
If you’d like me to do a talk or retreat in your city, write me at email@example.com. I’m especially interested in places that are accessible by train from Philadelphia. But I’ll consider any reasonable offer.