It's Saturday evening, my Monday morning. I heard them call me from downstairs and I came down and through the main dining room, always set up, always clean, orderly, the signature display plates with the golden yellow trim at each place setting, in through the swinging door to the congregation of the kitchen, brightly lit, choice of music playing on the boom box, there to my left at the window, where the entree plates come across, the staff meal. I am hungry. I cooked lamb merguez sausages before I came, eating one for breakfast along with green tea not long ago. What do they have for us, pasta, rotini pasta in a stainless steel pan along with a little bowl of tomato sauce. That's it? You gotta be kidding me. But yes, I've been here before, and that's going to get my stomach, and my energy, through the next seven hours. Nothing in the way of any animal protein.
I retreat upstairs, pangs about to eat me from within, and with the time I have before the door opens--I don't have time to order carryout now--I take out my stash of the cooled sausages I just cooked an hour ago, dipping them into the tomato sauce and eating them with my hands, grainy they are. Not so inspiring. They were intended to be my back-up from the hunger bonk later in the evening, but I have no choice.
Later in the week, the chef comes up and sits at the bar. "You should change this bar top, it doesn't look good." I turn the conversation to diet and the alcoholic.. Alcohol is sugar, a very pure form. Carbohydrates, pasta, let's say, are sugar, soon enough. Sugar, like opium, like cocaine, like booze, gives that immediate flush in the brain of neurotransmitters. Craving sugar, no longer a drinker, you eat the whole container of ice cream when you go home. My grandfather always kept sweets around after he stopped. If not pasta, if not bread, if not... the addictive opiate quality of the modern city-settler diet, grain-fed, dough eaters, doughnut eaters, the cuteness trendiness of crispy creme and pizza paradiso and two amys, a sandwich fresh from the market and a good baguette.
To eat such things is not the sort of diet that will help the person in recovery, the recovery of getting the neurotransmitter mood back in shape.
Election night, at the end--I had to take everything out of the cooler so that the thermostat switch could be fixed, just as I had to get in early to put all the wine and beer, etc., back in after the temporary fix from the guy who fixes such thing--it's late. The lights are off at my brother's house. Up on Q Street there's a massing of fire trucks and emergency vehicles in front of Kew Gardens. Firemen are running hoses in hurriedly. The man at the truck hooks a big sturdy tube from the front of the truck by the fender to the fire hydrant, turning the fire hydrant on, the tube swelling with water. The people who live there are out on the sidewalk, and I think of the Peggy Lee song, "Is That All There Is."
At the end of the week, on an unhappy day, a day of shock--my friend the bass player of the jazz trio that's lulled us through the night, having lived in the area his whole life remembers the shocked silence of the Cuban Missile Crisis--the boss and his wife are having a late dinner at the bar and after making a double espresso for her and sneaking away from the bar for a moment I find the Turkish cafe has closed the kitchen early, and out front, standing in front of the Chinese restaurant next door, I am three minutes late. I come back upstairs and the boss is telling me a table needs their check. Okay. I sort of shrug. Is everything on the check? Where's F? I shrug again. F appears coming up the stairs with desserts in hand. I drop off the check to the couple in the back. I need some meat, and pick at the salami salvaged from the boss's charcuterie plate.
After closing I get back and cook ground grass-fed beef with onions in the iron skillet.
And sometimes it is very hard to avoid the feeling that the job is catching up with you, and now, at a certain age, what can you do, who would hire you, to do what, to get out of the cycle. One got into the job thinking you'd have the time and energy to do other things, like write, like self-explorations, but then you get trapped in it, it becomes consuming. The doors to other good things of life, many, have closed. Though you tell yourself, to be helpful, it's not too late.
I have my diet, even if one can't always be perfect about it. Apologies to the planet for being a meat-eater. The Type O person cannot live on grains, and in fact, just about all the modernizations intended to feed the settled masses do not work for that digestive system. It might be a lonely task, to follow the strictures, and I look at all the healthy young people eating the things I cannot, and I wonder, how they get away with it, and they look perfectly happy and have social lives. My physiology, my biochemical responses, do not allow me in the omnivorous club.
I feel like Jonah sometimes, not the busboy whose name is Jonathan and comes from Cameroon, but the one of the story, who knows he is hiding from, shirking, his great spiritual responsibilities. Meditation, spirituality in general is helpful, obviously, to ease stress and regain balance, and it's a long way away from the bar sometimes, even a fairly civilized one. A sense of serving people the wrong thing, the wrong message. No wonder, then, the current sense of things gone wrong, a storm of wrath upon the one hiding from his work, sneaking away from it but unable to hide.
In the story he is tossed overboard, and swallowed into darkness by a leviathan for the symbolic period of three days, and then, released he is, on dry land, to admit that he needs God's help and message. His head is cleared.
Dostoevsky, it is said, hated electric lights. He comes to my mind, an anxious person, prone to addiction, falling in with the wrong political crowd, the firing squad, saved from at the last minute, shipped off to Siberian prison colony work camp. Even in his return, he is a man with a large gambling addiction. Nervous, mindful of his brain chemistry, he wrote, meditatively, drawing in margins, at night when his home was quiet, rolling cigarettes he was not allowed by the doctor to smoke. There, by candlelight, alone, away from the things that directly made him anxious, the peoples, the conflicts of life, the stresses and the strains, he could digest things, and probably, he needed to.
He wrote that fine fictionalized memoir of life in the prison camp, of the people he met there, all about it, and about how one day, they let him go. He had his years of being Jonah before the ship and the storm and the creature of the deep. As he grew, continuing on that troubled path of being a writer, perhaps some spirituality inched into his writing, cropping up here and there, amidst being fallible and human and all the things that can go wrong in life, pathetically enough, until becoming a theme, directly, as in The Brothers Karamazov. It's there earlier, in The Idiot, if you look for it, and elsewhere I would imagine, somewhat muted behind the guise of the psychological thriller and his sense of attending courtrooms for materials that would be popular enough in the general readership to allow him to support himself.
And me, too. I came to town, not knowing what I wanted to do, but to keep at some form of journal or writing. I was often depressed, and by cultural habit ingrained in me, a drinker, as if that were a way of being of good cheer, and humor. When, privately, it was probably more an attempt at self-medication. And these, it seems to me, are my prison years, the kid working his way up from busboy, his companions offering him friendship with a caveat. There are tales from those years, but I have not the energy or wherewithal to put them down, not having much a chance anyway with coping with the latest batch and how to deal with them all. There are the jokes of the captives and the witty wine guys and people who've seen a lot in their years around restaurant life, Bourdain-like. A stiff observer rather than a participant in such by nature, well, a glass of wine to loosen the nerves and ease the burden of wanting somehow to do some good for people but not knowing quite how, I fell into it my own way, wishing I was far away, back home, safe, with a life I knew, my parents, books. Not the fallen young man once full of promise, but with an inner weakness or tendency to the neurochemistry, to the dietary needs missteps to such things as the sugars and the giddy Hamlet reaction to them, euphoric, then sinking.