Wednesday, February 10, 2016

I never really liked Washington, DC.  Know what I mean?  Never felt it was the right place.  No real reason to be here, but that it was the terminus of someone's funeral train, the start of someone else's.  I mean, why, what brought me here.  It was livable.  There were trees.  It looked like a college campus...

But what the fuck was I doing here?  What business?  I, you know, I tried, I worked at a temp agency, I... I talked to a guy at the Post about being a copy boy, but he admitted, here, after Reagan, even people with journalism degrees were hanging on and not letting go to such jobs...  Sorry.  So much for being Joseph Mitchell..

I mean, it's a good town.  There are good people in it.  Lots of people.  Lots of people I like.  But no real place a guy of my sorts of callings could really do... Or maybe I just lack talent, or I'm not loud enough...

DC was a substitute, not my old New York State, nor all the towns that fed in, to New York City and the Irish and the Poles living there...  Actually, the watershed I lived in, was sort of ambiguous... Did it lead to New York, or the Potomac watershed.....

I miss my mom, that's all I can say now.  I feel too far away...

I've waited on them for, what, twenty five years, worked night shifts, no one gives a fuck.

That's okay.  That's how it goes.  That's the kind of town it is.  Thank you, very much.  Remember me... What's that from, Dickens, Marley, the ghost of Christmas Past, remember me...

Wish I'd chosen to live by the Hudson... Or rather, Massachusetts.    Or the town I grew up in.

Dad, last great conversation I had with him, Christmas time before he died, he felt the need to speak it all out straight.  Mom had money to go to grad school.  It was the sale of the house that... you know, made me unhappy enough to not be so...effective a student, etc.  And I , went along with it, said, yeah, dad, but it wasn't the house so much, as... my own encounters with the real world...  like, how love can fail.  How can it fail?  Ask yourself that.  Well, it does.

How can love fail...   That's the thing, I wanted to talk about it.  How can... that pure thing, just fail... How can it.   Can't people see, you know, you like that person a lot, and her girlfriends, like, all they are is mad at you, mad at you for trying to be a man...  Relentless, unforgiving....

And no one can do a damn thing about it.   It's like JFK and Jackie at Dallas.  Don't Go!  Put on the bubble top...  But you can't do anything, and at that last agonizing moment, just as you turn the corner, slowly, and taxi down the last slope onto the freeway--and we all know what a freeway is--well, there, even by a little park, the grassy knoll, planted there for some part of old history or beautification, as we know... the shots ring out...  And then next thing you know, Airforce One is taxi-ing into the light of the cameras at Andrews, and they, you know,   get off the plane...  the lift thing, bobby, jackie, the steel coffin...  and then you know, the box... it's true...

yeah, last time I went to Amherst, to, uh, like go talk with her, and that was fucked up, me running into the likes of... I won't say idiots... jocks, unscholarly but successful confident athletic people, well,   and then I go the party at the old house at the corner, and when I ask, hey, is that   (her)  I get from her most prized girlfriend,  Leave Her Alone..  What?  LEAVE HER ALONE!  I backed off... I come all this way...  I come all this way...  Some other woman came along and hugged me and said, oh, its nice to see you...   The night didn't go well.  And the next day, I felt a great shame...  Why, why should I have to feel a shame, why was it left to me to feel that, feel nothing but a great failure, mute, couldn't do a damn thing, couldn't go talk to her... Nothing.  No one to support me, no professor to come around and say, hey, this guy's  a good cat... Nope.  Nothing.  Blank.

The guard dog friend, with a Christian name, she slinked up and looked at me, but I felt her, and I...  I moved away... after we made the eye contact I felt coming...  and I stood there and no one did a damn thing to help me out of my fog, and I didn't even have glasses, that's how sad I was.  I'd come all that way, and I didn't even have glasses or contacts....

And did she jump in to try to save or help me or say something nice... nope.  Didn't happen. Didn't see it anyway....

I took a ride back to Boston, so unhappy, disappointed with myself, to say the least, the slush of very cold Somerville, my brother's apartment in Inman Square, and because it was almost November, and there was a Guggenheim film about JFK, yes, of course, that was where it ended up.  That moment, unloading, trying to carry, the stainless steel box,  the coffin, and obviously, he was in it, that was it.  It was lean.  It was grey.  It was his size.  It spoke of him and his great career and his shouting addresses and his great poetry and his charm, his balls, facing the press, above all the sense of humor, the sense of humor, the gift of speaking, and being himself when he spoke.  Which is honesty.

I mean, I know, to his own taping system, the predecessor of Nixon, he can sound like of lame...  Or maybe you can sort of hear some of the pain he was in, the manual labor of showing up to be President, before the words, before the... all the countless decisions one must make...

And wracked with pain, the poor bastard made the right decisions, he made speech the likes of which we shall never hear again...

Kennedy, Lincoln, laugh about it..  but it's true.


My sin... saying "crazy to bring flowers to a beautiful girl."  No good deed is left unpunished.
Sketch

On the Sunday Mass before Ash Wednesday, the priest, who's been at it twenty years, speaks of the two, and there are only two, vocations, that of priesthood, and that of marriage.  Two vows there are.  In this, the Catholic world view.

The next day, I reflect for my therapist.  There are two vocations.  Two callings.  Two great discoveries, of what our talents are, of what God gives us, wants us to do.  "And there was that clear calling.  I was called to marriage, to be her husband, to love her, to put up with her, to do anything for her, to take the vow, 'til death do us part.'  And I, my fault, I messed it all up.  Again and again.  Got distracted.  Friends.  Even as much as I tried to protect myself from outside influences."

And today I wake up, realizing the truth of all that, as every morning, some small part of the string of the mistakes plays through my waking mind, some opportunity, handed to me from God, gets misused in an almost classic fashion.

"And that's the tale of my life, doc.   The last twenty eight, thirty years or so.  And writing a book about it, that doesn't seem to me to be God's calling, but a substitute, one that doesn't really do it."  I took a sip from my plastic water cup, looking down into it.  "I've not done much in those years.  Tried to be a good son, a good friend, tried to have a social life, but in an erroneous fashion, that of working the bar part of a restaurant...   I'm not even in the right town.  I've been a sleep-walker through life.  Self-medicated...

"You miss your calling.  It's plain to see, it's right in front of you.  But you make all the mistakes of a young fool.  And all the career stuff, it all comes out of the calling, comes about because of it, gives you a reason to do something.  Gives you a language in which to speak.  Gives you a soundtrack, music to work by, and then, with that love and support, things happen;  you move forward.  But if you are so obsessed on finding a calling that you miss the calling, the clear beckon to the vocation that you hear without even knowing much about it but that it works for you, then what?

"Well, life's not going to be a lot of fun.  There's Buddhism, a self-negation, trying to make it all not mean as much to you as it does organically...  There's yoga...  There's Chekhov stories...  But then, naked and unhappy, I guess the only thing left is found in Luke's Gospel.  The Beatitudes.  Happy are the meek and the mournful, for they shall have their reward in Heaven... Well, that's quite a statement.

"Where does one find satisfaction?  A balm for such pains...  At least Jesus is honest.  There are such people.  They are the ones who better hear of the love of God?  They appreciate it more because their life ain't so hot?

"Trying to find a calling, I missed mine.  I missed a whole life.

"But Jesus says it with such certainty.  There's something to it.  There has to be....

"Does it  come down to the fact that we are sensitive creatures, more than we would want to be?  That our pains and joys are more than we would anticipate?

"Are sorrows a talent some of us simply have...



But the doctors, of literature and scholarship, at Amherst, they did as much to not be as sensitive to my calling as anyone.  They saw, or could have seen, how much I put into writing a paper...  Did they see my search for a mythical language, or that this search is what a writer is about?  I tried to make that final point over Hemingway and The Old Man and the Sea, but it was one bad grade after another, after the good start and the calling came...

The doctors are the ones who are supposed to help you, but instead they say, why do you cure on the sabbath, i.e., late, why was your paper on Paradise Lost late, here's another shitty grade (after we ourselves have awakened your mind to the great calling, as if we were now some sort of unspeaking cabal who have to control it, lest we lose what we, royally, have... control, jobs, tenure, respect...  Like my dad, my old man, said, rank opportunists.  That's what he said.

No wonder Jesus got angry with them.  Youthful son of the scholar, Joseph (often mistranslated as carpenter...)

Should have kissed their asses, old boy..

I mean, yeah, doc, why wouldn't he have wanted to hang out with fisherman, bureaucrats, crazy customers, restaurant people, chefs...  The Pharisees would have made him sick to his stomach, and they in turn would simply have thought of him as a sort of undergrad of excesses, hard to understand by their own codified language and procedures...

You know, try to keep a sense of humor about it all..

You're right, a little bit of yoga, walk to work, meditate to clear the mind, that's all, then you're good..

Sunday, February 7, 2016

But what's the value of writing?  What does the act mean?  Is it a moral act?  Is it supposed to help anyone?  Is there the value of 'art' or 'craft?'

One writes not to be better at it than anyone else, but to find and explain the sensitive nature of the creature within us, that spiritual person within who grapples with a discomfort toward sin, with shyness, with the need for quiet prayer.  We don't always know we have this being within us, overly sensitive, always on guard against sin.

No one wants to find out that he is too sensitive, not a young man.  He will feel ashamed of the fact when stacked up against the world in which he lives.  He will wonder over his shyness, his prudishness, his distaste.

But it makes it easier to face the devils, knowing of what they were, charming, always, fun, ever, but leading one to a sense of shame.  And it helps you, even if you don't always succeed at controlling them, to know who you are, even if it is embarrassing, awkward, an admission that you don't belong with the crowd.  Which is, I suppose, why one waits on people, because there is a greater happiness in serving than being served, even if it leads you to a life that might seem pretty lonely sometimes.

Have I been an enabler of sin, a people pleaser, an excuse not to go home but to linger?  What should I be doing with myself, so that there wouldn't be sin, so that there wouldn't be a weakening of the good?

Lord, depart from me, because I am a sinful man.  Even my very job...

But there is something that seems to sustain me.  What's the use of art, if it is not put to some moral end, an end to help other people get out of the things that are making them unhappy?  Religion, spirituality, is sneered at as the cause of all wars and tensions, but I find a place for it.  And when you connect people to their own inner innate sensitivity they can see that place for the religious, a practical use.

The story I wrote, I see it now the story of a sensitive young person, coping with the nature of sin, trying to figure out how to be righteous in the world.  It's the beginning of a story, not the full realization.

I read from Raymond Carver at the end of the night, still hearing their voices.  I read the story about Dummy, the guy who sweeps up at the mill.  I light some incense, and later when I get a day off I avoid the bar.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Old Testament reading was from II. Samuel, 16:5 on.   A man of the family of the house of Saul comes forth and curses David.  "... and the Lord hath delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom thy son; and, behold, thou are taken in mischief, because thou art a bloody man," continues the man, cursing David.  David, holding back his own forces, says, "so let him, curse, because the Lord hath said unto him, Curse David."  And David speaks of how his son, Absalom, "seeketh my life: how much more may this Benjamite do it?  let him alone, and let him curse; for the Lord hath bidden him."

The New Testament reading, read by Father Hurley himself, related the story of the man at the far side of the sea, the man inhabiting a graveyard, unable to be restrained with chains, who's afflicting demon's name is legion, who Jesus saves by casting into the herd of two thousand swine.

And when he finished the reading, the Father gently mused about how 'here we have two unhappy families...'  And the final point of his sermon, was that even in such cases, there was, ultimately, the mercy, love and kindness of the Lord who loves us.


When we sat down to our family meal supper at the round table near the kitchen, those of us gathered for a Monday night shift, a Jazz night for those of us up at the wine bar, of this the second week of Restaurant Week the winter version, the chef joined us, and explained a bit of the difficulty and the weariness of the back of the house.  Pushing the restaurant week menu, he had to throw out some of the mainstays from the regular menu for having gone bad.  (And I thought, you threw out a cassoulet, surely we could have eaten it for staff meal and profited by it in our stomachs, particularly when ten o'clock rolls around...)   I picked up on what may have been a hint, but later on people still seemed obsessed with the restaurant week deal, and indeed, though a lot of traffic had come through The Dying Gaul, there was not much in the way of profitable food costs.

We parted, after speaking of the low numbers of a few things, only eight orders of escargot available tonight, and I went upstairs to finish getting ready.

The door was unlocked, no customers were beating down the door, and then the figure of the chef came up the stairs, I expected for an adjustment to the night's menu, a change of vegetable perhaps.  He asked us if we'd heard the news about the Swiss chef, our chef himself being Swiss.  The suicide of a prominent European chef whose restaurant had been proclaimed "Best in the World" had made the Google news.  I said, yes, I'd heard the news, but...

And so he went on to the tell the tale of chefs, and of the pressure they are under, the pressure he felt he was under when he first came to us, when the restaurant could have gone either way.  "Yeah, you don't want that, you don't want that pressure of Michelan stars, because then all you can do is lose them."  He told us, me, the busboy Don José, and the new very competent bright active guy from Brazil, how he cannot read a bad review without it ruining his day.  Yelp.  You do everything right, but you make one mistake, let one thing stay in the oven one extra minute, and they get on your case. What you can hope for is consistency.  But really, a chef doesn't do it for the money.  You want to make money, do a place like Old Ebbitt, recognizable basic uninteresting (creatively mediocre)...  Try to be creative, you just end up killing yourself, and I'm getting too old for it.  It's really not worth it.  He turned and mused for a second.  You want the real story of the restaurant, read Kitchen Confidential.  I was already engaged at this point, the guy can write, references to Orwell...

We empathized with him, and he mused that he should have been a hotel GM, something like that, if he had to do it all over again.

Somewhere within that, he spoke of the pressure, how he used to cope with it, the anger, the frustration, by drinking.  "It worked just fine," he laughed.  "But now," he said when I pursued the matter, interested in the subject of how one might quit, "I talk.  You have to talk.  Even if there's no response...  Talk to someone."  Then he turned, and walked, with his aging knees, back down the stairs.

My new co-worker is wise.  From Sao Paolo.  A musician.  He's had a lot of experience dealing with the restaurants.   People start to come in.  And then, a prophecy of the evening, he says to me, "man, how come it's always the crazy people who sit at the bar."  Yes, this is very true.  "Are they lonely..."


The night was just about over, the last cheese plate served, the band wrapping up, when the usual late night glad-hander came up the stairs with handkerchief just so out of the breast pocket of his jacket, explaining his life was chaotic, and this added another hour to my night and a push into the wine I didn't need.  "Which wine do you think I should have," he asks me, after I pour him two then three tastes to see what mood the wine is in.  "See," I explain to the woman who has demanded my attention talking for much of the night, rambling about which champagnes she likes, what she keeps in her fridge should friends come by, all of which I am not judgmental of, "this is how he gets me into drinking," and the fellow is the drum major of many a party that floats from bar to bar.  It's always something.  And the jazz is done, and the kitchen is closed, and the barman just wants to clean up, eat something, wait for the kitchen to be clean, that's it, lights out, go home.


I finally got home on my old Bianchi road bike, and found the lovely book my lovely old scholarly mom wrote, and I flipped admiringly through it, how much sense it all made, what a great point, many great points, and such beautiful readable prose, Reading and Writing Ourselves into Being, but I was too tired to read much of it before turning the lights out.

Buddhist or not, one is reminded of that feeling Fitzgerald rendered, looking across a bay at the unattainable lights of the other Egg.


And the next day I had that great need to write, just to corral all the things that were bringing me curses and anguish.  You don't write for the money.  It's something in your blood, the need for prose, to make things manageable, to ameliorate the sins of the world.  I thought of all my sad mistakes over affairs of the heart, of bad career choices that grew out of the need to write as a way of, sort of, redressing grievances and the constant pangs of heartache to start the day and the sense of being trapped on a train you don't know where is headed, and other manner of unhappy thoughts.

I woke, sat in the sun, not much time to read Mom's good book, but I'll sit out in the sun for a bit, make green tea, hot water with lemon, do the dishes, maybe roll on the bike indoors a bit, or do yoga, cook a hamburger, get ready to show up at work and experience more of the life not always intellectual, my own fault for it being so.

You have to talk, the chef said, and I remember that.  And we all, I suppose, even the different blood types, have their own ways of talking, talking in order to remember the saving grace of Our Father Who Art In Heaven.

Friday, January 29, 2016

But there is, as mentioned before, the theme of a particular kind of story.   The joke is one bardic vocal form, a carefully remembered and acted piece if it is to be good.

Jesus walks into a bar.  Or, rather, is it a guy walks into a bar, and it turns out, eventually, as he realizes, it's actually Jesus who is the bartender.  Or is it that Jesus is the bartender, but that he doesn't have a girlfriend and there are other issues in his life regards his employment and where he's at in life, and so that every Monday morning, a bit too early for him, he goes to see his therapist.  He's not even sure he's Jesus anymore.

And then is that really it is the therapist who is, secretly or not, Iyengar, or Buddha, or maybe rather she is Jesus and you're not, or you're just taking a day off from it, let her carry the burden, tho' you are the one, poor purgatorian devil that you are, like Hamlet's father's ghost--indeed, it wouldn't be a bad idea to bring a great work like that, Hamlet, into  a therapy session, and just read from it and feel all the things that are within people and happen unto them--who has to do the talking.  While she's looking at you.  Jesus Christ.  Ha ha ha.

But Jesus, let's say, the best is a combination of all and several un and yet to be mentioned.  He's a bartender.  And he has to reinterpret, to bring alive again, the Christian teaching and deft touch for parable and story and good humor, bring it out to a dull audience who sometimes does not say please, or barely thank you when they order something, not even introducing the subject, coming out of the blue to a man who fields many requests of all sorts, let us not fool ourselves, "Miller Lite."  Yes, what about it.  Miller Lite.  Hmm.  Lite.  Miller.

Jesus, this current version of him, he can stay up too late sometimes.  It's a quiet time, a time of regrowth and cleansing.  Like sitting in the sauna of silence, to sweat out the good pure blood of his real thoughts.

What's he mulling over?  He's mulling over why he's a writer, who bartends, who does it well, passively listening, smiling, speaks when spoken to, avoids excessive opinions.  He's mulling over all the things he's written over the last twenty five or more years.

Because, you know, he started out in a certain way.  And somehow part of the story, similar to the finding the kid when he was twelve or so sitting on the steps of the Temple talking with the priests, really engaged with them.  But also, like a Buddha, silent, a mind deep into meditations and noble silences.

So that it would be natural that he continue on a certain way, because doing so, doing the actual tiring work even, the mysterious work, the unfathomable payoff, obscure in potential even, for it.  And the thing, he is good at it.  Good for trying, in his own way, generous with his time.

Generous with his time in a way people now hardly understand.  Even further and further and further way from that concept of long time to a true karmic pay-off.

And the joke, if it ever were to be sustained, part of a larger literary project, how would that come about?  Would it be a thing pasted together, like a plant suddenly seeing from all its own little tiny cellular perceptions that it was one thing, all cells working together, differentiating, each to a particular task to behoove the total, seeing the light that feeds all cells, the stem root cell becoming one day the cell helping form a leaf's underbelly.

If you read him, Jesus, in a particular way, one in which to me he makes sense, he's so good at what he does, I mean, the way he handles people.  One of the Pharisees is getting on him for dining with publicans and sinners, and Jesus is more than kind to him in his manner and explanation.  "Look, my friend, it would be dumb to force new wine into old bottles.  Old bottles {this is complementary of the Pharisees' thought} have better wine in them anyway.  But, there are new garments from time to time, and that's all good."  Something like that.  Jesus, to my ear, is not racheting up the tension.  He is not kicking anyone, in fact he's being quite deferential.

To get those parables, you have to listen sometimes.  You have to ponder, even for, like, twenty years, and then, one day, dumb, rolling over, you can say, ah, ah-hah, I get it...




I do wonder, sometimes, late at night, when it's my time, when it's perfectly quiet, when I am alone, why would a writer, one whose own attempt at journalism is self-reflective and haphazard, why have we, not that all of us have, maybe none of us, why have we left abandoned the high ground of  Dostoevsky?  Why have we plunged down a hill that was our best form of battle to cede position against a foe that then is larger, superior in force.

The Idiot, Notes From the House of the Dead, The Brothers Karamazov, it could all start with that line, from the Gospels, about the kernel of wheat, falling to the ground, to die, to bring forth much fruit.  Why leave those 19th Century prisms of visible light...

we had a prism when I was a kid.  I wish I knew where it was now.  Beautiful thing, glass, triangle form...  great on cold winter mornings.


And let's face it.  Work, that to which one was born for better things, sucks.  It's good for socializing, to keep you from going mad, it's good in that way for your brain, but it's a singular activity that sometimes takes away the ability and all those years during which one is supposed to develop and feed his own family life, like it says in the Bible.  There are a lot of questions to be asked, of this work thing.  Like, why?  And why am I so Dudley Do-Right responsible toward it when not everyone else is...  or maybe they are...


And educator is trying to feed you something.   And they have to make it, if they are good, to be digestible to a wide variety of folks.


Shit, I'd talk to everyone, about cooking, about where they found, about people they'd met, where they were from, you never knew when a good subject would come up.  Sometimes, as my friend David pointed out the other night, it's like the Hopper painting of the diner at night.

A man needs to show a respect for the Gospels, an active understanding of them, ultimately, for literature, for a woman,  She needs to see that.



Okay, fuck you, doctor, let's just get over it.  I like to watch porn of chicks being banged in the asshole.   you know... its washington i get bored...  And the problem is, doctor, I don't see anything wrong with it.  And I don't see anything wrong talking with you about it.  


A million jokes never get said, to tell you the truth.  There's barely time for a barman's wit.  Lurking subtly, late at night when he has conquered them into a truce.  They don't know I'm a man who likes to use the language on his off time.  Like a garden outside the city that Hemingway spoke of in moveable feast, a waiter, refused to shave off his mustache for the new regime at the cafe...

This man, D, he's retired from living in Lord of the Rings.  He was one of those... you weren't an elf, no, or a, the guys with Legolas, or, Strider?


But still, doctor, one loses confidence.  All the golden opportunities, all the chances to let your talents out, and you're shy, or crazy, or can only do it on your own.  No 'partner' like they see 'partner', but just, disciples, I guess.  I mean, I'm not better 'en 'em, but, these guys...   like....  listen to what I say.  I mean, finally, the small intimate talk that's always gone on in my head.  And I've conducted this writing seminar so that they are all able, because I've taught them well, like, to just go for it, to tell the story, to go write a gospel, or a Paul's letter, or something, I've taught them to talk, cleanly and purely, from their true selves.  Not the culturally conditioned, I mean, patterned by new influences that might not be so poetic, the inability to see beyond the image of the advertisement.




Jesus spoke to everyone kindly.  Beaming it out.

His healing cure to the Pharisee with those nice words of his, about how the old wine was truly better, but that there was new wine too, and you couldn't all stomp it out like a child at an ant mound...


Those sketches of Jesus the teacher,  they were chastely written remembrances, like at a eulogy, where you don't want to go overboard and take too much time but, convey the sense...

"Doctor, I should be with a woman.  Why am I not with a woman?"



Somewhere in hyper space, Dr. Torrey is dealing with it...

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

I revisit the book I wrote, one readers react to with sadness.

One of the oldest themes of all kind of literature, that of being sick, in need of a physician.  (Sick, broadly defined, that line of good health particular to an individual with habits that work for him, causing his own style, and the sickness sometimes being that which happens when he eats a diet intended for the main stream.)  Dostoyevsky, perfect every time, for which he went through a lot to achieve and a naturally anxious type of genius bent person, renders it directly, no beating around the bush: "I am a sick man, I am an ill man...

The theme makes you think of a Hemingway, so often a writer looking for a new situation, an old one, where he can be himself, listen to himself, observe himself, react and follow himself.  As a writer, if he is to be a writer, must.   What is an author doing but trying to diagnose the self, to look for what's wrong with him that makes him so.  Illness within, wrongs of the outside world, perceived, reacted to.  Hemingway has different answers, I suppose, for different periods of his life, a shift of theme and context between, say, young fisherman and old fisherman, boy, teenager, young soldier, adult, landowner, forest dweller....  And notably there is the act of his continued writing, as if that provided him a basic platform of good health.  You could follow on with his story into the lives of his descendants, their own struggles and solutions, yoga, exercise, refrain from alcohol...  Or, yet another version of the story.



After the blizzard and the extra duties of house sitting and shoveling, sore of muscle, finally making it home, after being commandeered for a few nights of work amidst the blizzard's aftermath, I sit out in sunlight before a shift.  I heat water, making licorice tea.  Hot shower.  I do my yoga.  The chakras, the posture, balanced again.  There was the shift the night before, but good moderation, not too much button pushing of a late crowd.  The quiet of a night when no one wants to go out, and the street's parking places piled with cemented snow drifts thrown up by the plows.

The book I wrote, I suppose it too spelled out examples, problems, short-comings, bad habits, stupidity.  The usual foibles of those of college age, young people being youthful.   The girl in it mentions to the character the benefits of sunlight, something he might listen to, because sunlight is a healthy thing.

Like Emily Dickinson before him, as a student he is tossed in, to varying extents, with the irredeemable, excommunicated from the Congregational salvation.  Superficially, nothing major.


Jesus knows it in himself, perhaps, and so to whom he has come are those in need of a cure, to those sin against the good health of righteousness.


And he said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself.  (Luke 4:23.)  Then he points out some of the faults of local society, one being the failure to accept a prophet in his own country.  And this does not make them happy, nor win him favor.

It's quite a statement.  One even today no one would want to touch with a ten foot pole.  It speaks of the hardhearted judgmental quality of people engaged in a society, taking part in it, knowing its parameters, its limits as to what is acceptable.

But Jesus seems to have, all along, this sense of 'sin.'  He gets the sins of publicans, gluttons, wine-bibbers, of those who seek pleasures, money, etc.  He seems to have a good physical sense of how such things occur from within.  He knows skepticism, knowing it in his own.

But because he is sensitive, a writer, a thoughtful sensitive person out to do good, he has this creative mode, one which brings him to good health and peace of mind.

Sure, sure, there were for Jesus the sort of relatively frivolous times, the flirtations.  There remains him his good humor, his willingness, even an eagerness, to hang out with the outcasts, and the sort of garden variety of fallible people, the salt of the earth types that have sin but also that potential for the great flavor...  He is never afraid of such people, as if he were always ever learning something from them.  His physical model of what it takes to be healthy.

Buddha, by the way, same thing.  The cure was to do diminish the sense we might naturally have of a fixed self separate from the rest of all things that exist and That Which Is....

Does he bring The Rejection at Nazareth upon himself, one might ask.  Is it within his divine omniscient nature that he reads their hearts, or is it that he, being familiar with them, already knows these people he addresses.  Perhaps to him he's just being matter-of-fact about such things, maybe even as a general attribute of human nature, but which if mentioned in a church or a synagogue, you have to be a bit careful about.  Perhaps he's just pointing out, underscoring, another sin common to humanity, the same association, fraternity he has, through his understanding, of the sinner, the drinker, the adulterer, the publican.  But here, it's too much for them; they get angry with him.

Is he being accusatory, or matter of fact with them?  It seems the calmness with which he enters into this discussion is the calmness that lets him walk away through their midst when they were ready to throw him off the high place the town is built on.

I can't help but think that this doesn't bear some relationship to, as far as what he's telling them all, his statement of good personal health, which is, 'beware the leaven of the Pharisees.'  A very succinct statement.   Meaning, acknowledge that which is healthy for you to do.  Don't accept, necessarily, what you're told is good for you because the almighty 'they' do it, suggesting an almighty 'we,' but do what's good for you.  Do what's good for you.  That's all.



This is what makes the writer's life a bit more interesting.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

"Two thousand one hundred and thirty games," the skeptic journalist says, admitting his respect for the man, sitting next to Walter Brennan up in the press box, as Gary Cooper, playing Lou Gehrig, sits down somewhere through a baseball game in Detroit, 14, or is it 16, years of not missing a single game, taking himself out, walking back to the dugout, knowing he can't swing a bat as he should anymore, the new guy jogging out to play first base.  "Sure, you're ready to do this, Lou," the manager asks, and he replies, (something like), "Yes, I'm ready."  No one says anything when he goes back down into the dugout and walks along the bench in front of his seated teammates.  But they've squeezed a camera behind that bench, looking out onto the ball field a level up from them, and Cooper is transformed as his tall broad figure in his cap moves past, on, on, shadowed, to the spot that awaits him. The Pride of the Yankees, 1942.  Sappy music and all.  TCM, on a Thursday night off in January, before a blizzard in Washington, DC.  If you've watched High Noon, well, Cooper knew how to do that thing which lets one do that thing called acting.


About halfway through my shift, I realize I've left the hamburger on ezekial muffin in my courier bag.      I tucked into it parsley, thin slices of red onion, olive oil on the bread part I'm skeptical of but makes it taste good, a squeeze of mustard and a tiny one of ketchup.  I hate to waste, food in particular, a barman needs it to get through, a good amount of protein, trust me.  Feeding and care of the animal is not easy.  Not tucked away in the beer cooler, stashed away above the champagne bottles laid flat on a shelf above the white wines.  Meaning it is not safe to eat.  It's a busy night.  Out on Wisconsin glare black ice.  A long string of cars, busses, SUVs,  in both directions.

The band is finally packing up after quitting at ten, when one of our regulars comes in.  The barman is an athlete and can respond to people who hound him for another glass of wine.  The Finn, this customer, a tall man, Andrew Wyeth might have painted him so.  Who tells me he's invited his buddy, a mutual friend, to come by.  Tonight?  Now?  Are you mad?

I've been very busy since I got in the door at 4:30.  We were fed a modest meal of chicken wings and rice before the door opened.  The wine bar is booked solid.  It's a night of constant movement, constant coming and going, at the bar, everywhere.  A trainee server from Columbia.  By ten, that's enough.  Let's hit The Safeway to stock up on meat for the coming blizzard, and let's just get home.  Let's just go home.  I've paid my dues to the night, earned enough tips for the tip pool, dealt with plenty of people, all in agreeable way.  And I've had enough of it for one night.  Fresh air is calling.

Except for one customer.  And the one who's on his way.  Delayed.  More delayed.  The Uber he's riding in is in an eight car accident up the road.  Guys, I'm done with my night.  Let me just go home.  There's a blizzard to get ready for, and I've been called to house-sit, which makes things complicated.

The Breton senior waitress, calls her Breton man, to see where he is on the road.  It's taking him almost two hours to come in from Virginia, 395 a parking lot, finally making headway on 50, Pennsylvania to M Street.

I've restocked the bar.  I've eaten my piece of salmon, standing, enjoying the nutrition more than the flavor, taking intermittent bites from it over by the oven, hidden away from the bar seats, food instead of wine.  I pull out my courier bag from the stereo spare liquor back up stock closet, swipe my credit card to pay for my discounted dinner, and change into my street clothes back in the wine room.  People really do not care if they're keeping you, no concept for your pain when it becomes pain.  But, you ride it out.  I've not had a glass of wine, and I don't really want one, for a change.  I want to get on with my life.

And then, finally, the last two come.  I pour them two Bordeaux, and even after closing out his check, just to show, look man, I'm done,  I pour the Finn another splash of Taylor Fladgate.  It's Fellini's birthday.  I do not mention mine, two days ago.  But, hey, someone else likes Eight and a Half, and the scene, I'm not sure which one, Mastroianni and Claudia Cardinalli (sp.)  "He died in Paris," I say, speaking of the passing of the great actor.  It's nice to hear, someone else has respect.

The Bretons give me a ride home.  Vercingetorix.  He has long white hair, muscular, and he knows how to drive, letting the car go at pace in low drive, no foot on the gas.  The corners are greasy.  He wears the torques he should, and she soothes me over my customers whom I have trained so well to stay late, and even sometimes, in blizzards, Finns, give me a ride home.  "I'll put up a box, with grains, with leftover baguette, with olive oil, for the birds... and hazelnuts for the squirrels," the kind lady says.  They met on Metro, an empty car, she sat next to him.

By the time I get home, given a ride, no Safeway run, a feeling of frustration hovers over me.  I should have walked home.  A walk home is always grounding.  And the fresh snow, a treat for a country boy who grew up cross country skiing.  Sweep the front stoop off of the inch of powder snow, the sidewalk, put in a load of laundry, open a bottle of wine in order to calm down, ride the bike on the stand in the living room, finally do some yoga, a shoulder stand, and then finally to bed, still almost muttering to myself.  As wonderful as it might be to have many friends in a barroom, it's lonely when you go home alone, late, the city gone to bed.  This is why people have cats.


There's a bit of joke element to it.  Like the old so n so and such n such walk into a bar.  A spiritual visionary, a Jesus, a Buddha, goes to see his, or hers, therapist.  Every Monday, 11 AM, a downtown office building.  Mundane familiar worldly problems and irritations, concerns, feelings, the what-should-I-do... in plural form.  The woman looks at you, puzzled sometimes, sympathetic.  Offering little pointers now and then.  She helps you hear what you yourself are saying.  You're not feeling great stability in your job.  Well, it's the restaurant business!

Hmm, should I go out into the desert for forty days?  Loaves and fishes, you're in the weeds just about every night, and when it goes slow, still, a long time on your feet entertaining.  Entertaining.  Listening, in need of seven different ears and five different mouths with which to talk.  It's a job meant for a human being, sure.  It's natural, it's stimulating.  If you're not a bar owner, not so much a living, and even then.

Even youth, a person processes the adult experiences of disappointment.  That time is supposed to be more positive for college kids.  But even then we are adults.  Disappointments are part of all our mortal histories, why not be Lou Gehrig and get used to them.  That's life.  That is life.

Gary Cooper, playing Lou Gehrig in front of a full Yankee Stadium, (or a substitute for it, Wrigley, or a ball park closer to Hollywood) delivers the tribute speech.  "Today I consider myself the luckiest man in the world."  Gary Cooper, wearing pinstripes, number 4, walks alone back to the dugout, the hallway to the locker room, into shadow, good as any of the most ancient dramas.

It is hard for people to do things, things you might ask of them.  Gehrig, let him play baseball.  Cooper, Coops, as Hemingway called his friend, started as a cartoonist, then an extra standing out, six four, in a crowd, let him act.  Let John Donne write poetry.  None of it makes particular economic sense, but then economic sense must ultimately play toward what people can actually do and, yes, how the planet and all its creatures big and small, might live.

The Irish, staying up all night, playing music, all the farmers coming to play their instruments.