Monday, July 25, 2016

Six straight nights up at the wine bar, four of them by myself.  Friday, all by myself, busboy.  Saturday, same thing.  Sunday night, no busboy.  Monday, some help.  Tuesday, alone, no busboy.  Wednesday, some help.  Jazz night complicates things intensely.   I'm the last to leave.

Two days off.  Unable to get moving in the afternoon.

As he lay there, tired, adjusting to the medicine, not having to go into work, he had the sensation as if below his breastbone in that energy center of intersections there was something like a box, a small cubicle chest, and that in it there were the physical memories of a particular person, a young woman from some time ago, that each and everyone of his dealings with had somehow tickled him, entering him.  The times, the circumstances, the words that happen, the events that can happen, they might not quite reflect the gut physical reaction.  Human, one might even act logically contrary to the wishes of the inner body and nervous system.  But that small chest full of the sensations that built upon each other had gave meaning, that was always there too, and required of him a reaction, such as would come out involuntarily, a voice cracking, the sound of the voice as it reacts to her action, a tonal musical quality which is uncontrolled, like the octave of a vessel being filled with water.  There was not anything he could do about this, about that center, like a chakra, of gut reaction to her person.  It had all happened at a vulnerable time anyway.  One of the last times after being where she was, he had vomited.

That was the thing within, that he had no power over, even as he tried to turn from it, escape from that which resided under his breastplate in a small central chamber.  There was not anything he could do about it now, but live with it, under some form of Buddhist philosophy, passive, accepting, the wiser for knowing a physical truth.

Working at the bar had been an effort along such lines.  A way of trying to distract himself.

Shakespeare.  Shakespeare.  He understood that people needed to talk, and that, also, and very importantly, people could be geniuses at it, and do great and almost infinitely--taking in dark matter and dark energy--gifted highly intelligent things of great compass.  Such that when a political convention comes along--I mean, just to use the example, because that example is now highly present--one could each, within his own his or her self, come up with good and vital things to say, things worth listening to, things built on the shoulders of a million disparate dreams that happen to us in our sleep, and that come out, meaning something, unknown to us, but a process.  I could speaking at that convention.  This is what I would add.

Thus, now, the possibility and popularity of certain mediums.  And one can take the event of a political convention and understand it in terms of meaning, maybe symbolic meaning, well, of course.

The leanness, the lack of anything superfluous, observed by Amherst College President, host to JFK's October, 1963 visit, Calvin Plimpton...  And he, JFK, was one of the great speakers here and now in our knowledge of the political world.

Words at a convention can be taken anywhere.  Many models there are, looking at the offspring.  Many things can be said, many things can be spoken, many people can speak, and it's a choice, a rehearsed thing, but that you know when you are hearing someone whose speech you trust, words you trust, thoughts you trust.  And all that can be up for grabs, when the dreaming person who is a potential voter listened, to the extent that they can listen.    What to take away, what to take seriously?  Where is the meat, where the gristle, where the healthy vegetable and the fiber, and where the bread?

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Sometimes, after tending bar for a number of nights in a row, I wake up very tired, and I sleep and sleep.  My mood could be described as depressed, but it's a matter of processing.  And this is what the long sleep, the laying about, the doing of very little, accomplishes, perhaps like the process of molting, getting rid of the skin one had to wear to get through a few things.  It happens seasonally.  Sometimes when great bouts of rain fall, cold, darkness falling early, the simple need to curl up and sleep and sleep, and not move, to let the fibers of the body and the mind reweave themselves out of the tangles and broken strands, the electric disruptions, the noise, the aches that make you think of other aches not as physical, but still physical as the loads of work, literal cases of wine and and heavy plates to clear.

The day off, the words of Jefferson, often quoted, on the back of many a good bottle of wine, imported by Kermit Lynch, "I find good wine a necessity of life."  And this too is, the glass of wine, at the right time, is part of processing, of reaching back to the Gospels, the applicable truths of life deeply understood.  A glass of Ventoux refreshes the perspective.  It raises the psyche out of darker places, encouraging forward motion.

The challenge, how would I describe the personal experience of being a barman for twenty five years longer than I might like to admit.  I've had more wine than I might like to admit over those years, too, but hey, maybe I'm not totally alone in that.  There is after all, the Christian mention of wine, in the Gospels, in a central parable, and on into the legacy of interpretation, notably, the scene of The Wedding at Cana, a central chapter in the reading of The Brothers Karamazov, Alyosha, the youngest of three imagining in dream the truth of the departed elder, the remarkable Father Zossima.  Dostoevsky himself turned to such people, when he was hurting, having lost a son, in the course of his own difficult now almost unimaginable life.

But where, impossibly, would I start, with this, without being a fake?  How would I bring out my street cred, such as many a waited-on party might seem to have missed, not asking too often of my wisdom, only the occasional embarrassing reference to 'the book I wrote,' or the songs I recorded of Irish music and put up, embarrassingly on Youtube.  The Kennedys and the Fitzgeralds started out as pub and bar owners, with their own two hands, and there is a Catholic vibe, a Christian opening-up in such a line of work that might be absent in offices of the sort we all must now live by, but still craving that little moment of freedom, sometimes glimpsed at ten PM, the beauty of a glass of wine at a favorite bar as it winds down into the night.

Reference the darkness one personally overcomes, on a daily basis.  I don't want to be light about it, I don't want to be, certainly, heavy about it.  It's all garden variety stuff.  But stuff from which we might take away meaning, even if meanings are obscured, and we have to look in impossibly high places for them, places seemingly reserved for better people than ourselves.

Getting ready for work, that's the hard part.  Friday, 4:30 PM, is your own workweek's Monday morning, and you went out to dinner the night before, a celebration.  It takes a lot of prep, green tea, the searing of lamb sausages and then into the oven, shower, folding a shirt, loading the courier bag with the essentials of work and modern identity and modern tools, the Parker steel ball point pen a thrown back, a charged iPhone, wallet.  Oh, man, you know you'll be by yourself up the wine bar.  Get out the door, on the bike, up the grand avenue, and into the woods, where, in the shade, in the quiet, I call my mom.  And at this point, I'm still, today at least, in a sort of gloom.  One invitation meant canceling another, and when I talk to my mom, I reveal my sense of how, as if habitually, again, I have bolluxed things up again, the disappointing of a particular sort of person one should and does not ever want to disappoint.

And I'm hinting at my thought of how I have irrevocably, again, messed things up, I don't know, out of loyalty to steady friend, out of nervousness, shyness, social anxieties, a lack of dating...  It takes a great mom to give the lesson such gloom deserves.  "If you're going to think like that, you're never going to get out of that hole, and by thinking that way, you bring everybody down."  Ouch, it's true.  But, I suppose, it's a thought I've wanted to get off of my chest for a long time now.  "I'm sorry, mom, you're my sounding board.  That's why we write, to get all that bad stuff out you know."  I feel bad.  I've made her blood pressure go up.

I don't know where the nerves come from, but they come from somewhere.

Stand up comedy points the way to writing.  Writing points the way back to the dramas of old that let playwright and poet have a toehold of established profession.  But there were only ever a few of them, a very few, a very very very very few.  And then consider all the people who spout of with things to say.  No wonder Shakespeare took to the game of classification, as if drawing out species of birds.  Falstaff, the archetype.  Hamlet, Romeo, Juliet, Caesar, Prospero, Puck, Lear, all taken from the templates of humanity that you and will see if we with open eye venture out, wary of the kaleidoscope of human integer and feathered disguises, tropes, a mirrored surface of many confusions as Liberace's piano and suit.  I am no better, nor no worse.  I've, like we all do, as professionals, fallen into that archetype of what one should be, without really ever knowing why, or how we came to be who we are.  I know.  I play a role.  It makes less and less to me every day, this character, lonely figure who does his job and does it well to go home to a vacuum after dealing with a lot of junk, graceful processing of junk good tidings, waited on people, conversations that are not real, the lackey's flourish of good will no one really gives too much weight to.  Even though it goes back and back a long way and some people thankfully see that.     At this point the writer is now generalizing, and that is poor writing, sweeping statements, a waste of mental space...

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Song of the Mountains, on MPT, between 4 and 5 AM, "Jessie McReynolds & the Virginia Boys," from 2009--here's a venerable man from Grand Ol' Opry, with grandchildren playing good music.  It is fuller entertainment than just music.  Bluegrass, it is called.  But one subliminally remembers Hamlet, awake, troubled, his enthusiasm for the players, for they will catch the conscience of the king, get to the kernel of the issue.  Here it is, calming entertainment for the insomniac, from The Lincoln Theater in Marion, Virginia, and a pretty granddaughter Amanda's voice to grace the band.  "These people are born able to sing," because it's not that easy, I would know.

Compelling material, heartbreak, dreams, 'it's you I'm thinking of my heart echoes the love words you've spoken, .... won't you answer a heart that is broken, and make my wishful thinking come true, my wishful thinkin' come true.'

The old guy is in good shape.  Black Muddy River, a Robert Hunter-words/Jerry Garcia-the music song.  Good head of hair, dark, a Lincolnesque face, though not a tall fellow.  Harmonies.  Strong jaw and cheekbone, a hawk nose, inherited by charming granddaughter, a kindly face, a kindly way, a man comfortable being himself on a stage, nothing more, nothing less than what he is.

Three chord songs, more or less, with the alternation, one to four, to one, to five, to one, and so on.  A ribbon of paper clipped to the tuning peg of the mandolin.

"Let's get back to the bluegrass," he says, and it's Shenandoah Valley Breakdown, an instrumental.  Fiddle, now banjo, claw hammer style, then the feverish mandolin, the earliest of rock'n'roll strumming style, and the ballgame continues.  Shave and a haircut, six pence.  Grey Grand Ol' Opry style Western jacket, grey.  The grandson, a hefty guy in a black suit plays the standard D-28 with that good thump.

People from coal mining towns.  The crowd, elderly, a happy audience.   A final song, grandfather
and granddaughter singing in harmony in the same microphone, That Air Mail Special of Mine, and the crowd stands, applauding.

Song of the Mountains dot org.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

It's a matter of self-analysis.  Putting yourself on the couch, understanding the hymn to the great personal depths that are private that a writer can reach, the privacy of Proust, of Kafka, Kundera, Vonnegut, Knausgaard...  Has to be true, thus potentially embarrassing.  That's why I liked working in a pub, a bar, that there was conversation, the climb, the peak up above maybe never reached, where people really talked to each other, talked about their old man's death, the deeper things you wouldn't share without some ritual like Mass, like your Delphic wine server, clown on the heath, person to talk to in flux.  Could you find such a person at a booth in Penn Station?  Well, maybe.   The species is still sensitive to itself.  That's maybe why people ask me for directions.  I must look like, or act like, someone you can talk to.  I guess that role is like that of a therapist...  you could go this way, or you could go that way,  I'll tell you a bit about them, maybe, but it's up for you to choose, to do, to discover...

But, the understood privacy, entered into, between the writer, his/her self, and the distant potential reader, who exists only as the vague possibility of a person who might ask for directions over some simple matter, "I'm at the Japanese Embassy, how do I get to Connecticut Avenue..."

So, the writer listens:

I guess it was like it all hit at once, around the same time.   The spiritual view, given what I was learning from Eastern religions, of passivity in action, that intersecting with meeting that girl I liked, rather awkwardly, that intersecting with that strange pull of writing, the commensurate withdrawal into an arena too private for normal people...  Even while wishing and believing in and enacting the most perfect of communicational habits...  Or can it be too solipsistic?  I don't know.

This writing life, to me, old, and new.  Was it unhealthy shyness?  Well, you feel the way you feel sometimes, and I could get down about all that, or I could try to understand it and put it into some form of perspective to make sense of it, which is work to do on a daily basis.  That work itself is done in writing.

Of course, in many ways, it all fell apart then--well, I won't say, 'fell apart,' just, got real--the descent of a strange spirit, the shyness to constantly battle, the job an extension of anxiety to be met, in a good way.  That shyness drew me into the work, like you go to work in a vineyard...  It's work.  Go face people.  Prune vines so they stand and produce good fruit.  Tend to a garden.  It's work.

Shyness, the need for privacy, other peoples will interpret, seeing things, judging, qualifying, suggesting.  In the end, no, you're just a writer.  An odd bird, maybe...  A hell of a habit to have, or claim, or use, but maybe, principally, the work matters more than any final product you could, say, sell.  You could only sell as it an industry, as if to say, we all, at least some of us, need to make our Model Ts, an assembly line, a finished thing with wheels...

Writing you can't be afraid of.  It's more innate than anything.  No particular talent.  It's like breathing, inherent, a property.  People try to put it in boxes, but it's everywhere, waiting for you to catch up with it when you can.  Just write.  Even if...  maybe it has to be, embarrassing.

That great need for privacy, the nerves, those are just part of the writer's habit, and not much you can do about it.  But that is all related to the detachment, the perspective, that path to the Bhagavad Gita and the awareness of a different kind of action...  Buddhist philosophy.... Grabbing on to calmness as best you can, staying within the boundaries of your mind's comfort.  What were the last words of The Buddha?

On days off from work at the bar, the need for privacy is intense.  Yoga and meditation, done alone in the apartment, going to a class almost too much for all it will open up to the still tender mind.  Peaceful calm, even if it sounds anti-social.  Away from decision-making in a world broken into dualities.  Digesting.  Working all you saw and did, all you heard from people, all the interactions, taking all that and putting it to that anvil, putting it back into the sphere of the practical measures of thinking that are the legacies of psychological wisdom of spiritual health, the walk, the hike, the meditation, the headstand, the lotus seat...  The shitty thing, the Dostoevsky office hours of writing, when the world has gone quiet, 3, 4, 5 in the morning...  The time that vegetables do their thing between water and earth, energy of sun.

Find a writer who is not deeply perplexed by the world, from the perspective innately his.  In a world where people like clear answers, event he writer's profession, his work, his calling, his path is all a mystery to him, and yet he knows it's all there, away to an understanding deeper than conscious thought and rule of logic.  Thus there can be a soreness attached to his efforts, his steadfast perspective, his point of view.

About the restaurant business:  I'd long outgrown the desire to go to the bar open late after a shift.  The work was too hard anyway, you just wanted to get home with the energy you did have.  Oh, sure, there had been some stupid misled stuff early on in one's career, the convening of elders at the old Grog &Tankard, beer, avoidance of a shot of GM or Jamo, restaurant people, Tim and Daphne, Herb, Pedro, Tom...    But generally, the professional life, Generally, I'd eat a plate of dinner, at a thirty percent discount, at the bar by myself when I was nearing done, have a couple glasses of wine, usually all alone, or close to it, maybe listening to the chefs talk about food costs, service, specials, differences in the restaurant.  There could be long monologs, with some mysteries, ended by, "okay, I have to go," and I'd be left there still with things to do.  Maybe Pandora.  Bike home.  Have a last glass of wine, watch some TV, PBS, Weather Channel, History Channel, Vice Network, News, RT, NHK, On Demand, maybe a little YouTube, maybe play a little music myself, the long quieting down process, the therapeutic stuff, epsom salt bath, candle light by the Buddha statue, the quiet of night time.  The bar was a very studious business, after all, and really it required out of you a sort of Zen monk kind of a life, awakened by green tea whenever you could get up, listening until the water in the kettle on the stove sounded like wind through pines up on a mountain, steeping three minutes, also hot water with lemon, turmeric, cayenne, cardamom, cinnamon, the green tea with a tablespoon of flaxseed, a burger patty, grass fed, iron skillet sear, into the oven, for breakfast, when the shift meal turned to chancy things, things I shouldn't eat, pasta, filling but detrimental.  And how did all the years go by?  Well, they did, honestly enough.

On the one hand, a huge amount of wasted time, on the other, attempts...  honest as anyone else's, a need for an MFA perhaps...

All along, the message, the story, the reality, was compassion, plain, bare, compassion, as long as I was a vessel of it.  We all are.