I got home at 1:38, or that was when I turned the TV on, to come down after my night behind the bar. You can't just come home after work and fall right asleep. I have a little Beaujolais to chase some feta and fresh mozzarella. Still hungry. At work I waited 'til all had gone to eat the salmon tartar I ordered. I reheated the food I brought in the oven at behind the bar (ground organic beef burger, grilled peppers, brown rice) rather than waiting 'til I got home so that I wouldn't be kept up too late digesting or wake in the middle of sleep. After I ate I looked out the window at the downpour heavy rain. I did the last few tedious things to close out the shift, put the checkout with the money in the manager's office, changed out of work pants, went down to the basement to get my bike. The rain had stopped, little shafts of mist rose from the blacktop, and the air smelled sweetly of pollen and weedy basil. Over the Buffalo Bridge the street lamps of Rock Creek Parkway below shone into expanding cones of watery air.
The hospitality is gone now, behind me, the smiles, the jokes, the graciousness, the conversation, the eye contact, the genial hand gestures, and I sit around alone waiting to be sleepy enough for bed. I made no notes on the day, watch an episode of Bar Rescue, and then the Dave Chappelle Show, with many commercials, nothing on PBS, beyond old sunken D-Day equipment with its own sad watery grave stories, the body not wanting to move. Two nights back at work after my stay-cation, two nights interacting with people, doing what I do, good people, entertained. I didn't want to go back, but I went back, and I did a good job, but it all feels hollow, see-through, or rather, seen-through.
And today I wake up from them feeling down, wishing to be out in nature somewhere... And I find my depression coalescing around the friend of my father's who encouraged me to get into environmental studies a long time ago, another opportunity I shrugged at. The man did a lot for Massachusetts wetlands preservation. I could have played a small part doing something useful for humanity, and made a life studying nature, as I was meant to, but instead I was selfish, a slave to the emotions of pop culture, to the Black Monk nihilism of fancying myself a writer as if I had something to write about, as if there were a purpose to it. I know intuitively that the wine from last night, which really didn't seem a lot (and no esophageal burn from a mellow Beaujolais of 12% alcohol) has inclined my chemistry to feeling down and hopeless, but still I have to get through this afternoon, after a lazy nap which turned out to be sound sleep, and on to a better mood.
But this is all conscious thought, of not much worth.
I call mom as I walk up Massachusetts to the sanctuary of the weedy species-invaded slice of forested nature that exists at the edge of Rock Creek Parkway and the tamed stream itself of man made rock banks with sewer run-off pipes as rush hour traffic heads north out of town. "Put that energy into finding a class to take, or a retreat," my wise mother tells me. Okay. On the wild side of the creek I walk along a dirt path and stop at the small footbridge to look down and look down at the brown snake resting motionless on top of the pile of branches and dead tree trunks, a park bench submerged topped with twiggy detritus on the upstream side of the pilings, and as I walk up its gentle rounded slope a green heron skims in overhead and lands, wings spread, on a branch above the water. I heard two of them overhead, calling each other as I crossed Sheridan Circle after my long night with my ignoramus coworker, close to home on my bike, and looked up in time to see one following another in the honeysuckle perfume mist. Maybe this bird is one of the same? I watch the bird for fifteen minutes or so as it moves closer to the water, taking interest in something in the weedy silty bank. Runners come and go, and cyclists blow through a bit too fast, one road biker silent without warning I could have easily turned into, intent on his status amongst cyclists. The bird has a pointy beak and feathers that stick out behind its head, its cap, an aerodynamic accent for the speed with which it strikes forward. I leave the bird watching down into the brown water. People consume exercise and get very serious about it. Only two people, women, stop and query me about the bird I watch.
Interesting that some atoms, such as carbon, have a karma of their own, which determines whether or not they come to constitute organic or inorganic materials, making up the bird or the stone. I walk slowly along the path, trying to more conspicuously look not like a troubled strangler type when women walk or job by, and I am looking at nature anyway, at leaf form, or the way wild grasses are growing upright, like a head of hair, on top of an overturned tree's rooted stump of intertwined roots and stone and hardened dirt. I stop and sit on my old decaying log meditation spot uphill over the feeding stream that comes down from behind Dumbarton Oaks, and as I've walked here I've thought about how the efforts to calm and assuage the mind, through wine last night, have resulted in a kind of backfire, the mind less controlled through the abeyance to it of calming it artificially, today the mind everywhere, difficult, and in a bad mood, so to speak. I need to meditate, and maybe do plow and headstand and shoulder-stand.
From its writing in 1973, thereabouts, there is a line from Matthiessen's The Snow Leopard as he's leaving the last outer towns of region of the Crystal Monastery of remote Nepal, after having crossed many high ridges and difficult passes and paths, as he realizes, on the trek back to civilization, that he's leaving the last stands of the old faith, that mankind has entered a dark age as far as its spirituality. Are some of us left in such an age as isolated candle flickerings of faith as the modern world drives by intent on its worldly missions without carrying along much deeper thought beyond their own struggle for material comfort and profit?
I still feel like hell by the time I slump home, but, probably, better.
I remember, from last night, my boss, sitting next to his wife and a few of her friends at the bar as he ate his trout and talked to a friend of mine with whom he shares an interest in sailing, telling the man, responding to the jokes the man was telling, kidding me indirectly, "it's a very hard job, being a bartender... " He let the statement hang in the air. "You look at the bottles (on the shelf) and they talk to you. I did it once. They look good. Beer, schnapps, beer, schnapps... I put on some pounds, and I was twenty. You don't see many fifty year old bartenders who drink shots of Gran Marnier." He wipes up some sauce from his plate with a bit of bread. I like my boss. I've seen the guys who did the Gran Marnier at close range, yes I have, the thing back in the day in Georgetown.
I say this for other bartenders, for other people who've fallen into odd work, night shifts. It's hard. It colors the rest of your life in a thousand different ways. You're nice, exceedingly kind to just about everyone who comes in, but when you go out in public, no one knows you, and they don't care, and they won't stop to be kind for a moment--why would they, how would they know? Thus one can see why Gehrig, even Gehrig, was shy and had enough self-doubt to go back into dugouts and almost cry sometimes, because as much as anything he knew the entertainer's life of isolation even though it wouldn't seem so isolating, even though it seemed he all the friends in the world he would possibly want, an adoring wife, though of course she would have felt the same isolation. Gehrig would have been stuck being friends with Ruth.
I am a surviver of a strange kind of gulag, one of unhappy people who entertain, one of the Gran Marnier drinkers, who tolerate ignoramus co-workers.