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.