Following high school in New York City, Noah Buschel went to Los Angeles where he began writing “Neal Cassady,” which later won Square Magazine’s Screenplay of the Year Award 2000. He now lives in Greenwich Village with two friends and a dog named Cassady, and is working on another bio-screenplay, “Soshin,” on the life of the American Zen student Maura O’Halloran. The following narrative was compiled from a conversation with Tricycle last February.
Included is an excerpt from Noah Buschel’s screenplay “Cassady.”
My first experience of Buddhism was when my aunt took me and my brother to Plum Village [Thich Nhat Hanh’s community] in 1994 when we were sixteen, two disgruntled youths. I hated Plum Village. I skipped meditations and read Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing the whole time—my way of saying, Fuck all this. I hated people being nice, and I hated feeling just how brooding I was. I couldn’t even just smile at someone. I was a New York teenager, and that had nothing to do with me, being kind. I think that I still have that problem, which is why I practice Zen. I go to Tibetan places and still I feel very brooding, very New York. With Zen, you can be any way, and it’s all appropriate—smiling, not smiling.
I saw Thich Nhat Hanh as some kind of freak. I believed he was enlightened, but I didn’t know what that meant yet. It was like going to the movies—watching him, the way he moved. It was just a big show.
And also they just took away my intelligence the second I got there. Being smart didn’t count. I remember talking to a nun—she had just become a nun—and I said, “So you can’t read anything here, like, besides Buddhist texts?” And she said, “No.” And I said, “So you did a lot of reading before you came here, right, like you’ve read everything you want to read?” and she said, “Yeah, I guess,” and I said, “Did you readCatcher in the Rye?” and she said, “No, I haven’t read that.” I couldn’t believe that she wouldn’t be able to read for twenty years. So there was nothing to talk about there. Nothing.
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