Monday, February 27, 2012

What I did while waiting in line

Time to renew my driver's license, I noticed recently. This required a visit to Deming's MVD office. In California, you can actually make an appointment in advance by visiting the bureau's web site, but here in Deming we use a time-dishonored system: taking a number and holding on to your ticket.

One morning last week, I walked into the office and took a number: 54! A quick look up at the monitor on the ceiling showed that they were serving number 22. This would take a while.

Holding on to my ticket, I left the office and got back into my car. I then drove across town to the Mimbres Valley Learning Center.

This turned out to be a lengthy visit. I dropped in on the center's new Director, a kindly man who had invited me to come and talk to him about possibilities of employment at the center. I brought my administrative resume as well as my CV, talked about some course proposals and ways to get my foot in the door at WNMU as a teacher that I hadn't already explored. We spent some time getting acquainted and overall the meeting was pleasant although the employment prospects short-term are unlikely.

After that lengthy visit, it was time to check in at the MVD and see where they were on the way to calling #54.

They were on 28.

So I made a trip all the way out of town, east into the farms and ranches of Luna County down Road 549, to the St. Clair Winery.

An inexpensive way to enjoy some decent wine in Deming is to buy bulk wine at St. Clair's. You can even set a ratio of dry to sweet that you prefer. For instance, today I went for 90% dry red wine with 10% sweet to give it some body. Even this proved to be a little on the sweet side, but it was still okay. A half gallon of this for six dollars, and it's in a glass jug you can rinse and use over and over again, cutting down on packaging.

So I filled up that jug and visited with the two servers staffing the tasting room. More time went by. Time to drive the several miles back into town and see where they were on the way to calling #54.

But there was time to stop along the way and take a few pictures of the pecan grove outside town. It's pecan harvest time around here, and they say this year's crop is good.

Back in Deming, they were on 32.

At which point, I drove out to Deming's airstrip and took a prop plane to El Paso Airport, connecting to a flight to Cairo. There, my old friend Sallah told me that my old nemesis Belloq was digging for the Well of Souls using a fake headpiece for the Staff of Ra. We soon realized that the evildoers had miscalculated the location of the Well of Souls, and we were able to surreptitiously excavate the proper site ourselves, determining the exact location of the Ark of the Covenant.

Time went by and there was a hitch when Belloq and the Nazis captured us and made off with the Ark, but they were a bit reckless and opened it up and, well, they lost their heads. So we got that sorted out and eventually I was able to get a flight back to America and find my way back to Deming to see where I was in the MVD line. Weeks had passed, so I was a little nervous.

But the timing was perfect. They were on 50. At this point I stayed put, sustaining my life by drinking condensation from the windows of the MVD building, and after several more days a weary employee called number 54.

Within minutes after that, I had passed my eye test, paid my eighteen bucks, and gotten the business taken care of.

Yeah, it's easier in California.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Saturday, February 25, 2012

True Self in Hard Times

During the week, a few friends have called or sent emails expressing concern for me. How am I doing? How am I holding up?

Maybe I should be feeling a lot more miserable than I do. Somehow life doesn't seem so bad. As I said to Chris last night, "Hard times, not bad times."

Or, to put it the way Zen Master Seung Sahn often said, "A bad situation is a good situation, a good situation is a bad situation."

A plane flight can go quite smoothly, but when you fly over Chicago, you're going to get bumped around, and that's what it has been like. Money is getting tight after several months with no employment, my self-employment is not yet enough to keep my head above water, the zen center is also struggling financially, and things have been tense at home. That's all true.

I have no particular preference about the emotions that go through my heart. Sadness comes, happiness comes, even emotions for which there are no names. They all pass through. And the business of life -- diapers, meals, looking for a job, organizing a budget -- is simply a matter of action. Do it. Am I supposed to feel this way or that about it? Bah! At any given moment, I might be feeling lots of things about it. But if I want the laundry to get dry, all I have to do is hang it up.

And the wind has been blowing across Deming lately, so the clothes flap and twist a lot on that line. Do they resent this?

[The] true human is always present. Body and mind act together in everyday life, while eating, on the way to school, while working, in bed. "The true self" lives in these activities. Because we are not aware of this "true self" we cannot save ourselves. Once one becomes aware of the "true human" and gets hold of it, life becomes simple... If one one's own heart and allows it to become one with the world, without greed or illusion, then one finds one's true self and absolute independence.

If someone has realized the free state of mind, which evolves out of the absolute (mu) without attachment, I ask that person to look closely at our contemporary society and allow his or her true creative self to have an effect. Master Rinzai says: "If one is master of oneself everywhere and has realized one's true self, then one stands on the ground of reality." The "master" is nothing else but our creative subjectivity. This is the true human without position or name. ... The "true self" does not exist outside of everyday life, it has its job in our everyday life.

Ah, Rinzai style teaching. These are the words of Hozumi Gensho roshi. My own school expresses this in different words, and we don't do "mu" practice like they do in the Rinzai shu, but the essential point is consistent. "Don't-know mind" is the true self; it is dynamic, alive, and creative all by itself. What we contrive in our imaginations is not it; it does itself. It isn't having a "good time" or a "bad time."

What time is it now? Time to take down the laundry.

Friday, February 24, 2012

ALBA Has a Dictator Problem

Almost a year ago, I wrote this lament about Hugo Chavez's devotion to authoritarian regimes like Ghaddafi's Libya. Implicit in that post's title, "The Enemy of my Enemy is no Bolivar," is a question: what would the historic liberator, Simón Bolívar, make of dictators like Ghaddafi or Bashar al-Assad?

It is neither surprising nor sinister to see Venezuela attempt to involve itself in an intervention that circumvents the United States. Venezuela has been working very hard to establish alternative avenues for international relations, regional development, and even a regional currency, that are independent of U.S.-dominated neoliberal capitalism. There is something of a tradition in Latin America of multi-state conflict resolution, and if Chavez can make an opportunity to raise Venezuela's profile -- his own, in fact -- as a peacemaker by exporting such diplomacy, it's no surprise he would give it a shot. And no one else has proposed putting the civil war on pause and negotiating some sort of exit for Colonel Ghaddafi.

It's a strange sideshow -- at least, I suspect it is just a sideshow -- because if there is one thing Hugo Chavez has in common with the United States ruling class, it is an affection for authoritarian regimes. Chavez has eagerly sought diplomatic ties with states like Libya, Iran, Belarus, and the Russian Federation. This has something to do with opposing U.S. dominance, but for what alternative? What do these characters have to offer to the goals of Chavez's "21st century socialism" or his project for a people's political economy?

Furthermore, considering Chavez's close political identification with Bolívar:

Simon Bolivar does not strike me as a person who would order an Air Force to open fire on his own people in order to preserve his own power. And one has to question the idea that Ghaddafi liberated his people after seizing power -- from one kind of king to another. A strange liberator it is who declares, as Ghaddafi did in 1973, that the nation he seized in a military coup would be subject to the law of a monotheistic religion; who claims to rule a jamahiriya, a government by the masses, yet assassinates critics and executes dissidents. There are reports this month that soldiers who refused to open fire on their civilian countrymen were executed as well.
One promising development in Chavez's presidency has been the formation of a regional bloc that stands as an alternative to U.S. dominance in the region. That alliance is ALBA, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America. Unfortunately, ALBA, like President Chavez, has a bit of a dictator problem, backing Assad in Syria (here is the communique in Spanish) without denouncing the regime's violence against its subjects.

It thereby diminishes ALBA and its prospects for modeling regional coordination among states based on social welfare, mutual sharing and economic assistance, rather than neoliberalism.

Again, one has to wonder how Simón Bolívar would feel about declaring solidarity with the Assads?

[Image: ALBA ministers visiting Syria in 2011.]

Thursday, February 23, 2012

For Daniel von Bargen (Kwan Seum Bosal)

Through the 1980s, as a pre-teen with season subscriptions to Trinity Rep's upstairs and downstairs theatres, I saw, to say the least, a great many plays directed by Adrian Hall and others, and became so familiar with the acting company I almost felt I knew them. I was not a "fan" so much as a student already, many years before I entered Trinity Rep's conservatory.

Still, these actors became something like titans in my imagination. William Damkoehler and his wife, Cynthia Strickland. Anne Scurria. Ed Hall. Richard Kavanaugh. Barbara Orson. Richard Kneeland. George Martin. Timothy Crowe. Keith Joachim. Bob Colonna. And more. There was a newer generation of actor within the company playing prominent roles, including my teachers Brian McEleney and Stephen Berenson, Becca Lish, Fred Sullivan, Janice Duclos, Dan Welch, David P.B. Stephens, the late Margo Skinner, Phyllis Kay, and more.

Some of these actors moved on and became very well known on television and in films. Richard Jenkins. Peter Gerety. Barbara Meek. Amy Von Nostrand. Although they have moved on from Washington Street and the old Majestic Theatre, I admit to thinking of them as Trinity Rep actors and some of the best in the business.

As large as they loom in my memories, they are ordinary people and they suffer and die just like ordinary people. The first lesson was when the world lost Richard Kavanaugh during my high school days, alone and sick in his Providence apartment. A little while later it was Richard Kneeland, also alone when he fell and hit his head, silencing one of the most powerful voices I've heard on any stage. Others have followed, as we all must.

This brings me to the shocking news of Daniel von Bargen and his attempted suicide.

Von Bargen is known to a large audience as Mr. Kruger from Seinfeld. He is also a familiar face with a distinctive, smoky voice from other television shows and many movies, as recently as 2009 and the comedy London Betty.

Yet I remember him, naturally, as a Trinity Rep company member. In the 1980s, he was in his thirties. As good as he is on camera, his live performances had an extra dimension. His presence was striking, and he was the kind of actor who made it look deceptively easy, to be so precise and yet so natural. He could be terrifying, he could be soft. Legends from that time suggest he could be a difficult person, and in recent years many of his close Trinity colleagues had lost touch with him. As one put it to me yesterday, they assumed he had retired on his television money and was watching the Ohio river flow by.

Not so much. Because of Dan's celebrity, his 911 call was leaked (sold?) to, and the call reveals much about his life. He has lost one leg to diabetes, and was due to lose "at least a few toes" on his other leg. Unwilling to go through with it, he took his .38 Colt and fired a bullet into his temple. Still conscious several minutes later, he changed his mind and called for help. On the call he tells the 911 dispatcher that he has no children, is alone, and feeling tired.

The latest news as of this morning is that Dan is still in hospital, in critical condition.

I call him "Dan" but we were never close. I remember meeting him -- appropriately, it was at Trinity Rep, in the upstairs green room. I was now appearing in the upstairs theatre myself, and Dan von Bargen paid a visit to his old theatre and his friends, glowing with his success on Seinfeld. I had an opportunity to tell him about roles he had played in the '80s, the impression he had made on me. He simultaneously looked pleased and startled.

Today he is 61 years old, and facing a torment I can only imagine.

[Photo: Von Bargen (on the right) in Trinity Rep's production of "Golden Boy" in 1990. His scene partner here is William Damkoehler, a long, long time company member who is alive and well and living in San Diego, though it is hard to imagine Trinity Rep without him.]

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Clown Shoes and Battered Wings

A traveling priest stopped for tea, and when we were finished he asked me if I was going home now, and the moment he asked me that I stopped.

This is home: these clown shoes and battered wings, the shivering, and keeping warm by the memory of her voice when she said, "Be gone."

[Image: wooden doll by Hildegard Wegner. See more of them here.]

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Dürer and the Art Entrepreneur

Whereas ten percent of the USA labor force is self-employed, among artists that percentage rises to 1/3. This is according to a report from the National Endowment for the Arts. Around the nation there seems to be a rise in seminars and workshops (and even "boot camps") in entrepreneurship for the artist. The internet and digital media are empowering artist-entrepreneurs.

Here at the Burning House, in this smoking crater of an economy, where we were recently turned down even for a job mowing lawns in Las Cruces -- we have in desperation turned to self-employment, teaching acting classes and scene workshops for money. At a recent play rehearsal, I referred to myself as an "actorpreneur." A change of pace from calling myself "unemployed for half a year."

Surely the first artist-entrepreneur, and our patron saint of self-employment, was Albrecht Dürer of Nuremburg (1471 - 1528).

From birth, he seemed to have it made: goldsmithing was the family business, one of the most lucrative trades in which you could work, and a creative one. After learning how to use the burin, however, the young Dürer switched to an apprenticeship with a painter down the street. Besides learning painting, he was skilled at cutting woodblocks for printing images, and his early skills in smithing set him up as an expert engraver.

Like most artists, he accepted patronage, but he also fashioned a new way for artists to earn a living. He was a family man and patronage could be uncertain, so he desired an independent income. With his wife, Agnes, as a shrewd business partner, the Dürers learned their markets and how to price different techniques. Woodcuts were cheap to produce and could produce art of enough quality for popular audiences who liked religious-themed art and would buy it at markets. Engravings cut into copper could reproduce better-quality art, but were also more difficult and expensive to produce, so these works were priced for a wealthier clientele. Paintings were the highest-priced works of all, but Dürer did not consider them cost-effective because of the time involved in producing high-quality works.

The Dürers became quite wealthy, and demonstrated something new in art: the ability to earn substantial income from the public, not just wealthy patrons.

Two blocks from our home, on Spruce Street, there is a t-shirt shop. You can look in the window and see their presses and screens. As one passes by the shop, one might kiss one's fingers and acknowledge Albrecht's memory as a sort of guardian angel of art-entrepreneurs.

[For more on Dürer's life, work, and entrepreneurship, we recommend an excellent chapter about him that appears in Theodore K. Rabb's Renaissance Lives: Portraits of an Age (1993), to which this blog entry is indebted. Image: Albrecht Dürer's self portrait dated 1500.]

Monday, February 20, 2012

Near Spring Canyon

Last week was full of personal pain, but that's not what I'll be writing about.

What I did about it one morning was go for a drive. I headed east on NM-549, past the winery and into ranch territory, and then took NM-198 towards Rock Hound Park and Spring Canyon, some of the loveliest landscape Deming has to offer.

It turned out to be a particularly beautiful, overcast, foggy day.

I was especially pleased with this eremitic image from one of the ranches.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Extra, Extra...

Riddle me this: If you are an actor in Deming and you get a call to do a non-speaking part in a TV show filming in Albuquerque, do you go?
Considerations: Extra work, or "background" as it is called, doesn't make good resume material. Actors with a few film or television credits don't typically go out for this work.
On the other hand, I've been out of a job for half a year, and this was the first time aside from my acting classes that anyone has offered to pay me for any kind of work -- an hourly rate comparable to an office temp job. My agent said, Why not? There's even a chance you can get upgraded to a speaking role -- that happens sometimes. And you should get on a professional set and learn the atmosphere. Go.
So I drove to Albuquerque with the only suit I own and a fresh haircut, assigned to play a non-speaking FBI agent.
The show, by the way, is In Plain Sight, a USA Network drama currently filming its fifth and final season in Albuquerque. The fourth episode of the season was being filmed at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. At 6:30 AM, when I showed up, the west side parking lot had been completely taken over by the production company, where a small city of trucks and trailers and an open catering area had been set up.
More extras reported for duty and I began what was to be a long day of getting acquainted with an interesting subculture in the industry: the extras. I did not meet a single aspiring actor among them (see above.) The people I met were retirees, housewives, people taking a day off work, and vacationers. Vacationers! Yes! People from out of town coming in to do a day or two of extra work on a major TV show. People who enjoy being around a set, who get to appear on a popular show, who might get a glimpse of well-known actors they admire. Extras get a lot of time to wait and mingle, make new friends, network. There is usually food, sometimes good food; there is also pay.
The very first shot of the morning was a dolly shot in the lobby of the hotel. The staff of the hotel were amazing -- the place was still conducting business while the set occupied their lobby. One of the hotel's cleaning staff looked on in amusement at an extra who had been costumed as hotel cleaning staff. The episode's director was a sweet-tempered man clearly working, and thinking, very fast, as he arranged people all over the lobby to compose a complicated shot. He positioned me with two young guys and went on his way, whereupon a prop person equipped me with a prop gun, an FBI medallion, and pad and pen. An assistant director explained the situation to me, that I would be questioning two men. Pieces of colorful tape were placed where I stood with two stand-ins.
Suddenly, the stand-ins vanished almost into thin air, and two of the episode's stars took their place. (It's not bad being in SAG.) Brady and Andy introduced themselves and there was even time to flash a couple of baby pictures (one of the men just became a father) before it was time to roll. Since I was supposed to be interviewing them about some Awful Event that takes place in the episode, we softly improvised questions and answers. I have to wonder if the boom microphone captured any of our chatter -- we were a bit lewd. You put three cut-ups together, that's what happens.
Three takes of that, and the "background" performers were taken back to our "holding area" (mooooo.....!) for a ten minute break. The ten minute break stretched into an hour, two, three, and more. Things change on the fly. The crew managed to be as polite as they were busy, and informed us that the FBI Agents would be needed in another shot later. It was Valentine's Day, and many of them had adorned their faces with heart-shaped stickers; one man had even dressed himself up as Cupid, and walked about "blessing" people with little swats of his bow and arrow. I never figured out what his job was.
Meanwhile, extras costumed as hotel guests were taken in and out. The day passed. A long Texas Hold'em tournament took place. Others read or did things on their personal electronic devices. I think a young man and woman met and made a date. We were invited to have a late lunch -- and were treated to a delicious buffet. (On this particular show, everyone gets the same high-quality food, from the show's stars to the members of the crew to the extras. That's not always the case.) After that, more waiting.
At 7:00 PM, never having gone back for the other shot, the FBI Agents were wrapped, and within minutes our vouchers (for our pay) had been signed, our props turned in, and we were sent on our way.
My friends and family were a little more excited about this than they needed to be. I had been paid to be in one shot and to read my book -- a biography of Rosa Luxemburg -- for the rest of the day.
Riddle me this: How is it that a man with a master's degree and over a decade of good executive/administrative work experience, plus a few years teaching public school, can't get a job mowing lawns -- but he can get paid a day's wages to sit around a hotel reading a book?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Problems with Blogger

Life has gotten rather busy and I have not had time to share the stories with you. Even as I type this, I have keys on the desk for my trip to Las Cruces to teach acting classes.

I have been trying for two days to post some lovely photographs I've captured during my travels, but now Blogger -- which has been operating mostly well for quite some time -- is not uploading my pictures and so far we can't figure out what's going on.

Our apologies. Hopefully we will be able to resume our activities soon.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Death in the Celebrity Realm

Celebrities are referred to as "icons." To the broad public, their names and faces and talents are well known, their private lives investigated and shared for profit, consumed (sometimes with guilt) for the public's prurient curiosity. Yet they are not quite persons.

They suffer in private and melt down in public. Addiction is an ordinary disease, nothing unusual among us ordinary mortals. When the person is a celebrity, however, they occupy a different realm of existence, a realm that offers insulation from the consequences of addiction until it is too late and even family members cannot reach the person. They die semi-publicly, before an audience, a media event.

If there were a post-modern Buddhist cosmology, a Kamadhatu for a new era, it might well include celebrities as a kind of demigod, beings imprisoned in a realm over and isolated from human existence. Like the titans stuck at the foot of Mount Sumeru, the celebrity realm might find its mythological prison in the Hollywood hills.

Whitney Houston was found dead in a room at the Beverly Hilton yesterday. News media quickly issued adoring tributes to the "beloved" singer. Beloved? By whom, the public? Who, other than her closest family members and friends, loved her during the years she stopped resembling her 1985 image, or the young woman who blew up our televisions when she sang the national anthem in 1991, the sweet and beautiful girl with a voice that could lift a church off its foundation and spin it around? The woman who was, after all, all too human: loving and marrying an abusive man, becoming addicted to crack cocaine, struggling with the ordinary disease of addiction that took her beauty, her health, and her wonderful voice.

Like the celebrity demigods who burned themselves up before her, she suffered in private and melted down in public, a work of involuntary performance art.

Celebrities are not loved by the public. Their public image, the icon, is cherished but their ordinary human needs are not of interest. I have read more than one news article claiming that Whitney Houston became an "object lesson" about drug addiction. Really? For whom? For those to whom pictures of an ailing Houston, looking sick and bewildered, became ghoulish entertainment? For those who rarely thought about her and had no reason to? If we regarded celebrities as part of our human community, then maybe so -- but they aren't. On a human level, they are strangers to us.

And in their isolated existence, they are ultimately ordinary: confused, suffering, and human. Even their deaths end up being ordinary, not the fiery climaxes of mythology after all. These mortal people are well known to the general public and also complete strangers. It is a peculiar spectacle when someone suffers (and even dies) so publicly and yet no one seems able to reach them.

To whom can we turn in our own realm, in the relationships we can actually touch? Are we missing opportunities among those living and breathing right in front of us, next to us, or one phone call away?

[Photo: A fragment of a photo of Chris Farley's dead body, as he was found in 1997. He is clutching rosary beads.]

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Demo Reel

Regular blogging, or what has passed for "regular," will resume now that we are back from a brief road trip to Oklahoma and back. Perhaps some stories and photos from that trip will appear next.

In the meantime, the demo reel is done. It includes some footage from Folklore (complete with rough audio) no one has seen yet...

Algernon D'Ammassa demo from Applause Talent Agency on Vimeo.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Guns versus Toys

During my childhood, my mother did not permit gun toys.

She was not anti-gun, however. When I was a teenager, I was given a shotgun as a gift and she did not object. A real gun, when I was older and could be shown how to handle it safely, was fine; guns as toys were not.

The message was, guns are not toys. When we use them, it is not for play. My uncles owned guns and did some sport hunting, but they took their guns seriously and handled them safely. Their behavior reinforced my mother's message. Naturally I found ways to pantomime guns using sticks or even my fingers, but there my mother retreated. The point had been made, all the same.

As an adult I have never desired to own a gun, and given my history of recurring depression, I would not keep one around anyway. Not a good idea for me.

As a parent, I've expanded on her rule a bit: guns are not toys, and military service is not a game. I don't want my sons wearing military-themed onesies, chamo pants, and other kinds of realistic battle gear. I keep an eye out for toys mimicking modern military hardware. Video games aren't part of our life yet, but when the day comes I'll watch for that as well.

When it is time for these conversations, the message will not be that the military is something "bad." What needs to come across is that military service is deadly serious. My grandfather and my father served in wars, and there is a Persian Gulf War vet in our family. My sons may choose to wear those uniforms when they grow up, and that will be their choice to make. By that time, we will have had many conversations about violence, war, the use of force by governments, and our country's history. I wish for them to make their decisions on that basis, rather than being conditioned from early childhood to think of warfare as "cool."

[Photo: A display at a Buddhist-owned Chinese restaurant in Silver City, New Mexico]

Friday, February 03, 2012

Buddhist Basics on Unity Radio

Thursday was a busy media day. First, the Sweeping Zen interview came out.

That same morning, I was a call-in guest on a Kansas City talk show talking about the basics of Buddhism. It was a substantive and even provocative Christian-Buddhist conversation.

The show is archived here (the episode entitled "Buddhist Basics"). There seemed to be a lot of people talking at times -- people in the studio and three people on the phone. We were also rather ambitious about what we tried to discuss in an hour-long program.

But by all means, have a listen.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Drama and Dharma: Interview on Sweeping Zen

Sweeping Zen is an internet database and news site about Zen Buddhism in the west that was established in 2009. One of their ongoing features are interviews with teachers or practice leaders or other people of interest.

This week it was apparently my turn. A lengthy interview with me went up on Thursday. A lot of our discussion was about decoding some of the titles and explaining the leadership structure of the Kwan Um School of Zen, but we covered a lot of other topics as well.

Personally, my favorite parts had to do with acting practice and Zen practice, so I'll share an excerpt from that part of the interview.

SZ: ...I want to ask you about something you mentioned earlier: acting. I notice you have been involved in various films and live theater and wanted you to talk to us a bit about that.

AD: I’ve been acting since I was nine years old. It was one of those peculiar things which people will sometimes attribute to karma; at the age of nine, an event took place and I knew that was my direction. I had actually tried to quit acting but it always comes back (laughs) – I can’t escape it. I did my professional training at Trinity Rep Conservatory in Rhode Island while I was living at Providence Zen Center. I would get up at 4:30 in the morning for bows and would be in studio until sometimes 11 o’clock at night. I’d come home, sleep for four hours, get up and do it all over again. That was my life.

The two processes penetrated each other completely. Acting, in a sense, is about being able to understand your true self and play truthfully in imaginary circumstances. A play is very much an imaginary circumstance. So, how do you play truthfully? Because, of course, the best theater is telling us all truths about the human condition. So, acting took on this kind of sacred component for me. In other words, it became my practice. It was, along with formal Zen practice, a way of looking at this question, “What am I?” It was also a way to practice for all other beings.

When I was in my 20s I made a living as a stage actor and teaching; after that I lived in Zen centers and worked office jobs to survive. I almost became a monk in the early 2000′s when in Los Angeles, but I didn’t ordain because I had financial obligations. That’s how close I got. I met my wife and became a father, so that situation is clear. Recently, over the past three years, I had a job teaching theater in public school, which went away. So, while seeking employment, somehow I started getting offered acting roles again – some commercials, a film here and a film there, teaching a workshop. I’ve been patching together a living. I seem to be back to acting, teaching workshops, giving a Dharma talk, organizing a retreat, going and sitting a retreat – that’s the kind of life I’ve come back to. Drama and Dharma (laughs).