Sunday, October 23, 2016

... But in the very nature of the business there was always something that, usually around the end of dinner service, put you over the edge, into the craving of the nervous system and the need for a quick fix of calories, and so you reached for the Beaujolais, and along came all the consequences of physiology.

The server, who would leave earlier than I anyway, was nowhere to be seen when the large party in the wine bar, who were switching seats left and right, as is their culture, wished to order to dessert and coffee.  So I took the order.  In my meantime my veal cheeks had come up, as I waited on the entrees for the last dinner order, a famous wine importer from Palm Beach with his young lady friend.  There was wine that the large party hadn't finished, and I wanted them to take the remains.  The two guys with the bottle of Ventoux at eight past ten, kitchen closing, want a charcuterie.  I order, politely, hoping the kitchen will not be angry with me, and then, I'm tweaked.  I slump in the corner over a cold merguez sausage...

The guy in the corner knows me as a friend, another couple comes in wanting wine, and I am in for it again.

I eat, veal cheeks, then up the street for a gyro to take home, and I wolf that down, the bread and the fries I try to avoid.

The cycle has been initiated...


Monday, October 3, 2016

The type A senior economist and the type B expert in matters of the world as it is, holes in the walls to go to in Sardinia and Corsica, have left, and that leaves three, and knowing them, I ask, or say, as they have empathy, I bet you have type O blood.  And they nod, and say, yes, they do.  "why?"  Oh, just a hunch.

They look at me, and I say, well...  And I think of John F. Kennedy, and other things about how a person might go about conducting health of the good sort, say, 'you need aerobic activity, and that's just what you're doing with those dance classes...'

I tell them about him, as he's a sort of poster boy, man, with all the issues.  I tell these last people about this, because, well, it's my job, if viewed archaically., not that anyone gives a real ....  about this aspect of a job which will never show up on tax returns or the basic corporate model of how the modern serf must behave  in order to fit in.

Jack.  His pains.  All the inflammatory issues.  Guts.  Joints.  The adrenal factor, as Irish people need their seaweed, as well as their barrooms in this the modern world.

I mean, look at him.  As someone said, watching him walk a parade as the young skinny congressman back in Boston, 'look, he's a purebred,' or a thoroughbred, and this was true.  He had all the gifts, an upright spine, a way of being in the tribe, animal magnetism.

And the bravery, to deal with all that pain.  The eroding spine, from the medications to treat his adrenal deficiency.  That operation, fusing vertebrae, he lives with pain the rest of his life, after that, so he could walk.  Gut issues, before the whole understanding of the benefits of a break from glutens and wheat, hybridized, the standard american diet, different from every town in Europe in which there is a market, fresh produce and whatnot, at least two days a week.

There the guys impossible gifts, his adaptable agile ability, thanks to voice lessons, and training, and the basic fact of being thrown out there to do it, to be a politician, as he did so in the true sense, mastering issues, and travel, and all matter of things, well, he became himself, gifted handsome guy.

But there is still the pain, all that which was put upon him largely through medical treatments of all the issues that are basic endemic issues of anyone who walks around with type O blood in their veins and every cell.  His voice lives on, great voice, great speeches, great humor, a great Irishman.

The guy had guts, when you see him walk into, upright, back brace holding him together, pelvis, lower back, into the old place of press conference, (before Nixon filled the old white house swimming pool with bricks), an auditorium in the State Department building, just above the Lincoln Memorial and several other buildings.  Standing upright,just to get there boldly, and field questions as a was a certain joy for him to d, livening him, and the rest of us.

The morbid pictures of him, one wonders, is he still there, where did he go, so vital he was.

People nod, one is taking medicine for thyroid issues, one is a sailor, one works out and fasts, on and on, and all this is true if you, like I, are type O.

(Thank you, Ingrid, by the way, for turning me on to the whole theory and explanation.)

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The trip to the Hamptons, collecting my mom in Penn Station after her long early morning drive over changing roads to the Syracuse train station and then the long ride along the Mohawk and down the Hudson, arriving an hour late, the taxi stand on northbound 8th Avenue hot and slow, to the Jitney with a revised reservation for the 6 PM, through that city where I would have wanted to live, where people of odd talents might find a place, a cubbyhole.

The pleasant visit, a two night stay before going back.  Asked to, while clams are grilled, I bring in two pieces of the swimsuit improvised for mom, and when I place them in the guest room and then the upstairs laundry chute, there's a tiny wolf spider looking up at me from the hairs of my tanned left forearm, a hopping spider, considerate of direction, rotating to get a better sense of its place, to escort back outside, fine where it is for this brief moment of wild animal (insect) handling, in which I am, I know, in no danger, and nor is anyone else.  Possums eat ticks and mosquitoes, and spiders such as this have their own place, benevolently, not like they play with poisons or matches outside your backdoor intent on violation and siege, nor are they dumbly aggressive out of self-protection.

So I walk back the stairs in through the big living room, talking, or thinking of it, quietly to the spider, an old friend from a winter kitchen not that long ago.  How many eyes do you have, actually, my friend.  Well, I guess we'd better go back outside the way things are such in here.

What's that you've got on your arm ?  A tick?

No.  Just a little spider.  Harmless.

Just   Kill   the spider.

I'm on my way out the door, though the spider attempts a quick strand to parachute away, though I regather, moving forward, spider pulling in back to the golden hairs on my hairy arm, a forest of bent-over bamboo or natural wicker.

The spider is not a problem at all.  In the cold season a spider exactly alike has stood on a wall by the refrigerator of an apartment, at eye level, raising his/her front legs, and eyes up, to look up in a salute to conversation, and the conversation was close, mutually interesting, I would imagine, perfectly peaceful, my house is yours, neither afraid in the slightest.  No thoughts of flattening a living being into a squashed state of death.

I come back in.

Where's the spider?

He agreed to go on his own way, no problem, friendly arrangement.  Off he went.  Off'a, one of those lounge chairs...

And then getting up early, back to New York, to get mom to her train, and myself back to DC for a quiet Sunday night shift.

But this is all just to pose a thought, a sort of questioning one, a what if.  And what if, in town, a really kind person showed up.  Not asking anybody for anything, doing his or her work, and just, as might be impossible in certain places, just being kind, in a kind, quiet, unobtrusive way, as if a fellow human being could appear kind of as a bird, a sighting that instinctively and automatically reminds us, brings us, of and to nature, the glimpse of an originality, an unexpected thing that is one of the trademarks of a species, like the call of an own or a mourning dove, or the flap of a crow pulling up like a fast descending helicopter of war upon a robin's perch with nest.  (Crows are magnificent as well, friends almost.)

What if there were that kind person, a fellow or a gal who'd come in from a long ways away, a unique place with its own character, not just another big city in the world or a popular mall, ambitious, visited.  Far away.  Maybe even from somewhere a good portion of it made up in his own mind, his own thoughts to what reality is.

That person who steers the bike wide to let a young lady come up the parked cars on a  quiet street below Oak Hill Cemetery.  I turn my lamp down to the ground, and she smiles at me, and one sees another, the great phenomenon, the treasure of another human being.  She's pretty and elegant in her black dress set for a lovely evening, and I got to get back and unload the groceries in my courier bag, things to do, before heading back into work tomorrow.
'Crazy to bring flowers to a beautiful girl,' I said, and it wasn't a bad line, and decently delivered.  That made it the second time I'd brought her flowers at the end of a school year, and the second time she'd rejected them.  "Hide them," she'd said the first time, and then "you're crazy," the second time.  And each time I left.

We all want to move on.  Most definitely.  But there's a literary quality to the things we say, and consciously or not, to varying extents, we enter in a literary game with other people to the extent that we and they are in some way literary.  Literary people tickle us, whether they know us to be literary or not ourselves, a lot of this being necessarily masked and below the surface, as real truths often are, what can you do.

But once you've seen it, real and true, in another person, thereby an attractive person, is there any reality greater?  Other friendships hold, and save us from the loneliness of night and other hazard times, but it those literary relationships that hold sway over our imaginations, that light our brains and body's senses, our memories of worded chess games when both were on the same side and somehow then lost each other in the non-literary world's symbolic darkness.

I put it in a book, towards the end.  I'd be stuck for years rendering the same line to myself, just occurring as it would, naturally, beyond my control, vain to try not to.  Absorb.  Take in nature, let years pass, and then more years, then more, and try to be, more than you'd have wanted to, a better person, though being 'a better person' is fraught with perils of living in unrealities.

You're left with your sketchbook.  You're left remembering that there is this literary quality of life, and like nature, a melting arctic, dying trees, you would want to protect that.  They've always done so in the past, what with all those writer peoples, Chekhovs and Joyces, so many examples I can not even expound nor name, Keats, Wordsworth, Twain, and all those I've not personally read, or gotten past the first try.  There is, though, the defense of the literary mode of the ape human mind, that mode of Shakespeare, anthropologist through his own prism that he was, the ear the natural vetting ground for any thought that might take to words and imaginative flight.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Leaving the Hamptons on the Jitney, heading to Manhattan to connect at Penn Station to the Northeast Regional, back to DC.  "Life has passed me by," the thought in my mind to be meditated over, as I slump low in my seat on the shaded side of a full train, having lost the pretty girl in white with a low cut dress and tattoo hidden on her inner ankle in her low boot-like shoe in the scrum of getting to the right gate piled up like fish trying to get through,  The Bhagavad Gita doing me no good.

Back to the bar, to work a Saturday night, I calmly patiently wait on everyone, put on my little act of French service, it's a quiet night, I'm left to close, and when the bar clears out, I run next door to the Chinese to order a late dinner before they close too.  Empty quiet night, hardly a passer by on the street, but for cars that go by, going somewhere, some speeding, some not.  And when I come back, there's a guy from the kitchen sitting at the bar, his long arms spread out, waiting for me.    The young pastry chef joins him.  He starts talking non-stop, sounding troubled.  He talks about the fights with his wife and his year and a half old son, other problems that came about when he didn't exercise when he was a kid and they moved to Paris from the countryside.  He is not unobservant to psychological aspects of people's lives.

Ah, New York, the style, the people, the energy, the clear air, the literary quality, its very presence...  College funnels you in that direction, and you make a mistake if you don't go there, and now, at my age, and income level, far too late.  I walk past the multitude of ghosts of actor friends and publishing worlds, editors, writers I could help, friends to make, interesting people, women I'd love to have dated, places where I could have fit in, stories to tell, ones that don't grow in the angry hierarchy of DC where one is left to martyr it out.  The Empire State building towers above, and there are tour guides everywhere as well as people who want their services and I wonder why it is that I cannot stop too.

Doctor, there I am again, by the sidelines of the football game, homecoming, and she's sitting there, and one of her roommates passes on through one of my friends that I was her boyfriend the previous year, except she was rather harsh and abrupt when I called her the night before.  My friends Jeffrey and Randy, I follow them as they go to smoke some weed and I reluctantly half-heartedly take a hit, and then I go back and stand by the cinder running track, and now I feel pretty stupid.  She stands up, but I don't look up, what a fucking idiot.  And there's a Times article I just read, about addiction, how it's a learning disability, a bad connection in the brain...  Even if I'm not, reading things like that make you wonder, 'maybe I am...'

A kind young woman, an educated person, and I'm the jerk times a million.  Not that I want to think about it anymore, just happens, try as I might, to forget it all.

Add that on top of my normal social anxieties...  That kind of double duty thing.
That year, my mistake original, choosing to live my senior year not with my friends down on the campus, five minutes walking distance to the dining hall, the library and all the buildings where there were classrooms, but up on the hill above the Dickinson houses, overlooking the town and the spire of the town hall.  It was a mistake made out of a romantic impulse, the vision of a poet's privacy, detachment.  The old DKE frat house, the parlor to the left, perhaps once a dining room with Sir Isaac Newtown's fireplace, by the time I came back from summer, had been renovated anyway, losing its old fixtures, its quirky lines of charm, the open staircases, glassed in with safety glass crisscrossed with its fibers, and there I was, isolated, in the back of the buildings, and I see now how that isolation effected a lot of things.  Without the feedback, the encouragement, the physical proximity of my buddies, Randy, Jon, Jeffrey, Spike, Steve, a fair hike between me and them, without one's friends, shut-down mode is a lot easier to slip into.  Even the poet, as much as anyone, maybe more, needs friends and social interactions, and even if one fancies he might be good at that time alone to write, that alone time quickly sours, and this is just simply human nature.

That choice became a radiant jewel of mistakes, that extra step of isolation, of removal, up to the end after I brought her flowers the second year in a row at the end of classes, and after her initial rejection stayed up on my hill rather than go down for dinner that Saturday night in the dining hall, when she had warmed to me again, but my bitterness had taken over like the wish for a long nap.

For city people, that general underestimation of social need, is less common than it is for a kid who grew up in the country, on country roads, with distance sports and long landscapes.  But I fell into it, and such a shyness toward groups and crowds, is not good for the starting of careers.  After going back home, sad, I finally went off on my own, down to the city, not her city, but Washington, DC, and ended up in the restaurant business, attempting to correct my propensity for isolation.  Always a group, friends to talk to.  I was a barman, on good terms with a good array of people, which was more a reflection of who I was, gifted at gab and smiles and kind ear, than that conceit of being the writer in command of the Shakespearean panoply of the human condition.  I came home at the end of the night alone, without a personal life to speak of, unachieved.  For all that talk and exchange, washing up on the shore of One AM, with a few hours left to calm the blood and unwind toward sleep, to wake looking back at that spot where I did not continue to grow as I should have, with lots of possible jobs to think of without having the energy to have ever tried.

The artistic temperament is best put to use harnessed in social activity, actors meeting writers and producers over the activity of a stage, the thing that fired Shakespeare's great effort, the players, people to socialize with in order to bring out one's truer agendas.

And yet, some are born observers, fond of, like Joseph Mitchell was, walking the streets of the city day and night, collecting stories and senses and observations made of watching people.  Going to a Mass without knowing exactly why or with proper understanding of the customs and words and actions of a Mass.  (See his "Street Life," in The New Yorker, an excerpt from his unpublished memoir, November 11&18, 2013 issue.)  The courtly writer who mixes well with odd people, but, being so original a swath of humanity that he is an odd duck, neither this nor that, not a banker, not even a reporter anymore, but a slow burning teller of humanity's story.  Able to do so out of a strange coincidence, that he too is finally human, longing for the same gentle conversations of smiling engagement and chuckles of laughter and common purpose that the Hispanic wait staff and busboys have with each other in Spanish, leaving the writer barman excluded as he sets up for a night.

Each step is hard in life, the security blanket being that tradition of a wandering writer telling an amorphous story of disparate detail.  There is, certainly, that pull, for a country boy at least, to spend that time with the deeper mind, with words, with the facets of the natural world such as birds and trees and the shining of the moon and the pull of rivers, that are, to the poetic mind, a relative of the deeper mind in the context of the globe we all live upon, as some see it, a great connected system which is itself a being, a living thing, of mind and response, of health and illness too.

A writer's mother feels that loneliness and isolation too, and knew she needed to do something to get out of it.  She took out a lot of student loans, got a Ph.D., and became a writer, one with that good base of the classroom and of the community a university a campus allows.  A good transition to make.

And she will be happy when I tell her, how with the rest of my day, I found a view of the river I'd not appreciated before.  And I had a sense of great relief, being relieved of that thought of the necessity of an urban social life such as always eats at us, turning back to nature and that older story of the city and the river that gave life to it as an infant town, the river still there, on its own terms, with herons by its muddy banks where its waters run slower than the rapids above and the currents below.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Six straight nights up at the wine bar, four of them by myself.  Friday, all by myself, busboy.  Saturday, same thing.  Sunday night, no busboy.  Monday, some help.  Tuesday, alone, no busboy.  Wednesday, some help.  Jazz night complicates things intensely.   I'm the last to leave.

Two days off.  Unable to get moving in the afternoon.

As he lay there, tired, adjusting to the medicine, not having to go into work, he had the sensation as if below his breastbone in that energy center of intersections there was something like a box, a small cubicle chest, and that in it there were the physical memories of a particular person, a young woman from some time ago, that each and everyone of his dealings with had somehow tickled him, entering him.  The times, the circumstances, the words that happen, the events that can happen, they might not quite reflect the gut physical reaction.  Human, one might even act logically contrary to the wishes of the inner body and nervous system.  But that small chest full of the sensations that built upon each other had gave meaning, that was always there too, and required of him a reaction, such as would come out involuntarily, a voice cracking, the sound of the voice as it reacts to her action, a tonal musical quality which is uncontrolled, like the octave of a vessel being filled with water.  There was not anything he could do about this, about that center, like a chakra, of gut reaction to her person.  It had all happened at a vulnerable time anyway.  One of the last times after being where she was, he had vomited.

That was the thing within, that he had no power over, even as he tried to turn from it, escape from that which resided under his breastplate in a small central chamber.  There was not anything he could do about it now, but live with it, under some form of Buddhist philosophy, passive, accepting, the wiser for knowing a physical truth.

Working at the bar had been an effort along such lines.  A way of trying to distract himself.

Shakespeare.  Shakespeare.  He understood that people needed to talk, and that, also, and very importantly, people could be geniuses at it, and do great and almost infinitely--taking in dark matter and dark energy--gifted highly intelligent things of great compass.  Such that when a political convention comes along--I mean, just to use the example, because that example is now highly present--one could each, within his own his or her self, come up with good and vital things to say, things worth listening to, things built on the shoulders of a million disparate dreams that happen to us in our sleep, and that come out, meaning something, unknown to us, but a process.  I could speaking at that convention.  This is what I would add.

Thus, now, the possibility and popularity of certain mediums.  And one can take the event of a political convention and understand it in terms of meaning, maybe symbolic meaning, well, of course.

The leanness, the lack of anything superfluous, observed by Amherst College President, host to JFK's October, 1963 visit, Calvin Plimpton...  And he, JFK, was one of the great speakers here and now in our knowledge of the political world.

Words at a convention can be taken anywhere.  Many models there are, looking at the offspring.  Many things can be said, many things can be spoken, many people can speak, and it's a choice, a rehearsed thing, but that you know when you are hearing someone whose speech you trust, words you trust, thoughts you trust.  And all that can be up for grabs, when the dreaming person who is a potential voter listened, to the extent that they can listen.    What to take away, what to take seriously?  Where is the meat, where the gristle, where the healthy vegetable and the fiber, and where the bread?