Sunday, November 23, 2014

When I can move and get up on Sunday after the Saturday nightshift at the bar, a Lyle Lovett song is playing in my mind, "let's have a hand for that young cowboy, and wish him better luck next time, somewhere later up in Fargo, or somewhere farther down the line."  A slow start, and then, boom, the downstairs second seating is backed up, people are deciding to eat upstairs, the boss with the reservation pad and the phone in his hand is figuring out how to fit everyone in.  Drinks at the bar while your table waits.  A couple decides to sit at the bar, moving from a table too low, looks through the list, I let them taste the Bordeaux by the glass, a 2011 Cotes du Bourg, no, need more cab, gets a 2010 St. Julien.  Okay.  A tall man is hovering over me at the bar, as busboy, waiter and myself equally scramble to clear a table, reset, seat a five top of GW girls, deal with another couple, and another, get them sat and squared away, and the tall man wants "a bottle of Pinot Grigio."   Hmm, well, that's Italian, we are French, try this, a Pinot Blanc from Alsace, and here's a Muscadet;  man choses Muscadet, goes sits, gets up with date, sits in back room, no, not right either, ends up at couch, the table moved from now seated with another couple.  St. Julien, Lalande, decanted, their food ordered, then an old friend of the chef, a dentist, an Ethiopian princess, sits at bar with two equally regal friends, but unfamiliar with their new servant, I get them squared away.  He wants a light wine, a Malbec.  Okay, I pour him a Malbec.  In the midst of this our friend who came in originally on Wednesday jazz night comes back with a report on his conference and sits at mid bar.

The night scrambles on, picking up tape speed, the bar is being fed, amidst the chaos of plates which must be cleared, scraped off, then rudely stacked on milk crates under the bar's rail pours, desserts, coffees, walkie talkie beeping, pick up pick up....  Another bottle of Left Bank Bordeaux, a St. Estephe, is ordered by the gentleman of the couple, and by now, a glass for our new friend, and let's share.  The liver is excellent, the talk is good, wandering over Europe and the Middle East and graduate schools, etc.  "Don't go to Iran;  it's not a good place."  Friend reciprocates, asks me to pick out a good Bordeaux, and I chose a good value, a 2010 Cotes Du Bourg, a surprisingly good offering to a Left Bank drinker, decant that, boom boom, all good.  The evening is winding down.

Cut, fast forward to midnight, bar closing time.  Original man of couple is now hanging on, we have to go do something with our new friend, come over, lets open something from the cellar...  orders a greyhound.  Wife leaves after champagne.   Man is focussing, leaning in, wanting to buy me a drink.  I told them earlier, don't get me started, I'm an animal.  New friend chuckles.  Then the talk starts, about opening that $1600 bottle of '93 Petrus.  "Can you give me a discount, a better price," the now tipsy man is asking me.  "Call your owner."  Some time passes.  "No, I think it would be wasted on us at this hour, and we'd need to decant it anyway."  "Well, pick something else out that we should have, the best we have."   I stare at the list.  "I dunno, I'm kind of happy with my simple little glass of Beaujolais..." I mumble into the dust of the night.  Jesus Christ, can't this night just come to a clean end.  The tipsy man queries me, hunching somewhat as not to sway his vision.  Why, exactly, am I'm not opening the great wine at this past midnight hour.  Drunkenly and directly, the calculating part of his mind, he is looking directly at me.  "Why not?"  Awkwardness.  Meanwhile, "What's so good about it," conference friend is asking, then coming gallantly to my defense.  "What a good man, not pushing overpriced wine on you," he says with the right chuckle and pleased smile. Yeah, I tell them, look, it's after midnight.  I don't want to serve, the employee handbook does not allow it.

Finally I get them out the door.  Yes, we'll all have a drink up the street.  That works, except I have to go along with them, the local guide, pass the problem on to the next bar, and the guy isn't driving.  The drunkenly engaged conversation, the egos out, and I hook up with an old friend I've not seen in two years, and we have lots to chat about, and his new girlfriend is very nice.  Night comes to an end eating a burger with my conference friend, seated out in the cold wind on steps next to the old Austin Grill, the original, where I worked and tended bar a long time.  Across geography and life, I have established a kind of brotherhood with this guy, and that's cool, and as a bonus we stayed out of Good Guys.  "Hope the other guy got home okay."  "Yeah."  And then it's time, finally, for a cab ride home.  I wake up on couch in the morning, stiff, left my contacts in, socks on, as the light comes up, lye, before putting the stiff body properly under the bed covers, setting the alarm for the shift tonight.

Getting up an hour later, I muster my energy.  Ah well, what can you do.  The night ended without incident.  I do the dishes, sweep and mop the floor to a YouTube about Zen practices and tea ceremonies.  Do you wonder about your values, do I really want to be doing this, the awkward thing of keeping people in control when their judgment goes, when the night passes on into the obligations of the ritual of having engaged in conversation, wine shared, talk of the state of the world.

Taking a page from the Eckhardt Tolle playbook, I light a stick of sandalwood incense, cook some Merguez sausages under the broiler, sliced sweet potato in the oven, take a hot shower to loosen things up, a few poses of yoga and then it will be off to work, this time more with a cop mentality toward that late hour when the drunkenness comes out.

And such are the problems, in my case a habit of people-pleasing, an overextension of hospitality, a giving in to the hunger for the numbing pleasure of the drink, which itself is a facet of ego.  The ego wants more to drink, in its battle between good and bad thoughts, tending to heighten both in the perception.  Grand gestures.  And I would sometimes fall into that myself, rather than keeping my head clear so that the simple mindful consciousness that makes no judgment would continue to shine through.  And once bitten by it taste, it seems like the best option is to continue on with the exploration of an evening.

After assuaging all the bad thoughts I could come up, rehashing the past, the self-name calling, I would end the night in some form of numb state apart from the self, escaping away from the basic inner value I've always and ever meant to uphold.  That can be a hard thing to sustain sometimes, when the wolves seem at the door, to simply uphold your upright conscious fully awake and aware presence in the moment.  Things can tweak you, get you nervous.  And so, oddly, being a proponent of the light of consciousness, attempting in some way to formulate it as a profession, or part of a profession, or simply a leading voice somehow over all the choices one makes in life on a daily basis and over time, I could find myself vulnerable, alone and afraid.

The odd sense, what are you doing with your time?, you can't just sit and meditate all day, such things would prey upon my days and make me depressed, the thoughts of the mind and all its voices, and I wished to hide out and sleep through it, and often enough I wasn't much feeling for getting up out of bed anyway out of the things I'd done in the night to escape the lonesomeness.  Yeah, and in a way, I had almost worked against my values, of promoting the high consciousness and presence in the moment out of all my worries, sometimes first of all to give people good service and respect and all that stuff, bending over backwards to be their therapist, their confidante, their company in the night as they stared into cellphone screens and took things very pessimistically, humorlessly, literally, burdened by things.  And my bright natural innate conscious presence would shine over their distractions, engaging in bright conversation, a touch of self-deprecating humor.

Believe me, I know what it's like to be preyed upon by the bully in the mind, by all its demons that jump out and go "HUH!" and try to scare you as best they can.  "Buddha, Jesus, where are you, come and save me, be a model," you cry within, and then, as if like your own father's voice in yourself, the recollection that you yourself are Buddha and just need to remember it.

But the voices from the night shift before, if I were over-tolerant, and allowed things to go on too long, the voices would be transmuted next day to sit hauntingly upon my spirits.  "Oh, I shouldn't have done this, I shouldn't have done that, I was just trying to placate them all so they'd leave but that was self-defeating..."  Well, at least I was working on it, from time to time, putting the rough math together, this equals that.  As they say, respect yourself.

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