Friday, January 30, 2015

The first book you write is about certain things.  Leaving home, first love, school... the interplay.  The disaster, how for no reason the work you do is not rewarded, and then she flies away where you'll never see her ever again.

Then you're left to write about faith.  You're left to write about the real you.  The kind of person you'd want to be.  Equal parts tragic and triumphant, or at least, a survivor, for the time being.

Jesus himself must rely on someone.  He knows those in need of a physic.  He is one himself.  And so he goes to see a shrink, a nice lady like you.  In order to be more, better with his values, stronger, less confused.

I had a dream of having to sleep under a lion, and the only thing you could do besides not being arbitrarily eaten was to relax, like just to totally limp rather than fight the teeth and claws right above your head.  Finally the lion gets up and that's when you make an exit.

I wrote the first book because I felt cheated.  It didn't help things to smoothly that I was a bit depressed, my parents splitting up, the end of the house...  I felt like absolute hell by the time the whole thing had come to its end, college, the unsuccessful reunion weekends I wanted to see her...  I went out on my own, down to DC, fell into the restaurant business.  That gave me a tribe to run with, and maybe that's how people of my blood type, O, view relationships, as communal sorts of things.  I guess I knew, like, when my suspicions arose, that I wasn't cut out for modern academia, a sense of its corruption, I don't know...  It was like I was this hunter, a warrior, good to my people, and here were these selfish farmers cutting out lots out of nature, declaring it their property...  Where am I going to go?  I've got nowhere left.  Bartending.  The restaurant business, which in some ways is the perpetrator, the perpetuator of all my faults, my love of crowds, wine, the adrenaline, the noise, the avoidance of facing responsible action....

But along the way, somewhere, it's like I've gotten to know Jesus's life, the things he was talking about.  I mean the creative aspect of him, his way of looking at things, the self-confidence, the clarity...  the depth.

And with you, in your professional presence, Doctor, I'm almost being respectable again, responsible, talking about things in an honest way, the way I actually see them.  Which could potentially be tainted by an outside view of me, the old charge, he has a Christ complex or he's crazy or a drunk or party animal or whatever.  A person outside of society, with no possessions, no home, no nothing, as if he were way ahead of himself for realizing the final human condition.

And meanwhile the world keeps speeding up, speeding up.  Drones flying.  Every personal little click you make on the internet being recorded to feed back particular marketing to you, for being 'the kind of person you are.'

So what if I take some form of comfort in thinking about Jesus in this modern world of hollow selves, all show, all marketing, and here I am a renter at fifty.  "I have that within which passeth show," Hamlet says.

I did get a little wine article published in the local newspaper.  But, I mean, to Jesus, how much of an accomplishment would that be against his psychological lessons for all the world?  And I'm still grappling with faith, with the fact that I am of little, and would want more, but how to go about that?

Maybe faith is just relaxing, being vulnerable...  But I wish the original girl I'd met had been a kinder psychologist, talked me through some stuff, because we all need a physician from time to time.  God, I know I could be a total idiot sometimes and really, yeah, disappoint her, but the lack of support, the lack of reaching out, the lack of kindness...  If you were Jesus you would have been offended by it.  Not that I am.

I know that if I were to be like Jesus than all the things that have bothered me would become a lot smaller.  I'd have faith.  I'd move on.  I'd see things correctly.

But I wouldn't be the Jesus paraded around simplistically, pro-marriage, pro-family, in a way that puts down the poor hurting people like me who haven't get their shit together....  who are struggling to get by in some ways, no retirement plan to reassure themselves with that all will be as okay as it can be okay...  Not all your stuff out in the street one day.

I guess after you've been out in the desert and sort of faced all that, all the insecurities, you become impersonal, in the way Jesus was.  People come to you, and by and large the have the same problem, the very same one of not having faith, being possessed, not being good ground for the seed of understanding....

I just don't see Jesus as being this big proud family guy.  He can't really fit into any of that, the life of a profession, a specialization, the wary shrewdness.  "Come on, little lady, let me take you for a ride in my new Camaro, because I know how to take care of things."  No, I just don't see him that way.  Yes, of course, obviously he takes care of some stuff, but it's all Jesus stuff, and goddamn he does it well and clairvoyantly.    Totally nonchalant about it, the greatest hitter in baseball.  He reads minds, he reads people, he sees their faults, their little sins, the things that they keep with contradict the good intentions of the deeper soul, the ticks of hypocrisy within.

David Foster Wallace, he was looking for something like Jesus.  Stuck in that battle to be modern and clever, specialized, talented.   The things he had to say were Christian, and in the rooted way, roots in Buddhism's noble truths, Christian wisdom is.  Very sensitive to that.  He wrote about boredom and spiritual boredom and un-belief.  He could have used a little more Jesus to hold it all together, like all of us.  Ye of little faith.  Walk on water, I command you, I give you permission, now that I've cleaned your head out of all the crap they've fed you, the Romans, the Pharisees, the marketers marketing in the temple, marketing marketing.

But it's all so sad, all the things we're supposed to believe in for our own economic well-being and self-protection...

Maybe that's why I had to go through my struggles, for having to face losing the things I cared about, even self-respect almost, but somehow enduring, a slowly built understanding of things rising up out of the deeper consciousness, as I've always trusted it, whatever you'd want to call it.  And now I can say, well, I wasn't right for her, she wasn't right for me, except in a perfect world, maybe.

Yes, after double restaurant week, rookies, nights without a busboy, a string of large parties to contend with, after a birthday party to go to, I was tired and I slept.  And I thought of Jesus, who, I think, is able to maintain his creativity and his energy by taking those naps, naps the faithful must take to clear out the worldly objects and all the marketing that makes its way in your door.

I had trouble writing because I didn't know what I was writing about.  But you've helped me figure that out, Doctor.

For some people, you know, finding Jesus is sort of clichéd thing, the alcoholic waiter finding strength through almost blind instinctive belief, becoming like the stereotypical  born-again...  And for others of us it's more complicated, individually found and conceived.  I drink too much sometimes, being under a fair amount of stress, so be it.  But perhaps that's just as much because we have no real way to be like Jesus the way the world is now, absolutely no way, no door left open, the consequences too great, the demands too great.  It would upset too many people, those people having too many claims, their minds already made up.

You have to find your own way, and indeed, keep it more or less private.  Go and tell no one.

The alchie coke head real estate guy I saw at the party standing around, I say hi to him and he says happy groundhog day, and I say I've got a joke about three japanese guys who get hit by lightning playing golf, up at St. Peter's gates, asked the meaning of Easter, and he's quick to cut me off, he's not a believer in any fairy tales.  Okay, my friend.  Sad person.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Another confused night with a rookie busboy ends on a continuous note, a Brazilian political philosopher offering up the thought that it is the bartender who is the true psychologist.  He relates a tale of the barman of the pub in the airport in Chicago, how many people fly in, how many people fly out, how many tell their stories, and how a word, one word, offered up over a bar in sympathy, can save a life.  The man expands, as he sips a Languedoc wine I helped him pick out, a Syrah blend from Paul Mas, decanted, enjoyed with his two female friends as they converse in the floral entwined musically vowelled language of Brazil and Portugal.  I spoke of the Cathars as I opened the wine, finally enjoying myself after the huge push and pull, tugged in all directions of a gloriously busy night that did not start out so gloriously, being overrun by a birthday party celebration that immediately took up the whole room, then getting the reserved parties and the interlopers sat for Jazz Night, and it turns out he has ancestors from the region, who were quite probably Cathars themselves.   Yes, they'd sneak out of their hideaways to get good wine.  "Good men."  The busboy disappeared after it all, without really saying good-bye, leaving a full recycling trash can bin of empty bottles.  I did what I could to get the plates and silverware down to the kitchen.  My own plate, an appetizer of sweetbread and mushroom in a vol au vent puff pastry, the pastry part I tried unsuccessfully to avoid, on top of the last cheese plate slate and few odds and ends, I carry down after all have left, scarfing it down over in the bar's corner over by the cutting board on top of the stove as the Brazil contingent relaxed into their seats with big wine glasses to raise facilititavely.

In the man's estimation, and I agree, it is the artists and the poets who are the real philosophers, the people of influence, along with the people who, like me, create a setting where people can gather, relax, talk, listen to music and maybe above all, enjoy wine.  King Sunny Ade's Pandora station is playing in the background after the jazz, Gypsy Swing, provided by The Bitter Dose Combo, has eaten dinner and departed into the night.  A nice woman appreciates my efforts of hospitality and gives me a golden tie clasp of her old school Oklahoma family doctor  GI Bill father's, heroic deliverer of babies and setter of broken bones, paid sometimes in watermelons.

Yes, the people with humility who do their jobs naturally, administering general medicine, hearing people talk things through, keeping long office hours, allowing the town to meet and put wisdom up to the community to water itself back to good green health....

The lotus bloom rises its way out of the mud as the evening settles down.

At the end of it, everyone gone, a venture made to restock, I sit down on the sort of front stoop of the wine room to change out of work slacks into flannel lined Dickies for the bike ride home.  I take out the orthotic innersoles from black Chuck Taylors and put them into my Keen klutzy hiking shoes.  The Pogues are playing, and there's a heating duct right below me, and I lean back and lay on the floor on my back after having achieved the changes, and my arm rises in a vulnerable way, inner wrist and hand facing upward, hand open not touching the floor, and here I rest for a moment and the moment turns into an hour and when I wake the lights are still on and I need to get home.   I feel a bit guilty, but then I've already done the checkout and clocked out and it's my own life I'm messing up along with a bit of the restaurant's electricity bill which I regret.

But people come in needing to share, needing to express a sense of their own worth and value, they need to be involved in some kind of functioning that goes beyond the normal functions of workaday life.  The boss and his wife sit for dinner as the evening winds down, the subject of a recent big birthday (mine) comes up, and I offer how one is addicted to the adrenaline, and the boss, French, and wise, observes that the very thing keeps you young.  "I've been doing this twenty five years," as I explain a birthday is really no big deal, though they add up.

The woman who gives me the gift of her father's tie clasp makes an observation how the long low table on which glass wine decanters sit along with an arrangement of fake flowers and an oversized dummy bottle of Deutz champagne in its little pine coffin standing next to a  few books and the local social shopping magazines with pictures of galas and benefit gatherings, big smiles, white teeth, the good-looking people of Washington, D.C., how all of that could be taken out and replaced by a bench or a shallow bar where people could sit.  And this makes sense.  The four Japanese men in suits finish their round of drinks, the Brazilians appear out of nowhere for the final chapter of the evening just as I come back from taking a quick break to urinate, and she heads off, as she'll be traveling this Super Bowl weekend.

The barman's guide to psychological awareness moves, forward growing slowly like something like moss or lichen on the base of a tree, developing its quiet naturally neutral values.

As any restaurant worker, yes, we keep the places where we work open by being busy.  The times you  just run, that you don't know exactly what to do but that you are doing something, keeping the flow going, doing the best you can in the triaged chaos of bar and table service.  But I've made a living staying where I've felt I am psychologically needed.  And I've done brief stints at places it was pretty clear that I wasn't so necessary to the psychological well-being of its community.  They might have been better career moves or better financially, but to those ends I felt less motivations.  There are the times you can talk to people.

Most diseases these days, at least compared to the time when Jesus walked the earth, are relatively curable in thanks to modern medicine.  But there remains underneath such physical good health, I know full well myself, the strange ups and downs of the psyche and the mind.  This is natural, this is part of the every day, garden variety, simply a part of life.  Everyone harbors in their own time within the things that may well bloom into a real need for professional help, but the daily engagement does help, and one would help to personally facilitate whatever expression helps such a basic fundamental need.

People have need to go out and find a watering hole, a place to talk, much like the way some of us also need to write, to control the flows of the adrenaline that makes us realize we are alive and healthy and responsive.  And so it is just more honest, more natural that one comes to the publicans and the sinners, the glutinous wine-bibbers, to cure not those who are well (who are probably being very dishonest with themselves for thinking so) but those in need of a physician.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Then came the night.  Busboy calls in sick.  A fourteen top of book club ladies back in the wine room.  I get them started by pouring a taste of Luberon white wine, and quickly realize the futility.  Can we pull the table away here to make an aisle so we can all talk (not about books.)  Then they, or one of them, comes out and tells us that they would prefer moving out into the main wine bar room, so they can mingle better.  Yeah, try to keep that straight.  But you'd be taking up the whole restaurant then, I say.  She keeps at it.  Fine, take up the whole restaurant.    They decide to stay, as a group, back in the room.  The young guy, a rookie, pours a round of red tastes, as if they were paying any attention.  Some of them order food.  One bottle of Vouvray, a few glasses here and there.  Appetizers.  They all want separate checks.

Somewhere in the night, at home, restless, unable to sleep before 7 AM it occurs to me my mistake was in ever attempting in the beginning a long time ago to be humble, attempted in the way that humble is righteous without being self-righteous, perhaps as a strategy counter to my brother.  But I was also young and stupid/foolish, cut some corners, like using the house telephone, not having my own line one year in college...  Better to be demanding, and deserving of spending money on self....

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

When you write something down it's different than simple thinking, the thoughts that run through the wakened mind.   It's as if something is allowed to happen in the blood brain barrier, the light of a wand opening an electrical current.  To write out a thought makes a thing tangible.

Jesus returns to his inner thoughts after the work of the loaves and the fishes, the work of managing his disciples to do an actual thing, which is not always easy, asking the busboy if he remembered, as he folds napkins, if he brought up hot water in the pitcher because someone needs tea on a cold day.  There's maybe even the element of marketing, which some people also find tedious.  "We're from Bergerac, and our wines are just as good as those of Bordeaux."

I attempt to write a small piece, a proposed wine column for a local paper, but in the morning the heart is not in the effort and would rather hide, to first write out what needs to be written, before looking at such a piece which could always use a little more work, a little extra cute-sifying.  Embarrassing to look at idiot sentences you wrote poking around, trying to locate something somewhere when really the whole of life is confusing and there's only, in the end, yin and yang.   Dostoevsky's wine column, sure.

What is going on in the mind of Jesus after the loaves and the fishes, after the masses can go on home.  Surprising how many sick people there are, the prevalence of epilepsy, paralysis, palsy, devil possession.   Apparently no effective single payer system, back then, and that's life, I guess.  The poor and sick came to make immediate demands, and then they stayed for the lecture, intrigued by the generosity of the healer, this man who wanted nothing in return, didn't need to build a pipeline for tracking oil first in order to "help" them out, gloriously enriching himself than allowing his beneficence to trickle down, after he'd made some offshore investments, after he and his buddies got rich while sinking the nation into foreign debt, so as ultimately make impossible any sort of, as they called it, welfare state, by which one means simple social security.  What was Jesus thinking as he went off to a desert place or a high place away from the crowds that had lined up for him which he dealt with one on one.  Sometimes he napped, on a cushion in the prow of the boat, just so his mind could do what he needed to do, which was, basically, writing, putting down some statements in a form by which others could repeat them, solidly remember them.

What do I have to do with any sort of wine column, Jesus would ask.  My thing is to write, to discover the essence of writing, that faith in it can cure all ills.  Preach the gospel, which is writing, which is writing itself, indicative of the very process, the greatest mirror held up toward writing there was at the time.  A monument to writing.  Faith.  Faith to sit down and scribble, to write in the dust on a daily basis.   Turn the other cheek, give away your robe, not a problem, not as long as you write, as long as you get back to your father in heaven, to your mountainside prophets, to your own Son of Man.

And maybe it is people like Dickens or Mark Twain or Ernest Hemingway or Kurt Vonnegut or Philip  Roth who despite their faults understand the man the most, the catching of gospel light by the very act of writing...  Thus you can't really trust the hucksters, the televised mega church guys, because they are less involved with an actual daily creative self examining writing experiment.  They don't get up on the stage and say, "hey, how about that Hemingway guy writing that story 'Big Two-Hearted River' in which he hikes a long way, sets up camp, makes himself dinner under the stars, sleeps, cooks breakfast, goes fishing all day, and note how it's the concluding story of the whole cycle..."

A man findeth inspiration in honest work, inspiration not to quote but to write, not to prudishly interpret, self-importantly, but as discovery, as an increase of breadth and width of radiant energy, absorbed from the sun.

Simple low cost working man's healthcare:  write.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Restaurant Week.  Finally comes to a close, nerves shot.  Would you like to look at our special Wheel of Suffering fixed price menu?  If you want to go a la carte here at the Dying Gaul, you can order a veal tongue salad or the sweetbreads appetizer, and for an entree there's a Swiss-style choucroute.  Here's a wine menu?  Your reservation?  I think that's for downstairs in the main dining room.  Do I have space for you up here, let me see...  And I didn't even have to work the most brutal nights of it....  The young guy who filled in and tended bar for Friday and Saturday comes with his friends, taking up four bar stools, insulating me, telling me the tales of running out of everything.  Even the boss grabbed a beer at ten Saturday night, tucking it away and slurping it down in the office...

Loaves and the fishes.  It sounds like it was a stressful day, but they managed.  They sat people in groups of fifty and one hundred down on the grass, feeding them out of baskets after breaking up the loaves.  They were pretty much out of stuff after getting them all fed.  Jesus went off on his own afterward, and the Disciples he sent out on the ship to unwind, and then it's later on when the wind picks up, the boat can't get back so he walks over the water to them...  The stress of running a church, a church supper, pancake breakfast, fill the coffers, serve coffee.  Free here at least, without the money changers and the doves and the animals ready for sacrifice.  But still it was work.  Getting them all fed.   One hopes they had some wine afterward.  Jesus Christ.

But every time you eat, it's a miracle, when you think about it.  Taking sustenance...

Hemingway's subtle joke from Big Two Hearted River, eating hot beans after fishing in the stream.  A hot mouth trying to say Christ, Jesus Christ.  You know, when your tongue gets hot.  That could easily happen over a campfire.  And how since he lugged the cans in he had a right to eat the beans.  Loaves and the fishes.  Hotcakes and coffee in the morning, portrayed with the clarity of morning light.  Gathering grasshoppers from under the log, putting them in a jar.  Here is the man feeling comfortable with himself, no societal standards to try to run and catch.  No sirree, out here a man is free.

But the thing about that 'Writing Your Way To Happiness' piece in the Times, you get the sense that writers need to change their narratives.  They're the very people who most need to change their own stories, or need to get down to a deeper level to work through some stuff.  Seamus Heaney wrote that piece about his father digging potatoes, honest work, and how he's beginning to justify the legitimacy of digging for the roots with his pen...   Maybe that's why they work at it.  You can't change the facts but you can change the mythology.  Is there something in Ted Hughes early life that prompted him to tell not the story everyone else might have seen, but a liberation from that, the influences of his sister's occult knowledge or the nature of Yorkshire itself.  Change the narrative about your father's memories of being the only survivor of a World War One company...

Change the things that depress you.  Change for Shakespeare the facts of his family, wife, kids, back in the countryside.  Change the story that you've fucked everything up...  Cope by involving the crazy parts of family into some kind of noble or normal, simply more honest, more real, or just true, at least....  Create a self independent of all family type things, as if creating your own family, your own fresh reality free of the past.

Is that why the story of Jesus has its appeal to us, that instead of being the faulty people we are we see ourselves as, one hates to say, Christ-like?  That we could rise above our depressions and our inabilities to cope in the adult world as normal family-type people, that we wouldn't see ourselves as people stuck in jobs well below our talents, that instead of being the failures we are we would be that incredibly wise person with his disciples healing people of what really ails them...  Change the facts.  Change all of that into Christian values...

I dunno, Doctor...  appeals to the imagination anyway.  And maybe it does indeed represent some attempt to sort of figure out how your own mind works, given the evidence that you have...

I got watching the Catholic TV channel, EWTN, last night, about family values, anti-baby killing, anti contraception, and I was reading the Gospels with this in the background trying to figure out something literary or whatever or trying to find serenity, and all the Catholic Church stuff is on in the background...  And I had to think, I've done so little, I've not done a right thing by family, I've not stood up for family and children and health and love, living in my own creepy little world, not fighting to get out of it...  Horrifying when you think of it...  And now at fifty I'm too old for any of that, and I don't even have a job I can rely on...  Man, what's happened to me?  I had every advantage in life, except my own craziness.  Self-indulgence... pure selfishness.

Reasons enough why I'd want to change my own narrative...

But then again, where did they get all that out of what Jesus actually said?  Did he stand up like a politician and say "I have family values..."  No, not quite...

But the Christian message, you know, it's one of faith and redemption and good things, positive things you can do for your fellow man...  And maybe you can do good things through literature, seeing as people almost have to view faith as a bad thing these days, I mean, they are highly skeptical and practically minded...

And perhaps the message of The proverbial Church is a bit heavy handed, narrow, judgmental...  So that I might not have to think for the rest of my life that I have spat in the eye of family and all things good being who I am.  Or that because I masturbated once I am anti-family anti-woman anti-you name it.

Who knows, maybe Jesus himself was into Tantric sex from his time in the East studying under the Buddhists...  He's not the biggest family man Super Bowl watcher, wife, four kids, two car garage and suburban house...  He questions authority...

He's a thoughtful guy...  And maybe that's why I find myself in the situation I find myself in now...  Too thoughtful.  Too Christian, if you will...  I dislike snobbishness, the ways people cut down other people to put themselves as better, more capable, more adult, less illusioned, whatever...  that hypocritical side of people, the elevation, claiming the first pew, praying loudly and conspicuously and so righteous sounding.  (What sins are they hiding, putting other people down?)

I've gone and waited on people hand and foot for longer than I care to admit.  Yeah, 'where has it gotten me,' lay down with dogs you get fleas...  I have a soft spot for just about everyone...  And like Jesus I have to follow my own way, which has something to do with creativity or writing or something... as if, like Jesus, bent on something, knowing instinctively some great truth about everything...

I don't know, I don't think I'm here because I'm a bad person.  Just don't know what to do with myself.

A sense of Christ's inner realities... like, you know, the patterns, that we get abandoned...  that we have wise things to say but some people, entrenched, feel a need to actively dislike you.  No one is a prophet in his own hometown.  People are bound to misinterpret his intentions...  And yet the masses come, knowing a good thing....

A writer is always working.  He always is who he is, in the way that Jesus was always doing Jesus stuff.

Where, how, why did the church make stuff up?  Why did it take what old Jesus said and run off with it they way they do?

I feel odd when I don't write.  That's all I know.

Friday, January 23, 2015

But yes, what if you could just be calm?  You run, you run, you run, all night you run, and after that, yes, I could see why the animal would want a glass of wine, an attempt to flood away the adrenalines.  While the beast was caught, prepared to be cooked, then eaten.   Calm, the rarest thing in the world, but what if you took it upon yourself to be calm.

My old classmate is talking about his boys, freshmen in college.  "It was infatuation.  I read your book.  It was all about her.  She did you a favor, telling you to move on.  She was your Vietnam," an old classmate, a lawyer, tells me as the subject I brought up drifts from the tendency to medicate boys for ADHD and the bind young males are in, trying to compete on the one hand, trying to fit in on the other.  "That pretty girl from Smith, who wore too much makeup, you should have stuck with her."  Yes, I suppose.  Okay.  Of course.  Sure, I can see that.  I can see how a person practicing the law for twenty five years would see things that way, the creative parts of the brain constrained by the focus on the actualities.

But that wasn't all the book was about.  I don't think.  There is some honest grasping for values in it here and there, I should think.  "Well, therapy is good...  You go talk to someone who's seen a million people with the same problems you have..." my friend says, referring to his divorce.  Then we go do dinner at the good Greek place across the street.  The server, a friendly young lady from Russia, helps me figure out the wine, a red of an intriguing varietal.   When the check comes, my friend the lawyer pays.

But yes, calm.  I actually wrote yesterday.  I even wrote about Jesus, and personal values.  I topped writing off with reading a few good pieces about David Foster Wallace before calling to check in with mom.  I didn't really feel up for meeting old college buddies after my part of Restaurant Week and getting up at 2:30 after the difficult shifts of Jazz nights and wine tasting.  But not meeting up with them I would regret, so I got in the shower, dressed, wrote out the strange dream I had, topping it off, then on with a coat and boots and down to the avenue.

But if you avoided the stress, and kept calm, and kept writing, what then would happen?  You would be real again.  You wouldn't get into fake situations.  You wouldn't assume the fake persona.  You wouldn't need to hide your discomfort by getting into the wine.  You wouldn't have to pretend you're a bartender, making a few bucks as your earning potential drains away steadily.

Writing is about values.  Of course it is.   Your own personal catalog, or attempt to catalog human values, the mini-clashes that arise in the self, that come about through others.  One would like to be Jesus, calm....

I could sense that I'd given in to work, the wine after work, and that I wasn't writing.  I wasn't writing enough, I wasn't writing forward into explorations of the material I sensed.  I'd grown cowardly, I'd grown worried, and the restaurant had become just a story, an excuse not to be moving forward.  I wasn't doing the writing that is simply for one's own good.

Time spent the wrong way.  Reaching for artificial ways to calm the nerves.  Sensuality.  Guilty of every sin.  I needed to get out of the great lies the bartender can fall into.

The lonesome feeling hits you after a while.  You just have to stay calm, knowing that you are doing, as far as your values, the right thing.

And you always have to face truth head on to be writing, to be working, to be making sense of anything.  You can't let that rest, and so, you're always writing.  You're always at work.  And even if you have a glass of wine, well, don't keep writing far from you, because you're an adult now and you have to be working at things.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

You don't so much choose what you're going to write about.  The choice is already made internally, and you're stuck with it, with whatever you have for a moral guide.

Birthdays celebrations are, from a certain point of view, egotistical.  This is the part of them that does not work, the focus on the conception of a solid fixed self imposed upon an ever-changing individual.  Grasping at a narrative, presented on the positive side of dualistic concepts, illusions are celebrated.  And then, for honesty's sake, as if to compensate, they must be let go, swept away.  Obligingly, you go through it.

You try to be a decent person, a nice guy, but that doesn't readily translate into the world's business.  The core of a person is as much an unemployable loser as anything else, not about the gains out there to be had in city life, in my experience.  The core survives.  You have your friends.

And after the intensity of being focused on, after all the commensurate reflections, after birthdays I have a hunger to read the Gospels.  Its pages offer a vision of an ultimate arbiter of whether or not you've strived to be good and true.

An article in The New York Times presents the conclusions of recent studies related to personal writing, reaching toward the essence of the mental act toward an understanding narrative.

Writing Your Way to Happiness

Writing Your Way to Happiness

People write out their narratives.  By reaching deeper the narratives expand and change.  A fresh story emerges, and so by consequence do situations change.  Struggling students get better at it.  People get healthier.  People process and move onward.  They begin to understand their underlying values in a better way.

A person finds they might enjoy exercise in a different way than earlier conceptions.  They might find the simple act of walking out in nature and letting the mind free to wander (away from technology and urban noise) more what they were after than the strenuous run in the gym.

This may be the very thing that makes writing interesting enough to engage in on up to the highest literary practitioner, a Hemingway, always adjusting his stories, writing, but also processing what he goes through in life.  Shakespeare's personal favorite, Hamlet, by a process very similar to writing, prepares to "take arms against a sea of troubles," easing his way toward the moral judgments he has to make, given what he senses.  Twain is all about working his way toward moral conceptualizations of the kind his times were not so aware of.

Something has to make writing organically interesting enough a thing to do on a daily basis.   Something tangible has to occur, some fruit of progress or grain of harvest, some chemical easing of the mind and body.  Or else people wouldn't do it.  That's close to the essence of it.

Is such a process cleverly hidden down in the foundation depths of The Gospel's stories themselves?  Do they reveal a place, a center where decisions are themselves made, that particular place where we turn the other cheek and render unto Caesar and catch bigger fish and identify with the meek and the mournful, which then shapes outer actions seen on the surface events of life, mysteriously rooted as such actions are, often quite obscure?  Did Gospel stories somehow activate themselves and drill down into our psyches and our value systems, as if on their own?

Why do we have emotional lives, take sorrow over events long past, as in blank attempt to find the obscure roots of values, to find in the same place the cause of our mistakes and also the forgiveness of them?  Why is writing a lot to go through on a given day?  Why do some people turn into J.D. Salinger, or embrace, like Peter Matthiessen the practice of Zen Buddhism?  Why do we act at times against our own self-interest, to make at cost a kind of moral point obscure to even ourselves, such that we are compelled to ruminate and write about such things?

And yet, as the article and its underlying research studies point out, clearly writing works.  Reading the Gospels, reading Shakespeare, reading a poem, clearly works, even when it's not our own writing.

Then oddly, or not, does a person become, more fully, the writer of the words, as if it were the primary place, the most important way to be truthful, to interact, with and upon that surface or watery depth that is somehow apart of the things we do which are construed as daily action, the so-called "choices we make," thus calling for a reassessment, for a better understanding.

And so you write your daily piece, allowing it to mean whatever it might mean.  Then you go for a walk, do some laundry, hopeful of something, remaining positive about the experiment of life.  Is it a good day, or a bad day, when you write?  Does writing change anything?  Does it help you understand the things you truly value, the things you're doing wrong?  Does the writing come out, as it so often seems to, initially as crap, stuff your nervous about, and yet when you read it later there's a mind at work, and it's okay to say what you believe in, or say what's troubling you, or what the issue might be.

Still feeling tired from the week, I step out on the back porch as the light fades west and up into the clouds.  To feel less overwhelmed by the vastness of things of the world I see a distant airplane with its vapor trail looking as it moves easterly forward like a waterskier.  There are crows high in the elm trees' crowns, adjusting themselves, one moving, then another, as if like checkers or chess.  It is from the deeper obscure mind, the subtle mind, where the initially off-hand but then meaningful utterances of Jesus come from.  The sparrows.  In some versions, the ravens.  Neither do they reap, nor do they sow.  The saying seems to me to speak of some calmness, some peace of mind, a creative artistic statement in its own right, as if to make the completion of arriving at that point of deeper mind where our values truly lie.  Yes, I am in touch with my values, the crows seem to be saying in unison in the golden tree tops.

Does the great calm of Jesus of the Gospels reflect an act of reaching through a troubled outer surface to find, after grappling, the center at peace?  Is he suggesting that there is necessarily the troubling outer surface that is the plain we live out life, that what you have to deal and cope with is within?

It is no joy to write, anymore than it was for Hamlet to soliloquize. But the benefits are reaped, after the work is done.

A dream:  my therapist's office has relocated into a downtown office building.  photo id required.  a government agency, like homeland security.  I walk past an urban scene more urban than DC actually is.  I pass a garage, part of a movie studio, where period motorcars idle, waiting for their scenes, Cadillacs from the early '70s, staff cars.  one has to behave in the building where her new office is.  everything gets reported.  she is still unpacking, setting up her office.  i go to the cafeteria food court area to wait.  someone else gets me into trouble.  I am detained.  they know who I am.  a different type, individual.  they know I sing Pogues songs late at night out in the street.  They want to train me as a killer.  But I am in therapy, I say.  We are too, the guy smiles.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

As I ride my bike home through a rain almost like a springtime rain after the cold, salt on the street a foot wide against the curbs, ice patches in the lanes, I recite Eliot's Preludes to myself.  'The winter evening settles down with smell of steak in passage ways, six o'clock, the burnt out ends of smokey days, and now a gusty shower wraps the grimy scraps of withered leaves about your feet and newspaper from vacant lots.  The showers beat on broken blinds on chimney pots...      {All the way through, to} 'wipe your hand across your mouth and laugh, the worlds revolve, like ancient women gathering fuel in vacant lots.'  Home after a Sunday night shift full of good people.  And now is a time I shouldn't be writing, but I write anyway, because it is relaxing.  Writing after having a glass of wine is different than writing in the morning.

But it occurs to me that what you go through, what I go through, what a clear-eyed person goes through, of course, what it does us let we do what we do better all the more.  It makes the job that much easier, that much more completely natural.  So that the job, what one does for work, actually has benefits.  The benefits of sharing, with great people.

So it is.  All the things that were painful to go through, well, they make the toil of life that much better, even as one does not chose these toils, but must attempt to pick an adult life and work as best one can given the information and the gut sense one has.

I quip and listen, I quote and swallow, I give and take, I absorb and pre-absorb and post-absorb, all the things people say and talk about.  I see people struggle with the concept and the feeling of this thing called happiness, the elusive thing, and I see people endure a life of work, and I often wonder what I myself am doing in it all, this stuff called life.

But again, the things you go through, referring to stuff that's hard to remember, not easy to swallow, really help fine-tune you to do the things you must do in life.  They are sometimes like Mother Teresa things but done over joy, over the wine that is God's gift to us, inextricably, acknowledging the blend of life's essence, not all lepers, not all blind sick people, but the half sane half crazy half miserable half happy people who walk the everyday attempting to get by to not make a bad show of it as they march day by day through life sometimes smug sometimes not.

A professional psychologist after witnessing the Sunday night of Mr. T and the two Ks asks me of what Mr. T's condition might be, and without thinking about it, what do I say, but "excess of sanity."
Or maybe, doctor, is it all about bullying...

I remember a long time ago, I was a kid, we went into Utica, maybe to go the big old public library or the Munson Williams art museum, or some errand, and anyway, we went in to this five and dime variety store.  And I sort of went off on my own wandering around, looking at the magazine racks or whatever when this little kid, sort of Eye-talian looking, shorter, comes up and pushes me.  With his two hands against my chest, pushes me.  Firmly enough that, taken by surprise, I step back.  The aisles brightly lit.  Maybe it was winter time.  I'm wearing a coat.  I look at the kid and just kind of stand there.  Kid pushes me again.  I'm just dumbfounded.  I look at him.  I see the look in his eye, as if this is a sort of game for him.  He gets pleasure out of it.  But I am caught off-guard, not understanding the meaning of it.  So I turn and walk away, over to some other aisle, of equal interest and disinterest.  And I'm pretending to look things over as an adult might, whatever kind of products on whatever kind of shelves, and there's this kid again, a push, looking up at me staring with a sort of smile on his face.  And again I just turn and look at him and stand there without saying anything.  I look at him, as if to ask, 'what do you want?  do you want something?  I don't understand.'  I walked away again.  I guess the kid got tired of me, this precious foreign looking fancy idiot, funny looking other kid from somewhere else on his little city hoodlum turf.  But I had no natural aggression against him.  There was no fight.  I just looked at him and walked away, the rational thing to do.

I think of that kid in the documentary.  It wasn't his fault he was born prematurely, that he had a breathing tube taped to his mouth to keep him alive in the incubating chamber for premature babies, or that he came out a little scrawny from the whole affair.  They were told he probably wouldn't last the first twenty four hours.  But the kid made it.  But now he's thirteen and somewhere in Iowa they're bullying him on the school bus as if they were a gang of prisoners in a cell block.  Cuffing him upside the head, poking him with pencils, calling him 'bitch.'  There's not much we can do, but let them work it out, an administrator says in response to an instance of bullying among juvenile females.

But I think this has something to do with my experience.  Of course you can rise above it, like I did, not comprehending it, not getting involved with it, not engaged with the ego.  No skin off my ass, not being able to hang out in aisle C of some shitty Utica variety store pre CVS sort of a thing.  I'm just passing the time while parents shop.  I have no idea what you're up to, kid.

I did not explain to the 'little Guido' that this was not the way to treat visiting foreign emissaries, nor tell him about the Arthurian legends where Sir Lancelot, most noble knight of all the Round Table would show up randomly in humble disguise.  Such pronouncements would have been wasted upon him.  But yet there are the Gospel stories, the rejection at Nazareth, where in the synagog they say, 'where did this men get all this,' his wisdom and references, and he quips that no prophet is regarded as such in his hometown, and they get mad at him for what he says and want to throw him off a cliff, but he passes in their midst and leaves the town.  It's simple, it's almost Chekhovian, in a literary way, simply that Jesus leaves the town, something like that.

Which reminds me of the book I wrote, and it's ending, simple like, "leaves the town."  The douchey reviewer from Kirkus Indie did not see the potential charm of such a plainly told story with such truth in it, remarking the clichés in the dialog, the various literary lackings...

But that's the story, one of bullying, and finding one's self surprised.  Like, how could you treat me like that, here in my home town?  Do we bully people for what they cannot help?  Do we bully those slightly different from the story the mainstream wants to tell, the story of the institution itself as those who currently think they they are the institution want to tell...  Amherst is this, Amherst is that, Amherst is equality, fairness, etc....  Which rubs against how the prophet, the clear-eyed individual, who has a broader view, a deeper view, sees it.  But people are nasty to him, to raise up themselves as much as anything else.

Would that institution even acknowledge a portrait of it that revealed it as imperfect, that revealed the bullying on the part of its specially protected, the tacit female bullying of the male it encounters, for example, the bullying of its very literary sensitivity type people ever protective of the underdog against the underdog it cannot see as an underdog...  The institution caught in its own stereotypes and ways of doing business and getting along with every other institution that it has no language to see, to honor its own people...

Does Amherst want to read my book for its book club?  No, and mine is not published conventionally, does not say the things that institutions in agreement agree to talk about, preferring to talk about the things they like to talk about, that bow to its ways of looking at things.

And what can the clear-eyed one, the prophetic one, what can he do but take his cold comfort refuge in the truth, out in the desert and the lonesome places where he meditates and finds his insights...  Yes, he leaves the town, left alone to ponder the patterns of hair on his naked body or whatever the poor weird bastard does in his vulnerable dream-life or whatever.  Where were the acts of kindness that he might have sought for, simple uncomplicated kindness, no, sorry, everyone goes about their own business to survive and thrive, mine, 'what I've fought for,' 'the choices I've made,' and all that smug shit.

How disappointed Jesus must have been back in Nazareth.  He took it in stride, left, more or less quietly.  And they for their part probably thought, 'oh, fuck him, Mr. Christ complex...'  That's how it goes.

There's Gary Cooper in High Noon.  There's everyone, so smart, so sophisticated, so well-spoken, but yet they can't get the main fact.  They hide, and they desert him.  They pledge help, and yet, they vanish when humanity has to take a stand against the bad guys.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Okay, I said, after we'd exchanged greetings and I'd sat down in the chair and been informed she would be relocating her office south of the Circle, and started talking.

I got home after the second of two busy nights, cold bike ride home, turn on the telly, flip around for a while, come across Gregory Peck as the gambler attempting to reform himself, and next up is Kurosawa's version of The Idiot (Dostoevsky, both of them.)  The premise, the man faces a firing squad, reprieved at the last minute, becomes an idiot, an epileptic.  A saintly sort of alter-ego, who sees deeply into people, who, although he is an idiot about the basic adult stuff of life has that rare quality of wisdom.  Wisdom beyond the everyday.  Like he compares what's in the eyes of this femme fatale/kept woman, whom three or four men are fighting over--Dostoevsky seems to have a particular vision of the dramatic torn woman character--with the eyes of a prisoner he saw executed in the very same firing squad episode.  (Eyes of deep pain.)  He sees far deeper than anyone else sees, or he's more sensitive, but, spot on in his observations.  People sense they can go to him for his opinion.

In the story, he's friends with the most fiery and passionate suitor, and in the meantime, though the femme fatale loves the idiot, he becomes involved with a younger woman.  And Kurosawa, in this setting where the snow is everywhere, piled on roofs, great drifts, snow banks, gives us the battle, the amazing back and forth in the younger women, taking all different sides, incredibly dismissive of him, and then a few minutes later admitting that she feels she's too hard on him.  And this, well, it's something I've seen in my own sort of artistic eye.  (I wink at my therapist when I begin to get pompous about my artiste qualities.)  The proud beautiful young woman who goes through things in her own mind letting interested parties know, the news flashes of how she feels about you.  A woman's prerogative.  Kurosawa is great at this, cuts of her talking, him silently looking at her, one after another.  Giving him total shit one minute, then from another angle, other thoughts...  Oh, that's right...  He had sent he a letter, humble, innocent, almost childlike, a realization of feelings for her...  She sees the sincerity of it.  But, it's a long process, and unfortunately at the end the horrible thing happens when the young beauty he's finally about to marry insists on going to see the femme fatale, as if she were the thing standing between them, when she doesn't seem to be, but...    Well, there's no happy ending, horrible to the point of almost becoming comical without being comical, very Russian, I guess.

One is left with a sense of vision, how the Idiot is able to compress the sensory and figure it out.  Like when he senses eyes watching him, the passionate suitor gone mad and out to kill him.  The Idiot knows things, sees things.   And of course Dostoevsky himself was spared from the firing squad at the very last minute, and also suffered from epilepsy ever after that and the Siberian prison camp.

But there's something in it which we recognize, the capability of vision when you are a sort of idiot in society's estimation.  Unable to make choices, child-like, innocent, even kinda dumb, but on the other hand getting the moral sense of things.  And from my own idiot experience, you know, which I've not been as good talking to you about as I should, out of shame, my own shame, I know how out of some stressful sort of passage you sort of awaken to your idiot savant condition.  Or maybe it's that there's a quality to this idiot condition that makes you oddly passive, as if something happened in a frontal lobe or something...  And maybe that passivity is part a sentimentality over the Christian message of turning the other cheek and Jesus' obvious suffering in the garden, a kitschy sentimental pretense of being "Christ-like."

But after being put through the usual well-deserved rigamarole with a fiery intelligent proud young lady, I don't know...  I became passive.  I didn't stand up for myself.  I didn't stand and make my intentions or my feelings better known, more obvious, more in plain English, or ask them to be treated with more respect.  And you also fall in with the rest of humanity and do stupid things like drink the shot your "old buddies who haven't seen you in a while" inflict upon you, or smoke a puff of weed on the sidelines of a football game when she's over there waiting for you to sit down next to her, but she hung up on you passionately enough the night before...  You're dumb and you kind of surrender, or go off sadly without a fight...

And what does it all mean, that you would be so, on the one hand, observational and sensitive and tuned in and aware, and on the other hand sad and passive and unable to make it happen even as you try, because different sides of you listen to different sides of her...

So what are you left with but to be some form of unhappy unsatisfied Buddhist trying to meditate away the fact you let everyone down, that passivity does not lead anywhere...

I got out my iPhone and did a quick Wikipedia.  "... first published serially in The Russian Messenger between 1868 and 1869...  considered one of the most brilliant literary achievements of the 'Golden Age' of Russian literature."  So that's this one hundred and fifty year old long winded flight of literary outburst speaking to what makes me feel badly about myself on a daily basis, no one's fault, but my own solely and exclusively, all my bad.  And if there were a condition, or a clear cause, or, say, oh, you've got "idiocy" then you could at least shrug and say, oh well, a physical brain condition, much like or part of epilepsy, when your brain freezes or overheats and you go shaking into a trance, as if struck by the heavy truth of reality as we might chose not to look at directly, and which leads you with your mind even less made up as far as what to do.  Jesus Christ.

This is why I feel like I'm sort of shocked, by reality, that I'm so stupid that I can't figure out what to do in life, that I can't make decisions, am not capable of knowing what's going on in that adult way of needing to make practical calculations.   Maybe I'm shocked by falling so low, from a well-read fairly privileged childhood son of a nobly engaged professor of plant biology and a thoughtful mom who then went and got her own good degree, and what the hell have I done with my life... nothing.  Nothing that would make me even remotely eligible for even going on a date.  The prospect of on-line dating, I don't know, just seems silly or wildly inappropriate for an idiot like me.  And my nerves, yes, I see reality clearly, I see faces and eyes and what goes on in them, and that makes me think of how Jesus was supposed to have been able to see the devils that resided in different people and shoo them away, begone.

I guess this is why Dostoevsky ended up with his typist, maybe because she could see all the poor bastard was enduring in his own mind--having to type it all out--and had to take pity on him lest he explode out of not being able to get the words of them down in a proper way, obviously something important to the man, a man sort of blown free of ego by what had happened to him, a woman being sensitive to that state of connecting with nature and feeling a part of it.

But you're probably as tired of my worthless literary fantasia tangents as I am, doc.

Or, on the other hand, is there something here that's a central human issue, one that, for the novelist at least, cuts down through all the layers of news events to the things going on within, as they used to say, the human soul.

(If we thought of the artist, a novelist, a cartoonist, a painter, a musician, as revealing the soul, yeah, people'd be less inclined to go shoot them?)

I've become, out of passivity, a hod carrier, or maybe those are the prospects that await the Idiot.  The film touches upon the subject.  "What's he going to be able to do to support her," they laugh at him early on.  "Shovel snow?"  Or tend bar.  Or write useless novels that seem to have nothing to do with the times, that aren't viewed as a form of gainful entertainment...  Or just sort of sit around wondering what to do with himself, realizing it's too late to do much along the lines of what were once perfectly reasonable and reachable goals and desires...

I can expose my shame to you, doctor, and that's helpful I suppose to get it off my chest, but it doesn't help me change from being an idiot who's overwhelmed by things, who doesn't know what to do with himself.  Most certainly am I an idiot, and every time I go out of the house it's clear I am one, and only through my being careful am I not greater taken advantage of than I already am.

I don't know how he wrote it, but maybe it was a flash of insight and intuition into his own self, a creative self, that his own literal epilepsy had this deeper quality basic in his nature, that looking at his life, back on it, presently, forward, he saw himself as an idiot, but with this incredible sensitivity, this sense of the value of everything and everyone you come across in daily life.  Shocking.  Overwhelming.  Dizzying.  But incredibly clear, once he'd matured enough to master it as a tool of insight, to grasp what's going on deep within people's hearts and stuff.  I would gather it's such a creative insight upon the self that would be the only thing to fuel a big wordy book like that.  I can't imagine any other force being strong enough.  Being as firm and fixed and undoubtable as everything else is doubtful or doubtable, stuck in the complicated instances of mixed outcome and intentions of human circumstances, nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so and we all think too much.  It's a horrible thing to be an idiot, but a true thing.  The certainty, the very realness of it sort of rings through life, however life is lived.  The idiot puts up with good and bad;  what can he do?

Ah, but what accounts for us?  I watched a PBS Independent Lens piece about bullying...  (Lee Hirsch's "Bully.")  Why do some kids get bullied?  I rode a pretty quiet school bus, a short one, with the rural farm kids, and it was a calm one.  I was lucky.  I did not get bullied.  I was a popular kid in high school, adaptable.  They put up with me.  I was student council, honor society...  I fit in.  I guess I grew more eccentric later on.  Maybe that's why I become a barman, to prove that I could get along with everyone.

Stand up, or everyone's going to use you as a punching bag, the lesson of a father to a bullied son.  And yet, one sees the dignity in the kid picked on.  Standing up, we all must do in our own way, I guess.

That's the first day off of the week for you.  Cold.  I did some laundry, some yoga.  I wondered if somewhere along the line I'd adopted a visible self less likely to be bullied than a truer self, the one interested in letters, poetry, the things that could happen when I wrote just for its own sake.  The presented self was a creation of college days, an attempt to fit in with the jocks and so forth, with the social tradition.  But even then I compensated, by allowing my truer self to come forward in the quiet time when I studied.  I was dedicated to the study of literature, to its inner workings.  One problem was that this self was not particularly successful despite his scrupulous behavior.  This self was rejected, even, by a professor or two, even as it had been fostered and encouraged, loved and cared for.  I fell in with the wrong people, it seems, those being not the most sensitive kind.

It could be said that I adopted a sort of schizophrenic mode.  Maybe you have to, as an artist without recognition.  A side that placates all the normal things you're supposed to attend to, the jobs and so forth.  If you rebel too much, following your self and your spiritual inclinations, well, what happens to you?

Where the upper classmen seemed to appreciate me and my various personas, the more ambitious underclassmen didn't see me as much of a role model or just plain didn't like me or took to subtly being down on me, like a very mild form of bullying, which I had too much dignity to respond to, I think anyway, though maybe that's not how they saw it.  When I walked across the stage to get my diploma I had the best round of applause, subdued, but from all corners, at least it seemed that way to me, and the President of the college said to me, 'you're a good man, good luck to you,' with a nice smile.  And I looked the part, scholarly in the rented gown.

Then, I don't know, I went home, not knowing what to do with myself.  I suppose I wouldn't have minded being a country poet over farmland, gone to the college library when my dad went up to his office, been a sort of Faulkner to the Mohawk Valley...  But, you know, the Reagan economy was just beginning to hit Central New York, not in a good way obviously.

I suppose I most wanted approbation from her, from my intelligent super sharp college princess, but in my attempt to be cool I shrugged her off when she was feeling sympathetic, I guess.  So I only got the rejection part of the female inner dialog, really as if I were a genius at it, getting only the negative, retreating when I could have received some positive.  You know, wavelength, that's how everything is...

So around that time, I gravitated to the literary aspect, the hidden, of life.  Like my mom's tell of taking a poetry class with Ted Hughes that winter when she was a freshman or a sophomore and he was in Amherst because Plath was teaching at Smith.  Or the context of a Milan Kundera, an exile who feels the need to stand up against the apparatchik regime, through, what else, literature, the form of the novel, the study of human reality, that sort of a thing.

And I was, let's see, a clerk with a job bussing tables at night, and then, in order to write, as I saw it, a bartender.  Staying active, running around, as a way to avoid the depression...

But this is the problem, the physical law, the Christian reality behind the story, inevitable, that we can only become, that we are the novel itself, that our own story is inseparable from us, from it.  You are who you are, and you have to show that to the world as a sort of truth, or a sort of lesson in humanity. It's the same as light.  Light has its properties, its wavelength, its speed.  The Christian story is the Christian story, Ernest Hemingway's story is Ernest Hemingway.  And maybe this is the sort of thing that is real, that keeps empires from running away with themselves, that keeps labor from being exploited, lined up as inconvenient.

Emily realizes herself in the poem.

A writer is a physicist, taking measurements of his reality, to show what a human being is made of.  Like Shakespeare, but without so much need of the dramatic form.  Perhaps he is unreadable to all but other scientists who get the basic issue.  The intuitive self-portrait's scientific quality...

That the norm might take you to be a jerk or an idiot, weird, odd, well, that's just another aspect of the thing.  But other philosophers, people like those who said 'that all men are created equal,' I guess they appreciate the science...

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

It's like the regulars see it marked on the calendar, the day of the Feast of the Epiphany, the day after the afternoon company holiday party (the holidays already spent with the company), a cold night in January of the first snow, the night of wine tasting, an over-oaked Rioja, a cloying Argentine malbec, the day you least want to talk to everyone, that they come early and steadily.  No busboy.  Wine rep a beautiful nice guy, but in the way.  Our good friend in local mayoral politics has a hot date, and the unfortunate tradition of some sort of digestive shot is hard to slip away from, and the gal picks a Calvados, VSOP.

At one point the brownnose server, after I've had no help at all, comes up proudly bearing the boss' dinner, trout.  She comes back behind the bar to lovingly cut him bread.  He already has bread, I say, wishing to grit my teeth.  Late, too, a man, an interesting guy, simpatico, and tells some major sailing stories experienced in June in a small boat between the Azores and Bermuda, showing us the weather system map of the day.  His wife, getting out of pediatric emergency shows late, another good spirit with good tales to tell.  The guy who's leaning in and talking about his project of opening a Polish restaurant in the neighborhood has finally left, accompanied by a woman who once worked at the strip club next to my old job up the street.  She's convinced us to have a round of Chopin lemon drops, and proclaims mine as excellent.  Worn thin, I succumb to the night, and somehow it gets to be three AM, and I almost feel set-up.  Or that is my mood sensing what World Bank people Jazz Night is going to bring with a twenty top overflowing from the back room.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

After the staff holiday party, held at Fogo De Chao and the metro ride back to my own part of town away from the relative sky-scrapers on a cold day,  a nap to work off the small amount of wine ingested, I stare off into space.   Mom could not take the cat in because of a blizzard.  I didn't have much to say in therapy.  We talked about maybe trying on-line dating.

Work defines one more and more.  It is a practical world, and adults have made their choices.   Harder to meet people when you get older, and it wasn't ever easy, because I've never fully been my job in the way most people are.

I made it down to Bar Pilar after my shift, Sunday night.  There were industry people there, one an old friend back to Austin Grill days.  Bartenders, just about all male.  I have four glasses of wine, ride home into the wind, home by the time the depth charge takes effect, and I'm a bit bleary eyed before my kind therapist.  They'd replaced a 12.5% Chianti with a 14% Nero D'Avola.  I blend into the background.  What am I doing here, but exorcising some angst about the coming holiday party.  When I wake up there's evidence I've been on Facebook and eaten a hamburger, not clearly remembered.

The young prince has aged.  Maybe that's the essence of Hamlet.  You hit middle age.  You lose your father.  Not everyone is on your side, the teams of life having been picked.  Your old friendships carry on as legacies of earlier times.  You still can't make up your mind about things.  You bear your scars, that's all you can do.

By the end of the party and home, I felt little happiness.  The sense falls over me of a complete lack of accomplishment.  Nothing to show for twenty five years work.  Is there ever any thing as human happiness?  I go out into the night for some groceries, Chinese carry-out for dinner.  Feeling depressed, feeling alone.

I review something I've written, and it too is as untrue as it is true, a matter of relativity, of perspective, of standards, of incredibly complex issues, though still, one would praise the spirit of kindness in all things, even as that is impractical.  You can try to write something, but that it could offer the final word is not so solid an idea..  The wine...

They let them into Amherst, and they were, soon enough, the cop, the guard dog, the lawyer.  And then everyone was like that.  Out to be accusatory.  Say one more word to her...  Leave her alone...

I think of the competitive quality, men and women fighting over the same turf, the professions.  A trick played by a politician, Reagan perhaps, when he cut the support systems for the family and the poor, an ongoing spreading catastrophe of wrong-mindedness in the face of spirituality, and yet, Reagan is so revered, a substitute for God for a lot of people.

The wine at Pilar was slurped down for the wrong reasons.  A trying to justify the business, an attempt to placate it, to think I fit in with it, that it would offer true friendships in its guild.  Wine to let me slink my way, a weary soldier, down to the old staff luncheon with open wine and slices of meat.    I like my wine medicinally, when I'm home alone and need some energy to do the laundry and the dishes, take the trash out, sort paper on the desk, keep the recycling intentions.

I sit with the two chefs at the table.  I have a particular fondness for chefs.  They have good stories.  They work hard.  Soulful people, in a guarded way, who, in trust, express sharing of life's vicissitudes.  Drinking problems, business partners, travels various, good and sundry.

"Hostility is darkness," the Pope says.  He speaks of the light, of the kindness of Christ.

The psalms sung by the body of the church-goers of the live tape from Rome preceding the homily of Pope Francis, emphasizing the humbleness of Christ's love, strike one as not being all that far away from one of those early uncomplicated love songs of The Beatles, different tempo, but related in spirit.  Wake up the gentle nonjudgmental love of God.  EWTN television delivering a lecture.  To have the humility to ask the mother to show him to us.  Papal Mass for the Solemnity of the Epiphany, from St. Peter's Basilica.  The three magi, the searches with true faith, the conversion, the wisemen's experience.

Life is pain, causing humility.  The ignore the depths of such experience, that's what one should fight against in personal ways, to always know, the cup of suffering isn't' far away, and that kindness is golden.

"Come to terms quickly with your accuser," Jesus says, "you'll never get out until you have paid the last penny."  From Matthew's account of The Sermon on the Mount, the scenario might seem personally familiar, such things having played themselves out in a way.  But the homily of Pope Francis helps:

Led by the Spirit, they come to realize that God’s criteria are quite different from those of men, that God does not manifest himself in the power of this world, but speaks to us in the humbleness of his love.  The wise men are thus models of conversion to the true faith, since they believed more in the goodness of God than in the apparent splendour of power.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

... yeah, there was that time of The Beatles.  A lyrical moment of humanity.  "Last night I saw you in the restaurant.   That's when I knew you were no debutant." Great guitar stuff, harmonies, you name it.  All done with great style,  purely natural.  Hey, they were The Beatles;  they could be as natural as they wanted to, they could be themselves.  And, recognizing the beauty of the bargain, they were nice, and not only nice but deep, touching, poetic.  Worth study.  An accomplishment of humanity, in a mode dating back to a bardic tradition.

And then came a time of contention, or rather, The Time of Contention.  Or that's what it always is.  People being contentious.  

Saturday, January 3, 2015

But all my tangents about art, you know, Doctor, they could be viewed as little more than an attempt to rationalize a central condition.  A field of excuses, so that I wander and never address the issue.  And no matter what I read or practice about avoiding negative thoughts and dwelling on the past I...  well, I do.  Because when you make such a big mistake, a series of errors and bad choices and dumb actions one should be ashamed of, you see every day the moments of them, like they haunt you.  And because of my faults there was the perfect college love story that we all want to happen, and because it didn't happen, well, everyone becomes alienated.  People drop out of sight, hide, as if they too were shamed.  All the ironies add up, the particular talents you saw in another come forth, and there you are, there I am, being stupid, with little faith, without much courage, even though I stuck with it through a fair amount of persecution.

But because of, maybe, like what I experienced growing up, am I incapable of love, in believing in it enough to partake and receive?  Do I tend to question it, think that the woman is always going to blow up and scream at the guy?  Do I have this pattern in my head that says the guy will be, like, long suffering...  Is that what I internalized, saw, as they say about these childhood matters, saw as love?  Well, the girl would certainly blow up at me, or be dismissive...  Maybe that's what made me think, 'oh, surely this must be it, love, the parental relationship...'  And when she'd be harsh to me, as her part of the back & forth, an extension of the flirting into a deeper kind of teasing, right after that, when I had an opening, I would sort of nobly and sadly or sternly retreat, perhaps like my father would, like going to lie down and take a long nap when it was too much for him.   Her being high-handed.  Me with the legacy of pain.  That would be sort of recalled.  And I'd be silent and noble and long-suffering, but that, ha ha ha, doesn't really do it for an Upper West Side beauty on the way up into her own sophisticated life.  That's not engaging enough, not bold enough.

But the love was there, and I guess the ways I'd express it were subtle, or marked by that sort of passivity, like bringing her flowers at the very end of each year, as to say, you can do all you want but you can't change that, the way I...  you know, like, feel about you.   Again, the long-suffering.  I tried to engage, but she'd always reject the first time round in each episode, and then the door would be more open, because she could see the way I reacted, like the frog in my throat, the things that show deeper feelings in a way you can't fake...

Well, well.  Who could expect a young lady to go through such a disaster and want any more part of it?  Who would want to think of the light that failed, of the sweet things that should have happened in world of ideal and romantic love?  Who would want to recall that?  You'd rather want to block it all out, any reference, the recalling of an unhappy event, a car wreck.  Much in the way the book you gave me says.  "Okay, mind, thanks for reminding me, but I'm not going to go there as I have positive things to be doing."

So I seem to live in a world where love really isn't possible.  Not for me personally, no princess to come and save me.  And I give my kindness to the rest of the world, to strangers, to people who aren't family, as that too is part of the long-suffering quality.

If she'd been nice to me, and welcoming, I could have taken to that, I would have responded.  Maybe it all wouldn't have been such a problem.  As it was I saw too much of the rejection and not enough of the light of her truer self that came through.  I mean, I have enough emotional intelligence to be able to read people.

But if you don't have that kind of love it's really hard to do anything in the world.  What does it mean to go teach a bunch of someone else's teenagers?  What does it mean to go help people in hospitals so they don't get sicker and die, just puts off the loveless inevitable.  I've ended up a cold and sentimental observer.   Who waits on couples on Valentine's Day and Christmas, then goes home to... what?  A cat.  Except the cat's dead.

Yes, rejection hurts.  As Jesus says, no one is a prophet in his home town.  So is it written.

How do you rise above such a great existential joke, one you've brought about through your own faults?

I guess you can only find it in impersonal things, like Jesus, or Buddha, or mediation.  But how far can you rise above the basic frustrated need or the time in young life when everything went wrong?  That's why poor people turn to drugs and stuff, because they don't get enough love and affection, so they turn to artificial proximation.  Maybe art is a similar thing.  Like Van Gogh never had a girlfriend, and so he turned to this painting stuff, an animist in nature trying to evoke something out of the landscape, a process which wore him out, dried his heart out.  A maker of Japanese prints.

Yeah, turn to Jesus, do your yoga, awake your own Lazarus from the dead.  I guess there's all sort of things you can do.  Stay positive.  Count your blessings.  Be happy where you are.  Yeah.

But you know, I wonder, I mean, good to talk all these things out.  But you can over psychologize.  You can take the random things that happen in life, not all of them happy, and try to trace them back to something, make too much of a few things, a few proclivities.  Which leaves you more depressed than when you started.  What are you going to do?  You had parents and they loved you very much, and luckily one of them is still very much alive.

It's depression which makes you depressed.  So yeah, just try your best to avoid it.

And maybe, you know, maybe there is something about Jesus being right.  He has to bear all this stuff from the faithless parts of humanity, the cold loveless skeptic parts, the selfish parts, the got-it-all-made thank you very much types, the territorial sanctimonious types, the blame other people types, the people who don't give a damn about the fate of strangers...  The ones who don't see their own selves in the lives of others.

I left her office pondering how broad, how deep the spiritual life passed on in the Christian story and the like must be to fit in my own problems, my own sense of things of how life is, the things you must go through, the way you end up.  A man in a church gown might be largely psychologically clueless, belonging to a church out of some knee jerk reaction, but there deep deep reasons why such stories resonate with us.  Why they hold a transcendent truth, one that eases considerably our own individual pains.  And if you find within your own life the concurrent roots of the Christian story, or the Buddhist one, or what-have-you, if you find something sympathetic, well, that is very interesting work to be doing, as if attending to the leper within your own self, your own dead Lazarus.  Yes, faith is a good thing, and it happens out of such reasons, when you're broken down, not left with much else.  And to have faith is itself the ability to love, and as long as you have that you can't be too far down on yourself.

And again, I felt like I was a Huck who had a Jim, big and comforting and warm, a real live person, to accompany him in his long lonesome voyage down the big river.

And maybe the stupid of us, the seeming fools, who one should think would know better, like how to purport themselves as rational responsible adults are in a way the smartest, least full of guile and trickery, therefore open to the wisdom beyond human design.

Maybe it is that city life, that modern life, with all the choices we have open for us, with the habit that we must choose intelligently and carefully, maybe all that dampens down a life of faith, the sense of the spiritual.  Because if you're not happy, well, look somewhere else, do something else, go somewhere and buy something, rather than examining all things at a deeper level.

But I gather it all, all I'd been through, were a part a writer's struggle, if you'd call it that.  The long effort to work at it, maybe to get better at it.  A mix bag, mixed results, but on top of that you achieve something, namely the steady effort.  Maybe that effort lets you see things beyond what you might have initially saw as the top of the hill to climb.  A sense of a journey, of a climb beyond, especially when nothing in particular happened when you reached the summit of the first hill.  You wrote a book, or what you called a book, and people said, fine, okay, write another one.  That was more the point, the larger hill you now had to climb, both looking back and enduring the fact that you were a writer, looking for the meaning in that act of being one.   No great journey is ever easy, they say.  And there are sad lonesome parts of it, parts of being lost out in a desert way out of contact with people.  Searching for meaning.  Looking for a way.

I'm a writer.  My kingdom is not of this world.

Friday, January 2, 2015

The things we do, in the sense of doing them well, are the things we do intuitively.  That comes through to me on New Years Day playing old Beatles songs.  The songs themselves are intuitive, meaning that they can be played, at least in basic form, with some ease.  Hard to resist singing along with them, the inhibitions settling away.  They are not far away from Irish music, from the music of folk people, and indeed the songs roots in Skiffle music are undoubtably related.  Liverpool is not far away from Ireland, a major town--with a shipping trade--of the Irish diaspora.  Part of the joy of playing Beatles songs, indeed with lots of music, is the possibility of amplification, which takes the acoustic instrument and allows it a new dimension.

But one finds himself surprisingly capable over the old songs.  A study of chord changes, the chorus, the bridge...  all one needed was a bit of encouragement.  Like most things.  The creature innately good at it.

So there I was, playing, going through a little repertoire, having moved the amp upon to a TV stand, the old TV placed next to the new one, ready to wheel out.  The usual things people play, accessible songs, u2, a Pogues song, etc., etc., but when I had a glass of wine, the talent largely went away.  Interesting observation.  I'd thought a glass of wine helped an Irishman sing, and maybe it does in the sense of giving him some Dutch courage, but the ability and the desire immediately dampened.  Maybe I was just done playing, having tied in fifty years of musical history together.

And what are you left with the next day?  A bit of a headache, a dryness in the mouth, a thirst for water, a sense of having frittered away the night into a numbing of the alone time.  I mean, I did have a great chat with my aunt.  And really there's not much to do on New Year's Day but watch football on TV, if you're not invited somewhere...

But what would I have done if I hadn't had that first sip of wine to dumb all the intuitive stuff down.  Well, you cook dinner, yeah, I did suddenly find myself pretty hungry all of a sudden, and I'd played through a good part of the old repertoire, covered my fifty years of music history...

There's a Christian lesson in there somewhere, though, about using those intuitive talents.  Like, take making love--we're all pretty good at it it.  You start in one small place in one small way and that leads to the next step.  A hand, a kiss, a revealing of the body, the touch of skin...  We all know how to do that, and maybe that's the nice surprising thing about it, that you find, oh, someone else knows how to do this, to bring pleasure, and it all leaves you with a lot of faith in things.  Things do work out sometimes.  Stay positive, and they will.

And when you meet someone special and special things happen, well, that's a sign.  But I'm afraid I look at these things like happy relationships from the outside now, and maybe it serves me right, for my sins.  Because I drank too much, thinking that was the thing to do back in college, and without realizing it I was hampering my intuition for all things I really wanted, all the nice things...  My God what an idiot I was.  Not a day goes by I don't think of my stupidity, my mistakes, and sometimes I put a big effort into rationalizing my mistakes to take away the sting of my errs.

And when you're an artist you are so because you are intuitive sort of a person.  Meaning that just about everything you do you do out of intuition.  You write a paper, you enjoy the things another person writes, you get the stuff Jesus and Buddha were talking about.  You find a job that, yeah, is simple and intuitive, not complicated, just gotta do it.  That's how I ended up in the restaurant business.  It's simple and intuitive.  Well, everything is.  Standing in front of a classroom talking about the things that interest you--to me that's what education should be about, something simple like that, but now it's all too complicated.

And that's Jesus for you.  Incredibly intuitive.  The sort of person he was, or, rather, is, in the world.  No problem at all being Jesus.  Born into it.  Easy.  Best lecturer ever.

Yeah, you know, so you say your piece, and then you get tired, and then you take a nap, and then, move on to the next thing.

But when things happen to the intuition thing, oh, it's just the very worst sort of a thing that can happen, because then you don't know which end is up anymore, and people saying one thing but meaning another it's like, where's the truth?  Why would you lie to me?  Why would you make me call into doubt my own judgment?  And the artist is out there on the edge of intuition, so this is particularly painful for him.  It's like a shipwreck.  Dashed against the rocks.  The worst kind of fog comes over you and you don't know which way to go anymore, left or right...

It hurts quite badly, actually.  And this is why, I suppose, artists are alone sometimes, like, left alone, or sort of forced to go it alone.  Because they have this intuition where no one else does.  I guess this speaks of why we were created as unique separate entities.  That our intuitions would naturally bridge the gap between us all, such that we might even be shocked, "you were thinking that too? that's what I was thinking!'

Maybe that's the shock of Shakespeare.  Like, that's exactly what I was thinking, I just hadn't put it into such words...  Or not even thinking, but feeling, on some deep level.  Amazing stuff.

I guess that's my main battle, my main meaning in life.  That you can only really act on the deepest sort of intuition, that none of the rest can really matter so why bother with it.

But anyway, that's the real joy of life, discovering you can sing, hearing your voice through the amplifier with the guitar, playing, actually playing, a Beatles song.  And then the emotions take care of themselves, and I could get sad over a lot of them, but, I don't, I look at them as moving forward, more or less.  Great feeling.  Beats numbing yourself.  We all have talents to share.  Maybe that's the meaning I've been looking for, like, some tangible talent I had within me, that couldn't be cut short, you know, in the way writing can be, for whatever reason.

And that's why I love literature, the moment of poetry.  There's an intuitive understanding of something going on, deep in the words, maybe deeper than that, and the reader can only grasp at it through his own intuition, and that's why you have to mull these things over, to let your inner gears work, to dream over them, to drill down into the subconscious body of understanding things.

That's why I loved that girl so much.  There was this silent intuitive understanding going on between us.  I guess she got mad at me for not, like, as they say, acting, 'acting,' on it enough.  Sad thing.  And she was right to be angry at me.  But she told me so many outrageous things to my face, I, I don't know what happened, like I got mad at her for besmirching such a thing, for being so mainstream, so unmystical, as it seemed to me at the time.  I should have jumped on her whenever I could, but, yeah, you know people at that age...

But it's the same thing, like, with higher education.  You have your dreams, your ways of reaching an understanding of something, a process that should be praised, that Robert Frost would have praised, I think, knowing a bit about him and his college teaching method.  The modern academy is forced to think you're an idiot, like, if you take too long, or if you're like Hemingway's fisherman bringing something very big from way far out in the Stream, just out of some intuition that you are sensitive enough to hear.  A classroom should be like a council of poets all sitting around, and that's the way Benjamin DeMott ran his.  Each one has an access point, a reference, and a good teacher can kind of hypnotize people into reaching into their deeper understandings, and say, like when reading a moment in Updike, "yes, it's about sex!"  Young people are a little timid around such blunt realizations, I guess.  But when people come along, and you know, quickly respond, oh, I know what's going on here, I think they usually fall pretty short of the mark of a full understanding.  And Demott's point to us was that we were incredibly sensitive readers, capable of fined tuned understandings of, say, what Emily Dickinson is saying...  That's what I learned in college.  Not sure how it translates to the real world, Doctor, but I'm trying.

(Maybe the reason why we drink wine is to fit in with Caesar's empire and all the temple business guys.  When we have Jesus within, who is the wine himself, not in need of any.)

Yeah, the lyrical outburst of The Beatles, to me it represents the consciousness of the Universe able to look back at itself, a wonderful moment in the last century, an awakening.  Tunes you could keep with you, hum along with, in your head.