Vive la France!

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Monday, April 27, 2020. Hurray for France! – I sold an eBook there on Saturday! What an amazing surprise! And it really is a surprise because my ad campaign on amazon.fr could be considered anemic in comparison to the US and UK impressions and clicks. So that when I do check amazon.fr I just glance at the clicks out of curiosity, for amusement, while shielding my eyes from the zero sales. A mere handful of clicks per month, after all, would never, by way of statistics at least, amount to a sale. But it did!

I was literally about to leave the house for work last night, something that always makes me mildly depressed and generally anxious (akin to the lonely desperation I experience when getting on an airplane alone) when, to bolster my resolve, I hurried to inspect my sales data, cursorily, and at first only noticed the seventh click in France. Hmm, I thought, at least it’s something and then found myself staring at 8,77€ in the sales section, instead of zero. Incredible! What a charge to help send me out the door! It takes so very little. So, as usual with anything to do with realizing a Time Crime sale, I’m riding the little wave of it, reinfusing my otherwise fraught dreams with the energy of possibility. Perhaps a positive review? And more interest and readers? Who knows?

And all this of course mirrors, strangely, my HH adventure of 2011-12. So that, as I noted in earlier entries, I can reread my own doomed story, enduring my earnestness and enthusiasm and wholehearted investment in a vision of greatness that would soon fail and vanish. Will this authorpreneurship story fail likewise? My intuitive response is one of single-minded or perhaps more accurately single-heart-minded resolve. For there is nothing else for me to be doing. I would risk this again if not in exactly the same way (but what would I change?) then with exactly the same enthusiasm, desperate and unsightly as it may appear to others. Why does he indulge such wild goose chases, such impossibly impractical juvenile fantasies? Why doesn’t he admit his limitations and surrender to his modest place in the world? We all have dreams but to behave so foolishly – he makes himself ridiculous. Why not be more sensible, especially at his age? I get it. But in my heart there is nothing else for me to be doing. I will perhaps die a fool for my dreams. Perhaps I’ve misjudged my talents entirely. But it doesn’t feel that way. Neither did it feel that way when I was engaged in the struggle for HH so long ago now.

I talk ceaselessly about book sales and one might assume I’m obsessed with economic reward. I’m not. The careful reader will I trust understand that participating in commerce is a psychological, personally mythological return – it is legitimization and being granted a position on the playing field. Versus being a wannabe. Now, I’m not convinced that my meager sales have indeed earned me my place amongst legitimate authors. I ponder this and I feel infinitely encouraged about selling a book here and there but the sense of having “made it” eludes me. Not entirely I must admit, at least on a good day or week – when I’ve had a sale! – and I feel a part of things, a member of the realm of embattled indie authors if nothing else. Meanwhile, despite the sense of economic dread that this virus insanity has invoked and the real possibility that we will suffer a major recession and lousy book sales, who knows, as a result, I retain my statistical goals: (1) breaking the 100 sales barrier and, (2) breaking the 12,500 annual sales barrier. Books are not a luxury, after all, but a necessity.

Angie is rereading The Alchemist and she asked me what I thought of the idea, expressed therein, of the cosmos conspiring to help anyone properly engaged in living their personal legend, as Coelho refers to it. Of course I believe in this idea intuitively and the devoted reader will be well versed in my discussions of it within the context of Joseph Campbell’s work especially. The hero journey, after all, is nothing if not the expression of the true fiction, as I like to describe it, of myth, of mythology. Personal legend, then, or personal mythology, describe as you wish, it is the tapping of cosmic correctness or the meshing of one’s gears with that of what Conrad, in his pessimism, arguably, described as the cosmic knitting machine. A machine is heartless and alien in its classic interpretation (though much science fiction takes pleasure in challenging this stance) so whereas Conrad put his faith in mankind’s predicament in the face of the heartless machinations of fate, so to say, Campbell’s interpretation celebrated the inherent connections between all things, born of our shared sub-atomic essence. If we are made of the things that make up the universe – and how could we not be? – then we have a place within it. This is of course a Shinto slant on things – namely, seeing spirit within the animate and inanimate. Whereas the Occidental oftentimes struggles (unless they maintain a faith tied to the so-called proto-Gnostic Gospels of St. Thomas, for example) with the idea of the divinity of Nature, with its eminence and imminence combined. But that’s another discussion. In short, I support the idea of being supported by the energies engaged by way of expressing my proper energies. Is the assistance from without or within? As a synergy, it is both.

So that before leaving for the job last night I was inspired by the crescent moon low in the sky and its attendant bright planet, Venus I think. It was a fantastically clear, midnight blue night. And further to the south, also low in the sky, was a star that literally twinkled. That stars twinkle due to effects of our atmosphere doesn’t diminish the intuitive resonance, the personal mythological significance, as if the composition of the night sky could indeed be intended for our individual inspiration if not by way of a divine hand, exactly, then by way of our interpretation of the experience as divinely inspirational and supportive and guiding. Is it all bosh? It’s a legitimate experience, useful energy to be taken for what it is – it’s truth is self-evident and self-justifying – and it’s very often just the thing that keeps us alive. I sold a book in France, of all places, in almost the very last place I was looking to do so. Do the moon and stars have anything to do with it? To me it resonates in personal and cultural mythological terms, that’s all.

Meanwhile, I must admit to editing my posts for the first time. Yesterday’s version of a VINTAGE POST happened to be too hot, too loaded with f-bombs and a fury that failed in my opinion to communicate anything besides emotion. It’s a risk, this blogging thing and I understand that when I began. It’s just learning my level of tolerance for being revealing and vulnerable that has to play out for better or for worse. It’s not my intention to sanitize my writing because frankly it’s only value in this context is probably its honesty. But the exception proves the rule and I’m not doing this to be merely sensational and heedless; I’m not doing it just to get attention. Rather, I’m writing my way through things while likewise trying to connect. I’d hate for a reader of Time Crime, for example, to hit upon this website and be blindsided by my unhinged rants or a juvenile, ultimately silly but nonetheless unpalatable overabundance of expletives. This guy’s a lunatic, a child, screw his fiction, whatever it is he’s trying to say – that kind of thing. I’m not here to shock even if I could. Neither am I here to merely advertise and pander. But sometimes I’m too much even for myself. So be it.

DOP1 (2012) – VINTAGE POST:

Omens

I could use some. I could use one. An omen, that is…right now, today, I’m struggling. The place that Angie found for us to live has shaken us up because of the money. I need to make just $1000 a month apparently to keep us from being strapped or house-poor or whatever if we move there. It’s a nice place; it feels a lot like what was good about our last two houses – 1709 in A2 and 3409 in TX. It also feels a lot like what was good about the “skinnies” we visited in PDX. But I’m thinking as I’m writing that it’s not the condo and it’s not the money that it costs that has me struggling. Of course it’s never about the money. Just two days ago I had one of the best days of my life (making h-cheese, talking with Ari, being at the zcob coffee co. eating good food, walking, listening to music, phycomythologizing, reading and being an entrepreneur). It was all of my vocations and then some. Despite having to wake up at 4am to get to the kitchen to make sure it’s USDA-clean and to be ready to start USDA-production at 6am, I’m happy. I’d do it again and again just to live that life. It felt like progress. Guided progress. I was not lost. That’s a good feeling, a good way to go through life. I think that’s living your myth. I know what it feels like now.

I got fired from JCI in January 2010 – just over two years ago. I was fired in January once before, from SafetyKleen in 1996 I think, soon after Angie and I were married. That was my first job that paid a living wage (after nine years or whatever of struggling to get through college, blah, blah). It’s meant to be some sort of strange sliver of compassion that the corporate world grants you when you’re marked for elimination close to the holidays – sometimes they let you have a job through xmas and wait to fire you until after the new year – it seems more kindhearted I guess and maybe it is; maybe I should recognize the effort to spare you the humiliation of the holidays with your family when you’re fresh out of work. Thanks. Actually, let me correct that: fuck yourselves. Sorry, but I don’t think I’d handle things that way if I had been in charge. Because I know what it’s like, as I’m walking out the door I like to think that I’d show some real compassion and maybe some self-sacrifice, instead of just thinking “better him than me” which is what everybody always thought. There I go attributing intention which is something I shouldn’t do. I’m just frustrated because it seems like I’ve bumped up against so much of the old familiar struggles again and this time it’s while I’m working for zcob, which no longer feels right. It’s not the first time I’ve bungled something that felt right in the beginning into something very wrong at the end.

So maybe even zcob isn’t the right place for me. I’ve got too much horsepower – too many skills, too much talent – for the understandably limited opportunities available there. That’s one of the parts of life that we aren’t in control of – the number of jobs that are a good fit for us. So I’m back to coping with the concept that really there isn’t anyplace for me to work for the man and to live out my myth. What sucks is that I don’t see HH allowing me to do that either at this point. I do need to have HH be sustainable, but I don’t see how 33% food cost is ever going to be part of my business. In this way – the financial aspect, the money, I feel like I’ve failed. I feel like it’s the last and most difficult manner in which I’ve limited myself. It’s still such a mystery to me, this making money thing. What within me seems to be contrary to the making of money in concert with living my myth?

Maybe I should take myself and my hero journey boon, as a “newly unified whole” and follow Campbell’s suggestion to buy a dog and a pipe, let the weeds grow around the gate and tell the world to go stink?”[1] That’s option number one when returning from your hero journey. The second option is to just take your new skill and generate some career out of it by giving people what they’re asking for (like a comfort food café or a taco stand for example). The third is “helping people realize the need, what you needed and have got to give.”[2] Campbell sums it up:

“The first is the refusal of the return, you see. The second is the return in terms of the society, so you’re not giving them a goddamn thing: they’re only getting what they want. And the third is a pedagogical attitude of trying to find a means or a vocabulary or something that will enable you to deliver to them what you have found as the life boon in terms, and in proportions, that are proper to their ability to receive. You can always do this, but this requires a good deal of compassion and patience.”[3]

So now what? Maybe I stay in a dumpier place than I like for a while longer? Maybe I need to send out some book queries again (though my “platform” still isn’t marketable – who would buy a book by a failure like me?). Maybe I need to end HH? Maybe I need to think bigger with HH? Again with Campbell, this time when he himself was floundering:

“I begin to think that I have a genius for working like an ox over totally irrelevant subjects.… I am filled with an excruciating sense of never having gotten anywhere – but when I sit down and try to discover where it is I want to get, I’m at a loss. … The thought of growing into a professor gives me the creeps. A lifetime to be spent trying to kid myself and my pupils into believing that the thing that we are looking for is in books! I don’t know where it is—but I feel just now pretty sure that it isn’t in books. — It isn’t in travel. — It isn’t in California. — It isn’t in New York. … Where is it? And what is it, after all?”[5]

You can continue to ask yourself this question, as I’m doing. Why can’t the language of your own heart be more clear, straightforward, practical, precise and understandable? If my gears are meshed, why are my wheels just spinning? I write these questions and it strikes me that it’s just those same qualities – clarity, straightforwardness, practicality, preciseness and understandability – that seem so unlike what the heart is. The heart seems so mysterious, spiritual, remote, mystical, intangible, untouchable, indecipherable and impossible when placed within the context of our animal needs – the bills, the washing, the lights, the heat, the rent. Can these qualities ever work towards the same life? I write that and think maybe my questions and answers are wrong yet again, after all this work and time spent looking. Maybe those qualities simply reside in and are expressed so profoundly by the heart – without the tarnish of day-to-day middle-of-the-road drudgery that dilutes their true meaning and impact – because that’s where they belong. How then to tap into or otherwise connect a life-line between the world of the heart and the world-of-action? If I committed to those qualities more fully and more completely, with even more courage, then maybe my limits would diminish or even vanish.

I began this chapter looking for omens. I was stuck in schism, at the point of losing heart, again. I see now that I received omens from the first moments of my day today. I need to take them for what they are, to recognize them and not look for them to come in more desirable, more expected, more palatable forms. They came to me, no shit, I’m not bullshitting or making this shit up. First, early this morning, I woke up with Angie as usual, made coffee and made, almost unconsciously, something for us to eat. First I made it for myself because I’m still stinging from our argument and figured she could get her own breakfast which would probably (I thought) be yogurt which I don’t like very much, but I’d planned on offering her the spiced pecan topping I brought home from zmo to sprinkle on top. Then, after I’d made it – just another big cracker with peanut butter, apple slices, honey and this time with sprinkles of the spice pecan mix, I offered it to her instead. I figured I’d just make myself another one. She seemed pleased with it and whipped out her cell phone to take a picture of it. Here I’d thought nothing of it and again, just making that little bit of food was something I did well and had a flair for and it made her day better. Second, I turned on the computer, checked my email and found that hh had been “liked” by someone. I’m back up to seventy-four likes. It was probably the same kid that got unliked when I changed the age requirement back and forth, but regardless, somebody made the effort to acknowledge hh and that means something, at least to me. Third, whilst writing the paragraph above that begins “I write that and think maybe….” a mailperson comes to my door and uncharacteristically rings the doorbell – uncharacteristically because they don’t usually bother – I’m often sitting here typing in the morning, like I was today, when the mail gets tossed onto our front porch. This time however, the mailperson has a piece of certified mail that I need to sign for, from the USDA, addressed to hh. The words “GRANT OF INSPECTION” appear in bold letters at the top left corner and the letter reads:

“A survey of your establishment at the location shown above indicates compliance with the applicable requirements of the regulations under the Federal Inspection Act or the Poultry Products Inspection Act, or both. Accordingly, inspection service is granted.”

In the “remarks” section it says “This Grant supersedes the Conditional Grant of Inspection dated October 17, 2011.” Woohoo, I’m official!

The USDA Grant of Inspection for HH, 1/31/2012

There’s a fourth omen: Alinda Martin, our real estate agent from Friendswood, TX, sent a mailing that I got this morning – a simple promo letter that read “We are looking forward to a great 2012!!! How about you???” The letter included another copy of her “Things to Do Today” notepad.

These are four events that I could interpret as almost meaningless, trivial and unimportant to my “real” life that involves no job, no sustainable biz, no money, no future, no marriage, no blah, blah, fucking blah. After all, I make good eats almost effortlessly that Angie and I have taken photos of before; hh has only been “liked” three times in the last month and only seventy-four times total and finally, I could interpret the USDA Grant of Inspection letter as a foregone conclusion based on what Mike F. had told me earlier in the week. And of course Alinda’s letter and to-do pad is just a promotion that she sends to all her clients. To consider them instead as omens – as events that are legitimizing the growing connection between my boon and the world; events that are encouraging me to continue following my heart, following my guides, continuing on with my myth; to not give up – might be a silly exercise in kidding myself. But I’ve learned the lesson that I need to listen carefully especially when in schism; when the bliss cuts off try to find it again as Campbell advises.[6] Stop, drop and listen to my heart. Where I see no omens, no answers, no guides, it is only me being blind to them; to not accepting them for what they are because I’m frustrated, afraid, disappointed, impatient and attached to my desires and my plans. I can listen. Or not, and maybe my next enantiodromia will be my last.

If fear of a gray life and blank death is what motivates some to keep chugging, then so be it. What still motivates me, in spite of arguments with my wife where I say things that I’m sorry for (I am sorry for the mean things I’ve said Angie if you’re reading this someday) and in spite of my silly desires, comical mistakes, absurd wild goose chases, ridiculously childish howling at the moon, puking in the gutter, stopping and starting – all the back and forth bullshit and running up and down stairs – are my vocations. I don’t know any other way now to keep engaging my vocations – to keep crossing the unknown sea; to keep moving through the forest adventurous; to bring my boon back – than to keep faith in my guides, learn from them, learn from my mistakes; to keep dying, being reborn and trying again. To live my myth as true to my heart as I can, regardless of how futile, silly and fruitless it might sometimes seem.

“Yet even now you can find two guides. The first can be a personality in your youth who seemed to you a noble and great personality. You can use that person as a model. The other way is to live for bliss. In this way, your bliss becomes your life.”[7]

I like making food and I have a flair for it. I like that other folks like hh – what hh does, how it does it, and its image. I’m proud to have attained, after so much work, my USDA Grant of Inspection. I’m glad to know Alinda, a fellow entrepreneur, and her team in Friendswood, Texas, where our beautiful and fun 3409 house is located (and where we enjoyed our days with our dog, had good times, discovered my vocations and began my biophycomythology). All these things are omens because I’m choosing to accept them as such, to surrender to them for what they are. It’s not pretty and it’s not how I would have imagined or planned things to be working out today. But it legitimizes the biophycomythological process – it all shows me the way, and what is not the way.

Maybe working at zcob, which seemed so right and good, is over; maybe it was just a very, very brief part of the trip so that now I’m in a different part of the woods already. It makes me sad, but maybe if I let it go, it’ll come back. If it doesn’t, then I’ll have to be okay with it; maybe it’ll just mean that Ari and I can keep emailing each other and running into each other as we did before, and that I’ve got some other job to be doing that’s a better fit. I’m going to start looking again today by doing the things I want to do:

  • Make a dentist appointment.
  • Make a taxes appointment.
  • Bake cookies!
  • Listen to music.
  • Write.
  • Meditate.
  • Read.
  • HH.
  • Walk.
  • Gym.
  • Watch a movie.
  • Spend time with pigs!
  • Look for another job that pays at least $1000/week.

Because it just might be that I’m closer now than ever before to everything that I really want in life and I’m not going to give up yet.

Update. Nothing spectacular, but another thing I’m counting as an omen today: Lisa at zmo called me in to work tomorrow (they always get the youngsters calling off work on Friday just like at the auto plants). I got the call when I was walking back from Whole Foods (I took a walk to check out the condo location and pick up chocolate, ginger and butter). So that’s one more day of work at zmo. Now, I make chocolate ginger cookies.

Friday, February 3, 2012. Another update: my zmo schedule now has me working Monday – Friday at about thirty-five hours! Holy Crap that’s almost full time! There you have it – I need to have some faith and quit crapping out on my guides until they’ve made it clear that they’re done with me – don’t quit on them until they quit on you and make sure to run the dream out to its very end. If it means the last second, then spend that last second with your ass hanging out and your ear to the world and the voice of your guides or just the briefest glimpse of them, until even their footprints are gone. Then stop, drop and listen some more to your heart. Your guides may indeed still be out there, just look around a little and give your Hermes guide time to sniff them out. Or, if you’re indeed into a different part of the forest and it’s time for a new guide, your heart will know and you’ll know what to do. Not that you won’t lament the loss of the old guides and fear the new part of the adventure. The lesson of this chapter is just to give your guides, the ones that have helped you along so far, every damn opportunity and then some to in fact continue to help you, to come through for you – it’s your job to keep them in sight.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012. I feel like I’m in a transition phase. It’s not unfamiliar in the sense that my job is asking for my energies more and more. It’s always that way – where you get your money from can drive your life at the expense of where your heart is. It’s very difficult for some people, myself especially, to cross that unknown sea to paraphrase David Whyte, and have the “pilgrimage” of work indeed be one of engaging your identity – of being the expression of who you are – when you are not your own boss. Being employed changes the dynamic so profoundly. For some ex-entrepreneurs, it’s a welcome relief to just work for someone else and let them sweat everything while you just put in your hours, stay busy and then cut it loose at the end of the day when you engage your true self. Ari’s written about this very well. I’m at the stage where I don’t know if zcob is in fact my true work destiny, even though I’m working for someone else, or if hh remains my best future – the key to my biophycomythology. For now, zcob feels right, so I’m just running with it. But, I can see the job becoming full-time and with that, the possibility of it becoming that all-too-familiar burden, no matter how great the place is. Then again maybe not. After all, I’ve learned a hell of a lot about how to live my life and maybe there’s a balance to be struck, at least for this next part of the adventure, between working “for the man” and working for myself.

I’ve learned that creativity and flexibility is important; when you’re tuned into your biophycomythology you’ve agreed to discard your plans in favor of the life that is waiting for you. You envision it, but the details of how the vision or myth plays out can be surprising and even confusing. Thus the need for helpful guides and omens. Also patience. If it was a book or a film that you could skip to the end of and find out what happens in the end, then it wouldn’t be life – you wouldn’t have to live it to create it. Life has this fluid, unknowable mystery to it regardless of how fleshed out and detailed your vog is. I’m beginning to see this aspect as tolerable, at least on occasion. It helps to trust yourself. Just because a surprising development has occurred, like me working for zcob and liking it and maybe seeing opportunity there, in whatever form (just steady employment or maybe co-managing-partnership) while still working to get hh to sustainability doesn’t mean I’m lost in the woods or have gotten off track. I’m thinking that this is all just good stuff because it all feels right in my heart. It also makes me nervous and I’m learning that being out of a comfort zone in a good way is something worth running with – let it play out, mindfully, keeping my eyes, ears and heart open to what’s going on, to how right or wrong things feel, and give life a chance to develop. There’s a time to act “without waiting for all the evidence to appear” and I think there’s a time for patience too – you have to just spend some time with things until it’s clear.[8] For me, spending time just means going with something for more than a few days – I get so jacked up to get going and moving on and to get things right that I can blow past a good thing then waste time having to go back to it.

So right now, with hh in a state of flux, in a state of decidedly unknown destiny, with my h-cheese sample still in Mo F.’s hands and me desperately awaiting feedback, I need to just keep my feet moving at zmo, doing my job and trying to enjoy it, and doing the things related to hh and my other vocations that jazz me. That’s life, and it sounds pretty simple. Why then is it not?

I got jazzed by helping Nathan L., an hh customer and a local farmer who has a mule foot hog that he’s taking to slaughter this month, get connected with someone who’ll buy the pork. He struggled to find a buyer last year and reached out to me for help, to see if I wanted the meat for hh. I’ve got too many Niman heads as it is, and I recently committed to buying some Back Forty Tamworth pork at a big discount this month to cook at home, so I don’t need anymore meat. If Plum Market was giving me any type of business, I’d be using some heads but hell, hh is really in suspended animation right now. But Nathan seems, like so many of the pig farmers I’ve met, to be a goodhearted, genuine person and he cares for his pigs very well from what I can see from his pictures. So I reached out to Alex Y. at RH and Brandon Johns at Grange – I acted on something that I said I’d do and it may have really worked out well because both Brandon and Alex got back with me (Brandon right away) with a great vibe and good interest. Brandon said he’d contact Nathan and Alex said I could forward his email address to him. So being a pig-broker feels great. If it helps well-raised animals and the farmers who raise them and provides great-tasting pork for us, then to me, that’s a good day’s work. I’m glad to help – it makes me feel like I’m doing what I should be doing – it feels right. It’s sort of surprising and curious that I get to be involved in pig brokering, but I’m learning that that’s how it works – you live your myth and you get back even more than you give out; that, and you never know where your adventure will take you. Here’s Nathan’s mulefoots:

Mulefoot hog
Nathan’s happy Mulefoots

[1] Joseph Campbell, Pathways…, 120.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Joseph Campbell, by way of the film: Finding Joe, directed by Patrick Takaya Solomon, (2011; Pat and Pat, Inc.), DVD.

[5] Although I’m sure it appears in print elsewhere, I obtained this quotation in 2012 by way of the Joseph Campbell Foundation website: jcf.org.

[6] Joseph Campbell, Pathways…, xxiv.

[7] Ibid., xxiii.

[8] David Whyte, Crossing…, 242.