Sunday, June 25, 2017

It often feels like you yourself are the last one to be able to say anything wise.  A voice tells you, ah, kid, you're just an amateur.  Where would you start, even begin, anyway?

Well, you probably have to start out, like everyone else, with getting up out of bed, make your tea or coffee, have a promise of something to eat for breakfast.  Take it from there.  (Perhaps this is why pieces of literature recount basic things, shaving in the morning, breakfast over a campfire with coffee and hotcakes, an army crossing over a bridge, basic details of the texture of things we find in our own lives, basically shared the world round.)

Speaking of Dante:

What are the dark woods, but a feeling of, or  comparable to, all the the ground you have lost in that tug of life between life and talents, between vocation and avocation, between a job and the calling your basic personality and its values.  Have you put yourself on the path, of all the inner abilities and onward toward reaching the potentials thereof?

You had it, a clean line of sight, talents for the direction, a compass.  And now you're in a dark thicket, no light to shine, strange sounds and voices, inner and outer, of the darkness.  You are, as Dante starts, "lost," in a big way, knowing not which direction to turn in.  In exile.  In need of good thoughts and positive vibrations, light, a path.

There were the things you built up, worked upon, and then, who knows exactly why, feeling low or feeling in need of spiritual purification, purification for a soul guilty of laziness, torpor, indirection--as the great literature of the Bible and other spiritual texts tell of, as is not uncommon, told many times, in enough different ways for you to get the point--you let things go.  You fell down, you lost your courage, which is a hard thing to look at and admit in yourself, I suppose.

Or rather, you didn't, as they say, get yourself out there.  Other people do.  They get out there, they work hard.  They stand up individually, pursuing something of a dream, to claim the right of their own talents, their values, the conjecture of their thoughts.  Bravely, they stood up, were tested, again and again, beat the pavement, showed up, went through stress, and then come out afterward acknowledged as practitioners of their craft, no longer apprentices, celebrated, recognized, writing their own ticket.  Or, at least, on a path forward, doing something, getting, as they say, paid to do it.

Whereas you yourself, so the thinking of the dark wood might go, grunt along, a noble workingman, yes, committed, but, not at all sure you're on the right path, or even the right ballpark.  Are you hiding your talents under a rock, a rock in the forest, on the dark wet side of rocks and stone where things crawl moistly at the edge of the soil?  Are you hiding your light, your lamp, as it is said, under a bushel basket, and perhaps, tired out at the end of the day or not wanting to get up really in the morning, for what are you doing anyway but living under some heavy pressing thing, in need of acceptance and love and family.  Too long in hiding, yes, and maybe no  longer in good shape as you once were.

Did you miss the boat?  Is life like the story Jimi Hendrix tells in Castles Made of Sand in the maturity of his second record album, as art plumbs the spiritual, the mismatched quality of the young Indian brave who is dispatched in his sleep by the enemy before he can "sing his first war song."  Yes, art plumbs the spiritual, generally left out of the main portion of that which is the corporate world, of business and accounting and banking mechanism.  Art calls upon the concept of karma.  Art calls upon the concept of being, of being alive.  Art recognizes the God's grace, mercy, and the indomitable spirit within each of us, whether we present it forwardly as a largely unseen topic behind most conversations, or not, not talking about it, except as it relates to the projects one is up to, like making a canoe or performing music somewhere.  Hope, hope, is what we need.

Perhaps karma is there to serve, to help you eventually get into that realm of wiseness oft spoken of, though who knows with certainty what being wise is, beyond particular actions, foolishness, mistakes, misspeaking, wrong thinking, wrong employment, etc..  Karma helps you avoid wanting material things beyond your means, that one of a certain broad mainstream set of values might well tend to strive for, things like, things we all need even, security, comfort, compensation for our work, good taste, and nothing at all wrong with all of that, to each his own.  There is a hurting hard to describe openly, hard to admit, hard to avoid, when the bulk of these things seem tentative.  The good taste of the public keeps people employed, people like me who didn't quite fall into all that themselves out of whatever reason and quite possibly stupidity, laziness, foolishness.  Perhaps material things help us get out of that feeling of being lost, and that is a good thing if it helps you avoid the negativities and anxieties that are hard on social life and health.

There is within the great lesson, like that told in the tales of Job and Jonah, how we go from the denial of talent and depression, shrugged of the nay-sayers inward and outward, get through that, got better, somehow.   Perhaps this is what resounds in us instinctively of Lincoln, at least the Sandburg as historian's version, gleaned from talking to the people who knew him, like the story Herndon his law business partner and other people would observe of him, lying low on the couch, lost in some space far enough away.

It is not surprising to me the wealth of genuinely worthy of the literary label, meaningful works that come out of the restaurant trade,  the tales of Bourdain, Pépin, flashes of a collective subconscious...  Really a great richness in them, and creating a tradition out of something old as the hills, stories of working... drawing creative types like a river draws animal life.

Writing is hard work in its own strange way.  It can be exhausting, perhaps for being unnerving, though there is generally a decent feeling that comes from having made the simple effort.  At least your working on your basic physical chops, letting the fingers do their thing over the keyboard of an old MacBook Pro.  Writing has its rhythms, its hours of sunlight, its Van Gogh sense of toiling in the garden and vineyard of humanity in search of something of color, eloquent to say, when an individual forget his or herself, went with the flows of observations from one tree or stone to the next, became less a self and more a part of nature.


There are times when the pain of morality, a sense of sickness inside, needs to somehow nourished, and writing, as well as the creative element of spiritual works (which often have a fictive ring to them, perhaps to make them more real to us) to be read and pondered over, can serve as a coping mechanism, something sustaining us, as we slowly get better and better, finding the people of the world, our neighbors, the people we respect as creative types, supportive and helpful.


I wrote a long time ago about myself as a kid, more or leads, going back to his first homecoming weekend.  Doesn't go well the young dame, and the kid finds himself at a record store, and that's what he takes back with him, Red Roses for Me, the Pogues first album.  And ever since then, those old Irish rebel songs redone by MacGowan and company, vital to our own times, have stood, like Shane says, "still there's a light I hold before me..."  And the rebels of life have always been important to me, like my old friend, Pani Korbonska, who'd have me over on full moon nights, for light fare and wine and cheese, telling stories about standing up the Nazis in Warsaw, sending radio messages picked up in London for information to broadcast back over Radio Free Europe.

And also for myself, there's something about Huck, on that big old river with Jim, that sort of strikes me, the decency of being on the observant side of life, not pre-judging, no particular agenda to impose, rolling with it, admitting one's own wishes and mistakes.

Friday, June 23, 2017

This be literature.

What if there was a God, so to speak, and one who would create a being of the same image.  That creatuure, man, let's say, would be thoroughly equipped to do the things of "God's work," just as he was.  Wouldn't need to be anybody other than who he was, just as he was.  He wouldn't do any particular career other than what came naturally to him and his two hands.  He wouldn't have to be a priest, not a doctor, nor a banker, nor a lawyer, though all of those too might share the image of "God" as well.   There wouldn't be much of that which is typically regarded as selfish.  He'd be kind, interested in the world, get sad when whales die with their guts full of plastic bags.   He'd look up to the night sky, enjoy a quiet street or a busy one, be glad for the simple things on Earth like trees, birds, animals, the natural paths of running water, and so forth.  He might well be, as Dostoevsky or Melville might have predicted in their physics of the soul, something of an idiot.  He'd be respected as a coworker for being a guy who got the job done, efficiently, without extra noise.  He'd recite the Lord's Prayer in a simple and earnest fashion out of respect for its own mathematics.  He'd rejoice in the success of people like Jacques Pépin.  He'd like to cook, because cooking is important.  He'd take joy in root vegetables, and, if he liked, cooking hamburgers with onion.  He'd like wine, and the company of those who also enjoy it, for that would mean that they too were from the image, the blueprint that is because it is, that which is, just the human being part of it all.

Would there be a childishness to him?  Would he be gullible, but outgrow that in time, while remaining as he was, nothing in particular, a server of wine, let's say.

He'd be arrested and disgusted with images of violence and violence itself, even it meant what another more aggressive type of social being might consider losing face by not tending forth violence back.  Would there be an innocence to him?  Something off-putting, if you didn't know his overall plan which was also part of the pattern blown into the dust that made him, which he wouldn't consciously know himself as the expression about the left hand and the right hand.  Would he spout off such things as I write now?  No, he'd probably keep it pretty cool, and go about things without too much fanfare.  He would not claim to be an expert, but that rather all people know their tastes, their own inner knowledge, their own ability to discern what is placed before them.  Much like pouring a tasting of wine for people, giving them a basic vocabulary to which they will react.

He would already be doing what he was doing, and the question was merely letting the inner shine out, without any need for self-promotion.  This would seem like a problem to most people by their own good common sense.

But, as a father who was a teacher once explained to his son, there are throughout all history and space such types quietly going about their business in an enlightened fashion, sort of like the adepts who can finally come and go as they please through space and time.  "It's the same guy," he would say to his son, "who appears here as Moses, here as the Buddha, here as Jesus, showing up over and over again."  Thus, reincarnation.

The paradigm, the model, the pattern of divine image comes down to the things around him, the way he populates his life, the surroundings he is found in, his place of work.   And to him, just as so, things are well.  He would help the people he came into contact, just by being himself, as he was.

It is kind of a boring story, but one worth studying as a kind of taxonomy of human being and related animals.

In the timelines poetically representative of the natural life cycle of birth, life, death,  he would be understood as a being.  In the end he would be regarded more or less simply as a person who noticed other people, gave them their due, endured himself and others with patience, forgiving of trespasses and sins as we all share, and take that as a moment, an opportunity, to learn, to study, to eventually try to bring better forward who he was and wanted to be.  If you met him on the street, he would be shy but friendly, humorous, but not over stepping bounds beyond showing that boundaries were sometimes unnecessary and even wrong, a matter of prejudging, a discrimination of the unnecessary and wrong kind.  One path of life is narrowing, a matter of specialization and then the training of sophistication.  But there is another, and it is broader, more general, like the lily and the sparrow, and perhaps it can be described as friendship, as in the friendship between chefs, brought together by good cooking, and also wine and a sense of humor.

That is why the old restaurant too can be within the pattern, taking on the role of peace maker, spreader of good will, education, the exchange of knowledge, the acknowledgement of sustenance and mortality.  and of course the old model of serving people  in the most direct and confidently humble way there is, though all of us share that.

I am not even a writer.  I am just trying to let it flow.  I could say I am self-taught, but that would not at all be true.  The real matter is that of finding what you are comfortable with as finding material.  There is a beauty in the simplicity of a plate.  Look how much joy can come along with it.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

When you go through therapy, the matter seems to be that of identifying your values.  Values have a system.  Values are what make you tick.  Values are what you respond to.  Values are what you see in the world and how you see it, how you grasp its components.

Values are what can potentially make you miserable.  Or, they are something you keep in natural balance, finding your happiness through them, celebrating, enjoying, finding peace therein.

When you don't seem to fit in with where you live, the tone and temper of the town, perhaps there is reason to enjoy your unique perspective, what you have to offer, the things you find yourself doing over and over again.  Is it, was it, fate that brought you where you are?

For a long while, everything seemed a struggle.  Cause for complaint.  And yet, over and over again, you experience a strange joy and even a talent in what you've been doing.  There are pieces to a puzzle, but they are coming closer together and even start to fit, whereas before the pieces seemed distant and even warring with each other, at conflict, at odds.  Enough to put you into complaining mode, feeling down about yourself and your situation.

Things are as they are because of your value system, the things subtly ingrained into the fibers of your being, what kind of person you'd be, how you'd act, the way you'd talk.  And in life you cannot disrespect those values within, at least for long, at least in the long run, because they are what you've got, they are who you are, and these some things cannot be changed.  They are the fire in your brain, the joy of your working hands, the voice you have within.


I'd sort of looked at it all from a perspective emphasizing the downsides of life, my own life.  There was college, there was the girl, there were all the things I'd "fucked up."  There were the things that were the "consequence" of those crucial mistakes at a crucial formative time, and I would be very down on myself and wonder why I'd fallen so low, "down and out" not in London or Paris, but in Washington, District of Columbia.  Not in New York City.  I looked at things negatively, in the logical part of the mind, as in trying to figure it out.  Why was I different?  Why wasn't I working in the daytime, in an office, like everybody else?  Why did I live not all that far away from paycheck to paycheck?  Why was I single, no wife, no kids, a renter, not an owner, figuratively speaking?

I will admit, I had a bad attitude, a voice telling me, "well, things aren't really going to work out that great, though I will manage to survive, get home after another long shift, and with some energy to play the guitar."  I don't blame the mythical princess who was a girl when I was a boy more or less, clumsy I was, and not forceful enough and sometimes too emotional, as young people, I think, can be, when it's a bit too easy to feel hurt when you shouldn't feel hurt.  If one knew then that simple habit of optimism, of ignoring the false symbol message and seeing the truer positive one, as in, "me thinks the lady doth protest too much," in the dance of courtship, male female interaction such as it is.

Nature recycles.  Hair brushed from the shedding cat, bits of newspaper's stringlike end cutting, old bits of grass and leaf stem, odds and ends of twig and straw become nesting material for our friends of the air, where they will nurture their children.


Therapy changes patterns, old habits.  The therapist, hearing you recounting an old tale of an old story, remarks of what "she" said.  "She was treating you like you were a low-life..."   Pounds of heavy weights lifting off, room, a crack of light to move in, to crawl out from under a guilty burden.



And for that matter, it's just as well, probably, I never became much of a scholar, much as I might have wanted to, following in my father's gentle caste, wishing all the while to preserve the laws of nature of societies, maintenance of their function.  Oh, for the longest while, of this whole life, I really truly was saying to myself, "what was I thinking, what was I thinking?"

Good medicine dissipates the negative thinking.  At my middle Dante stage of life, early fifties, yes, there was a considerable rut of pattern I needed to drive myself out of.  And I will say, to the best of my knowledge, therapy and a little gentle bit of daily medication, in my case Lexapro--I had been long suspicious of medicines not in the natural state, like ginseng, or turmeric or holy basil or cayenne, or L-Tyrosine, or GABA, or 5-HTP--helped in that small area in which a balance is tipped just a tiny bit for the better, like as if from a good walk in the forest along the path by the stream, enough to make a daily difference for those of us who have become are own harshest critic somehow from within.


Writing was a component of my value system.  There is something psychologically beneficial about putting the things you experience down on some form of paper.  Being of negative mind, worn down, perceiving some unfairness at work, I would sometimes carp.  Out of love and respect, and out of grace for the tradition of, say, the old form of classic Parisian bistrot, I would write out my complaints given my limited perspective and my sense of things, my feelings, feelings that come out of nights when the AC is not working, when there are too many people and not enough waiters.

Fortunately time refreshes your perspective, and you see things not out of the paranoia and negativity, but with an eye for the ultimate fairness of the burdens pulled by the team, given the restaurant as it is.  You see them again with the old affections that were always running firmly as a current beneath the work, that camaraderie, the kitchen, the chef, the dishwasher, the downstairs wait staff, the upstairs bar staff, the bussers, the clock itself, the late hours setting things up for the next day, and maybe even pulling a notepad out to write down a few of the good thoughts about those values I seem to have inherited, somewhere inclusive and between hospitality and education, psychology, a pleasant exposure to different walks of life in an international city, longing something to be out in the country as I might have wanted to be.


Well, there was a whole pile of writing.  Some of it kvetching.  But there were strains in it that presented the nuggets of my values...

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Things happen in life along our inner fault lines, and only we know where ours are.  The boy who loves writing and reading after growing up drawing prodigiously goes to college, finds his life's work, writes well, and then, who knows why, takes longer and longer reading and writing.  He gets a bad grade finally, simply for being late, and no feedback on the paper he spent so long figuring out the answer he knows somehow is there.  He grows cynical.  The problem is exacerbated.  The feed into the world of New York writing fades, and it takes him a long time just to get back into any meaningful form of writing.

Eventually he follows his brother, older, down to Washington, DC.  Knowing a good deal about Lincoln and Kennedy, speeches and history, maybe he'll be a speechwriter one day, except the Hill never happens for him, distracted as he is.  He ends up working in the restaurant business, so, at least he tells himself, he can write, freed from an unhappy clerkship in an HMO attached to a local university, and no energy left to use any school benefit therein.

Sad, one fault line meets another, meets another.  The girl he liked in college and spoke well with and understood was also part kryptonite for him,   And so is his chosen profession, being a barman, part good, part bad, all across the line.

I guess it was Hemingway who wrote that we all are cracked, in a way.  And thus we are brave, holding ourselves together, even as cracks meet other cracks, as they do.   Lucky us, so on and so on.

The effects of our inner fault lines link up, accounting for our great worldly failures, employment, personal, financial, etc., etc., etc.  And, I suppose, likewise with our successes, though it might well take the most mature of Buddhas to see the moral claim of them.  And even so with the body's own wisdom within, the joy of a late evening happy juice and musical creativity being a low feeling the next day.

Years go by, a status quo, the dungeon of an odd job...  And the highest wisdom, one wonders, is no help, perhaps a hindrance to the action and choices necessary to living life, selflessness not being at all practical, the world of people demanding that you stand up for yourself, look out as you must for number one.

I am a poet.  Use the platform...

But there is no way around putting in the years.  There is a lesson in it.  There is self-knowledge gained, the only way you can do it.  The years are a mistake in themselves, but, maybe they can serve some purpose, where someone learns the err of his ways.  You were taken advantage of, yes, but you do learn something, and perhaps that edges up upon the moral element.

After more than twenty five years, I realize I hardly belong here, in this town.  Wasn't cut out for it.  A country boy wandering in urban roughs.   Mainly my good impulses and education thwarted, leaving me the life of a slave.

Funny thing, to wake up, after a trip visiting out there away from the city, regular America, visiting with my elderly mom who lives alone up by the shores of Lake Ontario where she retired from a late career in education, conversations with the maintenance man about Fireman's Field Day grilled chicken and fishing stories.  Regular people, people not cold, not looking at me with some form of contempt.  The city, the attitude, and I don't belong in it.



Sunday, May 21, 2017

Feeling better, even with the cold, the hacking cough, the week taking away your energy.

Day off, I stay close to the house.  Nothing but rest.  I suppose I am  beginning to see some need to change this habit of writing.  If I am feeling better, perhaps it's no longer so necessary here.  There's not much energy for it anyway.  A lack of purpose.  Or is it this new found state of being has its own ups and downs.  Being sick does not help.  I've felt sleepy all day.


And then, the better feeling, slowly coming over me, the desire to clean, to focus, to watch or read something suitable, not felt in a long time, somehow.


Do I even want to go back, to Amherst, such as I am?  I put so much into it.

This weird feeling here, of not doing it, but... that overriding purpose, to get better.  And that is good enough, the story of all people.


dreams, a vision of brian, my brother's pal, his hearty laughing company, along with a dog, my brother's friendship and approval.  That wonderful time when we were all together, participating...

waking sweaty, after the long rest.  only 1 bottle, a beaujolais, 12.5%, in total last night, good nutrition.

Three o'clock, PM, fuck, it is really time to rouse this body to go to work?  Give it another snooze nine minutes.  There are cooked sausages in the fridge, and I made the pot of green tea, somewhere late in the night as I cleaned, a new approach to the dusty old bedroom and all the piles of books, the old dust of winter, set in with all the habits of my old lovely literary mom...  Books back into the rough simple pine coffin board book cases made of wine cases, Bordeaux and other.  The Irish stack, next to the bed.  A strange mountain climbing book by the literary critic A. Alvarez, friend of Bonnington, of Hughes and Plath, tales of rock climbing the Old Man of Hoy, and in the Dolomites, and Himalaya, the addiction, "Feed The Rat."...  in order to turn in, and then, shit, is it time, yes, no one to work for me, graduation weekend, I must go, and isn't that old milepost, graduation weekend, a thing in the mind, and at the restaurant, those pretty young people bound for success as you might expect, in Washington, D.C.

The strange good moods pop up, from time to time, new to me, but, again, like those of being young. These moods are strange, surprising, creative as I've always loved to be creative, to be spiritual, to let that side of intelligence hang out like that of a free jumper or some other bold adventurer caught or catching the high, in my case, some of my high, words, the words themselves, apparent in that old bastard, Shakeyspeare.  I would have loved to have gone bike riding with him on the high road above the valley, spring still gritty from all the road crews had put on the roads to tame the winter grip of frozen wet, down that road, lined with trees, having to brake and diplomatize with the group of dogs, left to overlook Deansboro and drop a lovely sinking road to the Deansboro Hotel, or right, as you looked toward Tassle Hill the mystic pagan mound as if chipped round by druids the quick down spiraling road past the quarry down to 12B, less far away from Oriskany Falls.  Those roads will never be like they were in my childhood, though the green will be the same, and the farms still there. Years ago, on a return, I outran a pit bull type dog who came up along with predatory silence, in a large enough gear, and the even that long bend down, westward to the valley and 24, coming from OK Falls to Vernon Center, the real center of everything if you stopped to think, and loved by Wallace Markfield, for its bandstand, and tractor yard and market store, down that, the one real hairpin turn, woozy to take, down to that valley where Knoxboro was, and higher above the land, the ridges just like min, where the documentary, Brother's Keeper, was, is, eternal, set, one of the poetic things, the story of the Ward brothers, who I never might, but might have cycled by, who knows, on those old lovely green green sunny days of old towns that confirmed in the boy, me, that I wanted to be some sort of documentarian, not in a fancy defined way, but in those old tools we all have,  that of the powering flashes in our minds, those words which cross our lips, silently, invisibly, in dreams, in forms that seem to haunt us in good ways.  The imaginative imagining, wrought and banged out by books and things and poems we've read, some sort of iron shop, of crucible and melted metal, rods banged upon on an anvil, the hammer blow and bang.   The trees, the old cemetery, the strong mansion like house of Colonel Knox, figure of the Revolutionary War, now quiet, and as you climbed the hill, on this old Iroquoia route--they knew--another old mansion with high fences, and strong warning signs not to trespass at all.  I suppose further up the ridge was that old simple derelict farmhouse to the left or the right was that of the Ward Brothers, and I never was able to find it, having to journey back on my bicycle, to deal with the barking dog storming out as you climbed back up up past that lovely hairpin turn with that valley view and the streams below you now, the houses laid out around them, naturally, to get back, back to Skyline Drive, then back to those own hills of home and school bus route.  I made the time for those bike rides, as carefully as I did, as the inception, the birth of my writing career, and as painful as it was, that's where I wanted to go when I graduated college, back there, to write, even though there was nothing there to write about really, except those things we will, as a mindful species, always write about, those psychological and shapeshifting things that, when we look back, will be found on, within, the things we keep, like the pictures I took back when there was film in cameras of old snowy farms, silos, barns, the roads that kept them, the trees that lined them to protect and whisper poetry.  That was a rich life, and my parents were wise. and selfless and guided by things we do not know directly of, to give me that life, not that of  Amherst, the town, but a real part of the world, less run by old Congregationalist names, populated by barns, and pastures, cats, dogs, people whose children you rode the school bus with, birds singing, hawks, pastures, sugar maples, and views worthy of, you thought, some sort of bicycle race tour, not necessarily going very fast, one of appreciation, mileposts, local attractions, architecture of barns, lots of idling livestock and farm implements and vehicles, and granary devices low in the valley and up above.

Home from the bar, hunger prompting bringing hone a burger to ease the hunger and the stress, in the kitchen a cockroach has daintily upended herself over the little plastic dosage cup that comes with cough syrup, apparently enjoying the sugar of it, there on the counter top I try my best, as a cook, to keep clean.   Makes you think, the times, being sick,  you don't clean that little cup out, refill it, go back to bed.  The standard American big red cockroach will pull surprises on you, like being there in your pint sized water glass by the bed when you wearily lift it to pull a sip to soothe the dryness, the general feeling you need to put some water through that system, but we won't go there now.   Could one day we make pets out of them, these walky characters, the large bug who likes our showers and our sinks, our silverware, our cutting boards...

The Ward brothers, read about in  NY Times, then that documentary film, they were real.  One, at least, reacted to the presence of a camera so strongly that he shook, and at one point, moves a board of a barn to go hide, because of who he was, not of some guilt that the creepy modern prosecutorial officious legalist policing-heavy world wanted to impose upon him.  Let him free, let him be, no spotlight needs he.  And isn't that a lesson, how the legal pushes the news which in turn pushes upon us our taste for  the nachos and the cop, for world history made now sudden, something like that.  When the news could rather be on that level of simple reportage about the strangeness of backward characters born in those old locals we used to know before we moved to cities, remembering the simplicity and the meaning inherent in roads in country towns, that's how you got to farmer joe's or that old Mirror Bar in the long lost Oriskany Falls hotel where there was incredible pizza and sawdust slide metal disk game for the children while they waited.

Shyness is the reaction, finding these old memory worth tale, the good feelings that crop up now and again.  What am I doing, feeling well, all of a sudden, what do I do with it, where should I be?

I feel the light here, in the morning, the breeze, the birds call back and forth.   This nice place reminds me of where I grew up, my childhood, the light of Amherst, and always wondering when I would sleep, what I would dream.


Friday, May 19, 2017

Doing a headstand, adjusting legs into poses similar to walking, the muscles are connected.  Leg to upper arm, pelvis to tricep.  In wholesomeness we are well-arranged, aligned, a totality.

End of the week of the psychical work, demanding, a cold with a hacking cough developing in the later part of it.  Rest.  Interrupted by the cough.

If the work is wholesome, than the writing that follows should be as well.  And if unwholesome, likewise.  Anyway, there is the muscular connection.

But what links the two kinds of muscles, the footwork of entertaining, both verbally and with the work of stocking and serving, clearing and cleaning, the taking of payment, the reading of customer through different mode, all of that on the one hand, and then, the equally long and often dull and tedious effort of writing something meaningful to life as a way of finding direction and bearing.

The yoga, solitary, along with its meditations, serves as a connection, a center of balance.  There could not be one, the sometimes violent social life, and the quiet time of reflection, without the other. There would  be experience and the credential without the connected presence of the two.  Even if there is hard work to both, imposed upon you, even if there is not always clear meaning in the effort as a whole for providing a decent life. the two exist side by side.  And perhaps they must both belong to a certain realm, like unto the fireman who prevents fires, the baker who bakes bread.

The week was not easy.  I closed each night, and wrote nothing.  Saturday was very busy, Sunday was the long slog of Mother's Day, a special menu, Monday great live jazz, a Safeway run, Tuesday marked by my walking up the avenue to walk through the woods to work as an unprecedented number of Police cars came screaming down the avenue in the left lanes to react to thuggish security marking the visit of Erdogan by attacking, was they wore their dark suits, the Kurdish protestors on Sheridan Circle, as I spoke with my mom over the phone, hoping she was having a better day than the one before in her faraway loneliness.  Perhaps one bright spot besides the friendship of a chef who's old friends with my chef boss, was the report from therapist, not easy to rouse myself for, a hot shower to loosten the phlegm, a bike ride down to downtown, newly hot with the steamy feel of DC summer, that I was doing better, that the medication of Lexapro seemed to be working, along with daylight.  Judging from my demeanor, she proposed that soon a visit every other week would suffice. Along with the good news, a good bit of relief, bouts of diarrhea.

The day off, with nothing but administrative tasks before me, I did yoga, drank various forms of tea, and ordered Chinese, too fatigued to cook and put dishes away.  What a life.


Then the recovery starts to happen, oddly, by itself, a lifting of a veil.  All the things you missed, flash somewhere along the edges of the mind.   A life in the mountains making music unaffected--if that's the word--by the outside world.   The Carter family, driving to Bristol, in a model T, fording streams and muddy roads, one woman pregnant, one nursing a baby boy.

The light comes up from the Venus morning star, I still have not had a date in years, and my social life is chosen by the places I can or must go.  Medicines.  To treat the beast who endures the job of barman at this edge of the South, humid now, just like that lonely day on the train, arriving to the steam about ten o'clock at night.  The air is still now, after fire danced electrically, cloud to cloud in veins, and mockingbirds talked in the trees as I came home from the RiteAid, with cough syrup, toilet paper, and other nostrums.  Does the redwood tree wonder, in mid-life, who am I, where am I going, who is listening friendly?  The tree takes his soothe from the depths below, the Guinness down in the earth, minerals of smoked barley and the DNA of hops.  The tree wishes to play the guitar, to thump on some taught string, taught-ed, I wish to say.

What are we doing, do any of us know?  Who would be a leader now, or is?

The tree might strive for calm, but still wish for that draught of earth by morning light, before the heat comes so that his leaves stay still with a minor droop, attempting to hold what beneficial oils might come in the air from neighbor.  The calming taste of earth, the magic of the living soulful chemistry that is the opposite of dark invisible energy, the talk of the Spanish underforest, living life below, breeding, working away in that layer.  The great tree must stand alone, not many of his species left, but in groves, here and there, and who knows when some new idiot might threaten, as is the lesson of history.

Does old Sequoia have a girlfriend?  Or is time spent trying to hang on, to keep adaption, as warmer and drier winds blow up.

And each word, a little cell, pushing out the old skin of the trunk, and strangely fresh and alive and watery, the pith where the sap runs.

The stress of the week, the deficit of nutrition, the hollow feeble weakness, the headache, the soreness, the sorrow, the tiredness, these are things faced at night, in the great forest lifting above grown in stature.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

rough draft

"Chicks like bullshit," my best friend at the bar said,
still in the game.
And I had no bullshit to give,
except if you were to carefully observe yourself,
the good job I did at it, with a wink,
the thousands of people I had talked to
in more than two decades on my feet
in front of them, shaking hands.

So was I worried when she said,
she'd met a boy.
But not much I could really do.
More than twice her age.
What could I tell her,
about all the things
I'd been through, survived,
with pluck and toil, humor,
simple absorption.

The kid was bad enough,
who knew what he wanted,
and how to get there.
But--the bright spot--
hard for me to see at first,
no idea who he is.

But I am bullshit too.
Very good at it, in fact.

The first time you see a face
is the first time all over again,
an iceberg of a person,
floating in the cold sea,
responding to heat and sun.
The things, the talent,
people do not see,
and little the possibility
of knowing you very well,
but when you get on the other side of age,
and start to appreciate character,
the odd bits about a person
who somehow maintained 
being an individual,
which even he or she might not
the self understand.

How to bring this poem to a close,
but that you've kept that possibility,
of knowing who are, what you want,
and something how to get it,
what shape it is, what it looks like
and feels like, seen in a picture,
fresh, alive, there, here, now,
allowing wildness,
not captivity of the thing.

The effort you've put forth, all your life,
coming into some focus, and even some use.
Write a poem without knowing well,
but of what you have to say.


I suppose that it is that particular condition, something somewhat in the realm of depression, that makes a writer.

 This is why we find Ernest Hemingway immortalizing a camp breakfast by the big river, Kerouac's favorite chamois shirt found in a dump.  Breakfast revives, a shirt keeps you warm.

In my own long depression, enduring after college, I kept a job as a neighborhood barman.  It kept me social, got me out of my shell, gave my life tools of a trade, texture, things to put my hands on, reasons to stand up and move carefully and precisely enough to deliver.  The office of the health insurance clerk for an HMO was too dreary, the stale coffee miserable relief to the brain, too sedentary, offering little as far as the material of puzzlements to be solved.  The restaurant job offered direct look on human beings and human nature, an observers post, as a waiting person.

The five long night shifts are over.  I wake groggy and the usual pot of green tea does not revive me much.  But I remember, there is good bacon in the refrigerator to cook in the iron pan.  The experience of cooking, turning the bacon over as it crisps, wakens me, and I eat hungrily, chewing the fat, and then I am up with enough energy to enter into the flow of worded thoughts.  They were long nights, closing each night.

I've taken my little medications, along with a little ginseng, GABA, l-tyrosine, half a beta-blocker, in addition to one tablet of Lexapro and Rhodiola.  Now that I've eaten breakfast, a B vitamin.  I've skipped the flaxseed fiber in my tea.  Perhaps later, hot water over muddled lime with turmeric and a dash of good salt.  The winter is long when the clock changes and you work at night, commuting by foot and bicycle.   The computer screen blue light in the loneliness of night can keep you up, and there is a balance in how dark to make a bedroom, and on overcast days, the airplane noises is reflected down across the town.  I like the forest for fresh air and for hiding from the city, but that is a walk from here.

There's not really a lot to write about when you get right down to it.  But there is a therapeutic aspect, one which comes from describing one thing, and letting it have things attached to it.  There are dirty dishes with the grease of merguez sausages kept in the fridge, the collection of tea cups and pint water glasses that sat by the bed at night.

There is nervousness as I write still.  NHK has a show on Zen gardens.  Transience informs the sense of beauty.  I should have been a gardener.  But we are survivors, and that is good enough.  The monk examines an object for the spirit in it.  Muga, absence of self, informs design, mutual coexistence human beings and earth.


My job as neighborhood barman was more than just a job.  I was a nexus of information.  It was a job that, like all jobs, gave me an identity, a place to live and socialize.  I was a steady feature in some local lives on different scales.  My service was deeper than it might have looked on the surface.  Not about the cocktail, but about the wine, about life and vintage years.  It was a job that fit with the rest, the natural balance that the writer being within me sought to achieve.


Or then would it not be better, then, having found health, to move on from writing, more or less, to give up on it, to find a different use for the energy...  Would it be necessary anymore?  Feeling better, the thought is, now what?  You don't crave the wine nearly as much.  You feel like a sneak, hiding from things, by habit of that previous life.  Hunger, the need for nutrition.  Walking down to P Street for a late night gyro at DC Cafe, barely making it before the grill closes at three...



What does it mean, when he says, The Son of Man has no place to lay his head.    But that he is his job, his work, that all he does is related, so that he might be considered to be, always, out on the road.  But who wants to think about that...   The writer, so-called, wakes, after dreams and a rest of the muscles to work on God knows what.  Bit by bit, chisel chip by chisel chip.  Not even a story, but a form to work on, a description of something he knows not of, releasing the figure from the block of marble stone.

To face that work...  well, it has to be strange.  Just to face the implausibility of the human condition, nothing particular cut out to do, just trying to keep up a good practice of journaling, really, little more.  Easy enough to find a purpose when you have people to wait on.  Or something specific.  Write a laundry list, call it a day before you almost even start, go for a walk, make a subtle plan with your coworker for later on when they get out of work, the night shift.  The place is clean, the bed is set, the sheets are straight, matching pillow cases.  The morning is never the best part of the day as far as mood.

Is there a way to avoid, to not find yourself on, the path, of being some sort of monk-like being.  And each time the world of technology or human enterprise increases or brings greater speed or ease, there is an escalation in the need for nature and contemplation and observations on the ephemeral nature of life.   Congratulations for the one who simply gets up and doesn't do a lot of damage to the old earth rather than for the robber baron commodity seller.  The need for the day of quiet peace and a Zen garden.  Perhaps the wine bar is as close as I could get to the Zen garden here.  As if to set some example.

That's the private life of the writer I keep to myself, who must necessarily have perspective, a different eye than he does when he is in it all.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

In dream I go back to the old basement apartment with the garden out back my bedroom, a common room I shared with my brother, looked out on.  At night, a small agile jumping goat, dark coat, white footed, small horns, fond of balancing atop just about everything, leaps about, stops to perch on the brick wall, cute, fun to watch, a playful youth.  And then, to discover with some surprise, a lion and a tiger who look in through the windows at me, as they stretch out lazily, with some interest.

I'd forgotten writing, the beauty and mental health of it, amidst the usual toils and the weekly therapy sessions and whatever other concerns were troubling and weighing upon my mind.

And once through the workweek at the bar, the day off, the writing was difficult, impediments in the mind, sins of the week sitting upon me, uncertainty by mood.

I could not easily let out of my mind the incident, my telling a regular customer 'how about just water tonight,' and she said, why, for what reason, honestly puzzled as she was, and I said, no, nothing, but if you want to talk to (the manager by name)... and she said, I'm not dining tonight, and I'm going to go back home and have a glass of wine, and I felt terribly bad, because she'd come in, noticed my haircut, said she'd had a good day, looked fine.  But for the incident the previous evening, and maybe, we speculated she might not remember upbraiding a young woman sitting next to her about how privileged she was, thus upsetting her.  And the boss said, if she's upsetting other customers...  then I'll talk to her.  We were all concerned.  He used to do yoga with her a long time ago.  Tell her she needs to take a break.

What to do on a day off.  First, the dishes in the tub in the sink, after making my little green pot of green tea.  Assemble the laundry for the process.  It had been a busy busy Jazz Night up at work, and the boss, the owner chef in from overseas, was hanging out with his pals late.  Not too much collateral damage, but still, the weird feeling, not so bad, but the anxiousness that follows the events of the workweek, as if one had forgotten to do something in closing.  The big guy with the big belly didn't seem to wish to pay for his Jameson's.     Chef put on some good techno type music and had a great conversation with his chef buddy.

Guilt, embarrassment, mixed with the sense of somehow finding the job a good fit, on my own terms.

I call my mom and she assuages my mind on a number of things and tells me that I was doing the right thing by the person I suggested no wine tonight.  And she's called her oldest friend who lives back in our old hometown, whose concern for her occasional vagueness prompted a minor falling out.  I'd encouraged her to call.

I'm a Capricorn.  Is that the meaning of diminutive mountain goat in my dreams.  What did the lion and the lioness want with me, looking in through the window fixing their eyes on me as if hungry.  The goat had no trouble with them.  And it was, is, a lovely little outdoor place, pebbled, ivy, shaded by trees.  I fed feral cats one year and built a shelter for them for the winter.  And they would look in, coming close to the door to remind me they needed to be fed soon enough, the mother teaching her litter to hiss at the strange animal before them, hungry.  The goat seems happy enough and I am pleased there is such wildlife here, in this little sanctuary within, hidden from the street.

Googling the meaning of goats in dreams, the suggestion of capriciousness and--great--sexuality, is less satisfying than the general dream itself.  A poet should be happy with a visit from totemic animals, I suppose.

Write about the street, Pani Korbonska used to say to me, with some glee over the sound of that.

Bored with myself, I walk over to work, hoping to catch the Chef before he flies out back on his way to his life in Bali, and my friend Jeremy is there behind the bar, and we have an interesting conversation with two nice women who used to be schoolteachers.  And the sort of bad feeling of suggesting to our regular friend that she not drink is today sensed as a great relief, because she is not here to worry about and make adjustment for.  Peace is in the room, there is no drama.  My friend has to go to a bachelor weekend for his best friend out in Deep Creek Lake.   Last weekend he was in Vegas for the same, and he feels a bit partied out, and he wants to move soon to his new apartment out in Annapolis.

It's good to get out of the house.  The ideas seem to flow a bit better.

And so I drink my tea, slowly waking up.  Writing is really boring somedays.  Like you'd rather be doing something else.  You think of the nice girl you met on-line.

It can be nervous work, writing, and the hard thing is to somehow let the anxiety and the nervousness dissipate.  You're trying to harness the nervous horses of the mind, to hope they will pull the carriage and the writer gently and steadily, rather than bolting, and you have to, I suppose as much as anything, accept the pace at which the wilding colts will carry you forward to where there is substance and maybe even meaning.  You know the meaning is ultimately found in things like kindness and honesty, neighborly things, the communal effort to live with respect toward nature, creature and planet.  Maybe you couldn't do it without that nervousness, as Dostoevsky was nervous, as writers can be a shy breed of people, walking between the great polarity of public and private, material and absorption, the reordering in the mind, that honeycomb-like thing we construct to maintain life and environment.   And this is why the idiot is the serious one.

That climb, back and forth, back and forth, the chasm, the gap enough to make you queasy and upset, looking for something to hold onto...  The unsafest spot is that aloneness before the page, the phone calls gotten out of the way, the socializing work gotten out of the way, the workweek trimmed off, pruned, a sufficient cleaning and restock done.

We don't know the meanings of our own dreams, but that they are dress rehearsals our inner minds want us to work out.  To face the lion's den in the familiar, while other creatures go about safely, untouchable.  Fortunate that there is someone there, often enough, to help out, spiritual being or otherwise, comfort.  That must be the pleasure, if you will, of being a Jonah, the sea swallowing you and then the Leviathan, to cough you up, reformed, afresh, knowing of your duties and facing them.  Stunned as you must be by the whole thing.

I was a hurting fellow, and then I got turned around, and faced the good work that falls under tending the old bar.  Medication let me see that, in all its sad but happy lovely beauty, perhaps the most spiritual thing you could have done with your life, though that too could have been rendered in other forms perhaps just as well.

For the writer, it's always, 'depart from me, oh Lord, for I am a sinful man,' thence to be lifted up in all your worry and pain and angst.  You've looked in the mirror of the soul and somehow been forgiven, cleared in some small way to write about it, much as it will always mystify you, nervously.

And so a man must face a woman, in a great state of not deserving her, and she seeing to the forgiveness.  I mean, that's the whole thing, my single bit of offering to the field of literary criticism, that there is this root in all stories, the great happening, when she comes along, or does not, or goes missing for somewhat a long time, changing completely in form.

And even writing itself is the same;  I don't deserve the sentence, the story, the feminine insight, the forgiveness inherent in putting something down on paper.

Wipe your hand across your mouth,
and laugh,
the worlds revolve like ancient women,
gathering fuel in vacant lots.

Like the snowflake-like sweetness of real salt, the floral minerality upon the tongue, far beyond the politician, or the administrator, but of He who layeth the foundations of the world.

Writing, like science, will put the fear of God into you, and you know, like your mother, the whole thing could come falling down, breaking apart, particularly should that divine foundation be upset of sufficiently offended.  The lion's den, the facing of peril even in your own backyard, for the lion and the lioness could reappear at any moment, eyeing you with hunger burning bright.


The great literary things and forms are often the obscure things, created, hammered together out of some strange whim or reason, the invention of the play, Pepys' diary, Samuel Johnson, the poets, as they will always carry within their bones and heart that highest aspiration, those done through a series of low fall-like things as adult walking is falling in control.

The barman's diary that forgot to write down much of the specifics, the juicy details of any evening, as if a commentary on invisible things, fancies, chimera that only those who are alone would recognize and understand.  Who knew, the general fodder of the position, even if not revealed or seen directly, as most would conceive of the writing about things that happen, he said this, she said that, this happened, and then that followed and when I woke up the next day I was a bit hungover or dry in the mouth with strange indefinable aches throughout.  Part of the fishing and hunting life, realized, and then controlled now that it should be understood.

When, then, shall the captive of the den be released, if ever, the den of lion to be transformed into that of Christ in symbol.


Monday, May 1, 2017

Fictional Sketch from Notes from a Barman's Album:

April 2017, the 17th day.


There is the new waitress.  I think of the line at the end of The Seven Samurai.  "The farmers always win."  Type A in blood, and perhaps in temperament too.


I'd come in from the Saturday night shift, never easy, and my help that night, as almost any night, rarely soothes me, but rather provokes me into anxiety, moving about as they do like hoofed creatures, loud, barreling, bumping, linebackers now as they fancy going home.  Is it a show?  It must be intentional somehow.  Their bodies signal they want to go at the soonest hour by how they move, by their actions;  they are only hear to make money, then leave, never how I saw it.  Can I go, they always ask me, and because their physical presence, after their jostling as they sweep, the indignant noise they make, picking up the heavy Hefty five gallon bag of empty bottles, or dirty plates, drumbeats to their attitude that otherwise presents itself as the stare into the cellphone screen, because of all that I am happy to tell me, yes, go, leave me in peace, leave me in peace, and I need a glass of wine anyway after all your jostling and pretense.  They are more masters of the economy than I am.  They know how to use their time without any extra, then just go drive home.  And I, on the other hand, need to unwind, Jesus Christ.  The barman is jostled anyway, tortured really, and anyone who comes up those stairs, every time the door opens, can potentially be an inquisitor, poking you.


Easter.  It was an easy enough interpretation to make, that, looking at her behavior, her speech, her focus, that she's been drinking, in a relatively bad way, not necessarily so much before me, but the glass of rose some sort of iceberg tip of a greater problem.  You've tried to be patient with her, Lord knows, but just could not stomach it anymore, no way to tell yourself that there was good in her being there, at her regular stool at the end of the bar, nor of her coming in right not two minutes after we opened the door.  Not the best time to come and bug a barman with a long night ahead of him, anyway, as he'd like to make a small foray into social media, have a quick chat with a friend or a mother, before, now that things are almost set up as other coworkers never really appreciate, this general having everything ready to go when it comes, and I won't or can't say that about anyone else of my colleagues.  With all this in mind, it seemed like a foregone conclusion, cut her off from the drink.

Her dining experience were often interjected notes of dissatisfaction, a need to substitute the vegetable for this or that, doesn't want blue cheese, doesn't like the chef's penchant for sweet and sour with his braised dishes.  And then it seemed when she'd reached a point numb enough she'd to ask to pay and then screwing her eyes up to look at her check and take out her cash or credit card...  none of this was going well.  A smart lady, a good person, and yet, things had come over her, negative things, and she had started to weigh everyone who came in down down down, and not quite ready to keep her opinions to herself, some disconnect in conversation, too much, too candid.


So, when she pushes her empty glass forward, her fingers on the base of the glass, I ignore her.  Go out from the bar over to the room over in the back, where three familiar friendly people sit.  They're talking of the daughter and son-in-law's trip to Venice.  "No, Harry's Bar is nothing like it used to be. "  Back behind the bar, pressed again,for another glass, looking straight at her, and again, "may I have another," I stand and quietly say to her, "how about an alternative beverage."  "what, you're out of rose," "no, that's not what I meant by 'alternative beverage.' " She asks for a water, no ice.  I pour her some evian.  Doing all this quietly.    She takes another bite of cheese.  Asks for a to-go box and 'may I pay you.'  "No check, it's on us," I say.  And just before she leaves, standing up, she says to me, "I have no idea what just happened.  I don't understand.  We can talk about his later."  Okay, my friend.  Okay.


The stories we tell ourselves...  The narratives we create, to explain to ourselves what we see.  In my mind, part of it was, I was simply losing my patience, the daily 5:35 arriving like a horror ghost out of a Japanese movie to haunt me with problems.  A good ear, good advice, she had, when we could talk one on one, alone, before the bar had other visitors.  I had long defended her, stuck by her, engaged her.  But to watch her go that way, wherever she was going, doing what she was doing, with detached laughter, to listen to the drama of her housing situation, her deadbeat ex, it was wearing, and other customers noted that too.



At the end of the night I left a note explaining matters for the manager, and the next day, of course, he was supportive of my doing the right thing. If I wanted to 86 her...  Mid week I talked to my therapist about how to deliver the bad guy news to her, the recommendation being to sandwich the bad news with good positive compassionate notes both before and after.    She'd been back in, and in fact, sober, and of alert normal mental state.



A week went by, and her behavior markedly improved, but perhaps for a lapse or two toward the end of her visit.

She knows enough, quite a lot, about food and dining.  A smart sense about a lot of things, and yet, I suspect, like me, a Type O as far as blood type, and with all that, all the problems of early humanity attempting to stick into the modern crossroads, the granary, all that.  I felt for her, I knew myself the gut problems, the sleeping problems, the anxiety, all those issues, and the need for the sedative quality of a glass of wine low in alcohol.  And she was going through some stuff, housing stuff, income stuff, that was unsettling.

One night she confides in me, as we had discussed the same earlier, off and on, about the changes in her medications, those used to treat her anxiety and help her sleep.  She clearly saw now what the medications were doing to her, how hard it was just to get up, how hard to be part of a conversation.  We've returned to a good place of conversation, even if she is right on me early all by herself.

And I suppose if you look at a person long enough, rather than being critical, you see your own problems clearly before you, which sometimes is hard to do, looking at yourself.

The writer does not always know what he is doing.  Indeed, his work, if you could call it that, is the case of the left hand not knowing what the right is doing.  But somehow, you keep at it, reaching for the non-judgmental perspective.  Which can be unsettling.  It feels like you have to use it for some end, for some increasingly spiritual recognition that rings like, "there, but by the grace of God, go I."  In need of seeking forgiveness and of prayer.  As Peter Matthiessen sees it, the embarrassment felt from being alive, in his observations within The Snow Leopard, as if one simply waits, marking time, until the great rug is pulled out from underneath... that conundrum oft paid homage to in pubs and watering holes, "what is life for, anyway..."

I wonder if it is those happy kids who'll later run into problems in life, their self-regulatory good disposition toward their fellows no longer enough to sustain one over and through all the worries that set in upon us in our maturity, our adult lives, our attempts at responsibility.

I take the medicine to get me out of the winter clock change night shift funk, feeling better now, less cravings, and up at a decent hour today, writing again.










Sunday, April 30, 2017

Rousing myself from tossing and turning, wide awake, with a great sense of dread, I prepared myself to face a first shift in a restaurant new to me.  Chilled green tea, a shower, a tunafish on brown rice bread sandwich.  Told what to wear, and "you will have fun," I got ready and out to the door for the walk up Massachusetts Avenue, the day hot, sunny, traffic already backed up at 2:30.

Past the mosque, a beehive of activity, a faction across the street delivering through a portable PA system, then the men streaming out at the end of service at the gate in front of the mosque itself, high volume.  Then over the bridge, and a breeze as I climbed, walking up toward the Finns, a young woman walking in running gear as she talked on her earphones, pretty, thin, maybe from the UK, passing her as she stopped at a corner, then she passing me, then I passing her.  Past the British Embassy at the curve, just passed the Khalil Gibran garden on a knoll, she walked past me on my left mast as a robin climbed before us low, with a little worm dangling in its beak.  "Eat your worm, robin," I say, as the bird climbs into the trees beyond the grass, and the gal turned her blond head slightly and chuckled and I felt reminded of soldier humor from the Civil War.  Swinging away from sidewalk construction at the corner of the main avenue intersection, cutting through the school on the Cathedral grounds, handsome parents waited in their high end motorcars by the prestigious school to pick up their uniformed boys with ties on.  Sweating, now past the great Cathedral, crossing the street, the restaurants up ahead, running five minutes late, picking up the pace, turning the corner, and there the patio and in through the open door.

Shake hands with the boss, tall, trim, neatly dressed, confident with business success and a little gem of an eatery French in refinement and simplicity.  This is David, who will be training me once he finishes a few things, I go down and change my shirt into a white button down, putting on some worn work shoes with the metatarsal support inner souls that have seen years of service.  And back up the stairs to face my night alone behind the bar, the weather promising a busy night in the open air.

The set-up of the bar is long.  Facing forward the dishwashing machine, which handles all the bar glassware, is at the extreme right, and turning around, the point of sale computer system linked in to kitchen and server.  Then, facing back forward mid bar, a tap system.  Then, to the left, the bar ends with an ice bin, then, a step down a level to that of the dining room, ice bins the server reaches for the chilled wines, the wine glasses hanging on a rack by the back swinging door to the dishwasher's hallway, where bread is warmed and cut, coffee is made, and the dishwasher with his racks and machine and stainless sinks back in the far corner.

The night starts quickly around 5:30, with three Plantation rums served neat, then two lemonades for kids, a few glasses of wine at the bar, and then the quick lead-up to the grind of the night's hit, martinis, whiskey sour, and I handle it all well, but there's nothing one can do about the buildup of glassware back at the far service station, to bring all the way back to the right to place upon the dishwasher compartment's top black matts and in the meantime, verbal drink orders I strain to hear, and a few bottles of wine, and I need to tell someone like a busboy I need bread for two with olive oil.

Finally, the end of the night draws nearer, the drink orders settle down into dessert wines and digestif, and still, beer, bottled and tap.  I'm nursed through with a few pointers throughout the evening by the men who have worked the bar and now how to best handle it.  At some point a sweet short man, Pedrito, or Jose, in the blur of names, the nice man I met early on in the basement, with a Nike cap and a wrist brace, as he stood why a mop and yellow bucket, comes back to help me with the wiping off bar cloth polishing of each and every glass inside and out, as I file them back away and servers take any wine glass they will get, one or two ahead of them in the chaos.

The man with the freshly shaved head, lean and strong, self-confident, kind to me, helps me through what I need with the restock.  I've done fairly well keeping up with everything, the chilled wine coolers, the disparate orders, at least for rookie night, and not made an mistakes ordering or been indignant toward anyone, and rather, with the sense of humor a veteran might possess after twenty five years or so at it, keeping a bar running and getting the crucial work of delivery done as best one can, with a smiling demeanor and distant attentiveness ready to strike when needed to.

The manager, an Asiatic woman, approaches at the end of the night.  She's been cool, understanding the chaotic rush I've weathered.  "Didn't know what he was getting himself into," she says to the chef.  At one point toward the end of the busy part of the server's night, a Caucasian handsome young fellow with neatly trimmed hair and stylish glasses mentions to me, "such bullshit," referring to being back there and the system, speaks of enduring two years of it and the weekday nights where you have to also come round and handle the four four top tables in front of the raised bar, and I reach across the zinc service platform that folds upward should you need to get out from behind the bar and put my hand and his shoulder and say, quietly, in return, thank you.  Thank you, nodding.

The manager mentions the checklist, you have to go through the checklist, it's back there somewhere by the cash register computer screen, you have to go through that line by line.  I look at her.  Yes, the guys instructed me what I need to be doing.  And indeed my friend the shaven man comes back and helps me take out the recycling, looks over the shelf where the back-up wines are kept like a bookcase, open, six bottles of Lirac, five Bordeaux, seven Sancerre, and I mention I've drawn up a list from everything from the beer to the large house wine bottles from Coté Mas, red and white, and of course all the rosé, four of them including the sparkler, both in the cooler and upon the shelf.  Yes, the checklist, and inwardly I roll my eyes, to me it being pretty obvious that one must restock and then conscientiously clean all surfaces in some order as she sits and picks at the chef's mushroom fricassee, and then the lamb short ribs as she sips a glass of wine.  Ring up everything (meaning the drinks for the higher staff and personalities of the end of the night), okay.

She keeps an even tone, not particularly supportively positive of my brave and honorable effort.   "It's a strange set-up," I offer, "a lot of ground, from one end to the other (not very convenient a layout for its function), and you can't always hear the server's orders very well."  "The servers should ring their drinks in before you make them.   (Honey,) "that's not how the system works."  She holds to her terms, "nothing should be made in the kitchen without a ticket," and yet I've seen clear example of how the chef is happy to pass  along an appetizer to a lady here for happy hour my guy pulled me aside to warn me of, seven o'clock, that's it.  (Happy Hour people are regarded as consummate cheapos;  where I  might regard them with a bit more humanity, a nice chat with a Brit working on a Ph.D. on British influences in the Middle East during the WWI period, asking him if he's ever been to Dorset to visit T. E. Lawrence's Clouds Hill, known for its simplicity, and indeed he has, a nice moment before he's joined later by a friend;  and oddly enough at the other end of the bar I'll wait on another couple (oh, sorry, I just found out from the kitchen that we are out of the cod cheeks) with a very prominent Germanic name from that era, the kind with a Von in front of it, the kind you might name an early battleship over, as if the subtle balance that happens in bars will always present itself like yin and yang, bookends.

Sipping her wine, dryly taking a bite, she looks at me as I explain to her what the system in actuality and functionality actually is, a verbal system, there's no other way.  She looks at me, "maybe you could come in, say, an hour earlier to get set-up," she says.  No, it's not the set-up;  I did fine with the set up, we ran out of nothing, the flow was happy enough for the servers and they raced back and forth with plates as I focussed on keeping afloat.  A pause after I render my insight, picking up the narrow matts from the well at my end of the bar, those with the names of liquors and such on their rubbery faces, textured to hold spills with the top not swamped, placing them into the dishwasher, wishing there was a compartmentalized rack to hold things.  Picking up the matt where water glasses sit, I find that below the matt sopping with moldy moisture, commenting with a  guttural reaction, whisking it off into the washer, the spraying away with the windex and the rag.  And again, underneath the black matts by the service end underneath the big low buckets that hold with chilled wines on ice, there's a lot of water, sitting, and wetness underneath.

I look up at her, after her suggestion sinks in, of my coming in earlier, and I was an hour early, I say, Well, to tell you the truth I'm going to sleep on it, whether I'm coming back here next Friday.

She wishes me a good night as she leaves, entrusting me with the chef and his buds, and the last antics.  Later I leave with the chef, turning the lights off, watching him punch in the code.  He's always gracious with me, the general vibe of the place.

The night ends, I take a cab home and slump on the couch without even any interest in the small glass of wine I pour.  I wake later, a put myself to bed, difficultly falling back to sleep, have a beer and a valerian capsule.  And all the time I've wasted, drinking wine, when I could have been keeping my old mom company.  All the years of frivolity, thinking myself incapable of any sort of grown-up job, living not far from paycheck to paycheck, what was I thinking...

Mom calls, she has a cold, sounding like she could use some help getting dinner.  Afterward I sit down on the couch on a pair of reading glasses, then getting ready for work.

Those new plans people spring on you from time to time, they boil over, in a Buddhist way, much ado about nothing, just the angst, the stress of getting through them and the decision to say, no thank you.


You can't really be much of a teacher, when you have to run around like a monkey all night, playing a kind of handball with dirty wine glasses and drink orders, service bar.  It's an obscure and not necessarily perfectly respected position to be in anyway, to stand behind a bar, waiting, serving,  a 'beverage engineer,' as there are important credentialed people who deal in matters of life and death out there in the city, with large cars not bicycles, with big houses and unimaginable responsibilities.  And even to realize that you are, or might be, potentially, a form of the teacher that might come from being, well, cut from the image of the Divine, God, the spark of creation, requires a look around at the potential totality of the being, who you are, what you do.  To be achieved, this look, as always, in the very skeptical and no-time-for-it, let's-be-practical, and-then-finally-once-we've-achieved-that, then-we-can-relax-a-bit-like-those-TV-ads-for-financial-advisors (God loves them too.)  But the look for the potential totality, for maybe a glimmer of, as silly as it sounds, a Gandhi, or one simply with a pleasant and caring sense of humor that sees a lot, as can only be accomplished through years of time and human interaction.  And even then, the voice asks, 'then am I teacher,' and one has to always work on that, a bench warmer called to play now and again.  The potential is all we can now, and even that necessitates a poetic license employed.

Some jobs, they might allow for that totality to come into light and focus, the assembly of a full person, less obscured in their efforts, driven largely by instinct, to write here and there, to play a bit of music on a wooden instrument or other, to talk to people as a job, in a congenial truthful way.

The Buddha was a writer who took his message public and in person.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Does it make a difference, anything we write?"

is there some point,
to this.

Like forgotten toys, Sears Roebuck catalog wishes,
come materially true,
or old trips to the Utica library,
mom and I counting how many green lights
we could pass through from all the way through
New Hartford.

We write because birds are in us,
as trees are in us, waiting to give form
to the world of living cells, that tree branches and fronds,
limbs and leaf metamorphosis into
little animals of different sorts, fauna,
to climb those very trees.
Bird calls in April morning, the most agreeable of
cacophonies, the sound of the Universe itself, between
swoon of dove, crack of woodpecker,
towhee, beautiful morning birds all agreeing
on the conductor's spaced symphony.

what does reading do, reading someone else,
but pull us out of our own minds, our own mental states,
our own chagrins, to finally forget our own impending
neuroses, as if by some rehydrating
and mineral laden fruit
soothing and reviving.

I am not a writer, a hack like anyone else,
a Hallmark card, for better or worse,
as if my rocking chair,
made by Amish, purchased at a fruit stand
made of bent twigs simple and wooden,
comfortable was that of Lincoln, or JFK,
just so, with the green chamois shirt of winter
draped upon it,
like some sort of bird or dry manta-like sea creature,
or hide,
chest pocket button becoming an eye.

wood goes with wood, good to leave it plain.

night is hard when you cannot sleep.
Reading is the best soothe.

I feel better now, now that I have read,
somewhere in the night,
something about Lincoln,
a cemetery, the life in between this one and
the one beyond.

So doing, I join the pattern,
the greater, the leaf shape,
the bird's whistle, cheep, coo,
song of regular notes each time, perfect,
without question.

Mental health,
is regained,
one no longer
so alone.




Shape of the head
makes one a writer,
karma, the adjustments
of DNA.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Poking in inner watery electric fire of the mind for flame and ember, you sense what you're looking for, to explore, write about.

A picture of a young woman thirty years after you last saw her.

The brain is an organ, it collects, records, exchanges remembered.  It has done its Shakespearean job, laborious, saving words and feelings, like a cherished tool box waiting to be put to use with some old craft.

And the brain has a reaction.  The picture, a lesson, the disappearance of all regret, a sudden thing.

You'd waited for what?  This, probably, this freedom to breathe again and live.

"No, honey, you were too fancy for me.  You could never have accompanied me on my voyage physical and spiritual, and a lot of other people came to bear me along, my body and my time.  And you see, I was, and remain, a sort of politician, a man, a creature whose bearing deserves the fable and dignity we all deserve."  Something like that.

That was how you acted then, and how you would act now, I'm afraid.  I didn't see it as mutual;  it was, I, going one way. my own way.

I kept writing.  That was all I could do.  I give that person, myself, I guess, some credit.


Storms in the mind clear, winters are passed through, clouds break, the sun comes out finally.  You've got to give the weather time.  You have to walk through the woods in all seasons for years and years.
A private person, I took care of my business, on a daily basis, living, even when the whole old thing and memories would kick me almost everyday, first thing.


The bigger, the longer the telling of the joke, the better the punchline.  It was only through writing that I could see clearly and work things out, achieving peace, see the good in myself, the part that was ready to do some work, mysterious, strange as it was.

I had the artist's love of simplicity, a cot with a Buddha statue, incense, a bottle of wine maybe, something to eat, a guitar to strum.  She was too fancy for me.  She was my own embodiment of the selfishness the Buddha shows us to be illusion.  I kept the thought of her for years, until one day I found a picture of her on the web and it all disappeared.



Sketches, Irish Wake.:


Lincoln, as a young fellow, in the failing tavern in the town no longer on any map, the dignity of going broke, into debt.  A story.  The dignity of work, failures and all.  The storied quality of his life, the web of craziness below the surface, of all ancestors in all situations.

Lincoln, in the ideal realm, bridges, almost, the ideal politician and the problem of finding 'right profession.'  He was strong, a  wrestler, ambitious politician of the 19th Century perfect for him.  Was he 'just a politician...'  

Sunday, March 12, 2017

I rested on the couch, asleep, still fighting a cold after four weeks.  Bloody Valentine's Day had did me in, the completion of a whole holiday cycle coming at the worst time of the year, on top of the general high stress of having to entertain--you try it--with that whole stupid clock change thing putting me into darkness...  I'd been back to work all through it, and got through each week, but when the days off came, as for weeks in a row, I coughed and slept, croaked to my old mom when I spoke to her on the phone, feeling bad for not being there, and barely had energy to get groceries.

The days off were typically bad enough as far as being low on energy, (though my coworkers seemed to not comprehend the strength it took and what it took out of you)  but it was worse with a cold, the tail end of winter, some days remarkably warm, and others very cold by Mid-Atlantic standards.  My coworkers were meeting Friday night, but I had no energy.  Rousing finally to take care of a few things, figuring to myself how I'd hear soon enough what a great time I missed, with hot women, I turned on the television, as one does at a quiet late hour, wanting to get the dishes done, finding the account of JFK Jr., the last flight, the HLN news account, with interviews and information pieced together.  Long enough ago an event, you end up watching it, first to remember an era, then out of sadness, nostalgia, a whole nuclear kernel, and then hoping for some form of satisfaction somehow, knowing better, and being reminded of what a guy said to me during a day shift--he worked for AllState, came in at lunch for a few Lone Stars, a former bobsled guy who'd done the infamous Lake Placid run, knew something about flying--of how the young man wasn't trained for instrument flying (where there are no external clues of things like where the horizon is and must fly blind), how disoriented a pilot can be.  Alone, at night, still sick, feeling funny in the head anyway, unable to turn it off, there was raised in me no small amount of anxiety and sadness of a kind not easy to shake.  And then, having slept so much, I was restless, and thinking of how things can go wrong, very wrong.  There was traffic much worse than usual in Manhattan around rush hour, a whole string of events, choices.  And at a certain point, the pilot knew, in the dark soup of night, things had gone very wrong, despite being so very close, so very close.

Earlier, much, in the day, before again a lot of rest and sleep with dreams, I'd found a book of mine I'd not seen in awhile, bound in blue, specially printed with engravings of lotus blossoms and scenes, the story of the Buddha.  (Buddha:  A Life & Teachings, Peter Pauper Press, Mount Vernon, New York.)  And sometimes it is the early part of the story that seems to be the meat one craves, in this case of how the young prince gets curious, ventures out, through no fault of his own, and rather to his credit, and how he, with this chariot driver, sees old age, sickness, death, impermanence, suffering, and how that young prince, Gautama, wends his way with some purpose to find out something very important to human existence and sanity and the life of the mind.  How to put that is up to you, but it has something to do with not being exacerbated into chasing personal participation in the things our minds might tell us will bring something we would like, in the way of pleasure and satisfaction and some sort of worldly enjoyments we would like to find eternal, and they are, of course, not eternal.

Having satisfied myself that my immune system truly needed the downtime, to fight the damn thing, the cough, the sluggish ache, the depressed feeling, having listened to my body and not dragged the old bartender's body out into the cold of a Friday night to meet people half my age intent on things like crowds, music, dancing, and not feeling like checking my ragamuffin system of coats, well, I was asleep anyway.  But when I woke, there still was some vestige of a being aware of a self, a self in need of some form of satisfaction or entertainment, something to put a finger on for the night, and wanting to satisfy both my deep respect for the Kennedy family and its story and my love for what could have been had he been given the gift of years on top of all his other gifts, I watched the television screen at night as the account went on.

And somewhere within there is a lesson of Buddhist nature, of how our minds can quite easily be taken over.  The very sad thing we'd like to turn away from but can't, driving into our stomachs, taking over us, our body, our cells, bringing the real sense of tragedy such as proof of the grim tragedy that any life, looked at honestly, could be.  A lesson wrapped in a lesson?  With the sting of angst, and with images of the well-bred faces, with all the ironies, with a sense of all the bravery of a family to weather such impossible loss, so was the rest of my quiet evening quiet in the dark, a light on, waiting for more sleep to come.



A Tathagata... has great love for all creatures, has a knowledge, a truth of so many things, so much insight, gained through meditations available to us all, to let us bypass suffering, as much as we can.  A father to all beings who undergo that cycle of birth, life, death, rebirth, compassionate and wise and understanding, one whose vision encompasses assassinations, tragic death of worthy people, the losses that survivors must contend with in anguish...

So one returns to a purpose, a job, a professional situation, as best as one can, given the circumstances,and sometimes there is Buddha's handwriting all over everything, to the foreground his understanding of the physics of human experience and the mind and all sensations and feelings.  And it is not the wine, necessarily, to be faulted, as wine is food, necessary, sometimes, to some of us, to some of us in certain states, perhaps, as it is not what goes into a man but what comes out of him that is indicative of good or bad deed.

And in trying to cope with any offering of the media, perhaps it behooves the human creature to be careful, to be aware of how much influence a selection of media past time, information or entertainment might be...   Look at what the environment we have put before ourselves as a media source hath wrought, the perfect tyrant not to play by the rules we thought were imposed upon it, through fairness, discernment, properly informed subjects and objects, the educational element, but to ride it, to manipulate it, to make himself a giant and the rest of us small, ready to wipe away instruments and institutions of fairness, legality, equality, values, beliefs, understandings, in order to allow individuals of corporate greed and unsound decision-making, bowing to the god and goal of personal profit, a vision of golf courses, and escort services and lavish hotels where no one wants them to be but to feel wealthy to come upon us and use the structure of democracy for his own.

In need of some mind change afterward I put on a dvd about Catholicism, Word on Fire, narrated by Rev. Robert E. Barron, usually something I get something out of, but on such an evening it seemed full of dualistic thinking, statements of a story, simplified, in need of backing away, nuance, perspective.  (Really, did a baby as such bring forth such an army of angels to fight, almost in a mockingly superior way the crucifying armies of the Roman Empire?  Or is such a man who has something wise to say necessarily an imposter if he claims something wise to say?  Father Barron saying one would claim to be wise, maybe an evil type...  Meaning there's only one Jesus.)  Sometimes it's better to think of things purely as a believer, but that night I felt older and wiser, burdened in such away as to lose a certain amount of patience, while still being a believer in the story.  If you've completely bought into the story, and it sounds a bit much as far as reality as it appears to us, then maybe you're not the best teller of that story.  And so would my own literary rendered Peter or JC be a bit more earthly and profane, as if they went to, or even worked in, restaurants and bars amongst publicans, sinners, gluttonous men and wine bibbers... fallible normal people fighting perhaps with their own minds and the things people tell them.


Melville stood out on ship's deck in the night, listening to the prow cut through the waters, and sea shanties in his mind, silence, the stars, life in the waters, Biblical stories wriggling alive all round him.


The next day when I awoke the dishes were done, the teacup clean, the living room in order, myself in a reasonable state, a gentle peace having fallen over me for not going out, as much as I missed my friends.

A long time ago, it seems, I wrote a piece about watching the Tour de France, in many ways, and numbers, my biggest blog hit, though who gives a .hit.  It was about finding something worthy of watching, finding a kind of mythos, I don't know what you'd call it.  I guess by some vague calling I wanted to be a media critic, sort of an F.R. Leavis, or Matthew Arnold, meaning to be a believer in the democratic capacity of readership.  The cinematography was worthy as we watched the Tour from that higher perspective, looking down from helicopters on human endeavors with history, churches, castles, rivers, bridges, mountains, monasteries, Cathar hold-outs, farmland, vineyards, inns, plane-tree lined streets, Provence, in mind.  It matched, it gelled, even with the shouting byline of the race story and odd factum.  Hannibal took this route through the Galibier...  The gut digestion, as remembered by a schoolboy before a fire alarm in French class, and then, as if by miracle, found thirty years later...  And what sticks in your mind, your own mind, about any sort of media?  There was something JFK, the president, as Jackie herself tells us, about listening to the record before bed, before kneeling for his nightly prayer, Camelot, Camelot...  Richard Burton.  And by projection, Malory, Mort D'Arthur, and any number of King Arthur old literature, and by expansion, poems, Donne, Shakespeare, Irish kings, the kinds of things the eternal reading schoolboy--who else it is who is the inner reader--loves and spends time with in that glorious free time of life, reading, say, Lord of the Rings trilogies...

It's the storied man who will save us, who knows no bridge, no distance between the stories of myth, who finds the tales awakened ever and ready to be applied, rather than the cold cynical pols game of controlling the ins and outs of a day, bashing away....

This night ends with remembering the old clip of The Pogues, Shane MacGowan, singing the old song, Dirty Old Town, and anyone who remembers Saint Patrick's Day, or by extension anyone literary, like, say Dylan Thomas, or Larkin, still has a cloth to wash their faces from the sticky consuming insanity of the non-literate creepiness.


You see, I was afraid to say anything, I was afraid to be myself, because, well, being poor, living on paychecks, shifts, compared to everyone else in the town.  I was afraid to listen to music, and tune my guitar so I could play along exactly with the You Tube of my favorite songs, and yet I kept to them because of some deeper drive related to the things one does not question when it comes to their own brains basic procedures of digesting and processing.  I love to pull out a guitar and hear in it an old song...  And I should think I'm entitled to that, after all, (and I try not to bother the neighbors at hours of night.)  It's important, music.  (Who will Trump invite to play his WH?)


And Lincoln, to remind myself, yes, he wrote that letter to a woman he liked, about the woman he was almost, maybe was, engaged to, and how, he observes, ever the Buddhist, yeah, the picture of her changed...  Let it go.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=244EmfdANvA  (What writing looks like...)

I found it healthier to write, to occupy the world of my own mind, rather than to listen, get sucked into CNN, much as we all need to be informed...  It was better to listen to the old music, and in that way be armed, have an armor out into the world, even if it was  Monty Python armor, and the babble of our brains.

Dear Buddha,

I find the joy, at least in bar tending, and in probably all things, is when someone confides in you.  It may be over time, taken a certain amount, an inkling here and there, and admission, an honesty, a candid moment.   This was something I could not easily translate into talk, or profession, or tangible accolade, just that people spoke to me in candid moments, and let me in, like they wanted a little bit of light on something, and understood that I needed a little light too.


In media times such as this, maybe the positions of people who speak wisdom have been replaced.  SNL offers a bevy.  Where would that mystical horse-rider-in-the-night Lincoln be, that ballast of things Presidential...




There's always a shyness to thoughts and thinkers.  What if a creature thought beyond itself, not that it would.   A butterfly imagining being a bird?  A human being imagining writing a book length piece, a novel?  Don Quixote, it would be.  And all relationships are metaphysical, not the direct confrontations we make them out to be, poetic things, I have seen this and know it to be true.  Daniel Boone went to a wilderness, and he fought it out with the tough things in the wild, and there is new territory for us as well.  If and when we say so, it is hard to be heard above the noise.  "The point of literature?  What is that?"  the people, dumbed down into some skepticism, allow to be led so.  Could it be, people speak at a distance, through warps of time and space?  Bobby Kennedy is speaking on the night of April 4 in Indiana to you and me.  Pope Francis is cutting across waves of sedimentary thinking of a church lacking the imagination it proposes to support most integrally.    The liberal college is ossified.  You are sensitive, just as much as I, and you know, as well as I do, that education is about content, about what interests a soul.

I would consider a glass of wine necessary at certain hours, in certain circumstances.  I hope the Buddha would too.

There is always a terrible shyness attached to such things, as wisdom, as speaking out, as truth telling, and that is why, I suppose, we have these old, maybe now archaic systems, like when we listen to the Clancy Brothers (or write laws into order) and we protect and teach because of the very shyness of these enlightening moments and thoughts.  There is always a greater purpose...