Friday, July 21, 2017

Interviews

I don't think you can really write until you accept your basic drive to ignore.  The Buddha is right.  You're better off ignoring.  I mean, it's nice to sample here and there, what people might construe as life...  It's nice to know the history of people, the places, your own people, but, the usual Friday night stuff, as a writer, you know your better off just staying home and focussed.  Get a bike ride in.  Do some dishes.  Have a glass of wine, by yourself, no need to deal with anyone.  Peace.  No complications.  An old friend calls from the restaurants worked at together, remembers you as a hard-working guy, hey, nice.  Cool.  A conversation of such is acceptable.

"attachment is the root of all suffering."  Distraction is the root of all suffering.   A day off is a day off.  Go grocery shopping.  Procure wine from old friends, as is customary.  Then, get back to the apartment, exercise, clean, cook, eat, hide.  This does not exclude having meaningful conversations, once that lens has been accepted.  The ego has been banished.  Along with that, a lot of the tiresome.

There are enough thoughts to get back in touch with, while the mind is still able to do such things, the balancing act of thinking.  Catch what lightning you can while you still can.  The burst of thoughts that pulse through the mind.  The brain functions still, even we might be unconscious.

The bike ride is a long thing.  The pedal strokes are many.  That's why you have to let yourself have that time to write, until it's no longer possible.  Long distance.  The long slow pace.

I used to get superstitious. . In the morning.  No talking, not that anyone nor I was in such a position where I'd have to talk.  Order a coffee.  The online thing was less back then, when I wrote so.   Avoid any outside infection  of thought or word.  Minimize, as best you can.

As an older fellow, it's more about the self protection, the exercise element.

Women marry narcissists.

The apparatchik evil of the world, of the self-chosen dictator.



The basic law:  if you accept or strive for a job. the more it is your ego, thus the worse you will attend to its duties.  If you've not been chosen immediately, nor strived for it,  or been tasked with it, then you will be a good servant.

John F. Kennedy did not want to be a pol.  He was shy, sick, skinny, not good at it, wanted out the back door.

If you seek out the job, then you are the typical at it, using it selfishly, an imitation, which might fool some people.

If you battle with the very choice of it, and in some ways mentally despise what you do, but on the gut level accept it because you must, taking it through physically, because you have to, then you'll be good at it, by some law that must be observed.


I've always taken jobs no one else really wanted that badly.  Busboy.  Day-bartender.  Fired after fifteen years.  The wine bar had nothing going on.  Patience.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Col D'Izoard is on TV, the first time I'm able this Tour to get on my trainer stand with the Cannondale road bike.  The chain is in the big front chain ring and the smaller cogs on the rear cassette.  The first pedal strokes are slow.  It takes the body a while to warm up, but warm up it will, and it takes its own pace.  Ten minutes in, fluidity, and the pace, the cadence of pedal strokes, increases.  The body stretches out, comfortably on the bike, and the deep breaths come.  It's a good feeling being on a bike.  "This is the good part of me," one says to himself, and it helps to think you're back at it, working out.  I cannot remember the last ride I took that wasn't a mission to get to work or get home, just for exercise, like one use to taking the trouble to get up and down into Rock Creek Park.  Long Saturday rides out to Garrett Park, or further out into Potomac.  The countryside, quiet roads, a general store, the peace of the road, horse farms...  Those rides are better, obviously, when you've done a little leg training.  The muscles and bands of leg remember, all those rides taken as a younger fellow, and the feeling of a general cleansing that comes with the building perspiration feels very good.

The body is heavy, not much exercise while on a trip, a lot of driving, 1700 miles or so, too much dough, unavoidable on the road, and the belly area is not svelte as it used to be, and a far cry from that of the pros on the television, offering inspiration.  July, The Tour, comes as a kind of vacation, inspiring, quiet, scenic.  History, as the human mind can only remember, can only go back so far, such as is comparable to the enjoyment of a silent film, that's going back pretty far, and Le Tour in its history is almost simultaneous with that invention of the moving picture.  No wonder then, that it is the latest in the technology of filming so far advanced now, looks back on itself as an homage, both for the Tour and the ability of the captured moving image to tell a story, just by holding up a mirror to nature, capturing that oddest of moments, "now."

The Col D'Izoard is a strange and barren stage.  The riders pass through the steep gorges of the valley of the Guil in Queyras.  There are no spectators gripping on the sides of the road here, bare pines, glimpses of that moonscape that marks the Dolomitic mountain stretches further up on the slopes.   The roads have not changed since Fausto Coppi climbed as the legend he was.  Nature is silent here, and no caravans of spectators.  The road is paved, but here Louison Bobet, Gino Bartali, Coppi, the old gentleman of the classic Tour fought it out, riding like birds.  The old road bikes they rode, with their lugged frames, elegant, are super cool.

After a timed forty-five minute riding session, coinciding with the coverage and the post-race report, with a good lather rom head to toe, considerably wet, a hot shower, releasing the spine, and then some yoga.  Meditation pose feels good after the effort.  A headstand, plow, shoulder-stand, warrior.  I am tired from the week, and find myself lethargic and in some form of depressed mood.  I've been back to work for five straight nights, trouble falling asleep several nights.  Heat, throws the guts for a loop.  A series of naps follows as afternoon turns to evening turns to dusk turns to night and cooler air.  The body wishes to get back into running, or to get out for a nice walk without having to get somewhere, but the bike on the training stand is quite helpful.  And the aerobic exercise, the free movement, helps the mind in no small way.


The first sentences are slow, coming tentatively.  One is almost afraid of the keyboard, the lingering thoughts, those that come alone, but sparks of the brain which mean something and ought to be recorded.  Reluctant to face their charge, the reality of feelings, the sense of how things are a cause for a wish to start all over again somewhere else rather than holding the old bit in one's teeth and pulling vainly forward.  It takes 'til the beginning of deep night for the writer to get started.  Forget trying to line up a date, with going out, even with grocery shopping.  Momentum, time is what you need.  One thought gotten down will lead to another.  One stroke, then the next from the other side, like Tai Chi.  No wonder Ernie Hemingway liked boxing, the back and forth, a left then a right, the real thing, followed by a glimpse of the metaphorical quality, often self-reflective, inherent in the act of writing.

Yes, work as a barman takes it out of you.  The sleepy-eyed kid got out of there early, claiming a doctor's appointment the next day.  "Don't believe a word he says," a trusted coworker tells me about him, while I suspend my judgment for the kid's likability.  "Look at how he works."  The night is not so busy, but I end up in my element after the band finishes playing, the bar with three customers, the final orders and a dessert or two to worry over, blind as I am, upstairs, to  know what's happening in the kitchen, entertaining and being entertained by key elements of The Old Dying Gaul's jazz project, one a violinist, and K from our main attraction who plays the first Wednesday of every month.  And the good old regular whose visits are soothing at this end of the night.  I pulled the acoustic guitar out from the liquor room, and K obliges me in changing out the G string I broke, tuning up and breaking out into song, I'm Just a Bad Boy, as the musicians who played finished up with their packing.  Yeah, man.  Play those blues, alright.

In dreams I'm looking for a bottle of wine while at a quiet college reunion.  In dreams I am playing the guitar, getting a lesson.  In dreams there is a ten inch long cockroach that needs escorting out of the kitchen.  In between dreams I am haunted by being a bit of a bad student toward the end of my career as one.  There were times I got carried away with the party, beer, friends, and neglected getting up to meet a girl on the bus up to Williams for the hockey game, one jackass move after another, that year.  Alone on a hill, away from those friends who have proven themselves then and now.

The yoga feels good, very good.  I've returned to my little place  and its Buddhas after visiting the writer's mom.  She is a seven hour plus drive away.   She has far too much stuff ever to be moved, short of Moses and his staff.  And I have enough stuff on my own,  Lord knows, one can like their books, too much perhaps.


Academic types are of the most conservative cloth.  A consolation to me, the maverick spirit making me run my own way, for better or worse.

You have to feel comfortable on the bike.  You don't need to start out fast, you just need to know that you'll be in for the long run.  And that by each ride, be it home on the trainer, or out somewhere, and then maybe further, once inspired, and the traffic of cars tamed convincingly, you get more comfortable.  Your own work might never make the theater, but in the great tradition you will document a kind of a life until the end, through a lot of things, non of it necessary stellar, but a thread, a system of some health.  Don't start out too quickly, don't flame out writing some brilliant work exhausting yourself and setting yourself up for fame.  No, take it easy, do it slowly and steadily...  again and again.http://www.velominati.com/anatomy-of-a-photo/anatomy-of-a-photo-fausto-coppi/comment-page-2/


The Tour coming to end, it makes me a bit wistful.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

I'd gotten down the road, heading back to DC, the valleys fertile and green, heavy rain as I approached the rest stop near Whitney Point.  Pulling in, parking, calling into work.  I'd been slow getting up, didn't get on the road 'til past ten, not due in until 6:30, a bit late.
Yeah, hi, L, it's T, how you doing, looks like I might be a bit late, probably around sixish.  "Okay, I'll let them know."  It's just about noon, the restaurant is busy, don't want to keep her on the phone.  I go in to use the john, a composting toilet system.  The AC causing me a chill.  Mom's made me a little lunch with an ice pack in it, and a pull out a roast beef roll up.  Then back onto the highway.  A bit more, rain, not quite as heavy as the rain outside of Albany taking mom back to Oswego from my aunt's wedding in the Berkshires.  From one NPR station to the next as they fade in and out.  Analysis of Donald Jr.'s meeting with Russians in fortress Trump to plot, no one telling the full story, so that new revelations are coming out, each with a  new effort on the part of the administration to claim it was nothing, nothing at all.

Onward, long curves, climbs, through Binghamton, then across the Pennsylvania line and the Welcome Center.  Hot and muggy beneath the hills, green like the Basque Country, different from the ridges of New York State and the Finger Lake glacier events.  The rest stop building new and clean, brochures on one side, vending and restrooms, the other side, freezing cold on damp skin, and again, my guts don't feel quite right.  I take my time, and get back to the car, get in, and then my cell rings.  "You can stay home tonight," cool.  They are kind to me.  They realize I'm a bit different, enabled to be a sort of kind fool, the idiot, the nice guy, a steady figure in the ever-changing world, and I must say I have a general feeling of soullessness to the town I work in driving back to it, a country boy, what can you do, not fitting in.  My job is me.

So, I call my mom.  I'm only two hours plus down the road.  I really don't feel like driving all the way to DC, another five hours anyway, not including rush hour traffic.  She doesn't pick up, so I wander back into the Welcome Center, use the john again, try her again, talk to the guy mopping the floor.  "Yes, this is Pennsylvania bluestone."  Quarried locally, the guy, bearded, pony tail, intelligent, answering my question.  It's frigid inside, I feel clammy, and coming back in I'm wearing the old green LL Bean chamois shirt I travel with.  Back to the car.  A sense of relief, and then Mom calls, and I explain, and we agree we needed to go once more to The Press Box, a favorite spot in Oswego, simple, easy, friendly, great.  Cool.  It'll take about three hours or so, okay, take your time.

Then, as I am standing outside the car, facing a picnic table and a coal mine trolley railroad car on permanent display, a fellow walks up, and I finish the call, okay mom, just at that time.  Should have stayed on the line.  Moments are precious.  He's a guy, talking fast, his interruption an act of urgency, sorry, sir, oh, I'm sorry, sir.  He's in a tee shirt, muscled like a dog.  The tops of his work boots ripped up on the top layer, jeans dusty with drywall or gravel dust. Hey, man, look, I'm sorry, I hate to bother you... I look at him, regretting I put my phone down, sorry, my sister just got T-boned by a semi, and I left my wallet, and I gotta get down the road...  I look at him, nod slightly.  sigh.

How much do you need, I ask slowly, fishing in the pocket of the chinos I've work through my whole trip up the old spiritual home, my mom's, my aunt's where my grandparents spent their last years.  $20 from T.J. Maxx.  An old American type, he is, and maybe I am too.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.  Is this Kerouac encountering Neil Cassidy again, in a new life, a new go-round, one more circumspect, if less incandescently literary?  At least I'm in the driver seat, for now, with my rented Nissan Maxxima.  He pauses, well, sir, whatever you can spare...  Well, at least that's a bit more honest.  I reach into my pocket, give him a fiver and an extra buck or two.  Okay, man.  Thank you sir, thank you.  He reaches to shake my hand. I reach and take it.  I look him in the eye.  "Take care of yourself," I say slowly, looking at him, and he departs.  Not immediately to scam more people, flush with his junkie victory playing the game, but it deflates me a bit, after the nice talk with the guy in the building, and being spared from work and the rest of a long drive.  I'd stayed up late, fixing mom's new bookcase, I finally persuaded her into, vacuuming, recycling, having some wine.  Perhaps in my mind, my reading from the wedding, Corinthians, about love.  My guts still feel uncertain, my skin ready to perspire again, even in the cold of the air conditioning.  Back in the car, already hot again, I close the door.  I'm a bit rattled.  Wallet, phone, keys, I look around, putting them all together finally, and a swig of soda water.  Just glad to get out of there, glad to be turning back around, north again.  And back into my little NPR bubble.

Now I can take it slowly, back up through the New York State farmland valleys.  But first, I have to go down the road to turn the boat, a rented Nissan Maxima, handles beautifully, and going down Route 81, the next exit is for Great Bend.  Burger King, tobacco, fireworks, a McDonalds,  a KFC, and just a bit down the road, just over the river, in the little town of Hallstead, a place well advertised on billboards as you drive northward, then down the hill.  Ultimate Massage.  And then, rolling up in the muggy hot sun, there it is, it must be, a modest brick two story storefront, next to a pet food story, with curtained windows and front window, white painted door, and a sun-faded racey pink awning that simply says Ultimate, and the phone number below it...  Being a correspondent, I stop, turn around, park, get out and take a few pictures, to share with my guy friends...  A woman, plain, not quite matronly, is walking down the sidewalk with a new gallon trashcan or bucket of some sort, and I play it cool, observing that she enters the side door of Ultimate, or must have, seeing the door close shut from across the street.  There's not much in this town.  A sign points to a library, up the road by the muffler auto repair shop where I initially turned around.  I have to get going.  Chinese herbs might well be helping things in this anxious state I live in, but...

Satisfied with my iPhone photo documentation, I get back on the road, over the Susquehanna, then passing through the light to get ready for the ramp onto 81 North.  A sign points the way to "Mess's Fireworks," and on the long curve coming around and upward to the highway, another fireworks shop, windowless cinderblock, plastic tarp crumpled on the roof, the sign says open.

There's another hard rain up ahead, enough to turn on the hazard blinkers, going at a pace I can feel comfortable about as 18 wheelers and SUVs ride by in the left lane.  Binghamton again, and then a climb from the river flats, very pretty around here, farms cut into wooded hillsides, further, something that looks like a Buddhist monastery, Southern school perhaps, with its brightly painted gates, and there used to be a few vintage autos in a nearby field, a tidy old well-kept barn. Dropping down again in long roads that parallel the ridge until curving over rivers such as near Whitney Point.    Somehwere around here, back when we used to drive up together from Washington for holidays, my brother telling me, at the rate I'm going, I'm going to end up in a trailer park.  Probably right.

Onward, as the Zen of the road settles in again, somewhere below Cortland, someone proud of his land has put up a kind of cross-like scaffold, with the large figure of what is obviously a scrotum hanging distinctly and disembodied above the road in a field, back where signs stood pro-fracking, now the home made billboard accompanying announces that "Trump is going to need some big balls to solve all these problems."    Great.  And further along, not far away, in the man's woods, two flags on poles, one USA, the other, yellow, that of the Don't Tread on Me disjointed colonial snake.

Rivers, small towns, steeples, enough rain to pay attention, no need to go more than seventy, just taking it easy, through the bend marking the Iroquois country, and then Syracuse laid out in the distance, once past the green NY State sign that announces Dome Parking.

Then onto the last leg, Route 481.  Highway, then into Fulton.  Past the stretch of McDonalds, the rubble field of the old Nestle plant they started tearing down on one of my trips North to see mom, was it Christmas, her birthday in March, bricks, machines, now a great space opened up where structures stood... Past the empty pizza sub shop, the mini mart multi pump gas station and the Burger King, and on the right, the same little girl I saw five hours ago, in front of Studio tattoo parlor, taking a picture of herself as she prances, holding an cell phone out, shaking her hair, there on the sidewalk.

Driving on, passing along the wide still river with islands and high water over tree trunk banks, then a highway straightway, a Siberian stretch, then, finally, along the river again, the Catholic parish cemetery on the hill on the right, and then into Oswego and across the bridge over the canal lock and the river strong as it comes through the last mill dams.

It's four o'clock, and mom is pretty much ready to get ready to go out to the friendly spot we like overlooking the port.  The bookcase looks good.  Things are better organized.  Vacuumed.


My mom, in reflection, went through a lot of stress.  As a child, and following in life, in her experience, leaving her sometimes an anxious creature.  The heavy rains on the New York State Thruway were not easy to go through, blinkers on, eyes on the front flashing lights of the pace of the car before me, and looking in the rear view mirror, to make sure no car or truck might be closing.  The rain pours, I can't hardly see, and Mom, tense as can be, is staring through the windshield please please please pull over...  Pulling over does not seem safer than keeping going, and after several bursts of downpour, wipers up al the way, guarded, nervous myself, we go through the merge with traffic from Albany here on Saturday after my aunt's wedding in The Berkshires.  Mom wanted to get home to her cat, to her familiar place, and it is a bit of a drive to get there. Crossing the Hudson we saw how dark the sky ahead was, green and yellow and red on the local TV news weather radar.

Here in her home, a townhouse at a modest end of a modest town, near the high power lines, in Northern nature, bullfrogs, herons, all sort of water fowl, turtles, moles, beaver, even a family of sable or mink crossing the road nearby, there are lots of books and papers.  I am happy in the afternoon when she reads from Yankee From Olympus, some old hardbound copy of it she found for a buck.  Oliver Wendall Holmes.  Neighbors with Melville, Hawthorn, the Jameses.


And then after the deprive I must drive back to DC.  Work calls.  It's Bastille Day.  Usually I end up getting up early, making the long drive, going straight to work.  But I decide to take off around 5 PM, gassing up.  I've watched the Weather Channel radar loops, I'd like to watch the Tour in Pyrenees, I hate to leave, but I must now.  And then, passing along, more summer downpours, calling mom from that rest stop with the composting restroom plumbing, I call mom again, and ask how the Tour stage looked.  Down in the valley the streams are overflowing, brown water in new channels through the fields.  In Great Bend, down the road, another massive downpour, I pull over, Burger King.  The rain passes.

Out on the road again, darkness is falling, and even darker clouds, the rain is starting again, and flashes in the sky with rumbles, and now, worse than before, the road disappears, pitch black, pouring rain and such a feeling of lonesomeness, I cannot describe it's Odyssey-ian depths.  And a long way to go, and NPR has switched over to music radio on a Friday night.

What was this effort, a sad one, to go so far away from anything resembling the home of my youth and the people of my life and temperament, the bold move to come to a city, but this one too far, too far south, as if I wished mainly only to hide my pain, my sense of isolation.  And now time is running short, very short, and those people and that sense of familiar home disappears bit by bit...


Riding the bike, watching the last mountain stages of the Tour, a bit of relief.  But mom needs help.


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

With the first customer, a gentleman from the neighborhood, a lawyer nearing retirement age, I converse with him with the French restaurants of the town, and of Paris.  I mention the places on the general historical radar, the classics of Paris, Deux Maggot, La Coupole, La Rotonde, eateries from the Hemingway pantheon, mentioned in A Moveable Feast, I explain, and he's been there.  "Hemingway was broke all his life.  Patrons kept him going."  He enjoys his pea soup, a pleasant green color, with mint and ham, and then his favorite of the old Gaul menu, potato crusted salmon.  Two glasses of Pouilly Fuissé.

On the Fourth, I wake up late.  One of the musicians from the Hot Club band is moving on, to the west coast with his wife.  I pour him and the Englishman a late round, and myself a little chilled red, the night before.  I wake up late.  My cell fell down off the bed, and I didn't hear it vibrate as I snoozed under the sound of the fan of the window AC unit.

I think of American writers on this day.   That sort of peculiar branch of literary beings.  I think of their problems.  Kerouac would have been okay, a good focussed workmanlike creature, had it not been for him branded "King of the Beats," strangers coming to knock on his basement window, there at his mom's house on Long Island, "hey, let's party."  Hemingway, well, we know his work schedule, up early at first light, then writing, for a good five to six hours, but then, the drinking.  Work, drinking, sometimes, involved, mutually wound together.  Kerouac's adventures, with people like Neal Cassidy...  And then, of course, their relationships with their mothers.  People like them.  And like the great American writer, Abraham Lincoln, often enough touched by depression, a whole list of them, one might gather, writers, humorists like Twain.  A good background in the human saga and psyche.

The Fourth often enough seems a set-up for the kind of social disappointments, like missing the parade, the picnic on the National Mall as night falls, music, then fireworks, all the people belonging to the American herd, different walks, modest firework displays and smoke in immigrant alleyways, celebrations, cook-outs.  And where does the lone writer fit in, on this day?

Well, he remembers those long efforts.  As JFK spoke, at Amherst, a tribute to a poet, the contribution to the national character, their spirit, their reality....  Were they often enough as sometimes batshit crazy as Abraham and Mary?  Well, sometimes, but like them, not always, honest workmen with decent concerns.


After the fireworks with good old friends... riding my bike home up past Volta Park, where there beneath the same trees in that same corner Jack and Jackie tossed the ball around with Bobby and Ethel, shorts, white tee shirts, just over there.  Earlier past JFK's senatorial house near 33rd or 34th and N, Caroline held up high on that front stoop, Jackie looking on.  Kids from Georgetown walking around, happy to celebrate, shorts, dressed for hot summer nights.  The bridge, the place to watch the fireworks, and I wish to walk toward the arch, where you're over the river, the wind coming from the old nature along the Potomac.  Cracks of local fireworks, the highlight finale from the Mall back eastward beyond Roosevelt Island, the glimpse of Washington Monument.  Kennedy Center.   The  contradictions of America, to my left friendly Arabic speaker with friends speaking English, a Chicago Black Hawks tank top, to my right, a group of four, Waldorf Ink tattoo parlor ad, stocky kid with a rebel flag hat, a good load of chew in his right cheek, his girlfriend looking Indian or Native American, or Cuban, his buddy with Navy anchors tattooed on the back of his meaty calves....  Then the kids from the University, Georgetown, and unsmiling Russian families, curious, still taking the trouble to come, and I smile at the little blond kid, and wish him a Happy 4th, and that's the good vibe that we are all sharing, to be us, Americans, nodding to each other, wishing each other well, sweet families of six and seven and ten, on the bridge, over the empty canal, looking forward to the fireworks show, and everyone is basically wishing each other well, all the peoples of the world, and when I lean over and say to my Mauritius diplomat old master writer friend, to tell him the Chinese invented all this, to my right, there's a kid with short hair and glasses who's quite probably of Chinese ancestry, doesn't say anything, girls from Georgetown walking by...

And then packing for the trip.  A family wedding.  The writer's loneliness again, the loneliness of being poor, of having a job.  Duties to attend to.  I try slacks purchased years ago, for dress occasion, but I have put on bulk in my midsection.  Too much pasta for staff meals, too much hunger, stress, not enough exercise, and here is The Tour de France, on television as I pack.

Friday, June 30, 2017

The maestro writes if you will in the imagination, when he is napping, just quietly lying while tired bodily in some form of dimly lit room where he is comfortable.  The bed is as much a tool of writing as pen and paper, typewriter, computer.  As if wafting off on the nap's breezes he becomes something other than who he is.  He becomes a great writer with some access to great thoughts and understandings;  wisdoms passed down from the ages, he gets them in the form they are in, and he sees them and interprets them correctly, almost as if, as he imagines, they were something like children's building blocks or geometric sketches or points on a map to be connected with other points.

Who knows what provokes in him the feeling of wishing to take a nap, some feeling identified in muscle or bone or stomach or eye or voice, and it just seems like a law of nature which would behoove him to follow in its biddings, as a greater wisdom is at work, and he works hard anyway, and the dating scene is difficult and requires a lot of energy if he were to do so on times deemed normal by the by and large.

The words will come to him, just there are always words, and they come to him just as birdsongs come in their little phrases in the blue earliest of morning light, in anticipation, even, of the dawn.  The words will take care of themselves, and it is a matter rather of not getting in the way, not overthinking.  As anyone knows who has pretended to be or tried his own weakly hand at it.  Eventually, well, the words come, and contrary to popular opinion and the needs of the book trade and the nature of the marketplace should one wish to come up with something written that might actually sell (and not be given away for free, as, more or less God intended), they do not need to be in any particular form.  The form will come.  The form will arrange the pieces by itself.

Thus if Shakespeare were to come up with a few phrases in his idle daydreams--"such a thing is man," how does that go? "how wondrous in nature, how like a god..." well, sooner or later such a great stream of thoughts would become akin to "a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors," would assemble themselves into a form, with a little need here and there to put up a framework around the edge of them, a vessel to contain them.  Some line of story, well, I, old Will, will simply pluck one rather unoriginally from some other guy's play, no harm done, not at all.

Who knows when you will write anyway?  There is no sense to it, no logic, it just comes about.  Or course, it helps a bit not having to run off to some job, the entirety of it producing great bouts of strain and exhausting, but even so a job that provides through its motions itself a chance to think thoughts, though many of them will slip by perfectly unrecorded...


But maybe, quite possibly, the point at which the oldish man loses it, goes off his rocker on this knight errant kick, is when he assumes the voice, the voice of writer.  I mean, who told him that he could do it it, that he had any right to it, to say nothing of the talent required, the sheer patient work of story telling.  His craziness is to be believe that there is a worthy story within his own life, within his own so-called day to day reality, just to be told, as if it were some gospel pertaining to the life of an ordinary commoner of little or no significance but to the point where he is no longer doing his job and/or causing trouble in society.  It's this great voice of literature that comes out in him, that's the very craziest thing about him, that he assumed the mantle upon himself, as if he were--well--like Shakespeare, and you just don't get to be, boys and girls, a Shakespeare over night, no Sirree.

Thus it was important for him to maintain his job, his duties as a barman in highfalutin Washington, D.C., where there are of course actual people who are actually important to the way the world runs...


"Yes," he thought to himself, "it is the great savior Himself, who sets the model, composing his little sayings and parables and sermons and other things of great meaning, that of taking a nap in the ropes of a boat vessel, even when the storm is raging upon the sea.  It is that great model, yes, indeed."

And so he ventured back to take the second chapter of the nap he had started.  Who knows, anyway, where these creative outbursts come anyway...
In his mind, this what the gallant old barman who regarded his job as a thing worthy of the great maestros of all forms of work, craft and art, sought to write down a little bit of his adventures:

For which we should take with a sense of humor, as what is seen might not be actual reality, nor the full story, but some causes for musings as are found below, not to be taken with great seriousness in an overly serious world, and after all the restaurant is also about entertainment not just the food and the service.


Tuesday night at The Dying Gaul upstairs the thermostat near the opening of the bar is reading a steady 85 degrees.  The busboy, who is married to the assistant manager/server--the boss is taking his family vacation in France--has arrived late and done very little to help me set up the bar and its low tables to be ready for service.  Rarely is he on time.  I don't blame him.  He has young kids, and a long way to drive.  This evening he arrives as we sit down eating our meager staff meal of chicken joints and rice, coming in sighing off the road, which is not easy.   He manages to do is bring me ice and bread.  Good thing I set up the tables the night before.  Another server, a good worker who gets it, will arrive, at some point, but at that point his arrival will be of no help to my setting up.  It's already busy downstairs when he arrives, and I'm already busy, but he is drawn downstairs.  It is not an easy night.  And it is not so fun without the respite of proper air conditioning.  "We should have had another server on tonight," my friend tells me as we hump it.


Wednesday night there are not many reservations.  A jazz trio will be playing up at the bar.  The sleepy eyed server has come up and help me put a few touches for set up, but, still the busboy is late again, and offers cursory help up at the bar.  And then, when the door opens, it is evident, guess what, I will be working it myself.   The assistant manager is doing a double, but when I venture downstairs for a few finishing touches odds and ends to my organization, neither she nor her husband are anywhere to be seen.  I'd like to run across the street to grab some beer in this heat for later, but sleepy-eyes has taken up his familiar habitual stance of standing staring into his smart phone.  There is no one seated yet downstairs.  I have an elderly woman to entertain;  she's lovely, talking about the various happy hour deals at French restaurants.  Anyone coming in right at five thirty just when the door opens is inevitably irritating;  you've barely had time to eat, brush, floss, tie your tie, and get out a sheet of paper to write down the reservations.

And pretty soon a lovely person who meets her husband, a former ambassador and man of note, regal, handsome, an author, older than she, has arrived, and I'm happy to see her.   We smile at each other, long acquainted, a good repartee, people who bring out my sense of humor and the joy of waiting on people.  "How are you, Ted," she asks.  Oh, I'm good, I say.  "But there are a few Hispanics I'd like to strangle at the moment," I add, quietly.  And she responds, "Uh oh.   That's not very politic," she says, something like that, with a supportive tone, as if a teacher shaking a finger at her favorite pupil.  Sleepy eyes comes up the stairs bearing the grilled seafood salad for the elegant older lady with whom I've established a neighborly relationship already, and, knowing what my friends want, put two champagne flutes into the cooler because they are hot to the touch, not as bad as yesterday, bringing her a bottle of Badoit with two glasses and soon the ambassador, an author, arrives.  His happy place, his wife and I joke.  And I am wondering if my friend has heard my quip about a desire to strangle a few particular members of the Hispanic race.  He doesn't let on, or didn't hear.  He's gone back down the stairs, oblivious.  I will be alone all night, while the other three, wife, busser, server, will have their little social hour in Spanish.  I picture them eating snails behind the bar from the bubbling metal dish and then splitting a salmon entree while the last few customers finish up, as I have often seen, sometimes when told that Sleepy Eyes is needed downstairs so the other server can go home already.

Okay, I have people now.  I'm in the mode of entertaining already.  The musicians who will be coming are fantastic.  I show Amb. XYZ an album from Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers explaining who will be playing the horn tonight.  His lady has told me earlier that the hamster has passed away, just in time for the daughter's going off to camp, when I ask her how the cats are.  The older woman tells me about the places of her career with IBM.  Back at Amb. XYZ's table, as they are wrapping up, remembering the last time I saw him, I turn to him quietly, speaking into the back of my hand and leaning over to him, "how'd it go with the Russians?", and his wife laughs and says, "oh, don't even bring that up," (something like that), and he says, "oh, very well," in a sort of purring voice, "they've invited me to visit."  And she's like, oh... no way.   It's good to keep the strain of conversation going, or at least acknowledged, from the previous visit, be it a week or a month ago.

One musician arrives, and I propose he eat his dinner early rather than late.  He's coming from DC courthouse job.  A DC music legend, Tillary plays the horn and sings, and when the bass player arrives, he talks of how as a kid Louis Armstrong blew his mind.  When Table 57 asks for the check, I express my thanks to the wife for helping me avoid an international incident.  He leaves me a healthy tip, which covers a happy hour champagne.  It's a good relationship, gracious.


The nights before I've worked hard.  And long.  Sunday, entertained a party of three, a guy's 50th birthday, and I bring out a guitar at the end and we all jam into the end of the night.  They spend more than two hundred on wine, share a sip of the 2003 Chateaux Margaux with me, order well, even as I run my ass off, the bar full, ladies to entertain, run run run.  Hugo the busser I'm sharing tonight with the downstairs notes my busting my ass, from one end to the other, chop chop chop, comments, 'three servers downstairs, one standing around doing nothing.'  The bar is jovial, people to chat with, regulars.  It's a long evening.  When the birthday guy table was delighted when I brought up a guitar case, toward the end, the explain a bit of their music to me, where they are from, Charlottesville.  "You'll have to play us a song."  No, I need a glass of wine first, I say.  "Shane MacGowan school."  "Play A Pair of Brown Eyes for us."  Sure, but I need a drink first.  I'm rattled by the night, responding to everything, bending around like The Matrix, while the cows downstairs graze slowly on their grass, contended they are doing the job well enough.



And I play just that song for them, though without enough time to really study the chord change, simple enough, but not bad from a cold start.  I get the words right. They sing along with the chorus.   And then they play, original songs, from what I can tell, harmonizing, the three of them, birthday guy, wife, brother in law.

Monday night, too.  Busy.  Jazz night is already difficult, lots of moving parts, and help is help, but never quite as engaged as you want them to be all night.  The singer is lovely, and singing in perfect pitch.

At the end of the night I bring out the guitar again, and the woman who sings gives me a singing lesson, forcing me to sing, critiquing, determining I'm a tenor.  Slightly embarrassing as the downstairs servers come up to watch and pour themselves a glass or two.  Finally they leave, happy, not having to do the last tedious minutiae of closing, restocking for your own good reacher than do it tomorrow and no one else is going to lift a finger to help you out.  They won't have to wait for the dishwasher, nor close the lights off, punch in the security code after pulling the bike upstairs by the door.  When they go the conversation with the singer lady opens up a bit.  She's really cool.  "You're very good looking.  You do your job very well, making people feel comfortable..." She says.  I shrug.  "You don't take a compliment well," she tells me.  She tells me to play through songs, confidently, less self-questioning, less stopping to reconsider.  "You have it, you know you have it," she tells me, and I find a ray of light here in this place.  After a great chat, I walk the jazz singer lady to her car across the street.   Another forty five minutes, a bite to eat, the checkout report and the money counting, a last round of restocking maybe and I'll finally be done.

Tuesday night, busy, and the assistant manager helps with a little food running.

She takes credit for Wednesday night for a full shift, the tips for the downstairs a total of $85 combined for both servers after tipping out the busboy.  She leaves around 8PM.  I'm there 'til 1PM at least,  cleaning up, by myself.  Tips from her dayshift, $14.  Her average tips today, $56.50, will bring down the point, the amount each of us will bring in for the number of shifts we work.  She could have claimed half a shift.  Or, she could have gone home at seven.  Perhaps there is missing information;  I've been kept busy all night from the get go.  Around 10:30 I get the usual "can I go?" from the busser.  Yeah, sure, go.  They've run food for me.  Sleepy Eyes told the night's specials to one or two tables, but from what they made downstairs, obviously they coasted.  It could have been worse, in this uncertain unpredictable business.  But I hope they were sincere about entertaining as I have been with faces familiar and those new.  The busser is leaving a good bulk of the side work for the night undone, but his buddy Sleepy eyes, will be on tomorrow night, not me.  They'll hang out talking about the soccer.  Sleepy eyes pulls things like staring into his phone in the middle of service, like going to eat in the corner to have a nice little snack, both of which with his back completely turned from his tables, leaving me to deal, even when it's busy, or, another trick, disappearing into the bathroom.  Things a professional in the business would not approve of, such as not being able to show up on time.

Ah, but you cannot blame anyone, not a single one of them, even as the great maestro toils away.  He is just being pessimistic and grumpy as he writes down such things, such would be grievances.   And in a better mood, he realizes the compensation Frenchy allows for the assistant manager might warrant the necessity for her deserving as much credit as anyone for her shifts that go toward her share of the tip pool.  And Sleepy Eyes, he does, basically, a good job;  we all have our foibles, and the great maestro neighborhood barman, Hamlet of Quixote, or some form of quiet producer of quietly American literature, such as it is, has his too which allow him to slip through the jaws of a night shift and all its events.  Indeed, if he suffers such monsters as will come out of the woods at him, as these monsters might really be unnecessary but seemingly happy to fuck with him on an almost daily basis, such habits of humanity, well, that is what a princely knight errant must face, at least until he gets some noble back-up as if from the good knight Sir Lancelot du Lac.    But yes, onward will he grumble on about things at The Old Dying Gaul, because that too seems to be part of the landscape.


I'll go home and think of music.  I will go home and dream of playing and getting better at music.  The guitar and learning to sing, this is how I deal.



Really, the first day off, all I do is sleep the day away.  Get up at 8pm.  Thus is the nature of my marathon.  Even the next day, rest, after a doctor's appointment to check on things, and all the grocery shopping I could manage in the muggy heat of DC summer.    My therapist has suggested a sleep-aid, not habit forming, and the doctor approves.

The money is better downstairs, so we are stuck with this tip pool system, number of shifts multiplied by the average tips per shift once all tips are pooled together and then divided by the total number of shifts servers including myself have worked.  As a barman I get a modest hourly of $7.50.  Since our bosses have opened a sister bistrot up the street, business has been less.  I tried working a bar shift up there, but it was miserable, poorly laid out, service bar all night.

I find it an isolating job, even as intensely social as it is.  I guess that happens with jobs, each in its own way.  Going out to socialize for me is always a mixed bag.  Better to stay in almost, cook, clean, organize.  Food is important.

Writing, I've come to think, has been an unproductive pursuit.   Leading me to be not much more than a laborer.   Wine, yes, we can talk about wine, and we can talk to people and make them comfortable, in our own way, as good as any, but where does it lead?  How to get out of it?  What to do?

The singer is right.  I do not take a compliment well.




Continued monologues:

I guess it was Sherwood Anderson, that little bit in the introduction to Winesburg, Ohio, about the writer as an old man, dreaming in bed, friends with the old carpenter who fought in the Civil War, about how within there is this Joan of Arc fighter within...

Or was it Don Quixote, who comes up with the original concept that is an honest theory about the human being and experience.  There is the ongoing Quixotic monologue going on, the interpretation in the mind, such that he is in his own reality a chivalrous knight errant on a quest to do noble and glorious and adventure worthy things.  The great book is not just about his monologues, of course;  the narrator, and Sancho as well, remind the reader of what is in fact actually going on, in what we might term as real everyday reality.  His great helmet is not really a great helmet, but rather a barber's washbasin for things such as shaving.  The malevolent giants he believes he is facing are in fact windmills.  On and on.

Or is it Twain who allows us to be.  Huck serves as the narrator.  We get reality through his eyes.  And there is a peek at the Quixotic schism between reality and story, such as when Jim, who has a lot to lose, reminds us of things.  Huck makes up a story to tell Jim when they get parted in the mists and night of the big river, when they finally find each other, of how the night was all a dream.  But Jim looks down at the raft, all covered with litter and twigs and river detritus, tells Huck how heartbroken he was thinking he'd lost him, and then telling Huck basically how not right he is for telling him such a story, as if it was all Huck could thing of was playing a trick on him.

Or does it go back to Hamlet, the early king of the monologue, undisputed champion for eternity....

Reality must always be interpreted.  Most people keep that tale of reality within certain rational guidelines.  But there's more, a whole lot more, to it all.

And so I come up with these little monologues, forgetting almost to provide the reader with the real story, the true story, the actuality of what one does, work, the job, the real texture of life.  Even Hemingway, you see it, on the one hand the love of writing down reality as it truly is, as best as one can ever tell it as far as recording the things that happen, but yet, even there too, there is the great monologue, the story of being in the head, of how thoughts shape reality.  Of course Hemingway can be very parsimonious when it comes to those inner narratives, perhaps as he deemed it manly to be so.   We get little tidbits, not the flourishes of Quixote, not the great poetry analyzing the meaning of life of Hamlet so broad and encompassing, but the simple sentence at the end.  "Fishing in the swamp would be tragic."  Wow.

The writer's life is a fiction, but one that can not be extracted from reality.