The first night back, after driving eight hours, starting the day with a speeding ticket between Oswego and Fulton, toward the end of the night I had a glass of wine as I waited out the end of the shift, the dishwashers departure signaling time to go. I had a few things to do the next day, a more immediate need to find an un-zoned parking spot for the rental car, and when I got home, I hit the hay straightaway. And then Monday night I got through jazz, and had no wine at all, and when I got home I went to bed, no bike ride, no TV, just a valerian and lights out. And then Tuesday, wine tasting by myself, the busboy uninspired, talk all the night through with regular customers and good conversations as I hustled around from one end of the room to the other, except for a small sip to toast departed Ben Bradlee, a customer, to the standard Irish music played late at night when everyone has left, I got on my bike, rode home in a fairly heavy rain, the mountain bike front tire beading my glasses with spray, I went home, did something, again without any wine, involving a study of the female form, no TV, a valerian tablet, and off to bed, soon sound asleep.
A pattern emerged. Up early, surprisingly. Relaxed energy. Tea to start, a glass of V8, a hot shower to get limber, and a decent yoga session followed by mediation. The usual regimen of pills, L-Tyrosine for a balanced mood, astragalus for inflammation. What to do with all this time and energy before work? Where is it coming from? Hmmm. After yoga, a good bite to eat, following the Blood Type O diet plan, and even some spare time to walk out into the rain for a bit of grocery shopping.
Finally at the end of the second jazz night, just as I seem to have gotten rid of everyone, a customer from earlier returns with an older pair who have just met. The man and woman, older, stay for one only one round, and my new friend stays, so, with a sense of certain possibilities, someone to talk to, a quick finish up with the paperwork of a shift, clock out, sit down on the other side of the bar for a chat. I get home safe, repeat the new pattern of no wine, I'm a bit jazzed, eventually calm enough for sleep. I wake late, with a headache, and that familiar sort of lost feeling of "hmm, now what, what to do with my time..." besides the usual dishes, laundry and exercise. The wine of the previous night, a little of this and a little of that, but overall really not that much at all, has left me confused. And again, I am seeing, I'm afraid, a pattern.
"The problem with friends you meet in a barroom," a man says on Tuesday wine tasting night, "is that you cannot exactly trust them." We all know what he means, after the laughter, the opening up, the semi-truths mixed with the truth and also the bullshit, and I see immediately that this is true, as I fear I am enabling the habits of a few of the old regulars who come in with their standards and are too familiar with me now for any of us to go back, far too entwined, entangled, and this is how many good relationships in a barroom are, and in many ways they are hard to cast judgment upon on either side, what are you going to do, except go home and be healthy yourself at the end of the night. "My father used to say to me, Bob, you need to get married. You have to have someone you trust, someone you can completely trust," the man says, seated mid-bar, giving the statement more context. And I have dealt with him before in later parts of drunken evenings when perhaps his humor has gotten a bit too forward with the ladies near him, and I have been judgmental, in my heart, I must admit, in my regard for him as a customer, and now I see really what a good true person he is, in fact a very fine and interesting gentleman, an empathetic guy. Upon the last full moon (I almost wrote, 'fool moon') I abruptly and loudly told him and another regular customer to keep in down as the Satin Doll Trio started another set with a softly played "Blue Moon." To my embarrassment. Alas, the pressure of Jazz Nights can build. Bob is the one to tell us, myself, a couple from Georgetown who have come well-dressed from a cocktail party for a late bite, that Ben Bradlee has passed away. "I liked him," Bob says, and it sums up.
And the end of the night, I know, can be reserved for bullshitters and not the best of ideas. It can lead to lonely thirsts that distract, and these lonesome stresses can build over the week, causing a middle aged barman to really want to go home, ride a bike, flip through the channels, and down a bottle of Chinon, a Touraine Pinot Noir or a Beaujolais, which for a habitual wine-bibber is a step in the right direction, because at least such wines are low in percent alcohol. And far less tendency for a headache than, say, a Ventoux at 14%, or a mix of wines.
I get through the week unscathed, and now the problem is, seeing as I'm not feeling the urge to go back to bed and sleep it off, an embarrassment over what to do, both on small immediate scales and larger ones.
There is, I think, or rather there are, lessons, Buddhist lessons to be learned first-hand. I'm not exactly sure what they are. Perhaps they have something to do with participating in an illusion, or at least some form of tension between selfless consciousness and the selfish wants of ego for things like identity, activity, a good buzz, laughter that relieves but which must, as if to put forth its own Buddhist lesson, fades into the night, and there are worst things than laughter, and it's good for your health, so you can't really knock that. And there is a tension: it seems that if you want to go out and, say, 'meet chicks,' you participate in something that might have its fake aspect, its insincerity. But where else can you go that offers the prospect of such good conversations? And often enough, the conversations, like the one with a new friend that turns to the topic of abortion, are sobering enough anyway in their own right. Face it, you know within yourself, you're not being serious in such pursuits, and the time of learning through play, as adolescent animals do, is drawing to a close.
But oh, perhaps I am getting too old for such participations, and must mind quieter manners and a more studious life, a healthier life of yoga and meditation and fitting aerobic exercise, and find, someway, a way out of tending bar and drinking wine, when there is much to be gained by avoiding it, I'm afraid to say.
Waking to the sober light of day there is the wheat to separate from the chaff. For the large part, yes, it's all bullshit. Except for that which leads you to see the suffering, to take in the suffering and the pain, to find the very real quality of the human condition, to understand that it seeps like ground water into everything of life.
And I wonder, perhaps me with my system and my blood type and my chemistry, perhaps drinking is not a thing I should be doing with my time, that it is, was, as if I got sort of bullied into it, drawn along by a crowd, and many years passing, just like in the song of days of wine and roses.
Reading over previous recent entries here, I am reminded of the thought that the basic thing people really ever own truly is the poor and suffering quality of life. There should be something corresponding to it in the way that Facebook details, through its implicit rules, mainly the glib and the happy, a social media form of connecting for those who have found life a deep and serious matter, maybe often a lonesome one, but taking a kind of contented solace in the being real aspect, where no commercialism rears its gay bubbly head, where smiles would not be so conspicuous.