Tuesday, I go into work, wine tasting night, a blanc de blanc crémant from the Loire nice and clean, simple, then a Paul Mas' sparkling rosé from Limoux, and I learn early the busboy has been called off, due to a general lack of reservations. (The busboy might play the Chief in my equivalent of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. He's funny when he opens up.) Not my call, not running the business. It puts me into a fret, but I'm ready to go when the first couple comes in the door two minutes after the door opens. Get them started with cocktails. Then a kindly well-mannered lady comes, a friend of mine with a grand calm, always well-dressed and coiffed, revealing she's skipping a meeting at her building, a fairly prestigious one up on New Mexico. I pour her a sip of the two tastings, but not interested, let's taste some white, talk about specials, look over the menu, catch up a bit. Still quiet. Madam likes to talk, and speaks in paragraphs, not easily broken up. I bring up going to a therapist and anxiety, of how I've never been to Charlottesville, as if it were some mythical place, by which I am referring to a particular therapy session, and she immediately speaks up, I know just what you are talking about.
So she tells me how she writes lists, how she had to go out for a family event, how she packed the car with back-up water, protein bars, almonds, bananas, a blanket, etc., prepared for anything that might go wrong. "Yes, that's why I enjoy mountain climbing books; they always throw a list in, how much rope, pitons, bag, tent, food..." And the conversation goes on like this for a good while's amusement. I ask her what her blood type is, and yes, of course, she is an O, and I can, and do, explain the fine fight or flight response, the adrenal reaction. The difficulty of fitting into the modern bureaucratic world with all its caveats and regulatory habits, of coping with the anxiety of a modern highway system full of traffic, and the beautiful relief of a quiet country highway and of, once you get out there, finding things doable. I tell her about L-Tyrosine and appropriate dietary measures, of why wine on a balcony might indeed be relaxing after a stressful day of meetings, and how, yes, swimming, any aerobic exercise means natural calm. Good times, good talk, the bar guy doing his job politely enough, establishing common humanity, even if it's just two of us, and my friend who's working the dining room downstairs coming to check on me, which is extremely helpful, just that little bit of moral support, that bridge over to the corner. Military people could make effective study of a restaurant, I would imagine, or, the same rules apply, distance, supply roots, effective engagement, help..
But of course, then things get busy, and then busier, and them more people come in, and the speed increases, but still you can't get caught up, and then you are in the weeds, my friend. The boss helps out. Opens a Chateauneuf du Pape for a Japanese man with his grown daughter and boyfriend, willing to spend, whilst I hustle. I get a Bordeaux open, rattled, struggling, decanting it. And the night goes on and I'm running, and also obliged to keep up the conversation here and there, the couple who met a night here six years ago, a bottle of rosé for them. At one point the boss: "I'll cut some bread." I have to run back from the wine room, back along the bar to get back into it to grab the next round of ammo. I'll be clearing a lot of plates tonight. The boss saved I don't know from the busboy's hourly pay, but I'll pay for it. The kitchen cut its staff too, and things do seem to take awhile...
I get home, finally, and it takes a long time, a long time to calm down. I resort to making use of a botanical looking object from the annals of animal husbandry for a boost of semi-tantric physical relaxation, too tired to roll on the bike and watch more Ken Burn's Roosevelts. Six AM, and I have to go to sleep, because I have to face the dentist before going back to work, and anxiously sleep comes.
After the abuse of being left alone, after the dentist, a scraping endured by retreating into the quiet spaces of mind and body that yoga allows, after jazz night, full of pretty much everything from engaging with the band, to the same with the customers and a demanding waitress, I get home, and can't fall asleep, finally do, and then, not sleeping well, I get up well into the afternoon. I don't even write anymore, don't even want to, have to take care of things...
But who wrote, or read at least, the old versions of what was then modern anxiety, the Bible, or caught what the Buddha said, as passed down, but dumb people like me who toiled their days away as worker bees enough, without glory of authorship, their own works too private to share beyond a certain circle.
The different blood types have different ways, generally, of venting the spleen. An A is a shrewd farmer. B a Mongol hordseman ready to let loose with charges and demands and critique. An O, with it internal, a matter of plumbing, works internally, with athletics.
As dusk falls I am riding my old Bianchi road bike down to the Bike Rack off of 14th Street along the bike line corridor of Q, having made an appointment to have the frayed derailleur cables in the handle bar shifting mechanism redone, along with new handlebars to replace the old bent ones--how they got bent in on the right side I cannot remember--and new bar tape. Which goes smoothly enough, the drop-off, and then I am outside, after surveying the shop full of interesting things and beautiful bikes and gear, and I walk up 14th. I walk past Pearl Dive and Ghibellena, past Barcelona and the seats and bars are full of happy good-looking people, and the sidewalks are full of pretty women walking home well-dressed and self-confident. At dusk the city seems to shine beneath such a sky as it turns into the lens of a jewel deepening toward its stars, and all the people too seem to shine. Walking past open bar windows I can almost sense the individual auras of each person, certainly the energy given off by their physical beings, transmitting, communicating something, and this signifying from their relaxed state gives them an immediate contentment. The world has opened up into conversation and discussions I overhear as I aim myself toward the door of Cork's wine shop, where I have found they have the mysterious and mystical red of the Irouléguy, imported by Wine Traditions. I have a good chat with the very nice and decent young chap who gets what I'm up to, and suades me to an additional red, this one from Gaillac, made with its local grape varietals. He worked in a place in the East Village, Hearth and Terroir (?), and the wine education was frequent there. Figures. Well, at least I know Ed Addiss.
On a Thursday evening in the northwest of the city of Washington, DC, people are happy and successful. They dress well, eat well, have great hair. And I am standing on the outside of that, looking in, but not to be a part of that real estate. I look in through restaurant windows, peek shyly from a distance into open doorways where the hostess waits, but I'll not be going in. I am the outsider, l'étranger. I'll pick up some simple groceries on the way home, singing a bit of The Auld Triangle as I walk along. I call my mom as I stand on the sidewalk, holding the microphone part of the earplugs up so she can hear me, to touch base. I tell her about my mission, how busy we were last night, and I tell her about all the happy normal people out on such a fine evening with so many things to do and places to go. She gets me, what I'm saying. She reminds me, chuckling, of the truth, that I am not such a person, happy and normal, and this comes as a note of relief. This is true, I say.
This gives me the power set foot, with my bags, in Cork, the bar itself, on my own terms, just to look over the wine list. The barman, a big guy, gives me a glass of water I am grateful for, and I spend a good five minutes peering through the list. He returns. "No thanks, I just got up not long ago," I say, and he understands. "No worries, man," and he seems to get it as he turns back to his duties. I leave two bucks beneath the bev nap, pick up my stuff and walk down the hall to the rest room. On the way back it's as if I sense the dangers of a hallway, and inevitably in restaurants I think of Robert Kennedy putting himself through crowds and ultimately the hotel pantry way behind the stage, not something people would tend to think about when passing through people and seats, the minor distracted self-absorbed gauntlets of humanity in the record groves of the songs of normal happy life, no one seeing the polite somber face, the wish to help somehow above the brow, but not quite knowing what to offer as a beginning.
The side streets are quiet, and I am heading home. The market awaits, some basics, wine in hand already, and then to cross the busy corridor of Connecticut, and then on toward home.