Sunday, June 28, 2015

I get down finally to reading the introduction of my W.W. Norton's edition of The Bhagavad Gita, sitting under the light of the Starbuck's patio after it is closed.  It's a bit lonely.  Holding the book in the streetlamp gets a little tiresome, a man and a woman--she is Russian, he talks with self-absorption--smoke a cigarette and chat loudly directly behind me, I decide to pack up stakes and head to a bar where the lighting is okay, one that serves Guinness and hamburgers, little bar tables off to the side where a reader can read in the corner.  But I run into my buddies from Glen's.  I get past them, but I hear my name called, busted.  "Let's go grab a beer at Board Room."  Sure.

One enters at around eleven PM, and leaves after last call, having paid the bill and tipped excessively.  And the next day I do not read much of The Bhagavad Gita, to be honest.  "How appropriate."

In a few short hours I'll go and face the egos, the talkers, and fall into it all over again.  "Man about town," my mom says.

But how can I not feel the sense of disgrace.  There is Arjuna cowering on the battlefield, shy, too much in his own head, thinking too much (or not enough), yes, being a coward, about to bring shame to himself for denying his own warrior status.  "Then Krishna, the Unshaken One, addressed dejected Arjuna as they stood between the armies, while laughing at him, as it were:"  (2:10)  Yes, laughing at him, or at least, a good belly chuckle in this tale of sometimes ornate description.

And Krishna, god in disguise of mortal form, charioteer, lays down some advice.  "Your concern should be with action, never with an action's fruits:  these should never motivate you, nor attachment to inaction.   Establish in this practice, act without attachment, Arjuna, unmoved by failure or success!  Equanimity is yoga."  Yes, good to know, there is an element of yoga, which will allow you to tell the difference between what is real, what matters, and what is not.

As I prepare to go face the egos and the talkers and the discussion of social lives, there is the coward, who'll listen to all the chat within minds and without.  There is the disgraced warrior of the educating class.  There is the coward who hides in barroom's giddy talk and in the drink itself.  There is the coward who did not stand up for himself many years ago over a matter important to his heart, finding discouragement more real than it was.  Taking from one apparent discouragement, a wide river, in his own mind, of other ones.

I must go and acknowledge my terrible mistake.  I must shrug at this effort of the writer falling into obscurity, a person who should have stood up, been a man, and taken up some form of actual teaching.  Was the book he wrote in such a cowardly state a spark of fighting back?  It does not seem to stand now as a very effective effort, given, perhaps, the state of literary matters today.  There was too much idiotic behavior that ran along constantly beside it, in that realm of actual life.  Whereas the ideal departs further and further away.

And what is there, there is yoga.

Friday, June 26, 2015

It has always been, how shall I say it, hard, strange, unwelcome, unpopular, to write.  You're standing outside the system, thinking you can beat it.  You believe your observations to be necessary, but why should anyone care, they have things to do.  There's no payment for it.  Of course not.  Perhaps if you create some new trend...  But it's a feeling, no one ever told you what to do.

Maybe this just ain't my town.  There was no positive reason I came here.  Little purpose in my being here.  No decision behind it more than 'well, you have to do something.'  Lots of friends, but isolation.  Don't ever feel up for going out on a date before eleven at night.

But if there is a purpose to it, you have to go through such sensations of the mind.  The writer's life is part of the physics of the world, a part of the Buddha's first noble truth of suffering, running perfectly in synch with it.  All the small dissatisfactions...  Fitzgerald's sense of 'bravely we beat on, boats agains the tide...'

You come out of it realizing that writing, as you saw it, is not the point.  So why stress yourself out?  Attempt to adopt the simple life you see in your mind's eye sometimes, like when you went out on a hike with the boss to a ridge line out in the national forest, on a border between two states.  Realize the wisdom innately within you, and keep the writing brief as possible.  One tick per day, as one day is a tick, and the act will in fact help keep your life simple, and where there is simplicity and realistic behavior, there is some form of contentment and peace, boring as it sounds.

If you were, on any one day, nail down the meaning of life, or write out the story of the Buddha within, what would happen the next day?  Well, perhaps you could count on yourself being just slightly wiser.

Clearly the world, and you and I am in it, see life as the struggle, the effort, an opportunity to go do things which represent life and living.  Work out your dream and give it shape.  It could be like Martha Stewart's dream house in Maine, it could be a successful date, it could be a trip to the beach, desirable things.  Find what it is you in particular really like, a new electric guitar, like the kind the Beatles had when they started out...  But then sometimes, like less and less, you see the flaw of that which is not readily available and free.  Then you see that the work you must do is within yourself.

This state, of obscurity, is liberating rather than confining.  It lets one find the voice, fold the yoga practice into the dough of the conventional desires of life.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

I am.  I am male.  Fifty years old.  Of uncertain future.  I am a writer.

The longest night of the week, the longest shift, I end up riding down the big breathtaking slope of Wisconsin Avenue from the plateau of The Dying Gaul and the neighboring garden and medieval library toward the river, Georgetown laid out before me.  I go down to the river.

I taxi on my bike on the boardwalk in front of the waterfront restaurants.  I cross paths with a woman shrouded by a sweat suit top.  Is she homeless?  I say hi, explaining who I am, why I'm here, after the storm, after a barman's shift, to look at the river, and she speaks with understanding back to me.

Later, after I look in at the hot new restaurant I am getting stories of, its windows dark, its vibe somehow tangible, laid naked in the night for the kind of establishment it is in its heart, an illusion of pleasure bitter in its core--I exaggerate some, in Buddhist mode, and there is nothing inherently evil about serving up a good dining experience to people who feel like getting out of the house, and perhaps I speak more of the service end of things here--that I finally lay my old road bike on its side, take my helmet off, and sit down overlooking the river across at Roosevelt Island, hoping for some sense of why I should be here, in this town, why I should like the old river, the Potomac, itself, why I should find myself here, why or where I might find some primeval taste of nature here after my long shift that began early with real estate agents and ended up with CFOs who, after dinner, always want one more drink, one more drink.  "Can I buy you a drink," such men ask, peering at you, looking for a way in, a crack. "I don't know if you remember me..."  Oh, yes, I remember you.

Giant steps sit above the river itself.  The rats come from the park and take their way down the steps and along them, down to the river, where ducks sleep at four in the morning and small driftwood comes down through the ripples after the big rain, after the strange light in the sky after the big thunderstorm and its torrents.

What do you think of talking to therapists, I ask, of the woman I passed by earlier, who has found some sort of quiet on the same steps above the river.  They drop off so that you would not know there are any steps beyond the drop.  I saw her slip down into the space earlier, next to the bushes, and wondered if she was, indeed, homeless.  Was there something a little unsettled, a little wide eyed, a little cautious, yet still able to handle a stranger...  I'd hoped to present myself as harmless, just another soul in need of nature.  And when I finally sit down, not far away from her, after talking to the ducks in their own language, my presence is accepted, from 12 or so yards away, too much equipment with me to be a threat.

They can be quite corrosive.  What can they do to really help you, how can they change you?  Studies show it's good to have a dog, or go for a walk, and these things change your brain and make the chemistry for happiness.  What can a therapist do?   They waste your time.

You know what?  I agree.  After getting through a long shift, I agree.  I was resourceful and industrious to get to this spot.  I dealt with people for ten straight hours.

"How do you feel about rats," the woman asks me, looking over at me.  I guess we are on the same big step, three above the waterline, after talking about photography.  You could count all the ripples on the river, here diagonally to the other side, the light cast by the tall office buildings of Roslyn.  "What don't they turn the lights off," I ask.  "There are people working in them still."  "Oh, right. Yeah, journalist, financial workers..."    The rats are us.  They are not our enemies, I've got no problems with them here by the river.   I don't go into work, that if they were to run across my feet, just saying,  in any place of work, that might be disconcerting.  But they don't do that.  Here they are. It's summer's first days.  They know how to drop down the steps, holding on, reaching down, then flat away.  They do not come toward neither me nor her.  I see the silhouette of sleepy female ducks curled on the last step platform just an inch above this placid boring slowly moving sea that is as far across as it can be.  The mud of that little island that is a break, a fresh breath, closed in upon by city lights.

This is not my town.  I add to it as much as anyone, maybe even more.  I've found a small niche in it, a place to live, temporary one as they are for all of us.  I speak of Maya to my new friend, who is involved with the legal professions.  I conclude she is not homeless as I might have suspected.  She might seem a little wide eyed, but it turns out she is Canadian.  I have a bottle of wine in my bag, but no corkscrew, and she doesn't drink anyway.  But, as they say, the world we see is a projection, an appearance to us based on a collective subconscious we all share, and, in addition to that, spiced by our own individual subconscious.   Why do I feel this is not my town?  Why do I suddenly sense, or rather it slowly dawned on me, as I stood outside the great blank night dull windows of Fiola Mare, that this is not my town, not my match, nothing to do with my own subconscious, but that it makes me always a friendly outsider ready to greet people at its gates, welcome them, but that it makes me one of the better conversationists in the town, though an unsung one...  I make the town something else than it is, almost as if it were a college town, or some great city where all people spoke to each other evenly and happily, as rarely happens.  I've got all the basic ingredients for such at my beck and call, at my reach, and after expanding out my rays of light, still, thank you very much, I go home after it all, a creature of the night, still wide awake, and people being happy with what I do, their little quiet Mother Theresa of the barroom, they wouldn't want me to fly away.  Even as I might bore them by my appearance, and make them ask, "what's he doing here still..."

Well, it's not like I have a girlfriend after all this, not one I know about.  And the nearest local restaurateur is basically not the nicest guy in the world, but in it for himself, entertaining as he might immediately seem to be.  Do I want to spend my money there?  No.  I'd prefer to go back to the weird, to the peace that strangers even might find overlooking the river, one male, one female, in the quiet dark of night.

I'm not such a bad guy.  I always and ever will approach people gently, not wanting to bother them, but there for them, ready for a conversation, if they too are alone.  That's a lot of life.  Alone, or able to offer friendliness to a stranger.  That's what, one might gather, they don't get in the war-edge torn parts of the world, even though they would but can't break out.  Make one tribe wait on the other.  Make that tribe go and wait back on the first.  That would fix things.  Nelson Mandela once told a story saying as much to friend of mine, Jeffrey.

There are some people--is that the way to say it?  There is a mode of what people do now, one that makes certain people look at what I do, that kind of gentle bridging of the gap between cultures and strangers and minds, and ask, something like, "why don't you have any self-confidence?"  That was a jarring moment of my life.  I suppose I had to write about it, being unable to change my dumb-fuck-ed-ness.  That's what you get.  Able to talk to anyone, to meet anyone on the path, and you get that.  Like, what are you doing with your own life/  Are you weak?

I never took that as a sign of weakness.  Being humble and agreeable, and, that final high talent that goes unsung, being able to, god forbid, wait on people, meet then in and out, strangers, weirds, drunks, normals, high and mighty, low and pensioner, even other restaurant people, who are able to say to the dismissive, 'we have families too.'

I guess, coming on the train, sad, mourning, lost, I pictured Washington DC as the town of, say, someone like Bobby Kennedy's sort of a ghost if you had to build the consciousness you'd want.  Or maybe that of Lincoln, and his ghost, who too might come sit over the river the middle of the night after one of this mid-atlantic swamp thunderstorms.

I don't know what I was thinking.  I came, I arrived.  It's been the same ever since, not much headway, a place to live, best friends asking me, what I'm going to do with myself...  Where you gonna live when you're old?

The week has ended.  The last shift, busy, was the least tricky of all.  I get home, on bike, and start the laundry.  My hands smell like Shout, after spraying the inner collars of Brooks Brothers shirts and the spots of stains that might have fallen upon them.  There is wine.  Red.  Chinon.  There is the red road bike on the stand for a fifty minute roll.  There is memory of the yoga class on Sunday morning outside, the soreness gone by now, very early Thursday morning.  It was very hot before.  Now the air is clear, and here, on the quiet street, with the earthen bank, in the early light, there is a vague memory of camp ground and trees rising from dirt and undergrowth.

I have all the windows open, the fans on of air conditioner window units to help.  I turn the lights off of the vestibule.  The neighbor, upstairs, will wake, soon enough.  I have no desire for an encounter, to have to explain the far bounds I've reached in my service to humanity, and even to him it might make little sense.  The city, at 6:20 AM, has begun to move, and I hear a truck sail by whistling through the wind down on Massachusetts Avenue below, moving eastward.  A bird with two note punctuation sings from a tree.  I've watched a bit of a Herzog thing found on Netflix about fur trappers in the taiga, Siberia, and it made me want to adjust.

At the end of the week, flashes go by.  I have memory of a Siberian Husky type of dog running along the fur trapper's snowmobile over the frozen river from day into night, not ceasing to run.  How can I explain that to people.  I remember the first sort of tap on the shoulder of the very first customer of the week as I sat and wrote the chef's dinner specials out on my little pad of paper.  Listening to everyone's talk, being their therapist, their ear, certainly takes so much energy.

I'm told of certain things, on Monday and Tuesday, and I forget what they just were, though I remember who told them to me.  I still am attached to the idea that our blood-types have so much to do with not only how we should eat, what we should watch out for as far as health issues, what exercise we might best engage in, but in how we think, what we are attracted to.   No way around it:  a type O will think differently than an A, than a B.  Literary critics are too confined to acknowledge the basic physics of literature.  To wit, my type A economist friend--what you expect from him--can only squash my humorist enthusiasm for the life of the Taiga Siberian fur trapper with immediate discouragement that goes with being of the Agrarian phase of humanity, all in good humor.  "Where are the museums, the culture, the jobs..." he asks.  He's a man of good humor, some of it sarcastic, so, sure, that was my point, get a chuckle out of life, that brief moment of a broader view from our little dugouts of life.  It doesn't get far with him at his hour of day, even with a glass of champagne, an onion tart, and a glass of Bordeaux trickling down into him as he resides quietly over a cheese plate.  "Maybe if you had a really good wine cellar..."  I can totally see his point.  But the beauty of being in nature, and being self-dependent in it, seems to hang in my vision as I bring the work part of my foolish week to a close.

The copy of The Bhagavad Gita sits on my bed cover still, after buying it at Kramer's after my little Monday morning therapy session.

What was Jay telling me, what was Jay saying...  telling me what I might do with my life now that it is here where it is....

There is no doubt to me, Hemingway, to me, certainly a Type O, needed action to write.  He needed to write, and so he needed activity and things to do, places, weather.  Because of that he needed to write.  He needed the material, and then he needed, or rather, enjoyed, simply, the prose.  There is still lots of discrimination against such people who have to live life that way, action on the one hand, experience the bridge, prose, thought, digestion in the mind on the other.

A writer has as much a chance as anyone to make some figurings on the nature of reality, sort of like Einstein, or the Buddha.   How can nature be aligned so that the inner world is perfectly reflected by the outer world in this strange trip of ours called life?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

It was Wednesday, Mary's live gypsy swing loud from the corner, a 14 top going away party for a JAG friend heading off to Bahrain, Jeremy and I got to talking about service.

I started on the topic earlier, describing the treatment a former World Banker turned fancy restaurateur on TV gives her servers, the browbeaten looks.  There's something missing from her model.  She pays a secret shopper to tell her the obvious, though, being a paid professional he puts in a way that justifies his own position and the need for it, rather than getting to the root of the problem, which is her own attitude, the suggestion she might develop a fresh respect for her staff.  What do you tell people in such a position anyway.  "Work with us and you're set for life..." the owner of a meatball restaurant seems to suggest as he tries to boost morale, numbers down.   A satisfactory answer only for so long, as I would well know from my own experience.

Jeremy has mentioned a coworker having an off-night, the guy who comes late from time to time, a bit  ODC, all over the place, vocal sometimes.  "It's very hard to be consistent," I was telling him, "so, you got to come up with a reasoning behind it.  It's an intellectual challenge to come up with the will and ability to do it."  We talked about the hospitality, the real stuff, that keeps us going.  "Yeah, I was a bit off yesterday lunch.   (A big customer) came in with a chick he used to date, wasn't so happy with me.  He had a gift for her and put it right on the table where I couldn't really see how full his wine glass was...  'Just leave it on the table so I don't have to track you down,' he said."  Yup, Monday morning, the blues, the why am I doing this, what's my future going to look like, what should I be doing for a better life, all those questions seeping in, and the putting on of a brave face almost in spite of it all.  "It's hard to come back in after a few days off," I mumble, relieved to have gotten the 14 top sat and the bubbly poured.  Team work.  It's fun working in a  busy restaurant with good people.

Later, a good hour or two later, he looked back at me and said, as we stood together in the bar mouth, my taking dirty plates from his hands to wipe the food scraps off with the silverware on them into the trashcan, stack them in some order from larger on the bottom to smaller sometimes in different piles, "There's no short-cut to hospitality(/good service.)"

 "Yes, exactly."  I smiled and washed my hands in the sink with a squirt of liquid Dove hand soap.  Yes, there is a fascinating intellectual issue at the heart of good service, the actual wanting to do it, putting aside your ego sometimes.  Putting aside sometimes, the 'why don't I have a social life...'  The problems in the mind that stack up like dirty plates.
The issues as they are presented to you can seem so substantial.  They can come as pressing social engagements, shoulds and shouldn'ts, claims, responsibilities, restaurants, events one should go to in hopes of meeting someone, rings to kiss, things to do because everybody's doing them...  And then there is the peace of Buddha and meditation, the calm presence in the present moment, one that leads to question some of the solidity of the world as it might appear to us, pressing upon us.

We have the guru,  the inner one, the outer ones we know from reading about, to guide us.  And there, after tending four pretty busy shifts, there is, again, the ikon, of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.  And, one wonders, is this picture the culmination of the focus of the Christian story.  After all the wisdom, the miracles, the story of old prophecies fulfilled is the man himself, as if 'at last.'  Here he is in this ripe moment, good coming out of good, still, in this time of possibilities, before the realization of the bread that will be broken and the wine which is his blood.  The simple culmination of a wise life, not for any particular reason, not for any particular scriptural point to fulfill by letter, but simply to be who he is, to be, as the Buddhist might say, even that, simply, 'which is.'

Turn the world around and see it as it is.  Be 'that which is.'  Avoid the psychosomatic illnesses that come from believing too much in the solidity of appearances.  Be the man joyfully waiting on people.  Because it's your thing.  What took you so long.  There is nothing wrong with you the way you are.

That is the lesson.  You are perfectly fine the way you are, and the one waiting on people is doing very well in fact.

Of course he liked his disciples, his friends, his co-workers.  He liked hanging out with them.  Their core truth was the same of his own.  He enjoyed their banter.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

No one is a prophet...  Is it a cliché, or does it offer a statement on consciousness?  (Who would even want to approach the hot potato old statement?  Book reviewers do not like when you touch cliché.)

To be in touch with a deeper level of consciousness, as you might simply get just from studying Buddhism or participating in mediation, or practicing yoga, would that not almost put you into a sort of different relationship to the normal debates about current affairs....  "Hawk or dove, what do you do with Putin:, is there not a direct correlation between the lack of capitalism and vast amount of poor people in South America and here you've got the Pope saying this..."  Such points have a validity, they deal with the world we live in, but maybe to you personally there might be more to it all than that.  Your attitude toward them could put you in a different place than that of your 'home town.'

Deeper consciousness... that would strike as being irrelevant to the topic of conversation the pundits are arguing about.  And the people of the town turn on their television sets and listen to their side of the arguments, both is you're lucky, and then internalize it.  And you with your Buddha thoughts... you're the child at the dinner table, the eccentric artist doing what you do as long as you feel you have the right to it, even as that wears thin.

Each town has a distinct feel.  New York, of course, is different from Washington, DC, which is entirely different than New Orleans, on and on.  Paris is one thing, Rome is another, they all have their sort of moods.  That's the way it goes.

But then with the United States, and elsewhere, there is mass media.  The press is essential to democracy.  Mass media, we all watch the Weather Channel, can kind of bleed over the minds, the common commercials we all see, the personalities we engage with remotely...

Is it that the voice that comes from the subconscious depths doesn't seem to immediately fit anywhere.  How does it become part of the culture, the way Fellini's dreams became?  How do you shape your own individual identity in the conversation of identities?  If you're not conspicuously from any conscious pattern, GI Joe, an investment banker, a wine guy, keeping within the limits of what is currently expected from you...  Where does James Joyce fit in to that;  how would you define him, and what was he doing, and what is the point?  Same for Yeats.  And yet, ultimately, those guys had a home, somewhere in Ireland, figuratively or literally...

When does the inner spark catch?  How?  When is it not relegated to the sidelines...

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

My father's gentle ghost...

But what does it mean, 'let us be fishers of men?'  What does the image, of nets, fish caught in them, pulled from the water, what does it mean?

It means being taken to a new level of consciousness, a new understanding of what it is to be conscious and how that works in the world, how that works as far as the reality we create out of it, how we perceive the dream our senses tell us.

There is something active about it.  Through deep meditation we begin to see that the world is a projection of the collective subconscious.  What we think, if we could go down to that deeper level below what is normal conscious thought, effects the way the world is.  Mother Theresa, perhaps, was one of those deeper thinkers as far as consciousness goes.  What do we see, how do we see, if we are in tune with such a vision, and how does that effect action, how does that effect the world, how does that effect the way we see the world...

If you were in tune with the deeper, arriving at it through, let's say, meditation, or Buddhist or Hindu thought, you'd see the world as a vehicle for your own hospitality toward other beings.  You'd see the world as a place to be kind.  There would be a certain passive quality about you, because you were busy taken with the thoughts and understandings of true nature.

People of conventional thought, people not in touch with the possibilities of their own consciousness, they can be so tedious, so in-it-for-themselves...  They think they have bright ideas and want to push such things over on all our souls.  They might be good at the body politic, but how frequently do such people ever come up with something that is useful rather than detrimental to the whole.  A wiser person might try to bring some shred of good into the world of politics, but the men of conventional conscious thought will beat even that shred into insignificance.  (What deeply good thing ever seems practical?) Purely selfish and self-serving.  And to them, of course, there's perfect logic.   "We need all the drinking water we can so we can run our mining operation and make money and 'create jobs.'  Then, once we've mined all the stuff that makes us money, the pit we've created will be a vast toxic lifeless thing until our own saddened little planet melts into a weary sun."  Great.

It's quite difficult to explain.  How is it possible that our thoughts could shape the world we live in...  Isn't thinking the most passive and useless of all our activities...  Conventionally viewed.  What good will sitting in lotus position and meditating do the world?

Even Jesus Christ the great guru does not attempt it directly, and probably nor would he, given his deep understandings of all things.  So he comes up with this perfect image, the net, the silvery fish all swimming around, pulled out of the normal existence of water and survival as such.  To me, or to another who meditates, the image presents a picture of the mind.   How you have to still all those thoughts up there in the net of the conscious mind, all saying this and that, all those voices, to go into a state of presence, in touch with the body, in touch with nature, in touch with the vibrant chakras.

I think "render unto Caesar" smacks of that.  The trivial nature of the world of created empires and big egos, how petty in contrast to the power of our own consciousness if we stopped to realize and began to explore it.  The same thing is being said when he looks at nature, the birds, the plant life...

No wonder they crucified him, this man of such incredible hospitality and kindness.  Their little pea minds just couldn't get, they didn't have eyes to see.  And the act of killing him is perfectly emblematic of what they were doing with their whole entire lives, which is to kill out any aspect of the deeper consciousness, that which may be even beyond the collective subconscious.  The murder of a perfectly natural harmonious-with-who-we-are sort of a thing...  Deeper spiritual consciousness of the kind that in turn, once tuned into, goes back out and shapes the world?  No, they didn't want anything to do with that, happy selling chickens in the temple.  It's all a cosmic drama, the story.  It can be depressing if you don't look at it the right way, I would imagine.

What would we say to a higher-minded being, a Jesus, today, in the present?  Would we say, oh, I'm sorry, sad life you got, Mister.  Here's a Banana Republic catalog so maybe you can buy some nice clothing and be in style and that way you'll have a better chance meeting chicks...  That would just make him sadder.  Why not make him happier.  By saying, oh yes, we can do that do.  We can fish for men too.

(He would have gotten a chuckle out of the Great Inquisitor scene.)

This year, I've burned a lot of incense, drank hot water with lemon to start the day, marketers and politics having taken over my personal email in-box and hardly ever something personal except for Facebook, listened to meditation music from YouTube like "Indian background flute music," did a good amount of yoga, meditated, saw a therapist on Mondays a bit too early in the day but still worth it.  Looking for a better direction in life, tired of the ego persona my professional life labeled me with.  Life took me through equal parts hopelessness and vision.

I watched TV shows about restaurants in New York that didn't quite get the fundamentals of hospitality to varying degrees as they attempted to build their empires when I came home after a long shift, people in my hair a large part of the night.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Nature abhors a garden, my father would say.  A lesson the botanist's son learned the hard way.

A friend makes note of something.  I do not know her well, but she poses concern over one more Big Brother World thing, facial recognition.  Why were we all so silent, why did we just go along with it all, she poses.

The world as we perceive it is a projection of our collective sub-conscious.  Instances like this make you wonder, what if more people thought deeply, what if more people meditated...  What if the more immediate layers of human consciousness, individual and collective, were more influenced by the voice of the deeper?  Would that deeper consciousness allow for such?

Now so beholden to system, bidden by economic forces, need to keep everything up in the air, people will go along with the model of 'prosperity' rather than question in the slightest.

The bar, given its faults, is one of those front lines of the collective sub-conscious.

Back from the therapist, a new watch-strap from a nice guy with a watch store on Dupont, then a haircut at The Haircuttery from a nice lady who must leave after me to get back to Upper Marlboro for dialysis as she must do three times a week.  We talk of the Pride Parade.  "I teared up.  I said to myself, Michelle, why you tearing up, but I was, I was indeed."

I take a nap, snooze it for a half an hour, shower, eat, fold a shirt, write this, get ready to go to work, Jazz Night number one.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Saturday, my sort of day of sabbath, yoga, meditation, limiting sensory input, before going back to work on Sunday...  But there's a baby shower, and after yoga it's what I can do to get down to 9th Street, to a bar even, by four.  She's a great friend, one of the peaceful people, and carrying a bambino, she's not been at the wine bar very often, and if so, just a sip.  Breaks up, I bow out, find my bike still locked up around the corner, head back across town.

Coming back, of course, at 14th Street, just past six, I encounter the road block of the pride parade.  There would be much to note down, and write about, much to sketch.  What stands out, as I wait, and head south before I can head west, I see two rather attractive young women sitting on a stoop in front of Eto watching the parade.  They are wearing rainbow colors.  And I see one has a tiny tattoo on her tricep, of two white unicorns.

It's a nice thing to watch.  Nice to see people happy in DC, a young guy says, as I make my way through.

I get home finally.  I feel a bit tired from the heat.  It was a bit tiring talking to strangers at the shower on that day slated for the recoup you did not really get to do, thanks to the after-effects of the work week, in particular the last live jazz night.  Then, home alone, it kind of hits.  "Why didn't you say anything.  You might have known the brunette from meeting her at the bar once..."  Ah, shit.  I slump on the couch, fall into the kind of nap depressives take.  I wasn't dressed for it.  The mind goes on though.  When is your time?  Maybe you're too old already, sad thought.

The encounter with egos...  leaves you marked, the placid waters disturbed, so try to get calm again.

Why am I slated to learn these things, about ego, about what life might have been like for Jesus as far as suffering and his ability to feel the goodness pass out of him...

There is the spirit being within us.  Beneath all the layers, remaining within even with all the things we mess up.  Who gets up fresh, more or less, and starts a new day.  Not always an easy person to find nor believe in nor have much hope for.  But, it, he, she, persists.

Confusing, trying to come upon this persona of the spiritual being.  Seas of vulnerability must be crossed.

The ego comes in many many guises.  Benevolent, well-meaning ones in addition the lesser.

To encounter the astral self is, one would gather, a strange experience initially.  Finding one's self suddenly free of motives.  After many years.  Wondering how you look for all the wear and tear, but finding a pristine quality...  As if one had needed to go through all of that.

It can sound a little crazy from the conventional perspective.  But you know it as, finally, a direct path through life.  Free of motives.  Free of beliefs, of the old reactions.  Peaceful.

The gain of perspective, even on one's own friends...  The old shared interests are dull compared to the shine of the spirit, the lightness it gives you.  Bit by bit, vision grows, perspective on one's own habits, coming from a deeper level, unbidden by logical thought.  Giving yourself the power to change your habits.  Make your own personal choices.  Not as easily persuaded.  Avoid distractions and interruptions, your private peace primary.

What is my spiritual path?  Why do I feel coopted?  I began to see it was the drinking.  The injurious quality of it...  Jesus was a wine-bibber, but mainly to experience contact with suffering.  I know my own suffering.

I tie now the old feelings of inadequacy in with the drinking.  In with the job I took when I knew not what to do with my life.  Selling myself out.  I self-medicated, depressed.  The job hurt.  You needed a drink after it.  But the awareness, of how all my bigger problems were drinking related, outgrew the  reaction of blind habit.  'Good wine is a necessity of life for me," Jefferson says, but I don't know about that in the larger context of Atman, the eternal soul.

But when I began to regularly practice yoga it become evident how the old ways did not work for me.  The old drinking friends did not work for me, much as I liked them, listened to them.  But there was a real fear in facing them.  They made me nervous.  The best response to them was a non-response.

Self-protection became the name of the game.  Getting out of there as easily and as a soon as I could. No Satan dressed in pleasant clothing.  Get thee behind me, ego Satan.

What made me popular now seemed a liability.  As if they knew my weakness.  They all knew where to find me.

One becomes aware of the great vulnerability when you become aligned with the spirit that is within, the eternal being.

I'm a creative.  I knew what to come up with.  I knew where it was all headed.  I knew what the issues were, amongst them being the top-heavy presence of ego in the world.

I do my yoga, hoping the spirit will lift.  It's Sunday afternoon.  Time to go back to work.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

But then, you know, the humanity of people, you're reminded of it when you look into their eyes, talk to them a bit.  Then, yes, you say to yourself, well, this is what I do.  I don't go out.  This is going out for them.  For me, it's merely who I am.

When you join in you become part of the broken world.  Less is the chance you are stepping outside of it to look for the real answers to the problems it sets up.  You hear stories from the broken world, but you have to return to your own solid ground, to that which has no motive.

No worldly logic will do.  No worldly solution.  No worldly ambition.

There are good notes in any evening, that come along when you need them.  "Has anyone told you how good you are at your job today," the nice lady asks me, observing my chit chat with the mid-bar pair, talk about a French tall ship, the Hermione, arriving at Old Town.  (I had mentioned the successor of the Edmund Fitzgerald parked over the winter at my mom's harbor up in Oswego, waiting to make the St. Lawrence passage in spring before the last voyage to Houston to be cut up for scrap iron.)  I thank the nice lady and tell her I appreciate the good word, having probably ruined the surprise of a signed book for my retiring dentist, my blabbing like an idiot earlier in the day.  "You have so much humanity, the way you get people to open up."  Thank you, that's really nice.  And that is the benefit of my job, not always seen by me.  Humanity.  "Yeah, but no retirement plan," I say.  "You don't need one.  You could do this anywhere."  "Yeah, but when we professional bartenders get together, we say 'any idiot could do it.'"  "That's what we say in the mortgage business," the kind lady counters.

A broken world it is, and it drags me down into it.  Today I am shot.  The inner benevolent energy drained out of me.  Twinges of headache, the stupid feeling of not being up out of bed before three.  The memory of taking in the newspaper and turning off the front stoop lights.

One night of too much wine can easily lead to another.  I put down the guitar and join Jeremy for a steak at Du Coin when he gets down with his shift.  The next day, two days after, again I get up late.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

But it is a broken world.  And the thing about my job, I'm on the front lines.  That's bar tending for  you.  You're on your own front line of great danger as well.  But you're on the world's front line.  In a broken world.  And you're the guy giving out compassion.  Compassion to sinners.

And you know, this sounds kind of silly, I mean, like, to compare, but I make note of this because, obviously, Jesus was on the front lines.  He met people where they were.  They didn't have to go to the temple to see him, though, yes, he did teach there.  But that's not our complete picture of him, just keeping it to a temple.  His good stuff is out on the road.  Healing people.  A sermon from a hilltop, convenient so they could see and hear him.  The lakeside.

The front line is dangerous.  You can get dragged down, swept along into foolish things that will mark your life, when you don't know the nature of the world.

Jesus didn't have a woman, a wife, a girlfriend.  To hug or hold him or cook him dinner when he came home at the end of a long day.  Think of it, Jesus, and even he doesn't have a girlfriend.  No healing hand to touch him and hold him and tell him he's okay, a little bit of support, the comfort to truly be himself in a comfortable place.  He went to the city, to be, effectively, in the hospitality industry.  Bread, wine.  A few good words.  A friend of poor fishermen, the publican, the whoever.

It's a broken world, and the people in it are lost sheep.  Why is it broken?  Exactly?  I don't know, there are probably many ways to say it.  Ego?  Chakras out of whack?  Selfishness?  Materialism?  Drunkenness?  Pleasure seeking.

I know drunkenness, though I try not to, more and more these days.  I've fallen to that voice of Satan.   So often, and at such absolutely crucial points...  I would almost even not fight at this point against it anymore...  The horrors wreaked upon my life, the broken relationship...  But I can only then admit that I know the world is broken, and that worldly logic is not going to fix it.  Personally, I know this.  Quite well.

But there is a will, albeit a fallible one.  The will is there, an inner reality, an inner voice.  It preaches compassion, shows it to all, but at a certain point it matures, realizes better what it must do.  It does not help the world to maintain the illusion.  It is not good for your own health, as you've known a long time from personal experience, waking up hurting and sad, tired.  Sometimes you have to participate, but finally you cannot ignore the lessons you've learned.

We know what happened to Jesus, as that story is told, a lot of emphasis on the brutal aspect of the world he lived in.  Barbaric.  Some people seem to suggest that he did it so we wouldn't have to.  Have to fall to that fate...  He died so we don't have to.  So they say, whatever it means, comforting.

Every day I get up and there's that depressing voice.  Reminding me of how I failed, how I wasn't a man, how a girl was just being a girl, how, despite your great feelings for her and the appropriateness of the match, I dunno, doc, something came between something.  Something came between me being me, doing what I wanted, the way I wanted to be.  And it was doubt, some form of it, some...  something.

And the book I wrote, well, it's true, it's ending is realistic, there are some Christian parts to it, and some thought in it, but because he doesn't get the girl in the end, that makes it ultimately a tale of moral failure, of human weakness, or just the possibilities of character, good and bad, in the human being.  Or how a mind can mess with you, make you do hugely counterproductive things.

The front lines are scary.   There's always someone to wear you down, have a drink.  Have a drink with me.  And then I keep on, unable to stop, and the next day, there's the bad voice again.

I know, some people would tell you that it is they who are on the front lines.  Like soldiers, cops, city schoolteachers.  Sure.  Economic business leaders, providing jobs.  Even those who are creating the latest newest restaurant bar whatever.  Front lines are we.  Sure.  But  I guess that's not how I see it, Doctor, not in my experience.

Maybe that means I can finally move on.  I would hope.  But then I wouldn't be on the front lines.  I wouldn't be there for the sheep.

It's strange.  Here we are at the culminating point in history, given so many gifts of Relativity, great art, and who is here at the middle of the drama playing out, but some guy who wasn't the best student from a certain professional angle, who know has to tend bar the rest of his life....

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Well, I got through the night, Monday, Jazz Night number one, with Satin Doll, a trio, my friends.  It's a sleepy night.   And then right toward the end, with the kitchen about to close, it gets a bit more complicated.  Get the band's dinner order in, their cop friend shows up...  Send the waiter home.  Clean up after the water leaking down from the ceiling in the big summer rain.

I take a bottle of Pinot Noir home with me.  The first few sips right there at that stressful hour of waiting to get the last dessert orders, oh, here come five people in from Nebraska, be their wine shrink, the first few sips taste pretty good.  There's a pleasant law school professor at the bar by herself, I ask her about her sister's wedding on the Jersey shore, so a little sip of Beaujolais, a sip of the Pinot, one of the Chinon, what's the mood tonight...  Then at that hour, it tastes pretty good.  I pull out a little Tupperware container with Merguez sausages wrapped in wax paper, munch on them, right when the stomach pangs suddenly hit.  They taste fine cold.  Cut in half I can down one piece in between this and that.  The busboy sweeps, I try to clear the last dinner plates, he's got his little system, the floor mat has expanded, producing a bump.  We're in each other's way.  Law professor H wants maybe something sweet, a dessert wine perhaps, after her plate of the vegetable du jour.  She had an omelette at home, and here a glass of chardonnay.  She likes the Jurançon I recommend.  Late harvest, deep color.  Met the guy who makes it once at a tasting.  His father was a wine-maker.

I put the red road bike on the stand, put on cycling shorts, got the remote within reach, the History Channel, the twenty-four hours after the Kennedy Assassination, then the same on Pearl Harbor.  There was a pretty girl I could have had a nice stroll with I noticed when I stopped to look over Rock Creek Parkway from the Massachusetts Avenue bridge.  The one Sunday I've had off exclusive of travels in a long time, and she had a book with her.  I turned to walk down the grassy field and she kept straight.  Idiot.

Somedays you wake up feeling, or thinking, what a big jerk you are.  How you messed up everything.  You feel cowed, cowed.  Twenty five years later, I still feel cowed.

I cling to yoga today.

Writing, one might well conclude, is a thing for depressives, depressives working out their thoughts.  It might be largely about just getting things out of the head, down on paper, something a bit satisfying about that process.  As if you were menaced by unknown creatures at the edge of a wood and wished to know each one and where it was as you made the dark journey.

The whole point of sexuality, looked at it from one way, is primarily the enlightening quality of it, the sacred quality, the healing quality, the bringing together of two halves.  In the highest being it is not directly procreative, and it really serves a far different purpose.

And when people are denied this basic bread of life, as they do in a world that commodifies and trades and elevates those who are skilled bargainers, who are necessary people who attach external rather than internal values upon a thing, the denied people become very vulnerable, they take a big knock.  Christ, all I wanted was a kiss, and she makes it impossible.

And in particular, a young man, at a certain stage at least, is highly vulnerable.  He knows intuitively the beauty, the great spiritual joy of contact with the one he obviously desires.  The external value systems, though, tend to bleed over innocent souls reaching for each other.

I do yoga, the depression lifts,  I can go face another night in the slow crucifying that is hospitality.  And hopefully, hopefully, I will feel some sense of hope and not succumb.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

I've stated the notion crudely, but there's something to it.  The world we see as such is a creation of something within, a figment of our imaginations.  It is perceived as it is perceived because it is the projection of a collective subconscious.  New York City is what it is because many individual consciousnesses have made it so, along with the greater collective.  Yes, of course, made it what it is "with their own two hands," all the labor and thought that built it and keep it running and make the corners of it what they are.  Arduous work indeed.  But the phenomenon, according to the yogi, is deeper than that.  There's something about the phenomenon that is the product of the ego we project upon it.

Going out doesn't seem to work for me anymore.  I was feeling unsettled after the taking in the deep soulful Beau Biden funeral, chewing on something.  (My mom tells me I probably needed to stay in and absorb and read the Bible rather than go out and talk of the usual scuttlebutt.)  Best friends invite me over for dinner;  sure, who wants to spend a Saturday night alone.  I grab a couple of bottles of a light Kermit Lynch red from Cheverny, a Loire blend of pinot noir and gamay, from my shop off Dupont and make my bike lane journey down to 10th.  A DC Brau before dinner, the red with it.  I swill it down pretty good.  I'm chastised rightly so for a juvenile comment, and find myself, now that I do yoga, a slight bit too much.  We part ways, I go check out a bar to see what the young folks are up to, I have to rye ales, sneaky at 7%, sitting at the end corner of the bar away from the front door.  A mid-level consistently fresh attractive young crowd, a scene, not a pub, too much busy for the barmen to talk.  And I realize after two that I'm pretty much gotten what I will get out of it.

I wake up thirsty, not feeling up to getting out of bed and starting the day.  The alcohol has thinned the type O blood in the veins enough that the heart is rapid.  Not this again.  The guilty feeling.  Going out doesn't seem to work for me anymore.

When I have meditated, started the day with my own thoughts, then worked on them, as I do now, but also in yoga, getting aligned, then doing the spiritual part of the work, the city streets are alien to me. Two nights ago, I go for a midnight walk.  On the hill by Mitchell Park on S Street, I see the Big Dipper through the clouds high above the trees.  I walk further on, eastward, past the front steps of Russia House, past the second story of the Royal Palace, on, toward 18th Street.  I get as far as 16th.  I've seen enough.  The Maya world.  Chi Cha Lounge hookah parlors, bouncers, misplaced ID problems in Stetson's, the line at Local 16.  I may have intended to get as far as 14th, walk down it, then back on R.  But I wish I'd stayed on Massachusetts Avenue, the quiet of Embassy Row, absorbing nature rather than confusion and people's presentations of how they see and make themselves up to be.  What I see out where the bars are does not agree with what I seem to be able to see from the deeper levels of consciousness, and all this I see as it is makes me sad, as if it all were, secretly, tawdry, a hill or pit of beasts sluggishly fighting each other almost.  Well, I knew it was going to be a spiritual test, a consideration of this business of Maya, the projection of egos to shape the world as it is.  And yes, Maya looks exactly like Maya ought to, and it does not make me happy.

I beat a retreat almost, at my own slow pace, getting across Connecticut Avenue at S Street, then up the quieter street.  And I feel no failure not in meeting anyone, and good to get home.

So as I sit the next night in Lost & Found it comes to me again, Maya, the place of illusion, and the beer is not harmless, and the pretty girl in a long black gown with low heels on is having a gin and tonic and she's about to leave anyway, so that's my cue to escape.

And today I wake, feeling, yeah, kind of like I've messed myself, why this pattern, what to do about it.   Hard sometimes, fighting against the biddings of the lesser levels of consciousness.  No wonder I've made a point recently of  doing yoga and got in tune with deeper thoughts and feelings.

Where does that leave you?  Are there any sort of establishments where drink is served where it is about the deeper consciousness, where it does become thoughtful, considered and considerate?

The familiar sadness sits upon me today:  what have I done?  why did I go out rather than just meditate?

I'm not the drunk, I'm just a bit stressed currently, a bit lonely.  My vision just seems a bit different.  As you would naturally expect from a man who's turned fifty.  I guess you have to try things, for too long, to develop, in a negative, the picture of what you want in life.  Maybe the deeper vision, because of its depth, simply, is a lonely spot, when everyone else is simply trying to make a buck with the way things are and how they are.  I think of Eric Clapton's Lonesome Stranger "I have crawled/ down dead-end streets/ on my hands and knees."  Dead-end streets, yes, dating sites, apps, bar scenes, so much of it hollow, as if one were the only one honest in them, honestly saddened, honestly look past all the egos to offer a real person, a mensch, in all his vulnerability.  I've been down those streets, being human, and I find soon enough I'm not getting anywhere.

Over the dinner table's peace and quiet, good conversations I listen to like a kid amongst adults, as I've not yet figured out the basics of a prosperous life, I hear, initiated by a very intelligent British journalist, "starting a church is the only way to make money here in America anyway."  Is that it, asking people to donate?

If you're a poet must you first enchant people with a particular kind of image, the lining up of poetic lines with persona with life as it is led, say like Ted Hughes.  Or does that stuff just come out of the deeper explorations, the Jungian dreamer explorers, whatever, of the imagery of subconscious.  Hughes, many times, takes it straight from the animals, owls, fox cubs, crows.  And I can see now why maybe I ended up at the zoo staring at tiny blue frogs, a lounging seal, a prowling Sumatran tiger, because the animals are natural;  they know how to do their thing.

Heading home, one night last week, too late, I stopped to take a picture of the St. Jerome statue, wet with rain.  A man driving with an older woman passenger pulled up alongside.  Ostensibly, they asked for directions to The Diner, which I explained, but they lingered, waiting for something, some form of being hit on, solicited for who knows what.  I was polite to them, and finally they drove away, and I went speedily home.  People lead neater lives than I do, I'll give them that.  And last night, yes, straight home I should have went, I knew that at the time.

Is drinking, then, necessarily deluding?  It seems at least, at certain times, it is.  Maybe that's why some of it leads to more of it.

Balance, we all seek balance.  I slowly recover from the night of extra beer, and end up reading about "root awakening" on a site dedicated to the principles of yoga, Aum Love Tantra.

Jesus, as was Gautama Buddha, was human.  He drank wine.   He suffered pain, physical, mental, spiritual.  This makes teachings all the more real, accessible to us.  He came up with his wisdom sitting in his own living room (probably with the TV off.)   That he is so human makes him all the more accessible to me, I'll say that.

I get a whole lot more out of tending bar than I do going to one, for the most part.  In truth, I feel awkward at most social situations.  I'd rather be serving, welcoming the stranger, finding the shared, the common, the humanity.  I've often thought how imperfect a job it is, how susceptible it leaves me to the bad influences within and without.  I know that it is a good spiritual practice to be able to find wholeness alone.  As that is a spiritual practice, so too must being the sometimes noble host wherever you can find yourself in that role.

Not a Beau Biden am I, no such accomplishments, not, as it is, the good family man he was.  This was something I had to absorb while watching his funeral and listening to eulogies.  I sort of felt the need to look back on my life and see how little I've tangibly accomplished.  Yeah, we look up to that which is outside ourselves, and see people with better haircuts.

And yet, and yet...  That seems one of the lovely lines of Fellini.  Look at History Channel, providing us with tastes of this and that to fulfill something.  Ancient Aliens.  Reenactments of the life of Jesus (which are good, to my tastes, anyway until we get to the bloody parts, at which point they become highly discouraging and depressing.)  Don't we sometimes look at our TV sets hoping something would come out of them.  Maybe Bobby Kennedy, himself back from the dead.

It's not what you do, it's the love you put into it.  And to this end, tending bar is not the worst of things, by any means.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

But the world, the city, everyone, to some extent, potentially, is ego-fixated.  And deeper thinking is achieved only through seeing through the ego.

If you had a vision that came from being free of ego even you would have a hard time understanding it and putting it into recognizable terms.   Even to yourself it would seem strange.

And the corollary to this is that particularly to the individual wrapped up and attached to ego, the vision will be dismissed.

The world is crafted by the collective take on it.  Washington is Washington, and it becomes so every day.  There is little change, just more fruit from the tree of the collective mind.  Now and again, a subtle change perhaps, but still most of it, nearly all of it fulfilling the vision everyone seems to have of Washington.  The people who come here find it a fit, then make the place more of what and how they see it, of what they project upon it.   Self-fulfilling prophecy.  Ego brings them to fit in to the uses patterned by bigger egos, finding a place to belong.

The other choice is to look beyond, deeper, past the collective subconscious... through deep meditation... becoming less a part of the mainstream's conceptions.

The John F. Kennedy era:  so different in its imposition of a consciousness.  Different from what took hold in Nixon's, and that in turn, far different than Reagan's, and then from that into the W. Bush years, the Cheney influence.  Look at the difference.  The deeper mind, uniting the world through a deeper level of shared consciousness, compared to the shallowest layers of the ego running the mind, the knee-jerk response, the Halliburton wars, the "Patriotism."  Not exactly the eye on top the pyramid.  Each had/has their fruit. The Kennedy era brought forth the Peace Corps, the honest showdown in Cuba over Russian missiles  when it had to, principles standing.  Bush One led to Bush Two, somehow, the egotistical reaction that led to more egotistical reaction, the great opposite of Buddha's principles.  Saber-rattling begets more saber rattling, and before you know it, everyone is at it.

I watched all this take effect in DC.  I saw the town change.  I saw the kind of minds that came.  All you can do is plant seeds.

It was as if new layers of ego were added, piled on top, thickening as a crust over the deeper reality of shared humanity, not unlike the way Hitler added the Nazi ego, his own, his friends.  All it takes is a few.   The people with less an ego don't stand much of a chance.  That's the insidious thing.  The scary thing.

I was a bartender.  I had no idea why.  No idea what I was doing in DC.

The Beau Biden funeral, the eloquent President's eulogy, restores my hopes.  I go for a long walk, all the way to the Zoo.  I see fish of the Amazon, grey seals, an otter, lions, a Sumatran tiger, and then the long walk home.  I took the same route, I remember, a long time ago, when I got dumped.

But my mind still aches from the unresolved, the things that seem to have left me treading water the last twenty five years.  If I'd resolved them I could have cleanly moved on, one way or the other.  The weight of it turns me away from being happy enough to be able to spend time with family.

That makes some of us more disposed to meditate on the collective subconscious.  Not being man enough to put things past me, out of my mind.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

As I wake after the fourth night shift in a row, I can tell I've been through the work week.  My neurotransmitters have been worn down, as they get tending bar, the piqued mind responding to a night's demands and then some, for just a bit too long, and why keep faking it.  The social is mixed in, throughout the evening, but in context the mind sees it as work, and of course it is.  I wake to find the mind returned to the boy and girl and college, another episode, Christmastime, the last sociology class in the music building's amphitheater, where she sat, how he sat at the end of the row on the carpet floor, wanting to sit next to her, should have gotten up off the floor, gone down the row and sat with her, and all would have been forgiven in Christmas spirit and peace would have come.  But instead, "look at where I am now."

The music, of Jazz Night number two, was good.   Brazilian, and at the close of the kitchen, the band's dinner being brought up, the singer's friend of friends' main course has not been fired yet in the confusion of the closing innings.  Shit.  So I fire it.  And then that will make dessert late.  Oh, well, it all works out.  Our regular friend has a kind word for me about my weekend soon arriving.  "We all get in ruts."  Go and try and have some fun.  Do something different.  Start a Meet-Up group.  Hard to meet people our age and with the same interests...  "I get in a rut myself, from time to time."  Oh, yes, I know I do.  I hear you, man, I hear you.  He may have sensed my lack of immediate enthusiasm and I'd just taken the last food order of the night, the Brazilians in the corner, not ones to show up early, five soup spoons to share.  When the waiter deals a large party in the back room, then the barman has to be on patrol over the dining tables, an established pattern.  The waiter had the German ambassador, a 14 top, last night, and tonight it was a dozen mom's of young children...  The waiter can leave.  The barman stays, and there's always something that happens to him after that "can I get anything for you," and the resigned "no, I'm good."  Always something to demand attention, and because of it, the heightened need for your own glass of wine as the last bit of electrical energy gets taxed.

The night before it was drunky "I'm a beach girl" mom with another mom having dinner, about to move back to South Carolina, coming up to the bar to chat with everyone else.  (The attending Secret Service agents had commented to the waiter about her earlier, after she spilled water on the floor.)  One thing precipitates another, just enough of tipsy bar crowd left to egg on, to feel like something's being accomplished when one drinking person meets another, as if they were long lost friends with projects to resume, cards exchanged, as if...  The atomic spin-offs of the intoxicated mind...  Things don't get better around drinkers, they get worse.

I'm serving dinner to the band, having kept the singer's crusty boneless pig's feet warm in the oven, with the salad transferred to another plate.  I start clearing her friends table of the cheese plate slate, the wooden charcuterie round, let someone take the last of the seared foie gras, cold by now, but still good.  I am almost done.  There is no late-night crowd, no wanderers.

Then up the stairs comes the traveller, without a smile on his face.  He's had to move to another living situation today, and the job he'd hoped for, so he could line up an apartment, 'no dice.'  He'd finally gotten fed up down at the waterfront, getting into it with the busboy who kept pushing, pushing, but might wish it'd had been a neater exit as far as apartment hunting goes.  He sits down and looks at the new Bordeaux and the open St. Emilion.  You want a beer?  I dunno.  Try some Bordeaux, I say, giving him a glass.  You must have missed Ray, he was just getting out of here.  I walked down, didn't see him.  We were wondering what you were up to.

Dessert for the Brazilians in the corner table by the front windows.  The tall bass player hangs out, his bass in its zip-up case, the amp with a cover on it.  It's the anniversary of the older couple, so after the mousse and the bruleé come from upstairs (as I'm talking with my friend about how to get out of the rut, as there is a Wisconsin Avenue one, a Connecticut Avenue one...) I bring over a celebratory splash of sparkling rosé, five of them.  The younger guy at the table helped out with playing small percussive instruments, the thing with the sand in it that you shake, very well.  They receive the house's offering with a nice celebratory fanfare, hooray, however they say it.   Cheers.  Flute glasses are raised.  (Their Rhone red bottle is empty anyway.)   The singer joins them, and I pour her another glass of Pinot Blanc, and she is happy, and the boss has signed her up for another date.  "Thank you so much," she says in her soft, restrained purring way.

Back at the bar...  "Maybe I'll go out to some dude ranch in Montana."  I think of some encouraging things to say.  Finding the restaurant where one belongs is a very particular thing; it has to be a match, almost a spiritual things.  "Well, I could pull a few shifts up at this pub my friends know."  Just stay positive.  Don't let that ingrained negative voice take hold, is what I've gotten out of therapy.  "I knew re-entry to the States was going to be rough."

My friend sits quietly.  The Bujan (a Cotes du Bourg) is the best, he says.  You want to work in a wine shop?  Nah, they don't make any money.

"I'll feel better when I get my own living situation down."  True.  You can pick up shifts here, tell 'em you work here.  Yeah.

"How are you," he asks, as I pull the last bit of the night together, send the busboy home without having to wait for the Brazilians to leave.  Would I feel better if I were just alone at this point?  One more guy to monitor, make sure he'll get home okay for various reasons, the great blank space of the night waiting outside the front door.  Leo Dan's Brazilian Pandora station plays through its list, and I wonder if this might be making my friend a little nostalgic for the time he was at the World Cup, far away from old DC.  He's picky about his music.

"Yeah, I got a buddy in Seattle."  I heard through the grapevine the possibility of his going back there, one way ticket.  "I could stay with him.  Except he's a bit of a freak.  And it might come to blows..."  The clouds of that feeling of being trapped, nowhere to go, lower over the bar, over the bottles, over the bright light over the cutting board above the stove used to warm the countless baguettes we burn through madly in a night, out of the long brown-paper baker's bag, into the oven to get hot and soft and crisp on the outside, into a little basket lined with a folded napkin with a ramekin of butter, over the last bit of paper work and the dishwasher with its glassware.  "I could get a car, go back to my dad's, then I could get into Charlottesville, save up some money..."

What happened, to my burn-out generation, who've ended up in restaurants and uncertain living situations...  What educational discouragement got to us, what turn of the economy...

The Brazilians depart into the night.  The singer follows, thanking me generously one last time, looking at my friend at the bar, then back at me.  A final flirt would have ben nice.

"I've been depressed a bit lately."  He gets up and goes over the over and pulls out a morsel of baguette bread.  It's probably pretty dry by now, but he cracks off a piece above the recycling bin and gnaws on a hunk, then another bit, then throwing the remainder in the trashcan.  I do the paperwork, then retrieve a plate of pig's feet and its sauce from the oven, still warm, could use to a bit warmer.  I'd offered him some, but no thanks.

He rises and pulls his jacket on, pulls a cap over his head, his long hair about his neck.  I'm going to get going.  Okay, man, remember it's all a spiritual thing.  Jesus was a smart guy and he didn't have anywhere to stay either, I offer, as a sort of barroom perspective chuckle, look on the bright side, if there is one, or at least, "take it easy."

And then I am left alone to gather my things.  Down to the basement to get my bike.  Change out of my clothes.  Hopefully beat the rain.

Awake now, the day after, sipping hot water with lemon and some smokey tea the boss shared with me reminding me of our recent ridge-tip camping trip and our good talk of yoga's transformative powers in the bright early light after the windy night gusting over our nylon tents, I take an L-tyrosine and 5-HTP and a B-12 for the nervous system, an Ashwagandha for the pollen and remind myself of the yoga to look forward to, the day off.   Time to light some incense and crack open a window, let the egos disperse.

When you're stuck in a rut, it's like your chakras don't want to light up.  Too much damp.   You can't convert things into the spiritual lesson, as that seems beyond your grasp.  The demons sloughed off of others have caused you unrest.  And then maybe it's time to go for a walk.

I take a soak in epsom salts, shower off, shave, am able to do a bit of yoga without much energy, but at least there is some flow.  It takes some patience, some effort, some deep breaths.

Four night shifts is a good deal harder than three, like earthquakes, exponential, and I did not feel good going in yesterday.  The yoga was a lot better yesterday, so at least I was aligned.  Though I was late to work, I beat me co-workers by a good few minutes.  Today, the down mood is disturbing.  Something I thought I shook, but then I remember, how I only worked three shifts the last week, thanks to Memorial Day.

There's a nap, there's a hamburger with sweet potato and onion and a call to mom, there's another nap, a text from the traveler, 'I've been cooped up all day and need to get out;  what are you up to? feel like doing anything,' there's a low key walk up to the bridge on Massachusetts Avenue and back right before the day's sunset at the miraculous 8:27, and then another series of naps, and then around midnight the creature is awake again.  Take the trash out, the recycling into the bin out front, gather the laundry, vacuum, mop.  History Channel movie about Jesus on the laptop.  Fuck, I need at least one glass of wine, much as I would like to meditate.

Wine at home, alone, seems okay.  There's not all the egos around, the self-importance.  A glass gives you energy to do the little household tasks.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Monday, 11 AM, I see my therapist.  I trace out the Amherst English department good and bad.  The initial good, followed by the less, and the knocks to a college professor's son's self-esteem, which leads to the girl problems.  Which, yes, leads to, at my therapist's prompting, and I don't need it much, to see a link to my own professional self-esteem.

She asks me about my experiences at the Bethesda Writer's Center.  Do you ever talk to writers, about your writing?  I think of the workshops I've been to.  Their talk of the characters having 'through lines,' i.e., what does this person want, what does that person have in mind...  Show, don't tell.  "This bit of dialog isn't working for me, because no one in this situation would say that."  Don't get me wrong;  helpful things come out of workshops.  But for me, something missing.  Why do you write?  What in the spirit prompts you to go deeper or put it down.  If you knew, or know your own, why, then you could write one off like Larkin.  And you probably know, somewhere, your own reasons.  Which you can only discover by writing.  In the course of doing so, you might feel a bit like an early Christian, the same inspiration, the same separateness, a sense of being taken as outlandish.  Yes, as per the writing seminar I just missed up at the National Cathedral memoir writing, spiritual writing, the seeking of how you truly feel about something in your own words and experience, is 'counter-cultural.'

Back from my session, the steaminess of Washington DC in the summer under my skin, I meditate in corpse, and a half hour later admit to the need for a nap.

Another shift, under my belt, and then today I am mortal again.  The thirst overcame me in the final inning of Monday Jazz Night, a late hit at the bar, regulars to check in with and juggle, a return of late night Russian lady who's come in with two friends new to the place for dessert, coffee, a glass of malbec, finally leaving peacefully after a bit of 'oh, I'm drunk again, ha ha ha.'  I play the rope-a-dope, skimming along the surface rather than being drawn in, nervous previously grated.

I close up, in the company of my coworker buddies, and then we go up the street to their little rented house on a corner for a night cap and the different mental landscape of a parlor for shop talk.  The final story of the waterfront mess, a shoving match with the aggressive twenty year old El Salvadoran kid who pushes into you, then threatens you.  Then there is a downpour, and I must wait 'til it subsides.  It turns out to be a nice slow ride home.  That's the key to strength in anything, going slow, letting the muscles have a chance to commune in their motions.

And so of course, halfway into the week, such as it is, today I am mortal again.  Would rather seek the answers in that inner world of deeper consciousness found in meditations rather than the outside the outside the outside world and all its offerings.  What a luxury that would be.

Yes, I ate bread, with some cheese José the busman brought back from El Salvador in the throes of hunger at the end of the shift.  I feel it in my knee, in other joints, even in ear wax.  The memory of an almost disconcerting thirst, mediated by keeping to the Chinon and then a final Guinness once safely home with a  roll on the bike on the training stand, why does it take so long to unwind....

The early Christians, gathered in what looks to be a barroom, low key.  Wine to ease the tensions, to help the therapeutic flow, of opening one away from the fetters, the concerns, the veil of the material world.  Humanity ever circling, but not quite grasping.  The barman waiting for the end of the night to come, to go home in peace.

It is a bit disconcerting, to the uncentered, a bar lined with tipsy people, chirping at him like birds.  It makes me wonder, subliminally, if the godly beauty of the creature, both male and female, just as they are, has not been lost along the way, now a need for drastic things, bizarre transformations...