heard that Dr. Frederick
Lenz, a.k.a. "Rama", was holding a book signing in Boston for his
new novel "Surfing the Himalayas" I went to see if he continues to exaggerate his public image.
As a past follower of Dr. Lenz and his esoteric doctrine of computers and Buddhism, I wasn't surprised by the full page Sunday Boston Globe ad nor the lack of a location listing of the signing itself. What struck me was that even though Warner Books picked up the publishing rights and then, once informed of Lenz's history, dropped them like a radioactive potato, St. Martins Press came up from the rea
r and decided to carry his book. This book, by the way, will be advertised in 1,700 movie theaters during the pre-show trivia/ad slides that we've all become so accustom to.
After a little investigation, I found out where this mysterious character would make his appearance. The barrage of police, mall security and personal body guards was typical. When I asked why the high security, I was told that the store had received 15 threats stating there would be huge protest from Lenz's arch adversaries...his ex-followers and their families! My mother had not yet shown up, so I represented 50% of what would ultimately be the onslaught.
I walked around the store, pretending to read books on Renaissance Tapestries and Arms of the Civil War while observing my old friends from the group standing in line. With two years between our friendships and my hair grown out, I was not recognized. In fact, one of them gave me a video tape as "a gift from Dr. Lenz to those who are here for his book signing."
I listened in on a reporter from a major Boston paper as he interviewed the people in line. They all answered the questions the way I would have answered them if I were still part of the old "gang": They had seen Lenz's ad in the Boston Globe and the New York Times (as they dutifully held onto their Wall Street Journal); they had no affiliation to Lenz or any organization that supported him, but was aware of his exceeding reputation in the Buddhist community and came on their own accord. After I informed the reporter that those in line were indeed followers of Dr. Lenz, he then added two questions to his list. And lo and behold they were all from New York and every one in the computer field.
After these distinctly "independent" customers left the store with signed books in hand, they huddled in the mall like a cocktail party consisting of approximately hundred people,.
Outside the store I asked a young man sitting by of a pile of picketing signs that read,
"Free Tibet!" and "Fwap Lives!" if people were going to picket. "Some of us might." he responded. - - "What's Fwap? Is that a place in Tibet?" I asked. - - "No it's a person. A Buddhist master." - - "Oh, from Dr. Lenz's book?" - - "That's right," he said - - "But I thought it was a fictional book. And what does the character Fwap have to do with freeing Tibet? If I saw this on the news, why would I make the connection between Fwap and Tibet?" - - "Oh, you wouldn't. It would inspire you to find out
more about what Fwap means." - - "Which would entail buying Lenz's book." - - "That's right!" - "So you're using the Free Tibet cause to further Lenz's book sales?" I notice the young man pause for a moment of critical thinking, which, I knew too well, had been absent from his life for quite a long time.
At the end of the signing, a woman who had just talked to Dr. Lenz, went out of the store, snapped her fingers and raised her hands, at which a dozen youth revealed their readied signs and chanted with the rest of the hundred followers "Free Tibet." TV crews scurried to roll their cameras after hours of anticipating a conflict. Mall security quickly quieted the picket parade. It was announced that Dr. Lenz had left the building and they should all leave to avoid any legal action.
Reporters shrugged their shoulders unsure of what to make of the matter and left.
That evening on TV news and the following day in the newspapers, there was no mention of the charismatic leader's book signing. Nor did Lenz appear for his New York signing the next