Saturday, March 21, 2020. I’m making a point not to blog about the thing that’s in the news that I’m not mentioning because the stupidity of it all makes me scream. Legislators and the gamesmanship of businessmen impacting my already challenging existence negatively. I’m trying to make things happen and get out of my own way and everybody else’s and now we’ve got this lunacy jacking things up for everyone who’s not making a killing off fucking everybody else’s life up. And there I’ve talked about it too much. People telling me what and what not to do always gets me steamed. So be it, things can always be worse, I get it. But it has to do with lack of empowerment. And I found myself fantasizing about getting empowered.
“I’m trying to delete that photo from my memory,” says Angie. Hilarious. And there will be somebody out there, someday, perhaps, who takes offense to this image as, well, offensive. What’s wrong with him? Pointing a gun at people? Is he insane? Is he dangerous? I’m calling the police. I’m afraid, I feel threatened. He has to be stopped. Um, that’s exactly what I’m talking about: feeling threatened. I feel threatened by moronic behavior on behalf of others that affects my life. Yes, well, we all do, don’t we, and you don’t see any of us perfect people pointing a shotgun at anyone do ya?
Maybe, maybe not. I hear ammunition sales are up lately. And I’m posting this photograph to be sensational, too, as an experiment in sensationalism. Would this photo get me paid attention to? In all the wrong ways, perhaps? Is there bad publicity for an author? Well, when it involves being a sexual predator or what have you, all the criminal creepiness, sure, that stuff is bad and bad for book sales. But hoisting a firearm on camera? Is it illegal? No. Am I pointing the gun at anyone in particular? No. Am I intending to threaten anyone in particular? No. For the record, the gun isn’t even loaded. I don’t have any shotgun shells in the house anymore. I used to because I’d do some bird hunting – pheasant on pheasant farms, once I went to the Upper Peninsula and did some real, as it were, bird hunting for grouse (a.k.a. partridge) and woodcock. With hunting dogs that my friends had. Good times. Lots of exercise.
So, yes, the image of me with a firearm. It elicits some primal, shadowy, unconscious powers all around, from both ends of the barrel, so to say. It’s unnerving. Hell, it’s unnerving even for me looking at it. Which is strange in its own way, as if I’m looking at a version of myself I barely recognize. Of course perhaps fifty or seventy-five years ago when firearms and hunting and the agricultural attitude towards life and death wouldn’t have seemed so out of the ordinary, least of all preternaturally heartless or threatening, and this image couldn’t be blogged or otherwise communicated willy nilly, in a heartbeat, on a website, it would likely be ineffectual. Folks would say, ho hum, guy with gun, what’s he doing, showing off? Meanwhile, in real time, today, right now, for the purposes of this post, it’s a study, that’s all, folks. Keep calm.
It used to be that whenever I wrote something, I’d get somewhere with it. Somewhere as in someplace other, at least, than where I started. So that this indifference towards Time Crime, this categorical, yes, deafening silence on behalf of my efforts to market the book seems something beyond indifference; something aggressively, defiantly almost antagonistically oppressive. It’s as if the world-of-action has gone out of its way, somehow, to foil my plans and extinguish the spark of my zeal. We don’t want this, fucker, now go the fuck away. I suppose that’s where the “deafening” part of the metaphor comes in.
Otherwise, throughout my life, it seemed that writing was indeed my natural, predestined way of connecting with the world even though I never understood that nor worked to foster my vocation in those terms. I was too stupid. But life is irony, in many ways, and now I’m devoting myself to fostering my writing career and, well, it isn’t one. It isn’t happening. But it takes time. Yes, perhaps it does. But I’ve been writing my whole life. I’m fifty-five. Not much time left. So what gives?
My brother told me a story of some silly pop star who makes lousy music but has one of those mega-careers that began seemingly out of nothing and blossomed instantly: this chick at sixteen years old has her dad help her with recording her little musical efforts and somehow for some reason they pass the recording along to the babysitter (?) and she passes it along to a record producer (?) and suddenly this chick is offered a $100,000 advance and a recording contract and the rest is history. As if, like my brother said, this girl can just want something and there it is, like walking into a store and picking fame and fortune off a shelf. It fucking happens. It makes not a bit of sense. It’s a damn study, this thing that happens with the shitty thing getting money thrown at it. You see folks amazed and baffled and even traumatized by their own success. How did this happen to me and my little efforts? I can’t believe they’re paying so much to do this. That kind of thing. Because they’re perfectly aware that there are untold zillions of people with exponentially greater talent and drive (but sans timing) and they are suffering as bottom dwellers in the fish tank of life. While the talentless and preternaturally fortunate – that weird combination – are up there with the beautiful angel fish and savage tarpon, consuming all the fish food.
I’m not talking about the gifted folks and the prodigies, they’re a different analysis and that’s been done, and writers like Malcolm Gladwell have done well to illustrate what remarkable success actually entails, namely the perfectly understandable combination of talent, timing and drive that adds up to remarkable success. It’s a form of having earned it. Take The Beatles for example. Beatlemania. There they are making great music, being charismatic as hell, a great time for everyone and people, far and away the females (another study) are losing their minds over these guys. And the bandmembers themselves are scratching their heads, glad for their success, for the welcome from the world but taken aback by the unhinged quality of it. We’re good, yeah, but we’re not that good. Well, it turns out in The Beatles case that they were that good; remarkably, incomparably talented and the group chemistry, the charisma of it, virtually impossible to reproduce: they unintentionally set a standard, along with George Martin’s production that never catered to trendiness, somehow, that will never be equaled.
I did a guest lecture on mythology for one of Kev’s classes and included Beatlemania as an example of mythologization. What’s the nature of it? Why does it occur? What are the components, dynamics, synergies and the pieces of the puzzle that explain why this (and for that matter not that) high quality but otherwise unremarkable human activity or creativity attains mythological status almost instantly, within the lifetime of the individual or individuals involved? For we all know of the after-the-fact type of mythologization, the dynamics of legend making after someone, some artist-craftsman otherwise ignored during their lifetime – Van Gogh is the default example – only to “enjoy” unparalleled posthumous success. Again, that’s a different study.
Time Crime, for example. It could’ve “taken off.” In spite of my newbie, wannabe, indie, incompetence, it could’ve got into the right hands somehow right away, right off, as if there were nothing I could do or not do to prevent it and then boom, it gets caught up in the mythologization effect. Some critic like me would be saying, But Time Crime is hackneyed crap and, hackneyed crap or not, it would be flying off the shelves, click, buy, click, buy until I and it has a Wikipedia page that I didn’t write. It wouldn’t have been a unique event by any stretch of the imagination. J.K. Rowling. Or more recently American Dirt. Bing. Mythologized. Right out of the gate. Perhaps that’s a bad analogy because maybe Jeanine Cummins has had a long career of trying to get published and read or she’s got a lot of books out prior to the phenomenon of her latest, I don’t know, I haven’t researched her, I’m not interested because I don’t read that kind of thing. The social consciousness novel. Harry Potter. What have you. My point is how does this happen? Why does it happen? Why can’t we ever foresee it let alone reliably design, manufacture or engineer it? Marketing folks spend their lives chasing it.
There is legitimate success and the tragedy of undeserved obscurity, we know this. These are studies unto themselves. But the weird subset of super achievers that get stuff, a life of remarkable success seemingly in spite of themselves and their utter lack, well, it’s weird. A handful of folks, there can’t be many but you hear about them, for whatever reason, a zeitgeist, something in the water, I don’t know, they experience the doing of something and immediately practically everyone else wants to throw money and attention at them. Even when they don’t seek it. We want you. We need you. Here’s buckets of cash, please, do your thing for us.
I shake my head. Oh, you may say, don’t be so negative, it’ll get you nowhere. Um, I’m already nowhere. Zero sales is nowhere. No, you ought to stay positive. The bad karma argument, I guess. Thanks. I’ll consider it. Meanwhile I’m legitimately frustrated and just talking or rather writing out my thoughts – what else is blogging? – with the intention of working my way through my damn negativity, my frustrating frustration – my grasping at outcomes – and acquiring some healthy perspective, some peace. To let go of the fruits (or the idea of them) and re-center myself within the principles of eternity. I get it. So that I can live and let live. Like Krishna. Or the Buddha. Or Jesus. Or Mohammad. Or Confucius or Gandhi or Mother Theresa or whomever. Like good people and good deified people and good characters from fiction. The symbols that symbolize goodness in people. I must reiterate that I’m one who could be described as H.G. Wellsian versus Joseph Conradian: that is, I love Humanity but mostly dislike the individual. I read somewhere, I think it was when I was studying Conrad’s idea of the cosmic knitting machine, as he referred to it, the manner in which life possesses no reliably discernable “meaning” (hate that vague term) or clear purpose; that us and everything comes and goes and nothing comes of it so why bother? Yet we bother. This is what inspired Conrad or drove him bonkers depending on his opinion I don’t know. I think he was a guy, an artist-craftsman who had the experience of being driven bonkers by what amounted to his inspiration. I think it’s good to know where you are with this predicament in your life, to not be blind to what motivates and inspires you because that only makes things more difficult, it only holds you back. Knowing thyself to the degree it’s possible: I’m a big fan. Alternatively, embracing and cherishing the Mystery? That too.
DOP1 (2010-11) VINTAGE POST:
Whatever Happened To?
The DOP’s publishing future? I did in fact make a pretty big push to get this thing exposed to the world. I researched how to submit book queries in the latest Writer’s Market, targeted about 40+ book agents and either mailed or emailed the query package according to their particular requirements. I personalized it for each editor:
To: Jenni Ferrari-Adler
Subject: Query: Day of Pigs
Pigs have been my guides. By following them from the forest (not just the farm) to the fork – from their earliest history as a domesticated animal to the complex relationship that people have with pigs today – I’ve found my calling, improved my well-being, and created a book that documents and examines the often elusive transformations required to find your way in life.
This book describes the anguish of broken dreams – my doomed corporate relocation from Ann Arbor to Houston in 2008, and the desperate self-examination that it sparked. It describes my painful, embarrassing and ultimately joyous efforts to establish a better future and a more engaged, more focused, and more meaningful life by becoming a slave to my master passions, removing limits and listening to my heart.
It’s an adventure in using the lives and work of others as guides: successful authors, artists, cooks, family members, co-workers and businesspersons – everyone from Julia Child to Joseph Campbell, from Jack Canfield to Ari Weinzweig, from pig farmers in Texas to pig farmers and slaughterhouses in Iowa – to align myself with my essential nature, build meaning, and establish lasting personal transformation. I’ve found my vocation – running a gastrofarm (think of it as pints and pigs!). I’ve discovered what I want to have, what I want to do and who I want to be.
The 44 chapters are essays, linked by my passions, strengths, talents, failings and my struggles to embrace them the only way I know how: through cooking, writing, reading, music, travelling, hiking, learning, and working. The book speaks to the philosophical, psychological and personal mythological struggles within us – it’s a journey into what I’m calling “biophycomythology” – a spontaneous combination of philosophy, psychology, and personal mythology. Photos, illustrations and a personal interview with Paul Willis, Manager of the Niman Ranch Pork Program, highlight the text.
The market for the book spans foodies, cooks, travelers, writers, entrepreneurs and career-changers. They are readers of non-fiction – biographies, memoirs, self-help books, food writing, cookbooks, travel writing, philosophy, history, and personal well-being. They are meat eaters interested in animal welfare. A book proposal including an outline, sample chapters, author info sheet, marketing information and a competitive title analysis is available upon request. 95,000 words. This is a simultaneous submission.
I look forward to the possibility of your further interest, thank you.
Here’s the competitive title analysis, which I happen to like, because I get to talk about the books that motivate me:
Competitive Title Analysis:
Pathways to Bliss, Joseph Campbell:
A collection of several of the comparative mythologist’s lectures applying the larger themes of world mythology to personal growth and the quest for transformation. Day of Pigs draws heavily upon this book as a reference and a guide through the author’s own compelling version of a “hero’s journey.”
My Life in France, Julia Child:
A memoir, focusing on how her early years in France awakened her passion for food. Day of Pigs draws from this book, identifying specifically with Julia’s culinary awakening and her joy at discovering her calling. Day of Pigs extends beyond memoir, offering specific guidance to the reader and documenting a perhaps more rigorous and desperate self-examination.
The Success Principles, Jack Canfield:
A self-help book that transcends the limits of the genre with its singularly thorough treatment of “how to get from where you are to where you want to be.” Day of Pigs draws heavily from this book, unselfconsciously applying the principles and guidance, while enriching and expanding the journey with uniquely personal outcomes and interpretations.
The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho:
An elegant and romantic allegory of finding one’s way and listening to one’s heart. Day of Pigs borrows much of the expansive heart of this book, linking Coelho’s wisdom to those of other authors and carrying the fictional account into the real world.
Zingerman’s Guide to Better Bacon, Ari Weinzweig:
Weinzweig’s engaging and approachable style provides a tour through bacon’s history, a description of its various methods of production, an introduction to the life stories of many of its finest producers, a collection of recipes, and a light-hearted examination of its legendary status in food culture. Day of Pigs borrows the book’s historical perspective, the commitment to quality that drives artisanal food production, and its fascination with the sometimes intangible motivations behind the pursuit of a vocation. Day of Pigs confesses to look both deeper within and farther out – with personal confession at its core, it’s interested in the whole pig versus just the bacon; the farm instead of just the farmer, and in discovery versus description.
Adventures of a Bacon Curer, Maynard Davies:
A first-person narrative describing, in an endearingly straight-forward and self-effacing style, the day-to-day adventures of the entrepreneurial author’s life in the British countryside, running his artisanal bacon-curing business and managing his farm. Day of Pigs, borrowing from the narrative style, but adding intellectual rigor, is inspired by the example of how a life-style business can be the avenue to a fulfilling and enjoyable life, and to the inventive commitment required in following one’s heart.
If You Want to Write, Brenda Ueland:
Aimed at guiding budding writers beyond the limits of self-doubt and self-denial and into an unrestrained commitment to belief in themselves and their inherent talents. Day of Pigs shares with this book a desire to empower, inspire, legitimize and sustain our sometimes flagging courage as we negotiate beyond the psychological limits of our self-actualization.
A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Better Business, Ari Weinzweig:
The twenty-eight-plus years of experience that Weinzweig and his partner Paul Saginaw have acquired while building the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses into the $35M success story provides the backdrop for a “how-to” book in developing inspired business and personal visions. Where Weinzweig legitimately focuses on the business and indirectly generates life lessons, Day of Pigs reverses the emphasis, extrapolating on the life lessons that lead to the entrepreneurial vision of the author.
Spilling the Beans, Clarissa Dickson Wright:
A revealing biography, at once harrowing and charming, that describes the guiding and restorative power of food and cooking in a person’s drive to overcome her past and conquer her demons. Day of Pigs also utilizes biography and a late-blooming passion for food and cooking to punctuate personal transformation but strives, in a didactic vein, to reach further into the universal sources of our struggles and to provide methods and tools to help the reader move forward with their own lives.
Ignore Everybody And 39 Other Keys to Creativity, Hugh MacLeod:
Like his cartoons, MacLeod’s book is a humorously piquant and concisely distilled personal vignette on the existential pitfalls and payoffs of the creative life. Equally fascinated with the tragic and humorous outcomes inspired by the collisions between dreams and reality, Day of pigs chooses to discard the pungent brevity in favor of savory exposition.
The Art of Eating, M.F.K. Fisher:
A compilation of more than several of her famous pieces, Fisher’s elegant aesthetic, gastronomic erudition and subtle joy have withstood the test of time and remain a touchstone for the food writing genre she did much to create. Day of Pigs aspires to Fisher’s effortless and touching portrayal of food as metaphorical sustenance and existential timepiece while allowing a more immediate and less delicate demonstration of transformation.
The Art of the Start, Guy Kawasaki:
Combining the punchiness and brevity of Hugh MacLeod with the expansive heart and practical guidance of Ari Weinzweig, Kawasaki applies his empirical credibility to clear the heads of his entrepreneurial readers, challenging them to get going without abandoning their “menschhood.” Day of Pigs likewise challenges readers to apply the lessons learned, to make meaning, and to embrace an entrepreneurial “menschy-ness” – to make money while helping people, doing what’s right and paying back society.
And finally, here’s the chapter outline/summary:
Day of Pigs – Outline by Chapter:
Introduction: Mental hum, spinning nuts, doppelgangers and how a recipe inside a box of Tabasco can change your life. The author name drops M.F.K. Fisher and offers the reader a greeting and a curious invitation.
1) Market Forces: A visit to the Houston Farmers Market inspires a wary connection with the experience, a conversation with a pig farmer, and the anticipation of better pork.
2) Days of Mast & Pannage: “Pigs are originally a forest animal….” The traditional practice of raising pigs outdoors, near forests and in pastures, inspires an explanation of how the long-standing and complex relationship between domesticated pigs and man began. Photographs & illustrations.
3) Breed & Feed: Through early cross-breeding with Chinese and Mediterranean animals, the domesticated pigs of medieval Europe are miraculously, sometimes ludicrously, even cruelly transformed, over almost two thousand years, into the breeds that we know today. Market forces, the economics of food, and the whims of breeders bring change to the traditionally seasonal aspects of pig farming. Photographs & illustrations.
4) Joy Exchange: How there’s no good reason why the food buying experience shouldn’t rise above that of purchasing commodities, and an intuitive nod towards the very basic “ingredients” that make up a joyful purchase. The unsaid that gets said, when there’s a heart behind the product.
5) Lone Star Great – A Pig Farm in Cattle Country: The account of my visit to a local Houston-area hog farm and the happy day I spent there handling piglets, looking at a gestation barn, a moveable weaning platform, a mud hole and lots of pig pasture. I got to know the farmer that I’ve been buying pork from at the Houston Farmers Market – his successes and his struggles – even his goals, and I was impressed with his openness and simple pride in his work. Photographs.
6) Heritage Breeds: According to the British Pig Association (BPA), most of the so-called “traditional native breeds” have less than five-hundred sows, which puts them at risk of extinction. The BPA’s conservation project aims to increase the number of sows. A brief synopsis of each heritage breed is discussed with accompanying photographs.
7) Pigs in the East: Pending. The author considers it a compelling area for research.
8) Pigs in the Third World: Pending. Again, a compelling area for research.
9) Urban Foragers: A diversionary vignette describing the curious situation in Cairo, Egypt whereby government officials, in a misguided attempt to minimize the risk to the general population of “swine flu,” exterminated the many pigs that consumed most of the city’s organic waste. The Zabaleen, considered a lower class of Egyptian residents, owned and fed the pigs with the city’s organic waste and now, without the animals, the streets of Cairo are piled high with trash.
10) Not Fat Enough: Pending. Pig farming’s darkest days. Arrogance, ignorance, folly and greed take the pig from fat and happy to lean and miserable within a decade. Fat and flavor reach the vanishing point as “intensive” farming threatens to carve the heart out of the pork business. Reference Ed Behr’s old article on the taste of pork, et al.
11) Boar Stories: Intensively-raised pig farming and its alarming resemblance to the manufacturing industry is discussed and quickly dismissed as intuitively wrong both from an animal welfare and a meat quality standpoint. The shameless sales hype of the Pig Improvement Company (PIC), a subsidiary of a U.K. biotechnology giant, (“The Ultimate in Swine Genetics!”) is presented as a testament to the euphemistic absurdity present in the pork business.
12) Pig Business: Citing compelling examples of recent food writing, including an article entitled “Where’s the Beef?” by Food & Water Watch, the author decries the absence of small-scale slaughter facilities and the impact of vertical integration within the pork business. An extensive 2010 interview between the author and Paul Willis, Manager of the Niman Ranch Pork Program highlights this chapter. In it, Paul discusses all things pig-farming-related – from pork quality to politics.
13) Pie of the Storm: The first-hand account of my October 2010 visit to the Willis farm in Thornton, Iowa. I spent the better part of two days with Paul and his gracious wife Phyllis, staying at their farm, eating good food, and discussing all manner of pig business. I shadow Paul as he tends his herd in the pastures (and cheats death from an enraged sow while castrating her piglets!), do my best to stay out of the way as he loads market-ready hogs for slaughter and sells them, along with pigs from fellow Niman farmers, at the Farmers Livestock Market. I visit a local ham production facility that uses Niman pork and get a tour of the acreage that Paul is returning to native wetland as part of his environmental stewardship. Photographs.
14) Men in Black? Pending completion. This is a reference, tongue-half-in-cheek, to the conspiratorial reputation that our own government manages to promote in spite of itself. The author likes to maintain an underlying faith in government, and is inspired by the cooperation and forward-thinking demonstrated this past year on behalf of the USDA and the Dept. of Justice who, in an effort to “promote dialogue among interested parties and foster learning with respect to competition and regulatory issues in agriculture,” staged a series of five “workshops” – each in a different part of the country. Also inspiring is the USDA’s participation in the “Open Government Initiative” and the “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” program.
15) Abundance: As a youth, growing up in a cushy Michigan suburb, I took the availability of food for granted, with only a vague sense of what the surrounding farmers were up to.
16) Farm-Stand Corn: Heartfelt nostalgia for corn and its mythic presence in my life.
17) Getting Cooking: I’m in the kitchen, slave to one of my master passions, inspired by the work of three of my favorite, and famous, cookbook authors – Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Thomas Keller and Molly Stevens. My local pig farmer’s pork is put to the test, substitutions become revelations and pork cheek rises to star status alongside the mighty belly. Photographs.
18) Lard: This miraculous lipid is given center stage in all its savory glory. That all lard is not created equal. More cooking, more photographs, even some science – ‘nuff said.
19) Brawny: The making of my first headcheese. Eating it cold, hot and the debut of the “headcheese hoagie.” Photographs.
20) Hearty: “What to do now with the pig’s heart and liver?” Photographs.
21) Into the Abattoir: Literally. I visit SiouxPreme Packing Company’s slaughter facility in Sioux Center, Iowa. The Plant Manager graciously provides a facility tour and I get to witness the entire slaughter process, backwards, from the half carcasses being loaded into refrigerated trailers, to the lairage where the pigs rest overnight prior to being processed the following morning. I witness Paul Willis’ hogs moved through the CO2 stunning and exsanguination (bleed-out) process. Various offal is also processed and packaged for shipment directly to customers. Photograph of facility entrance and signage (cameras not allowed in plant).
22) Out of the Abattoir: After slaughter, pig carcasses are shipped to the “cut plant” and butchered into the cuts recognized by consumers – loins, hams, shoulders, etc. I continue my tour of the SiouxPreme operation in Sioux City, travelling there directly from the slaughter plant and accompanying the V.P. of sales for SiouxPreme on a tour through their busy butchering and packaging operation, where carcasses are broken down per customer’s specifications. Photograph showing facility signage (cameras not allowed in plant).
23) Lagoons: Pending. The author intends to discuss pig farm waste lagoons which function under an environmental regulatory loop-hole allowing this untreated waste to accumulate in giant, shallow man-made lagoons, contaminating surrounding ground water, land and air. The waste is destined to be applied back to the land in the form of liquid fertilizer. However, during accumulation, storage and application, the overpowering stench of the putrefying waste threatens the quality of life of surrounding residents, most of whom are farmers. The author will argue for mandatory waste water treatment plants to be part of any large-scale, intensive pig farming operation – for any other type of waste, regulations would require treatment on site with applicable EPA discharge permits for the treated water.
24) Mobile Slaughter: Pending. This innovative solution brings the possibility of on-farm slaughter into the realm of possibility for the small-scale farmer, eliminating long-distance transport that affects meat quality and animal welfare during transport. The regulatory hurdles and economic challenges of this emerging “technology” are daunting, but there are committed participants from the private sector and the government that continue to push for continued real-world trials and a more comprehensive analysis of it’s potential.
25) Animal Welfare: This chapter contains an introduction from the author’s 120-page document entitled “Farm Animal Welfare User’s Guide – A Global Summary of Standards, Programs & Issues” (updated for June 2010). A draft version of the document was originally “published” on the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) website and the current version was submitted as an update in June 2010. The full manuscript of the User’s Guide is available to interested parties upon request.
26) Reimagining Animals: The phrase “Reimagining Animals” is borrowed from Howard L. Harrod who, in his book, The Animals Came Dancing, suggests that “There is a hunger among many contemporary people for a recovery of ritual relationships between humans and the natural sources of their lives – plants, animals, and the earth itself.” The American Indian culture of communal buffalo hunting, an analysis of the 1994 article by Oliver Sacks (which appeared in the New Yorker) on Temple Grandin, a poem by James Dickey and the author’s own conclusions demonstrate the powerful intuitive morality and ethical agreement between humans and the animals we use for food.
27) Surrender to Adventure: The author’s doomed corporate relocation from Ann Arbor to the BP refinery in Texas City is described. The powerful influence of Joseph Campbell, Jack Canfield and others provide the framework for the author’s desperate self-examination. The pitfalls and progress of the struggle is documented, setting the stage for the development of the author’s own biophycomythology, a term introduced in later chapters.
28) Emulsified: The author describes his temporary job as part of an environmental clean-up crew working feverishly to help remediate a 2002 industrial oil spill on the Rouge River in Detroit. This experience provides a sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic example of the author’s life-long career struggles which led to his being hired, with great expectations, by a large corporate conglomerate.
29) Mired, Fired and Un-Retired: “Those who’ve never been fired may wonder what it’s like.” The great expectations and disappointments of working for a successful corporation for over seven years are played out – the promotion and corporate relocation goes from almost unlimited opportunity to a dismissal in fourteen months. Pain, relief and isolation in a Texas suburb, trapped in a home that cannot be sold, finally forces the author into monumental self-discovery, a biophycomythological “rehabilitation” and an understanding of the universal application of these ideas.
30) Fever Tree: How to wake from your own existential “fever,” discover your biophycomythology and become a slave to it. Six practical tips, “battle-tested” by the author, on getting started and finding your own way are presented.
31) Pig Trails: Intuition takes us to Zingerman’s first ever Camp Bacon in Ann Arbor, where we meet Ari Weinzweig and Molly Stevens in person. Our two-day drive from Texas becomes newsworthy, we are immersed in bacon fat (metaphorically), and the pig emerges as a guiding force. An article by Washington Post food writer Jane Black is featured.
32) The Manhattan Dragon: From 1990 to 1992 the author lived, worked and got fired in New York City. Gotham leaves its mark.
33) Spaces & Places: Pending completion. I return to NYC for the first time in twenty years (almost to the day), tagging along on my wife’s business trip to the city. I test my biophycomythological instincts, eat fifty dollars of Iberica ham, revisit old haunts, exorcise old ghosts, and walk twenty-five miles in two days, ending up in a new favorite space. Photographs.
34) Modern Mythic: Joseph Campbell said, “In the West, you have the liberty and the obligation of finding out what your destiny is. You can discover it for yourself. But do you?” The nuts and bolts of Campbell’s wisdom are distilled into the author’s unrestrained and unapologetic examination of the meaning of life, the transcendent and the path to enlightenment.
35) Plastic Fantastic: The idea that the human mind is “plastic” – that it can undergo permanent physical change in response to one’s own thoughts; that you can “change your brain,” supports the author’s intuitive experiments with his own mind, ultimately becoming a systematic and practical approach to self-help. Commitment to the guiding imagery, mythic symbols and visioning techniques from the texts of Canfield and Campbell result in the creation of the author’s own Mandala and a new term – “Biophycomythology” – to describe the unique and spontaneous combination of philosophy, psychology and personal mythology that has emerged from this year-long struggle to overcome adversity. The mind changes and in so doing, changes the world. Photographs.
36) Busy & In Demand: Salty talk about doubting one’s abilities that develops, after a good biophycomythological soaking, into an examination of the origins of talent and its essential expression.
37) Time Not Wasted: An essay on the philosophy of experience and the conclusion that life is defined as movement or motion.
38) Humble Beginnings: The biophycomythologically-enriched compost heap of a year-long rehabilitation germinates results. Julia Child and Ari Weinzweig are guides to finding a vocation, and creating a website unlocks a breathless vision of entrepreneurship.
39) VOG vs. BLOG: A rant on why you should quit blogging and start vogging.
40) Third Fall: “There’s a lifelong requirement to be vigilant over the negative aspects of your old brain.” The strain of enduring a third fall season in Texas, unable to sell their house, tests the plastic brains of the author and his wife, forcing them to examine “triggers” in an effort to retain control of the “mental mutiny.”
41) New Adventures in Old Hawaii: My parents celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary by inviting the family on a two-week vacation in Hawaii. Old family roles are challenged, phycomythologies are tested, home cooking helps keep the peace, and we eat, drink, hike and yoga our way through paradise, finding the stars and some new friends in an imu and a bowl of noodles. Photographs.
42) Guiding & Abiding: More on using guides to overcome the challenges of listening to your heart. The concept of letting the inessential go is introduced. Examples of painters (Seraphine), musicians (Eurythmics) and authors (Judith Thurman, Euell Gibbons) bring substance to the discussion.
43) Enthusiasm: “Energy with a focus, an aim, an outlet, a vision, is enthusiasm.” A “culture of enthusiasm” is described as unique to great cities and to great people. “Enthusiasm doesn’t get it wrong – when a person is enthused about something, it’s their heart connecting directly to something – the energy just bursts forth spontaneously.” Julia Child, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Brenda Ueland and Joseph Campbell are referenced.
44) Setting Forth: The Humble Hogs Gastrofarm (H2G) story. It’s a vision, a website and an incomplete business plan, but within these pages I’ll try to reveal, step by painful (and hopefully joyful) step, the application of all the rehab, the advice, the help, the hindrance, and the biophycomythological gyrations that make up starting anything like this.
I got one request for a couple of sample chapters, but they ended up rejecting me:
The very last rejection arrived much later than all the rest and turned out to be the nicest, or at least the most sympathetic:
Otherwise, it was unceremoniously rejected by everyone. I expected nothing less but, regardless, I wasn’t about to let the fucker sit around for the rest of my life never knowing whether anyone would’ve been interested. I‘m not interested in submitting directly to publishers – if the agents don’t want it, then the rest of that hassle is just not worth the effort – the probability is just to slim going that route, and I’m satisfied that I did my best. It was fun to write and then throw it out there – give it some air so to say. I never did edit the fucker – can barely get myself to reread any of it – it mostly sucks as far as I’m concerned, but it’s a good record of what it’s been like to work through this biophycomythological rehab, and it now continues to serve the purpose of recording this HH adventure, which I think is cool. Hell, it’s a shit-load of work writing about one’s life – fun and satisfying, if not very “rewarding” in the fame and fortune department. But what the fuck – I’m not tossing the damn thing now, nor am I quitting. When I get tired of the fucker, then I’ll just park it in the computer. Maybe some poor soul who rifles through my things after I’m dead (not sure why any poor soul would be around to do that) will take a minute or two to skim through it and get a laugh out of it. Or not. Doesn’t matter, because it’s the doing of it, not the feedback, that’s important to me. Anyway, back to the story….