The two of us had dated briefly when Tony first moved in to the student house, but our kisses always felt awkward. The sex was sweet, but passionless. When he finally said, "I'm attracted to you, Frankka, but I don't think it's romantic," I had to agree. Now he spoke of lucid dreams and low-impact living. He'd recently quit his job, didn't want to look for another. He'd taken a vow not to cause suffering. Seems simple enough: So That I May Not Cause Suffering. And at first it had been something simple. His goal was to contain his habitual mean streak, the little comments that passed for humor but were intended to belittle: Nice shirt. Ha, ha. You can't really like that band. Ha, ha. You're not that fat. Ha, ha. I guess you haven't read Ginsburg. Simple, but pretty soon just containing his mean streak hardly seemed enough. He learned to hold his tongue when he wanted to use words to wound, but as soon as he'd gotten a handle on that, other ways in which he caused suffering presented themselves. He had to stop eating meat, of course. Couldn't even kill a spider. He had to close his bank accounts. His savings were being invested in unjust enterprises all over the world. He stopped buying clothes made in sweatshops. He'd never realized how hard itw as to find a T-shirt that hadn't been dyed or sewn in Thailand or Honduras. He couldn't keep his job at the flower stand-- workers in Ecuador were being poisoned to havest those gorgeous, scentless roses. He had to convert his little diesel hatchback to run on grease because he saw the blood of innocents flowing from every gas pump. So That I May No Cause Suffering. Within a month, Tony had become just another organic-cotton-wearing unemployed vegetarian street musician who couldn't pay the rent on his six-foot-by-six-foot walk-in closet-turned-bedroom three blocks from the beach in Santa Cruz, California.
So here's Tony. He doesn't ask anything of this world beyond sustenance. All he wants is to honor this vow: So That I May Not Cause Suffering.
Fairly traded coffee: $10.99/lb.
Closet of a room in the student house: $515/mo.
Sweatshop-free organic cotton apparel: $41/outfit
Share of utilities even though he uses almost no electricity: $34/mo.
Food bill at the co-op: $65/mo.
Available jobs for a man without a college degree who refuses to cause suffering: 0
- The Traveling Death and Resurrection Show
Well, if that doesn't describe nearly every person I know in Santa Cruz, myself included, I don't know what does. Honestly, Ariel Gore, with that sweet little bit of prose, has just nailed more than half the folks I know and love oh so dearly in this town. The folks I am very proud to call my friends.
My hippest of hip next-door neighbor, Katherine, who seems to have her finger on the pulse of absolutely everything that is more than cool, invited me to join her tonight for Ariel's book reading and performance at our local independent bookshop. I couldn't say no. I had to say yes. If Katherine is going, I know it is something I certainly do not want to miss.
And I was not disappointed. I swooned over her lovely pink tutu. A pink tutu! She was my comrade from the very start. Not only was she waxing poetic about the very inhabitants who make Santa Cruz Santa Cruz, but she was doing it in a pink tutu! With a puppet show! And musicians! It was one of the best book readings I have ever attended. She was just so very real, so unpretentious, so how veryveryvery much how I would hope I would be if I ever dared to get the chance to have a novel of my own to read to a rapt audience. Did I mention the pink tutu? Perfection.
People of Los Angeles. I know that you're out there. I know that you're reading. Get thee to Book Soup at 8818 Sunset Boulevard on Friday evening. That's TONIGHT. It's also NakedFriday, so go and get Naked. Tell Ariel that Nakedjen sent you. She will be expecting you. And she'll love to see you in all your naked glory!
I'm serious. What else do you have to do tonight? Do whatever else after. Just go and see this very fun show!