The end of a long week. Saturday Night, Mother's Day night with live jazz, Monday, live jazz again with Hot Club of DC, Tuesday, worst of all, a champagne tasting/going away event for Jay, a massive hectic show of regulars, wishing our coworker well, then Wednesday incredibly hectic again with more live jazz, a head cold, hacking cough from Sunday night on, and by Thursday, I don't know who I am or what I'm doing. I seemed to have a decent grip on Buddhism before the Saturday pre-brunch garden tour (really just a tour of fancy real estate) with my aunt in Georgetown and the extra wine the night back at the hotel before, before that an early dinner, again compelled to drink wine, to show my real engaged genuine enjoyment at a good restaurant--a rare beloved visitor, so why not--after a couple of weeks of cleaning up my act, real distance from the wine habit, a sense of relative freedom from illusions, hollow pleasures. In between that and now, a lot of voices, a lot of personalities, barroom behavior, the primate gathering. Of course by the end of the big going away party, it is impossible not to succumb. As if a voice came and said, hey, if you work here you're going to end up drinking wine. A time, of course, for well-earned toasts, who am I to say no to the shot of Jameson.
Having a cold, a hacking cough I must repress into an arm sleeve as I toil does not help. The last night of the week, after Marie Allouette's Gypsy Jazz, a brand of music that makes waiting on people very hard for the way each run of notes reverberates loudly through one's skull, the head, the mind even (in contrast to Wes Montgomery's gently spelled chord revelations), after they all leave I put on The Weeknd Pandora Station and make myself an armangac toddy with honey and lemon peel and then have another one after my little small plate of salmon tartar with micro greens, putting the acidic capers aside. After all that, you have to clean up and restock as energy fades and legs hurt, stairs to climb
What can I do but quit the job, at least the drink, out of moral grounds? But then what? No more of this long lying business about desperate escapist pleasures, at least.
Maybe it was the Georgetown Garden Tour which got to me. A visit to the backyards of the Gods of DC, walled in areas invisible from the street but for the tree tops, lawns, dogwoods, boxwoods, pools, below a tennis court. An older generation walking through oohing and ahh-ing over the dream real estate, the achievement of, clearly, great success. Except I see right through it all, and the show makes me wonder, again, as in the Hamptons, what are all these people hiding. Behind the hedgerows, what crimes against basic good human nature, crimes of great arrogance, crimes that are an outrage to how we are to live and be better people… The lady greeters, exclusive members of a club (those trusted) mark our tour cards off by the number, as we wait to enter and visit a garden, behaving as if they were complicit in allowing the ruffian general public a chance to look at a pile of gold bars and crown jewels for this one day, don't get carried away folks. The young virgins, the real pleasures are hidden unless all of it is simply like the beautiful catalog show-room, the backs of houses morose and stale, humid like all the rest of this swampy town of no return. The ladies instruct us how to exit through the alley, well aware of the difference between us country bumpkins who wouldn't know taste if it fell on us and Them. But note: the rich live the same depressing closed-in lives we do. One night later in the week I get home whipped and find the documentary Grey Gardens on the television, a lot of momma sitting up on her bed, her life around her, the daughter's slow craziness… Not even Jackie's people are immune. We all are real, we all suffer the human condition. Behind the pampered yards and the coiffed hair and compelling personalities that demand respect and attention there are the same skin conditions, the same aging, the same perplexing questions, albeit put a little differently than "what good is my savings of $20, 000 going to do me when I'm old…"
It takes no act of fiction, and none is necessary, to reveal the show it is the well-to-do put up. The whole show of Georgetown society, waited on at brunch… (No rest for me, as soon I will be waiting tables myself.) But of course, one would feel like an ingrate for mentioning any reservations, as if told by a more mature voice, what else is there?
The week ends, you rest, you heal. Accept your lot in life, to educate against the illusions from knowing them in your own unsatisfied way…
That was yesterday, and I wanted a glass of wine after a certain point, but I hung on. And today I don't even want one. This is pretty good, I say to myself. Even after a restless night hacking away I get up, manage a few chores, and even get down to the Whole Foods to stock up on good things, adzuki beans and other good stuff to keep me going from the bulk foods section, chocolate bars, veggies, a piece of halibut, and rather than wine, carrot juice. I get a quick hair cut, stop by CVS for some meds, and bike home, my courier bag stuffed full. I get out for a run, and come across some deer in the little meadow just past the end of the Massachusetts Avenue Glover bridge where the road dips down toward Rock Creek. A yearling buck munches on long grass not twenty feet from me, following me almost as I walk downhill. A decent training run, getting the form back, arm muscles in synch. Followed by yoga.
We cannot avoid being Buddhist. The seed takes hold, sooner or later. You'd rather listen to the Dalai Lama delivering a lecture about the Path to Enlightenment than listen to W. Bush explain that the surveillance stuff is really nothing, completely Constitutional, that to even suggest otherwise would cost American lives in a good Frontline piece. That explains the strange click I'd hear sometimes when I'd call my mom. His Holiness looks a lot more honest, a deeper perspective, let's say.
And even the news from The New York Times about a young chap who helps guys date is good, the advice being not to play a certain cagey game but to just be you, open, vulnerable, talking about what interests you honestly. No more of the silly dutch courage get them a little tipsy business I'm entirely sick of witnessing from my own perspective. I would feel a bit of redemption knowing that for young people it's come back to a sweet openness to honest talk.
Out running I reflect on my years of keeping bar, a dated job anyway, one belonging to the Eighties, even though it seems fashionable again, hip, a way to show the act of hipness. And I know from first hand I know that once you're gone from their lives they all forget you anyway, leaving you with nothing, because you're no longer a piece of their little merriment, their little enabling rituals of fun and social life, you're no longer operational, a cog in the wheel that feeds them. Quit and tomorrow they'd say, oh, where'd he go, and then a few days later it would be, to show their own belonging, a story or two, and then after that silence, out with the old, in with the new. And perhaps for your own part, you didn't want to be a part of it so much anyway, as it was, indeed, work. A few good people, of course, will remember you, but the context of friendliness will have changed.
Well, well, it's all fine like this just as it is. I had an act once, I suppose, a youthful thing, a kind of posturing, play at adulthood. It was a silly act, maybe having something to do with the overblown writer thing I would now cringe at, writer as bon vivant. It took, or has taken rather, me the longest time to get through the act and find some true way to look at the world and at self. That perspective has let things regulate, be less random. Every day it takes a lot of maturity, I'm afraid, but that's how it goes.