Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Therapy sketch:

So last time we talked about values.

There are two sides to them, during courtship, definitely.   One side with integrity, but the other must not be so honest, perhaps even lying as she considers and judges a potential mate.  There will be some extremely mixed messages, a swing between poles.  And the male has to simply hold on, stay optimistic and eventually win his way back to her after the initial encounter.  Or, he doesn't, which is his fault.  She could all along have been his to lose, but, he didn't capitalize on his opportunity.  Or, he ended up not working out for her for whatever reason.  And then, if she does chose a mate, basically the old suitor she will exorcise from her realm, wiping him off the map, performing murder on his memory, on the possibility of any interaction.

Yeah, in my state after that, I did not go into the publishing world as I should have.  I didn't do anything, really.  I took whatever job came my way, like I never even tried, never stood up for who  wanted to be or who I was or where I came from.  From the night she rebuffed him, his haircut was too short, blah blah blah, yes, I told her, it is chemistry, and I then got up... But she lingered at the party.  I got a cigarette and talked to a few regal young women a year above me, and ignored I her even as I saw her out of the corner of my eye.

Maybe it was in my genetic code, poetically speaking, some kind of old school gallant Austro Hungarian way of courtship, since outmoded, not responsive enough.  And anyway, I was realizing how complex the human creature is.  Being honorable her rebuffs stung.  I should have simply ignored them, not been such a gentleman.  Then it all began to unravel.  The rejection got to me.  But it's not his place to protest unfairness.  You go on.  Stoic.  I was a fool kid from the country.  I did not know about rejection.   I'd never experienced... well, I take that back, I had experienced it before, but not at such a professional level, ha ha ha.  Not such a gang effort as it came to be.

Kindness from the male part is not the same as courtship.  And that leaves some of us to take increasing reliance on the claim of spirituality, decent morals, realistic decency toward other beings.  All of which does not necessarily make for a great mate and protector and the most glorious of bird's nest and plumage.

I guess that's why I become a writer, seeking a redress of grievances through being a moral decent person with some integrity, and so of course, being some form of Judeo-Christian Theosophical kind Buddhist type, as a writer, that's the kind of thing for me to explore, exploring the kind of person who go wait on the lonely leper in us all.

Maybe that's just a juvenile reaction, yeah, as if all people would be kind to each other in the world.

But yeah, sure, integrity.  Of for whatever other reason I'm here.  And I think that one of the reasons why people fall into writing is because your like this guy with an older brother always looking over what you do, a stern voice telling you to not be weird, do this, don't do that, you know, kind of putting you down, and things in life are always complicated.  Because you're nice to your mom and call her a lot doesn't mean you're a momma's boy.  Because you write poetry doesn't impune anything against your manhood, quite the contrary.  And I know from these sessions, you know, anyway, that there's always the voice even in your own head, criticizing, bringing up some account, 'oh, you're worthless, a loser, people don't like you, what have you done with your life... '  And those are demons maybe even a writer has to especially battle with everyday.   Just like I pretty much every day remember her surface level put-down or the old story of 'me fucking it all up with her.'  Stuff which might be true, but which one has to move on from in order to live a fulfilling life.

And you what, I'm finding out, after I've meditated and become mindful and stilled all those voices, that... well, you can always be proud at least of being decent to other people, friendly, to all walks of life, high and low, the high need it too, even as they might look down their nose at you initially, they need kindness too.  How tough it's been, quite often, Jesus Christ, to go do that job, but that self of inner mindful clear sky consciousness would always jump up and be kind to people and engage with them as I had time to, and even if it was awkward, try to ask or express something, something like 'hey, we're human, we all share, it's good stuff, even if it's partly bar talk, sometimes full of too much gesture...'

That's what this writer learned, even with all the voices in his own head, telling him all the things that makes you down about the day and where you are and all the missing engagement in your own life, the structure of your own life stuck around the night shift rut...

You know, the last night came to end, the Pandora wasn't working on the sound system so I had to go looking for the music on the iPod in the closet there at the bar mouth, the busboy coming in and out the linebacker waiter with plates, and the bar is a bit full, nice people, kind of boisterous, a bit drunk and happy at 11:15, Bolivia, Columbia, the military hospital regular guys, one of them knocking Obama (I did not engage, even my mind), and I've played Brubeck and Toussaint, Bryan Ferry, and Roxy Music won't play, so I put on Abbey Road.  "You never give me your money...  Here Comes the Sun...  Boy, you're going to carry that weight...  And in the end, the love you take..."  All those beautiful brief sketches of songs... that seem to come out of, I dunno, somewhere, all the life experience, bunking together while they played the Hamburg strip club...  Some of it has a sort of Lennon violence, yelling in it, but it's more or less like those early songs, like "And I love her," coming back in a deeper kind of poignant form, their last album, a kind of balance before they parted.  That is art, that album.  And it stilled the beast in the barroom last night, yes it did.  "Old and magic feeling..."  "She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah, she loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah, she loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah."  What else is music for?

And today I got up early.  I didn't dwell on goddamn jazz night beating the crap out of me, no, I got up and wrote and expressed my old values, without going down that dark hole of beating myself up with mind, rehashing the past...

After the session was over and a chore of procuring animal protein and green vegetable and eggs was accomplished I walked home, and I sang to myself,  "she was a girl in a million my friend, I should have known she would win in the end...  although I look and I act like a clown, beneath this mask I am wearing a frown...  I'm a loser, I'm a loser."  Yeah, what can you do.  Go home and meditate.  When you're a younger brother, it's a bit of a habit to listen to the voices.

But I knew my mind was always a bit wilder, less tame, less of the agricultural settling of the human species, therefore smarter, not that it always does you much good to be smarter in that way, a wolf compared to a dog, a mountain lion rather than the kitty cat complacently resting by the radiator.

Creativity, the Zen Buddhist says, the height of artistic expression is selflessness.  Which we might take to mean that mindful higher consciousness that's able to look down at our thoughts and mental processes.   Saying, as Hamlet does, "these are actions that a man might play, but I have that within which passeth show.'  I have that within which passeth show.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

When I can move and get up on Sunday after the Saturday nightshift at the bar, a Lyle Lovett song is playing in my mind, "let's have a hand for that young cowboy, and wish him better luck next time, somewhere later up in Fargo, or somewhere farther down the line."  A slow start, and then, boom, the downstairs second seating is backed up, people are deciding to eat upstairs, the boss with the reservation pad and the phone in his hand is figuring out how to fit everyone in.  Drinks at the bar while your table waits.  A couple decides to sit at the bar, moving from a table too low, looks through the list, I let them taste the Bordeaux by the glass, a 2011 Cotes du Bourg, no, need more cab, gets a 2010 St. Julien.  Okay.  A tall man is hovering over me at the bar, as busboy, waiter and myself equally scramble to clear a table, reset, seat a five top of GW girls, deal with another couple, and another, get them sat and squared away, and the tall man wants "a bottle of Pinot Grigio."   Hmm, well, that's Italian, we are French, try this, a Pinot Blanc from Alsace, and here's a Muscadet;  man choses Muscadet, goes sits, gets up with date, sits in back room, no, not right either, ends up at couch, the table moved from now seated with another couple.  St. Julien, Lalande, decanted, their food ordered, then an old friend of the chef, a dentist, an Ethiopian princess, sits at bar with two equally regal friends, but unfamiliar with their new servant, I get them squared away.  He wants a light wine, a Malbec.  Okay, I pour him a Malbec.  In the midst of this our friend who came in originally on Wednesday jazz night comes back with a report on his conference and sits at mid bar.

The night scrambles on, picking up tape speed, the bar is being fed, amidst the chaos of plates which must be cleared, scraped off, then rudely stacked on milk crates under the bar's rail pours, desserts, coffees, walkie talkie beeping, pick up pick up....  Another bottle of Left Bank Bordeaux, a St. Estephe, is ordered by the gentleman of the couple, and by now, a glass for our new friend, and let's share.  The liver is excellent, the talk is good, wandering over Europe and the Middle East and graduate schools, etc.  "Don't go to Iran;  it's not a good place."  Friend reciprocates, asks me to pick out a good Bordeaux, and I chose a good value, a 2010 Cotes Du Bourg, a surprisingly good offering to a Left Bank drinker, decant that, boom boom, all good.  The evening is winding down.

Cut, fast forward to midnight, bar closing time.  Original man of couple is now hanging on, we have to go do something with our new friend, come over, lets open something from the cellar...  orders a greyhound.  Wife leaves after champagne.   Man is focussing, leaning in, wanting to buy me a drink.  I told them earlier, don't get me started, I'm an animal.  New friend chuckles.  Then the talk starts, about opening that $1600 bottle of '93 Petrus.  "Can you give me a discount, a better price," the now tipsy man is asking me.  "Call your owner."  Some time passes.  "No, I think it would be wasted on us at this hour, and we'd need to decant it anyway."  "Well, pick something else out that we should have, the best we have."   I stare at the list.  "I dunno, I'm kind of happy with my simple little glass of Beaujolais..." I mumble into the dust of the night.  Jesus Christ, can't this night just come to a clean end.  The tipsy man queries me, hunching somewhat as not to sway his vision.  Why, exactly, am I'm not opening the great wine at this past midnight hour.  Drunkenly and directly, the calculating part of his mind, he is looking directly at me.  "Why not?"  Awkwardness.  Meanwhile, "What's so good about it," conference friend is asking, then coming gallantly to my defense.  "What a good man, not pushing overpriced wine on you," he says with the right chuckle and pleased smile. Yeah, I tell them, look, it's after midnight.  I don't want to serve, the employee handbook does not allow it.

Finally I get them out the door.  Yes, we'll all have a drink up the street.  That works, except I have to go along with them, the local guide, pass the problem on to the next bar, and the guy isn't driving.  The drunkenly engaged conversation, the egos out, and I hook up with an old friend I've not seen in two years, and we have lots to chat about, and his new girlfriend is very nice.  Night comes to an end eating a burger with my conference friend, seated out in the cold wind on steps next to the old Austin Grill, the original, where I worked and tended bar a long time.  Across geography and life, I have established a kind of brotherhood with this guy, and that's cool, and as a bonus we stayed out of Good Guys.  "Hope the other guy got home okay."  "Yeah."  And then it's time, finally, for a cab ride home.  I wake up on couch in the morning, stiff, left my contacts in, socks on, as the light comes up, lye, before putting the stiff body properly under the bed covers, setting the alarm for the shift tonight.

Getting up an hour later, I muster my energy.  Ah well, what can you do.  The night ended without incident.  I do the dishes, sweep and mop the floor to a YouTube about Zen practices and tea ceremonies.  Do you wonder about your values, do I really want to be doing this, the awkward thing of keeping people in control when their judgment goes, when the night passes on into the obligations of the ritual of having engaged in conversation, wine shared, talk of the state of the world.

Taking a page from the Eckhardt Tolle playbook, I light a stick of sandalwood incense, cook some Merguez sausages under the broiler, sliced sweet potato in the oven, take a hot shower to loosen things up, a few poses of yoga and then it will be off to work, this time more with a cop mentality toward that late hour when the drunkenness comes out.

And such are the problems, in my case a habit of people-pleasing, an overextension of hospitality, a giving in to the hunger for the numbing pleasure of the drink, which itself is a facet of ego.  The ego wants more to drink, in its battle between good and bad thoughts, tending to heighten both in the perception.  Grand gestures.  And I would sometimes fall into that myself, rather than keeping my head clear so that the simple mindful consciousness that makes no judgment would continue to shine through.  And once bitten by it taste, it seems like the best option is to continue on with the exploration of an evening.

After assuaging all the bad thoughts I could come up, rehashing the past, the self-name calling, I would end the night in some form of numb state apart from the self, escaping away from the basic inner value I've always and ever meant to uphold.  That can be a hard thing to sustain sometimes, when the wolves seem at the door, to simply uphold your upright conscious fully awake and aware presence in the moment.  Things can tweak you, get you nervous.  And so, oddly, being a proponent of the light of consciousness, attempting in some way to formulate it as a profession, or part of a profession, or simply a leading voice somehow over all the choices one makes in life on a daily basis and over time, I could find myself vulnerable, alone and afraid.

The odd sense, what are you doing with your time?, you can't just sit and meditate all day, such things would prey upon my days and make me depressed, the thoughts of the mind and all its voices, and I wished to hide out and sleep through it, and often enough I wasn't much feeling for getting up out of bed anyway out of the things I'd done in the night to escape the lonesomeness.  Yeah, and in a way, I had almost worked against my values, of promoting the high consciousness and presence in the moment out of all my worries, sometimes first of all to give people good service and respect and all that stuff, bending over backwards to be their therapist, their confidante, their company in the night as they stared into cellphone screens and took things very pessimistically, humorlessly, literally, burdened by things.  And my bright natural innate conscious presence would shine over their distractions, engaging in bright conversation, a touch of self-deprecating humor.

Believe me, I know what it's like to be preyed upon by the bully in the mind, by all its demons that jump out and go "HUH!" and try to scare you as best they can.  "Buddha, Jesus, where are you, come and save me, be a model," you cry within, and then, as if like your own father's voice in yourself, the recollection that you yourself are Buddha and just need to remember it.

But the voices from the night shift before, if I were over-tolerant, and allowed things to go on too long, the voices would be transmuted next day to sit hauntingly upon my spirits.  "Oh, I shouldn't have done this, I shouldn't have done that, I was just trying to placate them all so they'd leave but that was self-defeating..."  Well, at least I was working on it, from time to time, putting the rough math together, this equals that.  As they say, respect yourself.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

My interviews with the old barman continued.

"If you ever look at pictures of Lincoln--take him as a clean-shaven lawyer in his prairie years--you can see it, the demons haunting his psyche.  The sad emotional things that would sit on his brow or somewhere behind the eyes or in the crook of his lips and the mouth behind them.  What it was, we don't know.  We can speculate.  What made it hard for him to commit to Mary?  Why did he pull away from his decision to marry her, initially?  What was it that would lay him up like that, bad weather, the time he felt like giving up on it all and they took care of him back at Speed's family home?  Was it a particular thing, a number of things, a fluke of genes and psychological tendency?  But there he was, great joke teller, great story teller, great with words, saying things precisely, a command over words, we see even before the legacy of his great oral compositions.

"I got into this line of work to support my writing.   But now I wonder at this mature age if a lot of that wasn't so much as a reaction, a reaction to things that brought me, when I thought of them, and I had trouble not thinking about them, things that brought me pain, a psychic spiritual pain, one that affected me physically.  And one which was a kind of a feedback loop.  Maybe it was in some ways healthy to keep the wound open and try to write it out, but then I guess, or rather I began to see, that to keep writing as I was, and really, I must admit, thinking of the same sad things on a daily basis, which is why I see in Lincoln's eyes and face and even deep in his stature the pain of sad things, things that cut deep, that hit you as a man where you are a man, that can really kick you in the ass, well, thinking those worn thoughts, even he used that particular term, the worn ruts of them worn threadbare and joyless--what a great sense of humor he had--those worn thoughts weren't doing me in any good.

"Maybe this is why Hemingway writes of bullfights or the artillery shell coming his way and opening up like an oven, to kind of personify or encapsulate the thousands of things that make you feel bad and fire your adrenaline with nowhere to run.  Later on in his work we see more the endurance figure, the old fisherman...

"Well, eventually, you got to step out of all that.  You got to go and find meaning, above all that.  And first maybe you have to realize something, which is that you are in pain, and that you are doing things that bring a temporary numbness, a way of escape here and there, and I was very familiar with them, and even when I did not overdo it always, or all that frequently, I drank wine to numb the pain, to medicate myself against it.

"Now mind you, I know good and well that anyone who's been through a long goddamn shift of people riding you, picking at you, you know that glass of wine is going to taste pretty good, immediately soothing.  And it will give you some energy when you're running out of it, so you can get through the last chores all cleaning up.  I'm not going to blame anyone or myself for that.  And I might say, that being poor I didn't have the funds to go out to a bar after work, as good as that might have been for a man in my circumstances, for then I could at least be around other people sort of in the same boat as myself....

"But I went to a therapist and she gave me a book and I started reading it, something about "The Happiness Trap" and "Acceptance and Commitment Therapy," and I saw that really you have to accept, more or less out of being natural, just the way we're built and survived this long as a species, that you have a lot of negative emotions.  Well, I know I did, and maybe that's the meaning I take from my own little personal view on someone like an Abraham Lincoln, someone subject to a whole lot of melancholy.  And I'd done my yoga and more importantly my meditations, where you sit in some form of the Lotus Position or Corpse Pose and let all your thoughts go and just be consciousness.  I knew about that stuff, and I more or less came to practice that, as if I knew I had to. But the book was really quite a help, to let you accept those bad feelings, the heartbreak, the sense of not knowing where my life was headed, you know, as being a barman it's always more or less get through the next month or so, which ain't a great way to live... You accept that stuff, take the step of realizing that this is your mind, your thinking mind talking, tell you a tale, and that you also have to accept such things, not try to hide, but rather expand.  That's the term the guy used.  Expand.  Take in all your pain, breathe, allow space to grow around the painful areas.  And maybe for that it helps to have that Buddhist sense of vast amounts of time, kalpas, and the subtle mind's nucleus tiny within us with all this great space all the way into the depths of space and the stars we can see, huge space.

"And maybe that brings me to think of how poor old Lincoln found, had to find, some kind of meaning in life.  Maybe in a way he found that by being expansive.  I mean, he always was, expansive over people and critters, kittens and birds, but the small maybe coincidental evidence that he thought less of pork barrel and more of the expansive notions of a nation conceived and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, which is pretty good stuff for a practical, intensely practical and calculating politician such as he was.  He could feel a lot of pain, and in his maturity he survived by expanding...  And by finding meaning.

"That's what I'm looking for now.  Meaning.  Not for the same old escapist stuff and not coming to grips with the stuff that brought me sorrow, those bad voices in the head telling me bad things that sort of compounded upon each other in the sensitive mind...

"But honestly, every time I'd go in to tend bar, every single night, I hated going in and I felt very sad, each and every time, kind of like, seriously, dragging a cross with me.  And the only way out of this, and out of my own craziness, all these thoughts and memories gnawing away at me like demons, the only out of it and to get through those shifts was to expand, to make believe, faking it, that there was this large self that could go and do that.  Unfortunately there were no real laurels, no great amount of achievements and money piled away for the poor beast that had expanded each time he fearfully went off to work.  Other than finding that this was the only way you survived, that rewarded your getting up out of bed every day.  And maybe that is what's meant by 'thou shall earn thy bread by the sweat of thy face,' come to think of it.

"Oh, all that pain.  No wonder I drank.  No wonder I felt like Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca.  Same damn thing for his character, Rick, the poor guy expanded, found a meaning, hard as that is most days."

"He was braver than I, Lincoln.  He had fortitude.  He got things done.  He didn't hole up like I did sometimes, not wanting to get up out of bed before I had to to shower and get ready for work, though part of that is the imposition of the schedule of working night shifts.  He worked on, through is pain.  Sure, he acknowledged how things went slowly for him, how he worked slowly, things taking him a long time to get;  and people would observe him staring off into space or lying on a couch reading from Shakespeare...

"I'm too much a literary guy, more an Ichabod Crane when it comes to these things.  Demons get to a chicken like me, I guess.  Too sensitive or something.  And work was at least at times a vicious cycle of not feeling good and then drinking a bottle of wine to feel better but all the while not getting to the root of the problem which was not understanding my values like I needed to, not in a grown-up way, and maybe just trying to fit in, get through one more day of the faking it.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Okay, just report what happens.

"Ali was the cousin of the prophet Mo'hamm'ed.  He was married to a daughter of the prophet, so, being son-in-law, and then not elected as the succeeding leader in a vote over five or seven, well, that's where the difference comes from, the Fifteenth Century, Sunni versus Shia.  Ali didn't get the vote, but, hey, that wasn't right, given who he was.  Or was it.  Sunni, believe in the vote, and Shia in the lineage of Ali.

"The old Sunnis under Saddam of Irag, the Baathist party, this is one side of the political reality.  The old Shias, those in Iraq, want power, so, they have Hezbollah in Lebanon.  And again, the big difference between Shia and Sunni, and this is where some of Syria comes in, or rather, the story of the Assad regime, are you following me?  Because the Assad paternal line, being of (something that sounds like) "Alowite" persuasion, a sect agreeable over the lineage of Ali believing in Ali's continuation of the prophet Mohammad's wisdom and message as opposed to, if you follow the logic, what must be the point of those Sunnis, who believe in the power of the vote...  So,  the father of Assad is, in a way, family friendly to the Shias of Iraq, and thus receives support from the important neighbor who is Iraq... There is also Turkey in the mix too.

"More of the game as it is played:  The US gives lots, lots of money to Jordan, and this is another part of it.  Jordan is perfectly happy receiving lots of US money, and it builds royal courts, and has a great time, and a lot of money disappears and the same people as the poor who are stuck in the roadblocks etc. that Israel sets up are in Jordan quite happy and for the status quo just as it is.  A lot of US tax payer dollar disappears, a lot of people live absolutely lavishly, and the poor Lebanese still are stuck. Five road blocks a day.

"Here's another important part of it all:  The Saudis, they do not care.  They spend more than a trillion on U.S. arms, so the U.S. supports their decadence.  They don't have much to do with Islam.  They'd have nothing to do with it.  Disdain those who do.  But, they don't like Iraq, the growing Islamist power in the region, and one of a particular stripe.  The Saudis like their economy and their world, and are content with their wealth, and really want nothing to do with anything beyond that.  It makes great sense that they do no like the Islamist, but, this doesn't want to make them fight, therefore having to take a stance now does it.  As if, happily, anointed, the ineffectual power of the region out of natural resources, out of what?, out of moderation, has no will to do anything.  Do the Saudis look around and wonder, what's going on around them?  Do they?

"The U.S. has spent more than one trillion on the war in Iraq."

"And then, as far as the war on terror, traveling, being on airplanes, going through customs, what's it like for, say, for someone from the Middle Eats, the general area, the sirian, when along comes the home intelligence troopers serving all of us  through the security forces of many official nations, looking for means to sustain all its employment and resources, that of course must grow and meet further projections and thus find guilty people out of the straight, vulnerable almost in particular those straight and good people who are the connective tissues of different societies, the decent, the well-educated still trying to conduct some kind of normal business.  They find something on you, some soap powder, and then you're lucky to not wake up in Guantanamo. "

In this conversation, and always a bad sign, arriving after 9:45, Dennis.  Dennis is surprisingly sober, and with a tale of giving his father's eulogy, a week and a half ago, shit.  But you'd be proud of me, T.

It has been a busy night.  It will not end easily, but, it might be interesting in some way.

"And then there's Reagan.  Reagan, who believed, contrary to the very spirit of the good American nation, that public education should not be free.  Reagan, gutting the great public university of the California system which produced so many bright and well-educated and finished people. The great actor, acting, making his statement, the act that he was 'helping the general public,' when really, as he knew quite well, he meant to benefit the eager rich who wanted more riches unto themselves, personally, more, and to hell with public education and the great raising of the public minds, which would only be dangerous to the special interests.  What a great actor he was.  And many bought into him, and still believe in him today.

"His descendants in a Milton Friedman mood privatize.  Privatize the decisions of foreign policy and war.  It will drive the economy after all.  And so, who makes money now out of war, out of any war, war on drugs, war for oil, war against supposed weapons of mass destruction during which Dick Cheney's Halliburton makes a lot of money.

"Privatize what used to be the general public good, the general welfare, all of it, education, the penal system...  Where does it stop?"

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Lord knows, thinking can hurt.

I guess I know how a dog feels.  It's wine tasting night, I'm up there by myself, and the parties come in, largely unannounced, unpredictably.  A few faces, of course, I recognize.  The shift starts hungover, as I ran out of wine as I cooked in the night and pulled out the Fernet-Branca liquer, the current shot of choice, and a decent one, of the DC service industry.  Herbs, many of them, kind of like Yaegermeister, without the annis, something like that.  I should have stuck with wine, or just gone to bed, but, the mind seemed to have needed a blank place to relax, and psychologically I am working on improving this tendency.  Anyway, a regular customer shows up with a 2005 Morey St. Denis to have with dinner at the bar and he has me try it.  The next people come in, and I mumble about the free wine tasting and the bottle discount, all of which seems to make me appear like a madman, offering something unexpected and perhaps inexplicable.  But the night goes on, and I judge how far to render my schpeil accordingly.   To offer a free wine tasting, of course, is to open a can of worms.

So the ladies come to dine, they come to catch up with each other, and I know this and try to be helpful and as unobtrusive as possible.  Would the malbec go with the curried chicken, I don't know wouldn't be my choice (New World jamminess), but here you go and here's a sip of two other wines.  I've got time, and otherwise, really, my job would be too boring and generally pathetic if I didn't take some pedagogical interest in wine and service.  Don't take it personally, I'm not trying to be too kind or anything or too friendly.

But this is the world of being a servant.  You come over to a table, stand around, try to figure out what the fuck people want or why they came here, and you hope they will at some point reveal the nature of their mysterious presence, their relaxed attitude.  One table, three sisters and a friend, I recognize the sisters, are talking about serious stuff when I approach to offer the free tasting.  I might like to talk about how Beaujolais is a beautiful place, appropriate neighbor to the gastronomic capitol Lyon, how Anthony Bourdain was seen swilling down the stuff with the great chefs there, or maybe a note about the granite soil Pinot Noir doesn't do well in, but that sort of thing is immediately rendered unnecessary and trivial when people are talking about, say, melanoma, a health issue that comes with aging.  (And a barman never really knows what kind of stuff might be going on in people, and not understood the last encounter with a man who looked puzzled and a bit out of it, not saying something, that he would soon pass away.)

But a dog, take a beautiful chocolate lab bitch, I see her look up at the table, and she wants to eat what we are eating, and she also wants to talk, to be part of the human experience, but she doesn't have the ability to make words as we know them, just a tiny bit shy of that skill.  And when I wait on people I can feel like that, like a child in an adult world, kind of like an overgrown idiot, or simply there being no bridge between my deep human realities and those of the people at any given table.

The dog wants to be with people, wants to leave with them, sit and relax and be a part of conversations and add to the experience, but by and large to do so would be vastly inappropriate.  You share what you can, you answer questions, you try to entertain, and often times in a city full of successful people there has to be a hanging question, what happened to you, what brought you here to wait on tables when you're obviously intelligent, what kind of craziness or bad choices did you fall into, or what failures amounted to the one well represented by the fact of you standing there waiting on people, because, you know, we wouldn't expect someone with brains and talent to be doing any such job, the irresponsibility of it all mounting....  Life reminds one of the Monty Python sketch of John Cleese playing "the village idiot," secretly erudite and aware behind the expectation of babbling he must put on for a passer-by.

But in a way, perhaps it was all staring me in the face, that really and truly the wine bar is a Zen temple for the modern secularized belief-free world, or it can be.  And perhaps at the core of such a truth is something often referenced and often forgotten.  To state its kernel of truth would perhaps be a kind of arrogance, and something we would find basically untenable, unbelievable.  But on a good day, for a brief shining moment, it can be repeated, he who would tend to the least of us would be the greatest, as we move into the spiritual realm, the last citadel of deep truth.  It's the highest person who would get down and wash the feet of those willing to learn.  The act stands for itself.

(But of course we live in such a world where we do not accept the practical physics of it.  For a long time leading up to the Gulf War, those in the know, DC cabdrivers, natives of the region could tell you, plainly and simply, don't go in there, it's three different countries, three different peoples, three different outlooks, and if you go and topple old Saddam, it's going to be a huge unending mess.  But, of course, there was that notion that since we are the greatest we should do something, and not see being the greatest by the spiritual light, a position full of humble duties, almost passive in nature. )

Of course, it rarely ever feels like you are aligned with the best of humanity when you are a professional waiter eking out a living of some form.  There is something, sure, plain and clean and decent about waiting on people.  Maybe it brings good karma, but at a glance it doesn't seem so wonderful a profession for personal relationships and responsible family life, no.

But if one is aligned with the deep truth, then there is not so much to fear, beyond what we all must fear, death, poor health, aging, obscurity, loneliness, anxiety, things we must deal with.  And maybe that is where the Zen comes in, that doing such  a job on a  daily basis really does lead one to understand deep stuff about how the mind must be observed, how meditation helps, that sort of a thing....

Such a circumstance speaks of the molecular goodness of the Dostoevskian, that imprisoned obscure outsider condition, the Siberian penal colony, of the odd life of a gambling writer itself, which was able to imagine that humble purity, that humble situation allowing him to observe the things he was capable of rendering.

The obscure idiot will tonight return to work, have all the feelings the dog does, wishing to engage, wanting to participate, but of course waiting on the master, wordlessly enduring, his thoughts left to himself whilst people cover the infield with talk, lots of talk, lots and lots of talk.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

I have one of the most beautiful jobs in the world.  All walks of life.  A natural way to relax, a healthy community, one without judgment.  About the highest thing you can achieve in the world, outside the classroom.  And it opens up sometimes, and reveals itself, if the topic of conversation is real enough, if the people within are being open.  The ease of conversation of disparate peoples, different walks of life sharing the community connection.  A decent bar should receive a subsidy from the adjacent three zip codes.

What happened tonight?  Who came in?  When?  New Orleans, a good topic of conversation.  David Schulman, on electric violin, Eddy on bass.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

And what is the point of these samurai movies?  What is the point of Harakiri/Sepuku of Kobayashi, the great director of that most interesting movie about life which is really about ghosts, Kwaidan?

The point of these samurai movies...  There is something here, very important, a simple point, something we cannot mess with, something we have to accept... The main guy fights in the movie, after he's lost everything, grandson, daughter, son in law, before that wife...

Is this the Toshiro Mufume guy Kurasawa will later use?

But the truth of the samurai comes through, the reality of the skill of the individual, hidden, waiting, mindful.

One sings like a meadowlark alone at night after Saturday Night Live great hits of the 80s, old Irish songs like Greenland Whale Fisheries, no problem, even well.  Songs to dance to, a whole band within, all those songs.  And yet the talent is hidden, used to maintain mindfulness.