Friday, July 29, 2011

A Type O Way of Life

I told my mom how much I spent the other day at the Whole Foods, roughly two hundred bucks for food for the week. "You should blog your grocery list," she says. Well, I won't bore one with the details, just that I try to keep in line with Blood Type O diet you can read about by Googling the work of Dr. D'Adamo. The grocery list involves breads from the freezer section that avoid wheat flour, breads made of 100 % Rye or Spelt, or sprouted grains such as Ezekial bread. Now that I avoid wheat products I can feel the inflammation in my joints when I stray and indulge, the same culprit behind weight gain and gastro-intestinal inflammation like Crohn's Disease and Colitis. My grocery list covers high quality fish and animal protein, fruits low in acidity, green vegetables. Olive oil. Supplements that are good for Os for regulating the thyroid, good natural anti-inflammatories, good for the digestive tract.

(I am reminded recently of talking to a young lady who suffers from Crohn's, and one would feel a certain distaste over the aggressiveness of modern medical treatment, ever willing to prescribe the latest medication to treat the specific, or to go ahead with surgery, rather than taking a step back and looking at the bigger, more simple picture. But instead, the arthritis is treated separately from the inflamed GI tract.)

I come home and obligingly put all this stuff away, believing and finding in actuality that this diet actually works quite well for me. Well, your body will tell you sooner or later if what you're putting into it is good or bad, just as no one really likes having gas, an upset stomach, a burning esophagus, strange weight gain, being constipated, etc., etc., etc.

It all makes me wonder. I do have to go out of my way to control what I eat. The general diet plan of Americans, including some of the European traditions it comes from, lives on lots of stuff that is bad for me. Corn, potatoes, dough. The hamburger is fine, just except for the bun. Smoked stuff, cured stuff, shellfish, cheese, not to mention hard alcohol, all bad. (Red wine is okay.) Yes, there is a long list, if you are an O, of things you should avoid, common things like Orange Juice, a lot of things you see commercials for, like commercial pizza.

Dr. D'Adamo modestly tells an O that aerobic exercise is good, good for the mood, good for the management of adrenaline and the fight or flight response that is so well-honed in us. It is not bad either for us to sit down and write out our feelings. Good for anger management.

Yes, good old fashioned human being with Type O blood, the donor to the rest of humanity. At least in a poetic sense, the original top of the food chain human being, a hunter gatherer type, living on the go, for whom all the agricultural products that come down the road later are problematic.

But I must admit, some time I have the sensation of being something like a caveman washed up on some foreign shore of outlandish custom and strange practices that leave me mystified. My O mind remembers within a small band, a group of people decent and kind with each other, working together, sharing, living in tune with nature.

I go out of the house on my bicycle, empty courier bag slung over my shoulder, a Kryptonite bike lock in it, along with wallet and keys, to the Whole Foods to do my hunting. I go through the aisles, familiar with them by custom, go through my list, go through the checkout line, and eventually try to cram it all into the courier bag, pedaling away with the large sack strapped to my back. I go home and cook, with the satisfaction that this stuff is reasonably good for me. A simple existence, free, to the extent one can be, from the muddle of modern complications.

I am probably not the only human being feeling depressed and mystified today, though, about the workings of society and power, maybe even saddened and sickened over this combined Republican/Tea Party craziness nonsense. Where is the moral outrage over the gaps between the rich and every one else?

But I digress. There is a wonderful story of Joseph Conrad's, very real, about being shipwrecked, washed up on a foreign shore where people do not speak your language. It is an account of rude basic survival. I would take it as not being very far off from that feeling an O person might have.

We write the best, or even bother to sit down to do it all, when it is not easy to write, when things aren't going so well, We write to, as an O would, examine emotions, feelings, sensibilities, that sort of thing. One cannot hear an echo of President Kennedy's calling for going to the moon, "We choose to go to the moon and do the other things not because they are easy, but because they are hard." We write from that awful feeling of being lost, of having washed up alone somewhere we do not understand. Chose to do something natural an O would do, and one might well find it a bit of a lonely place.

Hemingway wrote, obviously, to figure things out, as Death in the Afternoon figures out bullfighting. His stories, his pages, are full of individuals who, like the old fisherman, are called out to nature, the natural world, of people who are finding it an odd struggle to be in society, as if they were an alien within it, even as they might understand.

He said he never wrote while he was drinking. That would have eased the discomfort, the sense of loneliness, the pain of being an individual human being. That he admits to taking a little rum to finish up a story, as he does in A Moveable Feast, is not contradictory to the basic sense of his point. One is best left to write when he has found himself in some miserable situation, not taking any easy shortcuts, no ways around it. Another person might say, 'well, Ernest, why don't you just drop it and come join the fun...' But he would have seen through that.

The typical Irishman might, faced with the same, down a few pints with his mates and sing some songs. But remember, a few great Irish songwriters, Brendan Behan, Shane MacGowan, were well acquainted, unflinchingly, with miserable situations of the human condition type. Would it be appropriate to say to them that 'they are masochists?'

It is, as Hemingway wrote, a lonely task. That is in the very nature of writing, and largely in reading too, though we may try to mollify the pain of solitary readership through book clubs or classes of some sort. Writing is done along on Friday nights when the main bulk of people, it seems, are off in search of going out fun. Or at the very least, when they are relaxed and easing into moods of social life. Where the writer would be almost admitting he is basically alien to all that, and knows social life only through his work as I happen to work as a barman, as most of my counted friends are from that situation. "Why not be happy," a voice says, "go and make choices for things that will make you happy?" Hmm. I don't know, a sense of satisfaction lies in remaining true to the human condition, and the happiness one hopes for is the happiness that will come along at a dinner party kind of a thing, when one's work is done for the day.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Time to update my annual homage to TV ads featured alongside coverage of the Tour de France.

Commendable for its imagination, The Nissan Leaf ad. Picture everything running on gas. The alarm clock in suburbia beeps at 6:20 AM, and Joe Average slaps it, and the little gas engine of the alarm clock shuts off, no more exhaust shooting over the bed. Fire up the coffee maker with a mini pull, like starting a lawn mower. The microwave cranks up, belching exhaust fumes up through the pipe in the back. The office, each sit at a desk, and Joe Average primes the gas pedal, turning the key just so and his computer fires up.

Then there is the so-called Ultra Life of Michelob Ultra. Reality is bent suitably to the current attention span, the touch screen of a smart phone. And those who adapt congratulate themselves as they even control the sunset at happy hour. Instant gratification, mass produced beer (compare to the long slow process of making wine in cooperation with earth and nature.) "Well, come on, yeah, come on."

Weezer, continuing on with the 'hard rock 'n roll music' (which itself has become cliché) has contributed music to Izod, the fast successful life of fast cars, sailboats, a big chested blonde in a tight polo leaning out a car window, conspicuously. The male viewer is not unhappy with her excuse to lean so out of a car window, but of course, it's all contrived. "This is the dawning of our brave new world. No more hesitating, it's too late to turn back now." Mindless words, a mindless world. No thanks. I'm not a model. I'm too busy with doing dishes, feeding the cat and other disasters of home economics.

I miss the repetitive SAAB commercial, the one with the woman in the driver's seat of a white convertible from Tours gone by. A clever nod to the female capability of multiple orgasm?

Sex sells. Of course it does.

A recent Suburu ad may well be the master of subtlety. Kids all geared up, playing hockey, set to The Pogues, "If I Should Fall From Grace With God," all under the protection of a nice mom who gets these energetic little pros home, dreaming in the back seat, exhausted from their exertions on the rink. Pretty clever.

But now I hear Anthony Bourdain wondering out loud that Hemingway, according to his theory, was "hung like a hamster... not that anything is wrong with that." Maybe it's funny, I don't know. But I would think differently.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

About Hemingway...
Cultural icon Woody Allen puts him in a movie, and (I haven't seen it yet) apparently talking in the clipped fashion of his prose, and talking about his prose... 'if it is true... write it ... blah blah blah.' What are we to make of Mr. Allen's portrayal? Of course, because Woody Allen is, in a way, one of the few cultural people we have left--he tries, he tries--we have to respect Mr. Allen's picture... even if it edges toward humor, maybe Jewish humor... a humor which would kind of poke fun at Hemingwayisms. (And it's good humor, and it's funny, and we laugh, heartily.) Yes, if we are not careful here, we are very susceptible to putting Ernest into the play-dough form of that-which-is-stereotype-able. Mr. Allen coming out on top. If so, I don't see that as fair. I wouldn't, I mean, if that is the case.

All too easy to laugh at Hemingway, yes. But, if you were to take a grassroots poll of your friends, ... as some of us may try in our lives and in our little blogs or whatever... you may well find, a lot of respect, a lot of honoring. (In the same way we like that roman a cléf that has lasted so, All Quiet on the Western Front, par example.) In the same way a lot of people I care about selflessly chimed in at the mention of a certain recent milestone that says as much about us and ole' EH.

Hemingway, one has the sense, is of a different blood type than Mr. Allen. A different creature. One for whom there is not irony when he says he tucked pillows under his shoulders and read that great uncharted territory, Turgenev, Chekhov, and still learning from them page by page.

Whereas for us... is there not a quaintness we would tie to such efforts as reading 'Tolstoi.' When there once was a man bright and open learning about how to live and write prose, all of it tied together.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Fifty years ago today, I am reminded, by A. E. Hotchner's Op-Ed piece in today's New York Times, Ernest Hemingway ended his life.

A nice line about how he endured poverty and rejection to write in his own style, the way he wanted to.

Time to get out for a bike ride in Rock Creek Park, the best a city dweller can do.

Friday, July 1, 2011

If one were to be an artist of the writing sort, he might play it the way Jesus did. He'd go amongst publicans and sinners, be gluttonous and a wine-bibber. He'd be humble enough to wash feet, dirty glasses at least. The Gospels are the story of an artist, one with the notion that the word has some power and magic to it, that it's just as easy to say one thing that is good, hopeful and healing as another. He'd admit he wasn't concerned with material stuff. He'd hold good works as not being the property of an exclusive private club exercising power.

That's what the Christian story is, the story of an artist, coming forward with natural authority and wisdom, addressing all aspects of the artistic life with complete accuracy.

Yes, everything out of the man's mouth speaks of an artistic understanding, and further, an effort to awaken people living in a repressive society, downtrodden people if you read between the lines, people in need of comfort, self-confidence and creativity, something to sustain them.

This aspect is the most irrefutable evidence that someone very real existed at some point in time. No one would have asked of the prophet to immortalize that one of his main characteristics was that he was a creative writer.