Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Month: June 2010 (page 1 of 2)

Indirect and Authentic

(this is a post that is completely rambling out loud with little direction, but I’ve been hearing the term “authenticity in blogging” used a lot recently.  It was even the the subject of the final keynote at a recent woman’s blogging conference, as presented by Karen of Chookooloonks and Brené Brown.  “Authenticity” is one of those terms that makes me uncomfortable, especially because I don’t really understand it, and you’ll notice that this post is a little edgy when I discuss it.  But I am also self-aware enough to know that when something makes me uncomfortable, there is usually a reason I am fighting with it.  So, I hope if either of these two bloggers end up coming here, they don’t think I am being a downer in questioning the idea, but being authentic in taking it seriously, in my own way.)

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OK. A “dating” question for women, single or otherwise.   It is all hypothetical, and has really nothing to do with dating, and more about the subject of directness and authenticity. If you’re a straight man, put yourself in the man’s part of the scenario.  Unless you are gay, and then you’re on your own.   Or change the gender.

Hypothetical situation: You’re a woman.  You’re at a bar.  You’re single.  You’re wearing your best dress and sexy shoes.   I approach you.  Or some other studly guy approaches you. But let’s assume it is me. Which encounter would be more endearing and/or successful?

1) Me (indirect and inauthentic): “Sure is crowded in here tonight.  Must be the World Cup game on the TV.  Didn’t realize that there are so many Brazilians living in LA.  You into soccer?…”

2) Me (direct and authentic): “I was looking at you from across the room. I don’t usually say this to a woman immediately, but you have a nicely-shaped ass.  I’m hanging out at this hot, noisy bar, hoping to meet someone, and I’ve picked you out of everyone else here tonight.  I would like to get to know you better. Boy, I am nervous asking you this.   But that ass!  Wow!  Would you want to go to the Chipotle next door and talk?  I know it is only a fast food joint, but I’m a writer and not making a whole lot of money, so I’m hoping that isn’t a big concern to you. What do you say?”

Should I use approach number 1 or approach number 2?

Of course, this is a rather silly example. #2 borders on the rude, even if “the guy” is being more “authentic” in his dumb reason for going over to the woman, and even more direct with his request to leave and go to Chipotle. Why spend a half hour talking about the soccer match when it is all just small talk?

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I frankly think the best approach would be somewhere in between the two. I think we need directness AND artifice to effectively communicate with each other, especially in the beginning of a relationship. And I’m not just talking about male-female relationships.

When brands online start talking about being “authentic,” I say bullshit.   Social media is hardly authentic.  We speak to each other in 140 characters. Very few people come out and directly express their motivation.  I know when I write dialogue in a script, the biggest sin is “on the nose” dialogue.  I know that what people say and what they mean are usually two different things.   Sometimes they don’t even know WHAT they want.  Very few people come out and SAY what they really want other than James Bond villains wanting to destroy the world with a solar deflector.

I respect those who want to protect their privacy or business interests, but since when do we call that “authenticity?”  How can there be authenticity when there is also so much selling and promoting.   The very concept of marketing or advertising or “giveaways” involves artifice and manipulation, much like a woman wearing make-up before hitting the clubs.    When consumer product brands sponsor “green” events, they are usually more concerned about good publicity than the cause.   More power to them for doing good, but not terribly “authentic.”  Food stylists making McDonald’s hamburgers looking juicer is artifice.  Clever copywriting is artifice.   I find it odd that as the internet becomes more and more about business and social manipulation, people advancing their careers by touting community, writers feigning interest for connections, more and more people are discussing authenticity. Is it really THAT complicated to be authentic? What does the word authentic mean? Authentic to others? Authentic to yourself?

I once wrote a post about Dunbar’s number, where a scientist theorizes that we can only deal effectively with 150 people.  Doesn’t that mean we are being inauthentic to the thousands of followers we all hear gurus touting on their blogs as a way to show their influence? Why do we want them? If we really cared about helping others, like so many writers like to say, why don’t we just go into nursing?

Here is an authentic advertisement for McDonalds: “Hi there. We are in business to make money. People love our burgers. We know they are not healthy for you, but you like ’em, right? And no one complains when your kids run around and make noise, right? And we are pretty cheap, if you go for the dollar meal, right? McDonald’s. We are authentic (except for the doctored photos of our burgers).

Art can never be authentic. It can strive to be an authentic representation of ourselves. We can be authentic. But very very very few of us  get anywhere close.

By the way, you all have nice asses.


via the fabulous Schmutzie!

P.S.  Just read this post over.  I know it makes very little sense.  And I am using the term authentic all wrong.  Sorry.  My blog.

P.S.S.  Juli from Wellington Road just made an excellent point via IM about the dating scenario that made me see this post in a whole new way.  Talking to that woman in the bar about her ass is just crude,  and not authentic, especially since I would never say that anyway.   The differences in choices  #1 and #2 are about the politeness of the words.  The authenticity comes into play with the ACTION.   #1 could be more authentic if the goal is to get the woman into bed, and this is how I seduce a woman.  #2 could be all bark with no bite.   I might be just shooting into the wind, with no real confidence or adherence to my goal.   My words might be brash and tell it like it is, but I would not be authentically striving for my goal.   The alpha man is not about how strong his words are, but how effectively he takes action.   In the second scenario, it reads like I am trying to sabotage myself.  By acting so blunt, I wonder if my REAL intention is to get rejected so I feel bad, because I am neurotic, or whatever.

I guess if your goal is to become a popular blogger, you are being authentic if you stick to your game plan.  The same can be said if you want to write a novel and are using your blog as a calling card.   I was misusing the term authenticity.  I was expressing the term in the traditional way, where authenticity meant removing the mask in relationships to others.  It appears that the term “authenticity in blogging” means something else — discovering your goal or your purpose and staying true to that path.  It is more about personal journey than community.

Do these two versions of authenticity conflict with each other?

View Single Women in Redondo Beach

Lately, when I open my Yahoo Mail, I get this advertisement. I know personalized online advertisements have been around for awhile, but what makes Yahoo! think I am looking for a woman in Redondo Beach. Have I mentioned this to any of you in my emails? Does Yahoo! know more about me than I know myself?

Another issue. Why does Yahoo! restrict me to women in Redondo Beach? Why not Hermosa Beach, which is only a few blocks away? Or what about Los Angeles proper? Does Match.com and Yahoo! think I am so lazy that I will only talk with women who live in a three mile radius from my home in tiny Redondo Beach? I DO have a car. Has Match.com become a site for singles without cars? I’m not sure I want to date a woman without a car. Before you know it, I’ll be taking this car-less woman to the grocery store and the airport, and Sophia will be pissed that I am being “used.”

These women (personally picked for me) are also too young for me. Obviously Match.com on Yahoo! is run by a man, who assumes that every man fantasizes about a fresh-faced twenty-something, still unaware of the bitter world outside of the college dorm. OK, maybe they DO know something. I never got to sleep with a twenty-three year old the first time around! Maybe I’m just a late bloomer! I needed an extra decade or so to become socialized and learn about the existence of that “clitoris” thing.

But I think I’m still hip enough to date a twenty-something. I read MamaPop. I know the current scene. In fact, I was just wondering when the new Michael Jackson album is coming out.

Next on my mind — who are these single women living in Redondo Beach? And why have I never run into one of them at the beach or supermarket?

livelife3728 looks a little sleazy, like she would give you a BJ on the first date, even if you insisted that you didn’t want one. That scares me. I know it is wrong to stereotype from one photo, but that’s life. You get that one shot to date me, and then it is over. It’s called Branding. And livelife3728 needs to get a new stylist; her hair looks greasy.

iceblue0925 is even more terrifying. Her face says: stalker. I don’t mean a person who uses the name of a grade school classmate as a ATM card password. I mean a person who leaves a dead cat in your mailbox if you don’t return her calls.

I would cross sunny9790 off the list because of her ugly hat. Ladies… men like to see your hair AND your eyes. Wearing a hat that covers both in a photo on a dating site is a major FAIL. It makes us wonder if you are hiding something. Like a Phantom of the Opera face. And apparently you have to join up and pay match.com on Yahoo! if you want to see a full photo of each woman, with the cleavage, which is the REAL deciding factor for most men.

My favorite of the single women of Redondo Beach is probably virgodoc96. I like brunettes.

1) (virgodoc96) Virgos and Pisces work well together.

2) (virgodoc96) She is apparently a doctor, so I know she can at least afford her own car.

3) (virgodoc96) She was born in 1996, which makes her… hmmm… jeez, she can be my daughter!

OK, now let’s be real here. I suspect that none of these girls live in Redondo Beach, and are merely a part of a collection of stock photos. If I lived in Toledo, Ohio, and went onto my Yahoo Mail, I would get a similar advertisment that read “View Single Women in Toledo” with the exact same headshots, right?

Then again, am I wrong, or does allaboutpink21 have a very specific look in her eyes that says, ” I want you, Neilochka! Right now!”

The Next Action — the ATM Password

There was this girl who was a classmate of mine from first grade through senior year in high school. She had an unusual, but beautiful first name. We were friendly, but we didn’t anything socially outside of the classroom. Our relationship was based on the activities between the brick walls of the school building.

She was very important to me. She was my class competitor.

During math class, if I didn’t raise my hand up in time to answer a question, she would get there first. We competed for awards. We each won numerous “Citizen of the Month,” citations. We always compared test scores, secretly wishing the other to flounder. We tried to outdo the other in the number of books we read per year. When I was picked to make the commencement speech at graduation in elementary school, she became the class president in junior high. We were both the literary editors of the high school yearbook. At the end of the senior year of high school, the school “ranked” all the seniors according to their grade point average. I beat her by one point; it was a very satisfying victory.

My parents were never the pushy parents who told me to succeed at any cost. I just enjoyed school. It was this girl, ambitious and super-focused, who forced me to step up my game.

We lost touch the minute we attended college. I hadn’t heard from her for years, until, well, no surprise — Facebook. I was excited, and nervous, to reconnect with her. We had a polite exchange of messages, but nothing very intimate. I think we were both too shy to have any real conversation. For all I know, she may not have give me a second’s thought during all these years.

But I have a little secret about her. This girl has been a part of my life for decades, in a very unusual way. I wanted to tell her about it, but when I mentioned it to Sophia, she told me not to tell her. It would make me look weird.

I’ll let you decide.

So what is this mystery I keep on talking about? How has this girl (now a woman) been an integral part of my life since high school?

On my first day of college at Columbia in New York, I went with my mother to open a bank account at Citibank. There was a branch a few blocks on Broadway. After depositing some money, I received my very first ever personal ATM card. I needed a password. Using my street name or middle name was too obvious. I wanted something personal, but obscure enough for a thief to never figure it out. So, I chose the first name of this girl from school, this girl with the unusual, but beautiful name. My competitor.

Since that time, years passed, and I have moved and changed banks numerous times. Citibank, Marine Midland, HSBC, Pacific Security, Wells Fargo, Bank of America — each receiving an ATM card with the exact same password — my classmate’s first name. As you can tell, I don’t change things easily.

This girl is now a woman, but I still can picture her raising her hand a second before mine in the fourth grade, and reciting the correct equation in math. She has become an iconic image in my mind. Her name, because of her association with my ATM card, has been forever connected to matters such as ambition, success… and my bank account. Has it worked out for me? Well…

Of course, by telling this story, it is also the end of an era. Once she finds out (if I choose to tell her) , I will need to change the password to my bank ATM for the first time in decades.

First, my blog template changes, now my ATM password will have to change. Again, it might seem like very small changes, but these items have symbolism, and symbolism is the most powerful God of all.

But maybe it is time to change the password on my ATM card. It is 2010, and my hair is graying. It is time to move beyond a life revolving around a competition with a girl from elementary school. This was never an effective and mature way to deal with existence beyond the 12th grade. Time to finally graduate from school — psychologically — and find my inspiration in the present.

Time for a new ATM password.

Action

You might not think it is a big deal that I changed my template today, but those who know me, know the truth. I am neurotic about stuff like this. I created my last template and header on March 7, 2005, my first day of blogging, and it has remained the same ever since. I know this design isn’t the greatest, and I might fiddle with it some more, or even change it completely. But I acted. I am very slow to change, to take action.

I was on my back for three days. Stress had knocked me out. Today was turning into another lousy day. My iphone died. Sophia’s laptop got a virus. The aide staying with Sophia’s FIL is quitting (our second!), leaving us having to find another person we can trust. When I finally stood up from the bed and stretched my back, I felt a lot better, but creaky, like the Tin Man. But no Wizard of Oz for me. I wanted to take action, on my own. I wasn’t sure in what way. I thought of deleting Twitter. But that would be a cop-out — a negative action, not one about change, tinged with the flames of creativity, dusted with the grains of confidence.

“I’m gonna fucking change my blog template today after five years of looking at that same header!” I said.

Now onto the next thing.

Get Back

If you were flat on your back on the living room couch since yesterday, after the terrible stress of the last few months finally got to you, and your back gave out during gardening, and you were in a lot of pain, dressed only in a t-shirt and underwear, on vicodin, but getting bored and impatient, and the easiest way to entertain yourself while your separated wife and your mother ate breakfast in the dining room, was to go on Twitter to kvetch and gain some sympathy from strangers, until you came across a link from @jewles that took you to a ridiculous photo of a naked woman in a empty field wearing orange boots and leg warmers —

— and as you sat there, looking at that photo, you started to get a boner, because you never know with these things, and at that exact moment, your separated wife and your mother were coming into the living room to give you breakfast, so out of embarassment, you reached for the blanket on the other side of the couch, but you couldn’t reach it, even when stretching, and when you tried to move, the pain shot from you back both down to the leg and up to the brain, so the only alternative was to throw yourself off the couch and onto the floor in desperation, onto your already inflamed back, so you screamed in pain, and then rolled over onto your stomach, smashing the boner against the wood floor, so you screamed in pain a second time, just as your wife and mother rushed in, wondering what was going on, but giving you time to use the distraction to grab the blanket, wrap it around your waist and fall back down on your hurting back, would you post about it?

“My god, can I help you to the couch?” your mother would ask.

“No, just leave me where I am. I’m comfortable,” you would answer.

(written on the iPhone while on my back)

Fanya’s Funeral

Sophia asked me to speak at her mother’s funeral instead of her. It was intimidating because most of the attendees at the service only spoke Russian, so as I spoke my eulogy, it was as if I was speaking to Sophia directly. I compared Sophia to her late mother, Fanya. I said that they both showed the same passion for life — for singing, for dancing,for loving, for family, and even for fighting. In the past, telling Sophia that she was acting “like her mother,” would have put me sleeping on the living room couch, but I think this time, it pleased Sophia to hear her being called her mother’s daughter. Sophia misses her mother. Their relationship was very intense. They spoke several times a day.

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The rabbi, a Russian-speaking Orthodox Jewish rabbi, knew Fanya from the senior center. He spoke about Fanya before I did, telling everyone how she single-handedly started up an on-site library at the center. I’m surprised that he didn’t immediately understand that Sophia and Fanya were cut from the same strong-willed cloth, because it wasn’t long before Sophia and the rabbi were butting heads. It is a tradition for a close family member to recite the Kaddish, the Jewish memorial prayer, during the burial. To the Orthodox, the most conservative branch of Judaism, this means the closest MALE family member.

“I want to do the Kaddish,” said Sophia. Not only did Sophia know the prayer, she understood the Hebrew, having spent years living in Israel.

“Only men can say the Kaddish at the cemetery,” said the bearded rabbi with the black hat.

“That’s because you’re Orthodox. I’m not.”

“But I’M THE RABBI!”

“That’s true. But this is MY MOTHER.”

That ended the conversation. Sophia read the Kaddish. The rabbi bit his lip. That said, he was a cool guy who had a beautiful singing voice, and said very nice things about Fanya.

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The day before the funeral was painful. Although Vartan was in the bedroom when the ambulance arrived for Fanya two days earlier, he still did not know that his wife had passed away. It was time to tell him. Sophia entered the room and pulled a chair next to the bed. Vartan was going in and out of reality, so Sophia had to repeat his name several times before he snapped to attention. Once he heard and understood the news about his wife, the woman who was his everything, who had cared for him day and night for the last six months, he wailed with sorrow, like his soul was stabbed. He was very distraught that he couldn’t attend the funeral. Sophia asked a friend to videotape the funeral for Vartan. I thought it was a bad idea to have him watch the video, but Sophia thought it might give him closure.

After the funeral, we all met in the senior center’s recreation room for food, since no Jewish event is complete without bagels and lox, even during death. Then we went upstairs to see Vartan, thinking of showing him the video. But it was clear that he had returned to daydreaming. He asked her where Fanya was, as if he didn’t remember the earlier conversation, and Sophia didn’t have the heart to tell him again. Sophia told Vartan that she was out shopping.

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Sophia has more supernatural leanings than I do. l believe it was a total coincidence that my mother had a flight to visit Los Angeles on the day of the funeral, even though she made the reservations two months ago. Sophia thinks it was fated that she would come to Los Angeles, where her presence was needed. That is difficult for me to accept. Did I attend that zen meditation retreat two weeks ago in order to learn to breath mindfully during stressful situations in preparation for a stressful situation? Did I go on Twitter immediately after learning about Sophia’s mother passing to just happen to find @redneckmommy online, the ideal person to give me advice about keeping a cool head, having dealt with her own family dramas? Does it mean anything that the birthday of my late father was yesterday, reminding me of everything Sophia did for me when my father passed away in 2005? Are Sophia and I supposed to be learning something about the grieving process?

“Do you believe in heaven?” I asked Sophia.

“Not sure,” she answered.

“If there is a heaven, do you think your mother and my father are meeting today?”

“Maybe.”

“Maybe they’ll hit it off and make out. It is heaven after all. Free love.”

“My mother would never make out with your father.”

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Fanya and I had the perfect son-in-law/mother-in-law relationship. Why? Because we could hardly speak with each other. Her English and my Russian were rudimentary at best. That said, I spent A LOT of time with her, and we learned to communicate in different ways. We pointed, we gestured, we mimed, we faked words that we both agreed upon, a hodgepodge of English, Russian, and Yiddish. Much of our interaction revolved around food — buying food, cooking food, and eating food. The only time I was able to get into serious conversations with Fanya was when Sophia was present to translate. That doesn’t mean I don’t know a lot about her life. I heard many stories about Fanya from Sophia, some I will need to get permission to retell. Let’s just say Sophia’s mother was not afraid of telling her daughter about her sex life. As Vartan got older and sicker, he told his wife to take lovers because he knew how important sex was to her, and was sad that he couldn’t please her anymore. We’re talking about a woman over 75!

I felt a true bond with Fanya, because we had to work so hard to connect, like two deaf or blind people overcompensating with one sense over another. I know this will sound strange, considering we couldn’t speak, but we knew how to make each other laugh. She especially enjoyed my jumbling, mispronunciation of Russian words, such as when I mistakenly asked for “a pair of tits” rather than “two sausages.”

This post from 2006, “The Quest for the Toilet Seat,” is my favorite blog post involving Fanya.

Sophia’s Mom


Sophia’s mother passed away on Tuesday. Today is the funeral. It was unexpected, since it was her husband who was bedridden.

Fanya had an interesting and adventurous life, which took her from the horrors of war-torn Soviet Union to present-day Los Angeles, in order to be close to her only child, Sophia. Fanya was so proud when she became an American citizen.

The love of her life was her husband, Vartan. She met him in Odessa, Ukraine, where he was her doctor. They had a long and passionate relationship. Fanya and Vartan were inseparable. When Vartan grew ill six months ago, everyone thought it best to put Vartan in a convalescence home. We told her that it would require too much work. She refused to discuss the issue. Despite having an aide, and the help of her family, Fanya was her husband’s primary caregiver, dealing with all the physical strain and lack of sleep. Even as we saw her weakening from the stress, she refused to leave her husband’s side.

Yesterday, Sophia told Vartan the news of his wife’s passing. He is very distraught, especially about being too ill to attend the funeral.

Out of a total coincidence, my mother had a flight coming to visit us today in LA, so she will be attending as well.

Fanya was a bigger-than-life woman. She was tough in spirit, but also extremely caring to others, and will be very very missed.

If you want to send a message to Sophia, you can do it here or send me an email.

Blog Post I Might Have Written When I Was Thirteen

This is the greatest song ever written. It speaks so many truths. When the revolution comes, and it will, we must be careful who we follow because the new boss will be the same as the old boss. Question authority. Even when the authority is against the established authority. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” This is why we need a free press. And rock music. And writers and artists who speak their mind. Only those who question will be able to tell the truth. Don’t listen to the lies of the government OR the revolutionaries, whether they be followers of socialism or robots that we have built with our own hands, and now want to be our masters. We must not get fooled again!

Fat Acceptance Gone Too Far

Lately there have been several posts in which the writers were outraged at this new Fat Acceptance movement.  Really, how dare anyone tell those overweight people that they can be happy with their bodies?

At first, I was defending the right of others to do as they please, but an incident occurred recently that punched me right in the gut, and finally woke me up to the dangers of this ideology.

Last week, I was very excited to attend this meditation retreat at this zen center.  It was a beginner’s class, and I didn’t know much about the discipline.  I met the wonderful instructor and the other eager students.  We were all ready to learn as much as possible.  We climbed the stairs to the upstairs studio, and that’s when I saw him.

He wasn’t just fat.  He was morbidly obese!  It was clear that he rarely exercised, and mostly sat around like a lazy bum.  I’m not sure he even had a job, ever.  Perhaps the worst part of this experience was that the instructor looked up to this dude, as if this fatso with his gut hanging over his pants had any “wisdom” to offer.  The students even bowed to him.   There was a bowl of fruit sitting in front of this blimp of a man, as if that was what he mostly meditated on — his next meal.   Now, I think it’s OK for the overweight to visit Walmart, or even visit the beach WITH a t-shirt on, but when this “Fat Acceptance” starts to infiltrate our world religions, it has gone too far.

Zen 101

Yesterday, I went to a full day zen meditation retreat for beginners.  It was fascinating, and I will write more about it later in the week.  But today (this was written on Monday), I want to get this specific thought out of my head, putting it into words because I completely forget what I wanted to say, or even more likely, embarrassed to bring it up tomorrow.  I enjoy this type of “fleeting moment” writing, although it can also be scary, because people tend to see your writing as written in stone, as if each post was a manifesto, and not a mere daydream.  If I decide tomorrow morning to say that my life dream is to run with the bulls in Pamplona, please don’t run out and buy me airplane tickets just yet.   By the afternoon, I might have done a little research, or watched the utter chaos on a YouTube video, and completely changed my mind, and decided to go to Hawaii instead.  So, be aware that I spent most of the Sunday staring at a blank wall in silence, so this post reflects that unique (or crazed) state of being.  Today I might be all zen.  That doesn’t mean that tomorrow, I won’t go back to writing sex jokes.

Over the last few years, I have introduced you to my mind.  To my heart.  You have even met my talkative, and overly friendly, penis, who has written some blog posts himself.  But I usually keep my soul locked in the basement, like a crazy, dangerous, uncle.  I pride myself on my rationality and adherence to a scientific approach, and dismiss anything that smacks of the supernatural.  Even when I write about Jewish issues, it tends to be about cultural issues, more bagels than morning prayer.

Every once in a blue moon, I hear my uncle screaming in the basement, and I try to listen to his gibberish.  As much as I try to ignore the rantings of a madman, I do hear him, and his voice intrigues me.  How many wondrous stories have I read in the past where it is the madman who is the one with the most knowledge and awareness?

I was IM-ing with Schmutzie this morning, telling her about the retreat.  She said she was surprised that I would go to a zen meditation retreat.

“It doesn’t sound like you AT ALL.  What made you go to it?”

I was taken aback because I had no coherent story.  I didn’t have a real reason for going other than curiosity.  It just fell into my lap.  Sure, I read Herman Hesse’s “Siddhartha” when I was in ninth grade, but I have never had an overwhelming desire to meditate.  I don’t read books about zen meditation.  I’m not even that attracted to Buddhism as a way of life.  I find the concept of karma a little creepy.  My “path,” if there is one, that brought me there  was completely random, rather mundane, and involves the most un-zen-like of all modern tools — Twitter.

One evening, several weeks ago, Sophia and I were arguing about the dishes.  I’m not embarrassed to mention this, because I assume that this is a common in every modern married household throughout the world.   Sadly, in my home, I am the one usually stuck with the chore.

After cleaning the kitchen, I took my angst out on whoever happened to be sitting on Twitter at 8PM on a Tuesday.

“I hate doing the dishes,” I wrote to whoever was there.  “Is there anyone who really LIKES doing the dishes?”

Another blogger chimed in and replied that I should read a book by Karen Maezen Miller.   She  wrote a book about viewing the mundane household chores from a Buddhist perspective.   I didn’t think much of this, but I noticed that Karen Maezen Miller also happened to be on Twitter.   So, I followed her, mostly as a lark.  I like talking with a weird assortment of folk.

I followed her and soon  I was “chatting” with her on Twitter, mostly making fun of her mellow spirit, as if I was playfully interacting with The Redneck Mommy rather than a zen priest.   And I was surprised that she always had a funny response.  Zen priests are not supposed to be clever, or even “get” movie references to the Karate Kid!

Curious who this woman was, I looked at her website, and discovered that she teaches at an LA zen center, and — just that weekend — was offering an infrequently-held beginner’s retreat!   So, I signed up.

Let me make it clear.  This is not a plug for her book, which I have not read.  This is an actual story of how an argument with Sophia over the dishes brought me to a place where I was facing the wall all day!

Without getting all LOST on you, I think you see where this is going.  The mystery.

At the end of the retreat, Karen Maezen Miller thanked the students, and said some “Mister Miyagi” type statements that you would expect from a zen priest.  She said that  she learned as much from us and we did from her.

What made my ears perk up was this — our meeting was not as random as it seemed.  We were brought together.

It was fairly odd that I was sitting there.  A random tweet.  A random comment.  A random encounter.  A random geographical commonality.

I wanted to fight what was bubbling in my head with every fiber of my being.   It seems so wrong for so many reasons.  Is it possible that everyone we encounter is part of a learning experience that is presented to us on purpose?  I’ve written about THE SECRET before, and HOW MUCH I HATE WHAT IT REPRESENTS.  How do you explain all the bad shit that happens to people?   Karma?  I hate that crap.  I even have a broken friendship over that stupid book.

But why we meet certain people and not others?   Of the millions of people who use the internet, why do I interact with YOU?  Is it all just random, or do we really get what we need, even if we don’t realize it?

OK, sorry.  I will try to be normal again tomorrow.

More later.

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