The Hard Way on Purpose

HardwayDid 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.

fu10Fuck you, I’m from Akron.

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.

Jimi Imij (right) with Klaus Nomi (center) in the early 80s.

Jimi Imij (right) with Klaus Nomi (center) in the early 80s.

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!

*   *   *

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

ZERO DEFEX will play on May 16, 2014 in Akron, OH

If you’d like me to do a talk or retreat in your city, write me at I’m especially interested in places that are accessible by train from Philadelphia. But I’ll consider any reasonable offer.


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16 Responses

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  1. Thor29
    Thor29 April 14, 2014 at 9:21 am |

    You might be interested to know that Guitar Center has recently been sold to some sort of holding company because they had way too much debt. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing – maybe they’ll go under and there will be nowhere to buy amplifiers and guitar strings at all. The whole thing is a bizarre example of the current economic weirdness. Here’s an interesting article related to the situation:

  2. Daniel
    Daniel April 14, 2014 at 9:43 am |

    This is Compassion:

    Interesting interview with Tony P. who is sort of like Zen before Zen…

  3. Fred
    Fred April 14, 2014 at 11:00 am |

    If there was no MeIllusion in the MeSpace there wouldn’t have to be a meeting to
    sell it to the Me’s who can’t hear the message.

  4. Daniel
    Daniel April 14, 2014 at 2:54 pm |

    Killing The Buddha…this is what Zen was once about guys….too bad we forgot!

    1. Fred
      Fred April 14, 2014 at 5:23 pm |

      Sam Harris:

      “Worse still, the continued identification of Buddhists with Buddhism lends tacit support to the religious differences in our world. At this point in history, this is both morally and intellectually indefensible–especially among affluent, well-educated Westerners who bear the greatest responsibility for the spread of ideas. ”

      ‘morally and intellectually indefensible’ are irrelevant

      Does Sam Harris have the slightest clue about Buddhism?

  5. Mumbles
    Mumbles April 14, 2014 at 5:27 pm |

    Holy Shit! Jimi Imij with Klaus Nomi!! Color me impressed. Klaus was an original. A lot of us punkers started out as glammers… -Not that Jimi looks glammed out, its guilt by association- and in all fairness, Klaus transcended genres.

  6. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 14, 2014 at 9:41 pm |
  7. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon April 15, 2014 at 3:17 am |

    “For the last couple years I have been somewhat half-assedly trying to establish a Zen center in Akron.”

  8. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon April 15, 2014 at 3:44 am |

    Not too slow. Not too fast.

  9. shade
    shade April 15, 2014 at 7:47 am |

    Sam Harris:

    “Worse still, the continued identification of Buddhists with Buddhism lends tacit support to the religious differences in our world. At this point in history, this is both morally and intellectually indefensible–especially among affluent, well-educated Westerners who bear the greatest responsibility for the spread of ideas. ”

    I don’t generally like to post things off topic but this is fascinating. And disturbing. “Affluent, well-educated Westerners bear the greatest responsibility for the spread of ideas”? What?? For someone supposedly so progressive, Mr. Harris sounds like a 19th century imperialist here.

    1. Daniel
      Daniel April 15, 2014 at 8:57 am |

      Well…who bears the strongest responsibility for the spread of ideas if not educated Westeners? Who’s writing the education books and information that’s being spread. If even we in the western world who have access to education and serious science support religious differences by promoting the religion of Buddhism…then I have to agree this is morally indefensible.

      And Sam is the last guy I think who wouldn’t be happy if he could leave that “well-educated westeners” aside…but looking at many other countries it’s actually really worse than in the US, and of course worse than in europe (sweden for example). And it is a big issue…like it or not.

  10. shade
    shade April 15, 2014 at 9:49 am |

    Okay, I’m gonna step into the ring here… but you know, with respect, I hope.

    There are other ways that ideas get spread besides educational books (or any sort of book for that matter.) Nor are the ideas in books necessarily more accurate than those disseminated in other ways. But what really gets me is the implication that poor, uneducated (or, god forbid, illiterate) and non-western people don’t have “ideas”. Or that those ideas are assumed to be delusional or erroneous just on the basis of a person’s class or nationality?

    I don’t want to go on a ten page rant, but I’ve hung out with people of all different backgrounds – filthy rich and dirt poor, north, south, east, west, people with doctorate degrees and high school drop outs alike – and I think that’s hogwash. No one has a monopoly on genius. Or stupidity.

    Besides which, I’m fairly certain people in “the east” write academic and scientific books as well (being snotty and sarcastic. Of course they do.)

    1. Daniel
      Daniel April 15, 2014 at 10:04 am |

      Hey shade. No doubt, I’ve met very smart and intelligent people from all over the world, too. And of course anyone can have good ideas and yes some stuff in educational books is very stupid or wrong.

      But being smart and having good ideas doesn’t mean you’re well educated and/or have good access to education. This isn’t anyone’s fault and those who have access don’t necessarily use it.

      Having said that now if we take an average or the odds, it’s more likely that someone who has grown up in let’s say Sweden/Stockholm and is 25 years old has at least a basic education and some knowledge in science. Does it mean he’s smarter, more intelligent or somehow “better” than the guy who grew up in north korea? Nope, he was just lucky. Is it true for everyone in Stockholm/North-Korea? Nope…but on average it probably is.

      That’s I think Sam’s point, because guys like us (and Brad for example) have access to science and education we’re somehow responsible to use it and it indeed would be morally indefensible if we would not I think. The point is that the guy in a country where access is limited, you can’t say he’s morally indefensible – if he promotes a religion. But we are, since we know from science that religious ideas are bullshit and we should therefor stop it – and not further promote religious differences.

  11. Fred
    Fred April 15, 2014 at 9:56 am |

    Buddhism isn’t about ideas or morals. It’s about emptiness. Ideas are what an
    ego clings to, to support its agenda.

    1. Daniel
      Daniel April 15, 2014 at 10:06 am |

      @Fred: Right. So we don’t need it. “Emptiness” or maybe stop using that weird esoteric word – doesn’t depend on “Buddhism”.

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