Wednesday, December 31, 2014

So, yes, I got through my shift, itself quite a story, the end of it sort of hijacked by some guys who come in and regularly drink a bit much, Mr. T., over there with his Japanese raccoon and beaver striped coat draped over the chair, enjoying his dinner right up until midnight, red shirt, red vest sweater trimmed with green, red Prada shoes, finally driving away--I watched him--into the drizzle with the top of 500 series Mercedes coupe down... anyway, I get home, finally, Jesus Christ, and since it's Sunday, the silent movies are on TCM, and it's the Cecile B. DeMille thing, King of Kings...

And I'm watching it, sipping a glass of wine I'm not very enthusiastic about, but just unwinding, and there's this great scene, it always jumps out at me, Jesus and the Harlot and all the accusers about to throw good-sized stones at her...  And the chief priest Caiaphas is trying to set Jesus up.  If he says the old law of Moses is too harsh, bang, they can stone him.  And something tells you Jesus is not going to allow the thing to happen...  So there's the excitement, people juggling their rocks, and someone drops this, like, bag of dust thing, so there's this plastery powder on the floor outside some temple-looking thing.  The poor woman crouched against a wall trying to cover her head with her arms, and the excitement's growing, because Jesus really hasn't said anything, one way or the other...  And then he walks into the middle of the picture and says something, and then the screen writes out, you know, the line, let he who is without sin cast the first stone...  And then back to the scene and Jesus has stooped down and his writing his finger in this white dust.  And some eager shady looking character walks up ready to toss his rock, but he looks down.  The camera looks down from overhead, and written out, first, is in Hebrew, clear letters of script, and then, it's written out in English, written in the dust the same way, like magic.  "Thief."  And the guy with the rock kinda goes, oh, shit, that's right, because, yes, Jesus knows everything.  He knows the heart of mankind.  He shrinks and turns and slinks away.  Next guy comes, with his braggadocio, stone in hand, and again, Jesus, not even looking up, is writing again.  First in Hebrew, to bait us, and then, in English.  (They did this in Bugs Bunny once, taking a sign in Arabic, then into "Sam's Bar & Grill," things the same the world over.)  "Murderer."  Yes, that's pretty serious, and the guy clutches his fist to his chest, has a moment of self-recognition, as if he'd forgotten what he'd did once, leaves.  And then some last guy comes, well, I'm glad I'm not like those other men, but Jesus is writing again in the dust, and boom, "Adulterer."  Shocked, the rock falls.  And then, even the end of it is interesting.  "Woman, hath no man condemned thee?"  "No man."  "Neither do I," Jesus says, which may well be a tacit admission of his own sins.

It's a fun scene.  An embellishment upon a simple line in the Gospels that Jesus drew with his finger in the dust, without saying anything more than that.  I put that as a reference to something my character says when he brings this girl flowers at the end of the school year, how he says, well, if I find a piece of paper and pencil in the dust I'll write you.   A reference to the summer job he'll take as a landscaper, but there's a resonance in it.  I don't know what it means here, but anyway...

It's taken me a long time to really understand in a conscious way what Jesus is talking about, here, and elsewhere in the Gospels, about sin.  Is it a sin to have sexual urges when you see a clearly attractive woman you may not know?  How can you not?  Okay, fine, Jesus, you're pure and holy enough not to, but I'm not.  Try translating that to the current day, where sex sells everything, where celebrities bare all...  And you'd sound like a complete fool, a prude, a nervous nellie, and most likely a complete hypocrite, if you were to make note of the fact that really you just committed adultery by opening a magazine or turning on the television, all of it right there in front of you.

But the strange thing is that there are these little islands of purity, a sinless relationship between a young man and young woman, a kind of sweet hidden love between the two.  Of course that island exists in the middle of the modern world, with all the outside pressures, "did you do it yet?"  "What's going on with you two?"  And those pressures eat at such things, but from the outside.  They can't touch the Christian purity within, but they can sure make things seem awkward enough, and cause over thinking and anxiety and insecurities...  But if, like Jesus, you could turn off all that outside noise, then the two would be back together enjoying each other's company without any pressures.  And yes, maybe from that, something nice would grow, naturally.

But it is the sinful vain world which seems to control much of the world.  The sinful are raised up as models of adulthood and realistic maturity.  And the people without the vanity of sins, who do not take pride in sin, well, where do they go, what are they left with?  I guess they must learn to stand up for themselves, to not be beaten down, to not regard themselves as psychologically deficient or deviant by being so hamstrung as to not revel in sin.

How would such a world know or recognize who was good anymore?  It would see those who've made material successes out of themselves as good, role models, but would the world appreciate the people who do deeper forms of good in the world, Christian forms and acts...  How would the world give credit to anyone who sins in no major way, who is not proud of themselves when they do, but doesn't so much dwell upon it, as that allows them to be freer than if they did dwell on it.  Wouldn't the world, such as it is, tend to see those of less sin as weaker people, suckers, and smirk, "get with the program, or you're going to be left behind in life, yes indeed..."

I looked out the window, then back at her, my therapist.  Some sort of incense candle was gently burning.

I know, I know, one of my little fantasia asides, largely irrelevant to this process...  But I will say this, you know.  It doesn't help matters any to not have some faith in being sinless as you can be.  It doesn't help matters to take it to heart to deeply the thought that your Inner Jesus is really just a creepy stalker, an obsessive, a weakling of the shadows.  Those are the voices that don't help, that don't help you be a good person.  And that's the only real inherent way you can proceed in life, is to be that, a good person, nothing less, nothing more.  Otherwise it's all too baffling, too choice-ridden, too much about careerist stuff and selfish things.  You've got to be able to recognize Gary Cooper the sheriff in Nigh Noon, a guy doing the right thing even when it hurts, even when it's lonely, to not judge him, as a man out of touch, not the most captivating guy in a world of shiny objects and bells and whistles and Heineken ads of the night life.  That's where you take a beating in the world, when people can't come up to you and say, "hey, you're a nice guy," for fear of something.

Yes, living in the world takes courage.  And maybe all of this goes back to what Jesus was saying, "let he who is without sin..."  You're going to accuse someone else, or judge someone?  Well, how about you, what about your character and your actions?  Are you above me?  Better?  That strikes me right there that you would judge...

I guess this is why my mom says, of the process of therapy she went through, that she was looking for meaning in her life.  That's what you need.  Maybe that's hard to figure out sometimes when you've got so many things to worry about.  Well, I've not been so good about moral courage.  I wish I'd had it years ago, clarity.  But at least, now, I'm trying.

But we are poor shadows and imitations of...  If we try, to be in our own small way like the proverbial Jesus and what he would do, I think we end up looking a bit foolish, maybe a bit dim, non-engaged, too passive...  At least in my experience.   We don't seem to stand up for the relationships we really want to happen.  We inflict pain.  We miss the golden opportunity meant for us, and the happy life that would follow.  Cast instead into some poor missionary sort of a life, unknown and obscure, and not really standing up for all that much except general common decency, which, you know, most people seem capable of.

Is there some urge to, like hidden within, to be brought out, have some sort of, I don't know, celestial magnificence, let's call it, that quality of wisdom that trumps human selfishness...  So that you are out on the forefront, as unselfish and as observant as you can be, so that you can see things, like all the different stuff pulling on people, residing in their personalities...

Sci Fi Sketch

Yes, by the year 2015 it had already begun to happen.  Those who personally remembered the events and aftermath of World War Two, a thing that did not happen out of any old reason in the Universe as far its construction might go, were getting up there.  Everyone from the Great War had finally passed on.  The adults who could tell a real story pertaining to either were getting very very thin.  One might remember her father, who may well have driven a tank, not able to drive, spooked a bit, going back somewhere she had no idea of, but the fathers themselves were dying.  The black hole of the wars had come and spread, and now indeed, the last were being sucked away into the gravity of disappearance we all must face.

It was by that year, through the advent of something called the computer, which had greatly profited a few certain kind of individuals, and everyone else joining in to make a buck, that a vast quantity of meta information had been gathered in all sorts of electronic banks, in the form of ones and zeros.  The vast interconnected machines had come to know, in the blink of an eye, our tastes, our preferences.  In fact, it constantly asked for them, and the human being was happy to respond and provide and participate.  How could it not participate?  And so, from one thing, led another, and then another, and then that great thing, shopping, the great therapy of the creature human, on the run, excited, seeking a cave, a soothing crop or whatever, added more superficial information about itself unto the great machine of ones and zeros.  What kind of porn a person watches, what shopping sites they might go to, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Banana Republic, Times Sophisticated Shopper, what things an individual might search for as far as anything goes, food, recipes, exercise, music, travel.  It was all in there, how could it not be.  How long did you talk to your mother?  What text did you send?  Who do you talk to?  Everything under an eye, a peculiar one.

It was by the year 2015 that the computer experts themselves began to notice something funny.  The ones and zeros had flown around.  Consultants used them.  Political campaigns could not proceed without them, no one would open a bar, no one could go on a date without the blessing of the gathered mega data, and there were only a very few sort of independent samurai or old school bard types who still tried to even escape from it all, increasingly distressed as they must have found themselves, running out of room just about everywhere.  The corporate Nazi takeover that had come dressed as a lamb providing information...  and even those who should have known better, lots of them, who'd been discriminated against ancestrally were so enjoying their new influence and prestige, that they too got carried away, always ready to pull out the "gotcha" thing, in the same old language by which they had been oppressed.  "You're not going to serve me?" an elder self entitled quite successful lawyer would say to a barman who'd dealt with him for 20 years, and was just busy getting other people, a couple, regulars, who'd just gotten engaged, waiting to reveal it, a good seat...

And then, something funny began to happen.  In the cyber world.  Code, ones and zeros, the way computers store things, repeat back what we might write or record on their tablet blackboard...

The computers began to do something peculiar, after all this amassed data that spread over every aspect of life, a great all reaching census.  And no longer was it linear, if that makes any sense, no longer ones and zeroes, but shapes, geometric began to appear.  Conical shapes, shapes of geometric form, as if the great banks had begun to dream, were waking.  And what did it mean, that the computers themselves, without any urging, were beginning to do something uninitiated by their human masters, as far as anyone could tell.  One computer in Pasadena maybe produced a cube out of all the bits of stuff, and it showed the cube to another one in San Jose.   And the San Jose one, which had swallowed every note and every factoid from Lou Gehrig's averages to Jodi Arias trial bites, took that cube, ran its mind over it, and then sent it on, and soon, the computer was doing its own math models, as in fact some young bright people at CalTech had had the inspiration to bestow it with tentatively.

HAL.  No one could understand now why the computer was now organizing its brain and its own language so.  The shapes would show up, like child's building blocks, assembling, toyed with, built up, wiped away by its own mind. But, it seemed indeed as if there was some talk beginning to happen, and the makers of the machine had no explanation for it.  The machines had begun to think, symbolically, on their own.

It was the conical shapes, and their frequency, which was the most readily mystifying.  They seemed to be very privately traded, or shared, as if one had to look upside down and backwards at a picture in order to see.   And by that time, maybe the background of the ones and zeros was getting clearer, at least to the people who tried their best to remain, at least spiritually, outside the habit.  The ones and zeros was like a wall paper, and now the machines were talking, and going, in a way, a bit wild, sending elongated bent cones of formulae so precise that the highest human math could but conjecture, albeit with a self-confidence since it was technically possible to be able to, say, write out an equation that would express the same form, though really that was a futile measure.  "Whale penises," one expert observed on the complex shapes of this new self-initiated conversation. The machine had begun to create puppets of its own, and the brightest computer minds, who'd made a lot of money creating the brain channels and neurosynapses of the electric petrie dishes, could only stand back, stunned, much as they tried to pretend, publicly, that they themselves were on their own responsible for the new things that were going on.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

But no, you never feel like Jesus when you get up.  Of course not.  You're just a fallible writer, with faults and laziness.  You need to stay away from hard liquor, but your brother makes you a Manhattan at the end of your shift on Christmas night, you sit and talk in the living room trying to talk about therapy and stuff, and the next day you feel like shit.  A typical mistake, and it's typical we make mistakes, or at least I know myself.  But there's still good in you.  And you grapple with it by writing, you know, as maybe that helps you figure it out.

I get the 'your choices' thing from people sometimes.  I know what they mean.  I see their point.  "You choose to be a bartender, to fall down into the restaurant business and lie with dogs, to not make any money, to live an irresponsible life..."  I saw it as a way of trying to get by when you have a deeper calling to be a writer, but who am I, Mr. Fancy Pants, 'I'm a writer, blah blah blah.'  But it has allowed me to write, whether or not that is a good thing or a bad thing.

I didn't so much choose to be a bartender;  I choose to be something like a Christian, or a Theosophist, mainly because my dad was.  That's how I see it.  A Christian not bound to an particular religious practice.  Who allows himself to be a Zen Buddhist at the same time, I mean, to the extent you can do any of that in your mind, without running off to join a monastery.  Maybe you could say the same about the original, Jesus himself.

But how do you do that?  You need some spiritual advisor, maybe.  Some kind of support, so that you don't get too lonely or start to feel ridiculous and then start to feel depressed again because you're not doing enough.

Maybe it was not inappropriate that I had to work on Christmas night.  The event can lose some of its meaning.  Or it's like the old money changers want a piece of the action.  And even for the restaurant, a big money night.  "Tough shit, Jesus, you gotta work on your own birthday."

I like to go to work, to some extent.  I like to talk to people, to be, I don't know, sort of steadily 'there' for them.  A community.  I like to hear out their little problems, though, of course, few share much.  There are a few nights you can still do that.  And then there are other nights when it's a long slog, running food, carting dirty plates around, heaps of glassware cleared from tables, who has time to talk....  There are nights were I lose a bit of the control, when a party blows up at ten o'clock on a Sunday night after you've ran your ass off for five hours, running on empty.  You're not doing anyone any good then.   You're not being a state of deep awareness, no.  And everyone gets carried away.  That doesn't happen in a yoga studio.

But still, I'm not Jesus would like so much the confines of a church.  I have these musings annually, around this time of year, as we get through the holidays in the restaurant, as the days tick down to my own birthday in the coldest time of the year.  How to celebrate it is always an odd question for me.  A retreat away from my own faults...

Back in Amherst it was a cold sleeting night and I'd finished my dinner in the dining hall and wanted to hang for a moment, and maybe take the brave move of going over the table of whats-her-name, and her friends, sit down and have a sort of truce, but my friend Al came along and we walked out into the hallway. I guess that's how fucked up I was back then.  And then a guy from the house offered me a ride after wishing me a happy birthday, and next thing I knew I was back up on the hill all by my lonesome.  I went to see Blue Velvet alone that night.  Fell asleep in the middle of it.  How sad.  I wasn't self assertive, I guess.  For want of a penny a nail was lost...  She would have been more or less obliged to be somewhat kind to me.  But I was fucked up, I was fucked up.

Ah, but let's not think about that.  It makes me feel sad.  Yeah, my birthday....  I try to be a good sport about it, I guess.  What's to celebrate?  Know what I mean?  We're back to the sufferings of Jesus again.  The sort of sarcasm that greets his claim on wisdom...  The empire doling out physical punishment and pain.

Which is why one simply wants to get back to his work, whatever that is.  You're just a writer, staring at a blank slate, with no story to tell.  Some random silly thoughts in your head.  A job calling in an hour or so.  Feeling kind of lonely, feeling kind of shunned.

But hey, that's why you do yoga.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Like, take journalism, doctor.  Good journalism is Buddhist.  It question the assumptions people get caught up in.  Are there really weapons of mass destruction?  Is Saddam an enemy more than anyone else?  Is the terrorist in any one place more than any other?  What is a terrorist?  How do they come about?  What about Domino Theory?  Who are 'we,' who are 'them?' Only the people in general can put a leash on the big egos.  And the big egos are the ones who, by definition, have and like power and like to use it personally for their own advancement.

Yes, people who've been on the wrong side of ostracism respect circumspection.  People aren't as bad as made out to be.  It's a particular individual who divorces himself from the rest of humanity.

And this is the Christian story, too, of the stone the builders rejected, that which is misunderstood by empire and by its minis, its knockoffs, the littler empire of socio-economic temple societies invested in status quo.  Power is enforced through judgmental habit, quelling the broader mind as a threat to its order.  Maybe you can't even blame anyone for wanting to impose order, we need order.  But, sometimes it's overdone.  That is the crucifix, the pain which does not go away, absorbed into the body, properly, for the rest of life.  And once absorbing that pain, you know better than to judge or to put an inappropriate definition upon on another.  When you've been judged, the only recourse, the only way to stand up, is through words.  "Wist ye not I was at my father's work," he observes as a boy.  He defines things on deeper terms.  He becomes a man of words more than action, the money changer's tables an exception.  A poet's passivity, almost.

Obsession-- this question probes into me, asks of me to open my creative furnace, the dynamo , the power plant, the boiler room, the hot nuclear core.  I did not make her up.  That's my creativity, my own look into Christian suffering.  You're asking me to take it out, as if to unplug it?   I had to go through it all in order to gain more fully the insights I had in me, that 'normal' people might be afraid of in pursuit of their own morality.  Christianity is not just for the sick and the dispossessed, but for everyone, applicable to the truth behind all life which is suffering.

And we can have normal lives and relationships even with such understandings fully seated within us, so that we don't try to hide or cover up solitary pains of the kind that foster wisdom and understanding.  Healthier than attempting some sort of fleeting happiness as an answer to life's problems.  It's our own bare humanity that gets us through, the ability to interact with neighbors, to find friendship.

But it seems an unlikely journey.  It might seem too depressing for the main part, too honest.  And it can only begin and grow and act through the gentle instrument of words, words which strive to capture the deeper thoughts.  And that's why we read poets, like Shakespeare, like Larkin, as they offer an honest picture into life, rather than trying to conquer it or white wash it all with happy pursuits.

I felt no great power or ability with words, natural as the poet has.  Maybe every now and then on a good day.  My obsession, or one of them, was to write better, to create literature.  But really all you can do is tell the truth as you find it out.  Know or realize the truth of suffering, its prevalence, enough to take the supposed unhappiness from it, making it bearable out of a knowledge of, as they say, doing the right thing, of knowing the universality of events that make individuals sad.

When you know the truth, that all lives share, then you can go on and live your life, do the work you were cut out to do for its own reasons.

That's why I wrote a sort of subversively Christian, for lack of a better term, novel.  It has many of the elements of the original, brought down into ordinary life.  I'm okay with all that.  That's life.  That's how it goes.

And then, realizing all this, then you can move on in your life.  It's not too much of a leap of the imagination if you think about it.

Otherwise the whole story would be irrelevant.  You'd have to be able to walk on water to be a Christian.  Being Christian would be narrowed, like, you can't believe in birth control or some silliness like that.  It wouldn't have any life in it.  It wouldn't be applicable to daily life.

And yeah, Christian meditations, these things take time.  They take wisdom, life experience, the barren lonesome desert.  They take years.  And it's like Bonhoeffer himself said, Jesus, if he were around, would not like so much the church built up in his own name.  Free thought.  An outsider's perspective.  Focus.  A willingness to have a sense of circumspect humor.  Some irreverence.  Like Dostoevsky.

It never was about trying to win her over.  Even though it pains me that it didn't work out.  It was more about me trying to find meaning, to find a career for myself, a way of becoming mature, seeing to adult responsibilities as I saw them.  You can't blame me for that.

Monday, December 22, 2014

So I after my therapist session I stopped by Glen's Market to stock up for the next days, my mom's visit.  I give her a call, see how's she's doing, the cat's paw, the general nerves over driving down from Oswego to the Syracuse train station, the long train ride, packing, check what she might need for her coffee and breakfast.  "Pretty good therapy session.  She says I might be obsessive," I tell her.  "Yes, you get comfortable and then they hit you right between the eyes," mom says, with a  chuckle.  I hit up the RiteAid for wrapping paper and V8, walked home in a cool rain that was nothing to an Amherst sleet.  But when you're tired, the air is cold, and you get that cold feeling on your skin like goose bumps.  And you want to take a nap.

Obsession.  That's what comes out of therapy, I guess, sometimes, some sort of poking around at a possible visual diagnosis, based on the evidence in front of people, which you yourself have opened up and admitted.  That's their job, so you don't hold it against the tailor therapist with her ruler and right angle or whatever it is.  What do they know of you?  You're kind enough to present yourself, and that's the price of someone listening to you talking openly, like paying for sex, there's a charge.

You're an artist.  You try to explain.  The deeper mind's eye.  The subconscious.  The need to write, to sort things out, as I always say.  The positive step of stepping forward to make art.  Obsession?  It might sound like it, but really, no, it's not.   Or is it?

Flashback to the office.  My mumbling about my job, a guy who'd just survived surgery for cancer of the bowels came by with his lanky wife, another couple.  They stop in on a Sunday night to see me after such events.

I talked about the artist process, how a writer is an actor, inhabiting a role.  An actor has to inhabit the words, the words being an essential part of the wistful scene of Hamlet and Yorick's skull.  "Where be thy jibes that were wont to set the table a-wit..."  I'd talked about the difficulties of sending things off, of knowing when you're done.  Don DeLillo's rule of not being able to talk about what you're working on.  I skip bringing up Joyce's timeframes, each book a progressively longer time to write, as if looking at a bandwidth spectrum, each of the big ones in their own parts, making you wonder.

But yes, I do see a link, a parallel.  The paper on the poem is late now, and I am at a carrel in the library reading, absorbing, saying the poem out loud in my mind, in the process memorizing it, inhabiting it.  Either you understand it and all its parts or you don't, and even that understanding has yin and yang to it.  Or there are the poetic situations of life, the things you want to take meaning out of.  What does it all mean, meeting her, on the eve of Easter, and all that followed after that?  Like I poem I go over it, sound it out, play it back, what does it mean?  And finally as I go off into the world of the city traveling far, I start the process of writing about it.  Yes, I'm taking too long.  I take years, don't even know what I'm doing, but there's a meaning there somewhere, isn't there?  Yes, of course it is obsessive, but then a book got written, and somehow books need to be written, even if they cannot fix things of one's personal life.  And along the way your imaginative trajectory took you to develop an understanding of your father's wisdom and educational observations, the one you'd always wanted to explore, the deep stuff about how "Thou art that which is."  And in this late geologic age you've indeed become the stardust of the Universe, burst into Milky Ways of creation, looking back on itself, with simple just peaceful understandings of life.

"You're obsessed.  You're obsessed with lots of people."  Yes, but it begins to sound like a charge against Jesus.  And he would have said something clever, before walking away, or going off on a boat.  A deeper reference to whatever is written about obsessions in Biblical terms.  Something like "let he who is without sin throw the first stone;  neither do I condemn thee."  Something like a parable, about the sparrows and the lilies of the field, about the innocence of babes.  Something like, beware the leaven of the Pharisees, or about no evil being done curing the lame on the day of the Sabbath.

And indeed, the moment had come about, in a tender enough way.  Not to be obsessive about it.  A reference to why one walks with people, why?, out of love.  There on a Spring day, near a graceful old tree just above the foot of the hill of Amherst College, near the main road up through the Holyoke Range, the library temple with its columns and steps facing outward.

Is Job's story about obsession?  Or the psalm By the Rivers of Babylon?

So, what do you do if you're a writer?  Well, you try not to be bogged down in your projects, I guess, with your territory, your material, your claim.

Feeling the cold, after cooking hamburgers with onions under the broiler, a load of laundry, I take a nap, intended to be a half an hour, but snoozing into an hour and waking stiff with a vague scratch in the throat.  Call mom again, check how she's doing.  She'll have to drive down to Syracuse, then get on the train.  The cat's paw, she doesn't want to leave him so, and can't stay long for the holy days.

Ah, the holidays... you do what you can do.  Don't stress out any more than you have to.  Keep plugging away, wrap another present, even as you might wish to get out for some holiday cheer somewhere.

"Yes, I am.  I'm obsessed with lots of people."  Maybe that's what he would have said.  Or was it there by the tree, after the suggestion of my obsessiveness, that I in fact said, "that's 'cause I love you."  And maybe that was too awkward and corny for words, something you just can't say in this world of material, of paychecks, real estate.  Leave the words to hang in that pure world, the world of the Grecian Urn, the world of liberal art's irrelevant beauty and truth and justice.

Yes, the writer of a book merely wrote events down as cleanly as he could, without judgments, letting the different sides of things remain as they remain in the reality of the world.  He wrote them so as to be referenced when an interpretation of Christian "Thou Art That Which Is" has a compelling quality to it, the need felt to make one.

And still I feel so awkward, awkward with time, the body and mind up earlier than the job that brings the rent money calls for.  Why write?  What to write?  Jesus Christ, your material is obsession.  Go see a therapist, maybe she can help...  When maybe it's just the sad sort of Jesus state you're in, a reference to him, his wisdom, in this geologic age where the consciousness of the Universe has come about and is now regarding itself with high conscious awareness.  Trying to make sense of things.

Jesus curled up in the ropes and took a nap.  Maybe you just want to turn your mind off sometimes.  Meditate.  Not let things worry you, just let the thoughts come and go and realize that you are in face the bright consciousness behind all thoughts.  No wonder then the Master's lecture, his theme, coincides perfectly with the rising waves, and the Disciples worry in the storm.  Oh ye of little faith...  and he calms the waves.

And where would Jesus go today?  Would he enroll in divinity school?  Where would he deliver his words?

Would he go to his therapist's office and look out the window, remembering his life, worried, anxious, depressed occasionally.  Yes, it was obsessive behavior, tarrying at the temple, taking up the picaresque life, the life of an interpreter of old words, some form of a life that might get labeled as that of a prophet, something like that.  "What is it they say about me," he'd ask Peter.  What do they think I am.  I don't know, I'm just curious.  What's their interpretation?  I mean, not that I'm going to take a Harris poll.  Do you approve or disapprove of Jesus's actions?

They think you're an obsessive writer fixated on the past who's having difficulty moving on in the realms of adult life, profession, relationships, values.

Yes, I would like to be done with that job.  It is awfully tiring.  It's not good for any sort of personal life.  I go home alone.  I'm even afraid to write, don't know why I do it anymore, what's the point?  Oh shit it's a champagne tasting tonight, and there's a 17 top private party in the back room.  I don't want to think about it.

Funny how I'd rattled on one session, about Dostoevsky and Orthodox monastery and real life Father Zossima he befriended, Aloysha's dream over the body of the Elder of the Wedding at Cana.  I'd told her about the Grand Inquisitor passage (that comes from the feverish overwhelmed mind of Ivan, the skeptic brother, precipitated sense) of how Jesus comes and they lock him up and throw away the key.  "We've got a nice system going here and the last thing we need if for You to come along and ruin it," to which Jesus makes no reply.

Roth writes about sex and masturbation to get through his relationship problems.  I write about Jesus in my own little attempt to likewise take arms against a sea of troubles.  Different senses of humor, a nod to the other.  One Jewish, one Irish, by tradition, one nodding to the sexual of spirituality, one preserving the story and high meaning of a saving almost through a sense of irreverent or even black humor.  Joyce putting the two together.  Eh.  You write what you can, whatever comes to you.

Yeah, all the shitty things people, worldly people caught up in dealing the worldly, say to the Jesus in our midsts.  "One more word out of you..."  "We're letting you go."  "You're obsessed..."  None of it would have been a surprise to such a mind, a mind freed by not having to make choices, knowing, perhaps, the ultimate appropriateness of everything, which is at least a good way to stay calm in this troubling world.  I kneeled on the carpet and wrapped up a few books, closer to being done with the Christmas gifts.  Jesus is not found in things like The Da Vinci Code.  That wouldn't be his wavelength.  People make up codes.  He is who he is, thank you very much.

The writer does not like to make choices.  (Women, less ego, more in touch with nature and intuition, are the same way.)  His material comes to him, naturally, without need of choice, if it's true and good potentially.  What someone might call obsession, a fixation, well, no, that's just your material.  And by not having to feel burdened by all that constant need in some part of the nagging mind of making choices, you're freed up and become energetic, possessing your own native strength.  And maybe that's how you arrive at Christmas, tired of all the choices you make through the year and through the season itself.  And so it is a season of forgiveness.  Freedom from having to choose, meaning you don't have to judge everybody as much.  That's a bit of what he's saying with his "render unto Caesar;"  hey, it's not mine, not my business.  I've got my things, he's got his.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

There is that special agony of having to make a choice, doctor, and this course of therapy places importance on your choices.   You make a choice to reflect your values, you carry through with it.  Action.  But instantly, after we make a choice, well, you're faced with a myriad of interpretations, the complexities of an act's values.  Like, you ask yourself, in doing something, what value are you standing up for?  Does my act mean this, or that?  And in a way it becomes enormously stressful to make any sort of choice, because then you have to ask yourself and answer all these questions...  And perhaps we can never know, really, the ultimate value.  Am I making a particular choice to reflect my love of family, or am I closing my life down not choosing some wonderful new experience to be had on my birthday...

I mean, doctor, like let's take Jesus.  Doesn't seem he's all that big on choices.  He doesn't stop and interview scores of people who's going to be his disciple.  No, it's that guy standing in front of him, the fisherman guy over there, the tax collector, another guy and his brother.  He doesn't seem all that stressed out about things.  And so this interesting tale of his journey emerges, he did this here, he did that there, he went over there.  People talked to him, asked him questions, he answered them, he explained a few things.  Things were neither within his capabilities nor without.  He was a pretty good psychologist, meaning that he could see people's complexes, the things they were thinking.  So when he said, thou hypocrite, he was saying so out of a pretty close judgment of an individual character.  Some people choose to sit in front rows, to pontificate and make judging statements about the behavior of other people, "you're doing this, such and such a thing, not within the law..."  And when such people define the law in a certain, probably narrow, way, "you can't heal people on the Sabbath,"  Jesus always offers another interpretation, deeper, clear and simple, understandable, and maybe even poetic.  And he's so good at making choices, it's like he can even see into the future.  There'll be an ass waiting for me, he says, and then they get there, and sure enough, there's an ass there waiting for him.

Well, anyway--thanks for listening to my little tale--I found myself a bit stressed out, about the holidays, about working on the holidays, about how I had to express my values, say, of family, what I should do, and on top of buying gifts and the whole list, wrapping paper, etc., etc., I guess my head was about to spin.  And I was feeling really crappy about not being able to get some upcoming time off of work, let alone Christmas night, and I'd picked up a shift for my friend so he could go to his uncle's party, and I dragged myself to work that night, quite unhappy with the schedule, and I bitched a bit, vented my grumpiness, and then, I don't know, it all began to be clear and I could understand why, all the reasonable good reasons behind work.  A guy had to go off to El Salvador for a cousin's wedding.  Christmas night dinner indeed was going to busy enough to warrant bringing in the A-Team.  And as long as it's justified from a business perspective, well, at least you feel better about it.  You do what you can do.

But there is something wiser than the particulars of a choice and reasoning it all out, feeling this way one moment, feeling that way another moment even...  It''s kind of like, let the choice happen, the outcome happen.  Things will work out in the wash.  And maybe some deeper part of the mind we don't consciously know has some sense of the peaceful final outcome, of the deeper general appropriateness.  It can take a lot of stress to get through to that point though.  Self-inflicted.  Over thinking.  Feeling the need to make judgments out of fearing not to make the right ones.  Anxiety loop.

So you let things be, and at least that's easier on your blood pressure.  And this represents a general maturity of stepping away from all the judgments of a thing being good or bad.  And anyway, it lets you live in the current moment, relaxed as you can be.  And that's a good thing.  That's when you can get back aligned with the work you're doing, with the stuff you like, the stuff that engages you.

And maybe that's why I like tending bar.  You're not choosing who comes and sits and what they want, what their tastes may be, and it's a great place to live in the Zen moment.  A guy told me his friends had described me as a guy "who takes care of people."  Wow, that's pretty cool.

A lot of the crap I write, I'm afraid has to do with all that worrying, of making snap judgments of the kind you later regret.  How can you really say a final truth about anything.  Things have to exist yin and yang, spider and fly, talky guy, quiet guy....  It's embarrassing being a writer, or the things you write, until you admit, hey, it's all as substantial as passing shadows, don't get worked up, get enough rest, eat properly, take care of yourself, learn about your true self.  Maybe that's how it works, you have that rough draft where you have something in your craw, so you write something suggesting one side of truth and justice, you write it down, but sooner or later, the way you think about something inevitably gets adjusted.  Yeah, the guy talks a lot, but he's not a bad guy, and he reads books and even writes them.  (Maybe that's what irritated you about him in the first place.)  Yeah, the boss eats with his family, but of course he's not going to tip, because he's working too.

Find something that's good, say, a Beatles song, and there's something simple and intuitive about it, its creation allowed by flow, not by constant judgment.  There's an ease by which they played their instruments and sang, to their lyrics.  "You think you've lost your love, well, I saw her yesterday-ee-yay, It's you she's thinking of.  She told me what to say-ee-yay."  George Harrison on the lead guitar.

Who even knows what he's producing in his work, by it, through it.  The work accumulates through daily act, and by and by it slowly takes shape as it is.  Or maybe you get better at it, through time.

Christ, I use to have a hard time back when I tended bar.  I'd become very shy, even if I wasn't shy in high school.  But after college, I don't know, like I lost all sense of self-confidence.  I could hardly talk to people, and didn't really care about sports or golf or some televised crap.   Really weird.  Well, now I can talk to pretty much anyone.  That's the craft I've learned over the years in places like the Beatles' Hamburg strip club.   Well, I don't know, I could talk always talk to people, I've always liked talking to people, and you're good at what you like doing.

Did I make a choice being a bartender?  Was it conscious?  No, not at all.  I totally fell into it.  My mom would talk about our visit in Ireland, and how people would talk and talk.  I'd remember the car would stop by the side of the road on a sunny day with the fields around us, and maybe we'd ask for directions, and the guy with the tractor--they always waved to you, even if they just had one spare finger--would talk and talk and ask questions, and it was hard to understand with his accent, but it sounded marvelous, and we'd sit there, and sit there...

I don't know, maybe it was that thing with the girl in college that fucked me up....  Every time I made a choice, tried to talk to her, it always seemed to go awry, she'd snap at me, whatever.  And I would then feel like I'd expressed myself, and was rejected, and that's when she'd be vulnerable, but by the time I let myself see that, her vulnerability, the closeness of my success, the chance had just passed me by, and then it was all back to the start, ground zero, the old drawing board.  Yeah, I felt I'd expressed my values.

And the same thing with my English classes.  I took a long time, I got very focussed on a text, because I love the whole thing,  what you could learn directly from words, but also what you might learn by further study, and there was always something, just sometimes you have to wait for it, 'til your deeper understanding comes out.  Was I rewarded for that?  At times, yes, but sometimes, really not, in fact a great harshness, a D....  Not out of disregard or sloppiness, but really out of a deep love...

So that's why I guess I didn't feel I could trust myself, or anything, really, as if everyone was messing with me.  I mean, you start second-guessing, you start feeling bad about yourself every time you have to make a decision, because of all that weight, fucking things up with the girl you shoulda married, fucking things up with the career you shoulda had.  That will make you depressed, sure.  The thought that anything you do will be wrong.  Even if you're expressing your values.  And college is a time you're supposed to leave with self-confidence...

I guess that's where Jesus comes in.  You come to deeper higher meaning.  You see the shortcomings, the weakness of faith in people.  You see how you have struggled on, and made deeper meaning out of life's twists and turns, sad as they can be sometimes.  You held your little candle flame up so people could eventually see it.

I guess that's what my mother stands for in my book.  Standing up.  Having faith.  Faith when the world gives you obstacles and impediments and coldness.  Trudging on, when few believe in you, when the way it tough...

Funny, we say, when we have to make a choice, 'what would Jesus do.'  What would Jesus do?

Or you make a sort of joke.  "Jesus goes to see his therapist in her office, walks down there, puts in the code to open the door, climbs the stairs, says hello, sits down in the chair.   And he's like, 'what the fuck?  Why are people like that?  I can wake poor sick little princesses from the dead, but I can't get a goddamn date..."

I was talking to my therapist doctor about how my collegiate attempts to express my values, through taking apart a poem to get to the essence of its teaching.  "There is a difference between feelings and values," she said, with some authority.

Hmm.  But that was a value, to explore the deep truths, that literature leads to.  And you have to inhabit a poem before you get it.  It's like acting.  I enjoy that.

"But I wonder," she said, "if some of this isn't obsessive behavior.  You could have written a paper that would have satisfied a professor's needs, handed it in on time, but instead you..."

She looked carefully at me.  In a way she had not looked at me before, squarely, as if to say 'this could well be an issue here, don't you think?'

Well, I never thought of that.  I was an arrogant little guy back then, the son of a professor, looking for deeper meaning... I was doing what I'd found so engaging, that discovery in DeMott's class, the guy I got the most out of, of inhabiting something well enough to finally bring it to life.  I thought for a moment, looking out the window at a grey December day.  But I see what you mean.   But how do you know, whether or not your obsessive?

What if you were less obsessed with writing now, and spent more time sending things off?

Hmm.  I thought about it.  Wasn't the first time I'd heard that.  "You're obsessed."  "Who else am I obsessed with?"  "You're obsessed with lots of people," she'd said as we walked along there in front of the old library.

I don't know, why does one write, why does one do yoga?  To think things through, to do some inversion stands and get yourself in a  better mood.  To figure some stuff out by writing down a sketch.  Each an exercise.  But the best stuff you'll write is the stuff you write for yourself, and at this point in the history of writing, I don't think it's the worst thing to write out what goes on in your head, in the thoughtful parts of it, the feeling parts of it.  Not as glorious as Ulysses, but, honest anyway, little daily exercises when allowed for the sake of some kind of balance.

But is everything I do, the way I live, a bit obsessive?  The way I cook hamburgers, don't eat out hardly ever, have my particular hours...  Yes, could well be.  The things we do alone, are they necessarily obsessive?

Yes, but that's the literary element, the obsession of Captain Ahab, which surely reflects Melville's self, the same with Don Quixote, an old gent who's been around the block a few times obsessed with the gallant chivalry of old tales retold.

The time was up and I pulled out my check book.  "Just when you think you got it figured out," I said, back to the old drawing board," scribbling out thirty five exactly.  "And we can take this up next time."  Okay.

So that was my problem.  Obsession.  Not knowing when to say when, a fixed wheel in my own patterned loop.

Well, you try to think things through.  What do have to go on?  Some form of intuition.  Habit, knowing the things that work for you, like the food that doesn't throw your guts out of whack and give you gas or make your joints ache.  Like the wild experience of writing, of not really knowing what you are thinking until you write it down, a record of it, kind of like a dream, a way of working things out.

Friday, December 19, 2014

A Barman's Little Wine Column

The story of how I, an amateur to wine, ended up at the Wine Bar of Bistrot Lepic is a long one not worth telling.  I was rescued from a TexMex place by Bruno, the chef, whose crew I took care of on Sunday nights late.  He mentioned opening a wine bar up top of his bistrot.  Within weeks I was down the street, by a few long blocks, to learn about wine from the ground up.  And so I came to preach the gospel of French wine.  Yet another fine example of the meek inheriting the earth.

Knowing nothing, I would ask questions, ones which may have seemed stupid to the real French-born pros I was now working with, who'd been savoring wine since childhood.  But for a thing so elementary, all such questions are good and worth asking.   (I had proposed classic cocktails,in my sit down interview the boss and the wife I already knew, pulled out a Times article, about making your own bitters--this is ten years ago at least now--and wisely Bruno said, well, thank you, but it's really about selling wine, a bottle or two with dinner, to go with the dishes they have.  A small ah-hah moment, and a relief.  Wine with food.)  Real wine people, I find, are not in the slightest bit snobbish.

So I honed my skills.  I'd look through lists, I looked up grapes and regions, and appellations of wine.  So, like, what's a Faugere or a Bandol like, what's a Costiere de Nimes like, and how are they different.  These were questions that distracted the French crew from their normal rounds, but they'd offer a few choice words, 'oh, inky, that wine, sauvage, full of... ' and they'd mumble the name of a grape responsible, and I'd say, oh, I see, of course.  Later much would I learn to translate wine by their own inherent vocabulary and habit and ground, like the bacon-like hedgerow of herb peppery dark fruit redolent thickness of particular forms of Syrah-based wines.  One of the wines we had by the glass, looking back ten years ago, a white, was from Cotes du Tongue, with seven varietals.  Try to explain that one from reading a book.  And eventually, I would.  I learned the basic dexterity, or maybe I already knew a little bit of it, for approaching a wine.  Look.  Sniff.  Spin.  Breath.  Slurp up with curved tongue closed against the palate, swallow, regard the tactile sensations along with the nose, along with the taste, and finally, feel the finish, the wine staying on your tongue.

It was after a hectic Sunday night and my passing downstairs where and when I discovered my wine moment.  The manager, a famous guy from Laos, lots of restaurant history and restaurant people and restaurant customers under his belt, many connections of all sorts, had opened a particular wine and decanted it, sniffing it from a big glass with satisfaction.  It was an Hermitage Du Pic St. Loup, a Kermit Lynch import, probably the closest thing to the house's red wine.   A 2003 maybe.  Boone, quite a guy, poured me a glass, and I swirled it, and then I got it.  In there, yes, there was the manure from the manure spreaders of my child hood, fat back tired, pulled by a pickup truck.  And the manure came in some way from the shale-y underground on which everything in our part of the world grew.

Each time we taste a wine we get that lesson of terroir.  This is what makes wine enjoyable, not to hoard, but to sample, to get a bit about the earth where a wine comes from, the weather, the slopes, the kind of soil, its minerality, and even as a kind of sampling of the DNA of a particular place, its creatures, its flora, the traditional local dishes.  Tasting on Tuesday nights, a real pro, a wine rep with exhaustive knowledge and sensibility, sometimes the proprietor of a small importing company would come to talk and taste, as perhaps the boss had observed I liked to pour people little tastes so that we would reach a mutual understanding, which I did for my benefit as much as theirs.

And all along it's been an experience down to earth.  I decant a Madiran for a couple French gentleman and they savor it along with a venison fricassee, singing its praises when I come by to pour.  The same the other night, except it was a Bandol, the same dish, but this time no need to decant, the lady a trained sommelier.   She tells me she only decants vintage bottles.  "Really?" I reply.  "I'd decant a young pinot or even a Beaujolais," I say.  Beaujolais, I cannot stand Beaujolais, and we chuckle.  There's all sorts of types enjoying wine.  And how can I forget my friend Bruno from a small town in the Languedoc, from a Burgundy wine family, but happy to be located in the south where he rides his bike, in excellent shape well into his seventies.  He had a rosé and a red, and asked him about the vintage.  "Oh, every year is good in the South of France," with a big grin and a hearty chuckle, completely lacking in pretension.

Yes, thank you, Bistrot Lepic and its community, it's been an interesting and engaging ten years.
Perhaps Hawking is poetically correct in thinking artificial intelligence will grow smarter and overtake our slowly evolving brain power.

I wake up and the computer tells me how irrelevant I am.
It swallows my attempts at wisdom,
into its myriad infinity.
There are holiday deals to be had.
Get on with it.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Yes, Doctor, I guess I was just a bit afraid of all this, like, where would it lead me as far as my feelings, perhaps ones I've not accepted, and what you said the last time when we talked about a person saying she'd 'go to the dean' kind of opened things up a bit.  And that's kind of a turning point, or maybe an opening of the proverbial floodgates on a lot of negative emotions and depressing stuff, uncomfortable thoughts, maybe ones I didn't want to accept, maybe out of being an inherently nice person and giving people benefit of the doubt.  And now what I'm seeing is this great cruelty, this great insensitivity, this incredibly adversarial kind of an attitude.   And people, you know, take up a cop mentality and watching you, watching you rather than like interacting with you and talking to you like you're a fellow human being, and when people are watching you almost by definition, out of being human, you're going to fuck up, you're going to act in ways that allow them to pounce on your behavior and construe like the worst of intentions or bad character.

And when you're charged in such a way, tacitly, by implication, nothing really so overt, you know, it's naturally bound to be hurtful and incredibly depressing.  I don't know, do you internalize it?  Of if you're too nice a guy you kind of don't fight it or something, or you ask yourself what you did wrong, or see that you did wrong, that you were at fault, but missing how things are sort of rigged against you.  When they shouldn't be.

I just find it so depressing now, so hurtful, so cruel, and I never wanted to think that, see the cruelty, the mean spiritedness in, you know, 'a bunch of sweet defenseless college-aged girls.'  Ones whom you seem to have pissed off by just being you.  But Jesus Christ no wonder I sort of gave up, or half gave up, I don't know, like, ever even trying to set up a date or think a phone call might go okay or that things stood even a slim chance of working out.

Yeah, all that treatment was kinda rough, you know.

I looked out the window.  Some of Chekhov's best most sensitive stories are about that sort of a thing.  Ward No. 7.  The things people think about other people... when the other person is you.

I didn't realize it at the time.  Or not consciously.

Or maybe that's just how society is, has to be, adversarial, organized into a kind of police state unwittingly.  And maybe that's kinda scary, on top of being depressing when you're out to give your best and you care.  Maybe that's what a grading system is;  we have to grade everyone.  Fuck it, just let them be.  Learn what you can, interact, two way street.

DeMott, last thing he said to me before I graduated, was that he let me down.  But I... you know, didn't see it, not so clearly, maybe because the whole thing was such a huge let down.  I mean, not all of it, but yeah, shit, at least I learned something, I did.

I smiled at her and then looked down at the carpet, and she gave me a nice 'oh, I'm sorry, poor guy' kind of a looks with her lip.  And I felt like my nervous system was sort of shaking in some kind of unfelt pain, my hands quivering slightly, not wanting to look up at such a generally depressing situation.  "How bad is it, doc?"

And I can see a bit better like, to understand why I would have pulled back some or been a bit hesitant, without wanting to, by conditioning.  Like, don't touch a hot stove.  I've blamed myself for a long time for those times when I wanted to talk to her but...  I'm actually wondering now if my reactions weren't pretty natural after all.

I wonder, given the case of my father, the teacher, do such things happen more to noble people somehow, as if they were a contrast from the norm.  I don't know.

As I wrote her a check at the end of our forty-five minutes I told her about something the chef said to us, about all the pressures on a chef during a restaurant opening, and that he drank to deal with all the stress and negative emotions.  I feel for him.  You might not realize that's what you're doing when you're doing it.  Something to think about, I said.  Next time.

As I left and walked back up Connecticut Avenue passing by Zorba's patio I thought of a sort of Buddhist concept of a Shakespeare.  The odds against a Shakespeare happening are enormous, until you back the lens away to take in vast kalpas of time and the impossibly huge number of different worlds in which in each one and in each age there is a Shakespeare, like the common tiny humming nucleus of all the atoms outer whizzing.  Look up at the stars and ponder the infinite depths of space and the smallness of the things that go on in our minds, and then maybe it's easier to think that there is a common Shakespeare mind within that understandeth all the Othellos and Iagos and Desdemonas and Cordelias and Lears, all possibilities, such a thing is man, so godlike in nature, that no wonder we suffer things too, on our own individual scales, in our own little tragedies and comedies of life.  Which then, indeed, leads us to pluck a certain wisdom, like 'nothing is but thinking makes it so.'  Go through your own emotional life, the experience of your own days good and bad, the fluctuations of moods, and you too are aware of the great Shakespearean complexity of life.  And it's where the rubber hits the road, in the words of it, in the 'sweet sorrows,' in all that attuned sensitivity to the vast myriad of persons we have within us, kings, gravediggers, queens, the shipwrecked, that feeling of all things, as we know, that makes a Shakespeare great and keeps us rapt as we stand in the pit jostled and splashed with ale and wanting to fuck.  We all have within that which passeth show, and we all have the words within to express at least something of all that, we just don't always get the chance, and thus we dream.

Or maybe if you felt all those people inside you enough to write about them and their emotions, maybe you truly would be a head case of some sort.  As a consequence, a Hamlet, unable to do anything but wrapped up in thought.

I got home and took a nap.  Facing the holidays working in a restaurant that would be open on both Christmas Eve and Christmas was putting me in quite a bad depressed mood.  Such that even lying awake I did not want to get up out of bed.  I thought of attempting to smile at the boss's wife and son when my own old Irish mom was coming on a train, spending ten or twelve hours on it to get here for Christmas, and I cannot have Christmas dinner with her.  And that's just a small indication of the incredible complexities we bring with us, to such a job, having to put on a monkey smile.

My weekend finally came, after a pretty long run of five straight nights Saturday to Wednesday, and the first day I was too depressed to do more than lie about, though I was awake for part of it, first bed, then the couch.  Finally out to get groceries around nine at night, and the prospect of how to celebrate my 50th birthday, of how to carry through with my values, having to make a choice out of a yoga retreat in Mexico or a little family get-together, as I would be missing Christmas dinner, was too much to handle.  "Sleep on it," my brother said, then the next day came, the guy came to fix the tiles and the caulking around the tub.  I shaved off my two week growth of beard scrubble, put on my tea coat and went down to take my chances at Haircuttery, needing a trim, then dragging myself over to Georgetown, the walk hopefully helping me think, to get presents, blocks for the kiddies, and when I got home again I slumped into one of those depressed naps.  Jesus, I wondered, waking finally when it was dark out, feeling the need for the shower I'd not yet taken, I have to do something to express my values as far as family and religion and holidays, something, I don't know what.  I felt a small pit in my stomach.  I'd walked right past an old acquaintance, someone I'd flown next to on a plane years ago, but not immediately recognized her face ringed by a furry hood.  I'd even looked away after a few moments of eye contact, as if ashamed of something.  And then finding the toy store on Wisconsin Avenue, and a nice young well-formed young lady who very calmly helped me pick out a few presents, and she too was someone I'd want to spend more time with, but burdened by my burdens, by the difficulties of choices I'd just walked home in the cold.

The initial text response to my request for the weekend of my 50th I didn't get 'til the end of my last night of work, Jazz Night, having entertained a close friend of the boss back in Bali, a former World Bank person, from Africa, now making art of the jewelry sort, much of it copper wire.  I'd already ordered the prize dish of the restaurant, the famous Veal Cheeks Osso Bucco, before the kitchen closed.  I'd not had them in a long time.  I wondered if they were still the same.  "Oh Teddy, sorry," the text read, "M. already asked C. (the local boss) for it off."  A month in advance.  There I was, getting rid of the last customers, and finally ready to blow my stack.  Cursed, I am.  I poured myself a glass of wine.  Almost shaking I stuck the dish into the oven for a while to reheat it, and again the energy was draining out of me, necessary to close the place now that everyone had gone.  Jesus Christ, how much I've given to this place.  Starving I pulled the dish out and sat down at the bar, all alone of course, some kind of music on the Pandora, Herbie Mann jazz, and the taste was good and the braised meat, three pieces or so, was gone in about three minutes time, leaving me staring at the small dice of carrots in the cream tossed pasta, pasta which I am allergic to in the sense that it will gum up my digestive tract as if I ate glue.  And they say it's easier to get bullied when you have a food allergy, forced to eat main stream engineered food that doesn't set will with you.  But starving, knowing it bad for me, I ate the pasta, and by the end I would have rather had the simple meat of a hamburger.  Know what you can handle.  Red wine okay, but other forays into the spirits don't pan out so good, exhilarating as they might seem initially.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The jazz musicians play their last song, sit to eat their dinner after ten o'clock on a Monday night, and an attractive couple who've had dinner and a bottle of Bordeaux and a few glasses dance gently and talk in the space opened up.  There has been talk of the recent protest marches about heavy-handed (to put it mildly) law enforcement aimed at black people.  The bass player holds a glass of wine in his hand as he eats his pear tart dessert and begins to talk, after the couple expresses their appreciation and the friendly warmth of the end of a night opens up.  The waiter attended the "royal family's" dinner over the corner near the musicians and expresses surprise that the gesture of a tip did not happen.  "They never do," I say.  "Not even on Christmas."  He recounts the empty Bordeaux glass held up in his face, the aloof silent 'fill me,' and then after the late dinner, the tasting of dessert wine, three separate trips when one would have done.  He shakes his head and has a quick half tumbler full of wine.  A thank you would have been nice.  It takes the attitude of privilege to justify the things you put other people through, the servant's missing holiday, then the hoop of the holiday party that comes later on.  Oh well.  Chalk it up to a different culture.  Be grateful for your "Christmas bonus."

The talk is of music.  I've found some soft Allen Toussaint for the background.  "I don't even listen to that music they push today.  I mean, Miley Cyrus, what is that?" the bass player says.  "And that gangsta rap shit.  All about guns, cars, drugs and booty," the young lady pipes.  She went to the march. She's from Baltimore.  Her date is a dancer and a DJ, and they are both attractive.  She is of Haitian descent.  (Her auntie died in the earthquake.)  He has tasteful tattoos on his biceps.  I catch a discussion about GoGo music, the African depths of its rhythms.  She talks of Carnival in Trinidad, the sexuality of the driving beat.  The mainstream doesn't acknowledge, doesn't foster the growth of GoGo.  Yet it's known and appreciated in other music loving places, like Japan.  Later I'll tell them my cool boss who lives over there in Bali is an aficionado.  Chuck Brown.

"It's all socially engineered, all this stuff, all the tastes pushed on us," the bass man says as the violinist wraps up some cables after finishing his trout.  "I mean, listen to what you like.  I grew up back in the Seventies.   But then music had to justify all the killing and shit we were doing around the world, Vietnam...  And that's what's happening now.  The culture is engineered to make us use to violence, so we don't question it.  You know, 9/11, three thousand people died.  Social engineering by those in power..  Greed.  Bankers stole trillions of dollars from us, and no one could do anything about it.  Those in power taking it all away from us and telling us what to do...

"But you talk to people, people are peaceful.  They are good people.  Like I went looking for some place where I could buy a turntable and start listening to records, that warm sound, and there's a whole movement of people thinking the same thing.  Records."

I am allowed in at the periphery of the conversation amongst black people.  Eddy the bassist has told good musician stories, a Miles Davis quip, gruff, "you need to learn rhythm and harmony" to a young sax player I've been able to catch at the end of a busy night.  The young lady from Baltimore, a bartender a few nights a week, asks if "we're keeping you too late," to which I reply, not at all and it's nice to have a great conversation.

"Yeah, man, like what you like.  Don't let the mainstream social engineered bullshit  (he rattles off a few pop names) dictate your tastes."

I am not privy to the things that the American of African descent has had to absorb into the molecules and the DNA.  Theirs is a wisdom, and I listen to it.  I respect if I'm not exactly completely allowed one hundred percent into their circle.  I can say I know how they feel, maybe, in some way.

I wake up early the next morning, a bad dream.  But I might as well be up.  Writing down what my values are, acting on them in whatever modest way I can, even if it is uncomfortable and the demons come out when you try to take control of your life, and indeed a sad feeling is known to settle in this time of year.  Truths are uncomfortable to face sometimes, but you plug away, softly onward.

The process of writing is much like that of therapy.  No wonder then Roth the great master put the two together, the monument of Portnoy's Complaint, to be understood at a level deeper than whatever specifics might come out it its own prose.  Much the same as Hamlet's own wanderings around in the spaces of his own mind are very close to the observations a writer would make about his own whole organic process, living as a writer, an unmistakeable sighting like that of a particular bird in a tree seen through binoculars.  "Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to take arms against a sea of troubles..."  Open up that play at random, stick your finger down, and there's a writing life in all its oddity.  Roth wrote it after going through his own process, working through the pains of a bad marriage, finding a fecundity.  Just as some of us have to work through the sense of themselves not as a great writer but a miserable go-for lackey who feels unable to reach out (to the female of the species) even as he does reach out.  A writer works in great discomfort and this is the sweat of his brow by which he earns the bread he gathers, the substance of his work.  None can spare him from it, nor from his work in general.

The whole point of liberal arts, of a place like Amherst, is its irrelevance.  A gentlemanly conversation earlier in the evening before all the people unannounced.

Workman come and gone, I read a piece found on Google news, reported by, "Dishonest Feminist Panics Leave Male Sexuality In Crisis," as I slump off for a weary nap on a rainy wintry day.  And unfortunately the story it tells, of young men giving up, is one I only know too well.  The tacit suggestion of the charge of sexual harassment raised against simple ineptness on the part of the young man, and here in an academic setting, with a lack of encouragement toward the male as he is put on the scale of standards that encourage the female student, making him out to be the deviant.  The article, somewhat overstated perhaps, brings flashes of recognition of my squeezed generation of males.  While not facing on a daily basis angry third wave feminism, I've witnessed the stomping lesbian takeover anger while quietly muse over old DeMott ghosts in Johnson Chapel, such that one indeed made a retreat, 'til the angry drove away speedily in a Subaru down past the old Octagon.  I see  how my self-esteem suffered; I can see how a generation becomes lost, in a double bind, in retreat, victim of social experiments, the young white male rapist bogeyman responsible for all ills, as women take care of themselves and won't even let a guy shovel an old lady neighbor's steps.  I scan part one of the article and fall to sleep under the comforter after setting the alarm to get ready for work.

One cannot expect an apology from the female of the species, oh sorry, we messed your life up acting like a bunch of lawyers, constantly judging you, an attitude to maintain, assuming the worst about you, forgetting you are a human being.

The ironies abound.  Born in the era of The Beatles, songs both sensitive and masculine, son of a feminist and a professor of an all woman's college, taught that being sensitive and deep were okay male things, that there was such a thing as art...  become through practice just another irrelevant piece of the world.

A writer is a conduit of life's information, of the mental vibrations and perceptions, observations.  Whether correct or true or false, right or wrong, that is the human activity, welcome or not.  So doing, one observes the thousand cuts to self-esteem, the thousand mixed messages that eat away the self-confidence, leaving once bright people to fall into things like the Elizabethan theater, the modern restaurant business, useless servile places that occupy the edges of society and normal hours.

But it's important to point out that individuals are not to blame, even as one might want to pursue the fruitless task of attempting to assign it in some particular quarter.  Whether it can even be boiled down to a societal lack of respect for humanity, who knows.  (We sometimes offer terms of more respect to particular people than they might actually deserve.)

It falls upon the artist, who respects the individual, who respects humanity, love, the family, to discover such things, to understand the blameless just people being railroaded quality of life.

All year long I respect humanity.  I'm kind and gracious to people.  And yet, will I be spending Christmas dinner with family?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The mind thinks of a lot of things before a shift.  It thinks of how Christmas night will be, having to work.  Christmas Eve, fine, I'll work, no problem.  But to pretend everything is fine missing Christmas dinner, to be at the table with standing rib and his old mom and his brother's beautiful family, a good wine, the kind of thing you've been preaching about all year, the sanctity of family and the good dining experience, because I have to go in at four in the afternoon and wait on the people who show up on Christmas...  then that last hour, just close the damn kitchen, lock the door, to hell with the drinkers, we served our prix fixe menu and that's it and now it's time to go home, and the boss is there with his family as they were on Christmas Eve, 'why don't you sit downstairs in the main dining room tonight,' as the last few minutes tick down to nine o'clock on this worthless shift that makes me look like an asshole and America is about religious freedom, don't you get American culture Frenchy?  The mind picture the guy who shows up and sits there with a smile on his face waiting to be fed right as you get in, and sits there, and sits there, and is going to take his time over the four courses...  'Here's Kermit Lynch's wine trail adventures, entertain yourself, buddy.'

And then there is the worst bar customer of 2014 contest, a consideration of the people who talk about themselves, turn every conversation their own way,  and us in the service business, we're usually pretty tolerant, willing to try kindness out of a goodness based in the heart but fuck it it's not working.

And I'm some poor bastard literary bachelor of the kind that human history spits out upon occasion, Chekhov, Larkin, but that they had a plan, a way of survival, means to fall back on, which of course you need if you're going to attempt anything so Sisyphusian.

You get there, it's not so bad.  The busboy has disappeared, tinkering away beneath the garbage disposal down in the kitchen as you set up, lug up mineral water yourself...  change a lightbulb, the first customers already at the bar.

3800 in sales later, you eat your piece of liver alone with your iPhone propped up against a bottle of Chiinon, clean, dust, restock, replenish the olive supply, the citrus, the odd bottles gone through, get home past bar closing, have another glass of Beaujolais over some vintage hairy erotica while making good relaxing use of a Fleshlight to keep nature in good working order--ginseng, swear by it--go off to bed just as it gets light out, get up when the alarm goes off after two in the afternoon, fold a shirt, make green tea, reheat a hamburger, grass fed, with caramelized onions, a bit of green vegetable, shower, dress and do it all over again, all without a retirement plan.

Friday, December 12, 2014

How to put it?  What makes me think of The Beatles?  I often talk to the musicians, the guitar players in particular, and maybe it's luck of the draw, one of them is from Blackpool, that can't be far away from Liverpool, and then Ken, one of the blokes I most respect in the world, a guy with a sense of humor, and something about the living spirit.  He plays a Guild arch-top.  I talk to him about Telecasters, Tellys, about Eastman's, about Gretsch guitars.  Talk to him about music history...  deep stuff.

And I think about, you know, Beatles songs, like, you know it totally makes sense people, young ladies, would absolutely scream when they heard these songs.  "Please please, me, oh, yeah, like I please you...  I'm a loser, I'm a loser, and I'm not what I appear to be, she was a girl in a million my friend, I should have known she would win in the end...    I wanna hold your hand hand hand, I wanna hold your hand..."  And the thing about this stuff was that it was real!  It was real emotions, and very brave to admit, like, how a person might really feel, especially given the things you might like to do in life.  "And when I touch you I feel happy inside, it's such a feeling that my love I can't hide, I can't hide..."  I mean, it's real stuff.

To put this stuff out on the page, no wonder people fucking screamed.  It was honesty.  It was an Irish quality, rock n roll, chords, lyrical ability, harmony, a gift of words, a blessing to and contradicting the modern world of Hitler and his plans and his economic strategy and his war machine.  Those take-over-everything kind of shitheads, burn the planet for a buck, no shortage of them...  There was The Beatles.

And it was an intimate kind of honesty that spoke to people's real lives.  And all the others needed was a sketch from these guys gut experiences, I mean, imagine living such a life as an itinerant musician in a new form, rock n roll... and those people would get it, and say, yes, ah-haa, someone else has a soul and a life and all these things.   No wonder one of the great poets Larkin you know comes up with the line of his first year of sexual intercourse and "The Beatles first LP."

I suppose there's a power in admitting things, in letting out what's really on your mind, the things we would seem to feel awkward about, stuff from our intimate lives that doesn't fit neatly in society's arrangements.  Maybe that's why all those girls would scream when they played, for this burst of male honesty, stuff about feelings, far different from the simple old male aggression I'll-tell-you-how-it-is-honey.  "Help me if you can, I'm feeling down..."  And it all was electrified.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Fortunately one does not have to study much to have a good therapy session.  I was looking out the window recounting a painful chapter of life, how, like Wyeth I had wrestled some art of it, gone on about the meaning of bringing to life a moment of reality just as it is in a Zen sort of way to open up the deeper meanings.  The back and forth, youthful insecurities, good intentions, clumsiness, that sort of thing.  And I brought up that which is hard to bring up in front of a lady.

"That was demeaning, her saying that," the kind lady said.  "That's sort of treating you like a low-life."

Yeah, it's a hard thing...  "Say one more word to me and I'll go the dean's office and charge you with sexual harassment." There at the dining hall, sitting there kind of like she'd set a trap.  To which I replied with two words as I gathered my books and left, "that's ridiculous."  My kind of 'Fuck you.'  Didn't say anything else to her for a month.

And I always thought that was like taking an atomic bomb to get rid of a squirrel.  But what can you do, placed in that kind of a bind?

I brought up, by contrast, a better time when earlier we'd sat next to each other in Deviancy class and then walked to the dining hall, she was talking about dining in Europe, a trip with her folks, but I got distracted, wasn't wearing my glasses, had to go to a pointless meeting with my self-interested thesis advisor...  It would have been so easy just to have a nice chat over Friday's New England clam chowder.

But that's what it's like being a writer, I went on, talking to my therapist.  There's that discouraging voice, like the proverbial older brother telling the younger one to not do such silly things, from Dorethea Brandt's observations of the writing life.  And you can't help being a writer, just the way your mind operates.  And so you observe, and make few judgments, don't judge people, your life is lived in a certain careful considerate mode, maybe overly considerate, overly circumspect, not enough action for the taste of other folks.

There are variations on the nay-sayers and the guises they take.  They can be English professors.  All sorts and stripes of business-like non-encouraging people.  Negative, hyper critical, completely missing the gist of what you are up to, not having the decency to ask.  That's not the way my father taught.  He was a strict teacher in making sure you learned something, but he was understanding of the individual and individual situations, good hearted about it.

Yeah, but, it's always been hard to refute that charge, like you can't go there.  You can't deny it and say no I was not a stalker, because it's not by your own standards such things are judged, are they...

Okay, I was shitty and distracted, clumsy at the whole thing, but Jesus Christ, I had not intention to...  I brought her flowers...

A writer is a person who's stuck in a kind of prison, and it's up to him to imagine his way out of it.  Someday maybe his ankle chains are suddenly lifted away, as if randomly.

Looking out the window, thinking of a Wyeth painting, yonder pasture the railroad tracks not far away, where his father met his end, I had a sudden glimmer of understanding Hemingway's Three Day Blow, something about his relationship to a distant father.  A remoteness, the abandonment to the weather...

And then later at work, going about my chores and enduring the complications of Jazz Night, I wondered if a writer's career wasn't in some way a sort of compensation, a response, for, to, the relationship he had with Agnes Von Kurowsky, his nurse, who sent a letter to him back in the States that she had married, putting behind the boyish affair.  He wrote to make up for that?  Maybe in some way, who knows.  It was a vulnerable stage for him, during which he told a lot of stories exaggerating his wartime experience, back home in Oak Park with his wounds.

Maybe for him to sit down and write everyday was a way out of the feedback loop, the mind clouded by its own thoughts, the conscious part listening to all the stories of the thinking part, to write a way to simply exist, freshly, again, to be awake to the moment, to make no judgments.

In dreams I go back to Amherst.  I dine alone, forsaken like Jesus, eating a hotdog by the war memorial, a new computer lab building obstructing the view of the Holyoke Range.  And in my dream I know that all concepts, all things you could say as far as the truth about a thing, all of that is null and void, and things like self-esteem don't really matter and a lot of professors are a lot of talk and personal arrogance, though, of course, some are cool, I'm nobody, who are you?

Yeah, it's one thing to sensitively explore the complexity of a situation.  This is what we do in education.  And it's another to make a claim, like "I know what those people over there in that country are up to...."  Do we try to understand Kruschev, his motivations, his personality, the political binds, his basic humanity, or do we block him out, condemning him...

Sunday, December 7, 2014

I guess a book is, as we are, an emanation of mind.  Subject to wave properties.  We come to life, give forth our light, and we can never come if we then do not finally disappear.  Life, death.  Talk, wisdom, kindness, and then silence, stone.  And so a book comes, and it is written, as a kind of tinker hobby, then it is written, and then it pulls with it a great silence behind it, complete obscurity.   It had its own reasons to be, that have nothing to do with a lot of things to do with life, and yet maybe everything.  Its irrelevance, its difficulty is the same as its relevance and its beauty.  It should not have any meaning, at least any conspicuous meaning.  It should not claim the limelight.  If it did, well, throw it on the mighty scrapheap of all things written by egotistical minds, look at me, look at me, I will occupy your mind...  with crap, with mental activity you don't need.

So a book comes, arriving in a quiet grace, basically unnoticed, properly, and then it bows and off it goes into the mists of time and graveyards and forgotten people who once were much alive and had whole stories but now are utterly forgotten.  An author knows this.  He knows that the great affairs of the heart, the loves, the family, will fade, and be lost.  It is proper for the author to carve out a memorial, indeed, to these great loves, and all the essential realities of the heart.  The memorial is a portrait of a universal reality, the deepest stuff we'll ever know.  It speaks of the great mysteries, why...  And this is heavy stuff.  Not for amateurs.  And yet the best know somehow that they must approach such tasks as utter amateurs, but that to do the work of it is somehow natural, similar to walking.

And so when they wake up, still having light in them, its kind of natural that through their gloom they would sit and write, not for any particular reason, but just like the basic urge to eat breakfast or have a  cup of soothing tea and a hot shower.  Like going about the acts of old farmhouses and the old people who live in them.

Then the writing becomes like the fruit on the vine of a growing season.  Every day, it expands a bit, picks up some more juice, some more energy from the sun, a few more minerals from the earth, absorbs a few more compounds from the flora and fauna nearby, the skin expanding and contracting, in rain storm, in sun, in the cold of starry night.

Then, I suppose, the master of the vineyard comes, picks by hand the fruit, puts it together in a big barrel and lets, again, nature take its course, which happens, again, in time, attended patiently.  Then it's bottled and shared and enjoyed over future dinners with conversations imaginable and unimaginable.  The vines themselves, upon whose shoulders the grapes were borne, well, they stay where they are, out on their rocky slopes, doing their thing.

V., V., why?  There we were, we'd gotten through the night, the rookie, myself, even the boss admitting we needed the pro busboy tonight, not the fill-in, the assistant manager calling in sick with swollen gum, the fill-in switched to food runner, thank god.  The clock approached ten, and the six schoolboys were ordering dessert and the table in the back was getting ready to leave.  Then some selfish chubby little guy who used to work with us calls six minutes before the kitchen closes to order appetizers...  And I get this news right at 10:30 when I'm pretty much saying myself, my god, this happens so rarely, the night ending without that last party messing with you, hanging on, oh we're not keeping you are we?  "there is a party coming...  I ordered appe-TIE-zers for them."  You've got to be kidding me.  "Are joo KEEDing me," is a favorite expression of hers.  The fool then arrives up the stairs with great ado, singing in his high-pitched way "hi!" expecting me pleased to see him.  Hi, he says, several times, a little louder.  I turn slightly around, and nod.  Yeah.  He approaches the bar's mouth and enters, wanting a hug.  I put my hands and his chest and push him back just enough.    He goes sits down, surveys the five plates of food that have just arrived, starts eating.  The rest of his party arrives ten awkward minutes later, one young fellow arriving loudly and knocking platers askew with a clatter as he sits.  "Play some Christmas music," he shouts.  "Is this all we can order, I mean..." gesturing to himself, "because it's me."   "Come have a drink with us," he sings at some point when he realizes I am heavily ignoring them.  "It's a Saturday night."  I want to avoid them.  Silently, I bring them more bread.  The rookie is breaking down the school kids checks into separate checks.  I bring them six glasses of water.  I am trying to be polite.  I'd like to spit.  I grit my teeth.  A former neighbor of mine, inexplicably, is with him tonight.  No one pushes for anything to drink.

The lovers have long ago parted, without consummation of their relationship, and one is left standing as it all fades away, fades away, to be left on a shelf tucked away gathering a dust that belies its once great significance.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Southern conference college graduate young professionals are having a tailgate party, it sounds like, on this rainy Saturday afternoon on my street as I get ready for work.  The bass notes thud through the walls, simple video game repetitive, two notes, three, maybe, and over the monotone a gang of rappers is angrily shouting.  The voices of the young men carry boisterous over the familiar soundtrack and the low low low bass.  A single rapper incants something, words spaced with mathematical evenness.  Occasionally there is a group shout to assert masculinity.

Invited to a friend's get-together, an informal party to mark the lifting of Prohbition, here at a small embassy quarters near the river, the attempts of my trying to schmooze linger as misguided attempt, that attempt followed by the sad inevitable wandering around 9 PM in Georgetown, checking out a wine bar, then approaching the bar at the Four Seasons where somm friends work, both of which were mistakes.  My real self does not translate in such places of show, and it's probably good that I felt hunger and got a cheeseseak at George's House of Felafel before cabbing it home.  The somm guys are too busy to engage or make any attempt to hook me up, and I give them an imitation of Dave Chappell.  I talk to a few women, but it doesn't go very far.  "Do you write poetry?"  "We all do," I try to explain. I feel a gentlemanly desire to express interest in the real life of a fellow human being, but everyone seems distracted by the idols of the evening, its rhythm.

Yeah, what am I doing at an embassy function talking with State Department people?  What am I doing at Bourbon Steak pretending I care, though I do care about what restaurant people are up to.

I am a refugee from the world of liberal arts, trying to find my values, trying to be them, and yet it gets lost in the shuffle before a busy bar and I'm smart to just go home.

Friday, December 5, 2014

When I first came to town I found a little hamburger place, the kind with a distinctive style building, small, with a pitched roof, a name like little tavern.  Slider style burgers you'd get, six at a time, with the buns still connected, american cheese, onions off the flat top.  It was at the western end of Georgetown, on my way into town from Foxhall Road where I lived, a small house, half of it, with two nice women.  To get to the burger place meant I was exploring the town.  And there was this cat Luis, who worked alone, cooking, taking orders, manning the counter, and Luis was from Africa.  The little burgers were a treat.  Hit the nail on the head.  And Luis was a nice guy to talk to.

And one day, when I found a night job in addition to the day job thing, as a busboy in a restaurant, guess who was the dishwasher, in charge of a mound of dirty place, my friend Luis, who turned out to be from Nigeria.  He had a friend Che, sounded like Chee, and he too was a nice guy, sometimes a security guard, and later in life, when I saw him he was selling shoes somewhere in Maryland and he told me to slowly pronounce Myo Ho Renge Kyo, which I did not immediately realize was Buddhist, the Japanese way to say Om Mani Padme Hum, which itself is an invocation of the Lotus of Enlightenment coming from the mud of the world through the water of life.

I thought it an interesting coincidence.  Luis, my burger friend, there with a most important job, cat-like, doing this incredible job just like he did at Little Tower, scooping up a spatula full and down on the little buns and into the bag, where they would season here in my poor imitation of Hemingway, the onions, the yellow gooey cheese, the squirt of ketchup and mustard all making something more than the sum of its parts.  Luis lasted awhile.  Wirey, tall.  Big small, dark skin.  Athletic.  Chee replaced him.  And then after that first crazy year at the original Austin Grill with everyone worn out, working hard, the crazy white guys on the line moved on and the kitchen was a Salvadoran team.  And I found it all interesting.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

the day off is unexpected.  the last night crazy, $2700 in sales without any high end wine purchases.  you wake up stiff.  tight in the neck.  you don't know what to do with yourself, you find yourself alone, nowhere to go.  it's grey out.  you should start your christmas shopping.  you should do your laundry.  you should get out of the house.  green tea, a few pills first.  a burger reheating in the toaster oven.  the landlord upstairs neighbor is home.  you woke to the sound of laundry below you, the front door opening, closing.  last night, a lot of glassware washing last night.  too much.  bus tub full of silverware, crazy stacks of cleared plates.  let the downstairs people run food.  crazy night.  a system breaking down, the little walkie talkie beeper going off, food is ready down below, what do you want me to do about it, I have my hands full, the busboy has his hands full making coffee, the waitress has her hands full trying to get the next table sat.  64 needs a better wine recommendation.  the band wants another round of beers and order their dinners.  the drummer makes them loud.  what's the weather like, how warm, get a haircut?  black mold on the bathroom tile, brings a sense of shame.  start the laundry, take a nap, everything at a standstill.

See, Doctor, I'm afraid of writing.  I feel odd about it.  I'm afraid to go out of the house like I used to and sit at the coffee shop and write in my notebook.  Yes, I like the Zen of my own place, but it's a bit more stimulating to be around people, guess it's just human nature.  Home, you get distracted, by dishes, the pile of mail, the need to vacuum the bedroom.  I used to be pretty brave about it, going out to write. Then after I was done with the book and published it, then, you know, discovering the truth of no reaction to it.  And this is a great thing to discover, a real truth.  I'm not going to manufacture some false importance about a piece of mysterious mental matter, as matter is ultimately hollow.  I'm not going to go on some marketing spree claiming some nonsense that is all false.   "Magnificent prose, brilliant plot, a real page turner..."  I don't think so.  As soon as you say something, it's no longer true.  The book itself knows the truth beyond, and that's why it's good, because it's gentle and polite and makes no claim on the truth.  It realizes its own insignificance, the null and void nature of any mental construct.  What is love?  Hah.  It blows away.  Another mental construct that the mind created out of feedback to itself.   Something you got carried away with.  Meant well, anyway.  Don't try to possess anything, because you can't.  You shouldn't.

Writing itself as a process constantly changes, just like we do.  The purpose of it changes.  Even the purpose of what you wrote before.  Castles made of sand, melts into the sea, eventually.  Redefine writing.  Make it the provenance of the Zen master.  Art is ultimately simply about itself.  Making it abstract, even as it attempts to show reality.  Wyeth paints his studio, the view out the window.  He paints old Maine people, how the old ancestral house reflects them.  Even the most real of realist paintings down to the blades of grass.  You go to the house, you walk up to it, and it is itself.  You can merely try to portray it, trying to catch what you see.

How do you pin down a motive, a desire, a thought?  Was the character in your book being non-possessive?  Maybe that's a good thing, but maybe it wasn't understood.  As we conventionally see love as a bit possessive, in some ways.  But then one would want to be part of an exclusive couple, of course.  It makes a good story.  Holy matrimony.  Structure, like a job, a framework, a support system.  Unrequited love a thing for poets.  You need someone to keep your sorry ass company as you get old.  Someone to talk to openly and honestly.

Well, what sort of world does the artist, or the writer, perceive, and what does he evoke?  Could he evoke a world of great unselfishness, great peace and simplicity and honesty, the sensibility of a realist?  Could he do that?  Would he be understood by other people?  Would they make assumptions about him, or has he made assumptions about them?  Would he be a headache to deal with?

And it's all relative anyway.  Reality depends on your perspective, ultimately.  We can share our reality, and it makes sense to others, we all can see the Big Dipper, but the more personal things, the more private things, are mysterious.  What sort of love is there in a couple that's been married twenty years?  Or between people who once kissed passionately but who haven't seen each other in twenty years?  What keeps a person who lives alone keep on going?  A dog, a cat, a bottle of wine, an old house, a habit of painting things one sees?   A habit of writing...

On one level maybe you're an idiot, on another maybe your a decent person with as few bad intentions as possible.  Sort of a thing that attracts a Melville...  Or is just old Disney movies from a simpler time in which people are kind-hearted and happy?

out into the cold to the market.  purchase some meats, lamb and merquez sausage, onion, baby kale, sweet potato.  there's a guy with a haircut doing a wine-tasting.  don't know where, how, to fit in.  if you taste then you should buy something.  place full of happy people who have someone else to be with.