Thursday, July 23, 2015

A writer, yes, forgive, heightens the dramas of normal life.  Circumstances get dramatized, increased in importance, taken from every day life, milked for meaning and tension.  Or is it that you have to delve into potentially embarrassing things when you are writing, I don't know.

But over the course of a year of weekly therapy sessions, I turned out to be no crazier than anyone else, if anything, too normal, just truly susceptible to the things of the psyche that can plague all of us.  Maybe that comes with being sensitive.  You're sensitive to the outer world, of course, you'd be sensitive to the inner world.  In the writing mind, things can seem more dramatic, more a struggle, and yes, I suppose that drama can feed on itself if you let it.

What I needed was direction in life, to find and connect with my values and to continue on with them, and I wasn't sure what they were nor how in this world to carry out with them.

Perhaps I took it as a political necessity, to tend bar.  It wasn't perfect, by any means.  In the way Lincoln handled the issues of his day...  It's not a pure moral high-ground stand that you are able to take in life;  it's what's doable.  Being a barman was a compromise, a dance of keeping alive as a writer for a person in need of a job that stimulated the mind, a place for a person looking for meaning in that time in life when one can feel lost.  It had its risks, its distractions, its downfalls, its moments of failure and lostness.  But it somehow managed to keep me open to things as the shell a person must have hardened over the years into maturity.

I'd missed one session, staying up to late watching a documentary about Pantani on Netflix after my shift, missing my vibrating iPhone alarm...  Rescheduled for the first day after my workweek ended.


"So how do I know the difference, when am I simply being negative, pessimistic, stuck in a mood, and when am I deciding not to pursue an avenue that's no good for my values...  How do I know when my judgement is good?"

"You're asking for help for your writing...  If someone, some professor, let's say, wasn't helpful for that, didn't give you constructive feedback, than that's not a good place to find it."

Dr. H. stood up from her chair, went to a cabinet next to the table where her laptop sat and pulled out a form, a Values Worksheet for me.

"But it's like I didn't follow through with my values, you know, back in college...  We all want love and good relationships and family, someone to talk to.  It's like I'm the poster child..."

Dr. H. stood, facing me, a long light sweater hanging down to her lower pants.  "Doesn't sound like she was a warm and fuzzy kind of person...  It doesn't sound like there was much in the way of open communication.   It doesn't sound like there was any kind of real relationship whatsoever..."

"Yeah, true."

"Look at the values.  What do you want in an intimate relationship...  What does that look like."

That was helpful.

"And college is a time of exploration, a developmental age.  Who knows so well their values at that age, let alone how to be aligned with them, to know where to find support...   And for some of us it's not just the twenties, but the thirties and the forties too, searching..."

We both chuckled.  And that too was helpful.  No judgment.  No self-judment.  I looked over the worksheet and how I might approach it.  Yes, if I went hiking I would be touching upon values of friendship, health and spirituality.

"Some people may have a value system that's all about a clear pathway, climbing the professional ladder, making more money, getting the promotion, the real estate," she explained.  "And some people want meaning, to be engaged in creativity and the things they have a passion for...   And they decide that maybe all it takes to have a meaningful life is $70,000..."

I began to feel a bit exonerated.  And that helped with the "dirty" discomforts, the guilt, the feeling of having messed everything up quite enough all on my own.


Later, I reflected.  We all might have our own particular values;  of course we do.  I thought about who had been helpful for me, and this is something one must be very honest with himself.  Because we can idealize the shape of the real human beings we encounter and look up to, seek friendship and guidance and help from.  You look at people full of hope, and when you have lots of needs lots of them seem to have appeal to you.  But it's very hard to pick out who, truly, is a help to you as you try to follow your own way.  It wasn't something I wanted to look at directly.  And thus I wasn't looking directly at my own value system.

And maybe, finally, when you look deeply and directly at your own values, however strange they might seem in light of the mainstream, then your searching narrows.  Widely and broadly had I searched, for which I deserved credit, even if I wasted a lot of time and gotten lost.  You can't blame an author for that.  I'd worked hard enough, done a stand up job as a barman, done the job, had my beer and gone home and no one could say anything bad about that.  I'd waited on many people, supported the regular customers, professionally, patiently, politely, with a decent sense of life's humor.


I got home, a bit discombobulated.  I sprayed some bleach around the shower tiles, sat down to and watched a young slender fresh-faced French kid win a beautiful Alpine stage, the final climb up an incredible hairpin slope.

So I had my worksheet.  I took a nap, I went out for a bike ride, all the way to Rock Creek Park, beyond my expectations of how far I would go, it being an evening with the sun coming through the July trees, the air clear and clean, Adirondack.

Your values are your values.  What can you do, but develop them as they are.  The people we meet and how we get along with them reflect your values as much as anything.  One has his own vision, and rather than trying to bend over backwards and please the crowds, there comes a time of focus, of an acceptance of that vision.

The struggle of the race, to write a record of its values...  And any individual, of course, will have a difficult and confusing time to live in his own present struggles and still get to the eternal, the deeper common.  Finding little signs along the way of where to look.  Finding the deeper values to share with another person, that's what it was all about, sharing a poem, medieval but contemporary, finding beauty.



It's a matter of turning things around, a change of consciousness.  Instead of the Repetition-Compulsion the good doctor mentioned, refining her point of Recapitulation, of wishing to be in the company of those who were not helpful to the inner vision, the thing became to be, as a writer must be, happy to do his work.

Or maybe find something else somehow related.  And then maybe the political compromise wasn't working any more, if you took a long hard look at it, and had the courage to know and follow through with all the values that had been suppressed over the years in the bargain you'd accepted...


Later that night, after waking from a nap in front of the TV, I went through my closets, and ended up tossing out a lot of old shirts, Hawaiian patterned ones, as if one could lead a life of such leisure and freedom...

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

So I was going on to her about The Bhagavad Gita, and how Arjuna must fight, after gaining the perspective allowed by yoga, and how I might send a copy of my A Hero For Our Time to one of my old Amherst professors, a nice guy, who gave me a D for getting my Paradise Lost paper in late--I know this is piddly little shit to bother anyone about--and she looks at me and asks, "have you heard of recapitulation theory, in Freudian terms?"  I'd asked her why she was asking me why I would send it along to him.

Well, no, I haven't.  "I'll give you the case of the woman with the abusive father, who then goes out with a man just like her father, thinking she can change the result, all the way back to her father.  Going back to the same poisoned well and thinking the water will be different."

Huh.

As Einstein said, you cannot solve a problem by the same conscious terms by which the problem was conceived.  (It turns out to be a vague quote to track down.  The closest one scholar seems to find has to do with now that we as scientists have created the means of destruction, we must now change the level of consciousness, to make for peace.)

So why send along a copy of your book when the result will just be the same...

Yeah, but... The guy is an educator...

He didn't treat you very well back then;  why would he now?

But my book is consistent with the answer I'd been groping for, that when Adam and Eve are kicked out of the Garden paradise and all the wind is blowing and there's no way back, what do they turn to, but words.   And you get kicked out of the paradise of Amherst when you graduate, and out into the 'real world,' and what do you turn to, words.

But her point stuck with me.  Yeah, it would just be the same old thing.  Nice paper, but sorry, here's your D in life.  "Time to move on to a new well, I guess."


I think over my sins, sins of the body, sins of the flesh, sins of the blood type, of the brain blood barrier, of the senses.  I was born an O, not the responsible blood of my father and older brother.  Easily am I led astray.  Easily do I run late, tarrying with folks at the temple, the gathering, the party.  The time I've wasted, with companions...

The well with the poisoned water, is that what I must take away from my college experience, the blame just as much on me as anyone, because of who I inherently am, the same body that puts me where I am today doing what I am doing, a continuation of the tarrying at the temple...

Monday, July 6, 2015

I dunno, Doctor...  I feel like, like I'm the reincarnation of a Hemingway, here to run my little salon, waiting on people, dealing with all you have to do in a bar, to purge my previous sins of ego.  In one world, maybe you're JFK, like they say, the leader of the free world, but that too is ego, because only he who has mastered himself, as Arjuna must master himself and learn the divine wisdom from Krishna, is really, like, I don't know, how to say it, in charge of things, or, the great educator, the great communicator, the great example, the real steady final point of wisdom in all matters.

So, yeah, like Hemingway liked his bars, but didn't have to wait on anyone, and could order up whatever he wanted and sit on his ass, whenever he wanted, could get drunk, have a nice dinner, engage in conversation, and in the next life he has to go and be the waiter, waiting on everyone, except he still remembers his salon, back in the perfection of Paris in the '20s, his excellent friends and adventures, artists, writers, Joyce, Stein...  It's not like he had carte blanche just to do anything, he worked hard at it.  When he started out he had his wife's support.  But it wasn't money from producers to, like Woody Allen, put his own little self up on the screen with every character speaking in Woody Allen's voice, the same old shit over and over again...  It's what artists do, so I'm not blaming him in particular..  Just that I grow quickly tired of Allen's same characters as I get older, see less the genius...

So in the next life, Hemingway ends up there, having to work, the same worldly worries of having to bust his ass to put food on the table, of not quite knowing what to do with himself on a day off, all the pretenses you have to go through in the artiste's life, foppish navel staring...  Not really crafting a series of well-honed short stories that somehow have the magic they are supposed to...  But now, just going on about the same shit, which is all artists do.  Chekhov, I'll give Chekhov a free pass, because the guy knew many a heart...  And he was a doctor, dealing with people's shit....

But you sit in, or lay, in meditation, in corpse pose sometimes, I do--perhaps because I don't know what to do with myself, like when you have to wait for a shift to come, but don't feel like doing anything...   There you are in corpse pose, and I remember my father, his body, at the funeral home, laid out with his hands folded across his chest...  And what does a corpse ask, but, be kind.  Be kind.  Be kind to me.  Life is hard enough.  Hard enough just feeding the creature, and getting it through one day, one day at a time.   And that's all we want.  That's all we would expect.

And I suppose it's why some cities, like Rio, have whore houses, with smart beautiful women in them, because a man needs someone to be kind to him too.  And we all end up paying for whatever we get, so,  maybe it's a realistic understanding.  How did I get off on a tangent...  So I'm told.  I wouldn't know.  I've only been to one once, and thought it all a bit sad.

But the writer, the salon contributor, the barman, even in this town, particularly in this town, he needs people to just be kind to him.

That's why I haven't done much with my book as far as getting it out there.  It's like I stopped expecting there to be any kindness toward me, toward the core of my being which is the rest of humanity and by extension the entirety of creation.  And that's all reading a book is.  It's not fancy, it's not complicated, it's just a simple agreement to sit down and read something someone else wrote.  It doesn't have to be good, on either part, by any standard, or significance beyond that.  The writer is his own credential, by the simple fact of life.

But as they say, woe unto the world because of offenses.  Or, like Lincoln said, 'and the war came.'  Why does shit happen?  It does.  I wasn't as kind as I meant to be, or was frustrated bringing out the kindness in my own heart...  Why does that happen?  Ego, insecurity, brattiness.  Hormones, confusion..

That this is so is tragic.  Lives get burned, bodies get mangled...  Civil War hospitals, World War One horrors... Dead parents you can't fix things of your own life to show, convincingly, that you are happy, as you owe a good parent...  It's all in your own mind, yeah, but it hurts.  And it all happens, all of it, because of ego, because you think you have to stand for something that perhaps itself is ultimately sort of hollow.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Yeah, feeling a bit isolated, this writer, on the Fourth of July in Washington, DC.

Coming from my therapist appointment last Monday I found myself standing across P Street from a very pretty young woman.  We make brief eye contact, a brief smile.  I go down to the basement level Chinese-run plain grocery store, and she's gone into the Starbuck's there at 21st.  Getting the few things I need, I go back not the short way but by the way I came, and I sit down on the coffee shop patio to straighten things out in my courier bag, and then minutes later, I get up and what the heck follow along behind her.  She walks more quickly than I, but from reading The Bhagavad Gita there is the necessity for action in life.  She's stopped at the corner waiting for the light at Massachusetts, construction going on at the intersection, and as I come up and stand there, she turns to me and asks which way do the numbers get lower.  Let me think, yes, lower that way, and she thanks me and proceeds, and I don't want to go home yet on a nice day, and I catch up with her again at the next intersection, taking a risk with the left hand turn traffic, and then close to the bank I am next to her.  "This is nice weather for Washington, DC," I tell her, and ask where she's from.  She's in town, having graduated college, a Carolina native, to work for a congressman from South Carolina and she tells me his name.  "Oh, you'll have a good social life then, up on the hill," and we walk forward, the large sweet potato and V8 heavy in my bag.  I explain my brother's history on the Hill and that ultimately being a lobbyist you can do alright.  I work in the restaurant business, not so much money but you can be a little generous to nice people.  "Is it a good restaurant?" she asks, "of course," and I explain where it is.  You'll have to come by sometimes.  Do you like French wine?  Oh, my roommate was in Paris...

And then, I say nice talking to you, my name's xxx and she tells me her name is xxxxxx and she's heading that way, and I...  wished I'd followed her one more tick up the road.  Across Dupont Circle, where I eventually soon ended up anyway, sitting on a bench reading from  my book.

Then you sit on the memory all week.  Young, very very pretty.  A friendly little flower of the South.  And I suppose I didn't have that sort of post-therapist tired feeling, from 45 minutes of trying to figure out your own problems...  Be positive!

But then you end up thinking what's a pretty young lady who works for a Republican congress member going to want with me anyway.  And besides, you weren't bold enough anyway to ask for her phone number, and there's no point going on creepy Craigslist, and so it's back to reading further into The Bhagavad Gita, but this time about the senses and desire, those things which cloud our picture of true reality...

And then it's July Fourth, the nation's celebration, and everyone is into politics here and feels good about their participation one way or another, and I was interested in that sort of stuff too once upon a time.  And me I work in a restaurant, have too many friends who are drinking related, and get up late.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Obviously, the remedy for isolation was the key to the survival of a species.  A PBS show about early humanity explains how the aborigines survived, by the ability to trade in networks, bringing the story across with the endangered platypus, cut off from its own by a series of weirs altering a river.

I wonder sometimes, the isolation of the restaurant worker's life, odd hours, strange work, a different kind of an intellectual professional life.

Is it further isolating to pick up The Bhagavad Gita and try to learn something, or to ponder the possible realities of deeper levels of sub-conscious?

The conscious parts of a person, by which I mean the tools of the surface dealings of the kind that figure out the day, can be tiresome to deal with.  Until, through meditation, you grow aware of the deep.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

In the old times, you know, things were figure-out-able.  The human being learned fire and cooking after hunting and shelter.  The beast could figure out everything, on up to science and writing.  Just like the first accomplishments, the doing of things was a matter of common sense, intuition, a desire to solve a related urge.  There was a large emotional element, gut instinct, the heart to keep at it and persevere, and where there was hope there was luck and spiritual insight.  Nature offered its riches, healing roots, plants with essential sustenance.  The being had a poetic sense, that the way things worked were related to how the terms regarding objects were expressed.  With ears one could hear, eyes provided sight, touch let shape be tangible, the moon and the sun followed each other in night and day, trees and plants had roots and reach, the seasons came and went, sometimes too hot, sometimes too cold, but survivable.  People gathered into friendships.  There was always the astounding inner sense of love.  A poetic term by which to approach a fact of life and the world allowed progress in understanding.  People started writing and then came along the book in all its history and story.

And then, somehow, things got complicated.  What was once natural, the therapeutic effect of a gathering with friends and some acquaintances and even strangers, became controlled, licensed, legally controlled, codified into proper behavior, particularly if you wanted to make a living at it, being a therapist, let's say.  What was once teaching, that younger people sat in a room and listened to someone with some mastery of a subject, advanced to the point where those with the highest credential of their professions were advanced without the slightest regard for actual teaching.  The literary world advanced the same way, along with so many other professions, that there became such a gap between the actual doing of a thing--which of course was a natural thing for the spiritual creature born in godly image and ability and reach--and the profession--which preserved itself ever forward--grew large enough, so as to squash anyone with the original desire to go about figuring things out as given to by innate talent.

Einstein was the 'certified ink-pisser' clerk, and the professional physicist was happy serving the state through the invention of poison gas as a weapon and even personally observing its first implementation on the behalf of nationalism on the battlefields of carnage.

And all along, the being carried within the miracle of its creation all the beauty, all the wisdom, all the sanctity, all the gifts and abilities of the Buddha and Jesus Christ and other such luminaries you might name whether or not they have been obscured in normal human memory.



The barman gets to the end of his week, each night a service to humanity, allowing people to generally stay around as was reasonable.  There was the delivery of dinner to pay the bills of a restaurant, and then the attending to the social gathering that enhanced its regular business.  He gets up at four without a lot of enthusiasm.  It was probably about twelve hours earlier that he made it finally home after the last gathering after an arduous night of service.  Having no friends outside of the drinkers and diners who come and hang about, no life, no dates, no woman to go home to, nothing in particular to rise up and tend to the next morning as most everyone would have a day job to go to, some with more leeway than others, and being generally good at heart, if a little bit sad, in need of friendship, yeah, the pattern was well established.

And the day after the week, or really every day, the same thing from the past would come upon him at waking and haunt him, even if he meditated his way above it into some form of thoughtless mental space, that space the creature still preserved and kept, even if it made no sense in terms of the bombardment of messages from the modern world.  That space the creature still preserved and kept, the place of some peace, acceptance, perhaps a newer sense of perspective, one that would not make the coming day an entire waste, allowing him to move forward, even if moving forward was itself completely instinctive, not of any thinking for true practical matters, such as, to bore you, thinking about matters of income, etc.   A yoga pose, the lighting of an incense stick underneath the Norfolk Monkey Puzzle tree on top of the radiator by the window sill next to the Tibetan Buddha statue and other various icons and a do-dad or two, the finding of some 'healing chakra' or 'Indian background flute' music, this seemed like progress.  It brought peace, and the green tea, the quiet, the water with lemon before solid breakfast--just in case he was going to do some yoga--cleaned out the system of what it had endured into the night before, which involved, of course, a numbing of the nerves.

But why had he fallen into such a mess...  Had he shown any integrity as he sought out the resolution of his own higher education, which, by a process that seemed natural enough, forced his hand into being his own kind of writer with his own style (as might have been natural to the original creature allowed such opportunity)...  Why had things turned out so agonizingly with the beautiful girl of, what seemed to him, a matching female spirit full of her natural gifts toward words and everything else with cleverness and passionate ease...  As if at every turn the step forward was somehow sabotaged, self-based, by the insecurity of youth, by his own general stupidity, by misunderstanding, by not calling that first Easter night after being sort of waylaid by his grandfather...  And ever there was the intuition that she could like him just as much as he liked her, but that negative educational experiences and the neglect that marks the serious profession of college professors had made him feel a bit darker than he needed to be, wary, less cooperative, all in ways he could not control.

And so it all had come about, and each event being a microcosm of that gulf that falls, a collective schizophrenia, words not matched to the deeper wish, between the natural human intent and all its desires and the polite construing of things that something located in the rules of a society and its business functions insists upon.

But he had the old blood in him, and could not make, neatly, such easy jumps as everyone else seemed quite capable of.  He found himself rather alone.

What do you know, the voice of modern reasons tells him.  Good luck with your yoga mediations.

What direction do you go in?  What direction is there?


"Maybe you've worn out your salon, my friend.  High time to think of your future."


But that's the problem:  we all have the subconscious that we were given, that was made for us.  Whatever that subconscious is, it is a gift, a thing passed down by rare and sensitive beings who represented the good, if not the best, of education.   Jesus as a youth strikes one as comfortable with the developed depths of his own;  standing on the steps of the Temple, he is not haranguing, but simply has a grasp, a grasp of that which is at the center, the underpinnings, to which all the  top structure and texts are in silent alignment and agreement therewith.  As a kid does sometimes.  Being freer to express an innocent opinion without shame, as the grown writer might feel some sort of awkwardness 'putting things out there.'

So it is that the world, the city, the avenue with its shops, that is a projection of the typical Madison Avenue subconscious might be different from that of the individual.  Hunter S. Thompson's projected subconscious was a lot different from Nixon's or J. Edgar Hoover's, certainly a departure from the mainstream.  Jimi Hendrix's 'she slams the door in his drunken face, he cries oh girl you must be mad, whatever happened to the sweet love you and me had, and tears of burning shame streaming down his face make his garden green;  and so castles made of sand melts (sic) into the sea, eventually,' is different from the top forty norm, as might be gathered from the sort of Vedic Buddhist album cover.  Kerouac, you'd say the same of.   You and I see the commercial subconscious projected along the avenue, but it runs deeper than that.

Maybe a salon isn't the worst thing, at least for those of us who find ourselves out of synch, at loose ends.  Perhaps that's why some of us fall into the Hemingway model, of needing action and contact, but then need that bridge back to the calming center, words offering a way of contact with the depths. The words ease the isolation, the sense of having a different take, of being nervous enough to be odd, not sure where to participate, unsure of the meaning of any human contact, as the earliest ones may well too have been wary of, prone to be on guard about.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Typical guy who ends up working in a  restaurant as a bartender.  A sort of Dickens type character, not quite the drunk Sydney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities is, but more a fuck-up.  Perhaps a stubborn artist, like an unknown Beethoven at what he does, kept in shadow obscurity and night shift.  No girlfriend, which must mean something about him, some flaw, but perhaps for being somewhat like Sam Clemens was, fond of exactly the kind of base things a proper wife cringes at and edits out, amazing she puts up with him.  And, yes, like Arjuna, from the great meaningful tale of The Bhagavad Gita, not knowing what to do with himself a lot of the time.  But he still shows up for work.

A history of the Monday Jazz Nights leading up to the food critic's visit puts the bartender in a bad mood.  M, the waiter, who is good at pretending he doesn't know he's working upstairs, doesn't even bother to pretend to help set up.  José, the busboy, push all the low teak tables around into place, get the tables set up, while the downstairs guys fuss over a fork slightly out of line.  The bartender drags up the night's supplies from the basement.  No one stocks mineral water anymore.  And then the next Monday, M., I'm told as I get there, won't be coming in, closing on a house.  Great.    J, back from his travels, I'll help you set up, I'll float upstairs and down.   Great.  And then the night itself.   The band pulls up to the curb just as I get in...  Of course, help the old guy, Hod O'Brien...  Lug the heavy Roland keyboard up the stairs, and already there are people in my hair.  Hod sits down on the couch, on bare cushions, as I put the red cloth seat covers through the washing machine.  The busboy has his stuff to do.  Again, no one to help me.  V comes upstairs, goes into the wine room to lay on her stomach perfectly relaxed staring into some loud gibberish on her iPhone.  No help at all.