Monday, February 11, 2019

I got back to my lair, such as it is so, after the shift, the snow falling wet, steady and hearty at first, then becoming a pelting cold rain on the wet end of sleet, and I made the mistake of heating up a few Coleman's hot dogs before going to bed, and then of course, two hours later, I am wide away suddenly, trying to digest.  Dirty dishes to do, anyway.  So, I get up, and I need a glass of wine.

I turn on Classical music, 90.9, turn the tap on to the left so that the water runs hot now, filling the rubber made tub in the stainless steel sink, commencing to wash tea cups, plates, bowls, tongues, the old silverware soaking in the bottom.   They want me out of here, soon as possible, so that they can renovate.  I do not have the funding of steady income to pay for any sort of apartment here, in DC, and so when I wake, it's stress and a timeline, and clear choices, and different voices in the mind, like that of an old girlfriend...  Yes, it's not good.  The only real option seems moving back in with Mom, up at her old university town.

So, the water is hot, the liquid soap doesn't have any SLS, sodium laurel sulfates, to crack the skin's boundaries for the sake of commercially viable soap suds, and I'm too bummed out to find, or put on, tight pink rubber dishwashing gloves that then become too hard to peel away...

And I turn to Episode Six of Ken Burns' The Civil War...  Grant.  Lee.  Seems to fit the early morning here, after the depressed night, overwhelmed with all this move stuff, and where to go.

Mom accuses me of being negative and pessimistic, self-defeating... as I explain what it would take to pay the rent around here.  I don't want to leave DC anymore than anyone else.  But.  But...

After all that, yes, I can understand, mom doesn't want me moving in.  There will be tension.  Shit or get off the pot as far as all these apartments go.  Can't you find something?

What am I doing wrong, anyway, I don't know.  Surely I should be able to afford something, right?

Grant is a special case.  That's what I have been thinking as I pour a little Beaujolais Village over freezer tray ice cubes in a tumbler, a dash of bitters to help the digestion after the rash "need to eat something," coming in the door.  Grant took to drinking out of boredom, out of missing his family, out at some awful outpost grind.  And the barman waiter does the very same thing.  He misses his family, even as he practices this hospitality to the people who come and go,


Four AM Courage.  Shelby Foote on Grant.  Wake him up at four in the morning, and he's calm and ready...

Friday, February 8, 2019

The Spiritual Life of Bartenders


Who would have, could have, been a better stand-in for Jesus?  Who else could have tasted the wisdom of the Buddha, enough to share...  than the old barman.


I had, in some ways, been stagnating.  Waiting around for the next shoe to fall...  It hadn't been a great feeling, and every day it felt awkward to to out of the house and get to work.  I felt very stupid.  We had been friends, but then it got weird.  I slunk around, avoiding.  No one likes to be told he needs to move out.



Again, as I have said, a simple life...

By all appearances I am a gluttonous man, and a wine bibber.  Few might have known my depths in the seas of the spiritual life.

It wasn't a great way to pay all the bills.  I worked because I had to.  And once I get there...I was good with it.  It was work.  It kept me occupied.


Having to move.  I wake up feeling a bit gloomy.  Can I afford it here, in DC?  Where will the money come from?

Warm ups for writing...

Collection of random thoughts.  My birthday, and I don't even feel like going out.  Want to stay in...  Need to figure out the move stuff anyway...
In my thoughts, Jesus, this person, was  much similar and related to the zen buddhist monk.  Except that there were no such monasteries or houses of teachings and learning, in his own time and place, such that he had to be involved with--and this is quite interesting--the locale, the locals, the public, the society such as it was at the time, even the particular people, people who actually existed.


Of course, people don't know what to make of him!  So, they say to themselves, uhhh, he's a...  he's a...  uhh...  he... his friends are publicans and sinful people, he likes to eat and drink, as far as we can tell, sitting round at his old communal table sort of a thing... telling stories...  That's who is, that's what he does...


So, you know... think of it.  The people around him had no formal concept, no school of cultural understanding that readily included the great high understandings of things beyond words such as a Buddha could give.  They were going about there business.  They had no idea, the limitations of words, of thought, of dualistic individualization of phenomena, such as a thinker steeped in understanding the true nature of reality, of That Which Is, they just weren't at all familiar, or used to, such discussions and the inevitable Zen character of these discussions.  They, in their normal lives, did not wish to find the verily, verily, I say unto you, the perfect conundrums of the "sound of one hand clapping," the unfixable nature of even all great personal problems, to perfect clash of "move, or stay, here or there, that job, or this job, this path or that path, these friends, or those friends,"  all of which, in some way, might be seen as to make not much of a difference, to the water steadily coming over downhill through a stream bed on its own way of time and natural paths...

Jesus, the Zen Scholar, who has no way of showing to his societal participants that he is to be a thinker of some greater context, one respected for its truth, its applicability to reality...

Jesus the Doctor, the Physician, the clear-thinking one.

Thus, his Sermons.  Which, of course, are full of Zen, full of that sense we get from the Lankavatara Sutra, the limit of words themselves... 

Do we literally take?  Or rather aren't we forced to think...  "Rich are the poor in spirit..."

Friday, February 1, 2019

I'm thinking of the classic Zen tale.  The male of the family the monk encounters is out drinking and gambling, while his family suffers the dictatorship of his disease.  The monk:  get me a nice bottle of wine, and a fish dinner.  The drunkard comes back finally, eats the entire fish, kills the whole bottle, and quite content, he passes out.  And then the next day, the drunkard wakes up, remembering nothing of the night before (the truth of Zen tales.)   Respecting the monk, the man is highly embarrassed by his own behavior.   Quit this behavior, this drinking, the monk tells him.  You must so that you will have the time to take care of your family.  The tale ends with the drunkard following the monk as he departs the town.  Five miles he walks with the monk, and then five more.  And so he is converted, no longer a reveler, no longer an abuser...


At the end of my workweek as Wednesday night jazz night the Bitter Dose Combo playing away Gypsy Swing in the corner, I swear to myself I will take it easy.  As the night draws down, my co-workers speeding up and running about and piling things upon my workspace, cleaning the glassware, the busboy running in and out so that I have to dodge him and all others, I crack open a Goose Island IPA, to soothe all this battering at the vulnerable end of the night, as I slow down, and finally get a chance to chat with the regulars, introduce them to one another, etc.  I'm going to drink ale, and not be hungover.  Beer is your friend, remember...

Finally,  everyone has left.  Including the last guy and the last conversation, the literary turn, as I sit down, finally, at the bar, and eat my dinner, a little salmon tartar, a small order of Medallion de Boeuf, with spinach, skip the mushrooms and the gruyere polenta...  and for dinner, only proper to have wine.   A lovely philosophical friend, he is, a foreign service guy, Irish and literary, and I enjoy his friends, and one, tells of how his old man went from DC 3s, or maybe it was the old 707, and, as a pilot for Pan Am, was finally forced on up to flying the 747.  That's a cockpit 80 feet or so above the tarmac, and this is confusing, when you're used to flying a manageable plane.  "Ten seats across in a row, humans weren't made to fly that way," the old man is quoted as saying.   Truly, fun with customers, including asking John, of John and Maria fame, where he gets his handsome devil pro skier turtlenecks as he is wearing underneath a neat sweater at the bar after closing a Napoleon Bas Armagnac after the tastings I've given him, Champion, being the answer...

At the end of the night there is a lot to explain.  The horse, the body, is basically high, from its long run low on air, pushed to the edge, in the same way a horse loves a good race, a chance to bust out...  There are many conversations, and these are all gems.  They represent in some ways the frustrations we have to be able to talk truth and honestly and openly in these weird days.  That Hunter Thompson enjoyed Wild Turkey is a good base hit single with the interesting older couple as I pour them a little bourbon tasting to satisfy their curiosity...  The Knob Creek, Abraham Lincoln almost drowned in it when he was seven, is the one they choose after deliberation.  It turns out they like live music.  I speak of Eric Preterre, and of Quiet Life Motel, and of the famous luthier, Craig Bumgarner, who fixed an old Larson Brothers dried out guitar out of the goodness of his heart, for we are all connected.

When they are all gone, on this cold very cold night, I change into street clothes, and take a little nappy-poo, there at the foot of the Wine Room, sleeping a good hour, then getting up, turning the lights out, heading up the Safeway, shopping, frozen gluten free pizza, hot dogs, ground beef for chili, a few odds and ends including dishwasher fluid free of Sodium Laureth Sulfates...  "You're late, my friend," Mr. Bruce tells me at check isle 7 here at 3:30 in the morning.

Finally, back to the old pad, even as I have to move out in a month, Jesus Christ, after twenty years...

And somehow, coming out of sleep to the sound of a herd of elephants above, a crew taking out the Persian rugs from upstairs for whatever reason, even as I went to sleep after quietly reading my D.T. Suzuki... after Face Time with mom at Five A.M., after a frozen pizza, I am rather strongly hungover and absolutely down and exhausted, and on top of all this, I have to move.  Yeah.  And that's a lot of books to deal with.

 The day is wasted.  I'm unable to move, and arguably, I need to move.  I'm not really able to be there to respond to my mom's texts just after noon...  I'm pretty much just trying to sleep, and I feel awful.    After being harassed out of bed by a guy who thinks he is to collect the rugs on my own old floor around 1 PM, I take to the couch, and in truth I haven't been able to sleep so well with all the noise, nor the day before with someone jackhammering the wood away to make for a new lock after the Emergency Responders came to take my good old friend away...  Finally, I guess I'm able to move around 6 PM, and to find out that mom's cell phone is out of charge...


So, the day off, no stomach for the news today, and mom not answering the phone...

My horoscope seemed to suggest  that I get out.  So I dragged myself out to Glen's Market, got a cheap bottle of Sangiovese, 12 percent, some cheese, a can of tomato sauce, just to get out of the house, maybe meet my starred soulmate, and after the checkout line I moved over the bar, a short one, and sat unobtrusively, by myself, and by law the bartender has to open the wine for you...  and I still feel like crap anyway, and no one wants to hear any of my being a barman for twenty five years, these happy little girl faces who don't need to know such things.

The horoscope suggested that I also stay close to home, alone, and chill out.


And so, and so...   I think of all the hangovers poor Mr. Anthony Bourdain must have had to suffer in his line of work.


Somewhere along the line, one concludes that even Jesus was, by our terms, a loser, a big loser...




I realize now suddenly that I have never been trained at anything.  There's no particular skill I've ever learned.  I've only taken a few writing classes.  I've never been to graduate school, I hold no higher degree.

On days off, it seems like I really don't have any friends...  My co-workers seem estranged from me, not knowing what to do, critical of me and my ease and friendship with the regular customers, the fault of having personality in our times, as they go about business.   Why stay late, talking with friends about the differences between the attitude down in Jamaica and here...

To go out and have friends is a thing of money and commerce, activity.  Only a loner would be attracted to writing...


I thought the faculty at Amherst was a bit hard on me.  Ungenerous.  Commager, Townsend, Sofield.  I grew quiet.  It was a time of upheaval anyway, and I became too sensitive, isolated in the lone poet myth...


No excuse for my lack of engagement, lack of a profession, lack of economic means...  all of which make a person isolated.  I blame the job for lack of energy...

And not doing myself any favors not being involved in this economy...

Too much to do here just keeping up...

Now I am back to writer mode.


Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Rough draft of rough thought


Of course, we are to learn lessons from holy and wise people, the Buddha...  Jesus Christ, Abraham, Moses...

But our first awareness of Jesus the teacher includes his death, a harsh one.  As soon as we know of Christmas morning, we must know of the Cross.  The great teacher, who knows the workings of the entire universe, and then his suffering death...  Who would want to follow that as an example, in this world of living and societies we cannot always control...

Why cannot the story come to a happy human end, a wife, a family...  safe peace and recognition... friends...


The disciples, the holy Last Supper, tokens of the range, the variety of individual human beings, as you'll find in almost any barroom.  Judas?  There's one in every crowd, thinking himself the smartest, the best.

And Jesus is the nicest of guys, as far as caring about us and all of humanity.  Sure, he might come off as a little passive, a little removed.  Why hate him for that?

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Unfortunately,
the particles within us
do not wish to be defined.
By their nature
they prefer to remain
as clouds,
clouds of probability,
clouds of possibility.
These particles do not wish to be captured.
And if one is, a sympathetic ones comes
from far away, to share defining.
Particles are shy.
And this is the battle we face our whole lives,
to remain, the cloud of possibility, elusive,
undefined, free, invisible, not singled out,
that or to step toward the definition,
all the filters that say in polite society,
who are you, what are you, what is it that you do.

The monk is a realist, obeys, accepts
the nature of particles as they are,
sitting in meditation, not causing any harm,
true to the nature of deep reality.