Thursday, July 31, 2014

Waking in a kind of a strange fog...

Decent writing should leave an event open to interpretation.  One day you might see things one way, the next the other, maybe even as opposite.  Complexity.  Then you've achieved more, getting more of the truth in, the truth ultimately undefinable.

If something is strongly proclaimed, it may well be crap.

Writing is an odd thing to be doing.  But there must be something natural about it, and rather than condemning its practitioners to ranks of deviancy, we treat it as an art form, something worth study, even if we're not sure why, other than that people seem to do it, to be drawn to it.  Is it because of certain psychological situations, or a certain kind of reaction such as a youthful rebelling?  Perhaps the writing came out of a strange coincidence, as maybe indeed such an act deserves...  as if to deal with a fluke happening, something strange.  Should we get judgmental about the origins of writing?   Is it part of a healing process?

But it is an odd act.  Roth's understanding that writing is an act of offense to family life, completely selfish I will leave to his sharper accomplished mind.  But you could say, Mr. Writer, you've accomplished nothing with your life;  you've not tried anything, not made an effort, sat in your room analyzing, but what comes of it all?

Chekhov included a darker opinion of artists in his vision, often quite directly dismissive, seeing the idle frivolity of it, the indecency...  To include the different sides of all things, the masculine, the feminine, the positive, the negative, is sign of a thinker's vitality.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Yeah, you kind of need a bottle of wine, of the low alcohol sort, when you get home from doing Free Wine Tasting night with the busboy downstairs for the greater part of the evening.  I go through a lot of glassware when entertaining, a way of keeping the customer occupied when I'm spread thin.  A bottle of Chinon and an indoor bike ride while there are still Tour de France highlights available through the cable box.

And the next day, having one more dragon of a shift to defeat after doing pretty much every night from Friday through Tuesday alone, the demon of jazz night with an 11 top back in the wine room, what do you write about?   About the fragility of young love, easily disturbed or subverted, and yet the impossible durability of the same, neither a convenient quality but what-can-you-do, it all must mean something, maybe that one needs to abandon dualistic understandings, hot and cold, because everything simply is?  Do you write about an aging king, fresh to a new frailty who sees suddenly in a trusted servant the wisdom, steadfast brotherly love and depth he's missed all along, carrier of valuable true things?   Do you write about the whale quality of people, how some people are soothing to be around, pleasant, swimmers of deep calm old waters, who express things with less sound?  Do you write down the thoughts your 83 year old self-confident distinguished African American gentleman friend shared with you at the end of the night when you walked with him down the steps and out to his car, about how "it's all about her;  it's not about you," advice to the lovelorn, how you take a step, see if she wants more, take another step...  "You're too timid."

Well, you're up out of bed, rising later the last few days, less time for yoga and meditation.  We all need a trade.  These days, one could do worse than what I do, which is an ancient thing, predating psychiatry and even medicine.  An interesting journey in the modern world.

We are indeed in an awkward spot.  The moment you say something, it's no longer true.  It's the same thing as light.  You see it as a particle it acts like a wave.  Thus it is necessary to return to good old school 'stamp collector' science, the taxonomy of the botanist, how leaves are related by structure.  Things are a reflection of That Which Is.  A certain necessary poetry to science.

And so there is a certain truth, even as we don't know what to make of it, to something that like Hamlet reaches so deeply and accurately into the human experience, incredibly painful as it might be to watch, young love going awry, Ophelia's madness after Hamlet's feigned, or the story of King Lear.  Plays which themselves might be about the futility of naming things.  An actor should never get smug on Charlie Rose about playing such roles, never think for a moment, "I am so n so, successful experienced Shakespearean actor," because then you are missing something, grown facile.

Seeing Coldplay sing "You're a Star," it could kind of get old, at least by itself, after awhile, the beautiful love story of anthem rock, as it works less and less as you grow older, more like carrying on what would be impossible to carry on.   The preference grows for duality, to show how that love is mixed with other things, more realistic things, even as it might endure.  That's an honesty better on the system.

"The crap I used to write," MacGowan says, before the stuff of real Irish music came.  "The Auld Triangle," Brendan Behan's song of imprisonment is probably not a song of courtship and fun, but it might better describe what a relationship might really go through taken as a whole.  "A terrible beauty is born," Yeats writes, and it rings truer.  You want to love with the greatest passion;  you also want to go run and hide, never to be seen again.

I am reminded of a scene from a presentation of The Singing Detective, the BBC one with Michael Gambon, a strange Larkinesque beauty to it.  Is it the singing detective himself, stricken with a horrible skin condition, or is it the old man in the hospital, struggling to say something and then who finally says it, then again, louder.  "Asshole!"  A moment of Shakespearean truth.  A kind of 'why don't you be nice to me' honesty to it.

We go to school, we study liberal arts, in order to have a personality, to be, in effect, more honest.  It's served me well as a bartender, though a vast untapped reserve, full of words.  One hopes that's still a good thing in today's world.

Monday, July 28, 2014

It is the end of July.  My own kitchen floor is looking a little grubby, a special breed of greasy dust inhabiting the air.  And in the restaurant on such a Sunday night a cobweb could grow.  The frozen yogurt shop is busy until 10, but we, given the business and the reservations make the call to close the kitchen at 9.

"Mr. T will be coming in tonight, I know it," I tell server V who is working alone downstairs after already working the day shift, when I arrive to work at 4:15. Yes, that would be perfect.  Agonizingly slow night, then Mr. T comes in right before the kitchen closes, has his Manhattan, orders three courses, and everyone in the kitchen is staring at each other.

I have a pleasant man, 57 years of age, with an impressive goatee, who turns out to be from Belgrave, an engineer who went to medical school and became an anesthesiologist.   He's been to Baux de Provence, the beautiful village perched on Bauxite rich cliffs where they have excellent local wines, and he opts for the rosé we have by the glass, which is from nearby Aix.

A father daughter couple come in and sit at a table near the front windows and have an easy Sunday night dinner.  The daughter would be age appropriate to date, but for the fact I've done nothing with my life, and the father at a good ripe age is in great shape and there is good conversation, the two at ease with each other and the state of life.

And then H, busboy, downstairs, who's running my food shouts up at me, hey.   Hey what?  I ask, as soon as I find a neat break in the conversation with the gentleman.   Kitchen closing at 9.  Okay.  When the gentleman, who has earned a life, and who's having problems finding a house in Northern Virginia before it gets snapped up, finishes up with our talk of soccer and where to send his rower son to college, departs, I clean the floor of the wine refrigerator, underneath where the fruit brandies and the Lillet and the juice store'n'pour containers rest overneath, taking bottles out, Windex, bar rag.  Medicine is getting very corporate these days, the man was saying.

A chocolate mousse to share for dessert, talk of John Oliver's take on Net Neutrality, and father and daughter depart, seeming to appreciate my effort to be friendly but not intrusive, as an idiot can be a little hyper in such a situation over making conversation.  The place is empty, and now the final minutes are ticking down, the nervous hour.  I'm rearranging furniture, after putting the place settings back in the low mahogany table's drawers, putting things in order for tomorrow night's jazz.  I look out at the street.  Foot traffic, again, in to have some yogurt.  No one interested in a nice glass of wine.  My own preaching, backfiring?  The digital clock on the Aloha computer screen turns silently to 9:00 PM.  Safe, or so you think...

Gathering some things, the few dishes that have piled up on a milk crate below the bar rail, placing a white cloth napkin over them, I head downstairs, turn the knob of the door to the main dining room with its customary click, and there is Mr. T, sipping his Manhattan, and of course he sees me, and raises his arm high, "Tim!  Hello."   I may have dodged the bullet, but at 9:08, V has not.  "Tim," he explains, "I got here just in time and ordered right away," he says, explaining why he won't be keeping me company 'til midnight upstairs, singing along to the sound system.  I typed Mahler into the Pandora's brain and created a new late night station for such a purpose, and I also dug up a few Jacques Brel CDs I'd burned with some appropriately slow and philosophical maybe even morbid and depressing songs, beautiful on some days, indigestible on others to certain mindsets.  "I'm having the catfish," Mr. T says proudly, and I help out by pouring him a dose of Pouilly Fumé from the half bottle he's ordered from the ice bucket.  In the kitchen folks are staring at each other.  There is a piece of uncooked catfish filet out on the cutting board.  "I have no social life," the chef explained to me last week.  "Just shoot me, please," V says quietly to me, as I look guiltily into her brown eyes.

But what are you going to do?  You're an upstairs guy who doesn't do downstairs.  I change, back into cargo pocket shorts and the white tee shirt I came in with.  I bring down my check out, which feels weird, as the downstairs people come up and hand me the checkout paperwork and cash a good while before I leave on just about every single shift I've worked in ten years.  I finally go to fetch my bike from the basement, after we take a group self picture with Mr. T's new iPhone.  I notice Mr. T has on some shiny patent leather white slippers for shoes.  As I bring my bike up Mr. T says, "Tim, I want to give you something," reaching into his purse.  I ignored him before, but he insists, saying "Now Tim I think I've mistreated you before," handing me a folded twenty.  "Be careful about your bike," he says, meaning, be safe, but also don't let it get stolen.

I slip away into the night eventually, around 10:30 without a sip of wine.  I'm going to get home and watch the final stage of the Tour, and ride my bike indoors.  I roll up, and the upstairs neighbor looks out from his lit high window where he's sitting at his desk, and taking off my helmet, the headlamp on it turned off, I give him a wave, and enter my flat and close the door.  (My brother thinks me entirely pompous for using the word, flat, but it's a good quick word, and that's what it is.)  I did not need one more person, it turns out, and I turn on the TV and thank god for Bob Roll, and there is Vincenzo Nibali standing shyly on the podium, a beautiful moment as they play the national anthem of Italy, which must be a tradition at the final ceremony of the Tour.

But it's lonesome after all the noise, though I have no business going out.  And fortunately I have a bottle of Beaujolais to open, though I wish it was chilled.  It takes me some time to get organized enough to get on the bicycle.  I get the television adjusted and begin my workout and the sip of wine eases the fact that I am totally unprepared for the future, as if I were living still in a college dorm, not the slightest idea about what to do as far as real estate, a living situation for coming golden years.  And the thought is never far away, what a disappointment I always am for women, getting sucked into situations like with my grandfather on Easter night, people I spend time with too generously, people like the pot smoking high school buddy who appeared to need in his middling squalor a friend, people like Mr. T, all the sort of people you end up knowing without selfishness or an agenda to protect yourself with.  (I was never arrogant enough to be a professional intellectual.)  I deserve it, being stuck alone, a bottle of wine and an indoor bike ride the only thing to sooth the deep unease that must be mixed with some gratitude for it not being worse.

Joseph Mitchell too, I think as I ride, would have known loneliness.  There is in him somewhere, the piece about Old McSorley's Ale House, a line about the drink "insulating" an older person against the loneliness of night.  And that is what it does, as I drink my mild bottle, waiting for the Tour to come on again, watching on interesting piece about a director of low budget horror type films, beautiful eloquent rapturous films about zombies and such and big cats that stalk the night.

You'd really like to cry sometimes, but forgetting how, well, you go on.  And thus, meditation is very important, the only real way to control the mind, the wine's benefit now making you slightly more depressed and stuck on thoughts then you might otherwise be.

To find your own natural style, that is actually the hardest thing for a writer to do.  It takes time.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The barman's bedeviler is an entertaining guy, with impeccable shoes and a tweed jacket, who lives out in the country with horses and dogs.  He'll eat dinner downstairs with his party, then just as you're finally getting rid of the last people after dinner service in the bar, he will, remembering earlier times, late nights, cigarettes, relaxing with the lights down low with chicks, indulging in his taste for Jameson's with a good hearted audience for his stories, come to haunt.  He likes to tell stories in which he, a practical man, tells people 'to suck my d...' all told with a smoky voice accented by the mastery of English across the sea.  The people of a certain island, a U.S. territory, sit around and scratch their balls.  The two young ladies chuckle.  I chuckle.  He would not have come up here if I weren't here.  The young man, who ordered the round of drinks, puffs from an electric cigarette, and thankfully there is talk of another late night hangout.  I feel a bit bad I've jacked up the lights and turned the music down, the candles up except for the one on their table in the corner, saying to myself, 'no, no, please no...' as I run the bar mats through the dishwasher.   The cook comes up stairs and offers me a Salvadoran butter cookie, and I pour him a glass of Bordeaux, and I remark on the cool festive Hawaiian-like shirt, sent to him by his sister in Gabon, and the fedora on his shaved head.  He's going out to meet some cook friends.  "Where's yours," he says politely, so I pour myself a small amount of Chinon, the first of the night, even as I grit my teeth somewhere, mildly.  I take a sip, and ask him if he has any grey hair yet.  Yes, he does, on his chin.  The charming devil over in the corner is making a hyperbole over recycling a certain rubber item.  JB asks for his check, quietly, proudly, sadly giving me his credit card.  There may well be some tequila in his future, tonight with his friends, in Georgetown or up on 18th Street.  I give him a bro hug before he goes;  the restaurant has been through some changes lately, the departure of a chef.

Soon, our guest the dominant male asks for the check.  "Put a hundred percent tip on it," he says, thanking me for my late night friendly tolerance, my joining in with the late nights (for which he always paid the check.)  Stories, great ones, the joy of being regaled, indeed, it has its pull.  And I feel a bit guilty, for not switching back into the old mode.

The downstairs manager had come up an hour earlier and simply said his name.  I looked at her, preoccupied with tying a few loose ends up.  She describes him, his drink.  "Oh, merdre, he popped into my mind a few days ago."  "You shouldn't have thought about him," she smiles.  "He wants to come upstairs."    Maybe if I hadn't have known it would have been better, but when you've been jerked back and forth in the summer's mix of slow-slow-slow and then a pop, jesus-christ-just-let-me-go-home.

The Uber is here, the young man says, and by the time I find the man's credit card underneath the low Indonesian pod chair, run downstairs and catch him getting into a Lincoln Navigator with the chicks and the guy, he is my friend again.  And later, alone, not very happy, a bit rattled, too lazy to go buy rice across the street at the Safeway, I eat a small dish of salmon tartar, putting the capers aside.  The end of the night is a vulnerable time.  Ah, just get me home and I'll ride my bike indoors to the Tour's last time trial (and the huge powerful mastodon legs of the World Champion at the event) my mind says, and that is what I do.

I get my ride in, a good sweat, with a few glasses of wine from an opened bottle in the fridge, shower, go to bed after a bowl of rice and some rye crackers with almond butter, and wake up feeling a bit lost, adrift, the bad influences, my weaknesses playing in my mind.  The Tour rolls into Paris and onto the Champs-Élyseés.

After a shower I look down somewhat glumly at the yoga mat, without my contacts in, the day getting sweaty, as if it were a diving board, and I go through my basic routine, the inversions to wake the third eye and put one in a better mood, along with the triangle, the half moon, the warrior, finally a headstand before the meditation that time before work might allow.  I think of Joseph Mitchell, some of the best writing I've ever read, haunting in a good way, the courtly man from North Carolina who came to New York as a police reporter, who wandered all New York near and far, writing pieces for The New Yorker.   He captured New York, now a very old New York, before it all changed, before its realness was lost, drifting away, taken over by the uniform stamp, as if writing of unicorns in a time when once they were quite real.  His own story, whatever it was, he never really told, though it gave him a deep enough soul to serve as recording material for much of humanity and human experience in its diverse realms, something you might say, if you had to, tender about him.  Perhaps he alluded to it here and there.  We may never really know.

If I should write a book maybe it would be like the inverse of Mitchell's walks to distant cemeteries and humble territories, or his feet, one might imagine, bumped by rats on the ships he may have explored to write a piece about rats on ships.   It would be of a slow and steady barman, who mildly, self-editingly, recorded a bit of the life that came past him, though of course, the great bulk of it lost into the obscurity of even a decent memory.  It would record all the unannounced guests, and maybe some of his own random memories, like that of bringing flowers once to a girl at the end of a school year, standing in the door, feeling suddenly the height of his throat above the floor of the hallway in which he stood, looking at the girl look up at him before he nodded and tucked the box back under his arm and walked away into the rain.  "Okay.  I won't write you," the young voice said, and yet everything he would ever write about be for such mythical eyes, as if to present her too the flowers of experience.  Scraps here and there, like MacGowan's.  It would not be good as Joseph's Mitchell's, but might explain a few things none the less before they too were lost to modernity and all its rules and means, to carry on the human story with the mighty pen.

The worst devils, as Melville may have once explained to the original Queequeg at his altar, are the ones who tell you not to write.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

I'm discovering more and more the beauties of the low alcohol reds, the Pinot Noir, the Gamay, the Cabernet Franc wines of Central France...  Easy on the esophagus, and for an enthusiast, self-controlling.  The geology, the terroir of the season comes through such wines, making them sometimes acidic, other years more lush...  Of course, as the French know, they are great versatile wines to highlight the flavors of the food reasonable people tend to eat.

The world of wine, jammy high alcohol fruit bomb irrigated vine wines aside, let nature take its course, is indeed interesting.  It presents a way of interacting with our fellows, facilitates some conversations, perhaps, it's a staple of diplomacy, and indeed, in Washington, DC, a mode of being important to the easy functioning of things, where the ego is almost a virtual necessity.

But drinking is part of being mired in suffering, in the dream of existence of subject and object.  There is to it an honest acceptance of the suffering of life, and for good reason do we associate the glass of wine with the Christian understanding, its story and ritual and deeper meanings.

There are parts of it that are, for some people at least, medicinal.  But ultimately, for the sake of clarity of the mind, it must be put aside, enjoyed less and less, and hopefully, finally, not at all.

Poor chaste mature Lincoln (experienced in the world) had an understanding of drinkers, accepted that they could be good hearted people, aware of suffering.  Never one for a taste of it, beside the occasional diplomatic sip of wine, he put it aside.

To really grasp suffering, it follows that you need to be beaten down.  It needs be that you really have to see how the mind itself is what causes us to suffer, through its needs, through its constant whining, through its immediate urges, through all its misdirections.  Some of us, I suppose, can neatly avoid that, and live a well-functioning life amidst that suffering condition.

Thus does one see the great gentleness to the body, to each muscle, the offer of a tender stretch to realign, to re-realize, that yoga is.  One sees the beauty of its greatest most gentle practitioner seated lotus style under a Ficus tree, right hand touching the earth, I too have the right to be here in this space on this ground, the clear atomic power insight emanating from him.

In waiting on people I am allowed to trust more and more the things I'd naturally say to them.  My line as I held the door open to a nice lady who's going climbing in the Tetons, "even Robert Kennedy didn't like heights so much."

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Tour gives me the chance to ruminate, to recover from the family vacation.  (People are indeed mired in suffering, sleepwalking in the dream of existence.)  My Nineteenth Century mind has some difficulties with it, with everything, really, but perhaps more particularly with modern life in general.  The pitch of the coverage, in some overview, is for self-centeredness, and all the commercials reflect it.  "Be a 'me.'  Me, me, me."  The conventional thinking of the commercial world, of  life experienced solely as a subject amongst objects is reinforced by the excitement of the commentator, that each rider is a subject, with a clear goal, with clear obstacles, a body reaching for power and speed, victor over loser.

The riders are men talented at riding, and they are simply doing their jobs, good for them.  And the Tour is not all about subject and object, if watched meditatively.  The fine athletic accomplishments remain, as do the old churchyards and abbeys, the peaceful landscape, the vineyards, the farms, the hill towns.  The idyll of the Tour lives and breathes, and with a trained mind less we see of the annual facade and the corporate logos and the Light Beer commercials that say "YOU (objectified) know how to live life (objectified) in the fullest," that takes us for needy creatures easily bored, in need of stuff and things to do beyond the good stuff that would naturally occur to us given a modicum of parental love and support and reasonable educators.  The Tour does remind us, as the great writer Blondin famously referenced, of the schoolboy's pursuit of hands on sports excitement, and riding a bike is, after all, fun.

The viewer can indeed say, "I had my own little ride yesterday, saw swallows rising on a thermal at dusk above the finger of forest."  Or were they bats.  Anyway, interesting flying creatures doing the dance of life.  And today the viewer has finally returned to read and ponder the Washington Buddhist Vihara's excellent piece on Buddhist Meditation, found at, which lays it out for you clearly.

Our road maps, our directions in life, our landmarks, we often construct around the self.  Senses get in the way;  we seek pleasure, and accomplishments.

"As we understand, emotional excitement is not true happiness, and attachment is not true love," we can read here, from the above website.

Under the conditions of a family vacation, without benefit of the daily meditation practice, it's easier to fall into the reactive side as opposed to the will-power side.  Emotional reactions can eat at you, and under such circumstances they can override Buddhist-based wisdom of the deep appropriateness of non-attachment in love and life, such that you react to what's immediately around you and take it as a great body of evidence that love and life is first and foremost about material wealth and, therefore, professional accomplishment.  "You'd be smart and own Walker Point if you really loved me, honey, and then we'd have a big family."  (Or at least a job with a pension.)  A way of looking at things that leaves a lot of us out in the cold.

As the Tour goes on its way, mimicking how humanity tenderly shepherded its members through countryside and adventure and challenge in order to eat and survive the elements, someone will win the stage as punch the sky with his own self-centered way, which in turn allows the commercials, which preach selfishness indirectly by offering you stuff you pay for.  Something in the end makes these guys want to win, like Lance, a competitive nature, "I want to beat you," the will that makes winning worth the extra mile.  (Buddha, if in a competitive riding shape, might not care so much about winning.  And in fact, there are lots of good guys here, who have a good attitude toward competition, an impersonal regard to their bodies capabilities on a given day.  It is, after all, a less egotistical aggressive injurious sport commercially defensive of itself than American football, as one might expect from the long point of view of the European.  Hemingway writes with curiosity, mocking slightly, of discovering the sport of cycling in a hotel scene in The Sun Also Rises, as he himself discovers the European sport of writing, Sketches from a Hunter's Album sort of stuff.)  And living as adults we say, well, that's the way it is, winners and losers.  Which is looking at it one way.  Our identity can, on bad days in particular, only be based on perceived actual livelihood, yearly earnings, rent.

But, "wouldn't it be nice to believe back in the old fairly tale of love based on less practical things."  Wouldn't it be nice to see a real way of human caring that goes beyond attachment, that takes a pure form of love that does not advertise itself, that is, through selflessness often long-suffering, I mean, if we had to objectify it.  (Paul's message of he who preached a higher form of love...)  Wouldn't we almost need at least the hypothetical conjectured existence of such a thing in order to preserve enough calm to move forward in a given day...  Hey, wouldn't that be close to love itself.  Wouldn't we need to believe in the existence of it in others too.

As far as offering myself some relief, I can at least say I do not have the most selfish of jobs, at least I'd like to think.  Sure, I can do bad stuff, getting carried away with the pleasures of wine, inciting rather than abating it in others.  But, serving people, there's a lesson in it.  Perhaps, with the stress, it's a lesson in keeping calm, but more than that, a decreasing of "me, myself, I win," and an increase in "I can all help others," even if such is confused being part of a trade with a boss to keep happy.  (Actually, many bosses.)

There is beyond the experience of subject and object the experience of experience.  We are watching ourselves watch the Tour de France.  We are watching existence, and in existence there is a world with a country called France with picturesque villages set in countryside, which we in turn, to objectify ourselves, watch through the modern miracle of the television set even with live coverage.  It seems to relieve muscular tension, a desirable thing, something relaxing, to take our minds off of the pressing stuff of our own lives, to dawdle for a moment wrapped up in a man in a lycra suit needing a change of bicycles, the man in yellow taking a curve with a pleasing conservative staying within the lines, a fat man spectating out in the middle of the road with a fist raised.

Back to the experiencing of experience, back to the meditation and the awareness, back to one's own mind, back to the calm from which kindness and compassion and deep understandings come from.  Back to the de-objectifying of experience, away from the sense of a permanent fixed self, back to realizing more the dream quality of existence and the clear mind of pure consciousness itself that lives on.

To me, that is the art form.

(And also the basis of literary criticism, a topic for another day, say Chekhov's gift for capturing non-duality... or for Sherwood Anderson's defunct broken souls who still have a beauty about them...)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The adrenal thing, that was his whole problem in the PT boat episode.  I mean, take a good looking guy like him, put him at war, give him a boat.  Of course he's going to get fired up.  And when you're fired up like that, well, it's pretty easy to make a mistake, to not focus properly.  You do what you think you should be doing, and then you just can see so well, and get right in the way of something dark coming at you in the middle of the night.  The perfect crash.  Because of the adrenal system.  Doing guy stuff.  Adventure. Not the most circumspect of modes.

Interestingly enough, the whole PT 109 episode, with Kennedy swimming so far, looking to signal a friendly ship out in the channel, that too was all on adrenaline.

And sometimes, yes, our adrenal response can sort of burn out.  Failure of it.

So was it interesting to see his response later on, to retell the story, as when he was President.  Looking back on it, the model of the boat.  Interesting to hear him tell the story as a candidate.

A natural human response, and that, being human, is of course, imperfect.

And the comment would be similar to something like, "he couldn't keep his pants on (as far as women and appropriate behavior," but again this says something in general about that wild system of his adrenal charge, whether or not this was when he was under cortisone treatment, as it would seem, the boost would bring him back to his adventurous ways....

Monday, July 21, 2014

The conscious part of my mind indeed would rebel, and almost every day I thought of how I should quit the job immediately (though of course the problem of what else to do.)  I would drag myself in, really feeling miserable, almost with a sense of offending nearly everything important.  But, from time to time I would remember I was in a city, and that lots of things can happen in a city.  Art, culture, music, dance, the tango, and perhaps things that might inspire a kind of mysticism, the chance meeting of another person that made one wonder about the deeper significance.  Call it an education, peering into the souls of those who came to the bar in every sort of circumstance.  It made me think of all the souls who had wandered into Washington, DC.

There are the musicians, of course, people who've come to an ease from knowing through music the order of Heaven and Earth, people of unexpected generosity and a reference of wisdom.  That state of being touched the life of more people than one might have expected.  Madam Korbonski had started out adult life as a Chopinist before the Nazis came to the academy and put an end to that, and then she became what she became, a wife, a heroine of incredible wartime bravery, of Radio Free Europe, and as I knew her, a generous salon in a simple flat next to mine that had served as a gathering place for those of nations taken by Soviet occupation.  (I have her old Zenith turntable, along with a few other artifacts of Polonia, and a rare English translation of Pan Tadeusz, a gracious bow to my own literary effort, and her calling me Tadzio.)

How to explain a meeting like that?  And wine, as much as I had my difficulties with handling it, the diligent manual work it inspired in me, like food, like music, like sexual attraction, like the love of conversation, was a part of it all.  "Relax," one could say to himself.  "You've ended up alright, and haven't, as you might think, have tossed your education out the window.  Rather, to the contrary, have you used the noble wisdom passed on to you."  Not everything is easy to put into terms, easy to understand from the rational logical concrete achievement point of view.

Now and again, an old soul would come in, and then, by the light of a deeper understanding, it was okay to be a barman in Washington, DC, part of a reaction to a deeper mystical sense of order, of the consciousness we all bear, awakening.

Really, how else could one have faced such a task for so long, without attributing to it deeper meaning, random perhaps, but with a point to it, seen some times better than other times.  And I would imagine someone like Lincoln might have nodded at that.

My sports commentary from the front lines.

She told me once a story of meeting a German boy on a lake, before that time she met her husband Stefan (in an elevator), a flirtation, a hint at courtship, and then seeing him again in officer's uniform in occupied Warsaw, recognizing each other, then turning away, the encounter between enemies remembering the summer lake and sunlight.  She told me a ghost story, a blood stain on a rug at the bottom of the grand stairs of a house the Nazi officers had taken over that would come back after the rug was cleaned.  She would sit back, looking through her glasses, content with finding a repository for her meanings, and even chuckle a little bit sometimes.  "Oh, Tadzio, Tadzio..."

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Okay, you worked a Saturday night, now get up and moving, make your tea, think your thoughts before you go to work again, do the dishes, put things away.

I turn on the TV to the NBC sports station carrying the Tour de France, heading into Nimes today as I sip yesterday's green tea cold.  A commercial is on.  And then, back to the Tour, no, it's an announcer back at the main shop with screens behind him, a Sports Update.  Golf.  Then baseball scores, with highlight coverage:  hits, line drives, throwing errors, home runs, a pop fly that drops in, for five different ball games.  And in the brief few minutes during which I wait patiently for a glimpse of the French countryside, look what the American baseball stadium has become--advertising, everywhere.  Look even at what the Green Monster has become--a placard for Foxwood Casinos.

A Tour viewer is no one to talk.  The whole race was invented to sell newspapers.  But semi-radical that I am, given the age I live in, post mortgage scandal, post derivative greed disaster, I catch a whiff of the hypnosis the games have become, all taking down our natural guard and told, 'it's all okay.'  Corporate America, doing just fine taking care of its citizens.  You too must belong.

My thought, perhaps, is similar to how the writer of The Sopranos wryly put it as the show neared the final episode.  The message, the higher point of it all, just as it was all along.  "It's still okay to go out and buy stuff."

Well, you'd be a perfect asshole to nearly everyone if you might think differently.

Back in the old days, one likes to think, the games stood in balance.  They stood on their own.  They might advertise themselves, the experience of going to the ballpark, paying for your ticket, watching the home team.  There was the Citgo sign, and the Jimmy Fund.  Lou Gehrig was played by Lou Gehrig, and in the movie about him, the next best thing, Gary Cooper (and yes, the mighty hitter, the Iron Horse, with the beautiful back, broad shoulders, hair and smile, who would himself return to dugouts and start crying, benched himself after contracting something very strange and horrible, and actually did die from it, way before his time.)  There was not the pollution of the field.  Storied men played the game, Leo the Lip, Musial, Yogi Berra, or were involved intimately in it, Branch Rickey... Baseball could be, on its own, a solid endeavor, something creative, athletic, healthy, celebratory of the innate talents of the human being, with sharp eyesight, reflexes, the bat of Ted Williams.  Kind of like when you played it in high school gym class out there on the field with Coach, discovering, errantly, your skills, when you had to.

I am radicalized by my line of work.  A restaurant provides good eat and drink, decent service, people come.  But I live in suspended animation, the idyll of a game, in need of buying into it all if it's even not too late.

The Tour comes back on.  A bunch sprint.  I hang in there, treated with a few scenes from the road out there, sun here, pouring rain there, vineyards.

The endurance sport, of stocking up, putting everything into place, writing down the specials, then the trickle, then the rush, then the last few people who really, out of mercy, should just leave you be after six hours,  and all the while being able to make conversation, putting people at ease, smiling, joking where possible, participating in a discussion about interesting things, overriding the arguable sense that one is a loser, with little social life of one's own beyond other restaurant people...  All the while too, people in some limbo between dealing with their issues and not dealing with their issues, falling on the sides.  Who wouldn't want to come watch!  Listen to the story of the two artsy guys who went to the theater and saw Carrie and needed a drink, of Muscadet, afterward.

In the defense of the sport, though, one must acknowledge the fact that such a gathering is indeed stimulating.  It gets you out of your own head.   It gets the creative wheels spinning.  Through sublimation, the inner mind works.

What advertisements should go in a barroom or restaurant, beyond all the trinket signs of Dubo Dubo Dubonet, the red rubber bar matt that sayeth Campari, the black ones with Remy Martin on them, the champagne poster with the beautiful lean woman from the Roaring Twenties on it.

Support the arts;  read the poor guy's book, not for any reason, but because, it's there, satisfying or dissatisfying as it may be.  Which most of you, kindly, already have, to the extent such suffering is possible, thank you very much.

Or better yet, advertise what you've learned on the long hard road, through all the things we've learned more or less the hard way, through the people who've passed on, through the people we miss, through the parent who died, lessons that stare us in the face every day, as they should:  that people are sacred, treasures;  that we can look upon the consciousness of each as coming from a consciousness before, that there are reasons, no coincidence, while we are all here.  And thus the Buddha, thus meditation, that we don't get our mind's eye obscured by the things of less importance that would provoke us to do harm in our sleepwalking unawareness.  What is important?  Do well by another being.

Rise above the costly logic, of slavery, of eye for an eye...

Friday, July 18, 2014

But my vision was always beatific, a bit more sad, a bit more inclusive of the main water of human experience, of the "infinitely gentle, infinitely suffering thing," even as it may not have come at an opportune moment, what can you do.  And I've been blessed by a mother who could always understand that, both the general suffering quality of human experience, but also a way to cheer up enough to go onward.

And it's true:  a woman should regard her man as a dark horse, as a brave and noble struggling survivor who puts the good of others first, who sees him not as a fumbling jerk but an underdog, a Lincoln, a JFK caught in the present time of his struggles.  And Lincoln sought to undo through the nobility of law the horror of the Mongol horde, of winner take all, and probably too would he stand against the freak of genetic blood that makes an attitude of the amassed wealth of the One Percent.

A man need not be perfect.  Indeed, he should be flawed and vulnerable, and admitting all that.  He should not be proud of himself.  But if he's left to grow, from boyhood, through all the confusion and disappointment, and somehow not fallen, then, maybe he becomes something like a man.  A man, who like Taxi Driver, has a feral reaction...

As if like a President who would say to the warring factions of the world, "look, here's what your reckless disregard for human life, for civilians, for the poor and suffering creature, looks like."
And the next day, you have to write all over again.

Thoughts had while walking in the woods:

Never ask for directions of any sort from a female.  The feminine brain sees things differently, navigating not in terms of direction but in terms of landmarks.   A different kind of orientation.  Don't expect clarity in affairs of the heart, because they need direction.  They may rant and rave, but they are properly passive to one with a sense of direction, otherwise a bit confused, even as they seem to manage perfectly well.   Yes, that would explain a lot...  Yes, I listened passively, thinking they had a sense of direction too, when all they had was landmarks.  So indeed it takes self-confidence, to provide them direction, to not confuse yourself with the thought that you need to respect their sense of direction in matters when your sense of where north lies.  It is simply better to establish yourself as an unambiguous landmark.

The Mongol hordes, with a new blood  type and an adaptable scavenger diet, with the aggressive conquest and rape of all women they encountered fostered a new kind of way of being in the world that humanity had not known, the rise of aggression.  The earliest bands of humanity, less populous, whose survival was more tenuous, cooperated in the hunt, saw helping each other out as supremely important, were extraordinarily resourceful and gifted, inventing the human creature themselves.  Then came a more agrarian type, adapted to a more of a legume and grain diet, whose existence depended less on following the animals, who stayed put more and made a good go of it in settlements.  And then came the hordes off the steppes, and by this time all had to compete, giving rise to an immediate selfishness really quite foreign to a good portion of people.   Rape spoke volumes about the new attitude.

I am too tired to sit on the log and meditate, and head bowed I walk slowly home with the phrase, " a crown of thorns" running through my head.  I pass people on the trails.

One week back, one full week of work survived, and to be honest the last three nights have not spoke well of self control toward the wine.  To celebrate the first night off, a Thursday I went out late, near last call for a glass of wine at Barcelona on 14th Street.  And I've been keeping it to Pinot Noir and Beaujolais, low in alcohol, easy on the system.  I come across high school kids out on U Street after a rave, dressed in ways  I would not approve of if I were a parent as I should be.  I have an all beef Ben's Chili Bowl chili dog and then go off on a bike ride up through Ledroit Park, up on the other side of MacMillan Reservoir, past Washington Medical Center and Children's Hospital, looking for The Soldier's Home and Abraham Lincoln's cottage.  The horseback ride up to this high mound of a hill would have been good exercise, a break, a change of direction, though surely the landscape has been changed with highways and construction.   And somewhere, someone got a shot off at him on a moonlight night, maybe not unlike this one, the bullet going through his hat.  (I encounter narrow sidewalks, chain link fence, construction entrances, pavement with broken glass, after I climb up above the city's maintenance facilities and lots with all its dump trucks, sketchy places far away from home for a bike rider and I have no spare tube on me in this no-man's land I know little about.)  I've been to this campus once before, coming at it from the West, via Kenyon Street, but as I taxi along the sidewalk perimeter I do not realize how far East I am going, and wisely look at the iPhone map to find where I am located.

I head back south, avoiding the freeway ramps and cross westward below the wide bank of unlit woods that must be part of the Soldier's Home, and as I head northward, now on the other side of it, the road rises and rises and finally there is a gate.  I speak to the guard, and no, you can't see Lincoln's cottage from the street and visiting hours, of course, are during the daylight hours, obvious, but something that I seem to need to be told.  Then, above that there is the cemetery, actually two of them, and again I have to go back downhill, this time westward, then north again as the street rises to find the gates, which, of course, are locked.  Rock Creek Cemetery, and then across the street the proper gate of the National Military Cemetery.  It really is cooler, in temperature, up here, and one can see how indeed its airs would offer relief from the city's swamp below.  You cannot even see nor have sense of the city from here.  All you see is a quiet field, and trees, and perhaps Lincoln could have felt like he were back in the Illinois countryside, as a youth, as a circuit riding lawyer.  The moon, at half, is up here, the view of the sky unobstructed.  It is perfectly quiet, and you find your expectations have suddenly changed.

No wonder they build colleges on top of hills where there is enough of a plain to find yourself in a new world, undistracted.

But what have I done, as far as following a direction in life?  Have I, like Kerouac, fell into some deeply misguided adventure based on the directions of other people, in his case Neal Cassidy, in mine the general crawling bodied anthill of a restaurant.  And maybe going back further, the momma's boy, looking for direction from female figures, who offer sound advice about many things, things psychological, things bearing on egotism, things about being true to values, but who don't have to cope with that fundamental need for a quest and work in male life, the doing of something based on an inner vision and making it operative in the world.  So leaving you to say, "but I thought..."  Well, you thought wrong, and now what the hell do you do so many years later clinging to some cottage craft, really no solid plan.

And that's where the wine comes in again.  The submergence of the inner plan, the postponement, the loss of self-control  in its grant of feeling less pain.  Leaving a man to drift in the wind.

To respond to that though, Kerouac worked quite hard at a job, a dangerous one at that, as a brakeman on the railroads, the same job that injured Cassidy such that he got a settlement.   Kerouac worked hard at his Buddhist stuff too, and achieved a real grasp about it, such that you have to be decently read yourself to get what he's writing about, in Desolation Angel, really all through his long tale of autobiography (though that never seems a suitable term for his Dulouz Legend.)  The Void is not an easy term, something you have to really ponder.  He wrote a good little biography of Buddha, Wake Up, as well.  His writing was his quest, and really the only thing is that he should have put all the bad influences aside--a lot of which interested his creative eye--and quit drinking, if only for the sake of his health.  For he really had a problem, though it wasn't always that way for the poor old sensitive shy man that he was, deeply caring about a lot of people and the fate of the race in general, a big heart that may well have needed a healthier outlet.

Such as I would like to find myself, having been foolish enough for long enough.

Satisfied with my explorations, I consult the phone's map again and type in the address of home for directions.  New Hampshire I ride, a fairly long way, at one point having to stop to put the chain back on the chainring, downhill, here and there elderly African American men sitting out on stoops, until finding Park Road, then Columbia Heights, downhill to Florida, then back across 18th and then finally Connecticut.   I've crossed past many row houses and apartment buildings, many front porches with iron banisters and supports, many a brick.

I wake up in the morning light on the couch still, embarrassingly, in my clothes, still with my sneakers on, and feeling too fuzzy even to want to watch the Tour proceed into the Alps, feeling that familiar having lost control of myself with the wine, feeling very stupid, having gone off on a lone adventure that might strike most as madness.  I put myself to bed for three more hours sleep.  Was this the cumulative toll of the work week, and four nights enough to put me right back to my strange schedule, the equivalent of Happy Hour being midnight...  How can I get out of this insanity...

The exhaustion of yesterday has cleared, though there is no desire for going out of any sort, this being a necessary day of recovery for the writer struggling with his job as barkeep and his self-inflicted wounds.

So where does a sense of direction come from?  What is the vision that leads you?  I think I know better now how to take things at my own pace, a necessary thing.   By 7:30 in the evening I am ready for a bike ride, at very much my own pace, and maybe in the end there is respect between the sexes.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

And what also appears at the end of the week, to those who have been reincarnated enough to know that they have been reincarnated, a continuing of consciousness, is that there is something very close to the bullseye target of truth to the crown of thorns aspect at the heart of life.  Thus are brutes made gentle, passive, deeply concerned.
You get to the end of the week.  Jazz night is busy again, a full house.  Friendly second-date couple hangs out as I clean up.  A good week for business.

The Tour is racing through the hills of Beaujolais, up the Cotes de Brouilly, through the town of Morgon.   Very much like the countryside of the Mohawk Valley farmland.  Fertile, green, the sun golden on the valley.  The hot tar has arisen to the top of the roads and sealed them smooth.  Grass and hewn wooden fence posts.  I allow some of my jadedness to depart.  I see beyond the commercials to the weather and the move across the earth, the side of an interesting roadside farmhouse structure.  A white horse saunters joyfully across a field, feeling the power of life within, able to rise herself, her back, her entire body with footed sensual ease as if her very hide was vibrating with light energy.  She shakes her mane with a happy certain knowledge of everything and food.  Less am I noticing the odd specifics of fit men in lycra on agile bicycles.  I am encountering the deeper idyll of the land, the heady breathtaking feeling of soaring over sweeping land and lines of forest.  A sun and foot-worn town around a castle.  A sudden thick stand of pines near the top of a hill, a ridge of foothills, now shifting in perception from the green and tan brown of fields to an earthy blue, rising far behind, the floor of the valley unseen, almost unimaginable.  "Like that nicer part of Route 81, in New York State, suddenly high above a valley low," my body proudly remembers, and I think of the sweet sadness I feel when leaving my mom and driving back, the long way back to this almost invisible life I have here, a road driven now many times as day and night flash by, adding growth rings to the tree.  Barns and silo below, a river, a town with a church spire wishing to be a center of learning and culture but more forgotten into the everyday and auto parts than otherwise, and I'm on the road leaving it all, pressing forward to the city with vast expanses of commercial gloom, the difficult passage of Scranton and Wilkes Barre on the road ahead.  What am I doing, leaving all this, leaving the valleys of Central New York?  A writer is, perhaps, like Kerouac, a momma's boy, who idly watches idyllic clouds, not aggressive, not much a planner, not one to point to other people, "hey, you:  Do this."  Not one to drill for gas.  More the spider's careful strand of web, what for but to catch the meaty fruitful energy of the divine emanating Big Bang sunlight, source of all things.  To make some sense of things.  I watch myself fumble away.

And a phone call finds that mom has visited someone, a former colleague from the university woman biologist with a garden of indigenous plants somewhere near Hannibal, New York, met there a man who is growing hops with organic intentions, as they do outside of Munnsville, the towns of Brother's Keeper where I used to bicycle in my own sun filled afternoons of youth, the road big and dropping off past farm protecting dogs with a mighty hairpin near the bottom and the stream, and also Waterville beneath the gentle bosom of Tassle Hill, the recognizable feature of the ridges toward the south from the open fields above our old house and then where Dad lived up past the college.

Nostalgia is understandable.  With the insights time and age bring, you get the sense of how rapid the changes of everything within and without.  The thoughts and emotions of the previous week no longer apply and I've burned through another week of work to find myself standing alone again though it offends me not to do so often enough. And now what.  Changes.  That Kundera's sense of the lightness of being, Matthiessen's The Snow Leopard's deep poetic sense of the uncomfortable embarrassment of finding yourself alive, as the sherpa stands around waiting for whatever it is to wait for.  The Buddha's sense of everything burning, of no solid fixed self, the hardest of thoughts to really grasp...   Is that contrary to womanhood, this suggestion that entirely shifts the importance of things that is itself deeply shocking and scary, making one wonder if he is some form of traitor...  Nice to have a task like laundry to grasp and carry out physically in time, one foot in front of another.   And hunger rises.  Who am I, what am I doing, where am I, that sort of thing, as energy and the ability to do things seeps back into the body.   Do I deserve anything, have I accomplished anything, what claims may I make.  Does anyone have the right to talk to a person who has over time become the stranger she originally was...  Why do we talk to anyone;  what are  our motives, particularly if we barely take care of important professional things ourselves?

A plane crash no one wants to think about.  A different day in history, in the things that actually happen in the world.

And yet, by surviving another week, by putting the hours in, standing there, doing a reasonably good and efforted job, by thinking honestly, by working responsibly at what you do actually do in life as far as earning tasks and by being a reasonably good person with all whom you encounter, you somehow are indeed a better person, a continuity of an inner noble nature that is often quite confusing to bear.  Still with health insurance but without retirement plan, yet with a reasonably good understanding of a healthy body and what to give it and how to care for it without completely dismissing it away.

And there is something within us, silent, that deserves tenderness and direct and giving affection and love, a spark, a glow deep within behind our eyeballs or breathing within along the spine that makes our belonging true and significant.

I am a writer, I suppose, even though I've never for a moment understood the job or why.  The thought of making money at it, by now, would make me laugh.

Suddenly the Tour riders are on flat land, the approach of a town, the complications of its traffic, and then a little more farmland intercedes, woods coming down to meet the road before the final stretches to the finish line, a breeze gently sweeping through the trees that line the wide main road into St. Etienne.

Must one be stupid to find intelligent things to say; I wonder.

Outside there is no one on the street.  The writer is a tiny percentage of another tiny percentage of humanity, and no wonder he feels like a freak, it might be perfectly natural.  No hot dates tonight.  I hope to walk in woods, meditate on the log that overlooks the stream, and I hope a bike ride too.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

But all things must be said and done with the Buddhist perspective.  All things must be done with deep respect for people.  All things must acknowledge that even in pleasure there is suffering, always a quality to enjoyment in which there is preserved in the mind a haunting sorrow, a place out of which honesty comes.  And perhaps there is in suffering, not that anyone would or could by human nature ever endorse suffering over the easier ways of life, the joy of finding something real, like love, in many ways the emotion of great embarrassment and chagrin, but yet a facet of our character.

There can, as an adult, never be any simple thing, it seems, not fraught with tension.  Even to read and write can be pained and painful, as much as it is some sort of positive effort to garner meaning out of life.

This is the essentially Buddhist teaching of The Last Supper.  Even during a fine feast with wine and friends there is suffering, if not present, not far away and comprehended.  Even as the master's "feet" are relieved of muscular tension.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Irish Wake, further sketch

Lincoln (as if in front of a classroom):   Kids, don't ever get the hypo.  Don't ever try to go out into the world feeling down.  Folks will mess with you, from all angles.  You'll have only one defense against them:  words.  You'll end up involved with meaningless struggles.  Terrible things.  Slaughter.

Folks have big egos, because they have economies, and thus there's no way around that.  They have to fight for 'their way of life.'  And being depressed, you for your part think that life must have meaning, that therefore some justice must apply.  What we call God's justice.  Fairness.  Equality.

But while all such things are fine and dandy, you have to stick up for yourself, before all the high ideals, and maybe the best of us, believing in such things as higher meaning, get tricked and cheated, left out in the cold.  Alone on a horse, out in the rain, with a goddamn war on your shoulders.  They're doing you a favor when the shoot you finally.  (Turns to Kennedy, who nods.)

There are the ideals, and, kids, it's far better to stay in Heaven.

For in the world, there are offenses, which must come.  Even for no damn good reason.  Took me a long time to learn that.  The world ain't perfect kids.  Things just don't work out, like they should.  Nope, they don't.  There's an idiot trying to bungle with every single thing, or some sharp nasty person ready to spit at you or worse.  And what the hell did I do, you say to yourself.

Well, there's the law.  Naked, barely protected.  It doesn't apply to all the things you think it should, all the thousand unfairnesses of life.

I dream sometimes.  Of being next to someone, and how that just simply feels good, as if you could go before things got all fucked up.

People are vulnerable, remember.  They ache a lot.  I've known that a good while.  Some would say it's writ on my old face.  And I don't take it lightly.

Children, the world is an unforgiving place.  And don't ever be friends with a writer, for surely he's a miserable type.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Still, Chekhov, given all his accomplishments and doctorly professionalism, is wishful, wistful.  The great sketch of the lost dog, from her perspective, "Kashtanka."  (She leaves the side of her master, led astray by new and different smells and sights. Wandering into a friendly person, who runs a circus she will perform in.  The goose, the cat.  The interpretation of animal language.)  The writer at his simplest best, a fable, a dog's experience of lostness, the dying goose, the nervous cat.

Like the great long short story "The Steppe," it's a story that opens doors to the deepest of human feelings through conditions that are almost abstract.  It's writing that makes a Platonov story possible.( Carver as well follows the example.)  One of those stories that almost says out loud, "cheer up, my friend;  everyone's life has suffering."

Moby Dick having a similar fable quality...  Ahab's scar...

A writer speaking from personal experience...

Thoughts, mental masturbations after a long shift, no busboy, Mr. T the tittering bon vivant staying late savoring his digestif after his cheese plate.  The handsome young waiter, J, after being very helpful, after getting Mr. T settled, after helping me get the last few desserts out to that other late table, leaves with his girlfriend, a perfect classic beauty.  (He's young and won't mess it up.)  "They are a lovely couple," Mr. T remarks.  Last visit, as he sang loudly "God, I know I'm one" to the Animals "House of the Rising Sun," he proclaims us the makings of a good "wrinkle bar."  This one, as everyone seems to know each other, we're like a small town Veterans of Foreign Wars.  He's amused enough singing along to Bob Dylan as he sniffs his snifter with one nostril closed by a finger, making do with a Balvenie 15 year old.  Toward the end he can see I'm finally a bit pissed off having to drag the last few dirty plates downstairs, just want to be left alone to eat a bowl of brown rice.  He apologizes for keeping me late, seeing I've about had it and would like to hurl something against the wall, and when I grumble, "no busboy," he makes relieved reference to the classic psychology of him being for a moment a bit "it's all about me." He leaves and I do some stocking for the big Bastille Day private party, Condrieu, Meursault, Clos Vougeot, Cotes Du Nuit (which I end up leaving down in the cave where it's cool, not 80 degrees as it is during the summertime upstairs.)  Pandora is playing the Leonard Cohen station, and even he and his station, one is left with the insipid nature of pop music, childish, meant to excite the emotions, failing to relieve muscular tension, eating up years of brain power if you let it be the soundtrack.

A few glasses of wine while riding the bike on the stand in front of the television, the Tour going through the Vosges, turn in without even showering.

Today Contador abandons in the mists of the Vosges with a knee injury, the frame of his Specialized breaking as he climbed a pass.
People remind me sometimes of the precocious schoolboy Kolya from The Brothers Karamazov.  Smart, quick, a natural born leader.  He is engaged in schoolboy tricks and clever guises.  He's almost wise, sounding gifted beyond his years as far as any discussion.   He expresses an opinion, a sophisticated argument:  "Art is mental masturbation."  An interesting observation, no doubt.  But yet there is something missing, that needs to be brought out in him.  (In all of us, really, and this is not just Dostoevsky's point.)  Of course, Alyosha, the youngest brother, is the man for the job, and he takes the schoolboys as a group and educates them very subtly in a spiritual lesson.

And so are people, being precocious, impressed by unimpressive things.  Yes, pessimism is natural during the shaky times of a person's development.  Easy to lose faith, no doubt.  Easy to not believe in the higher aspect of love in its own form, easy to want to attend to all the practical things first, as if one could without a higher guidance.  I've felt hurt too, and took it out on myself by lacking faith in many a good thing about me, acting out, as it were.

And so we learn our lessons, learn to avoid the quick pleasure, the satisfaction even of making a buck, because that's not what it's all about.

Every day, some vigilance is required, for me to take the bike ride, to do the yoga, to walk to work, to avoid the easy pleasure.  And maybe, like the always say, maybe embarrassingly, is that a good spiritual practice comes through helping others.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Yesterday afternoon, the phone call from the boss.  Come help out, be ambassador of the restaurant at the Bastille Day event at the French Embassy, serving braised veal cheeks osso bucco style.  "Well, okay," I say, agreeably enough.  "It will only be a few hours."

I end up staying after we pack up our steam table trays.  A good Buddhist day interrupted, falling into the mire of a Fellini scene, Big Band, singer in red dress, diplomats, well-dressed Washington people.  I make my rounds through the restaurant people who've set up representative servings on long tables.  Across from us, Cafe Du Parc.  Over there, Ris.  Next to us Chez Billy.  I end up talking to a nice lady from the Vendee presiding over a well celebrated head cheese  and who knows pretty much everyone in the business, Jean Louis, Boulud...  and she's kind enough to chat with me.  All the while, of course, a little wine, a taste of Eole Provence red, two reds from Morocco near the Atlas Mountains, a Merlot from the D'Oc, a couple glasses of Cotes Du Rhone, drinking like I do in such situations to make up for lost time, a release from the strange discomfort of being in such an aimless business as serving people when they come by.

I get a ride home from my bro back at the restaurant as I've left my keys there in my courier bag.

The mind changes.  Yesterday's problems recede.  Things shift, move on, do not stay fixed.  A new set of problems, a change of emotional reactions, new day.

Friday, July 11, 2014

At a certain point you need to give yourself a break and be positive.  Your intentions were good.  Execution might have failed miserably, but your heart was in the right place.  Buddhists get a bad wrap in relationships and pretty much everything else, accused of non-action.

The main action in our lives is that we were created as who we are.  We don't have to change anything about ourselves, but develop into the higher being we're meant to be, a part of the clear consciousness.  It's too easy to become obsessed with the obvious things, to not explore the depths of karma.

How do you speak to a world so certain of itself, the world of military versus terrorist strike, feuding nations, the grab for resources, the competition considered over basic human decency.

You meditate, and your world slowly and steadily improves.  You begin to do things more in accordance with yourself, being more in control of your emotions.  You live a cleaner more organized life;  you address things more directly, more as you should given the totality of your being;  you stop lying and doing the counterproductive things.  Initially, this takes great concentration.  Maybe that's why some of us come across that through the sense of things not going right and being down and beaten.

But it's all confusing, a long process of education, to not be drawn into an issue as other people see it from the usual worldly perspective of seeking comfort and an absence of pain, the craving that follows from a consciousness hypnotized by the illusion of a concrete self.

Love has to be approached, in the purely Buddhist sense, of a uniting with the larger, with the correspondent part of creation, with a fuller realization of karma.  And this takes morality, which may be how some political figures achieve a truer stature, through the taking up of a moral issue, becoming a deeper expression of themselves, just as a writer, a novelist like Dostoevsky or Tolstoy might through the lush and non-judgmental worlds of their fiction and accounts of humanity.

It makes you wonder, were we born with the enlightened knowledge of who we should be, that by needs we should fall and fail before picking up again, in our maturity believing in the higher purpose and working to manifest it in our own little way?   Is that how focus comes?

What then of the things we've missed, of the opportunities we did not seize?  How would Buddha tell us to think about these things?

Is this why the rules of courtship, of how to behave in society are found to be irksome to some of us? Some can connect A to B, quite simply, then see if it works out, and then some of us are in a point of exploring the depths of one's own karma and the way to the betterment determined from within.

The spell of a first romantic meeting broken by the distracting call of a family visit, to be seen as the interference that caused everything to go wrong, or somehow the call of karma, of making amends for a previous life's shortcomings, or did that visit then create new ills through the bad choice of not getting back to the romance as soon as one possibly could?  Difficult to account for simply and cleanly, I think anyway, just as a Chekhov story is complicated, though, I admit, often a tale of the thwarted, like the shy soldier who gets a kiss in the dark.  Is that thwarted quality itself part and parcel of the tender Buddhist message that ultimately unites us all, as if like a Sherwood Anderson story in which people are finally reunited after much woe to cry and keep each other tender company after too many years gone by.

It's not easy to find and follow one's karma and the dharma.  There is much distraction to be avoided, and we have to learn this the hard way.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

You can't help thinking of early scientists, gentle educated people who pursued new schema, building on a way of thought.  Liberal arts, as often said, is about learning how to think and how to learn and how to study.

They don't always have an easy go of it.  Einstein was a clerk, "a certified ink pisser," as he did his math (aided by his wife.)  Bruno, Galileo, Copernicus, Newton...  The same could be applied to the scientists of the literary art sort, Dickens, Hardy, those who map the worthy desires and hidden stuff, the pains and joys, the clarity and confusion of the mind.  A poet can indeed bring a sudden broader understanding to the science of the day, through careful thought, through intuition, through spiritual practice.  Such that the Buddhist can be presented with modern Quantum Theory or the concept of the vastness of the Universe, and nod, "oh, yes, we've understood that for a long time, in our own terms of mind and subtle mind, time, structure, worlds, if you care to listen."

There are hardships, it seems, when you come up with a shift of paradigm as to what might better present reality.  It's a pleasant endurance sport, one that bequeaths great satisfaction, I would imagine.  It would present a dignity of correction.

I suppose as a young scientist of my own sort--using the term quite loosely--it occurred to me, selfishly, one might argue, to find inspiration through the kind of beautiful young woman you'd want to, as a young man, bring flowers to.  That might have seemed to me as good a way as any to explore the deeper reality. You didn't necessarily have to do it in a world falling apart like in Jesus' time.

But it would still call from you a kind of personalization of the study, as if you had to live an experiment, a kind of A Tale of Two Cities sort of a thing if you had to make a rough drawing, maybe more recently Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale, related to the original Shakespeare, acts of literature, in some ways fanciful, created by the mind, but inspired by a deeper truth.

Some people feel they have to make war and conquer stuff to gain love.  To which you might say, they probably were mistreated as a child.  But that's fighting it, when you need to be passive, turning the other cheek.  (Republicans--never got enough love as children.)

As a bartender I've seen a whole long parade of strutting and boasting, a strange vision of people about how they might get what they think they want.    It could be unbearable to watch sometimes, the big ego of an older man, leaning in over a young lady, 'what's your story,' the playing of a numbers game, or a million "How To Pick Up Chicks."  Stomach turning stuff.  Such that I would not even want to write about it.  "Please, please, please be subtle;  please be gentle, please be cool," a voice aching inside would say, while I had to go on with my chores even if I too might want to respond with an overture of friendliness.  I was always, from the start, very professional about my role as bartender.  And sometimes it would hurt, particularly knowing that I would be going home to no one.  And I went through years and years, feeling completely invisible, or taken as a juvenile, patted on the head as a decent person, and even told that I must be gay and dismissed by a female with certainty to her mind.  That is pain, and maybe we all know what I'm talking about.  No way to fight your way out of it, and you just carry on with work, go home, watch TV, beat off to Hairy Erotica to keep the plumbing in order, and really wishing for high Tantric sex with an understanding beautiful soul.

But you may well end up feeling obscure as a scientist, feel the strangeness of holding down a job really in many ways far beneath you given your breadth, wisdom, knowledge, background and stature.

Bad things did happen to some of these scientists, particularly those who went against the enfranchised Church.  More egoless people who might walk through the woods and pick a flower were burnt at the stake for being witches.

Obviously it hurts being treated like an idiot and all the worse things.  But you cannot relent, cannot renounce, cannot ever quit the calling of your own science.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

(To continue on with post family vacation thoughts...)  The highest form of love, the reason why we're here, the mark of a real human being, is to help with the realization that life is suffering, always a dissatisfactory quality to the moment if you think about it.  If you can show that a relationship bears the same thing, that there is always some suffering to life, then I think you're being real.  (And maybe that's the beauty of sex, done properly.)

I think of Platonov's short story "Amongst Animals and Plants," the simple tale of a railroad worker that begins with him walking in the forest, somewhere far away from important people, except those who whiz by on a train sipping something pink and sparkling.  Insignificant everyday creatures, a rabbit playing in its litter.   To my reading, this is a great and final portrait of a writer, a kind of insignificant idiot, a worker at some pedestrian thing as far as the sense of making money in the world.  Through a knee-reaction, thinking of the well-being of others, the character of the story acts.

In a country steeped in reality, Russia, let's say, for the sake of argument, given the general origin of Platonov, to write about such a person in such a way has value, literary importance, acceptance as a form of teaching which deserves serious attention and respect, even if the writer is never going to be rich from the duties of his caste in life.

In a less real place, who would bother with such a story about an insignificant person, plain as a growth of moss on a log, who does something of a significance beyond himself.  Platonov's characters, many of whom can barely bare a relationship, are real;  they speak of the universal unsatisfactory quality of existence in a way the people on the train, living a higher life, favored by the party, cannot yet appreciate, as if distracted.

It would be no surprise to me if a real writer were an insignificant person, almost an idiot, who works at a job so utterly mundane that people would wonder what happened to him.
If you want to test your Buddhist meditation practice, it is said, go take a family vacation.  Nervous automobile passenger mother, overbearing highly successful and organized brother and his wife and little kids, sister in law's parents...  I found a point of beach where the sand was flat, two graceful curves of beach to either side, some small boats to the side, piping plovers doing their tiny footed work at the tide's seaweed strewn edge, I did my yoga routine, headstand in the breeze, and then, in lotus, I meditated.  And somehow, this miserable bachelor was able to get through it, able to persevere through the deep sting of lonesome feelings being surrounded by capable families with beautiful kids and beach houses up on the Maine Coast.

Funny things will go through your mind in such a situation, and as the mind is not at all a fixed thing, ever changing, the sea of the mind and its memories through an infinite amount at itself.  Largely, memories of just about the stupidest most utterly self-defeating actions a young man with his heart set on another person could do, a whole history of them, and then, following on that, the further history of a miserable life, worse and sadder and more disturbing than Humphrey Bogart's Rick from Casablanca.  Far less successful.  Stinging pain swept by the waves, extending out to the horizon, following you wherever you go, thoughts of the most calumnious foolishness in all creation, as if one wanted to be self-defeating, to, as they say, snatch defeat from the jaws of beautiful victory.

Which is, by the way, the basic story of Scrooge in Dickens' Tale.

So, anyway, what can you do, really, but offer yourself some meditation.  None of it was ever mean-spirited, and maybe the fact that comes out of it all finally is that you really loved someone, enough to be defenseless around her.  Put your faults aside, the lack of any and all proactive measures besides a very few, the obscenely horrible cruel failure to see one's place within a predictable setting of courtship between two of opposite sex...  Put that aside to the extent possible, because you have to go onward and you have to live life.

And yet, perhaps the strangest or most striking realization that came out of the seaside invisible hurricane of huge scale within was that the love, yes, that's the word, the love for this person was still there.  In fact it hadn't changed one bit.  It had a tangible physical presence, a field of energy, as real as anything.  It existed.  It was close the core of reality and all its mysteries. It had been lit, during a special meeting, and it had rather flourished, privately, quite well.  One felt no need to actively do anything about it, part of its quality and laws.  It's presence was enough to reassure any person feeling such that the whole world and all beyond it and everything really is built upon, a manifestation, of love.  Unimportant stuff slipped away.  Yes, one could say, "well, but nothing ever came of it," which might be true, but on the other hand, at least I learned something, sensed something worth putting into terms even as it seemed out beyond any formable duality of common verbal logical understanding.

(And looking at the length of a person's life and all they go through and the lonesome times they will go through without a firm sense of meaning in life and all the trudging it seemed, contrary to some common sense, actually healthy.  It was as if one had discovered something of the Old World, an organic creation shepherded and crafted, useful and practical, something that would in fact never go out of a style or use in the human world.)

"Well, why the hell didn't you act on it?!!" the mind vocalizes at you.  To which you, in attempt to retain control, to not let the mind go back to the lobby of a college dining hall twenty seven years ago, respond, "meditate, meditate, picture Buddha, do not judge, learn from it..." as best as you can.

And that's the thing, that love doesn't go anywhere, but remains the principle reality of daily existence, even if you're completely mum about it.  Even if to many people's sane mind's estimation, you had descended into... well, what would you call it... poor psychological health, stalking, delusions, etc.  And for this writer, and probably any other, the truth is what you're after, rather as if you were pursuing science in a laboratory.  Hemingway wrote standing up.  I'm working at it sitting on the floor like I was warming up for yoga.  Spine straight.  Chin up.  Breath in; breath out.  Daily pressing chores aside for the time being.  Drinking my tea.  After waking up in a fairly miserable state, "oh fuck here I am back in hot old stinky DC," my Buddhist town, stiff from driving Route 81 through Pennsylvania's mountains and valleys alongside eighteen wheelers on their own paths...

My mother's words, suggesting, are in my frontal mind, "you know so much about health and this blood type diet stuff, why don't you write a book about that, to put it into accessible terms, so that all those obese people you see in the supermarket, fat young kids already ruining their lives, make better choices..."

Indeed, the main image of Christianity comes to mind:  "This is my blood... my body;"  the three dimensional aspect of the Cross (as if it were a cube, a three-dimensional figure, cut upon and laid flat onto a two dimensional surface);  the aspect of being nailed to it, us, the personality, the suffering mind, however you should think about it.  Yes, I would agree.  Blood Type is one of those things that bears out our own individual manifestations.  Blood Type, your basic genetic structure of atoms, determines who you are, how you act, how you respond, how you think, what you will suffer from, what you should allow into your body to enjoy good health.  And I think people underestimate this animal aspect of our personal identity.  We aren't all cookie cutter cut out obviously.  And I might have more physically in common with the Asian or the African person I pass in the street than my own brother, if he is of a different blood type (thus a necessary aspect in the choice in blood or organ donation.)

My father, speaking intuitively, was an organized man.  He had broad cheek bones and had Type B blood.  (Which my brother inherited, and basically displaying the same sort of thought out accomplishment.)  But it was the Blood Type of my mother, O, which I received.  Being acquainted with the deepest aspect of his teaching, his profession, I was basically taught to first and foremost be a kind of Buddhist, or a Theosophist, having some basic drive, that is, to understand all things by thinking, by seeing them through deeper understandings, their individual guises falling away to speak of That Which Is.  He wrote once in a letter to me how this was my luck of the draw, to have such an old man who thought of such things, such that not many people he would or could converse with about say the repeated manifestations in the time bound world of the wise person, Moses, Abraham, Buddha, Jesus, Lao Tzu, etc.

And maybe, on one level, such lessons are better meant for a practical B, omnivorous survivor descended from the hordes off the Mongol plains who raped every woman they came across as they spread West rather, rather than the older O type person who has to more carefully watch himself in a modern dietary world, who has a propensity for language such that he has to do something verbal to keep control of it, lest his chemistry tip from Joycean clarity into schizophrenia, depression, anger, gloom, and so on.  If an O took up such teachings, he would tend to take them seriously, as he would have to take aerobic exercise seriously, as he would have to avoid, seriously, acidic things like hard alcohol, maybe alcohol in general, wheat, potatoes, a lot of dairy foods...  He would learn things on a gut level, testing them to for truth the only way he knew how, which is to live the great experiment.

Whatever an O might have to say at the end of it all, maybe that would be wise, who knows.  (Perhaps, like Hemingway, or Joyce--Type Os, I suspect--he would leave a record of his experiments and experiences, for others, as they tend to do, to interpret.)  What would he have found out after passing through all the shame and mistakes and the passing up, the failure, of a family life, of a career shaped with some common sense and familial input, with some regard for security?

Perhaps he would find that stuff which is wrote about through inklings, the stuff of Paul, the long suffering and unselfish quality of the Corinthian interpretation of that word and what we might mean by it, and how we might better feel it, better understand it, "love."  Love doesn't go anywhere.  It is passive.  It is deep.  You meditate to find a way to be in tune with it, the force behind all things, a force you cannot go against, but only with.

That seemed to be the ends of the reflection, spurred on by meditating by the sea amidst a personal cloud of some distressing realizations concerning my failure to act.  I began to see that love itself, love too, is Buddhist, that it need not be denied, forsaken as a agent of further suffering, abandoned through an act of willpower.  Love existed, a physical presence, as real and tangible as the sky above or the general fact of trees.  And maybe the general facts humanity has figured out, that everything exists as a field of atoms and energy revealed by light too became more ethereal in the presence of its power.

Then the little misunderstandings, the awkwardness, the messing things up without ever intending to as if some bizarre will had taken control perfectly against one's own will, all of that receded, for which I was very grateful, even if the suspicion of rationalizing everything floated about.  This is why there are love stories, because the depth of the matter is something we are tasked with figuring out.  Some of us maybe with more thought than others, some with what seems as comparatively more action.

For me, to figure out the deep agreement between Buddhist tenant and the love that comes to us over a stranger, a special person not from your own family, was a great relief, a means to eliminate a deep rutted practice of self-laceration when the backsliding habits were in play, and they were fairly ruthless. Perhaps this is what is meant by the parable of the House Divided.  You can not get away forever with being selfish.

Any such discussion would have to address the things that occupy us on a daily basis, the practical measures of a place in society, rent money, responsible behavior, job, career, child care, food on the table.  It follows that in feeling down about yourself you might not be as good at positively working toward such things.  There are vicious cycles, vicious circles.  How to get out of them but by being positive somewhere within.  One way to do that is following intuitions toward deeper understandings that go beyond pettiness.

Maybe, she too, I imagine, was, is, an O type blood person, with the verbal dexterity, the gift for physical comedy, the need for calm to which my intrusions were an upsetting thing, but also speaking of the gift of our immune systems basically liking each other, of finding ourselves basically different halves of the same creature, in need of uniting.

And every time I listened to the deeper self, did something bold like gently bringing her flowers at the end of the school year, I was doing something right, even if it initially upset her.  And every time I tried to listen, to figure out, to go into the complicated maze of society-based thought, I was completely stymied and made great mistakes.  I remember fondly the things I did based on the deeper stuff, even as I was shouted at as if to send me off forever into the fog.  And I always had my father's deeper lessons to take refuge in, and she would take to liking me again soon enough, even after all my foolish inept just plain stupid cowardly behavior, and I would feel very good.

I would forget about it all, if I could.  But that's not how things, ultimately emanating out of the love principal, the love supreme, work.

Dear reader, learn from my mistakes.  (Hemingway, a fiction writer, not necessarily a perfect Buddhist, wrote about the cowardliness of others, the physical shaking of bullfighter's legs betraying their role, but one might better write about one's own.)