Friday, January 29, 2016

But there is, as mentioned before, the theme of a particular kind of story.   The joke is one bardic vocal form, a carefully remembered and acted piece if it is to be good.  Like a joke it's an attempt at some valid insight.  An attempt to be serious.

Jesus walks into a bar.  Or, rather, is it a guy walks into a bar, and it turns out, eventually, as he realizes, it's actually Jesus who is the bartender.  Or is it that Jesus is the bartender, but that he doesn't have a girlfriend and there are other issues in his life regards his employment and where he's at in life, and so that every Monday morning, a bit too early for him, he goes to see his therapist.  He's not even sure he's Jesus anymore.

And then is that really it is the therapist who is, secretly or not, Iyengar, or Buddha, or maybe rather she is Jesus and you're not, or you're just taking a day off from it, let her carry the burden, tho' you are the one, poor purgatorian devil that you are, like Hamlet's father's ghost--indeed, it wouldn't be a bad idea to bring a great work like that, Hamlet, into  a therapy session, and just read from it and feel all the things that are within people and happen unto them--who has to do the talking.  While she's looking at you.  Jesus Christ.  Ha ha ha.

But Jesus, let's say, the best is a combination of all and several un and yet to be mentioned.  He's a bartender.  And he has to reinterpret, to bring alive again, the Christian teaching and deft touch for parable and story and good humor, bring it out to a dull audience who sometimes does not say please, or barely thank you when they order something, not even introducing the subject, coming out of the blue to a man who fields many requests of all sorts, let us not fool ourselves, "Miller Lite."  Yes, what about it.  Miller Lite.  Hmm.  Lite.  Miller.

Jesus, this current version of him, he can stay up too late sometimes.  It's a quiet time, a time of regrowth and cleansing.  Like sitting in the sauna of silence, to sweat out the good pure blood of his real thoughts.

What's he mulling over?  He's mulling over why he's a writer, who bartends, who does it well, passively listening, smiling, speaks when spoken to, avoids excessive opinions.  He's mulling over all the things he's written over the last twenty five or more years.

Because, you know, he started out in a certain way.  And somehow part of the story, similar to the finding the kid when he was twelve or so sitting on the steps of the Temple talking with the priests, really engaged with them.  But also, like a Buddha, silent, a mind deep into meditations and noble silences.

So that it would be natural that he continue on a certain way, because doing so, doing the actual tiring work even, the mysterious work, the unfathomable payoff, obscure in potential even, for it.  And the thing, he is good at it.  Good for trying, in his own way, generous with his time.

Generous with his time in a way people now hardly understand.  Even further and further and further way from that concept of long time to a true karmic pay-off.

And the joke, if it ever were to be sustained, part of a larger literary project, how would that come about?  Would it be a thing pasted together, like a plant suddenly seeing from all its own little tiny cellular perceptions that it was one thing, all cells working together, differentiating, each to a particular task to behoove the total, seeing the light that feeds all cells, the stem root cell becoming one day the cell helping form a leaf's underbelly.

If you read him, Jesus, in a particular way, one in which to me he makes sense, he's so good at what he does, I mean, the way he handles people.  One of the Pharisees is getting on him for dining with publicans and sinners, and Jesus is more than kind to him in his manner and explanation.  "Look, my friend, it would be dumb to force new wine into old bottles.  Old bottles {this is complementary of the Pharisees' thought} have better wine in them anyway.  But, there are new garments from time to time, and that's all good."  Something like that.  Jesus, to my ear, is not racheting up the tension.  He is not kicking anyone, in fact he's being quite deferential.

To get those parables, you have to listen sometimes.  You have to ponder, even for, like, twenty years, and then, one day, dumb, rolling over, you can say, ah, ah-hah, I get it...

I do wonder, sometimes, late at night, when it's my time, when it's perfectly quiet, when I am alone, why would a writer, one whose own attempt at journalism is self-reflective and haphazard, why have we, not that all of us have, maybe none of us, why have we left abandoned the high ground of  Dostoevsky?  Why have we plunged down a hill that was our best form of battle to cede position against a foe that then is larger, superior in force.

The Idiot, Notes From the House of the Dead, The Brothers Karamazov, it could all start with that line, from the Gospels, about the kernel of wheat, falling to the ground, to die, to bring forth much fruit.  Why leave those 19th Century prisms of visible light...

we had a prism when I was a kid.  I wish I knew where it was now.  Beautiful thing, glass, triangle form...  great on cold winter mornings.

And let's face it.  Work, that to which one was born for better things, sucks.  It's good for socializing, to keep you from going mad, it's good in that way for your brain, but it's a singular activity that sometimes takes away the ability and all those years during which one is supposed to develop and feed his own family life, like it says in the Bible.  There are a lot of questions to be asked, of this work thing.  Like, why?  And why am I so Dudley Do-Right responsible toward it when not everyone else is...  or maybe they are...

And educator is trying to feed you something.   And they have to make it, if they are good, to be digestible to a wide variety of folks.

Shit, I'd talk to everyone, about cooking, about where they found, about people they'd met, where they were from, you never knew when a good subject would come up.  Sometimes, as my friend David pointed out the other night, it's like the Hopper painting of the diner at night.

A man needs to show a respect for the Gospels, an active understanding of them, ultimately, for literature, for a woman,  She needs to see that.

A million jokes never get said, to tell you the truth.  There's barely time for a barman's wit.  Lurking subtly, late at night when he has conquered them into a truce.  They don't know I'm a man who likes to use the language on his off time.  Like a garden outside the city that Hemingway spoke of in moveable feast, a waiter, refused to shave off his mustache for the new regime at the cafe...

This man, D, he's retired from living in Lord of the Rings.  He was one of those... you weren't an elf, no, or a, the guys with Legolas, or, Strider?

But still, doctor, one loses confidence.  All the golden opportunities, all the chances to let your talents out, and you're shy, or crazy, or can only do it on your own.  No 'partner' like they see 'partner', but just, disciples, I guess.  I mean, I'm not better 'en 'em, but, these guys...   like....  listen to what I say.  I mean, finally, the small intimate talk that's always gone on in my head.  And I've conducted this writing seminar so that they are all able, because I've taught them well, like, to just go for it, to tell the story, to go write a gospel, or a Paul's letter, or something, I've taught them to talk, cleanly and purely, from their true selves.  Not the culturally conditioned, I mean, patterned by new influences that might not be so poetic, the inability to see beyond the image of the advertisement.

Jesus spoke to everyone kindly.  Beaming it out.

His healing cure to the Pharisee with those nice words of his, about how the old wine was truly better, but that there was new wine too, and you couldn't all stomp it out like a child at an ant mound...

Those sketches of Jesus the teacher,  they were chastely written remembrances, like at a eulogy, where you don't want to go overboard and take too much time but, convey the sense...

"Doctor, I should be with a woman.  Why am I not with a woman?"

Somewhere in hyper space, Dr. Torrey is dealing with it...

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

I revisit the book I wrote, one readers react to with sadness.

One of the oldest themes of all kind of literature, that of being sick, in need of a physician.  (Sick, broadly defined, that line of good health particular to an individual with habits that work for him, causing his own style, and the sickness sometimes being that which happens when he eats a diet intended for the main stream.)  Dostoyevsky, perfect every time, for which he went through a lot to achieve and a naturally anxious type of genius bent person, renders it directly, no beating around the bush: "I am a sick man, I am an ill man...

The theme makes you think of a Hemingway, so often a writer looking for a new situation, an old one, where he can be himself, listen to himself, observe himself, react and follow himself.  As a writer, if he is to be a writer, must.   What is an author doing but trying to diagnose the self, to look for what's wrong with him that makes him so.  Illness within, wrongs of the outside world, perceived, reacted to.  Hemingway has different answers, I suppose, for different periods of his life, a shift of theme and context between, say, young fisherman and old fisherman, boy, teenager, young soldier, adult, landowner, forest dweller....  And notably there is the act of his continued writing, as if that provided him a basic platform of good health.  You could follow on with his story into the lives of his descendants, their own struggles and solutions, yoga, exercise, refrain from alcohol...  Or, yet another version of the story.

After the blizzard and the extra duties of house sitting and shoveling, sore of muscle, finally making it home, after being commandeered for a few nights of work amidst the blizzard's aftermath, I sit out in sunlight before a shift.  I heat water, making licorice tea.  Hot shower.  I do my yoga.  The chakras, the posture, balanced again.  There was the shift the night before, but good moderation, not too much button pushing of a late crowd.  The quiet of a night when no one wants to go out, and the street's parking places piled with cemented snow drifts thrown up by the plows.

The book I wrote, I suppose it too spelled out examples, problems, short-comings, bad habits, stupidity.  The usual foibles of those of college age, young people being youthful.   The girl in it mentions to the character the benefits of sunlight, something he might listen to, because sunlight is a healthy thing.

Like Emily Dickinson before him, as a student he is tossed in, to varying extents, with the irredeemable, excommunicated from the Congregational salvation.  Superficially, nothing major.

Jesus knows it in himself, perhaps, and so to whom he has come are those in need of a cure, to those sin against the good health of righteousness.

And he said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself.  (Luke 4:23.)  Then he points out some of the faults of local society, one being the failure to accept a prophet in his own country.  And this does not make them happy, nor win him favor.

It's quite a statement.  One even today no one would want to touch with a ten foot pole.  It speaks of the hardhearted judgmental quality of people engaged in a society, taking part in it, knowing its parameters, its limits as to what is acceptable.

But Jesus seems to have, all along, this sense of 'sin.'  He gets the sins of publicans, gluttons, wine-bibbers, of those who seek pleasures, money, etc.  He seems to have a good physical sense of how such things occur from within.  He knows skepticism, knowing it in his own.

But because he is sensitive, a writer, a thoughtful sensitive person out to do good, he has this creative mode, one which brings him to good health and peace of mind.

Sure, sure, there were for Jesus the sort of relatively frivolous times, the flirtations.  There remains him his good humor, his willingness, even an eagerness, to hang out with the outcasts, and the sort of garden variety of fallible people, the salt of the earth types that have sin but also that potential for the great flavor...  He is never afraid of such people, as if he were always ever learning something from them.  His physical model of what it takes to be healthy.

Buddha, by the way, same thing.  The cure was to do diminish the sense we might naturally have of a fixed self separate from the rest of all things that exist and That Which Is....

Does he bring The Rejection at Nazareth upon himself, one might ask.  Is it within his divine omniscient nature that he reads their hearts, or is it that he, being familiar with them, already knows these people he addresses.  Perhaps to him he's just being matter-of-fact about such things, maybe even as a general attribute of human nature, but which if mentioned in a church or a synagogue, you have to be a bit careful about.  Perhaps he's just pointing out, underscoring, another sin common to humanity, the same association, fraternity he has, through his understanding, of the sinner, the drinker, the adulterer, the publican.  But here, it's too much for them; they get angry with him.

Is he being accusatory, or matter of fact with them?  It seems the calmness with which he enters into this discussion is the calmness that lets him walk away through their midst when they were ready to throw him off the high place the town is built on.

I can't help but think that this doesn't bear some relationship to, as far as what he's telling them all, his statement of good personal health, which is, 'beware the leaven of the Pharisees.'  A very succinct statement.   Meaning, acknowledge that which is healthy for you to do.  Don't accept, necessarily, what you're told is good for you because the almighty 'they' do it, suggesting an almighty 'we,' but do what's good for you.  Do what's good for you.  That's all.

This is what makes the writer's life a bit more interesting.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

"Two thousand one hundred and thirty games," the skeptic journalist says, admitting his respect for the man, sitting next to Walter Brennan up in the press box, as Gary Cooper, playing Lou Gehrig, sits down somewhere through a baseball game in Detroit, 14, or is it 16, years of not missing a single game, taking himself out, walking back to the dugout, knowing he can't swing a bat as he should anymore, the new guy jogging out to play first base.  "Sure, you're ready to do this, Lou," the manager asks, and he replies, (something like), "Yes, I'm ready."  No one says anything when he goes back down into the dugout and walks along the bench in front of his seated teammates.  But they've squeezed a camera behind that bench, looking out onto the ball field a level up from them, and Cooper is transformed as his tall broad figure in his cap moves past, on, on, shadowed, to the spot that awaits him. The Pride of the Yankees, 1942.  Sappy music and all.  TCM, on a Thursday night off in January, before a blizzard in Washington, DC.  If you've watched High Noon, well, Cooper knew how to do that thing which lets one do that thing called acting.

About halfway through my shift, I realize I've left the hamburger on ezekial muffin in my courier bag.      I tucked into it parsley, thin slices of red onion, olive oil on the bread part I'm skeptical of but makes it taste good, a squeeze of mustard and a tiny one of ketchup.  I hate to waste, food in particular, a barman needs it to get through, a good amount of protein, trust me.  Feeding and care of the animal is not easy.  Not tucked away in the beer cooler, stashed away above the champagne bottles laid flat on a shelf above the white wines.  Meaning it is not safe to eat.  It's a busy night.  Out on Wisconsin glare black ice.  A long string of cars, busses, SUVs,  in both directions.

The band is finally packing up after quitting at ten, when one of our regulars comes in.  The barman is an athlete and can respond to people who hound him for another glass of wine.  The Finn, this customer, a tall man, Andrew Wyeth might have painted him so.  Who tells me he's invited his buddy, a mutual friend, to come by.  Tonight?  Now?  Are you mad?

I've been very busy since I got in the door at 4:30.  We were fed a modest meal of chicken wings and rice before the door opened.  The wine bar is booked solid.  It's a night of constant movement, constant coming and going, at the bar, everywhere.  A trainee server from Columbia.  By ten, that's enough.  Let's hit The Safeway to stock up on meat for the coming blizzard, and let's just get home.  Let's just go home.  I've paid my dues to the night, earned enough tips for the tip pool, dealt with plenty of people, all in agreeable way.  And I've had enough of it for one night.  Fresh air is calling.

Except for one customer.  And the one who's on his way.  Delayed.  More delayed.  The Uber he's riding in is in an eight car accident up the road.  Guys, I'm done with my night.  Let me just go home.  There's a blizzard to get ready for, and I've been called to house-sit, which makes things complicated.

The Breton senior waitress, calls her Breton man, to see where he is on the road.  It's taking him almost two hours to come in from Virginia, 395 a parking lot, finally making headway on 50, Pennsylvania to M Street.

I've restocked the bar.  I've eaten my piece of salmon, standing, enjoying the nutrition more than the flavor, taking intermittent bites from it over by the oven, hidden away from the bar seats, food instead of wine.  I pull out my courier bag from the stereo spare liquor back up stock closet, swipe my credit card to pay for my discounted dinner, and change into my street clothes back in the wine room.  People really do not care if they're keeping you, no concept for your pain when it becomes pain.  But, you ride it out.  I've not had a glass of wine, and I don't really want one, for a change.  I want to get on with my life.

And then, finally, the last two come.  I pour them two Bordeaux, and even after closing out his check, just to show, look man, I'm done,  I pour the Finn another splash of Taylor Fladgate.  It's Fellini's birthday.  I do not mention mine, two days ago.  But, hey, someone else likes Eight and a Half, and the scene, I'm not sure which one, Mastroianni and Claudia Cardinalli (sp.)  "He died in Paris," I say, speaking of the passing of the great actor.  It's nice to hear, someone else has respect.

The Bretons give me a ride home.  Vercingetorix.  He has long white hair, muscular, and he knows how to drive, letting the car go at pace in low drive, no foot on the gas.  The corners are greasy.  He wears the torques he should, and she soothes me over my customers whom I have trained so well to stay late, and even sometimes, in blizzards, Finns, give me a ride home.  "I'll put up a box, with grains, with leftover baguette, with olive oil, for the birds... and hazelnuts for the squirrels," the kind lady says.  They met on Metro, an empty car, she sat next to him.

By the time I get home, given a ride, no Safeway run, a feeling of frustration hovers over me.  I should have walked home.  A walk home is always grounding.  And the fresh snow, a treat for a country boy who grew up cross country skiing.  Sweep the front stoop off of the inch of powder snow, the sidewalk, put in a load of laundry, open a bottle of wine in order to calm down, ride the bike on the stand in the living room, finally do some yoga, a shoulder stand, and then finally to bed, still almost muttering to myself.  As wonderful as it might be to have many friends in a barroom, it's lonely when you go home alone, late, the city gone to bed.  This is why people have cats.

There's a bit of joke element to it.  Like the old so n so and such n such walk into a bar.  A spiritual visionary, a Jesus, a Buddha, goes to see his, or hers, therapist.  Every Monday, 11 AM, a downtown office building.  Mundane familiar worldly problems and irritations, concerns, feelings, the what-should-I-do... in plural form.  The woman looks at you, puzzled sometimes, sympathetic.  Offering little pointers now and then.  She helps you hear what you yourself are saying.  You're not feeling great stability in your job.  Well, it's the restaurant business!

Hmm, should I go out into the desert for forty days?  Loaves and fishes, you're in the weeds just about every night, and when it goes slow, still, a long time on your feet entertaining.  Entertaining.  Listening, in need of seven different ears and five different mouths with which to talk.  It's a job meant for a human being, sure.  It's natural, it's stimulating.  If you're not a bar owner, not so much a living, and even then.

Even youth, a person processes the adult experiences of disappointment.  That time is supposed to be more positive for college kids.  But even then we are adults.  Disappointments are part of all our mortal histories, why not be Lou Gehrig and get used to them.  That's life.  That is life.

Gary Cooper, playing Lou Gehrig in front of a full Yankee Stadium, (or a substitute for it, Wrigley, or a ball park closer to Hollywood) delivers the tribute speech.  "Today I consider myself the luckiest man in the world."  Gary Cooper, wearing pinstripes, number 4, walks alone back to the dugout, the hallway to the locker room, into shadow, good as any of the most ancient dramas.

It is hard for people to do things, things you might ask of them.  Gehrig, let him play baseball.  Cooper, Coops, as Hemingway called his friend, started as a cartoonist, then an extra standing out, six four, in a crowd, let him act.  Let John Donne write poetry.  None of it makes particular economic sense, but then economic sense must ultimately play toward what people can actually do and, yes, how the planet and all its creatures big and small, might live.

The Irish, staying up all night, playing music, all the farmers coming to play their instruments.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

It's his kindness.  That's what stands out.  He was kind.  That's a large part of it.  He expressed kindness and empathy to...  well, the kind of people no one else really wanted to touch or do much about.  Not extreme people, just the sort of people that a society might shrug about, 'Oh, well, what can you do..."  The kind of people the busy life of a city and directed aims and targeted tasks has to ignore.  By which I mean, the sufferers in our own midst.  Ourselves even.

Us.  The salt of the earth.  Not the particular, not the specially set apart as those in need of particular charity to be tended to in some professional way, but people, people with all the illnesses and things that flesh is heir to...

Jesus brought kindness to them.  He listened.  And kind of like dried out house plants, his kindness was water, and sticking with them the kindness had its effect in the way that it truly does.  Demons departed.  Of course they did.  A person suddenly found a kind therapeutic ear, a voice, an eye that understood everything.

Something which really should be present in all our lives.  But which isn't, because of professional titles and all that career stuff.  Professional realms which are good, which do work, but in turn cannot offer that ultimate simple kindness of which the need is so plainly evident in everything humanity touches.

"An onion."  Somewhere in The Brothers Karamazov, giving an onion to a hungry peasant woman... Dostoevsky, his eye focusses on the simple thing, like bread.  An onion.  A symbol, an act of grace.

"Wow,, this guy is kind to me, after everyone else just shrugged, too bad, and went on their way.  And I don't blame them, because, you know, it's not like they can heal you or give you immediately a new life, shelter, care, that sort of a thing."  Jesus stopped, and listened, was thoughtful and kind, and wasn't stuck too much on tradition.  New wine, old wine, new garments, old ones...  You have to listen to the story, see it reenacted, get the oral tradition to feel it.  Just reading it, not bringing it to life and to a sort of vision, you miss something.  Because it's music, spiritual music, music which you can play in your own head, to your own benefit, good for the brain.  It's not so much logical, but, from the heart, therefore satisfying.

Really, what did he do?  He was nice to people.  He listened, he saw.  He fed people.  He let it be okay that they drank wine, were fishermen, were not infallible.  Incredibly kind.  Even sacrificing himself, of course.  No wonder he liked his time up in the hills by himself, detoxing, cleansing his mind from the tacit unkindness that he saw, the making of deviants out of people stricken with problems not so much of their own making, health stuff, crazy minds...

He was a good person to go to a baseball game with, a good forgiver, a good acknowledger of people, individuals, the soul of individuals...  And yes, the opposite kind of a thing to that of, say, the old Soviet system of everyone being soulless comrade worker advancing the purposes chosen by the state.

Friday, January 15, 2016

It falls upon the writer, the awkwardness of truth, the claims of the word upon the flesh.

The writer finds, through examination of his own life, the things covered by Jesuit Priest James Martin, S.J., in The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything, to be of a truth.  Here, a good treatment of the religious life, a covering of topics as poverty of spirit, or humility, the appropriateness of chastity, thereby to better love one's neighbor.   Odd things to consider, but then one did not invent them.  At a more mature age, one's own experience really does seem to lead him so.  Then one might be able to see, not the 'all the things I'm doing wrong with my life,' but rather, the gentle appropriateness, and thereby a grounded stance to make the corrections one can, confident again, less troubled, and more the feeling of being loved, somehow.

Why do I act with humility?  Why am I chaste?  Why am I more an embracer of poverty rather than the riches that would seemingly bring me comfort?  To all the pains of life, all the disappointments, faults and 'sins,' one can honestly say, 'well, that's just how it is, I didn't invent it, nor the pattern, it's just the path, to life, to what may be called, the Christian life.'  The vain mis-steps one is prone to in life, in social media, the selfishness that clouds the vision, such things seemed eased away from, and a reality emerges of not so much being at fault, but being basically right and true, even if it brings its own aches.

A good neighbor calls such things The Rock, that ability to see...

The evening of a Friday night shift, someone away for a weekend trip, ends, the barman eating a piece of salmon, alone, a glass of wine.  The energy level quickly sinks, and there are things left to do, the lugging up of bottles to restock, Sancerre, and Bordeaux, the last few dirty plates to take down to an empty kitchen.  A swipe of the bar surfaces, Windex, the bar towel.  The sound system, emptiness.  Is this the fundamental condition of humanity, choose we do to not admit it?   Is this some form of the sorrowful passion from the prayer on EWTN from 3 to 3:20 every afternoon.  The last late customers he entertained, did a good job of it, and now, what's there to do but walk home, also lonely, but healthy.  He stops in the park, sits down at a park bench, and the deer are the only ones for company.    Is this where one comes to find God's love?  Or just a lousy job...

They were great people to work with.  That always lifted my spirits.  Great crowd.  A real mixing with real people.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

As you get older, you know better what's good for you, what's healthy.

The barroom, the drinkers, the patterns of freed tongues and conversations of the happy hour...  Conversation is conversation, often very interesting...  Rejoice in that.   But sometimes, the evening, because of the nature of work and lifting and dirty plates and orders and busboys that go home before you, gets a little too long.  Loud voices, boisterous and happy with completing their own work day...

Ach.  When you're young you don't have so clear a notion.  You over-react, you mis-react.  Or you just go along with things, not thinking of what there should be as far as following through with good productive intent.

The Rejection at Nazareth... What's He saying?  Being expansive about prophets, He reads from Isaiah.  "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me..."   He mentions the powers of a prophet...  And then He sits to add a commentary, as was customary in Jewish tradition.  "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing," He says.  (From the Gospel of Luke, 4:16 - 30.)

What does He mean by this?  As He is one discussing the divine reality of human nature, how expansive can we make this;  how broadly might it apply?   He could just be speaking about Himself, but isn't His habit generally that of the parable, of one thing and how it can be applied to many a situation.   His own things He applies to humanity, in its true essence as He teaches us to see it.

And then He adds, of course, he engages, for which there will be reaction of the gathered, "No prophet is accepted in the prophet's hometown."  And this too is a statement, broadly applicable.   As  if to say, that there is within us that which hears the divine spirit and understands, in some way, its nature, that ability to be, as they called it then, prophetic, or insightful.  That, He is telling us, is within the legacy of our birth, our birthright.

But because we attach ourselves and our neighbors to common every day less than remarkable things, like work, in order to understand them, we are not so much generally inclined to see in a conscious socially patterned way, the divine in the other.  (Even as we do see it, as we are meant to, because its a plain true part of ourselves and others.)  And because of this, we lean toward rejecting the divinity in the other, leaning toward understanding them by the usual social clues, this person is such n such, so n so, look at the clothes they are wearing, what they do for work, the color of their skin, their age, health, wealth, other practical things, like 'would I buy a loaf of bread from this guy...'

And so there is the great rejection.  The taking of a person who has a right to be where he is, who he is, and not listening.  The great dismissal.  The Rejection at Nazareth.

Rejection hurts, it has consequences.  And perhaps to someone who has some sense, conscious or not, subliminal, what-have-you, of the divine spark of spirit, who brings love to what he does, perhaps there is a particular sting, one that a more aggressive and practical person might be far better at shrugging off.

The consequences of the rejection might lead a man to be ever more entrenched, more steadfast, more a man on a mission.  We could say this about Jesus.  From the rejection in His hometown, He may be ever more set on exploring the nature of the prophetic teacher of parables going out into the world and its people just as they are.  Walking through the midst of His rejectors, Jesus is on His path.

As a regular normal mortal human being, as a youth, I'm afraid we're less circumspect when we get one of those little garden variety rejections, such as those in a young woman's fair arsenal of self-protection and carefulness to which we owe the survival of our species.  One never means to take rejections so heavily, but sometimes we do.  We seem to react with our own rejection, even without ever meaning it, as we must simply to on our way trying to be who we are in essence, trying to find ourselves, or in that great period of listening.

That's why young people, in this period of time, need a spiritual element to their educations.  To get a broader perspective, I suppose.  Or rather, we all do.  We all do.

But that little divine spirit spark within us, it's not the easiest more readily available thing to accept.  Or know what to do with.  Try to be good, sure.  But there is also sin, inherent to our nature.  That is our mix.   That is why forgiveness is so crucial.  Even Jesus brings the ire of at least some of the people of his own hometown upon Himself.  Maybe because they saw the forgiveness in Him, they did not bring harm to him, much as they intended to throw him down from the high place of the town.   A lesson amplified by the story of the woman caught in adultery...  Forgiveness around the world, emanating from this spirit brought forth in the old book of Isaiah, brought to life by Him.

Who knows, maybe He almost felt like rejecting Himself, sometimes...  As all theorists and scientist and artists might want to do sometimes, but for the beauty of the thing, the self-evident truth somewhere within, to be teased out, even if by some lone voice.

Or maybe he would have heard the voices rife with sarcasm, after he'd spoken his piece to the townspeople of his own hometown.  "Spiritual master (yeah, right...)  Asshole!"

Reconstructing it ourselves, we see our own vanity, the vanity of the everyday.  Vanity even as we see ourselves putting into play our talents.

Is it the realization of one's own vanity that leads Him to His work as we know it.

Friday, January 8, 2016

I don't know, I said, a quick explanation of the holidays and family, when one of the great musicians sat down to eat before playing.

Did you have a Christmas tree?

Oh, yes.  He nodded. I had his soda water for him.  Asked, his daughter in Germany, with her boyfriend, Vietnamese.  At Christmas, a preference for particular bourbon emerges.  Makers Mark, sound, but I don't drink when I play.  Bartender reacts.  Daughter's boyfriend likes... Basil Hayden.

I say, Knob Creek, best we have.  Famous American almost drowned in Knob Creek, Kentucky, at the age of nine.  Makers Mark.  Does what it should.  But who is that?

(Actually, the Irish are smarter, distilling three times, not just once, as in bourbon, though you have to give them credit for being the Armangac of whiskey, not just twice, like the Scots, who know they are going to drink a lot of it...  Makes a difference.)

A musician, a bass player, lets say, has an understanding of Abraham Lincoln.

I was watching a piece about the Naval Observatory...  (Here in Washington, DC, not far away, through the woods, off of Massachusetts Avenue.)   The big telescope had finally arrived.  All set up. And, you know, it's pretty quiet, up on a nice hill, surrounded by woods, and yes, if you had to pick a place in old DC, that's it, makes sense.

 But one night, not long after the big telescope is in place, somewhere in the night, maybe something like 2:30 AM, something like that, a knock at the door.  Boom boom.  Boom.  Boom.  Who the hell is it.  Go and answer the door.  And you're looking uphill if you are in front of the Naval Observatory.  Open the door.

It's him.  Abraham Lincoln.

Can I look through your telescope?  I thought I might like to.  You know, I have an interest in science and such things.  My patent never got very far, but, without science, where would we be?

Smiles.  Nods.  The self-confidence of a big man, like a man who can play the bass.  The keeper of the observatory, and he, look through the telescope, big for its day, up at the heavens.

Thank you very much.  That really was nice.  I much appreciate your letting me come and look, and think of all we saw.

And then, the keeper of the Observatory, well, sees him out.  The man did what he wanted, looked up, saw the stars of the deep heavens...  The door is opened to let him out, Lincoln...

And then, what does he see?  Lincoln nods, probably, and then he turns away, his hat on, and he walks away.  He steps down the hill, to the sloping little road that leads now down to Massachusetts Avenue which was basically the same route then as it is now...  It's the middle of the night, and the man is all alone.  No horse.  No guard.  No phalanx.  Just a lone tall man, at the odd hour, who probably said, what we all would have said, if we ourselves had the opportunity to be him, such a man, 'thank you very much.'  The words haven't changed that much since 1854, or 1855, or 1856.

Just a lone man, tall, shrouded in his dark suit, an overcoat, maybe, walking slowly and steadfastly out into the silent dark night.

The keeper of the Observatory watches the man walk away off into the night.

I look at my guest.  famous in his own right.

What was he, fifty seven?  (56, at death, some literature says.)  His weight was down to 180, thin for a man 6' 4", but sinewy, all muscle.  Out wrestled anyone he ever wrested with.

I've looked at his life masks, at the Portrait Gallery.  The one from 1860, then the one from 1865.  Something was getting him...  The cracked negative is not a big picture, just more than postcard size, unbelievably.  Or rather, appropriate.  Something comes out of it.  Him.

Something was getting him, yes.

Could hold an axe out, I add, holding my thin arm out straight.  I've split wood before as a kid, in my life.  But at shoulder height, he could do it.

A little Derringer pistol one shot thing, they weren't very reliable. Half the time they wouldn't go off, backfired, something like that.

And if it hadn't gone off, Lincoln would have turned around...

Yes, I said...

Lincoln would have turned around, picked the little bastard up, broke him in half and thrown him over the railing.

Which, unfortunately, for the world, did not happen.

The man finished his salmon, and I was his friend, and I watched him play the bass, while I tended to my duties there at the wine bar, with all its comings and goings.

But how can one not tear up, after hearing a story, and realizing that at night, all alone, Lincoln got up on his own two booted feat, and walked, alone, all the way from 16th Street Northwest (where The White House is), up the five or so blocks up to Massachusetts Avenue, and then all the way up west, a good fifty minutes, I might imagine, and then, satisfied, walked back, had to walk back, which some of us, as drinkers sometimes, know is not so perfectly pleasant, but sometimes weary, but then, sometimes allowing for a joy of the elements, the peaceful happy open night sky with all its little events of meaning and possibility and proposed geometry.

That is where the words came from, from such slow walks, as that old man, walking up, and then back down, old spooky Massachusetts Avenue not far away from where I sit, and many the time I have made the walk, the very same footsteps, in cold weather, and in fair, and in the same, one imagines, the same creative oblivion, honest, hurting, a practical thing to do as far as sanity.  A thing that made him who he was, always doing things like that, that odd wayfarer sort of thing, as if he was interested more in petals of clover in the grass than all the great matters of state.

Pigs stuck in mud.  Fallen birds.  Somber rhymes.  A man balanced, somehow, encompassing.  And on top of that, all the legal talent you'd want, unlike some of us, who aren't so industrious and responsible.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

After the workweek, sore, the maestro lay on his side in bed with the shades drawn, in a meditation pose, allowing the thoughts to form, like watching loose translucent blob-like strings of DNA form and pass in his mind, vertically, like thematic streams of Beethoven's music.  Notes by themselves at first.  Then, discerning, coalescing, here a part, here a voice, here an instrument stating something, then picked up in another way, changed slightly, then many of those gathering, changing, reforming on their own as greater groups.  The actual music was hard to hear at this point, coming out like little blips, smaller sawings on a stringed instrument, much like the beginning of the Ninth.  One had no way to know if he was talking in nonsense or in scientific or psychological postulations of any accuracy or not.  A certain peace can be found in such writing attempts if not in the world in the same fashion.  One must rest in peace of some form to be able to see and hear.

Peace.  Yes, there are the diplomatic arenas of the courtship ritual.  So the notes in his mind were telling him, and he judged them not.  But there seemed some vague fact, hard to attain and develop, that certain people might act as, to use a loose term, depressives, and that to treat them with the usual roughness to be expected in such matters as courtship and friendship has a deeper effect, a magnifying effect.  Really they are just sensitive people, natural people.

But who knows if this is true, or reasonable to say, or even worth mentioning?  Barely a lump, a roughly formed thought, sitting just so in the mind of a person who'd gotten through the physicality of a work week of night shifts, who was awake but craved more rest.   A personal thought, coming from some personal experience long turned over in the mind, a delineation point between the world as it is and the questions of how to attain peace in the mind, through understanding.  Maybe if peace was found in one mind it could be passed to another, and so on.

The over-reaction, yes.  His own.  His own tendency to not react in the appropriate calm self-confident way, but to allow in the more negative narrative of a scene.  "Well, after all that I call her up and she practically hangs up on me, so therefore she doesn't like me..."   Carrying that in to the next day, when she appears before you, but you cannot break out in time of the bad thoughts, the sense of hurt, what-have-you, not worth going into.  Then distraction, then loss of opportunity, quickly and as easily as that, and your own sins coming into play.

The stress, that's what it is, you allow in the stress.  And the stress controls the thoughts and the way the adrenaline fires.  Be positive, easier said than done.   And stress is bad for the brain.  It leads to coping mechanisms that cause damage.  Ultimately, depressions of the sort that lead to things like dementia.  An overworked mind.

Which is again why people write, or, like Beethoven, craft strains of music into symphonies, as a way with coping with the depressions, the depressions that grow upon depressions.  Because you hear things, basic things, like somewhere, in the midst of cacophony, an Ode to Joy.

Or maybe quite well not even depressions.  Just an innate need, the organic need to take all those rushing loose strains of thought's pieces that run through the mind as we each must know it on our own, and put them down.  Ed Sheeran said as much on Charlie Rose last year.  It builds up.  When the chance comes out the songs come.

Somewhere a thought in the midst of the week.  Hamlet.  He slips so easily and fully into the antic disposition.  We want to tell him, stop, my friend, stop; it's Ophelia you're speaking to, forget the dramatic intent beyond that...  Shakespeare's observation is of people slipping into their modes, choosing them, how complete, overrunning they become, even when one is aware of what he's doing.

But it is hard enough to get through a workweek.  The new busboy.  The co-worker who shows up just before the door opens, not a single effort to help set-up, arrange the furniture for jazz night full to the brim.  One wishes to come from another culture, less Germanic about time.  Calm, easy-going, diplomatic, friendly, not so worried about how things might actually come together, eh, shrug, they will happen.  Not part of that tribe who has to go home, sleep, then upon waking try to spin the yarn of thought out of the coarse wool of the week.

Kindness, the depressive thinks, doesn't it finally come down to the kindness with which one treats, regardless of external fact, another human being, a kindness that is ultimately good for the health of that person, the deprivations of which of said kindness are not good for the health of that person.

And who would ever know where the less than full implementation of kindness came in to the dialog?  Can you blame anyone in particular?  Can you point to any thing that was just a little bit too harsh?   Diplomatic histories are made of such errors, like Obama and Netanyahu, one saw in PBS winding down, maybe that's why he is thinking of such things, diplomacy.

He wrote, he had his green tea, he had a cup of hot water with lemon, a dash of cayenne, a drop of pure maple syrup, and his glasses, oversized, progressive bifocals were awkward to look through as he leaned over the coffee table.

Okay, and what were other thoughts from the week that I have not been able to get to?

Depart from me;  for I am a sinful man, O Lord.  From the Gospel of Luke.  5:8

Peter's talent.  His sensitivity.  Self-understanding.  His great human humanity.  His shyness.  The great admission, the greatest of all admission, simple, stinging, full, a sense of the lack of self-control, scary.  Yet, we sense in him, he wants to do something creative, something good, something to wipe the pessimism and the negativity away, to be clean again.  Not caught in reaction.

The bar gets overrun.  No one from downstairs comes up to help, and so I hustle.

Master, we have toiled all night, and have taken nothing.  The futility of a job.  He's tired.

Then what does the Master say?  And then, somehow, it's easy to come along.

Peter will have his own moments of creativity.  He is the flashpoint for all the Gospel writers.  "Who do they say I am," and Peter answers.

A faith in kindness, some form of kindness, chaste as it may be, kindness given by and to a fisherman who's toiled all night and taken nothing, just trying to do his work.

And for him, there is better work.  A fisher of 'men.'  Temperate, Peter will have a better chance at working for the good, less allowing of evil...

There is barely any meaning left in words.  How they are delivered, yes.  But the words themselves, some are just foolish enough in a youthful time to believe in them, take them as fixed.  That's the beauty of poetry, the attempt to make words fixed points of a truth about something.

Really they are far more like music than we might think.  Musical notes, phrases, signifiers for things there are no rational terms for, emotional truths of how people feel.  Meditations, little more.  If you can pluck something out of them, it is a thought out of a field, one in keeping with the whole field, a whole spectrum, into which one supposes a particular instance of life might be dropped into to see it in greater context, for all outcomes.

Thereby, the maestro felt a certain comfort.  There was never any intention to write a novel, like, say, For Whom The Bell Tolls, something to be made into a movie with Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman.  There were just mysterious connections to be mulled over in the words one was able to write down, something that went along with but perhaps beyond thought.  Thinking of a sort that could be placed in the context of a whole lifetime of a thinking creature, from wordless babe, through childhood and youth, through those years that are supposed to be somehow adult, and on into those of old age.  Thinking that is simply there, somehow, constant, a thing itself worth pondering about, conscious, present, aware somehow, as if from a higher perspective of our own thoughts, tolerant of them as we are tolerant of weather conditions, there being some spiritual point, some understanding to be gained, lest we get lost and think of ourselves only as the hapless fisherman of one night's fruitless toil.

Employ the wordy part of the mind, and let it go its own way, reaching down to thoughts of a deeper consciousness, for which one has, of course, no control over, but to sit down and listen.  An idiot full of sound and fury but signifying nothing?  One hopes not.

Somehow the blank thoughts, the exercise of words, soothed the maestro's mind after all the talk of the week and the people in different states coming through the bar and the tables.  Quiet enough now to let them come out, and then, maybe weeks or months later, find record of them, to then see if they might yield any jewel of meaning...

"Eat your dinner," they had told him, the kind people at the end of the night.  "He's too shy," a woman said.

Might some form of a parable emerge, just born, nascent, more human than divine.

It was the last diners that had pushed him over the edge, fellow staff disappearing as they conceived of their own real duties, abandoning him, wiping the glassware clean, the last cheese plates to be wrangled out of the kitchen at the end of a long one, a requested alteration of the night's fish special, the complication of being turned into a live music venue.   But he had recovered.  Just the next day, tired, rather tired.

What did it all mean?  It must have some Christian form of meaning, somehow.

Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.

A literary operation, the room where people meet.  Salt of the earth.