It's the sides of the mountains which sustain life, not the top

- Robert M. Pirsig

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Who needs a destination?

Here we go again - another book recommended to me for years by a close friend, another book I poo-pooed or shrugged off as "nah not for me," and another book that when I finally find it on my own I devour it and then become its latest cocktail-party ambassador.

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Maybe hot wings and IPA parties are more the norm these days but you get the idea. Others read this classic in High School while my English teachers in Sonoma were pushing the works of Aldous, J.D., Harper, and Mr. Steinbeck. So speaking of parties yeah I was late to this one.

When the prompt came a second time I didn't waver.

I was engaged in my small stationery business at a hip bookshop in the Mission and I knew I was about to take this trip with an uncertain end - yes not my first such rodeo - and as I placed the card order on the wooden counter and handed the gentleman the invoice I found my mouth just blurting out "You wouldn't happen to have a copy of Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance would you? And I hadn't even completed speaking the title when his arm slid over to his right, he didn't even have to lean it was that close, like it was seriously just waiting for me, and he placed it down next to my card stack and we both froze a bit. The manager and another associate turned as the air in the room stalled and again my mouth spoke before I could think - "well that was strange," I said. My new friend nodded in agreement.

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Good thing I've been more in the habit of saying yes lately.

To life as well as to used books.

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You might not be ready to find your Zen

I'm feeling low on the energy-to-convince spectrum just now so I'll be honest - I don't care if you read it. You should read it but I'm not you. Your life will be richer but hey maybe you think "my life is as rich as it can get," which is not really possible but could be a nice place to live. Do you have to own or like motorcycles? Do you have to want to feel at peace in the midst of chaos? Do you have to want to take your son on a road trip from Chicago to California at the age where he might complain? Do you have to have a son? These are some of the fears that kept me from accepting the offer to read the book the first time. Of course it also could have just been old fashioned marketing, the strange colored cover and title and the uncertainty of what if this guys' right? What if he found his Zen in repairing motorcycles and maybe I could too? And hey it's not as if I don't like motorcycles but I didn't own one at the time and what if reading this book turns me into a middle-aged man who likes to work on motorcycles. Oh the horror!!

What becomes clear though as soon as you get just a few pages in is, this author is on a journey and it's as if he just happened to journal it. This isn't a sales pitch, there's no mantra to chant, join if you feel led. And maybe that's how it should work anyway, I found it not when I was pushed, but when I sought it subconsciously, when I needed the exact depth of reflection and discovery it was willing to offer.

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It's the sides

He's got more than a few worthy quotes inside, many centered around his search for quality - quality as a philosophical goal, and also as a virtue. The quote on the header above however, a twist on the Steven Tyler classic "life's a journey, not a destination," seemed appropriate today.

"It's the sides of the mountains which sustain life, not the top"

So why do we get so obsessed with going for the tops of life's mountains? When the reality, what really happens most of the time in life, most of the things that hurt us and bring us joy, are the real parts. The sides. The day in day out life parts of helping someone hang a door, or move to Tennessee, or switch cars when someone needs to borrow the truck, or hang a door, are what happens and leaves the mark. Just livin.'  Just being real.

Real Topeka real.

Maybe because we're so geared for achievement, which is great and understandable, esp. at certain stages in life, say after college when some serious gusto is needed, or at point in your 30's when a career risk seems worthy, or when a house and a two car garage just doesn't seem enough because... well you've forgotten why but it just doesn't.

Gusto = Gumption

Speaking of gusto - what's needed vis a vis energy post college - Pirsig visits this topic for a chunk, though for him it's about gumption. a word probably more popular when he took his trip, in 1968. I can relate, after all it takes a lot of gumption to think you can make a movie.

"My personal feeling is that this is how any further improvement of the world will be done: by individuals making Quality decisions and that's all... we've had that individual Quality in the past, exploited it as a natural resource without knowing it, and now it's just about depleted. Everyone's just about out of gumption. And I think ti's about time to return to the rebuilding of that American resource - individual worth."

Talk about a 600 lb. gorilla of a quote. Gumption and individual worth? Hmm.. Seems all too relevant now, funny how many words from authors that came out of the tumultuous 60's find their relevance so many years later.

Individual worth. Something I didn't have much of growing up but am gathering lately it seems in spades, like beads on a Mardi Gras necklace.

For this film thing, as an example, it's all about gumption and individual worth. My worth that I openly questioned growing up, the kids who bought a Homestead and their memories, their individual worth is the meat of this amazing story, and will shine loud and clear as the movie comes together. Which is gonna take a lot of gumption. See how relevant this book is at this time in my life? The individual worth of each person involved in the journey, the gumption necessary to make a movie, it's all a beautiful tapestry of memories and shared experiences and high effort and yes they'll be of course a few surprises.

Thank You Robert M. Pirsig.


That's a good enough transition to announce that we're wrapped filming - which hopefully you've guessed. And as soon as $ starts flowing in K and B will begin the editing. The end is in sight and it's both a relief and a sincere feeling of gratitude for everyone involved so far. The list of specific people to thank is close to 50 so if you're reading this there's a good chance you're on the list.

The without-you-the-movie-would-not-have-happened list.

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And speaking of writing things down

Yes I've started writing another book. I hope it'll be a great companion to the film, and already it's flowing, I'm four chapters in and it's a good mix of this film, the Homestead story, and the process of making any movie on a crazy low budget.

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I didn't mean to write a blog today, wasn't really in a sharing mood. But then again I didn't really mean to make a movie while I was washing dishes and feeling rootless either and look what's happened.


Maybe Phaedrus was onto something.