41. The End of Karma

(It behooves me to note by way of explanation for the rambling nonsense below, that the manuscript pages for this particular passage were stained here and there with what our laboratory here at the Consulate has determined was a Japanese vitamin drink. In addition to mega-doses of vitamins C and B12, such drinks are also regularly loaded with caffeine, nicotine, and something that started a fire in our lab. Read at your own risk.  –Gerard K. Dirkins, U.S. Consular Officer)

Japanese vitamin drinks

I was momentarily distracted by a Buddhist monk ironically slapping a mosquito into its next life, though the irony lay not in the slapping itself, which was unremarkable and not unlike the slap of a non-Buddhist, but in the situation, you know, a Buddhist monk dispatching the soul of a living creature, though I suppose there are levels of Buddhism, like vegetarianism or keepers of Kosher households, and here I am thinking particularly of my friend Lenny Goldblatt who regularly ate eggs and bacon after we had been out drinking all night, explaining to the waitress who asked him about his yarmulke, which by the way was itself ironically just part of a stripper’s costume from a club we had visited the night before, that it was okay if he ate bacon as long as it was from a gentile pig and by the way did she like Jewish guys and then I wound up riding the bus home by myself while Lenny spent the rest of the morning with this divorced mother of three, and that’s how I met a member of the American branch of the Japanese cult Soka Gakkai, though I must admit it is difficult sometimes to separate the cults from the religions the rule of thumb usually being how long they’ve been around, putting Jewish Lenny at a distinct advantage, by the way, to the Calvinist waitress who made him wait on the back landing until her youngest

Daisaku Ikeda. leader of Soka Gakkai

Daisaku Ikeda. leader of Soka Gakkai

was off to school, and this Soka Gakkai fellow gave me an earful about Ikeda-sensei, which I may have appeared to listen to patiently but actually fell asleep halfway through this rap of his which was so tired I think he actually fell asleep too, and at any rate we both woke up at the same time, unmetaphorically, which is to say we both awoke as ignorant as when we went to sleep, and then I asked him about karma, a subject which he brought around again to that damn Ikeda-sensei, and then he actually tried to set up a film projector on the 22 Clark Street bus, and as he searched for an electrical outlet I asked a follow-up question, which was again about karma, and there being no outlet he dropped the plug and was forced to fill the silence with words from his own brain, which he had not listened to since that first Soka Gakkai meeting on Washtenaw Avenue three years earlier, and those words were, “Uh, yeah, well . . . you gotta point,” which startled me because no one ever told me anything like that before, about me having a point, so I continued on the off chance I might have another one left in me, point that is, and brought up the Jains and the nets they wear over their mouths to prevent them from swallowing and therefore harming errant insects, though I never met one that was not errant (insect, that is, not Jains, though I’ve never met a Jain, so I couldn’t really say) and I suggested that it doesn’t seem like the average Jain would be especially wealthy, which means they probably shop at super discount stores, which means the nets they are buying are probably made at a very low cost, which means they are probably made by children laboring away in grim sweatshops in developing countries, and the Soka Gakkai guy cut me off and said he knew where I was “going with this,” which by the way I myself didn’t, and he said, “You’re going to tell me those children are probably selfishly not wearing nets and therefore swallowing lots and lots of bugs, right?” which I hadn’t actually considered but I nodded my head anyway, thinking maybe that was where I was going after all, but then thought better of it and said, “Well, actually, I was thinking of how the Jains’ nets might save insects but destroy the lives of human children,” and he laughed and said don’t be ridiculous, you can’t swallow a human child.

Jains and their insect nets

Jains and their insect nets

And by the time I turned back to continue my conversation with Kale, my karmic friend from California who, before I was distracted by the monk’s murder of a mosquito, I had been talking to about spirituality, my uncle Dexter, and tiny cars filled with normal-sized clowns (see previous post), he was gone.

“Kale,” I cried out, and the woman at the subway kiosk leaned way out over her counter and pushed a little bottle into my hand.

And sure enough, there was Kale. On the front of the little bottle, above a large block of the finest print I have ever seen in my life, was printed “Kale Vitamin Drinku,” for which I paid this kind, slightly aggressive kiosk lady 880 yen. I drank the potion right there, then hurried home in a brisk walk that quickly broke into the kind of desperate sprint you see drug addicts make through trailer parks and along highways on the TV show Cops, and once home wrote the passage above, cleaned my apartment, organized my socks, sorted a box of paperclips according to size and molecular weight, and screamed into a paper sack for 40 minutes.

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2 Responses to 41. The End of Karma

  1. Mark Renusch says:

    Too funny.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Matt says:


    Liked by 1 person

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