Thursday, June 12, 2008


Here, for your entertainment and edification is an e-mail I just sent my sister about my nephew's visit to me in Santa Monica. For background, Ben's dad is Jewish and he identifies very much with being Jewish, although he's really not very observant. Here it is:


My sad old brain doesn’t work well enough to give a chronological account of Ben’s stay. So I’ll give it to you in the order I can recall.

The coolest stuff happened on the last day he was here, Sunday. One of my friends from the Suicide Girls, Aspen, said she’d take him out to Manhattan Beach, which is a few miles South of where I live. I was not invited. But she came and picked him up with her hot blonde friend and off they went. He came back several hours later extremely sunburnt. He said he also got to hang out with another Suicide Girl, James (that's what she calls herself). So I’m sure he had fun.

Later on that night we decided to go catch a live comedy show at Upright Citizen’s Brigade. I didn’t know about UCB yet when you visited, which is too bad. It’s far and away the coolest of the comedy clubs I’ve been to in town. For one thing all the shows are cheap or free. So we went up to this new thing they’re doing where comedians get 2 minutes a piece on stage. They were auditioning people for a new edition of The Gong Show. These were not the usual amateur novelty acts, though, but pro and semi-pro comedians who would be on the show as filler between. So he announces the first act of the evening… Robin Williams. Yep. That Robin Williams, of Mork & Mindy and The World According To Garp fame. He did two minutes. Very funny. But actually, in context, some of the other acts were better than he was that night. My new comedy crush is this guy named Eddie Pepitone. Go look him up on MySpace. He was there too and great as he always is whenever I see him.

We had gone to UCB a few nights before. Maybe his second night in LA. I’m not sure. That night, Janeane Garofalo made an appearance. I’m not really familiar with her stuff. According to the Internet Movie Database, “the petite woman with the acerbic wit, was born in Newton, New Jersey, in 1964.” She sure didn’t look as old as me! Good for her! She was funny. Earlier that night Ben and I took a Yoga class taught by my friend Nina. I didn’t think he’d take the class. I was gonna let him stay at Nina’s apartment and watch TV while I did the class. But he did it, which I thought was pretty cool of him. Also very cool of Nina was the fact that she got him into the class for free. This probably didn’t cost her anything. But she makes her living as a Yoga instructor and is paid according to the number of people who attend her classes. So she wasn’t paid for Ben’s portion.

He also sat Zazen with us on Saturday. Did pretty good for an 18 year old trying it for the first time. He fidgeted some. But he stayed with it. I’ve had people walk out in the middle before.

Let’s see. We must’ve done other stuff. I kept asking him what sort of things he wanted to do and he’d just leave it up to me. When people do that I always go where I want to go. Which is mean, I guess. But I’m not going to sit around trying to figure out what they might like. So we went to Amoeba Records, a gigantic record store in Hollywood, and some bookstores. He hated the bookstores. He liked Amoeba, though.

I took him to Venice Beach. And to the Fairfax district, the Jewish part of town. He liked that. I introduced him to Helen, my Jewish friend (I have other Jewish friends, but Helen is the one who seems most concerned with what it is to be Jewish), who was also the person who got me the gig writing for Suicide Girls. We ate Ethiopian food together and he got to talk religion with someone who was actually interested. She said if he pitched him an idea she might be able to hire him as a columnist for this website she writes for called Jewcy. It’s supposed to be a hip, “now” kind of Jewish website for young, hip Jews. Helen loved the idea of a column by an 18 year old Jewboy from Knoxville, Tennessee. You should tell Ben he ought to take this seriously because it might pay money. He keeps talking about wanting to be a writer. I wished I’d had an opportunity like that fall into my lap at his age.

I took him to Hollywood to see Graumann’s Chinese Theater and all the footprints in cement. We went around Santa Monica some, to the beach and the Third Street Promenade for a couple minutes. We went and looked at the amusement park on the pier, but we didn’t go on any rides. I took him to my friend Svetlana’s place for no particular reason. She makes movies. She’s from Montenegro, formerly part of Yugoslavia.

That’s all the details I can remember. I think he enjoyed it. I didn’t get any work done the entire week. He was good about the fact that he had to remove all his bedding from the meditation room each morning. He talked a lot. He asked a lot of questions I couldn’t possibly answer.

If he comes here again I gotta find other people to play with him because it’s too exhausting with just me. But otherwise it was great.



Anonymous said...

Brad - You write a nice letter. Maybe I thought that because your language was decent for a change. For what it's worth, I don't mind any language that you use but find it funny that you are more cleaned up around big sis than us unfamiliars.

Anonymous said...

Utterly fascinating! Thanks for the report.

Mountaintop Rebel said...

That's really cool that he could end up writing for Jewcy. I don't like everything on there, but they've run some interesting pieces like a debate between Sam Harris and Dennis Praeger about religion, and between Isa Moskowitz and some chump whose name I forgot about veganism, pieces from people all over the Jewish spectrum from Orthodox and politically liberal to secular and politically conservative, or even a couple guys like Ali Eteraz who aren't Jewish, but it's usually good quality stuff and thought provoking. I have a lot of Jewish friends and have always wondered how I'd handle that identity; I mean, your nephew, for example, isn't halachically Jewish from your description but obviously it's important to him. My best friend IS halachically Jewish, and he actively avoids dealing with it at all. I'm kinda glad I'm just generic white trash, with no interesting ethnic background, even though I grew up mostly around Mexicans.

Anyway, no snark here, sounds like you guys had a fun time. If you meet Garofalo again, can you slip her my number? Thanks.

Mysterion said...

"I didn’t get any work done the entire week."

Sure you did, you observed another generation 'up close, and in person.' There is material for writing - at some distant point in the future.

At least he didn't look punk or Zen.

old man said...

Anonymous said...

Udderly fascinating! Thanks for the report.

Anonymous said...

I love the 'Ben" there, done that' report! No wonder you looked tired. It was a pleasure to meet your nephew and I wish him good luck and hope he finds time to keep up his skating even if it's only pick-up. Hockey is just the best. And his mom(your sister) also played, which is just incredibly awesome.Maybe it was Ben's influence or Rob's (not Smoggy, the other Rob), but I had some time and got out there on the ice. I also found the source of the funky smell in the car! Some food left in my skate bag from two years ago when I last went--there was an identifiable cookie and something else unknown and unknowable it seemed to have once been chocolate but had gone through multiple generations and permutations of bad
I wish I had a science lab kind of person as a friend or a family member as it was, the trash can silently accepted it, my car should be doing better soon

ローレン / Rōren / Lauren said...

Nice. Thanks for sharing. "Sad old brain" at 44?! Come on...

Lone Wolf said...

Sounds like a good time was had by the 18 year old.

I went to Hastings (They sell music, movies, and books. I love that place.) and was searching for some movies to rent. I saw this documentary called How to Cook Your Life about Zen and Cooking with Edward Brown from Tassajara Zen Center.

The documentary had some cool film footage of Shunyru Suzuki, which is pretty rare. I enjoyed the film and recommend my fellow Zen dudes to check it out.

I also rented Teeth, a horror movie about a girl that has teeth in her va-jay (vagina). I haven't watch Teeth yet. Maybe I will write a review if it's any good.

Anonymous said...

"Janeane Garofalo made an appearance.... She was funny."

Janeane Garofalo is indeed funny.

David said...

This letter had an easy going narrative sense to it.

Nice writing style... ever thought about writing fiction, Brad?

Anonymous said...

> "identifies very much with being Jewish"

Although born Jewish, I don't identify with
being Jewish.

Although sitting daily, I don't identify with
being Buddhist.

If anything...

I tend to identify with being an inhabitant
of this universe (or multiverse as the case
may be).

Urban Bodhisattva said...

Nice. The honest reflection of everyday reality is refreshing. Personally I'd like to hear about why you practice, and what difference it makes in your life, how people react and so on.


grisom said...

Lone Wolf said:

I saw this documentary called How to Cook Your Life about Zen and Cooking with Edward Brown from Tassajara Zen Center. ... I enjoyed the film and recommend my fellow Zen dudes to check it out.

I second that! Good movie.

I also rented Teeth, a horror movie about a girl that has teeth in her va-jay (vagina).

Yes, but have you seen Death Bed: The Bed That Eats People?

Lone Wolf said...

Grison - I really enjoy Patton and Posehn. Brain Posehn is probably my favorite comedian. Death Bed sounds like my kind of movie lol.

earDRUM said...

You gave Ben a great week to remember. And you probably planted lots of seed ideas in his young mind. It will be interesting for you to see those seeds grow.
I enjoy sharing with my nieces and nephews too. There is often a sense of trust in families that allows for real exchange to take place (if you are lucky enough to have a good family).
Nice post Brad. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...


I bet Ben was glad to meet "Brad" rather than "The Venerable Brad Warner". Brad seems like an interesting guy to know.

I was in a bookstore today that sold just about every wierd-shit religious book going. It also included some rare gems translated by Thomas Cleary [and others]. He's done so much stuff that I sometimes wonder if he does it because he is unable not to.

There are a lot of guys around who seem to write books for the $$$ but there are others like him who seem to do it for the benefit they bring regardless of the $$$$.

As a non-Monk I'll be forever greatful to people like him who are willing to be mistaken for a thief dressed as a monk.

The world seems to be a better place when people do what they have natural talent for regardless of whether it is enjoyable.

noiret sym laden said...

Mike H,
I've only read one book by Thomas Cleary. I don't remember the title, but it was translated into a very "new age" style. I've browsed some of his other books and they all look, to me, like they were written by the same hack. He's ruined some rare classics that I really wish someone else would translate well.