There I was, surrounded by them, as my co-worker, looking forward from the beginning of the shift to going home early to watch a soccer match, looked on. My regular lady explaining what a piece of ... the guy who was just sitting next to her. Do you know what he does? I dunno, defense contracting? That's not what he does, she says. That's not what he does. Implying that, oh yes, she has dealt with him, maybe even professionally, before.
He visits infrequently, and because he makes a point of coming in, and has been coming a long time, I, poor judge of character, I take care of him. Initially, just by recognizing him. (He gets our braised veal cheeks.) Thus opening the door... sigh. He is bad karma, not a nice person, and was eyeing every woman in the house, she tells me after he leaves. Yeah, figures. I shrug. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset you, but he is not a good person. And there is something, 'yeah, yeah, yeah, I know' dismissive about him, I guess.
The band is setting up and we are getting busy. Wanna-go-home-early/I-don't-give-a-blank has gotten snooty, telling her I'm being aggressive when I am trying to meet the tastes of a table, express some of my frustration of her not being very helpful to the customer. (The female of the couple wants a half glass of Beaujolais. Is told that it's happy hour, get a full glass. This is when I bring her over a taste, to make sure she likes it, as I have to go over their anyway to have him taste our chardonnay, a Burgundy, from the Macon. She ends up preferring the Chinon.) The lady--I missed it--suggests to the server who's not paying perfect attention to her table that maybe they need a glass of wine. Which further invites server to drag her heels, shooting a look at lady, and then telling me about it later. Lady speaks to her in Spanish a little later on, and server says loud enough, en Anglais!
The band, after warming up, the drummer getting set, launches into the first set, very loud. "Tell them to turn it down." "You're closer." "Yes, but they are your friends." My friends... They are always my friends, in her world view.
Before leaving the guy tells me about being a body builder back in college days, and now, he's a cyclist, was out riding in 45 degree rain for an hour and a half. He speaks abruptly, like an athlete, one who's translated that combative precise eye into a good living in the consulting business. Sharp, pointed, self-confident, not one for bullshit, and to him, seeing me is about getting jolly. He's read my book, read it in two days, sounds impressed with it. "Your character went through a lot," he says, respectful of the relationship between author and character. There is a bit of the mensch in everyone. In the eyes of God, wine is wine; there may be old and new, but it's all still wine, made in the vineyard, brought by human toil to the feast.
As he came in and sat down, telling me he's bringing his family by soon, I mention, knowing that lady, seated on his left is well-travelled beyond that term, I bring up our friend's recent birthday celebration in the Black Forest town with starred Michelan restaurants.
Wine, like alcohol, a drug of the male-dominated world, a tranquilizer for the masses, and I have fallen into it, not standing up for myself, for poetry, for a lot of things back when I was a dope college student with some self-esteem issues or some relevant mental disorder.
The impression dawns on me, the aggression. Or is a kind of vertigo, too many competing energy centers. A perceived ability to communicate, but with something in the way of it. The original Tower of Babel.
It's like you want to say, guess what, you are all crazy and under the influence, all falling into the world of aggressive dominance, sucked down a vortex. Not a sane one in the house. Loud voices, grotesque laughter, inhibitions out the window. My natural reaction, I came to see, was please, don't let anyone see me doing such a shameful task, pandering to the needs, like a court jester.
Better to return to the world of passivity, of peace, of calm.
And I, of course, am the one who put myself into such a position, surrounded by drinkers. I went along with the world of male domination's brute drug, alcohol, having conceived of it as a social lubricant for party mixers, then as an Old World healthy everyday pleasure. The only problem was how it left me feeling the next day, a bit poisoned, heart pounding, dehydrated, depressed, not getting anywhere professionally, barely even trying to get anywhere but for the fact of going to a therapist for the last eight months.
I wasn't always like that. I wasn't always a depressive, a sad sack. I was a good student, and an avid reader, into poetry and the tickings of literature. And then I suppose, part image, part peer pressure, part self-medication, part feeling different from the rest, I drank, to be cool, I suppose, but a little bit too much, even though Ive always taking my breaks from it, tried to moderate it, strove for balance. Was it the mythic writer's rhythm, of focus by day, and then relaxation and a social life at night of the sort Hemingway writes about, letting the well replenish itself, the mind having consciously turned off directly thinking about subject matter.
Talk with my therapist earlier in the week. The threshold glass. Usually it's glass number three that puts a person of normal tolerance over the edge. Harder to tell when you're at the bar, cleaning up, and over time, and with food, you have a few tastes, and then maybe it's when you get home, when you open a bottle at the end of the week, find yourself staying up 'til six in the morning...
A depressant, she explains to me, slows things down in the brain. Oh, that explains its effect. But, the next day, that is turned into anxiety. And anxiety can become a pattern. And indeed, I know, what you put into the system the night before has its effect the next day, the opposite of reassurance that things are good and going well.
How sensitive we are, the creature, its chemistry.
The day-off comes. I get up, make some reservations on Expedia for upcoming trips, which takes effort and study, drink my hot water and lemon, a little green tea, scramble some eggs. My co-worker, back from his trek from Brazil World Cup onward into South America, with more vigor than I, proposed going down for a baseball game, but that was way too early, it's unseasonably cold, and I knew eventually such a trip would involve beer. I avoid the phone and light some incense, thinking of Ekhardt Tolle in A New Earth opening windows, 'away ego and ego devils' and all the hot sticky putrid money-before-God air. I want to go for a walk, but I'm tired, and need to write down this rough draft of things, having at last a chance to put fingers to the old keyboard.
There are a few stray thoughts, necessary to gather up in the house in need, trying again to find the foundations that keep it together. I do some vacuuming, and prepare, mentally, at least, the recycling. There are cob webs in the front by the desk and the salvaged book shelf where two of my father's professorial leather attache cases have sat gathering dust over the winter next to the bureau with his personal items, fragrant with sandalwood and his homemade fragrances.
One of those thoughts was an impression late night of Russia House, gathered as I sat on a Saturday, having run out of wine in my house, almost intentionally, but then no fun at all, having necessitated the walk down the street and up a block and up the steps and in through the foreboding doors for a decent glass of Cahors. I sit politely by myself and unobtrusively observe the comings and goings of the very pretty barmaid and server. To my fanciful mind as I watch I am seeing the physical continuation of some very very old habits. Our friendliness, our sense of community, I have the feeling, anthropologically, goes way way way back, in this case, perhaps to the Denisovans, whoever they were, the earliest tribes, who would have nodded to each other with just the same deference almost self-deprecating but immediately rich with generosity. Here we are. We are together. We are a tribe. No more need be said, because it's all there on the surface, not in need of words, but which of course makes words easy and fun, communication a breeze. And true, the bartender, truly a beauty who sets off an ache within as I look at her face and her hair, is wearing a wedding band, and no more need be said as that fact, nice ring at that, speaks volumes. And I sit too poor to buy such a thing as a diamond wedding band, so I sit, read my blog on my iPhone, have an extra glass, tip well, leave when I'm told out into the night, unrecognized with my beard and leather jacket, to walk home, and then wake up, on Easter, to go back to work.
But anyway. I manage to stay out of the wine, though the thirst grows as the night deepens into its darkness after midnight with the trash out and the laundry gathered from the dryer in the basement as a misty drizzle falls underneath the street lamps. I manage to avoid going out, to avoid all the various disappointments and disillusionments the act brings, along with the ultimately unsatisfying aspect that all things material, except guitars, women, good friends, bring or have, particularly the consumer products. And chicks with dicks, the Spring Happy Hour the French guys at the bar told me about, down on 17th Street, I'm sure they would be, in the end, a disappointment anyway, another sad illusion, pleasurable as they might seem initially to the lonely unaided eye. I've shaved off the facial hair growth, after mowing it down to a trimmed beard, neither look pleasing me, tired of the itch of wiry hairs. I want to experiment, how the days go if I don't drink, but if it were not for another mild experiment, which turns out pleasantly a bust, I would have had a glass, not to mix.
I don't feel much better about things in the morning, but with green tea I'm able to brighten a bit and move, a little tunafish and some quinoa for breakfast, a glass of V8. I still feel heartsick over all the miscommunications I have caused and deepened in my fall into the male dominated economic world I don't seem to be able to quite get, into the 7000 year-old custom of fermented juice of grape and grain which must be deeply tied to the settling down into the agrarian of a nomadic creature. The tiniest blip on the human time-line, but admit it, these days we need a little something to calm ourselves at the end of a day, the blank creative period when minds wander into sensory pleasure.
Writing, not beset by the usual anxiety, but still enough to worry about, I feel better, the jumbled up-in-the-air pieces in my brain having been dusted off and put back into some form of alignment and rest.