Thursday, September 4, 2014

There must be a Larkin poem about embarrassment.  (Or maybe to an extent, all of them are about it.)  Perhaps it's that one with the line about sitting around and getting "half drunk at night" from High Windows.  And this writer must admit to the same thing, the embarrassment of waking up sore, dry-mouthed, fuzzy, having enjoyed a bottle of Beaujolais after a long night at work as he rode his bike on the stand, PBS in the background, and then not only exercising his leg muscles but those which connect the hands to the brain's inner recesses, yes, that freeing feel of the particular joy of getting at one's thoughts.  A small portion of these entries are written at night when the glass of wine comes out, and like Hemingway said of Faulkner, to paraphrase, you can kinda tell, down to the sentence, where the man started drinking.  For the main part, for the record, the writing here is done in sober daylight, though often enough with a vague sense of some embarrassment somewhere in the mind, a kind of a why-don't-I-have-a-life-and-career kind of a thing. And yet that embarrassment is balanced, though the specifies of embarrassing things always remain, with that next day sense of the necessary freedom in the moment that comes with the pleasurable feeling, the detachment from the night shift's pains, from the inadequacies of the televised offerings.

In the long terms, it has to be reckoned with, one supposes, the night's liberation through wine, good or bad, maybe both, maybe bad, maybe good.  Eventually, yes, maybe it would be better to stop, but most reasonable people I come across seem to think it an allowable pleasure, the social lubricant, the Jeffersonian necessity, a bit of natural relief from the unsettling qualities and things of life.  Perhaps it is that a glass of wine provides some of us a medicinal ease from the overbearing self.  Then no wonder that an artist, who works through a mode of selflessness, itself a relief, would be drawn.  While it seems extreme to invoke "the doors of perception," making us think of Jim Morrison or Shane MacGowan, perhaps there's a way to enjoy the same thing without excesses, aided, combined, in tune with the spirit of the meditations which let us ease a mind overburdened by the demands of a concrete fixed self.

A passage from Knausgaard, My Struggle, from page 399 of Book One, about drinking:  "I loved it, I loved the feeling, it was my favorite feeling, but it never led to anything good, and the day after, or the days after, it was as closely associated with boundless excess as with stupidity, which I hated with a passion.  But when I was in that state, the future did not exist, nor the past, only the moment and that was why I wanted to be in it so much, for my world, in all its unbearable banality, was radiant."  This comes in a part where the narrator and his brother are dealing with the fallout of their father's alcoholism, but a reader will sense a certain personal weight that goes beyond the storytelling, and remember the claim very early in the book that the narrator no longer drinks, a subject treated evenly, without obsession, allowing a recollective take on youthful abandonment of school years and garden variety embarrassment and 'pleasures.'  The deep seriousness of this writer, strong, well thought, with conviction, gives one pause over the matter, indeed.

There was the fact of my own job, the way I pay the bills, working in a wine bar, something I am not sure of just how embarrassed I should feel about it.  Did old deeply embarrassing things have a claim to my trajectory to keep me in embarrassing things, even if I might wish to reform?   To really quit would necessitate a quitting of both job and habit, not to mention necessitate major adjustments to the relationships I had with so many excellent people, though, on the other hand was a life with such an amount of solitary time some form of masochistic self-punishment I could wonder.  If I did quit, yes, maybe then I could, like Knausgaard--or a whole list of writers, Raymond Carver on it--gain the seriousness I needed to grow, a fresh honesty toward 'supposedly fun things I'll never do again.'

We all handle it differently, and big brother may enjoy his martinis just fine while little brother must be careful and stick to the eased comfort of low alcohol light reds in the safety of his own home, a boost while doing housework, more effected in his adrenal reaction and his moods, his behavior, better off simply exercising to cope with boredom and ennui.   It could be said that drinkers, in the backs of their minds, all have a bit of unease, uncertain of the reaction in the person next to him, thus all the hearty reassurances, the "I love you, man," and all the heartfelt talk of recognizing a brother which is itself excitable and which leads most often admittedly nowhere the next day, that happens in public houses.  It could be good, it could be bad;  an attitude of necessary toleration seems concurrent with social order.  The creature responds with some fascination, as if catching a glimpse of some lost wildness in the species with all its attendant preening and grooming.

"Just write, man, write," is the best advice given to any writer, and that writer, to do so, must turn, perhaps uncomfortably, to the topics that are really on his mind, those close to home.  (A fellow writer passes on a bit of wisdom toward becoming popular, which is to write something of LGBT experience, maybe falling in love with a woman who is a man, that sort of a thing, but more personal, of course.)  The writing is about taking the thoughts in one's own head, not being judgmental initially.  One truly is a journalist covering one's own search for a life, for meaning, the search, the struggle.  It might be quite meaningful to say, to write down, "today, I did yoga," if properly read., so why not?

Oh shit it was busy, busy, fucking busy, and after I changed into my shorts and put on my running shoes there sitting on the steps of the wine room I lay back and fell into a nap.  It was two when I found myself there on the floor below the air conditioner, but the good thing was that I was basically ready to just throw my courier bag over my shoulder, turn the lights off, make sure I had everything, cell phone, wallet, punch in the code on the digital alarm unit down by the front door, wedge my bike outside onto the street, lean it against a traffic light pole, lock the door, put my keys in the bag, put my helmet on, turn on the bike lights and ease my way home, fortunately not a lot distance, and most of it downhill and of course not heavy traffic, the occasional bus or cab along the section of Q Street over the bridge, then finally uphill up the cobble section of 22nd Street leading up to the Spanish Steps fountain and upstream up the little street to my comfortable pad.

But it always happened that way, how after I helped the musicians lug their equipment back down the stairs at the end of the night out to their humble cars, always partaking in some musician's stories, music information, locker room talk, learning something every time, much ground covered, and good spiritual talk, the muscles in my back and those in my legs would begin to seize up and feel like lead, so that the last part of my chore work took effort, not helped by being alone and needing good music or something to keep me company.   Yes, it was a lot of effort, to get through jazz night, jazz night in particular, as if from the burden of wearing too many hats and the room filling all at once so that the whole night would be a scramble, seating, menus, drinks, explanations, orders, arrival of the dishes, the wine orders, then the cleaning of dishes, then the entrees, and so on, the snarl of coffee orders and dessert and the dinner order for the band all happening at once as the tempo rose and rose, shit, such that by ten, really, or upon delivering the band's dinner, it was impossible not to catch your breath.

I've never been much of a joiner, never much for the unquestioning mainstream, too full of Hamlet-type questions and carefully considered and inspired poetic flights for such an easy intake.  It's not smart, but it is the way I am.  I'm not about to go join a pick up volleyball game, much as I might eventually enjoy such things, as if there were a wall, a wall called 'my life.'  I had therefore to devise many ways to preserve my sanity doing what I was doing, and I knew somehow that I had to follow things to a rightful conclusion, which basically meant that I would keep on writing, come hell or high water, until I wasn't writing anymore.

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