Thursday, April 30, 2015

The effect of the nights seem to grow exponentially.  The last night is the hardest, Wednesday night Jazz, a.k.a., "the cancer," and the hardest to recover from, and even though I get a bike ride in (on the trainer stand), I don't feel so hot Thursday, twinges of headache from mixing too many wines.  Anxiety, pessimism, gloom, to varying extents, a sense of trying to run from the wrath of God, or of being swallowed up by the Leviathan, of having fallen off a cliff, of being so far outside of normal society that you'll never be let back in.  This is what happens after four nights of tending bar, even when the nights go fairly smoothly, with pleasant customers;  it's still all around drinking, even if it's all around eating dinner.

How am I going to get out of there, the last one in the restaurant, eating his dinner, with getting into the wine?  How am I going to get home, and not want another?  And then, how am I going to wake up not feeling depressed and anxious?

I desire to explore spiritual pursuits.  I'm not going to fit in anywhere if I would try to be social.  It's only hours away from most people's happy hour, and I'm still rehydrating, pondering breakfast.  It's a fast four shifts, long hours when preparation and unwinding are considered, four days of rest, get ready for work, go to work, finally come back home.  Not much else.

And so...  what?  Dishes.  Laundry.  Recycling.  Trash day.  A couple of yoga related books my therapist has suggested have arrived.  A light rain is falling.  Now it is heavy, straight down.  After the fourth night, the household chores seem insurmountable.  But... take one thing at a time.

The thought, needing to stop drinking.  But how could I do that with the job I have?  Impossible.  Therefore, to save yourself, you must quit.  You're not even happy with the job anyway.  It's the fear of the unknown that is stopping you.  That and a need for money, not having much.  Or is it the true desire one must gain, to not accept anymore, but to change.

Drinking is a loaded issue, when you consider, when you think of how college could have gone differently...  But I had that mysterious issue, the time spent writing papers, the time spent reading...  Obsessive, depressed?  I grew negative, pessimistic, and all the while feeling I had something to say.

Well, then you go and say it, and then what?  Self-published works, where do they go?

I'm not even able to write anything today.  As is staring at some fundamental problem without understanding...

I manage to do the dishes, cook lamb sausages under the broiler, take a shower, then out for a stroll under a dark sky, walking very slowly, almost a walking meditation.  Up California from Massachusetts, up the hill to Connecticut Avenue and its view of the Hilton and the city down below, then finally down to Glen's where quite a social hour is going.  I get my meats, onions, a piece of farmer's cheese, a quart of chicken stock, pay at the register, and then slip away out the door.  People are drinking beers, wine, eating pizza and whatever else.  People are sitting outside at the picnic tables, but not ready to join the party I head home and this too feels sad.  As if the job that allowed such things to happen does not allow me to enjoy the benefit of the service myself.


I lay in a state of semi-sleep on the couch for a long time, hours, after my return.  When I wake, I take up one of the books my therapist has recommended, Living Your Yoga, by Judith Hanson Lasater.  The lessons, the exercises within, remind me of something I've fallen out of touch with.  I lay in corpse pose, for the recommended twenty minutes, and when I come out of it, yes, what I've been missing all these years, which is compassion for your own self, faith in your own self, in acknowledging how difficult life is, and how brave one has to be, in fact, already is.  So, let that be a lesson to those of us, taken by the throes of the tyrannical mind.

And I saw that I was in the perfect place to administer compassion, and mainly, yes, to myself.

That this would be difficult for a bartender, who practices compassion on a daily basis to others, would not provide it for himself, seemed meaningful and indicative, and so, I began to endeavor to do it for myself, which is a lesson to all of us.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

But I cannot wake without a sense of regret of a night's adventure.  After work I go join my buddies for a wind-down glass.  The talk is good.  It's good to have a friend, we share some red wine.  And today I wake up late.  A good conversation about Catholic school education, the spirituality inherent in all learning (which is not well respected these days as it should be, a thing crucial to education), but I'd be hard-put to assemble a narrative of the evening, but that we sat in front of television I don't remember while one buddy talked on Skype to a young lady in South America in the far room behind glass doors.  The bike ride home, uneventful, required calm concentration.  I pull up my street with the sense of having been out too late, shoulda' just gone straight home, put my road bike on the stand, got in a slow roll, had my two glasses of Beaujolais...  And where do such late-night conversations go?  Except that they are useful, you have to admit, and these guys are your friends, and shop-talk is necessary.  And they are at that hour in which you've finished up work, where it's good to sit back on a couch and listen.  Yeah, man, I get it.  But, when you're in a rut, you need to think outside the box.  Which is perhaps why it feels reasonable to light incense when I get home finally.

Is it that a Kerouac has less that sense of maybe-I-should-be-doing-something-else-with-my-life that hits once responsible old schoolboys.  Having less that sense the doors to the narrative are open.  Whereas others of us might wait for that final cleaning up of one's act, finally, a clean Coltrane going down to the studio to record A Love Supreme...  We feel too much guilt over current palliative habits to set our creativity free.

In the space between falls a job.  Falls the facts of life.  Falls the individual who is a good guest but ultimately stays on a bit too long after his dinner and makes you nervous.  And there was enough angst over getting things done in a shift that, yes, a little calming medicine is necessary.

But the puzzle in the train of thought here seems to be that there is plenty enough evidence of school-boy guilt in Kerouac's work.  There doesn't seem to be much self-reflection, Hamlet-like questioning of self, in Neil Cassidy.  And there obviously needs to be some for the lot of us wanting to be part of a respectful respectable useful society...

Take this back to my own job, which seems harmless enough, but it can seem the job for weak men, weak men who are at a loss of what better to do with themselves, not bold enough to try a few different things before settling...  I do my job, well enough, and people have a civilized time, a bottle of wine for four, appetizer, entrees, coffee with dessert.  Respectable people, who, in turn, thank me and call me Sir for my little helpful acts and good hospitality that cannot be faked.  The musicians, who play the jazz for us, I am good friends with.  We're all in this together, no I in team.

But where falls in, after reading Buddha's words and the Gospels and Corinthians and letters from your old Dad, after listening to JFK and RFK, and Roosevelt, where falls that sense of the right way, the moral way, the respectable way, the way that is not fraught with the sense of cumulative missteps, of things like 'not standing up for yourself,' and things like that.  Too many bad influences, not enough studious reading, and all of this catching up with me at some point.

And Kerouac, yes, he definitely had the circumspection, here and there, in Desolation Angels, in many passages here and there where he is really really trying to be good, to be a good boy, clean, living in harmony with nature, his cabin with good nutrition, a good little system.  But, but, but...  We know how he ends up.  Even when he sings lyrically, is it in Dharma Bums, at the end, "a new life for me."  Alas.

Bringing us back to Shakespeare, where, by dint of dramatic structure, there are too many characters and situations not to allow the final circumspection, even if a character is helpless to do anything but recognize, too late...

Lincoln never was much of a drinker (though all they had back his the days as a young man was bourbon whiskey, and ale, and he had enough example of relatives gone mad to be careful.)  A sip of wine, maybe, at dinner, to be a polite political figure.  And he did not have, as a result, so many sins as some of us, to live down.  Though he did, it seems, have that illness, melancholia, a state of blues he could not help, clouding his mind, making thought painful.  The lists of wine and booze had for his inaugural parties, along with the roasts and the oysters, are quite long, and ample, but for the crowd, for lesser men, not he.

Put a vice in place, yes, maybe indeed, it becomes a crutch.  When you could be out doing more useful things as the world turns...

Alas, it is not the barman's place to get as cross with the self-indulgent as he would like to be, from the boss's perspective, nor the client who comes in regularly and spends.  Or, one day, does he get sort of fed up, my father's temple of learning you have turned into a crass place...

It retrospect it was a good conversation, my pal Ray talking about his education at Damatha High School, his class in religious traditions inclusive of the wide range, not even any emphasis on Catholicism.  And I'm able to do my yoga after the shower, after writing.  And perhaps after such considerations, the ability to act to the sort of values and morality you'd really like to inhabit and exemplify, maybe becomes more possible, more supported.

Must one know the sickness inside himself to surmount it, curing it...

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Every day, same problem.  What to write, how to write, why...  Do you feel up for it, or should you just go back to bed and wait 'til it's time to go to work.

Two shifts in.  Carrying the night while the other guy, without much enthusiasm for Monday night jazz, hides in the back room reading on his iPhone.  There are only a meager few reservations for the night, as if something was up.   The keyboard player comes up to the bar after the customers are gone, and we talk about the Baltimore riots, his memory of the one in DC after the assassination of Dr. King.  How terrible and counter-productive.  "You didn't make the laws, but you have to respect them."  The old nightclub and jazz corridor, which provided jobs and entertainment for the locals, laid waste...  "When did the Howard Theater finally reopen?  Three years ago..."  Ouch.

Then the musicians are gone, their equipment loaded, a decent dinner enjoyed in the corner, the last plates to clear back downstairs to the silent kitchen empty under fluorescent lights, the dishwasher's stainless steel counter and sink there inside the door under the hanging sprayer tucked away for the night, the dishwasher's metal levered doors open, laid bare.  I'm cleaning up, knock on the door, it's old server., coming from his first shifts at the new job down the road where he's already making good money, serving fish table-side.  I make him a Beefeater martini and he has an excellent story about a staff meeting...  Do not question management, be positive, do not break stuff.  A slide show.  Do not be the problem, be the solution.  Work smarter, not harder.  (Yes, I remember the two-faced clich├ęs of a particular management team...  The truth is:  Respect the staff, treat them as adults, professionals, an asset, and then the staff would care, do the right thing.)   The meeting departs, heavy tables are lugged in to set up for a private party. "Five round tables," one manager says.  This is done, with much jee-hawing, chairs and tables..  And after all this is down, as opening time is drawing nigh, "no, no--one long table," says higher manager, looking at a spec sheet, so they have to redo it all, switching everything out.

The talk moves to what I've been up to.  Some great travel tales.  The attitudes of people from other countries, the things they go through.  And then talk turns to my lack of decent earnings, lack of retirement plan and all the usual forms of security.  Old server talks me through it.  "Promote yourself, do your own classes, or get a job teaching at prep school, which you can do a lot longer than what you're doing now."  And he is right, of course.  Care and concern from a world-wise good-at-reading-people older brother type for yet another of one of those younger brother types, who's very smart in some ways, but doesn't have it together, might end up out on the street...
"They'll let you teach that class, into your seventies, and you wouldn't have to be subversive about your message..."  (I'd explained my little sermon about the psychological and spiritual benefits of sitting your butt down every day to write.)

But everyday, same problem.  What to write, how to write, why?  For what purpose.

In the old days's tradition, as Coomaraswamy points out in one of his essays, a masterpiece was simply a measure of a workman's competence in the standards of the guild.  You'd done enough of them, and now you could make a good quality ceramic pot or altarpiece.  Now the term sounds to us a bit more elevated.  A masterpiece sounds like a thing beyond normal human capability, a marketing term for that which surpasses all other standards.  Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, gold standards, beyond the norm, genius, yes, masterpiece, but for the rest of us, yeah, keep plugging away.  Who's the guy on PBS with magic of oil painting, with the neat tricks that make mountains and then lakes and then trees and then a rail fence and a cabin appear, techniques abused to the point of humor to decorate the wall above the bed in hotels like the one I recently stayed in in Chinatown, such that all trees had the same downward droop as the tropical pines and the mountains all had the same blue El Capitan lump but pushed together like books on the shelf there in the background by some heretofore unseen (and implausible) trick of geology, but the domicile of this kingdom having some nice verandas under an awning roof where indeed one might stay in good vaguely Chinese comfort...  Yes, whatever you want;  it's your world to create.

But we still live in the shadow of things like the earthquake disaster in Nepal, and in the sober light perhaps the term 'masterpiece' is viewed closer to its original scale.

Writing, yes, I try to focus on writing, and not my lack of security for old age, my misplaced reliance on Social Security benefits.  I write and put aside the reminder I get from the wine-reps, you should have left this job yesterday;  how old are you?  Fifty.  Fifty?  (Expression, hidden:  you are fucked.)  Dude, get out now;  be a teacher.

I think of Job.  Job, were you around when the foundations of the world were lain?  Uh, no...  No, I wasn't, as far as I know.

But I should be a teacher.  That does sound better than slogging through another twenty five years of shifts then having nothing at the end of it to show.

Onward I go, crafting my yellow journalism, the ends of my shifts presided over by somber judges who drive a weak man into the Beaujolais...


Incense burned, two sticks, one of Nag Champa, one of Sandalwood, over the usual sadness I expand around and attempt to put in place, the scented smoke unable to reach the poor sweet shaken Buddhist Nepalese survivors of earthquake nor the rubble of their old temples,  I think of how I'd rather inhabit one of those old age airy ink mountain prints, suggestive like calligraphy is, minimal in scene, evocative of weather and mist, waterfall, a monk's abode, a bird on the wing, all deeply satisfying in a strange way, than the lush green, blue and gold luxury of the hotel painting, if I had to chose.

I stand up, the hunched posture straightens a bit from having written and the glance at the clock that says the mysteries of actual time draw close to when the person you have chosen to be gets ready for work.  A leaf blower revving in the distance.


As I shower, loosening up under the hot water, I am reminded of a golden restaurant of the past, now departed, from years ago in this professional career.  I can still hear the new management team's leader, shouting to us one through the hot stale air of a sunny Saturday morning about sexual harassment, and he, the worst perpetrator of the very thing.  I remember the original management, a small slip of calendar page with the old Tao wisdom on it, ending with "the best leader of all is the one of whom the people are barely aware of;  and when they succeed, the people say, look at what we have accomplished all by ourselves."



I almost have to wonder, driven to the thought by logic, that if a writer relies heavily on the management of marketing his, or her, works, then you stand the risk of being a product of that marketing.  But if you write the simple truth...

Monday, April 27, 2015

And by the time I get back from therapy, in the lay-over between the Sunday night and the Monday night shift, I'm a bit talked out.  I've made a run to Glen's Market on the way home, and thinking parts are fading a little bit, and maybe there will be a nap involved.  I had to empty at the cooler of all the bottles for some plumbing to be done last night, and I'll try to get in earlier than usual.

Every day, Shane MacGowan draws a mandala, a circle, a horizontal and a vertical line for axes.  He believes it orients his day, that of a self-described nut for things spiritual, at least at the time of writing/being interviewed by his wife for A Drink With Shane MacGowan.  I think I know the feeling.  Maybe you do too.

My point to the good doctor is that there are enormous psychological and spiritual benefits to the act of writing.  What to do with it beyond that?  Do you get an MFA in fiction writing to be around other nervous writer types?  Does writing have to be commodified like everything else?  Is it in your life for you to make a living at it, or is something you might quietly preach about.

I watch a movie version of Kerouac's later novel Big Sur.  I flinch watching it.  I've read the book enough times to know what will happen next and the general tone of it, a harrowing trip into breakdown and alcoholism.  Yet at the end of it you have the sense, in the book at least, that when he the writer returns from the adventures to the safe isle of writing, then he's going to be okay.

Why is that venturing out into the modern world and the egos and personalities attuned to surviving in that modern world is so troublesome for some of us.  Is it blood-type, or something else constitutional?  You sit down and write, it's like you're able to navigate again;  you don't sit and stew, things picking at you relentlessly.

First it was an unnamed need.  In someways, there wasn't much support from it.  Either you read and analyzed, or you took a creative writing class, the two separate.  The act was viewed as a duty of scholarship.  Not a jumping off point for one's own writing process, your own life as a writer, even as that proposition stares one in the face with each and every line.  Like a child watching an adult walk.  But the act of the classroom, which anointed literature as being something okay and healthy, good even, still amounted to the basic truth of  reading the works of other people who'd gravitated toward the process, for their own sanity and intuitive health.  Even Hemingway, remembering his vigor and health.

I myself was drawn in by the simplicity of Islands in the Stream, (posthumous, from Hemingway's notebooks) the writer's own version of Zen, a recording in intimate detail, for posterity, of the little regular things of everyday life, accounted for, aligned, so that the person would know where to find them the next day, reassured.  The textures of life recorded, along with the habits of the house pets, the cat, his boat, the sea, the fishermen and the places they ate, and again, peeling oranges and putting the peels into the flames to watch the fire, in this case driftwood, turn colors.   The act of writing seemed immediately to quell the anxiety.  It had some antidotal property, rejuvenating, calming, salubrious, cleansing, a breathing out of stale air in order to get fresh air in.

Is the point of it to be a professional, to get good at it, write fiction, have an editor, produce a book for the marketplace?  Or isn't it rather a bit more organic than that.  More an inherent human need, an extension of biological function.  Something that keeps us from going off-track (like Kerouac quite dramatically does in Big Sur--and we know the experience exists within the realm of possibility.)

If you write, it stands to reason, you have all that better a chance to listen to your inner voice, your inner self, and know a bit better how to act, what you need, what a realistic attitude would be..  If I'd taken up writing earlier in a supported way, I might have done a few things differently.  I might have been calmer, and reacted better, more attuned to my own heart, less stung by superficial critique and illusion.  Calmer, more positive.  Less self-destructive.

And yet, instincts told me I needed to write.  Early on enough, but not knowing how or what exactly to write about.  To write, you need experience, right?  You need to drive a nitroglycerin truck across the Yukon, take in first hand a civil war, travel to exotic places...  Otherwise, what possibly would we have to write about, that anyone else would want to read out of anything more than politeness, tolerant of your solipsistic doldrums not worth recording.

Yeah, but I took an immediate liking to the simple stuff, like Nick setting up his camp, or Kerouac surviving on the road day by day.  These were the sort of textures I liked.  Aren't we camping out every day, in life itself....  Are not we all hanging by a thread...


Those of us who write, and who write well, might simply be those who need the process more.   Writing acknowledges the need to slow things that happen quickly down enough to be assessed (still at the intuitive level where things must be assessed), the need to see out of the dense clouds of their own psyches and daily moods.

Perhaps the modern urban monastery of one's own writing practice isn't such a bad thing.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

But alas, grumpy comments about celebrity journalists aside, it is me who cannot be trusted going out to anything but a close dinner party.  I should stay home and write, is all.  And this is a fact, I think, of ancient humanity, of which Kerouac--look at him--represented.  As long as he was protected, writing at home, he was more or less okay.  But going out, it's always something.

A reason I never look forward to tending bar, the reason why it frightens me somewhat.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Oh, but there are many distractions for the writer.  I think of all the years Cervantes was stuck in situations not very conducive to productivity, aging all the while, but still, where he might have said, oh, I've missed too much time, too many years, what's the point, the plucky chap picked up his pen, no more attempts at literary efforts foreign to him, now I write for me.

And so I felt.  I cannot be trusted around many distractions, sure I'll have a Guinness, I might as well, here I am.  Oh, look at her, she's pretty...  Oh, that wine, it might taste pretty good, I bet.  And there is not a lot of reason to, after you've written in your morning, support going back, alone of course, to write more.  And years go by in states of coping, you cook dinner, the wine bottle is open, you do a little housekeeping, then later you're bored and feel the need for a little outside stimulation, Russia House.  No point writing then.

But you have to admit who you are.  You have to admit having the writer's psychology, admit the ability or desire in your heart for anything else.  It seems like such an odd thing to value.  What is writing, in its essence, but writing, and that you have to realize as your value.  And going to sit in the bar at Kramer's is not the same thing as writing, though you might want to think it looks like part of that life.  No.  Going home after buying Atticus Linch's book, after peeking into Infinite Jests and seeing that Volume Three of Knausgaard's My Struggle is in, and that the new biography of Joseph Mitchell is not, and looking over the vast array of other temptations and not blind to the female of the species, I pay and tell the young fellow with the cap behind the register, good luck with the chicks, and that I now am sensing general luck coming for him, going home after that to write a bit more, that is writing.  Even if it has no discernible plot nor a form.  A cool rainy Saturday night in late April, near Shakespeare's attributed birthday, with different versions of Kerouac, The Scroll, Visions of Cody, and the conventional paperback in Signet 25th Anniversary edition, plus Preparation for the Next Life to read through, I am returning to a former self, encouraged by I do not know what, but that I grow tired of the distracting devils that reside in me.

You can only write a little bit at a time.  And staying sober might help rather than hinder that, and going out really doesn't do much for the whole process except mysteriously, television as well.  Nope, you're stuck alone, in the quiet, and you might burn some incense, but there's not much more you can do but be good and keep at it.

Has it taken seeing the therapist to remind me of all this, of how I used to derive a lot of satisfaction from writing, even with little other tangible reward beyond that.  Remember your values.  Carry through with them, even if from outside they may seem odd.

Not much point is there to having a girlfriend even when you are not satisfied with your progress, and dating for me looks like a highly unlikely proposition, given my hours and the corresponding energy levels.  There is no home for me, no one to cook dinner with at One AM, but me.

I have not the stomach to write of affairs with women.  Nor am I that interested in tending bar.  Nor do I have any Dean Moriarty to hang out with.  Just me.

Or could it be that, with rare exceptions, the art of others is a thing tolerated, that you're better off with returning to those few artists who do make sense to you, who strike you as having good quality, and then not worry about the myriad of others, but be satisfied with the monkish quietude of the place you call home, underneath the older man kind enough to put you up when your brother moved on from the one bedroom basement you shared on the same street, ships passing in the night.  The art of others is much like waiting on people at a bar or restaurant.  You're putting energy in, serving, giving your time and attention, and often enough, it's okay just to stay in, amuse yourself as you see fit.

Ah, but here I am, bored with myself again, and the night at the Dubliner after the talk has made me see, as is typical, Saturday as my version of Sunday night, before the school day, back to work.

It's an odd way to live.  What can you do?  The life of a writer.

I am bored with myself now, but I am home alone, and the bottle of Chinon is chilled and open, the broiler heated for a satisfying hamburger.


There were times when I was ashamed, almost, of my love for Kerouac.  There was a time when I went to the National Gallery with my mom and I could not bring myself to buy the picture book biography that held things and stories I had not seen.

There was a time I would not go to book stores.  Life was about going to work at the bar.  I left the Chekhov on the shelf.  I got gloomy about the book I'd written, and it gloomed me to read it.


Blocks away from me the Correspondent's Dinner, televised.  I'm thinking my thoughts on Kerouac, but I've not resisted allowing the CNN coverage on in the background.  I like the President very much, as a human being, as a professional.  He has a sense of humor.  But the room is, you know, filled, filled with celebrity journalists, with dour Wolf Blitzer unable to play along lifting his hand.  The humorless are full of good humor and jokes to each other, and they are showing themselves off, the vain aspect of the world.  Which can only be seen in context of a faulted person, the writer.
Waking up with stiff joints and a subtle grating feeling in my guts--yes, I've eaten dough last night in my adventures, the bun of the Sirloin Burger at the Dubliner to catch some live Irish music after the Amherst President's reception at the Folger Shakespeare Library, the two slices of 'Triborough' at Flippin' Pizza after the Metro back.  My knee is reminding me of the Osgood Schlatter Syndrome I had long ago.  I know there are skeptics about the Gluten Free business, but I've had it corroborated many times, and I have Type O blood and, oh yes, I even succumbed to a few french fries along the line.  Ah, no wonder.   Usually I'm pretty good.

I've woken up late, mid-afternoon already, irritated with myself.  Colleges talk of diversity.  (Liberal Arts beset on many gloomy sides.)  "You have to step out of your comfort zone, and this is not easy."  And oh, suddenly, yes, this seems like one of my own deeper problems and failings, I must admit.  Why did I go back to my town, thinking of a poetic enough life with a pick-up truck and a dog.  But nowhere is that open anymore, if it ever was, where you could be like a Faulkner, or even like Kerouac, where you wouldn't be an outsider passing through, observing.  You'd have your friends, sure...

And my friends went off to the cities, and ultimately I had no other option, it seemed, so I did too.

But I wonder, as I try to think this thought out, that there is the element of similarity in all great books of a certain sort that the ending point is quite similar to the point of departure.  The points have the same taste, the same tone.  This is literally true of Finnegan's Wake, I am told, the whole story looping back on itself, Joyce being the master in his prose of time.  There is in On The Road the same sort of wistfulness to my own ear, to the beginning, "I first met Dean..." to the end, "I think of Dean Moriarty."  Chekhov stories can be like this too, even if a geographical location or a personal situation may have on the outside superficially changed.

Could it be, in the eyes of the greats, that we are the same, that we don't really change.  Quixote is still Quixote, even with all he goes through.  Levin is still Levin, he's just discovered a bit more and found a few contrasting styles of people along the way as if to highlight himself, the great journey of his great book exploring the human psyche about him.  Hamlet, tried and tested, is still the same young man as he was at the beginning.

The great discovery of the modernists (by which I mean all the greats who've told us stories like the ones mentioned above), could it be the discovery of personality, that people, in some way do not change much, even as they learn things, observe things, go through life.  Early Lincoln is the same phenomenon as the one who goes to the theater.

So how do we construe the great tale of being On The Road?   What do we make of Jesus going out into the desert for forty days?  What do we make of the life the Buddha, who begins as the young prince, becomes the seeker, and finally sits under the tree, is tempted by Mara and then overturns and dispatches all such evil...  How do we define that?

Well, we could go off to the therapist and talk about things, to sort out first hand experience to see what might and might not be true.   We put a label on things.  "I did not step out of my comfort zone," we might say to ourselves.  "This is clear when you look at my life events.  I think it happened here, at this point, when this happened."

That is one way to look at it, and there is work to be done, sure.

But then there is that weight, the odd fact of a kind of individual personality different from the rest.  One discovers what they, in essence, already know, that education is a process of awakening, as if to let nature tell the germinating sprout what kind of a thing, tree, or flower, or bush, species tulip, fern, it will arrange its cellular life into as it responds to the information of its surroundings, what kind of a thing it will be in the course of its life from embryonic state to maturity and beyond.  Something immutable.

Melville's Ishmael does not change much in the course of how many pages;  he observes a living fable (fictional, yes, but in fiction there is some truth, and in the details of the story there is a lot of reality that gets out) but serves as the observer, along for the ride, being who he is.

Kerouac does not change much.  He's a sympathetic type, curious, poetic, observational, in some ways conflicted without being able to act so much.  He's a doer, goes across the country, and yet, he can't tell Dean, No!  Slow down!  Don't barrel over the one-lane bridge...  He can't get out of the Cadillac headed to a show and give his friend Dean a proper good-bye and his friends won't give the guy a ride to Penn Station even in the cold, and so the story ends with Sal Paradise 'thinking' on the 'old broken down pier.'

So what is life, what are such portrayals, about?  They seem to be about self-knowledge, maybe of different kinds.  They seem to be about some sort of enlightenment, some way of seeing, not this changes any of the outer realities of life, not that this grants anyone the slightest power to change even.  But there is the development, of which Christ is an example thereof.  He comes and says the things and observes the things he is given, reading his own story.  The catechistic story focussed on the end, of what people do to to him, rather than the focus on his teachings, seem a bit beside the point, though it has to be included, I suppose, in order to satisfy something we seem as readers to need, as if we needed to tag him with a radio transmitter to follow his secretive movements off into the wilds.  Better to remember what it was like glimpsing the animal himself, the way he might have gently smiled, or turned around, or shrugged.

The Buddhist see the matter with an eye for the appropriateness of things.  The babe with the inner reality of a great composer was born into a certain family.  The deeper reality of the place where you went off to school, up on a hill across from the hill the Emily Dickinson houses sit below, the particular teachers you might have had with the echoes of Robert Frost in them, might too be construed as significant.

There is some significance in Kerouac's meeting Neil Cassidy, and some deep spiritual depths in what  he wrote, even as he, a true mortal, could not perfectly transcend to them, just as no one, I suppose really can (unless maybe you are really really really good, and the universe obeys.)  There is the resulting learning, the wisdom that comes partly through what might be like abusing yourself a bit, as Kerouac suffered.  But there is in Kerouac the birth, of the continuation, of a kind of prose comfortable with itself, comfortable with its human bearers.  (For which Neil Cassidy, via his famous letter to Kerouac, deserves credit for, even in his craziness, embodying.)   The revelation of how we think, the way words go about their business in our electric little minds.  Such as in a way that they might carry some form of a kind of truth, the same we might credit the statement "all men are created equal" with a bit of it.

And so our own little picaresque probably more boring as far as details story's appropriateness toward telling the story of humanity, if we are born to be story tellers, reveal some form, some possibility, yet without economic label, of human character, of the goodness of our own little vehicle on this larger vehicle the planet Earth.  Not simply as failures, as Quixote is a failure, his victories imagined, not off this earth, forlorn things, then would we see them as, but as some further opportunity to, as we learn hopefully, go out into the desert, and come back having figured out how to say no to distractions and other things that prey upon the mind.

Followed by a great utterance of the true Self we all can share in, even if such were separate from the workings of the world of so-called reality.



But we all have our own little endings of our own little On the Roads, our own personal version, quite possibly often changing, mirrored in the last line, and I'll write it out here:

I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty.

Perhaps the very title, plain, meaningful, should tip us off, of deeply meaningful things going on, heroically, within.



As a footnote, yes, I would imagine, it takes a generous person to take such things on as a professional hobby, no promise of the tangible rewards we beings might reasonably seek, putting one's self into forms of harm's way, for the purpose.





I like an Irish pub, a real one, legitimate, with history.  They are plain and simple places, of generally good hospitality.  The Dubliner has walls of deep green, a faded painting of inside the Post Office from the Easter Uprising of 1916.  I had walked in without intending to drink anything more than soda water, having been good at a collegiate reception, but once sat at a stool, well, of course, I'll have a Guinness.  There was a man with a guitar, and I wanted to check him and the place out, as a way of gauging my own musical efforts toward the direction of Irish music.

Sitting next to an affable chap of white hair, I ask him if he is the musician, as the barman treated him deferentially--I come in a lot, he explained, nudging over the red faced man seated at the table with a group of friends--and soon I'm singing along with The Irish Rover and other songs I have a gist of the words for.  One stout, nursed slowly, is followed by another, and the man on the stage is taking requests.

Ahh, what was I going to do with my night anyway, but get back to Dupont, pick up a bottle of red for insurance, cook, read...  Living alone, that doesn't sound too exciting.  Maybe I'd play through my songs, myself, keep them in practice.  Get out of your comfort zone.  It's nice to have a new experience, something I never do, in a different part of tone.  The bar is relaxed.  No biting off more than you can chew on the part of a restaurant.

To the writer, time is ever a foreign substance, and so, like sands through the hourglass, or shadows cast by the sundial, time seems handily measured out by pints of Guinness, by the songs that pass from the stage out over the audience, until a burger, the paying of the check, the final chats with neighbors, then the Metro.  But what else would you do with time, but spend it in some idyll, some dreamy observational walk, the writer cannot help see it otherwise.  In time, proper, there are meetings to be met, the seizing of occasion to nail things down, the mysterious equation of time being money and opportunity for the things you'd really like to do, the way you'd really want to purposefully spend the God-given years of life.  But for the writer, what to achieve, but to write as one can write what one is given to write, such mystery to think over like a statue.

Oh, there's groceries, the bottle of wine to procure, for that end of the day and relaxing.  Missing in life is the cheap public space, comfortable, not too noisy in a harsh way, not too amped up by large television screens, and with the proper lighting and staff attitude.  In the consumer world of the city, these are hard spaces to come by, and each offers its own purchased distractions.  You got up too late to go to the library, and that can get dull anyway.  There are birds, robins, rustling in a tall thicket of bamboo.

The writer, totally, is a wanderer, semi-aimless, ready to answer questions wisely, and described so well by Kerouac's sketch at the beginning of On The Road's final chapter, of calling up to a flat where he thinks friends are having a party and out of the window a pretty girl sticks her head out the window, asks who he is, and then says come on up for hot chocolate...  "We agreed to love each other madly."  That's how it is for a writer, perhaps because he, or she, knows the ultimate reality, that we alight as birds on a tree, build our little nests, do our thing according to nature and that, my friends, is life.  There's nothing really to write about other than that, is the truth.  So why go blustering around to fancy and foreign places when it's all right there in front of you, just that you have to relax, and put up with it and live gently and peacefully.  That's not, apparently, for everyone, nor their cup of tea.  'Look at me, I'm doing things!'  Okay, says the writer, less enthusiastically, for some reason, fearing that one day the friend will get bored with you or move off to create their own world around their own illusions of self while you write away and think your thoughts.  They'll jealously guard their own things, it does seem, perhaps until the final realities dawn upon them too, and then they'll be okay with you, finally.  Thus the singular devotion writing might take, finally, who knows.

Is life really that random?  Can you, Mr. Writer, really not stand up for anything?  Do you have any sort of opinion, or thing to say?  To which the writer will secretly feel like he's already said it.  Defend yourself, idiot!  Uh, I think I'll go for a walk.  Would you like to come?  Maybe?

Oh, such is life out on the road.   You're happy with simple things, like the piece of apple pie with ice cream that gets you across the country... 

Maybe this accounts for the sweet sadness that goes with meeting all the incidental people of the world, the thought of which makes the writer shy, having to act, to go buy your bottle of Pinot Noir down at the shop or look for a good book at Kramer's, that feeling like you are a child, but thankfully encountering the same shy kind humanity in other people as they too go about their business as easily as they can.  A conversation always starts, and the writer handles it as well as anyone, and there's humor to be had in life's vagaries, in its haphazard randomness organized into things like wine shops and book stores through which living beings pass, having sprung out of nature themselves, awkwardly enough, beautifully enough, with as much right to occupy space as any other things.  Like Buddha says, gesturing to Mara, by touching the earth, I have a right to this space, in one of the most radical utterances humanity has ever come up with.  Ka-bang.

Feelings, I suppose, are a bit beside the point.  What can you do, but suffer and at times enjoy them.  But in letting them flow through, letting them come and go, is the proper way to hold on to them.   Chagrin, wistful and familiar friend, I think of her quite often, and that's just the way it is, no need to put dirty words on it, judgmental terms.