Thursday, April 30, 2015

The effect of the nights seem to grow exponentially.  The last night is the hardest, Wednesday night Jazz, a.k.a., "the cancer," and the hardest to recover from, and even though I get a bike ride in (on the trainer stand), I don't feel so hot Thursday, twinges of headache from mixing too many wines.  Anxiety, pessimism, gloom, to varying extents, a sense of trying to run from the wrath of God, or of being swallowed up by the Leviathan, of having fallen off a cliff, of being so far outside of normal society that you'll never be let back in.  This is what happens after four nights of tending bar, even when the nights go fairly smoothly, with pleasant customers;  it's still all around drinking, even if it's all around eating dinner.

How am I going to get out of there, the last one in the restaurant, eating his dinner, with getting into the wine?  How am I going to get home, and not want another?  And then, how am I going to wake up not feeling depressed and anxious?

I desire to explore spiritual pursuits.  I'm not going to fit in anywhere if I would try to be social.  It's only hours away from most people's happy hour, and I'm still rehydrating, pondering breakfast.  It's a fast four shifts, long hours when preparation and unwinding are considered, four days of rest, get ready for work, go to work, finally come back home.  Not much else.

And so...  what?  Dishes.  Laundry.  Recycling.  Trash day.  A couple of yoga related books my therapist has suggested have arrived.  A light rain is falling.  Now it is heavy, straight down.  After the fourth night, the household chores seem insurmountable.  But... take one thing at a time.

The thought, needing to stop drinking.  But how could I do that with the job I have?  Impossible.  Therefore, to save yourself, you must quit.  You're not even happy with the job anyway.  It's the fear of the unknown that is stopping you.  That and a need for money, not having much.  Or is it the true desire one must gain, to not accept anymore, but to change.

Drinking is a loaded issue, when you consider, when you think of how college could have gone differently...  But I had that mysterious issue, the time spent writing papers, the time spent reading...  Obsessive, depressed?  I grew negative, pessimistic, and all the while feeling I had something to say.

Well, then you go and say it, and then what?  Self-published works, where do they go?

I'm not even able to write anything today.  As is staring at some fundamental problem without understanding...

I manage to do the dishes, cook lamb sausages under the broiler, take a shower, then out for a stroll under a dark sky, walking very slowly, almost a walking meditation.  Up California from Massachusetts, up the hill to Connecticut Avenue and its view of the Hilton and the city down below, then finally down to Glen's where quite a social hour is going.  I get my meats, onions, a piece of farmer's cheese, a quart of chicken stock, pay at the register, and then slip away out the door.  People are drinking beers, wine, eating pizza and whatever else.  People are sitting outside at the picnic tables, but not ready to join the party I head home and this too feels sad.  As if the job that allowed such things to happen does not allow me to enjoy the benefit of the service myself.

I lay in a state of semi-sleep on the couch for a long time, hours, after my return.  When I wake, I take up one of the books my therapist has recommended, Living Your Yoga, by Judith Hanson Lasater.  The lessons, the exercises within, remind me of something I've fallen out of touch with.  I lay in corpse pose, for the recommended twenty minutes, and when I come out of it, yes, what I've been missing all these years, which is compassion for your own self, faith in your own self, in acknowledging how difficult life is, and how brave one has to be, in fact, already is.  So, let that be a lesson to those of us, taken by the throes of the tyrannical mind.

And I saw that I was in the perfect place to administer compassion, and mainly, yes, to myself.

That this would be difficult for a bartender, who practices compassion on a daily basis to others, would not provide it for himself, seemed meaningful and indicative, and so, I began to endeavor to do it for myself, which is a lesson to all of us.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

But I cannot wake without a sense of regret of a night's adventure.  After work I go join my buddies for a wind-down glass.  The talk is good.  It's good to have a friend, we share some red wine.  And today I wake up late.  A good conversation about Catholic school education, the spirituality inherent in all learning (which is not well respected these days as it should be, a thing crucial to education), but I'd be hard-put to assemble a narrative of the evening, but that we sat in front of television I don't remember while one buddy talked on Skype to a young lady in South America in the far room behind glass doors.  The bike ride home, uneventful, required calm concentration.  I pull up my street with the sense of having been out too late, shoulda' just gone straight home, put my road bike on the stand, got in a slow roll, had my two glasses of Beaujolais...  And where do such late-night conversations go?  Except that they are useful, you have to admit, and these guys are your friends, and shop-talk is necessary.  And they are at that hour in which you've finished up work, where it's good to sit back on a couch and listen.  Yeah, man, I get it.  But, when you're in a rut, you need to think outside the box.  Which is perhaps why it feels reasonable to light incense when I get home finally.

Is it that a Kerouac has less that sense of maybe-I-should-be-doing-something-else-with-my-life that hits once responsible old schoolboys.  Having less that sense the doors to the narrative are open.  Whereas others of us might wait for that final cleaning up of one's act, finally, a clean Coltrane going down to the studio to record A Love Supreme...  We feel too much guilt over current palliative habits to set our creativity free.

In the space between falls a job.  Falls the facts of life.  Falls the individual who is a good guest but ultimately stays on a bit too long after his dinner and makes you nervous.  And there was enough angst over getting things done in a shift that, yes, a little calming medicine is necessary.

But the puzzle in the train of thought here seems to be that there is plenty enough evidence of school-boy guilt in Kerouac's work.  There doesn't seem to be much self-reflection, Hamlet-like questioning of self, in Neil Cassidy.  And there obviously needs to be some for the lot of us wanting to be part of a respectful respectable useful society...

Take this back to my own job, which seems harmless enough, but it can seem the job for weak men, weak men who are at a loss of what better to do with themselves, not bold enough to try a few different things before settling...  I do my job, well enough, and people have a civilized time, a bottle of wine for four, appetizer, entrees, coffee with dessert.  Respectable people, who, in turn, thank me and call me Sir for my little helpful acts and good hospitality that cannot be faked.  The musicians, who play the jazz for us, I am good friends with.  We're all in this together, no I in team.

But where falls in, after reading Buddha's words and the Gospels and Corinthians and letters from your old Dad, after listening to JFK and RFK, and Roosevelt, where falls that sense of the right way, the moral way, the respectable way, the way that is not fraught with the sense of cumulative missteps, of things like 'not standing up for yourself,' and things like that.  Too many bad influences, not enough studious reading, and all of this catching up with me at some point.

And Kerouac, yes, he definitely had the circumspection, here and there, in Desolation Angels, in many passages here and there where he is really really trying to be good, to be a good boy, clean, living in harmony with nature, his cabin with good nutrition, a good little system.  But, but, but...  We know how he ends up.  Even when he sings lyrically, is it in Dharma Bums, at the end, "a new life for me."  Alas.

Bringing us back to Shakespeare, where, by dint of dramatic structure, there are too many characters and situations not to allow the final circumspection, even if a character is helpless to do anything but recognize, too late...

Lincoln never was much of a drinker (though all they had back his the days as a young man was bourbon whiskey, and ale, and he had enough example of relatives gone mad to be careful.)  A sip of wine, maybe, at dinner, to be a polite political figure.  And he did not have, as a result, so many sins as some of us, to live down.  Though he did, it seems, have that illness, melancholia, a state of blues he could not help, clouding his mind, making thought painful.  The lists of wine and booze had for his inaugural parties, along with the roasts and the oysters, are quite long, and ample, but for the crowd, for lesser men, not he.

Put a vice in place, yes, maybe indeed, it becomes a crutch.  When you could be out doing more useful things as the world turns...

Alas, it is not the barman's place to get as cross with the self-indulgent as he would like to be, from the boss's perspective, nor the client who comes in regularly and spends.  Or, one day, does he get sort of fed up, my father's temple of learning you have turned into a crass place...

It retrospect it was a good conversation, my pal Ray talking about his education at Damatha High School, his class in religious traditions inclusive of the wide range, not even any emphasis on Catholicism.  And I'm able to do my yoga after the shower, after writing.  And perhaps after such considerations, the ability to act to the sort of values and morality you'd really like to inhabit and exemplify, maybe becomes more possible, more supported.

Must one know the sickness inside himself to surmount it, curing it...

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Every day, same problem.  What to write, how to write, why...  Do you feel up for it, or should you just go back to bed and wait 'til it's time to go to work.

Two shifts in.  Carrying the night while the other guy, without much enthusiasm for Monday night jazz, hides in the back room reading on his iPhone.  There are only a meager few reservations for the night, as if something was up.   The keyboard player comes up to the bar after the customers are gone, and we talk about the Baltimore riots, his memory of the one in DC after the assassination of Dr. King.  How terrible and counter-productive.  "You didn't make the laws, but you have to respect them."  The old nightclub and jazz corridor, which provided jobs and entertainment for the locals, laid waste...  "When did the Howard Theater finally reopen?  Three years ago..."  Ouch.

Then the musicians are gone, their equipment loaded, a decent dinner enjoyed in the corner, the last plates to clear back downstairs to the silent kitchen empty under fluorescent lights, the dishwasher's stainless steel counter and sink there inside the door under the hanging sprayer tucked away for the night, the dishwasher's metal levered doors open, laid bare.  I'm cleaning up, knock on the door, it's old server., coming from his first shifts at the new job down the road where he's already making good money, serving fish table-side.  I make him a Beefeater martini and he has an excellent story about a staff meeting...  Do not question management, be positive, do not break stuff.  A slide show.  Do not be the problem, be the solution.  Work smarter, not harder.  (Yes, I remember the two-faced clichés of a particular management team...  The truth is:  Respect the staff, treat them as adults, professionals, an asset, and then the staff would care, do the right thing.)   The meeting departs, heavy tables are lugged in to set up for a private party. "Five round tables," one manager says.  This is done, with much jee-hawing, chairs and tables..  And after all this is down, as opening time is drawing nigh, "no, no--one long table," says higher manager, looking at a spec sheet, so they have to redo it all, switching everything out.

The talk moves to what I've been up to.  Some great travel tales.  The attitudes of people from other countries, the things they go through.  And then talk turns to my lack of decent earnings, lack of retirement plan and all the usual forms of security.  Old server talks me through it.  "Promote yourself, do your own classes, or get a job teaching at prep school, which you can do a lot longer than what you're doing now."  And he is right, of course.  Care and concern from a world-wise good-at-reading-people older brother type for yet another of one of those younger brother types, who's very smart in some ways, but doesn't have it together, might end up out on the street...
"They'll let you teach that class, into your seventies, and you wouldn't have to be subversive about your message..."  (I'd explained my little sermon about the psychological and spiritual benefits of sitting your butt down every day to write.)

But everyday, same problem.  What to write, how to write, why?  For what purpose.

In the old days's tradition, as Coomaraswamy points out in one of his essays, a masterpiece was simply a measure of a workman's competence in the standards of the guild.  You'd done enough of them, and now you could make a good quality ceramic pot or altarpiece.  Now the term sounds to us a bit more elevated.  A masterpiece sounds like a thing beyond normal human capability, a marketing term for that which surpasses all other standards.  Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, gold standards, beyond the norm, genius, yes, masterpiece, but for the rest of us, yeah, keep plugging away.  Who's the guy on PBS with magic of oil painting, with the neat tricks that make mountains and then lakes and then trees and then a rail fence and a cabin appear, techniques abused to the point of humor to decorate the wall above the bed in hotels like the one I recently stayed in in Chinatown, such that all trees had the same downward droop as the tropical pines and the mountains all had the same blue El Capitan lump but pushed together like books on the shelf there in the background by some heretofore unseen (and implausible) trick of geology, but the domicile of this kingdom having some nice verandas under an awning roof where indeed one might stay in good vaguely Chinese comfort...  Yes, whatever you want;  it's your world to create.

But we still live in the shadow of things like the earthquake disaster in Nepal, and in the sober light perhaps the term 'masterpiece' is viewed closer to its original scale.

Writing, yes, I try to focus on writing, and not my lack of security for old age, my misplaced reliance on Social Security benefits.  I write and put aside the reminder I get from the wine-reps, you should have left this job yesterday;  how old are you?  Fifty.  Fifty?  (Expression, hidden:  you are fucked.)  Dude, get out now;  be a teacher.

I think of Job.  Job, were you around when the foundations of the world were lain?  Uh, no...  No, I wasn't, as far as I know.

But I should be a teacher.  That does sound better than slogging through another twenty five years of shifts then having nothing at the end of it to show.

Onward I go, crafting my yellow journalism, the ends of my shifts presided over by somber judges who drive a weak man into the Beaujolais...

Incense burned, two sticks, one of Nag Champa, one of Sandalwood, over the usual sadness I expand around and attempt to put in place, the scented smoke unable to reach the poor sweet shaken Buddhist Nepalese survivors of earthquake nor the rubble of their old temples,  I think of how I'd rather inhabit one of those old age airy ink mountain prints, suggestive like calligraphy is, minimal in scene, evocative of weather and mist, waterfall, a monk's abode, a bird on the wing, all deeply satisfying in a strange way, than the lush green, blue and gold luxury of the hotel painting, if I had to chose.

I stand up, the hunched posture straightens a bit from having written and the glance at the clock that says the mysteries of actual time draw close to when the person you have chosen to be gets ready for work.  A leaf blower revving in the distance.

As I shower, loosening up under the hot water, I am reminded of a golden restaurant of the past, now departed, from years ago in this professional career.  I can still hear the new management team's leader, shouting to us one through the hot stale air of a sunny Saturday morning about sexual harassment, and he, the worst perpetrator of the very thing.  I remember the original management, a small slip of calendar page with the old Tao wisdom on it, ending with "the best leader of all is the one of whom the people are barely aware of;  and when they succeed, the people say, look at what we have accomplished all by ourselves."

I almost have to wonder, driven to the thought by logic, that if a writer relies heavily on the management of marketing his, or her, works, then you stand the risk of being a product of that marketing.  But if you write the simple truth...

Monday, April 27, 2015

And by the time I get back from therapy, in the lay-over between the Sunday night and the Monday night shift, I'm a bit talked out.  I've made a run to Glen's Market on the way home, and thinking parts are fading a little bit, and maybe there will be a nap involved.  I had to empty at the cooler of all the bottles for some plumbing to be done last night, and I'll try to get in earlier than usual.

Every day, Shane MacGowan draws a mandala, a circle, a horizontal and a vertical line for axes.  He believes it orients his day, that of a self-described nut for things spiritual, at least at the time of writing/being interviewed by his wife for A Drink With Shane MacGowan.  I think I know the feeling.  Maybe you do too.

My point to the good doctor is that there are enormous psychological and spiritual benefits to the act of writing.  What to do with it beyond that?  Do you get an MFA in fiction writing to be around other nervous writer types?  Does writing have to be commodified like everything else?  Is it in your life for you to make a living at it, or is something you might quietly preach about.

I watch a movie version of Kerouac's later novel Big Sur.  I flinch watching it.  I've read the book enough times to know what will happen next and the general tone of it, a harrowing trip into breakdown and alcoholism.  Yet at the end of it you have the sense, in the book at least, that when he the writer returns from the adventures to the safe isle of writing, then he's going to be okay.

Why is that venturing out into the modern world and the egos and personalities attuned to surviving in that modern world is so troublesome for some of us.  Is it blood-type, or something else constitutional?  You sit down and write, it's like you're able to navigate again;  you don't sit and stew, things picking at you relentlessly.

First it was an unnamed need.  In someways, there wasn't much support from it.  Either you read and analyzed, or you took a creative writing class, the two separate.  The act was viewed as a duty of scholarship.  Not a jumping off point for one's own writing process, your own life as a writer, even as that proposition stares one in the face with each and every line.  Like a child watching an adult walk.  But the act of the classroom, which anointed literature as being something okay and healthy, good even, still amounted to the basic truth of  reading the works of other people who'd gravitated toward the process, for their own sanity and intuitive health.  Even Hemingway, remembering his vigor and health.

I myself was drawn in by the simplicity of Islands in the Stream, (posthumous, from Hemingway's notebooks) the writer's own version of Zen, a recording in intimate detail, for posterity, of the little regular things of everyday life, accounted for, aligned, so that the person would know where to find them the next day, reassured.  The textures of life recorded, along with the habits of the house pets, the cat, his boat, the sea, the fishermen and the places they ate, and again, peeling oranges and putting the peels into the flames to watch the fire, in this case driftwood, turn colors.   The act of writing seemed immediately to quell the anxiety.  It had some antidotal property, rejuvenating, calming, salubrious, cleansing, a breathing out of stale air in order to get fresh air in.

Is the point of it to be a professional, to get good at it, write fiction, have an editor, produce a book for the marketplace?  Or isn't it rather a bit more organic than that.  More an inherent human need, an extension of biological function.  Something that keeps us from going off-track (like Kerouac quite dramatically does in Big Sur--and we know the experience exists within the realm of possibility.)

If you write, it stands to reason, you have all that better a chance to listen to your inner voice, your inner self, and know a bit better how to act, what you need, what a realistic attitude would be..  If I'd taken up writing earlier in a supported way, I might have done a few things differently.  I might have been calmer, and reacted better, more attuned to my own heart, less stung by superficial critique and illusion.  Calmer, more positive.  Less self-destructive.

And yet, instincts told me I needed to write.  Early on enough, but not knowing how or what exactly to write about.  To write, you need experience, right?  You need to drive a nitroglycerin truck across the Yukon, take in first hand a civil war, travel to exotic places...  Otherwise, what possibly would we have to write about, that anyone else would want to read out of anything more than politeness, tolerant of your solipsistic doldrums not worth recording.

Yeah, but I took an immediate liking to the simple stuff, like Nick setting up his camp, or Kerouac surviving on the road day by day.  These were the sort of textures I liked.  Aren't we camping out every day, in life itself....  Are not we all hanging by a thread...

Those of us who write, and who write well, might simply be those who need the process more.   Writing acknowledges the need to slow things that happen quickly down enough to be assessed (still at the intuitive level where things must be assessed), the need to see out of the dense clouds of their own psyches and daily moods.

Perhaps the modern urban monastery of one's own writing practice isn't such a bad thing.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

But alas, grumpy comments about celebrity journalists aside, it is me who cannot be trusted going out to anything but a close dinner party.  I should stay home and write, is all.  And this is a fact, I think, of ancient humanity, of which Kerouac--look at him--represented.  As long as he was protected, writing at home, he was more or less okay.  But going out, it's always something.

A reason I never look forward to tending bar, the reason why it frightens me somewhat.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Oh, but there are many distractions for the writer.  I think of all the years Cervantes was stuck in situations not very conducive to productivity, aging all the while, but still, where he might have said, oh, I've missed too much time, too many years, what's the point, the plucky chap picked up his pen, no more attempts at literary efforts foreign to him, now I write for me.

And so I felt.  I cannot be trusted around many distractions, sure I'll have a Guinness, I might as well, here I am.  Oh, look at her, she's pretty...  Oh, that wine, it might taste pretty good, I bet.  And there is not a lot of reason to, after you've written in your morning, support going back, alone of course, to write more.  And years go by in states of coping, you cook dinner, the wine bottle is open, you do a little housekeeping, then later you're bored and feel the need for a little outside stimulation, Russia House.  No point writing then.

But you have to admit who you are.  You have to admit having the writer's psychology, admit the ability or desire in your heart for anything else.  It seems like such an odd thing to value.  What is writing, in its essence, but writing, and that you have to realize as your value.  And going to sit in the bar at Kramer's is not the same thing as writing, though you might want to think it looks like part of that life.  No.  Going home after buying Atticus Lish's book, after peeking into Infinite Jests and seeing that Volume Three of Knausgaard's My Struggle is in, and that the new biography of Joseph Mitchell is not, and looking over the vast array of other temptations and not blind to the female of the species, I pay and tell the young fellow with the cap behind the register, good luck with the chicks, and that I now am sensing general luck coming for him, going home after that to write a bit more, that is writing.  Even if it has no discernible plot nor a form.  A cool rainy Saturday night in late April, near Shakespeare's attributed birthday, with different versions of Kerouac, The Scroll, Visions of Cody, and the conventional paperback in Signet 25th Anniversary edition, plus Preparation for the Next Life to read through, I am returning to a former self, encouraged by I do not know what, but that I grow tired of the distracting devils that reside in me.

You can only write a little bit at a time.  And staying sober might help rather than hinder that, and going out really doesn't do much for the whole process except mysteriously, television as well.  Nope, you're stuck alone, in the quiet, and you might burn some incense, but there's not much more you can do but be good and keep at it.

Has it taken seeing the therapist to remind me of all this, of how I used to derive a lot of satisfaction from writing, even with little other tangible reward beyond that.  Remember your values.  Carry through with them, even if from outside they may seem odd.

Not much point is there to having a girlfriend even when you are not satisfied with your progress, and dating for me looks like a highly unlikely proposition, given my hours and the corresponding energy levels.  There is no home for me, no one to cook dinner with at One AM, but me.

I have not the stomach to write of affairs with women.  Nor am I that interested in tending bar.  Nor do I have any Dean Moriarty to hang out with.  Just me.

Or could it be that, with rare exceptions, the art of others is a thing tolerated, that you're better off with returning to those few artists who do make sense to you, who strike you as having good quality, and then not worry about the myriad of others, but be satisfied with the monkish quietude of the place you call home, underneath the older man kind enough to put you up when your brother moved on from the one bedroom basement you shared on the same street, ships passing in the night.  The art of others is much like waiting on people at a bar or restaurant.  You're putting energy in, serving, giving your time and attention, and often enough, it's okay just to stay in, amuse yourself as you see fit.

Ah, but here I am, bored with myself again, and the night at The Dubliner after the talk has made me see, as is typical, Saturday as my version of Sunday night, before the school day, back to work.

It's an odd way to live.  What can you do?  The life of a writer.

I am bored with myself now, but I am home alone, and the bottle of Chinon is chilled and open, the broiler heated for a satisfying hamburger.

There were times when I was ashamed, almost, of my love for Kerouac.  There was a time when I went to the National Gallery with my mom and I could not bring myself to buy the picture book biography that held things and stories I had not seen.

There was a time I would not go to book stores.  Life was about going to work at the bar.  I left the Chekhov on the shelf.  I got gloomy about the book I'd written, and it gloomed me to read it.

Blocks away from me the Correspondent's Dinner, televised.  I'm thinking my thoughts on Kerouac, but I've not resisted allowing the CNN coverage on in the background.  I like the President very much, as a human being, as a professional.  He has a sense of humor.  But the room is, you know, filled, filled with celebrity journalists, with dour Wolf Blitzer unable to play along lifting his hand.  The humorless are full of good humor and jokes to each other, and they are showing themselves off, the vain aspect of the world.  Which can only be seen in context of a faulted person, the writer.
Waking up with stiff joints and a subtle grating feeling in my guts--yes, I've eaten dough last night in my adventures, the bun of the Sirloin Burger at the Dubliner to catch some live Irish music after the Amherst President's reception at the Folger Shakespeare Library, the two slices of 'Triborough' at Flippin' Pizza after the Metro back.  My knee is reminding me of the Osgood Schlatter Syndrome I had long ago.  I know there are skeptics about the Gluten Free business, but I've had it corroborated many times, and I have Type O blood and, oh yes, I even succumbed to a few french fries along the line.  Ah, no wonder.   Usually I'm pretty good.

I've woken up late, mid-afternoon already, irritated with myself.  Colleges talk of diversity.  (Liberal Arts beset on many gloomy sides.)  "You have to step out of your comfort zone, and this is not easy."  And oh, suddenly, yes, this seems like one of my own deeper problems and failings, I must admit.  Why did I go back to my town, thinking of a poetic enough life with a pick-up truck and a dog.  But nowhere is that open anymore, if it ever was, where you could be like a Faulkner, or even like Kerouac, where you wouldn't be an outsider passing through, observing.  You'd have your friends, sure...

And my friends went off to the cities, and ultimately I had no other option, it seemed, so I did too.

But I wonder, as I try to think this thought out, that there is the element of similarity in all great books of a certain sort that the ending point is quite similar to the point of departure.  The points have the same taste, the same tone.  This is literally true of Finnegan's Wake, I am told, the whole story looping back on itself, Joyce being the master in his prose of time.  There is in On The Road the same sort of wistfulness to my own ear, to the beginning, "I first met Dean..." to the end, "I think of Dean Moriarty."  Chekhov stories can be like this too, even if a geographical location or a personal situation may have on the outside superficially changed.

Could it be, in the eyes of the greats, that we are the same, that we don't really change.  Quixote is still Quixote, even with all he goes through.  Levin is still Levin, he's just discovered a bit more and found a few contrasting styles of people along the way as if to highlight himself, the great journey of his great book exploring the human psyche about him.  Hamlet, tried and tested, is still the same young man as he was at the beginning.

The great discovery of the modernists (by which I mean all the greats who've told us stories like the ones mentioned above), could it be the discovery of personality, that people, in some way do not change much, even as they learn things, observe things, go through life.  Early Lincoln is the same phenomenon as the one who goes to the theater.

So how do we construe the great tale of being On The Road?   What do we make of Jesus going out into the desert for forty days?  What do we make of the life the Buddha, who begins as the young prince, becomes the seeker, and finally sits under the tree, is tempted by Mara and then overturns and dispatches all such evil...  How do we define that?

Well, we could go off to the therapist and talk about things, to sort out first hand experience to see what might and might not be true.   We put a label on things.  "I did not step out of my comfort zone," we might say to ourselves.  "This is clear when you look at my life events.  I think it happened here, at this point, when this happened."

That is one way to look at it, and there is work to be done, sure.

But then there is that weight, the odd fact of a kind of individual personality different from the rest.  One discovers what they, in essence, already know, that education is a process of awakening, as if to let nature tell the germinating sprout what kind of a thing, tree, or flower, or bush, species tulip, fern, it will arrange its cellular life into as it responds to the information of its surroundings, what kind of a thing it will be in the course of its life from embryonic state to maturity and beyond.  Something immutable.

Melville's Ishmael does not change much in the course of how many pages;  he observes a living fable (fictional, yes, but in fiction there is some truth, and in the details of the story there is a lot of reality that gets out) but serves as the observer, along for the ride, being who he is.

Kerouac does not change much.  He's a sympathetic type, curious, poetic, observational, in some ways conflicted without being able to act so much.  He's a doer, goes across the country, and yet, he can't tell Dean, No!  Slow down!  Don't barrel over the one-lane bridge...  He can't get out of the Cadillac headed to a show and give his friend Dean a proper good-bye and his friends won't give the guy a ride to Penn Station even in the cold, and so the story ends with Sal Paradise 'thinking' on the 'old broken down pier.'

So what is life, what are such portrayals, about?  They seem to be about self-knowledge, maybe of different kinds.  They seem to be about some sort of enlightenment, some way of seeing, not this changes any of the outer realities of life, not that this grants anyone the slightest power to change even.  But there is the development, of which Christ is an example thereof.  He comes and says the things and observes the things he is given, reading his own story.  The catechistic story focussed on the end, of what people do to to him, rather than the focus on his teachings, seem a bit beside the point, though it has to be included, I suppose, in order to satisfy something we seem as readers to need, as if we needed to tag him with a radio transmitter to follow his secretive movements off into the wilds.  Better to remember what it was like glimpsing the animal himself, the way he might have gently smiled, or turned around, or shrugged.

The Buddhist see the matter with an eye for the appropriateness of things.  The babe with the inner reality of a great composer was born into a certain family.  The deeper reality of the place where you went off to school, up on a hill across from the hill the Emily Dickinson houses sit below, the particular teachers you might have had with the echoes of Robert Frost in them, might too be construed as significant.

There is some significance in Kerouac's meeting Neil Cassidy, and some deep spiritual depths in what  he wrote, even as he, a true mortal, could not perfectly transcend to them, just as no one, I suppose really can (unless maybe you are really really really good, and the universe obeys.)  There is the resulting learning, the wisdom that comes partly through what might be like abusing yourself a bit, as Kerouac suffered.  But there is in Kerouac the birth, of the continuation, of a kind of prose comfortable with itself, comfortable with its human bearers.  (For which Neil Cassidy, via his famous letter to Kerouac, deserves credit for, even in his craziness, embodying.)   The revelation of how we think, the way words go about their business in our electric little minds.  Such as in a way that they might carry some form of a kind of truth, the same we might credit the statement "all men are created equal" with a bit of it.

And so our own little picaresque probably more boring as far as details story's appropriateness toward telling the story of humanity, if we are born to be story tellers, reveal some form, some possibility, yet without economic label, of human character, of the goodness of our own little vehicle on this larger vehicle the planet Earth.  Not simply as failures, as Quixote is a failure, his victories imagined, not off this earth, forlorn things, then would we see them as, but as some further opportunity to, as we learn hopefully, go out into the desert, and come back having figured out how to say no to distractions and other things that prey upon the mind.

Followed by a great utterance of the true Self we all can share in, even if such were separate from the workings of the world of so-called reality.

But we all have our own little endings of our own little On the Roads, our own personal version, quite possibly often changing, mirrored in the last line, and I'll write it out here:

I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty.

Perhaps the very title, plain, meaningful, should tip us off, of deeply meaningful things going on, heroically, within.

As a footnote, yes, I would imagine, it takes a generous person to take such things on as a professional hobby, no promise of the tangible rewards we beings might reasonably seek, putting one's self into forms of harm's way, for the purpose.

I like an Irish pub, a real one, legitimate, with history.  They are plain and simple places, of generally good hospitality.  The Dubliner has walls of deep green, a faded painting of inside the Post Office from the Easter Uprising of 1916.  I had walked in without intending to drink anything more than soda water, having been good at a collegiate reception, but once sat at a stool, well, of course, I'll have a Guinness.  There was a man with a guitar, and I wanted to check him and the place out, as a way of gauging my own musical efforts toward the direction of Irish music.

Sitting next to an affable chap of white hair, I ask him if he is the musician, as the barman treated him deferentially--I come in a lot, he explained, nudging over the red faced man seated at the table with a group of friends--and soon I'm singing along with The Irish Rover and other songs I have a gist of the words for.  One stout, nursed slowly, is followed by another, and the man on the stage is taking requests.

Ahh, what was I going to do with my night anyway, but get back to Dupont, pick up a bottle of red for insurance, cook, read...  Living alone, that doesn't sound too exciting.  Maybe I'd play through my songs, myself, keep them in practice.  Get out of your comfort zone.  It's nice to have a new experience, something I never do, in a different part of tone.  The bar is relaxed.  No biting off more than you can chew on the part of a restaurant.

To the writer, time is ever a foreign substance, and so, like sands through the hourglass, or shadows cast by the sundial, time seems handily measured out by pints of Guinness, by the songs that pass from the stage out over the audience, until a burger, the paying of the check, the final chats with neighbors, then the Metro.  But what else would you do with time, but spend it in some idyll, some dreamy observational walk, the writer cannot help see it otherwise.  In time, proper, there are meetings to be met, the seizing of occasion to nail things down, the mysterious equation of time being money and opportunity for the things you'd really like to do, the way you'd really want to purposefully spend the God-given years of life.  But for the writer, what to achieve, but to write as one can write what one is given to write, such mystery to think over like a statue.

Oh, there's groceries, the bottle of wine to procure, for that end of the day and relaxing.  Missing in life is the cheap public space, comfortable, not too noisy in a harsh way, not too amped up by large television screens, and with the proper lighting and staff attitude.  In the consumer world of the city, these are hard spaces to come by, and each offers its own purchased distractions.  You got up too late to go to the library, and that can get dull anyway.  There are birds, robins, rustling in a tall thicket of bamboo.

The writer, totally, is a wanderer, semi-aimless, ready to answer questions wisely, and described so well by Kerouac's sketch at the beginning of On The Road's final chapter, of calling up to a flat where he thinks friends are having a party and out of the window a pretty girl sticks her head out the window, asks who he is, and then says come on up for hot chocolate...  "We agreed to love each other madly."  That's how it is for a writer, perhaps because he, or she, knows the ultimate reality, that we alight as birds on a tree, build our little nests, do our thing according to nature and that, my friends, is life.  There's nothing really to write about other than that, is the truth.  So why go blustering around to fancy and foreign places when it's all right there in front of you, just that you have to relax, and put up with it and live gently and peacefully.  That's not, apparently, for everyone, nor their cup of tea.  'Look at me, I'm doing things!'  Okay, says the writer, less enthusiastically, for some reason, fearing that one day the friend will get bored with you or move off to create their own world around their own illusions of self while you write away and think your thoughts.  They'll jealously guard their own things, it does seem, perhaps until the final realities dawn upon them too, and then they'll be okay with you, finally.  Thus the singular devotion writing might take, finally, who knows.

Is life really that random?  Can you, Mr. Writer, really not stand up for anything?  Do you have any sort of opinion, or thing to say?  To which the writer will secretly feel like he's already said it.  Defend yourself, idiot!  Uh, I think I'll go for a walk.  Would you like to come?  Maybe?

Oh, such is life out on the road.   You're happy with simple things, like the piece of apple pie with ice cream that gets you across the country... 

Maybe this accounts for the sweet sadness that goes with meeting all the incidental people of the world, the thought of which makes the writer shy, having to act, to go buy your bottle of Pinot Noir down at the shop or look for a good book at Kramer's, that feeling like you are a child, but thankfully encountering the same shy kind humanity in other people as they too go about their business as easily as they can.  A conversation always starts, and the writer handles it as well as anyone, and there's humor to be had in life's vagaries, in its haphazard randomness organized into things like wine shops and book stores through which living beings pass, having sprung out of nature themselves, awkwardly enough, beautifully enough, with as much right to occupy space as any other things.  Like Buddha says, gesturing to Mara, by touching the earth, I have a right to this space, in one of the most radical utterances humanity has ever come up with.  Ka-bang.

Feelings, I suppose, are a bit beside the point.  What can you do, but suffer and at times enjoy them.  But in letting them flow through, letting them come and go, is the proper way to hold on to them.   Chagrin, wistful and familiar friend, I think of her quite often, and that's just the way it is, no need to put dirty words on it, judgmental terms.

Friday, April 24, 2015

It's a strange process putting things into words.  It's like trying to play music out of random notes, hoping a melody or a theme or a purpose will show up.  How can words convey an experience, the grinding squeal of the train's undercarriage as it thumps along the rails entering New York or the golden light, the smells, the breeze coming up from the river through aged skyscrapers and dirty brick and bridge scaffolding above the rock underpinnings of the city as you walk along, the almost sweaty breathtaking but slow emotions that meet the deli menus and the actual hustle and bustle, deal with all that, but remain as they are even in their guises.  How can the beast make sense of anything, and no sense can be made but that some people have jobs, some people are making money out of money, and that some of us are poor wandering spirits waiting and wondering, what will happen of all this, and where could I possibly fit in.

I woke, slightly hungover, the sixth floor hotel room overlooking Roosevelt Park, the remains of a pastrami sandwich on rye from Katz deli in a plastic bag over on the desk, the birthday party done, myself to entertain.  A good long shower, gather your things, check-out and then I go sit on the park bench, as a couple sits and eats dumplings of Chinatown with their basenji, a cherry tree in full bloom, young people in exercise clothes, and I think of Kerouac, the Holy Goof.  My feet and legs are sore from walking down from Penn Station the day before in not the best shoes for walking on restaurant-cured caveman foot pads, but I'm up for walking, and I think of his closing lines for On the Road.  Sitting on an abandoned pier, looking across the big river at New Jersey, thinking of the great land mass his buddy has just crossed and then promptly headed back over, nostalgically, he thinks of Dean Moriarty.  And I would like to go find the spot, the scene for the last part of his long real life poem...  I think of him reading that last passage on the Steve Allen Show, a shy man with expression and cadence and tone in his voice.

There is the house over on West 20th Street where he wrote the Scroll manuscript in his type writer, living there with his wife Joan Haverty.  I walk slowly up from Chinatown, up along the Bowery past the homeless, past the better off having brunch, the light clear, a few clouds but the sun out.  I walk eastward to take a glimpse down Broadway, but my feet are not up for the forty-five minute walk down to Battery Park.  I pass up slowly by the Cooper Union, thinking of how Lincoln spoke there, up to Union Square in city bustle, Earth Day preparations in the park, and as I slow, by the time I hit 20th Street I have committed myself toward meeting my bus right above Penn.

Later, when I look it up, my visit coincides with the writing of On the Road, the intense burst of early April 1951, ending on the 22nd.  And such things are a comfort, that if one is not, say, psychic, one might at least have such facts and figures and bits and pieces of knowledge and education tucked away somewhere upstairs, perhaps not even so much consciously addressed.  Or is it that Spring is simply the time when men still with some youth in their veins take to writing out what they've stored up in their hearts, making the effort, oh what the hell why not...  April, the month of Good Friday and Easter, of my kiss with the beautiful girl twenty nine years ago I was too shy with, April the month of my father's passing away and his funeral, April the time when the Earth comes alive and the dark gods of the underworld release their captive maidens...  And Kerouac, what was he thinking, except that he was inspired and, yes, amped up somewhat on benzedrine, he put the scroll of teletype paper in his typewriter and began the actual moonshot, rising out of all his sketches, recalling them, having woodshedded and woodshedded, and then the writing of course had no editor looking over his back, 'you need to say that in 500 words,' no, each word having its little place in the great tale.

Practical, yes, practical, practical beings we forget such things, and push them away from us as we try to grow up and be adults.  If we were writers we'd try to find some practical way--right?--to be employed, Joseph Mitchell coming to mind, kindred spirit.

I'm good and fatigued, tired and down and vulnerable, singing a line or two of Carikfergus as I wander my way to the grocery store Glen's Market to replenish supplies of meat and vegetable.  Okay, I'll make a stew, and when I reheat it in will go the green vegetables.  In a moment of lonely weakness I stop at the little bar for an O'Reilly's Stout from Pottstown, PA., energy for the chef who has to cook later on, now at 9:30 as people wind down their night with satisfying conversation.  I plunk down alone at the counter looking away from the bar out the windows, too cold expect under the brasseries above yonder picnic tables, and pull out my phone, not bothering to take my windbreaker off.  The good people at DC blogs have been extremely kind to mention along with all relevant blog pieces about life and events and happenings in Washington my own sketches of thoughts ambling out of visits with the therapist--a good enough literary endeavor, I think--and I take a bit of time to read through the passages written and published if that's what you'd call it in this format, and that, the reading, is satisfying.  But the stout, tasty and creamy, dark and bitter, dulls the sad edge, dulls the Irish voice that wanted to sing ballads, and it is as if I've been pulled back in, even as I sit at the edges.  I have written already this day, this afternoon, after I woke at four, so it's not the worst thing, just that maybe I should have just shrugged, admitted to lonesomeness, and walked on home with my groceries.

"Typing," Capote caustically remarked of the poor great man's spiritual effort of words.  I don't think so.  Or, if so, you'd have to condemn us all and never read again.  So much baloney in the world, so much snare and delusion bait and switch, crafty promises that lead toward disappointments;  this you realize as you grow up, and there is only your self to listen to, though, Lord knows, Kerouac too, we all get distracted, and I myself know this very too well.

Kerouac would have found his own disillusionments.  He would have had enough of Neal Cassidy, later if not sooner, and after the publishing of On The Road, their relationship was never the same, and maybe Kerouac would have had the good sense to say no to crazy, for his own poor health.  Fame was enough of a devil, riding the temperate "King of the Beats" into indulgence as he sat trying to write in his mom's basement on Long Island.

But there was, yes, the famous letter, from Cassidy, which inspired Jack Kerouac, giving him the sense of a new form, a new way to write, the novel as an uninhibited letter to an old friend, in doing so giving birth to what he called 'spontaneous bop prosody.'  For that Cassidy deserves some credit, though, yes, maybe he was just Cassidy being Cassidy.  Enabler of a Whitmanesque vision that had to come from Kerouac himself, and that he alone could carry out.

You have to give Kerouac credit for that most writerly of things, which is a reasoned diagnosis of his own human condition, the illness for which one must by thine own physician, to first realize them, and then, through writing cope with them, to take that which is not good health and make good health of it, best as one can.  To these ends he was rather scrupulous, doing headstands for phlebitis and general health, for his deep interest and study of Buddhism, and of course for his writing habit.  For his efforts, he deserved praise and also support.  Did he shy away from that support?  Could one not see him asking for it?  Was he too removed from any offer, keeping up his writing habit protectively...

Narrative fiction, like the newspaper or magazine piece, needs a melody pulled out of the random notes an author puts down, so it seems, if you want to get published.  It needs shape and form, so it is believed.   Who can disagree with that?  And yet, the writer is his own form, his own story, and should not be taken off his natural track.

It's only through being himself that he can get at the moments he needs to write down, moments natural to him, an extension of his emotion, his artistic eye.  And there are, in Kerouac's own chosen form, a plethora of rich moments.  They are not the made-up creations of theatrical fiction, Shakespeare's genius playing with borrowed plots and characters, which of course has an edge on reality itself for ripe offerings, but they have a place of their own worth homage.

You can overcome anything, even the deepest of shame, I would think, if you write, if you enter the complexity of human emotion.  It's like Tolstoy:  write and you won't be throwing yourself under any trains, ha ha ha.  Or course, writers may be a bit peculiar for the way they share their emotions, but it's better than nothing anyway...  Interviews with the self.  Maybe they go nowhere, or maybe they do go somewhere, into some privileged space in which participants honor each other.  And it is a brave act, to put forth a way, in some ways a new standard for human communications.

The world is too busy going about its selfish business to stop and ponder the possibility of a way, a new form, of improving or expanding human communication.  But young minds, growing minds, they are fairly open to such things, and for good reason and for benefit Kerouac is read.

But yes, Doctor, I wrote and I wrote, long after any sensible person would have packed up his stakes and moved on to a better job and things.  I wrote without sense of a purpose or a particular project.  Maybe I became addicted to it, I mean, in the sense that there are perhaps more healthy things to be engaged in, particularly when you have a lot of worries on your mind.  I wrote as a kind of way to explain myself to myself, to understand, to feel better about things.  Yeah, I kept at it, and doing so meant the same four shifts over and over, the same job, the same night shift hour rhythm and lack of daylight.  Maybe the depressive effects were self-feeding in a way, I don't know.  But what's the original condition, that makes you who you are.  You don't really seem to need any labels, when you get down to it, even if the world's full of labels and judgments ready to say your this or that for what you do or the way you act...

Get up in the morning, and do your thing.  Avoid overly direct contact with the outside world when you're writing.  And then there becomes not much difference between happy states and sad states, if you have the time to meditate over them.  I guess that's a good thing, right?  Well, it keeps you from getting excited at the next offer, and the supposedly fun thing I'll never do again, in David Foster Wallace's terms.  All the wiser.  And if you can write, you know, you can deal with the darkness.  And that's who I am, or all I am.  I'm just an honest guy, and that's about all I'm worth.  And I think you're brave if you write, rather than just try to gloss everything over.  We're human, we make mistakes, we have our character, mixes of good and bad, and there needs to be a way of dealing with all that, and Lord knows, I've made enough mistakes.

And this was the thing with Kerouac, not that I would know, but that it's a back and forth between good healthy things and writing on the one hand, an boredom on the other.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

They hit upon the Zeitgeist, you know, The Beatles.  "You think you've lost your love;  well, I saw her yesterday.  It's you she's thinking of, and she told me what to say.  Because she loves you, and you know that can't be bad.  With a love like that, you know you should be glad..."  Something like that.  "Hey Jude" has basically the same message.  That love is the reality.  Don't get disheartened, or negative.  And the young women and the girls in the audience screamed, overtaken with this expression of primordial truth, emotional reality, however you'd want to put it.  And a large part of the modern world seemed to open up, as if embraced by the sun, looking around, and it was a good time for such a thing, maybe a time that needed such a positive truth about human relationships, and what better one to portray than that, a guy and a gal, caught in the tight rules of society and how to act, and their egos, and their hurt feelings what-have-you, and now able to break free and love each other as their hearts truly wished.  A celebration of the possibilities of communication, wonderful, wondrous, with a sense of humor even.  Stuff of higher consciousness, really, when you think about it.  Fifty years ago now, more or less.

It makes you wonder, what's the zeitgeist now, who is conveying it, who is listening to it, in what form...  Is it Karl Ove Knausgaard?  The long books of My Struggle, the writer's shyness meeting the world on fair terms, the quality of deeply personal admission?

The zeitgeist is within us.  It's in me, it's in you, in him, in her.   Maybe it takes a trip sometimes, to see it, like if you've been stuck in Washington at your desk job punching out widgets so frequently that it began to seem like all there is, that and housekeeping, dishes, the laundry, and you go up to New York City for a weekend.  A fresh experience, being surrounded by strangers, yes, the actor's secret, will open you up.

Every now and again I look back at some of things I've written.  I don't read my roman a cléf piece very often, feeling a sense of not being able to look at it, made sad by it, the same reliving of things I do to my own detriment on a daily morning basis when I am lonesome and not knowing what to do with myself, when there's nowhere to go really except for a walk and the grocery store.  But I think of some of the pieces written here, and I look back at the very early ones, back seven years ago, to see where I started, where the impulse began, continuous of the novel and other things.  I reread Plane Crash, about first coming to DC.  I reread A Train, about going up to New York to see a play my friend was in, having missed him in Angels In America in my rut.

I've been repetitive, I know.  The same half-motifs or mentions.  But, for better or worse, it is writing.  It is some personal attempt to reach down into the stream of the times I find myself in, scared, vulnerable, just trying to get by, but also, in some sort of I hope positive effort, trying to do some of what I was meant to do.

I have barbaric American manners, I suppose.  I wish writing could show up more in that field of manners, in which one is a writer even when he's doing other necessary things to pay rent and occupy his time.  I'd wish to be courtly, temperate, a gentleman, an understanding type, one who looks past the immediate reactions for the deeper reaction that underlie quick words and doors shut in your face and phone calls that end abruptly, to not feel hurt in other words, but to smile graciously and try again in a more polite fashion...

I am the closer, I guess, somewhat ironically, closing the bar, nailing the end down, four times a week.  I'm the last one at the restaurant I jokingly refer to as The Dying Gaul.  What rush am I in?  I'm a writer.  Like Knausgaard I need, in order to be creative, the anonymity that allows for no interruptions when I am trying to track down the fleeing hares of thoughts and dreams and feelings coalesced around words.  He works at a coffee shop until they start to recognize him as a repeat customer, say hi to him, give him one on the house, then he's done, retreating, back to wandering in search of some other place to write, as a little background noise can help the process, maybe in that it eases the sense of being lonely in person, in thought, in speech.

But I am not much of a, as they say, deal closer.   The day off is simple.  I get up when I finally am able to, I do the dishes, drink the tea made yesterday from the fridge, take on the laundry, and I sit at home, and I write what I am able to write.  An attempt at capturing the mind's utterances in a non-judgmental fashion, because if I stopped to judge, nothing, not at thing would get written.  And by writing's most simple of acts you are casting out a net, as wide as you can, without distraction, and it is the wider net that lets you catch the things on your mind, the things that come out as little blips and bleeps, which then need to be laid out and sorted, connected, so as to see the relevance of the individual piece of it.  It's not always inspiring, nor inspired, except I suppose when you take it on the long term view, as if to applaud a poor clerk who, like a crow, collected some particular bits and pieces and in his off time glued them together in some Gaudian form that was simply what it is and nothing other, albeit evocative of natural form.

The leather couch bores me.  I sit back in it, low, the laptop warm on my thighs.  I used to go down to Starbucks on R Street and sit outside, but that can be problematic.  I think of taking a good long walk.  Did I miss anything?  What did I miss?  I'm sure some thought somewhere has been neglected, and I'm basically okay with being alone, as if to shrink down into the sea bed after all the energy of being up in the business end of the coral reef, the closer, the last one filtering the night's waters before going home, having another glass of wine, the comfort of the TV remote and finally the covers.

Call me Ishmael, the wanderer, ever since a particular time, set of events, a person of female form, never quite satisfied of where I am, with a few exceptions, a few moments here and there, a few places, that's just life, as they say.

I suppose that's why I like the play that Pogues song, Shane MacGowan's Rainy Night in Soho.  It seems to inhabit a moment that is us, who we are.  That moment we have in our day to dream a little bit.

I was reading somewhere an eye-witness account of Lincoln's entrance into Ford's Theater that night. The light caught him as he passed through the audience, and visible was the burden on his face, some form of sorrows habitual.  That he got shot just as he politely chuckled over a line, well, might be somewhat comforting, I mean, if you had to find something in the whole awful thing...

We hear the drumbeat in Kundera in the novel he writes of his father's final illness, the Communist take-over of the Czechoslovakia, 1968.  His father, a conductor, unable to talk, points to the score of a late Beethoven piano sonata, mutely expressing the deep significance of the piece, and we get the son's interpretation, Beethoven drilling down to the very center of the earth with each new run at the initial theme.  As in the story of Hamlet, this is where that thing which is genius comes out.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The doctor, my therapist, showed me a chart about the effects of drinking.  She had it out the session before, but we'd gotten distracted by my coming trip to New York, which then veered off into several of the many episodes with what's her name and that how she probably was simply too busy with all her duties to keep blogging, to keep in touch not that such a thing would be possible anyway, being a mother, a writer, and all that, up in the city.  But we did not discuss the chart that time, and so when I reminded her she she said, oh yes, stood up and went over to her desk, and there was the piece of paper with a sinuous curve, one up, showing the effect while drinking, and then crossing down below, showing the after-effects the next day.  A depressive slows down the synapses, and that's why we feel some relief, by slowing everything down.  But if we keep on drinking, the mood does not get any happier, in fact the good feeling wanes, and then we probably finally go off to sleep, and the next day the effect is that familiar down depressed anxious feeling.  As tolerance builds, the high of the initial curve lessens, and the depth of the secondary curve deepens.  On the chart was a diagonal rising, as if more would make you feel better, the sine curve below it.

"This I read in Buddhist literature, that if more made you feel better than it was a good thing, but of course, more does not make you feel better," I offered.

Well, that's why I drink wines like Chinon and Beaujolais, the twelve percent wines.  That's why I don't drink any hard alcohol at all.  Guinness is reasonably safe, too.

Monday night was a pain in the ass.  The downstairs server, V., who controls all the incoming calls for reservations sent everyone upstairs, really pushy about the fact of there being live jazz.  Monday night is not the A Team.  Nice guys, but bumbler of a bus boy, and the waiter, he's gone in two weeks, because of V. being a person few people like to work with.  Server V. was content leaning against the cooler with her phone out, Facebooking.

But Tuesday, wine tasting night, and better help.  And a sense returned of how I really do derive satisfaction from waiting on people, helping them out, being friendly and hospitable.  I like a barroom, people eating good food, having some wine to go with it.  A beautiful thing.  I only wish as a young man I'd started out in New York, I mean, if I'm going to be in this business, as it makes some sort of basic sense, understandable, recognizable, if not profitable, for me.  I like it.  I'm good at it.  I hold it down pretty well.

And it takes my mind off of her, basically.  It's like a cacoon, a bubble, a safe place away from my mind, in which I don't have to think about her, because I'm too busy to think, because I'm engaging, assessing, telling, asking, and finally, with the customers, talking.  All the way up to giving the guys in the kitchen a round of wine, the locker room talk...  And I do try to control what I do when I get home, to get to bed, or take a bath with epsom salts and lights down low...

And the next day I wake up tired all over, because the body has been hustling for eight hours plus.  The bike ride home...

And yes, as in accordance with the chart I wake up very sad, feeling tired, thinking about her, thinking about all my fool mistakes, not wanting to get up out of bed, getting up finally when I have to, shower at 2:30, cook breakfast, etc., because you can no longer count on what they feed us for a family meal...  Shower, fold a shirt in a notebook, get my courier bag and go...  Trying not to think about it too much, and off I go to do it all over again.  Me and my liberal arts educated English major ass...

But I can totally get the pull of literature.  It's the work of a whole field of depressives, the ones who stay at it long enough to get good at it.  I mean, Cervantes, the unhappiness he went through...  It's palpable in poor old gentle Kerouac, the elegiac quality, the things he remembers, poor sick little Gerard, the little saintly brother who dies, the rest of Lowell, his dying father, the emptiness of the wandering life, and all that Buddhism.  Emily Dickinson.  Hemingway.  Look at their lives, you can plainly see...  Charles Dickens, Blake, Shakespeare, of course, these are people fighting a battle they can never win, a grim one, against time and lost love and the ultimate lack of meaning in the world for whatever reasons...  Are they a happy lot, with contented love lives and professional lives?  No, I don't think so, I see them as strugglers...  Particularly in memoir form, and all literature is a disguise of such, the elegiac sad quality leads us to experience the beauty of things, perhaps because to read such things turns on our empathetic qualities, as if we would know that we were indeed all doomed, or all idiots as in Dostoevsky, or however you'd want to say it.

It's like it's the only recourse, the only place left in the world to live in, a fantasy life, yeah, but at least you're trying to get meaning out of life, or looking for it...  Can't blame folks for doing that.

That's why I write.  Because of all the stuff that gets swept over, not communicated, not expressed, not put into the world when it was there so vividly and fully in the heart.  You get cut off, lord knows, in the cacophony of humanity.  The fact that people die, what can you do, they die and you can't tell them you love them anymore, and people die to each other because of the practicalities of life and all the 'choices you make.'  Cold dry people look at it that way, choices, and I can see what they mean, but there are other things that effect people, sensitive, stubborn, hurt, human, fallible, foolish, drunk with whatever, caught in attachment to ego...

And all this stuff of higher consciousness, of writing, yes, it is like being born, or giving birth.  It's painful.  Is that what I was trying to do, to give birth to a higher peaceful passive consciousness, something we don't have a full set of terms for, that show us more in the light of the Sermon on the Mount and Corinthians long suffering love...  The "infinitely gentle, infinitely suffering thing" of Eliot's "Preludes," the consciousness of the Universe looking back upon itself through its own minerally human-eye windows, wishing for a great peace to come over the gentle earth.  We look through tears, we look hopefully, expressively, and our great loves can come to nothing at least in the old understandings of lower consciousness we're trying to rise above, to a place where our true loves are indeed appropriate, where the heart calls the shots, the primary reality.  The peace of appropriateness spreading, no one questioning it, no one picking it apart.

If there is such a thing, yes, it probably is highly painful.  And it must somehow rise above all the noise of the old empires, through little pricks of light we don't know much what to make of, like Jesus and the Buddha...  And mortals like the poets and Kerouac to kind of nudge toward...  People who admit to not knowing much in the way of final answers or moral decrees, but who take the raw material of life and their own personal experiences.

But the more you hear it, the more you listen to Beethoven or Billy Bragg, 'and the love that we spoke of forever, on St. Swithin's Day,' or read Emily Dickinson or Hemingway or Shakespeare, the sort of worse, 'worse,' you become, the more passive, stubborn, the less you communicate in culturally conventional ways, (finding them increasingly awkward, and yourself less capable of the dance, no longer stomaching them as truth), the more you communicate through musical notes and gestures and lines of poetry and brain waves and all the other ways infinitely gentle, infinitely suffering of communicating.  It comes out of your face, your eyes...

And these things are worth putting down because, to me anyway, they represent the core of human experience, the main vein of it, such that I feel familiar and comfortable with the sorrowful mode, seriously, and this maybe why we, as I see it, are only truly ourselves with the funereal, when the funeral train decked out in black, passes us by, on the way to a final resting place for a man, and on one side of the tracks one kind of people, the poor let's say, and on the other, the somewhat better off, but all brought together in the peace of mourning someone who said some good stuff.

And maybe the most entirely 'messed-up' thing about it, is that people would take it as weakness, that they would shun the mournful mode of remembering a brotherly kind.  No, don't be sad, we're all old.  Like, why don't you stand up for yourself and say it out loud or make it happen, be aggressive, be male...  But Jesus H., that is the thing, you are standing up, you are standing up for a thing on its own terms.  You are standing up.  And you're a realist, pretty much.  Because somehow the lens of the mode lets you in on an understanding of the rest of human nature, the petty vanities, the selfishness, the protectiveness, the willingness to shut out and shut down...

But for your leadership call, you kind of get ostracized.  You almost get pushed off the ridge at the end of town, or almost get stoned, feeling animosity in the unprotected heart.  You fall into a tough time.  People have all their little rules, their hardened sense of how to play the game.  To other people trying to live their lives as best and as comfortably and as well as they can, to them, the writer's general attitude is a skewed thing.

Every shift I've ever gone off to, I've done it with some sort of sense of Christian duty, in some form of depression, which then in turn increases my sense of humor, my kindness toward people, but with that nagging lack of satisfaction of the heart's personal stuff, as if it were not allowed me.  Yeah, I know what Jesus is saying when he pours them wine and tells them that they're, in essence, drinking his blood.  Drinking his blood yeah, to say nothing of the body, that bread which is broken.   A good repast with some ceremony, a feast even, is not that far away from the final laying in the ground, the thing that's always there in the background.  Viewed in linear time, yes, how ephemeral, like June bugs, our brief lives are...

But they (the writers, I mean) they all had it, they all had some person, some girl back there in time who broke their hearts, thus all the music...  As if they needed to be inoculated with the cancer in order to live a full and healthy life, good feelings and conventional happiness set aside.  And the writing got easier once they admitted it, making it easier on themselves, to just let the truth, unspeakable as it may be, awkward to normal society, to come out.  Like a sense of injustice that people have sometimes, the sense when something is not right.

It's like Irish music.  Simultaneously about love and justice, freedom, sorrow.  "Oh, Kitty, my darling, remember..."

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

But Doctor, how could I not feel like a big scumbag about the whole thing.  You know, taking all that opportunity, and like, look where I am now.  For no good reason.

And then you, you know, wait on people and some of them, yes, like Melloncamp says, it's like playing to a room full of drunks chattering away...  And try to deal with that situation without not wanting a good glass of wine when you go home, just to unwind.

So here I am, fifty, and what have I done with my life.  Nothing respectable, like being a lawyer, or a doctor, or a banker, or even having gone to graduate school to be like a college professor.

And all that unspeakable stuff, that trap, that steel trap created by boy girl interaction and my own lack of action, my own, I don't know, misguidedness that sprung from the thing...  So hard to talk about because it's all locked in this tight knot you can't begin to explain as a way to unravel it all, except that, yeah, like you said, just like you said, she said a few things that made me feel like a scumbag, which I suppose is my Achilles heal.

So anyway, you go through life, and you have good intentions and pure spiritual practices and yoga, but, because of it all, because of the stress and the unhappiness and the sense of being defeated over my own goodness, like, what are you left to do but conclude that you are the Prodigal Son himself.

What do you do?  Do you quit everything and start all over again.  Jesus says as much;  if thine eye offends thee, cut it out, something like that.  Sounds a little brutal.  But better to lose a hand or whatever than to be sunk in the depths with a  millstone around your neck.

Why is it me, the peacemaker, who ends up as the outcast, the deviant?  Shouted down, as if.

We could all use a little positive feedback in this world, no?  And that's just the thing.  Unintentionally, we get hurt, and when we're hurt, we hurt the other...  And on and on, into a spiral.

SO.  Here I am.  Talking to you.  And you are kind enough to soften the blows, and say kind things to me...

But there I am, shrink of entire neighborhoods, talking to anyone and everyone, and what do I get out of it?  What do I come home to?

Monday, April 20, 2015

"It's not the ego so much, but the attachment, the identification with the ego as our self," therapist says.  She pulls a yoga book off the shelf and finds a quote from the Upanishads.

I saw John Mellencamp on PBS last night, talking to Jan Wenner.  And he's saying that he needs to write and work and paint and make music, because if he doesn't it's all turned inward against the self, that he becomes the worst hypochondriac.  "I do it because I have to," plain and simple.

That resonated with you.

Yes, it does.

I got up and checked out of the hotel in Chinatown, sat in Roosevelt Park down there, cool, but the sun was out, and I was thinking of Kerouac's Holy Goof, the Dostoevskian idiot he knows himself to be.  And I thought about the last passage from On the Road, where he's sitting out overlooking the river across at New Jersey rising up, and the whole land mass, much like the ending of The Great Gatsby, the fertile breast, sitting on some broken down pier, I think of Dean Moriarty.   I think of Dean Moriarty.  So on my own after the party and everything, catching up with Daitz, I have to entertain myself, so was Kerouac down in Battery Park?   Well, I just ended up walking along, everyone out at brunch in cool restaurants.  Very stylish, very hip.  So I just walk along, slowly, my feet and legs feeling it.  I wanted, or I thought of venturing up to the West Side, where she grew up, I mean, just to get the vibe, for some kind of understanding of it all, the completely stupid misunderstanding between us.  It's sunny out and everyone is out of their winter burrows, catching the light, there in front of the Flatiron, in Union Square, back down in the Village...

And this is the life I should have led, the place where I wanted to be, with creative people, publishing, theater, music, art...  And every where it's a beautiful place.  The wind is blowing, the air is fresh, energizing you, the water from the tap tastes great, sweet, pure.  People are cool...  There's no place like it.  And I'm walking along miserable enough, such that I understand Lincoln saying how miserable he is that if he took it and shared it with all the rest of humanity there would not be a single smiling face anywhere on the globe...

Hemingway has a line about New York, to the effect that writers there are like fireflies caught in a bottle, feed off each other but not experiencing broader deeper reality, life...  He was a bit of a dick, though...  But, I'll give him credit because he had it and he knew it and he even had a name for it, the black dog, and to an extent he knew how to treat it, or try to treat it, by writing, of course.  He had, I think, a fairly good sense of humor about it, or, an understanding so good that it could be comical as well as tragic, that writing was like bringing back to show to someone the pieces of something that had been magnificent, a treasure, but that blew up or something, like lifting a torn limb and saying, look...  Something like that he wrote somewhere...  He had his Agnes Von Kurowsky, with whom he would never speak to or of, except early on in his work explaining her Dear John letter, but whom he obviously was never able to forget.  A terribly shy man, not that he would come off that way, a photographer, Karsh, once said.

And so, is it that the Universe is trying to tell us something, like how to evolve, when we go through such unhappy things?   Like, why me?  I'm a sensitive guy, or maybe too much so, kind, kind way beyond his own level of competence to deal smoothly with things like city girls.  Too subject to emotion.

Unless he writes.  Unless he gets the chance, or takes it, to sit down and figure and scribble in his notebook...  That's the only thing that soothes it, the dark burning sensation of hopelessness, and you have to do it every day...  Great.   Well, at least you know...

Anyone can come along and tell you, well, just don't think about her.  Even your mom, tells you that, 'are you still thinking about her,' or, more plainly, and speaking from wisdom well-earned, 'keep thinking about her and your sunk.'   My boss tells me, his French personal business-man wisdom, 'you can't think of the past.'  Well, everyone tells you that.  Live in the moment.  Live in the present.  Well, OF COURSE.  But...  you know, it's not that easy, it's not that simple.  We're sensory-perception beings with minds and memories that hold such things out of their very nature, and you can only gather that the purpose of this is to teach us something.  What?  How not to be an idiot next time a girl like that so rare comes along and you really like each other but something gets in the way of you being yourself, unable to know why....  Is this part of the process that brings us to our destiny, the evolution of the species out of the cold hard carapace of the self and ego attachments...  How do we share that?  It seems too unhappy a thing to share, unless there really really is a point after all, and that there will be at some point some sort of undefined peace or happy resolution...  Like something out of A Tale of Two Cities...  if you had to portray it, and maybe that's indeed the only place where such things can exist, in art, in the mind, in our own wishes of how the blank meaningless story of life plays out in your fond childhood sandbox that's a whole lot different from reality.

I wouldn't wish being a writer on anyone.  Rather should they be cold literal lawyers and bankers, who only see things cheerily by the light of ineffable rules, no shades of grey.  No many ways to interpret, did you make money or lose money, did the judge agree or not agree....  Even Jesus says something like this, resolve things with thy neighbor lest ye get cast into jail for the rest of your life.   Even Jesus... for all the lilies of the fields and the sparrow's raiment... Don't leave things up to chance, or you are going to pay dearly beyond dearly.

An entire city of the world shows you the place where you should have had your life, and instead you're on a bus seated next to an obese Latin American woman watching the flats of New Jersey and Delaware and Maryland roll past you.

Well, at least I have a therapist to talk to about things I'd be too shy and circumspect to really want to talk to with anyone, something I can only share bits and pieces with politeness looking over my shoulder telling me to forget about the whole thing, not burden anyone with it.  Their wisdom wouldn't make a bit of difference anyway.  You still go through what you go through.  Heretical as that might seem to the economic way of life.  "Here, the whole thing will bring you pain for the rest of your life and make you question yourself."  That would at least be the truth.  The sorry truth that you'll never know happiness, real happiness, and that you're screwed and that all you can do is just sort of carry on in a world without much joy.

Friday, April 17, 2015

By early Friday morning the barman has begun to digest the week.  Tuesday it was not possible to fall asleep for hours after the shift, even where there was ample help on a busy night.  And Wednesday, forget about it.  The night started, as far as the drink part, shortly after ten, with a Guinness and some good conversation.  A party of regulars in the corner, one of them, great guy, fairly toasted, but watched over by his pals.  It's been a night of plates of at least ten different shapes and sizes are haphazardly stacked at the barman's feet underneath the rail of liquors at the barman's sink work bench, the plates stacked on a platform of three hard plastic cubicle mild crates, and the silverware is thrown down into plastic quart sized containers.  (Thrown as darts, for anger relief at certain points, where before the man, years ago would drink a shot of tequila, as an 'attitude adjuster,' according to the laws of Sir Lawrence King.)  At a certain point, after confusion over gibson and gimlet, a running low on IPA, after another hit of new customers, the barman yells a four letter job through hissed teeth, kicks the trashcan over, the beeper of the pager, meaning food is up down in the kitchen, adding its own little ring, and wishes to start throwing and breaking into mincemeat all the dirty plates and the empty butter cups, and I a college graduate what the fuck am I doing here with this, and then when you get home you can't fall asleep, there's an ache, a great feeling of having been greatly sidetracked in life, what will the future bring, so, full of Guinness by now, grilled salmon a boring dinner, you switch to wine, and then, easily, you're up to seven, in this case watching a documentary on Hillary's Everest expedition along up the Kumbu Icefall and the Lhotse Face and the South Col with Tenzing Norkay.  Anything to calm down, and calming down is hard, and thus no wonder, looking for that calming buzz in the head, that reassuring feeling.

Oh yeah, later the next day, the barman sleeps soundly well into the afternoon, waking parched, guilty for having wasted a nice 72 degree Spring day.  Reluctantly sizes up the lot of house keeping immediately before him, ugly pile of laundry, but at least evidence the dishes were washed, by hand, and put to dry, so that there are tea cups, but stilll a few dirty plates, and a frying pan with the glue of scrambled egg residue upon it.

The sense of the lyrical a barman has, a sense of the sadness of life.  And yet, it's most obvious that it is we, of free will, who chose, by our attitudes, whether we shall be happy or sad.  This is why, it is reported, that self-confidence is the thing, the cure-all.  The literary questions involving his earlier life are somewhat Chekhovian.  Why did the Doctor, overseeing the mentally ill in the story Ward No. 6, fall into paranoia?  Why or what created the shy soldier and his shyness and the fact of the rich and beautiful perfumed kiss he gets one night in the dark of the receiving nobleman's house, followed by anticipation and expectation, as we all know, where it will lead?  What created the underlying wish to communicate so gently with someone that the communication, even when started well, went off track?  And then, if the follow through is called into question, then how does one estimate his own ability to stand up for himself, when there is always that sort of moral edge he falls over into the depths of pondering, of time alone, of inaction, of reflections that really don't get you very far as claiming what you want to claim.

That was the perfect world, imagined, of course, you left behind, the world in which everything works out according to its inner germ.  Yeah, sure, the world will be perfect, because look how well and decently things are going, and you've been able to read poetry and Shakespeare with some of the finest readers in the finest of settings.  Behind it all showed the gem of wisdom, and you had no fear.

But in the meantime, there are careers to be had, and things to do in the real world, and the barman's isolated life and strange hours only make sense if compared with that of the lawyer.

I end up listening to a few Billy Bragg songs, and some of it is nostalgia, of the sort that exactly makes me of the sadness I want to escape from into the world of the practicality my therapist speaks of.   Some of it is, as if politically, or seems, the way out, the way to reaffirm values in my childish innocent, low-on-adult-business-how-it-works-understandings world.

I get a text from the barman the next night.  "I heard you took your frustrations out on a couple of six packs..."  He knows what jazz night is like with the particular co-worker.  And, yeah, too many people know me.

A long afternoon nap helps put the week behind me.  Friday night, not so much energy but to restock the larder.  I'd like to go out for some live music, a friend playing out in Arlington, but I ned to get ready for a quick trip to New York City for a friend's birthday.  In the back of my mind, I almost have a hard time trusting my own choices.  If I err on the side of taking it too easy and simple and homebound, then I could potentially be missing good stuff, relationships, new friends.  I know I'm stubborn.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Thoughts on a warm night in early April, 1865.

Looking up at the stars is like making love.

That clear almost blue dark night sky that's pure like crystal, the elements aligned in it.

There's the Big Dipper.

And there's that old mockingbird, up in his tree, singing away.

Mary, do you remember...

Saturday, April 11, 2015

In tune with nature and the feminine and the archaic I go for a walk again, down into the woods to birdwatch.

I find the fish have returned to Rock Creek, alewives, holding in the current.  A pleasant surprise, nature doing its thing.

I'm reminded of the Raymond Carver short story, about the guy from the lumber mill named Dummy who receives a 50 gallon container of juvenile fish to stock his pond.  The character of the idiot who has some gut level emotional connection to nature.  I am reminded of Ernest Hemingway's Nick Adams crossing the proverbial bridge back to nature in Big Two Hearted River, standing above looking down at trout holding themselves steady in the current above the pebbly bottom.  The return to the gut level human-being-in-nature heartfelt cleansing response, that bird watchers and cherry blossom seekers know, finding a way to be in touch with the feminine, with nature, and the archaic.  A background in Moby Dick, the experience of the sea though the eyes of the 'savage harpooner' Queequeg.

There is the political side of it.  Robert Kennedy defiantly going out of his way in a scary helicopter ride to visit a tribal chief during his visit to South Africa, not a welcome foray in the eyes of the official state, the same bravery to face the inner-city crowd the night Dr. King was shot that might come from being aware of people as people, predating, as it were the modern society that treats people so.  Not unnatural for a man of Irish extraction, a society not far away from the tribal original in custom.

Perhaps it's for the saintly people amongst us, like St. Francis who talked to the wolf and showed him the light of being passive, in touch with the feminine, away from the male domination societies wreak upon all creatures, like Emily, who see firsthand the egotism of certain kinds of monogamy.  Such things happen, such marriages, for survival, but in other regards they ring false to the creature's heart. A more communal, friendlier way we were made to love, passive, humbled, the heart needing no rule imposed upon it, 'til death do us part,' 'let him speak now or forever hold his peace,' the guilty renderings of rules back up by stoning to protect the economic set-up, the property-bearing world.

Marriages happen out in nature, the things of wild animals tamed by their own wild nature.  Mating for life happens in the heart, defiant of rules and polite ways, shoulds and shouldn'ts.  Such things have little to do with the way people are supposed to behave by social rules, because the beast already knows how to act in quite civilized manner, with perfect love and kindness.

Marriage as we know it is for looking good as a renter, a way of fitting in to a society that abuses the natural institution ever more, in a more ironclad legal way, the barrel we must jump over to enjoy economic safety, ever since the Empire and the Industrial Age, the nuclear family a unit of workers.

But such a love is a holy thing, a thing of nature, of spawning salmon and nesting hawks, just that we see it with human eyes, hearts and faces, and to us, it looks different than nature.

The best of us would get skittish, protective of the real thing, which is a gift, or be of two minds, one relationship the practical, the necessary, the sane, the other, the one for love and music and letters and art, the body's fitness, Shakespeare.  A love considerate of all, of nature, the planet, the Universe which is no inanimate object at all and all the space and light and darkness, within and without.

The love of Jesus is out on the road, nowhere to lay his head.  The gentle are rebuked in matters of the social pages.  True marriage, and love, is the property of the meek, the suffering, the poor, of the infinitely gentle, infinitely suffering thing.  And yes, it takes courage to realize where its true habitat lies in this world.

But what choice have we but to shine, to not be Nazis about such matters, judgmental, demanding, disgusted with the other who has no sin but that of being human.

Find a rock to stand on, Corinthians, and then will it all make sense, the love for the shitty dying animal whose day will come.

Friday, April 10, 2015

After shaving the beard off, after the hair cut the next day, groceries, I go for a walk, up Massachusetts Avenue, past the Embassy of Japan, past the Turkish fortress with Ataturk's statue, past the Saudi mosque's minaret, past cherry trees in full bloom, I cross the bridge and step off the sidewalk onto the lawn that leads down into the paths through the woods and along the stream.  The first green buds have come out, on Mulberry and Honeysuckle, and buds are out up in the high trees, and the stream is running well, making sound as it ripples and makes its current as it seeks away toward the sea.  The weather has warmed.  I see a hawk in a tree.  I walk along the stream, first up to the footbridge, below the Omni Shoreham, to look down into the water to see if anything is swimming in the current.  Young male mallards, four, come flying in and under the bridge and land behind me in the waters, then drift back under the bridge below me in a row to join another.

Walking back, out of the woods the cars along the wide avenue are stopped in long rows at the traffic lights.  Like the early scene, before words, of Fellini's movie about the director's life, the blank faces, frozen, the motionless, the excessive quality.  Here, more than half in upscale motorcars.  (I recognize a tightwad tipper in a silver convertible Porsche.)  In Fellini's dream of striving humanity going nowhere, the director character, Mastroianni, of course, begins to feel the claustrophobia, and indeed, his car, stylish, black, starts to fill up with fog, and we hear him going tight of breath.  We see his shoed foot trying to kick out the window.  And then the dream takes him (if I have the sequence correctly) flying, way up above the surf and sand, a human kite, still with cape and hat, and then suddenly falling.  As one falls in dreams, alarmingly, fast, a long way down.  At which point he wakes up, startled and about to pant, in a place where he is taking the cure.

Fellini's dream is not that much different from the sensations of the impressions I have as I walk along the sidewalk, tramping slowly after a nice slow walk getting my feet in touch with the dirt and the rocks, the stumps, the mud, the slopes by the feeding streams.

I was a complete young jerk like many another, aping an image, thinking I was cool.  But at least I've dropped that, humble now, glad to have an old pair of binoculars strung down from my neck as I trudge back.  I am no longer playing the role, the stern bad-ass lawyer in pole position at the traffic light by the mosque with perfect hair, attitude, suit, BMW, impatient grip on the steering wheel.

I am going nowhere special in life, maybe, as far as I know, off to economic disasters I cannot now comprehend, but it's found to be hard to look at all the faces of a Friday rush hour and wonder, the attitude, I am going somewhere.  And where are you taking the rest of us?  What is happening to the creatures we share the world of nature with?  The faces look forward, frozen.

Out in the woods, finally feeling at home, relaxed and at peace, I am alone, blank as a person as the hawk in the tree is blank as a hawk, simply what it is.  Freed from the past, complete in the present.  Waiting.  Alive as if in and of the original garden, free of sin, causing as little harm as possible.