Thursday, December 14, 2017

fictional sketches from the dying gaul restaurant & bar

Sunday, very very busy.  Three parties of two at the bar, all of them regulars.  Two ladies, also regulars, at the high tables, and then at 6:30, a five top, two four tops, and my brother and his wife coming.  That's when I'm sent some help, in form of a waiter who never works upstairs.  No help setting up.  S. cannot see very well out of one eye, has had various accidents, a good hearted fellow, struggles to find things like spoons and check presenters in the dark.  He seems unfamiliar with the procedure of stacking up the dirty plates in imperfect fashion for the busboy to bring them back down to the kitchen later.  He knows not the routine, barely how bread and butter happens up here at the wine bar.  The two servers downstairs are busy.  The walkie talkie telling us to pick up plates of food from the kitchen is ringing off the hook.  Server A wants server S to come back downstairs, but it is very busy up here too.  The busser comes up toward the end of the night, throws a huge pile of dirty dishes and silverware in the heavy plastic grey bus tub, and heads back to the kitchen.  On top of everything, there is a pending visit from a veteran server, the bar guy everyone knows and asks about, the guy who went off to Brazil to World Cup, travelled South America, came back, had a shitty time in DC, moved to Denver, and still they always ask about him.

Monday, big party from the local university, coming in right at opening, prepped with all kinds of back-up, cases of wine, one white, an Alsace pinot blanc, one red, a Cotes du Rhone.   Not many cocktails, but a quick response dance behind the bar.  By seven thirty, the door having been open for two hours, it feels like it might be hours later.  A group of fifty, pleasant, easy-going, local academics.  Tuesday, a party of eighteen back in the wine room, tightly packed, at 7.  My help arrives late, about 6.  I do not envy at all what he has to deal with.  I've scrambled to set-up, was there late, to get the wine lined up, plus on top of that, the wine tasting, a grenache gris from the Pays De L'Herault, a 2008, toward the end of it's wine life, and I think most of it will be headed to the kitchen for cooking.  And again, at the end of the night, a lot of glassware, a shared busboy, and another big job of restocking.

The last night, a private party of 16 back in the room, with Chablis and Bordeaux to stock, and on top of that, jazz night with the most popular performers, IFC, World Bank kind of a crowd.  Reservations include three at the bar, leaving four seats to play with.

At the beginning of that final night of the week, the party set-up for, the final countdown to the door opening.  Tying the tie, brushing the teeth, fixing my collar, and as I come out of the restroom, at 5:27, there are people in the bar, six for drinks.  My help, not in work clothes, goes back to the restroom or the office to change into work clothes, now at 5:30.  I look around.  I am tired.  The party is two or three so far, now four.  Okay, I guess it falls on me to actually wait on them, so I go over there, gentlemen, what can I get you.  There are some familiar faces from the academic party.  Okay, two pinot blanc, a belvedere and cranberry, a glass of red rhone.  There are two ladies seated now at the bar, wanting to talk to me, neighborhood, regulars, odd.  And then the party starts to show up at the bar.  My other helper tonight comes, finally, goes back to the office to dress up, comes back behind the bar to eat some bread in the corner and talk with the busboy, and then she is looking at her cell phone, sending a text.  The party of six, seated, is beginning to come up to the bar to ask for more drinks.

Finally, F, who is dressed now, engages.  Are there specials, could someone get the specials? I ask.  (The specials, specialties du chef are printed out on a piece of paper, soup du jour, two entrees, options of vegetable, counts of menu items that could well run-out, the dessert special.) Fire the appetizers, F announces to me, curtly.  I look at him.  He could do it as easily as I could.  Okay...  The six top is coming up to the bar to ask for drinks directly.  They come up amidst the people showing up now for the big party.  I have to ask a woman which party she is with.  What table, F seems unclear.  Table 54!  I exclaim, raising my voice in irritation.  F:  "You don't have to be rude about it."  Sorry...  Yes, I shouldn't have yelled at the poor guy.  But it has been a frustrating week.  5:30 is 5:30.  Two out of four nights left to wonder who will be helping me out, and when, on obviously busy nights, doing set-up by myself, the other two nights either late the night before setting up, lining up the wine for big parties, and things in general, lots to do, lots to fret about.

A five top reservation winds up being a disorganized party of two.  One a great friend of the chef, whose wine we are obliged to comp, even if she wants to be seated both at the bar and at a table.  "We Love You," she sings out, to the musicians.  I am, after all that, not in a chatty mood, the whole night.  Particularly after not finding much help to begin with, my support staff milling about, wanting to chat.

At the end of the night, helper number 2, A starts poking me...  She helped me out Monday night. But she is obviously siding with the kid tonight;  I'm the bad guy.  I am the bartender, after all.  I should not necessarily expect any help to be on time to help me out right at 5:30 when the door opens.  And then she gets psychological with me.  T, if you're not happy with your life, it is your own responsibility to change it.  Are you seeing a therapist still?  What you get out of life is what you put into it.  If you do not give love out, you will not receive any in return.  Life is a mirror of what you give out...  She continues to look at me out of the corner of her eye.  I don't really need this at the end of the night.  I find this all somehow insulting, particularly after the friendship and engagement I've given here at the old Gaul in the last fourteen years, opening the world of French wine to people young and old, which she has dismissed, quickly, in her little diatribe, as "giving out free drinks."  And what am I left to do, but sort of nod politely.  Okay, thank you, you make a good point...  There is no way to win any argument with her and her made-up Russian mind, anyway.  No point contradicting her, as she will simply counter with another observation, as she is hitting me now with them, one after another.  Her mind is made up.  I'm the bad guy, and this view she is spreading.  You would be happier if you ate more carbs and sugar, she tells me.  Ha ha.  She shares chocolate dessert with the busboy.  She means well, I suppose.

But there she is, eyeing me, as if she's not watching, but wanting to watch.  Creepy.  Manipulative.  Pointed.  As if a spy, interrogating, to get information.  Earlier, the other manager, generally a friend, has asked me if I want to participate in Secret Santa this year.  I demure, explain that I, like Keith Richards, don't like to schedule anything before 3PM.  Are you going to come to the staff holiday party?  I shrug, dunno.  But again, there is the attempt to ascertain if there is loyalty on my part, necessary to my continued employment, more or less, my good terms with the rest of the front of the house staff, as well as go to any particular event.  A is party to the intelligence gathering.

Actually, I find her sentiments more than slightly insulting.  There is something about it that takes no consideration into the artistic spirit, the whole sense of creativity and the spirit of entertainment as such.  She watches me out of the corner of her eye, surreptitiously, as if wanting something out of me, as if I were to finally confess something, as if I were to break down, and I do not like this look, this studying of me.  Before you accuse me, better look at your self... as the song says.  "Russians are slaves," I remember my old friend Pani Korbonska telling me in confidence.  Maybe I am sensitive, I don't know.  Maybe I am bitter, from life experience.  I don't know.  But I don't think I've done anything terribly wrong here at work, in fact, a fair amount of good, though that is always tainted by the bullshit that will always happen in barrooms where people are freed up by the drink to talk a bit of bullshit.

Kerouac was a bit extra happy when he brought the scroll in to Bob Giroux, and Giroux and his office could not have helped but look at him like he was a bit of a madman, rejecting him and his crazy-looking manuscript, and then, seeing all this in his own eyes, Kerouac picked up the scroll (one would imagine), looked at them (one would imagine), and declared, "you have offended the holy spirit," and walked out.

At some point the boss came by, and asked me if everything was okay.  I'd seen him talking to the kid earlier from a distance.   Who he listens to sometimes mystifies me, but he seems an even judge, so I do not worry too much.  He approaches me later, as the night calms down, as the dust settles.  "Yeah, the last few nights have been hard."  He expresses surprise, incredulous, as if no extra effort had been required, as if no big deal.  "Busy is good," he replies.  I don't expect much out of him.  He's good when you go on a hike with him, but otherwise, do your job as a professional, fine.   Yes, busy is good.  It's not necessary at all for him to be there when the door opens, and he works hard enough, but sometimes I wish he was there.  To see.  Because then I think he could be a better judge about who is being professional and who is being less so.

I am tired.  I find the movements of people not pleased with their seating on Jazz Night irritating, tiresome.  I've worked pretty hard for four straight nights.  Yes, the visit from old Jay back from Colorado, staying late to talk over a beer at the end of the first night of the workweek later than needed be, particularly after the frustration of help unaccustomed to the bar, did not help.  Nor did the cold.  When you're tired, talking with people at the bar, chitchat, particularly when the holidays are looming, is a bit hard.

I get back from it all, quite irritated and down.  Who knows, maybe A is right.  Maybe I really am unhappy, a kind of Scrooge...

Monday, December 4, 2017

I guess it's just completely natural that an author and the barman would be one and the same.  No one listens to either.  Intelligence obscured.  Too quiet to talk much.  Too much the careful facilitator of language's flow, the curated conversation that allows the guest to say more than the server.  Both allow the inner workings of the mind to remain secretive, behind the screen of a largely scripted exchange.

The great problem--particularly to the polite circles of a city's pecking order--is the natural super intelligence of the creature, the incredible capacity for skill in all things, really the very excesses of the abilities of the human being, and that this creature is stuck, just so, in the modern world that gives far more credit to the expediency of the machine than to all this native genius.  Sad.  Mired in politics on all levels.

Within the creature is the cave painter, The Beatles, the evolved monkey dog with a seal's personality and the dolphin's, who if left at a typewriter would indeed write all the great novels if you gave him long enough, indeed as if by sheer random mathematical rule.  Stuck in the zoo of modern life, to be ogled and prodded.



Is mom's cell phone working?  I've left three messages...

She seems to have misplaced it.

She needs it to travel.  Try find your iPhone.

She doesn't know her apple password.

You can do it remotely.  Her laptop is probably signed in...

Uh, remind me, is it under applications?

Go to apple.com.  Look it up!




Mom:  You should have joined a monastery six months ago...



Sunday, December 3, 2017

Off to the kiddie birthday party.  The week starts.

There is a fair amount of anguish getting ready for a Saturday night, in the world of barmen.  Profound worries about getting set up.  The guy the night before did such a job of restocking that I bring up a milk crate full of wine bottles, a six of soda water, two sixes of beer, a round of citrus fruit, and then come to find out he did nothing to set up the wines of the week, there on the top of the page of wines by the glass offered.   This pisses you off.  And then the kid you're working with is a no show until ten minutes before the door opens.  Physical therapy, he explains.  You could have let me know.  The door opens, and boom, there are people, and the person with the phone is filling the tables with last minute reservations.  An old girlfriend is expected to come by with her people, and you've just come from a kiddie birthday party, a fifth at a Mexican restaurant, upstairs, with balloons and such, and for the barman being around Georgetown parents and their kids is a bit like being around dinosaurs, foreign, and inexplicable.  The parents handle it all with aplomb.  And I gotta go to work soon enough, after I help family lug home the load of presents...

Visiting a kid in her own space, listening to them, you might begin to wonder, in terms of the pieces of your own psychological puzzle.  Whereas you yourself have always prided yourself on being a nice guy, in your family's whole sometimes painful tradition of being gentle and kind, educators through and through, perhaps that very successful at the city and the professional world isn't all that sensitive, all that kind, all that generously open to the world of others.  A charmer, sure, able to turn it on at will, when need be, but otherwise, not that very demonstrative when it comes to sustained generosity of spirit.

Well, as we all know, nice guys finish last.  Right?

But then you begin to see that set-up, the dynamic.  Pretty much working on you your whole life.  The time he used your new leather gloves to wipe off the door sill of his new car at Christmastime, don't get any shit in here (that kind of stuff of wintertime up north, salt, road grit from the Mass Pike.)  A looking after his needs, but not yours, the strategic put-down...


Of course you love him, in the deepest way possible.  As a brother, of your parents flesh, with whom you've lived on, your whole life.  The pioneer, the leader, the one kind to you enough, generously letting you tag along.  The one able to get the neighbor girl to pull down her pants, the one who built the great tree houses, the dynamic one, the leader.  Brotherly love is as deep as you get, coming out of the Big Bang.  Jack and Bobby.  No words need be spoken.

The stern Irish cop, well-humored enough, will come out, reminding one of his own most idiotic tendencies...  He's right about you, in general, often enough, and you have your own deeper idiocy and states of poverty in affairs, and he could go at you much much worse, indeed, he is tolerant, turning the other cheek...  But for the kindness little brother must have as a compensation to his head-strong rudeness to keep fellow humanity at bay.  Big brother, the Mafia don, younger brother, the priest, gently taking care of aging mother.

Your own almost perverse kindness, the deferential humbling quality that colors personalities so fortunate to harbor such instincts....  Your own moral stance in life, God help you...


After he wrote, there in the sunlight on the back deck, laptop propped up so that he could write sitting on the old teak bench of his father's garden, he looked down at his bones, his fine wrists, light as air, covered with a gentle forest of golden hair.  Tumeric water with lime, a can of soda water.  The workweek had started.  When his guts had straightened out from rising and hydrating, he would take the rest of his vitamins, and prepare to go to work.   The anguish of starting the workweek, at least that was done and over.  And he'd gotten up at a reasonable hour, more or less, out into the December daylight, the vital dose of nature, Vitamin D...

Well, Jesus, that explains a lot.

Once you start writing, which yes, is brave, people are right about that, insights come, first in flickers, in dumb animal movement toward a light.  The first lines lead to insights, which lead to other  insights, sometimes each deeper than the last.

And so he pondered, yes, this was why he was attracted to meanness, thought it normal, this was why he acted as if kindness from other people was a rare and seldom thing.  This was why here at the flickerings of the prime of his life, supplemented by Chinese herbs and medications to keep the mood calm and positive, he was sprinkling a bit of cornstarch onto the pink rubbery artificial vagina of his Fleshlight to keep it "realistically flesh-like and supple," not tacking as old rubber gets.  A dose of liquid Immodium to protect the first travels of the day.  After the shower, returning to his thoughts.

Women do not have to be kind to you, not initially, but there are ways to read them.  His instincts had always been good, but it was as if he were handicapped in some strange but crucial way, thus the ironies of his life, love life being far too ambitious a term, alas.

It would explain, he thought, as he zombie-like gathered himself for work, the checklist, making a sandwich of gluten free bread and roast beef from the Safeway, socks, a shirt, the tendency to insulate himself, by various means, from other people in general, or why he sometimes took to the wine bottle alone at the end of a shift, to calm the beastie...  No wonder encounters with people in general made him nervous...

Yet, people told him, at work, that he had excellent people skills, that he should consider being an actor, and inside he would say, yes, I am an actor... many talents, but how to use them.  Quisote and Hemingway's old man of the sea were figures of noble defeat, there was precedence in literature for that.

Where do the broken-hearted go--off to live out country songs and Hank Williams and the heartbreak that every Irishman knows is his inheritance...

Maybe he needed a puppy dog, or a prostitute.  One of those lifelike sex-dolls made in Barcelona that cost thousands of dollars he'd come across through an article on Vice.com....

Friday, December 1, 2017

It was a bit like a traveling concession.  People were mobile back then.  A little spiritual talk, followed up by a little sustenance for the crowd.  A lot of talk about fish, fishermen, bread, vineyard, fruit of the tree, grain...  Jesus would give a talk, and then the loaves and the fishes, each in keeping with the other, each bringing the point of the other home.

The nearest approximation to him, a sort of barman.  There were no fixed places for such, beyond the innkeeper of the Good Samaritan story, those kind of places.  If a stable would do, any other place would do just fine too.  And that''s perhaps why he sounds like a bartender about to retire, take this wine, it's my blood, believe me;  take this bread, it is my body, believe me...  I'm done.  That's my last shift.

They weren't so scheduled back then to be tied down to shifts or to a particular establishment.  Jesus, Sunday through Wednesday, 4:30 to close.

Somewhere along the line the job sort of got downgraded.  Hey, could I get a martini, olives, please.  The scholarly scholar's son got stuck behind a bar, less the doling out of miraculous wisdom, more the grunt work of trade, an employee, the boss's bottom line in mind, that's how it works.  Even the strongest of unions will never bring that back, the job as it was in the original.  And again, people, for all their claims of great mobility, are really more settled down than ever, stuck where they are, commuting in from the suburbs, bound to make anyone bitter and unimaginative, to say nothing of being needy and maybe even thirsty.  Not like you're pulling up somewhere with your flock of sheep or your herd of swine.  Too practical and humorless a world for that.  Sheep and pigs come via the supermarket, as does whatever prophecy the world would allow these days, in form of The National Inquirer, or People, or laundry detergent.
Yeah...  I had a history of drinking.  In a solitary way, sometimes, or sometimes just too much.  Tending bar some of us find a lot to be on top of, and so, well, I'd get stressed out, and then I'd feel like I needed something to calm my nerves.

Oh, sure, I'm not one to discount certain modes of Irish creativity, but they should happen in company, not alone.  Well, of course, practicing an instrument enough, trying out a singing voice, that's something that has to be done in private, but...

In the frustrations and nervous things of life, three quarters of a bottle of Beaujolais, twelve percent in alcohol, it seemed to me to calm the beast.  But then, you know, it begins to take a toll on the mind, on your nutrition, on your mood.  I must emphasize the apparent difficulty of my job as it seemed to me, and how the wine began in a healthy way, a social half a drink with last of the customers, when the night was pretty well packed up.  The busboy would come up and jostle me in my space as he swept and grabbed all the things he wanted to take downstairs to be cleaned and sorted and put away in the kitchen, the laundry bin and the trash, and that I found nerve-racking, an invasion, and it was easier to just go around to the other side of the bar until all his sound and fury had absented itself.

Now I am not a good writer, not by any means.  A sketcher of half-baked formless half connected thoughts.  Again, simply a writer's notebook.  An unguarded attempt to get a few more words out of the richer than one thinks out of the hidden inner ecosystem of biological thinking, memory, dreams, impressions, loose thoughts emboldened by some basic need of self-entertainment, spending too much time alone.


But I will say that given the state of journalism needing to pander to the market forces of the algorithms of powers that be of social media traffic, I found it not an unpleasant to be, writing pieces that would never fit in to the slightest form of a promotable readership.    Writing is free, giving it away is free, and I do not care much beyond all that.  I paid for it in other ways, that lack of financial return, by tending bar, by having a sort of odd life, that sort of thing.

But I will also tell you, that when anyone takes it upon himself to harness the practicality of market forces, of being shrewd enough to write something that in anyway pleases the beasts of marketplace self-interest, whatever will be gained is irretrievable lost in basic underlying truth and sensitivity to the human condition.  The corporate sensibility, the one that doles out all the rewards there to be had in the great pie, will never be true to the human soul.  Bottom line.   The old camel through the eye of the needle rich man rule of The Gospels, always vigilant upon the truths of our deepest intentions.

Humans, of course, we are selfish.  I suppose we must be.  That's just logic, right?  Can't end up with nowhere to lay your head like Old Jesus, can you now, it would be neglectful and irresponsible to your own family, first of all, you don't want to end up like that.

And thus one hopes that art is the final untouchable realm, that will never respond to the number of clicks you get on the web traffic counter scale...  Art is the spiritual thing.

Attempts to make a living in the hospitality business were problematic, and perhaps that meant I needed to refine my thinking...


Do you have to go through the whole process of being scapegoated in order to appreciate all this?  Does the Christian tradition go just a step farther in offering a vision of a scapegoat who gets a second chance, at least a sketch of what that might be like?
The machine does not, can never, have chakras.  It can never have bodily physical form, at least that it can know about.  The machine will never have the balancing sense of psychic awareness, of nervous sensitivity, of the energy through the spine and nervous system, a sense of touch and feeling.  It will never have the balancing seven judges of the energy centers located along the spine from tailbone upward through the center of the brain's own consciousness.  There can never be the sense of growth, of maturing adjustment to changes within and without.

Watching a cat clean herself.  She is sitting up straight, her spine twisted to one side, her head down, licking her belly, one forefoot on the ground, one on her belly, balanced.  She pauses, seemingly to think, to consider.  She returns to the same spot.  And then soon she turns her head elsewhere, higher up, closer to her chest, bobbing her head.  How does the cat know what to do, I think as I do some yoga, testing each pose by berating through each of the chakra energy centers, as if the leg muscles and the spine were posing questions to each chakra, how far to stretch, how to hold the body, going further with each breath into the pose's stretch.  Into plow pose.  Aligning warrior poses.  Let the body relax into the chakra's scale of seven or eight.  The body knows what to do, when the questions are posed through each center from the base of the spine to the top of the head.  The body knows how to balance itself, how to support itself.

Who taught the yogi how to do yoga?  Who taught the caught how to wash herself and stretch?  The balance is within, found in relaxing into balance as much as anything.



On one side of the question, there are the difficulties those of us who sense mental illnesses within must go through, like the strangeness of the employment that we can deal with, as they are careers (if they are such) of compensation, of a provision of allowance for the difficulties of the mentally ill.

On the other side, the other end of the scale, there is the sentiment of Jesus, lamenting how long he must put up with this perverse and faithless generation.  And maybe he too, these days, would be taken as a person with mental illness, as he may well have been in his day, given the stories, like the one where he speaks in the synagogue and then taken to be thrown off a cliff, in the end getting off safe by "walking through their midst" unharmed.


I must now examine my own habits, and so it is a good thing to do yoga, to get out into the sun with yoga mat, consulting the chakras, stretching the spine out, putting the muscles through the light paces of the basic vocabulary of poses.

Returning to work, after a week up with mom, I am good about avoiding drinking alone when I get in.  Off to bed.  Get up at a reasonable hour, get the body out into the sunlight.  Up at mom's, in the quiet, I notice how the liberation of wine leads to those agonized thoughts somewhere in the night, all the mistakes you made, being an idiot, back in college.  The escapist pleasure of wine inevitably leads to the depression and thoughts of regret.  I plead to somehow exorcise these old demons, of the worst memories when you could have, should have, would have.  One slight tick of difference, one less degree of neurotic reaction, one less degree of being in one's own head, and you would have had that greatest pleasure of all, sexual love with a beautiful woman you cared about, found quick, sharp, pretty, hilarious, feisty, a good buddy down to that base level the intuition senses.  The mistakes you made, against the chakra good sense, shameful...


How do you admit to yourself that you've been wrong, that you have lived in such a way as to stress yourself out...  In my case, a juvenile aping foolish things and the egotistical glamour of drinking.


The first day off, having gotten up easily and early, I get out and do the yoga again, mat laid out upon the flat field stones of the garden.  Laundry, organizing, folding the clothes strewn about chairs and on top of dressers.  A rearranging of the living room, putting like things with like things.  Lunch.  More work, and then down to Glen's Market with my little list, doing my best.  There is a fire pit patio arrangement sort of thing, surrounded by benches, and so I go and sit down with my grocery bag and a tumbler of water.  Peering into my phone, google news, I see there has been an earthquake locally.  Did anyone else feel it?  And this starts some nice conversation with pretty young women.  They happen to be school teachers.  One went to college in Maine.  They are friendly, in a way that almost surprises me.  It's a nice chat.  I tell them the truth, as I know it, a nice back and forth.  They are having a couple of beers, talking, facing each other, with a little friendly dog.  I go get a glass of wine.

It'd be nice to stay out on a Thursday night, when people are in friendly undistracted moods and modes, but I'm cold from being out a bit too long, and I walk back home as a light rain starts to fall, and I gotta cook dinner anyway.  Burger with onions, broccoli.  And I'm not going to start drinking by myself all alone.  Feeling the chill, a documentary about John Coltrane comes on WHUT Howard University public television, which fits the bill perfectly.  And then from a nap, I go off to bed.


Saturday, November 18, 2017

I could not understand where the shyness came from.  I liked that I had a place to go where I was comfortable, but going out for me was fraught with peril.  Going out after the last night of the work week to the Beaujolais Nouveau party at BDC was a mistake (not that it did not have pleasant moments.)  Where does one belong in this world.

But I began to find that the shyness came from the words.  It came from a self-protective instinct, one that had to do with the words.  It had been a long habit of mine.  The words were not, as Hemingway once put it, vaguely, something about attempting to show something left of what once had been complete;  did he make reference of a broken piece of pottery, or a human limb, I forget.  The urge, the need, to protect something fragile and personal.

It's as if within them there are seeds.  Something to protect for a long time.  Who knows why.  Maybe because the words are serious to you, embedded into a central place within.

And without knowing it, most of the things you do, like the job you choose, the hours  you must keep, speak of being a professional, protecting the life of those words, their sanctity, their importance.  Other people might ask, why are you holding on to such things?  Forget about them.  but they were a crucial part of a garden, the dirt, the roots, the stalk, who knew...

It was all necessary to understand, if you wanted to grapple with those events, the memories of which gnaw at you in unprotected solitary moments such as waking, or alone.

The work you did could never be a professional involvement, a professional engagement, of the sort that writing professionals must embrace journalism, factual details, research and the like.  That would be an offense to the holy spirit.

People then might wonder, why would be such a job, when you could obviously doing something like that, more professionally in keeping, in their understanding, of gift and education and the like...  I'd heard that a few times.

But stubbornly, I put up with that, and just kept on, more or less content within, as long as I got a day off, a bit of protected time to allow the words and I to meet again in that mysterious open plain, a sort of agreed upon secret meeting place, a place of liberation.


I guess the thing you realize is the necessary secrecy, that sense that the words themselves cannot be violated.  Perhaps this makes it difficult for a writer to have a conversation;  the thing that most people identify with as their main topic of conversation is their job, their profession, and this is precisely what a writer must very much avoid, considering it, or rather finding it, a violation of the personal.

So there is a difference, one that goes way back, most likely to formative years, the difference between those who master the surfaces, the styles, the lingo, the gab, the show, and those who keep integral parts of you, involved deep within, not for public consumption.  Do you focus on the shell, or that within?  There seems little choice.   It's a matter of time.

And one can of course hope that the world will come round at some point, be a part of that partnership which is readership.  Like the tossing of a ball from one person to another, a reader sharing what he has read it its essence.


There is the, perhaps there will always be, the authorial balancing act.  What can the writer reveal about the deep, while remaining private.   The only real material he will ever know must come from his own self, his own experiences, his own tastes, his own style, his own encounters.  And the space he can create is done largely through creating a chamber of reflection.  The reader, by this analogy, senses the echoes, the connections, the integrity that makes the chamber a whole, but the main part its he unseen depths.  A lot goes into those depths, down the small daily acts of doing the dishes, or, as Agee does in A Death in the Family, shaving before a mirror.  This is the test of whether a piece works.

Shakespeare could somehow transfer, translate, and do all sorts of math.  But ultimately he is Hamlet, a person with a very rich and personal life with words, with less of a gift to make the clean decisions that those who live on surfaces, ignorant of the interior, do, with their power grabs, with their taking of queens and kingships, with their defense of perceived honor.   Hamlet, who remembers Yorick from childhood...

This is the pleasure of reading, to discover the essential.

And also the test of literature, for both the writer and the reader.




But the times, we have come to live in, the focus on the shallow, on the surface, so focussed, no wonder the powerful gate keeper, rather than focussed on the inner world, have behind their facade, a wealth of inappropriate behavior, particularly centered around that which is most private and unsharable.