Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Why do you hide your light?

Oh, I don't.  Work, I suppose.  Hmm.  Don't you think I bring out some of my light at work, I mean, waiting on people?

Yes, you try.  Do you think you could do better?

Well, yes, but there's a lot of anxiety just in trying to get to work, to get through work, you know, even without the money success end of things on top of that.  I guess that's why they call it work.  That's what they say.

Do you think there's a correlation somewhere, between the work you are doing now and that anxiety?

Well, yes, father, but on many levels...  Where to start?  The odd hours;  not being able to control when you go to sleep, how long you'll sleep.  There's everybody going about nine to five, and where are you?  And it's exhausting anyway, physically.  It is.  The pay.  That's another thing.  What household can live on one income in the city?   Where do you exist?  Where do you find comfort in being where you are?  I suppose that's why I tried bar tending, you know, because the restaurant seems like a home in some way.  You eat there, you find your friends, you encounter strangers who become in a way family.  The restaurant is a model, in a way.  You cook.  You clean up, put some things back in order, pretty simple.  And that's what you strive to do with your own space, you know.

But?

Bit yes, father.  There is some great lacking, hard to put a finger on.  I'm not saying I'm meant to be in a monastery, full time, silent.  But as a writer, I'd like to find, you know, that wise voice...  It just seems like, at least when I don't write, I'm not living up to the mandate I was given.



I feel I've lost my mandate, the strong spiritual sense my father imparted.  I feel miserable about it.  Exercise helps.  And work's not all bad.  There is lots of spirituality in hospitality.  I just read, in The Cloister Walk, that celibacy brings that out in you.  Well, I can say, that is true.  Very true, alas.

Anxiety.  I had one beer at the end of work last night.   Thought of stopping somewhere for a drink, so I ride up to Bedrock, go down in, guy checks my ID, I see my friend is bar tending.  I walk around the bar... nah.  I head home, which is hard, because there are girls out, women I should say.  It's not quite too late yet.  But going out is tainted.  And I'm a social person, I love talking to people.  But it never seems to go quite right, being out you know.  You're giving more than you're getting.

Now I have to get ready, off to Restaurant Week.  I hope the regulars stay away.  I'm going to pretend I don't know them.  I did my buddy a favor, switching shifts.  I was tired anyway, last night.  But it throws me off, you know, when you're plodding through the week.  Jazz Night is always a pain in the ass anyway.  Impossible, really.


I'd been good.  I managed to get through the various jolts of a Saturday night alone up at the bar in the doldrums of August without being pushed over the edge.  I'd had a beer, got out the door and on the bike with my courier bag and helmet, headed toward home, adjusted to going up to Adams Morgan to revisit the places and people of Thursday night, managed to avoid getting involved.  I got as far as locking the bike up and going down into the dungeon of Bedrock Billiards, as if descending into an aquarium.  There was the woman brave enough to tend bar, talking to a few bearded guys in tee shirts, I thought her attractive from the night of the Memorial for a friend's father, but the crowd, intent on pool, going up for air for a surly cigarette, did not engage, and so, you know, this is a waste, let me get out of here.  Which I did.  A woman who'd been out talking to a friend smoking a cigarette encouraged me to hang out;  I thanked her politely and she went through the glass doors and down the stairs.

Out on the street by the bike, I dawdled for a few minutes.  Two women walked by, one wearing overalls, hey, kind of cute, no?  a fun look.  But between the open bars along Columbia, that which might have led one to temptation, well, the bike got me here, it can get me home, easier in fact, downhill, just got to get past Russia House's temptations.  I unlocked the u-lock, slung it over the handlebars, and rode home.  I got in the door, dumped the bag, sat back on the leather couch for a moment, after pulling out the open bottle of wine, out of the fridge for the coffee table, had none of it, didn't even touch it, went to bed.  And even, even if I wasn't going to sleep right away, at least I was resting and it was dark and quiet, and I could relax.

And the next day, before work, I rode the bike, indoors, on the trainer.  I got up a good lather.  A little meditation.  And then I went off to work.  Sunday night.  I got there, feeling good, actually.  I'd cracked the code, finally, so it seemed.  A decent mood.

The evening went on.  And then, all of a sudden, around 8:30, I'm tired, it's slow, the bar stools are full, except for one seat,  I was very very sick of it, tired of it.  Talk about a kitchen renovation, a marble backsplash up against a window sill to go with the marble countertop, while I just wanted to proceed with my job, after the unannounced birthday, the conversations, enjoyable, but taking a huge amount of energy.   As humoring people for five hours straight does.

On Sunday night, just put it on auto pilot.  The Germans, a party of five, the girls stuck me with that, were dry and tedious.  Is the steak special lactose free, what's on the vegetable plate...  And then, to boot, on a tab of $175, a tip of $10.  Such experts, the Germans.  They came in asking for duck, where is the duck?  No, we don't have duck, except as foie gras.  The effort to talk politics, which they brought up, and I humored.

I got enough problems, just want to be done with the night, not be pushed into having a drink, my usual coping mechanism.

I just want to get out of there without being pushed into have a drink.  I just want to get to the Safeway, get restocked a bit, then go home, plan a visit to the doctor for the small scratch which is not healing well, take care of a few things, and mainly, just to get home, to do what I did last night, take it easy, chill, not have any beverage of the wine sort beyond the beer I've had.  Just bedtime, just relaxing, reading.

So Sunday night I got back home, got on the bike, necessary to help unwind as I rode, easing frustrations.  I had a little bit, not too much wine, and woke up tired the next day.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Sometimes you just want a day job.  Wake up feeling stupid.  Everyone else does it, why not you?  Shame.  You went to a nice funeral service up in Shepherd's Park, stayed out too late with the crowd. Restaurant people.  Well, on the good side you made peace with Johnny, an old boss of yours.

The day off.  The spirit was pleased with going to the service, but the shots of Jameson with the restaurant people crowd leaves it anxious, wishing to get back to the quiet, away from 18th Street.  The live music was great, but the rest was strange, a feeling of not being where your own mind is at.

Forgive us, father, for our stupidity.  Nice guys to hang with, but a different pace than the one you normally keep.

Blank look at the computer, the iPhone, what's happening, as if life were led now through the screen thing.  What can you do when you are feeling stupid?  You meditate.  Light some incense.  Take a shower.  Write a grocery list.

But it was not nothing to go seek out an old friend.  You'd worked for him briefly at his new restaurant, but somehow didn't take to it, almost twenty years ago.  You worked a couple of nights, but it wasn't your cup of tea.  You called him to tell him, rather than go face him, and you went back to the restaurant you were familiar with, used to, comfortable with.  You hurt him.   You weren't sure how it was going to go, but you were immediately forgiven, and had a nice chat, catching up, and it felt good.   And then later you talked to the bass player of the blues band that played that night at Madam's Organ.    The old religion, the old way, meeting people out in the life of a street, not always clean, sometimes rather messy.  It had seem called for anyway, to tag along with Jason and his friends at his watering holes along Columbia Road.  And you'd been careful enough to eat at the Korean barbecue, a nice bowl, a full meal.  You'd been careful enough about the shots too.  Beer.  It had been nice to put a suit on and go to a very different part of town, way up Georgia Avenue.

Maybe you'd even made a little progress in this messy thing called life.  A paycheck cleared, and that made you feel better.  There was not yet the energy to do anything resembling hearty exercise.

Observations from a memorial service in an African American funeral home would be that things are taken in stride.  All the ease of friendship and community.  Honoring each other with gesture, brother hugs, the clap of clasped hands.  A celebration of life.

Later I tag along.  The Greek American chef and his girlfriend;  the restaurant guy who now works managing property management, fixing and flipping, down to one night bar tending.  I feel like the gullible one in all this, out of place with shrewd city boys who know the streets and how to talk to women.  Relaxed hang outs, doesn't have to be fancy.

Adventures of a night.


All this is related to the nature of a calling.  The calling, as Kathleen Norris reminds us, in The Cloister Walk, is the story of one who feels the self-based original calling for poetry, the finding of an inner authority that is not based on credential as the rest of life and professions seem to be.  It includes the hardness of Jeremiah, the struggling, the difficulties, the world at odds with callings and the people who receive them.

To be a poet requires invoking your own authority, different from the credentialed academic...

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Nothing much
to write today
it seems.

Start small.

Let's see you, coming in on the end of the week, one more bar shift to go, Wednesday Night Jazz at the Old Gaul.  Sunday, went to work, sick with a cold, sent home, went to bed and slept.  Monday, the star studded farewell party for the singer of the gypsy swing band mainstay of Jazz Nights.  Tuesday, free wine tasting upstairs by myself.  Up at a reasonable hour, in limbo before work.  Nothing much to say.  Checking account low.  I guess it's good I've been pulling five shift weeks, not made easier by having to be the closer each night.

I couldn't afford the new apartment.  God was telling me something.  True I'd been on an expensive trip for my aunt's wedding.  That was a stretch of eleven days without working, plus the rental car, the motel room, dining on the road purchases, gas, taking a dent out of my checking account in the slow months of summer.

Feeling sad again.  One should never turn down the offerings of that rare friendship which is a spiritual one.

The job is hard enough, but that money just isn't there to be living here in DC.



Waking up, day off, nervous.  The realization I've been greatly taken advantage of by the restaurant business.  Which left me with nothing.    All those years of work.  Modest contribution to Social Security, a bit of knowledge, a lot of friends, sure, but in this world you have to take care of yourself. One guy has been on my side a long time, encouraging me like my mother to find plan B.

What was plan B?  Had always thought myself something of a spiritually inclined mind...

But everyday, waking up with anxiety.  The knowledge this is working not working out.  You can only labor so much, and rent at the new place, one didn't even have the energy to move into it, even as low as could be was steep enough.

Thirty years since graduating college.  No resume to speak of, hardly any skill, no real profession.  The son of man.  The fuck-up.   No better than his days as a landscaper, living at home, good at watering plants, petting cats, talking to old people.  Basically lost.  A hard enough worker, sure, when it came to physical things, but is the Amherst grad supposed to end up as a laborer the rest of his life?  My father was angry with the English Department, for tanking my prospects at a decent academic life.  I'd shown up as a good student.  What happened?  Did they care?

Well, I was through the workweek at least.  A funeral service to go, a friend's father.  At least, yes, I had friends, the social life the barman has.  But really, what the fuck, what the fuck, what the fuck.  My brother permanently angry with me for my choices, for not "figuring it out."  My old mom  worried about me, etc., etc,

Not much you can do in one day to fix your own deep problems.  Change is very difficult.  But there is an odd good thing that comes through the habit of confession, of confessional writings.  You feel just slightly better.    You then aim for a peaceful evening, not biting off more than what you can chew.  Can't afford to go out, nor go on a date, nor buy a car.

I call mom.  She's sad she can't go visit Aunt Jean out in Saugus at the nursing home for her birthday. But there's no way that could happen.  I remind her our trip to Lee.  We have a nice conversation.  She retells a family story, on the subject of shoes:  when the Irish came here, tried to buy shoes, were told, no, you only bought one shoe for that price (crooked dealings.)  She's pleased I'm making the effort to go to my buddy Jason's father's memorial service way up Georgia Avenue.  "Take a cab," she says.  "I'll send you a little something in the mail."

I mention the Boston Globe headline, how climate change is heavily impacting New England.  We talk about Trump.  "I think it's the time for the wise spiritual being to arrive in  UFO and set things straight," I say, and she says I'd be just the guy to do it.

Climate response could in some way be comparable to our own bodily functions, the response to what we put into our system.   The body has its way of processing, our stool allowing for valuable biofeedback on how we process certain things.  Cheese ends up in little lumps at the other end of things, perhaps.  Perhaps more fiber would be a good thing.  Maybe alcohol leaves a burn in the gorge, to be avoided next time.  How does the nervous system feel?

Nature is telling us things.  Likewise with the mind, which responds as it does, a canary in a coal mine.  Will the new spirituality come up with a kind of dietary restriction, as older ones, for the planet, not just the body...

Are the bulk of out non-commercially related thoughts worth having?   Are they allowed?  Should they be entertained?  Or is one a crack-pot, a deviant for having them...

Mentions to the barman, "I finished your book," or, "how's your writing going," do not sometimes bring him pride.  "Your writing," the very sound of it, embarrassing.  What do you hope to accomplish?

And yet, everyday, you add a little more to the hodgepodge pile.  No one is a good writer, or everyone is.  It's just the weirdness to keep at it, to keep recording thoughts, and that's the basis of the effort.  That's all it is.

Friday, August 4, 2017

And so, and so.  The creature needs exercise.  He gets wound up, anxious, worn out by the physicality of work.  How can he strike back, strike through, as Ahab put it, through the mask?

An exercise, in putting thoughts on the Tour together:


The Col D'Izoard is on TV, the first time I'm able this Tour to get on my trainer stand with the Cannondale road bike.  The chain is in the big front chain ring and the smaller cogs on the rear cassette.  The first pedal strokes are slow.  It takes the body a while to warm up, but warm up it will, and it takes its own pace.  Ten minutes in, fluidity, and the pace, the cadence of pedal strokes, increases.  The body stretches out, comfortably on the bike, and the deep breaths come.  It's a good feeling being on a bike.  "This is the good part of me," one says to himself, and it helps to think you're back at it, working out.  I cannot remember the last ride I took that wasn't a mission to get to work or get home, just for exercise, like one use to taking the trouble to get up and down into Rock Creek Park.  Long Saturday rides out to Garrett Park, or further out into Potomac.  Past golf courses, way out, a turf farm, stables.  The countryside, quiet roads, a general store, the peace of the road, horse farms...  Those rides are better, obviously, when you've done a little leg training.  The muscles and bands of leg remember, all those rides taken as a younger fellow, and the feeling of a general cleansing that comes with the building perspiration feels very good.  It would be nice to get outside, on the bike, but here, at night, this will do.  Training.

The body is heavy, not much exercise while on a trip, a lot of driving, 1700 miles or so, too much dough, unavoidable on the road, and the belly area is not svelte as it used to be, and a far cry from that of the pros on the television, offering inspiration.  July, The Tour, comes as a kind of vacation, inspiring, quiet, scenic.  History, as the human mind can only remember, can only go back so far, such as is comparable to the enjoyment of a silent film, that's going back pretty far, and Le Tour in its history is almost simultaneous with that invention of the moving picture.  No wonder then, that it is the latest in the technology of filming so far advanced now, looks back on itself as an homage, both for the Tour and the ability of the captured moving image to tell a story, just by holding up a mirror to nature, capturing that oddest of moments, "now."

The landscape of the Col D'Izoard stage is strange and barren.  The riders pass through the steep gorges of the valley of the Guil in Queyras.  There are no spectators gripping onto the sides of the road here, bare pines, glimpses of that moonscape that marks the Dolomitic mountain stretches further up on the slopes.   The roads have not changed since Fausto Coppi climbed as the legend he was.  Nature is silent here, and no caravans of spectators.  The road is paved, but here Louison Bobet, Gino Bartali, Coppi, the old gentleman of the classic Tour fought it out, riding like birds on dirt roads, with elegant simple steel road bikes, lugged frames.

After a timed forty-five minute riding session, coinciding with the coverage and the post-race report, with a good lather rom head to toe, considerably wet, a hot shower, releasing the spine, and then some yoga.  Meditation pose feels good after the effort.  A headstand, plow, shoulder-stand, warrior.  I am tired from the week, and find myself lethargic and in some form of depressed mood.  I've been back to work for five straight nights, trouble falling asleep several nights.  Heat, throws the guts for a loop.  A series of naps follows as afternoon turns to evening turns to dusk turns to night and cooler air.  The body wishes to get back into running, or to get out for a nice walk without having to get somewhere, but the bike on the training stand is quite helpful.  And the aerobic exercise, the free movement, helps the mind in no small way.


The first sentences are slow, coming tentatively.  One is almost afraid of the keyboard, the lingering thoughts, those that come alone, but sparks of the brain which mean something and ought to be recorded.  Reluctant to face their charge, the reality of feelings, the sense of how things are a cause for a wish to start all over again somewhere else rather than holding the old bit in one's teeth and pulling vainly forward.  It takes 'til the beginning of deep night for the writer to get started.  Forget trying to line up a date, with going out, even with grocery shopping.  Momentum, time is what you need.  One thought gotten down will lead to another.  One stroke, then the next from the other side, like Tai Chi.  No wonder Ernie Hemingway liked boxing, the back and forth, a left then a right, the real thing, followed by a glimpse of the metaphorical quality, often self-reflective, inherent in the act of writing.



You have to feel comfortable on the bike.  You don't need to start out fast, you just need to know that you'll be in for the long run.  And that by each ride, be it home on the trainer, or out somewhere, and then maybe further, once inspired, and the traffic of cars tamed convincingly, you get more comfortable.  Your own work might never make the theater, but in the great tradition you will document a kind of a life until the end, through a lot of things, non of it necessary stellar, but a thread, a system of some health.  Don't start out too quickly, don't flame out writing some brilliant work exhausting yourself and setting yourself up for fame.  No, take it easy, do it slowly and steadily...  again and again.http://www.velominati.com/anatomy-of-a-photo/anatomy-of-a-photo-fausto-coppi/comment-page-2/





When the Tour de France came around, it took a while to wake to it, meaning I'd not been riding the bike, thinking even those good old innocent days of focussed rides down in Rock Creek Park when Beach Drive is closed to vehicle traffic, even the sports match of the Tour itself, childish and unimportant.  Ride the bike to work, eh?  No time go out on long joy rides.  Not even the rides close by, narrow roads in quiet neighborhoods with steep climbs.  Time to get serious, here at age 52, no time to 'mess around,' to 'fuck around,' to goof off, to do anything that does not immediately acknowledge and attempt to rectify the economic reality of personal situations...

The Tour was on, and the inspiration slowly built.  I had to go to work, and then I got to get ready for the big trip, I said to myself, as I watched the noon rerun of the Tour's opening Time Trial stage in Dusseldorf, where a significant rain was making roads and particularly the painted road indicators, cross walks, lane markings, slick and high up on the list of the immediate dangers the Tour riders will face through 20 stages and more than two thousand miles.

Once a habit, as soon as the Tour de France started, to get home from work, put bike shorts on, get on the bike on the trainer, unwinding from a shift, getting in a workout, building up a good lather.  All while unwinding from a shift, often enjoying a glass of French red wine to help the overall soothing.  The time lost getting ready for bed as soon as manageable, worth the time getting back in shape.   It's hard, tough, when work is at night, and when the body has a hard time falling asleep, and a hard time getting up, at least with time to do much before going off to the bar again, to set up for another night, and another night closing it down.

Yes, it's an old story, something from some form of adolescent childhood's end, where you are trying to find a moral compass that reflects you and your awesomely true parents, kind of like King Arthur, kind of like, by extension, Wyeth paintings, of father, son, and grandson, Lord of the Rings, and along comes this long race through historical France, passing all major rivers, all major towns and regions (at least by the general idea of it), applauding those storied towns that are at crossroads.  The French people, regional as their cheeses, and more, characters linked to this landscape of natural human coexistence with nature...  France is not all Paris.  There are a lot of very small towns...  And on the television, castles, fortresses built on high outcroppings, the farms, the old buildings, houses, abbeys, vineyards, fields, roads lined with plane trees...


And so, I'd been doing my yoga sometimes, and then not sometimes.  A few stretches following a hot shower, to keep the spine limber, the legs loose, the upper body in some form of shape...  The red Saeco Mario Cipollini era Cannondale Caad5 road bike I'd ordered with Campagnolo Chorus had stood in the living room on that bike stand trainer with the roller bar and the radiator heat release attachment to it that got quite hot if you'd gotten a decent workout in.  And then, finally, I got on it, and started pedaling some, even if it was just after a shift and I was relaxing drinking a bottle of chilled Beaujolais.

And then, even better, I brought out the '98 Bianchi Velocé celeste green/blue bike, the last year of the lugged frame, and with the automatic easy finger Ergo shifter not working on the right end of the handlebar, the chain set in the rear cluster's smallest cog, unable to shift, plotting to find a down tube shifter mechanism like I always wanted, to go classic, old school bad boy back in the day Tour, I put that bike on the stand and found again what made me fall in love with a bike that was, to my budget, an ungodly sum of $1,100 back then in 1999 or 2000.  Back when I was making about, I don't know, $28,000 yearly starting out trying to be a grown man.




Back as a high school kid, and earlier growing up, there was no problem getting exercise.  I had a used Peugeot UO8, blue, not in the best working order, but fun.  As soon as the winter receded from the roads, I was out there.  And before, I'd been a distance runner out on those country roads, cross-country skiing in the winter, making trail through the woods through powder snow.  I knew how to handle my body, I made the time to go riding, and things went along well.

Is that the animal has a hard time focussing, a condition of Attention Deficit Disorder, ADHD, or whatever you could call it...  There are any number of shades of it, and we all have it, to varying extents at varying times.  Even just in our daily ups and downs.  Some of the work situations we face really do have ups and downs, just in their nature, just in the reaction you must have to them,

The Specialized Foundation has set up an ad campaign.  A kid tells us, having a hard time grasping a concept his teachers give him, riding the bike, here at night with headlights with a group of buddies, lets him catch up with the world that speeds by him when he cannot get his rides in.  "Outride ADHD."  "A bike ride a day helps set them free," the advertisement ends as kids have fun with a night right on mountain bikes, headlights finding their way, a group ride.

Seems like a weird connection to make.  You're in your fifties, and you still need that forty five minute ride, else you unravel into paranoia, anxiety, all that stuff...  I mean, not that bad at all, just that the ride turns all that might be negative into the positive, a lesson for us all to know and comprehend and remember and practice.

And here is the day off, and it's hard to focus, to clean the apartment.  I feel that need for quiet, to catch up with a world that has sped by me yet again.

I am sorry I'm that way.  I have had a hard time focussing.  This is true.  The world has come as a jumble, with lots and lots of thoughts uncaptured, uncultured, un recorded.  And so I needed the monkish life, and in the physical load of tending bar, which itself was at least some form of load-bearing exercise, a physical challenge, much more organically satisfying to me than sitting in an office being poked by the clerk's ringing phone line, the computer screen...  I needed to ride, I needed long rides.


And that was what I wanted to do, when I began at  the Old Gaul.  Work, say, three shifts, then take those long bike rides necessary for my spiritual and mental health.  That's not the way life is though.


Why does one find himself in some subtle form of anguish there on the first day off after a week of work, after all the efforts, physical and mental, all the people you had face time with many in some depth.  And along comes this little bird, here in summertime, when the days of light are longer, the old Tour, reborn afresh.

Blondin wondered out loud, why the feeling of wanting to chase the riders like the young boys he'd see by the side of the road as the Tour went by, wishing, as they did, to be one of them....


As the 2017 edition of the Tour wound down, I went looking through YouTube.  Battles of Coppi and Bartali.  Louis Malle's Vive Le Tour, excellent.  I come across a beautifully shot hour long documentation, done by a Dutch Crew, The Tour, 1953.  High definition movie film.  Who cares if it's in Dutch.  The map, like at the start of Casablanca, takes it counterclockwise around France and surroundings.  Each city with a bridge, a cathedral, a few of the sites.  I put a fan on my laptop to keep it cool, plugged it into the television, got some entertainment out of that, particularly, as always, the mountains.  It even starts out with an homage to the original edition, the riders in the gear of the day on bikes as old.

I rolled, and thought, realizing I that I might as well ride, as I can realize I have little idea what I'm doing now of any importance, significance, or value, other than showing up to work, as I suppose many a Tour rider has to do over the years, leave the glorious road behind and go back to work pumping beer or whatever, and the footage whatever you can find is not bashful about showing us towns and work towns, and work places, the old Bourinage still with its mines and factory chimneys there in the distance, no need to hide anything.

And who knows, somewhere within, off in that work place off the side of the road in the filmed distance, who knows, perhaps men would have remembered their grandfathers telling of a strange red-haired Dutchman who came to preach earnestly to them, wanting to go down in the mines with them, and like just like they did, and eat what they ate.  The organized Church, needing their business model, their high claim to high fundraising, would of course not liked this interloper, and banished him, shaming him.  And one day he would be a painter.  A painter of men and women, of meals, of rooms, of fields and fruit trees and olive trees, and ancient roads, drawn by the exotic sleepy-eyed women, one young Rachel, sent to Pasteur for a cure for rabies from a dog bite, he might well have met in Paris, and the light as well, of particular towns in the South of France...  The colors.  All feeding his creative bursts that went all day and into the night, apparently.



The day off, I reiterate, as this is just living in the present, and echoing Vonnegut's refrain, "and so on," I sleep and sleep.  The night before, wound up after the jazz night, the initial exhaustion that caused me a deep nap back on the floor of the wine room, the effort to get back home on my bike, I do laundry and organize the trash, run the dishwasher through.  A small cut on the back of the leg doesn't look so great, so I tend to that waking up finally, a quick ride, adjusting a new bicycle seat, old school, leather, good for the soft tissue of men's parts, then another nap while the fan keeps going. A run to the Rite Aid for odds and ends.  And then again, an odd time to be awake, for most.

But this is August, in DC.  The crickets are singing their background song in the dark vegetation, cooled by night and thunderstorm.

And one feels the energy, the wish to go out and run, who knows, run ten miles or so, to work that energy off, which otherwise would cause one's skin to burn almost with anxiety.  And lots of reasons to have anxiety, in this world.  A job one is never quite satisfied with, and often enough ashamed of, lacking professional ease and credibility.  The starkness of finances.  The distance, too far, to one's old mom.

The bike is a safe place, here in the living room, on this trainer stand.  It's worth the room it takes up, even if it might cramp a few yoga poses.  I can put the old Tour on, have my calming glass of vino, and seem to escape, just as I did as a kid, getting out of the house into the refreshing air  and nature.  I could not handle living in a big city like New York.  I like the nighttime.   The slow zen of my ride, one leg down, then the other, and then a circle coming, not unlike Tai Chi.

The beast was never made to sit still.  The animal needs miles, forests, streams and rivers to cross over, rocks to climb, landscapes to pass through, a vista of the natural, a kinship with the animals and fowl of the air.

And to not write, this too will drive you absolutely crazy, too much pent up mental energy, needing to run out like a fish caught on a line to break free from, to break free from.

Only then can one get back to that lotus position, the incense, sitting before the Buddha, breathing, still, enjoying peace.  The wild boy within, the hard man, is tamed, just barely, just barely.  Not confined like a circus animal, the pavement hot, the traffic, the noise of downtown, as the nervous person nervously heads to the therapist appointment.

Modernity, passwords, all the things one has to do, to be organized in this modern world, too much.


I take those long sleeps, body and mind not caring enough to get up, nothing pressing to do, why not just sleep, when seasons change.  Perhaps the original human being ran and ran, after game, and then, once enough was had, the workweek done, the party immediately following over, rest and rest, no alarm clocks, just peace in the dark cave under fur.  And when the beast wakes up again, he needs to run again, to leap, jump agile, to hold onto things and move them with accuracy.



My hours odd, with a new pair of Brooks running shoes bought on sale, after writing some of this, before having any wine, the usual reward, I go out for a jog.  It's dark out as I warm up with tentative steps down the street, and onto Massachusetts Avenue.  I venture alone, munching on an apple;  up the road a block or two, yes, the need to vomit rises in my gorge, and fortunately, it is mainly just apple, several heaves in the bushes, as I walk along the embassies of the row.  Crossing over the bridge, the rosy fingers of dawn approaching off to the east over Adams Morgan.  The traffic picks up now, and the quiet street of darkness is now unsettling me, a highway.  Up to Nelson Mandela, and then turning around, wishing to get back quickly.  Birds awake in the morning, and they have trees and wings where they are untouchable, belonging to the air which haves no highways, no noisy traffic of machinery, big trucks, dump trucks, police cars, motorcycles.  I wish to get back to my little monastery rooms.  Humanity would not have survived without a very good instinct and ability for hiding, for escaping being hunted for meat and whatever other satisfaction himself.


They will give you a hard time when you have such a life.  When because of having the Type O blood type, you need that long form of exercise, aerobic exercise.  And the nerves out on the road as dawn comes, what are all these people doing, having figured it out, going to work with such aplomb, fearlessness and discipline.   Are they able to conveniently turn their minds off?  Deficits of attention, I know, are widely diagnosed, but they weren't in my day.  I went from being the bright student, the deep patient reader, into some kind of person with difficulty "paying attention."

Who am I?  But if the rest of us understood, the plight of the organic creature trying to fit in...  And why should it be adulthood and full strength of maturity that it should be suffered even worse?  Couldn't you endure it through childhood, and then get over it?  And now you have bills to pay, and non-existent retirement, and the stresses make it worse, a real sense of life falling completely apart, even as you maintain, maintain, show up to work, do not mess around, do your yoga, see your therapist, take your medication, eat reasonably if not flavorfully.  Why, Jan Jansen, should it come upon you now, of all times?  You've done as little wrong as you possibly could, to your own knowledge, as far as being a decent human being, right?  Walking around feeling stupid and honestly beleaguered by a job, heavily.


At one strange point in life, you turned gentle.  You passed on that being a competitive kind of a thing  like the macho guy at the gym pumping iron, then going to work to make a lot of money as a financial advisor, or a high powered lawyer.  For you, that quaint college desire to "be a writer" became increasingly important, even as it descended quite remarkably as far as offering any real tangible usefulness.   Such are writings fated to be, a useless pile of notebooks four feet high, full of drivel.   Even that "book you wrote," even you want to hold out away from you, as Kundera writes somewhere, as if it were a bag of excrement.

Except the process.  The process always seems to offer some reward, down at a gut level, like Irish music, bypassing the brain.

Monkey mind, be calm and still.  Things will happen, as they will.


Looking around now at the apartment, what a marvelous collection of things.  Rocks from hikes, books, lots of them, cooking gear, tents, sleeping bags, jackets and gear to protect oneself from the elements.  Bicycles.  Herbal medications.  So many odds and ends, memorabilia.


I light some incense.  Frankincense and myrrh.   It does help calm.  There is the double edged sword: for to get better, you begin to see that you might be a depressive.  You've never labeled yourself as that before, you never really felt it.  There was always something at hand to take care of it.  The kid goes out for a bike ride, a run.  There's a calming glass of Beaujolais at the end of a shift that has tweaked you in a thousand ways, many small pricks.  And when you do wonder, well, maybe, maybe I am.  And then you say, well, yeah, yes, it looks like, it looks like, it looks like this could quite well be the case, given where life is no, habits, (all that not worthy looking into here for these purposes), looking at other people's lives, looking at them as homeowners, people able to function downtown in that pit--they must have some blinders on by habit, which in turn lets them be the kind of shitty people I am obliged to wait on that they act like, unless there is something that by my own minuscule holy presence leads them to see the other, the calming one, the one who does little else but wait on other people with a more or less pleasant attitude over a creditably long period of time, like twenty five years in this fisherman's bag.  Twenty five years, more, imagine.

But when you are diagnosed, or it makes sense, hmm, a kind of debilitating gloom sometimes, a seeming dissatisfaction, a nervous anxiousness that needs some physical outlet, like the bike, like I suppose living on Skellig Michael, like keeping a library, not to make money, but to have a truly monkish life of reflection and texts about the human condition and nature, and of the plants, the trees, the animals...

Is it just wintertime, the lack of light?  The holidays of impossible travels and responsibilities that other people seem to handle quite well and shine through with good humor...   What causes it all?  Too much effort to be social?  I mean, we always preach to other the importance of friends.   But for some of us, it's their hours, their terms, and you always have to go back and admit the state of shit you're in, how irresponsible you are, a fuck up, par excellence, but that you still show up for work, when work is unclear, and still write these haphazard little pieces largely as a device to ignore all the bad shit coming up humanity all over the world worth praying for, the terror people go through in many places, and what can you do, but try to be your own little point of light and lack of cynicism.  How awkward, how awkward.

Voices got into my head, telling me perhaps I wasn't doing all I should.  Whereas I was feeling like I could do all I could.  I just was focussing on the things that I could focus on, that were tangible to me.  And in all that I never disliked anyone who was not unkind to me.  My lesson to teach, not about somethings, but about other things, not about methods of writing or articles worthy of income, nor recipes, nor wine wisdom to cash in on, but a general one about liking people, a kernel in each one, not a judging bone, and loving--as Dostoevsky himself gives us in his greatest of creations, the dual character Father Zossima the master and his acolyte Alyosha--a love of common people, of people the more ambitious might frown upon associations with.



The Tour has passed, and for a while, there is nothing on TV.  I fall into the habit of constant CNN, broken by a nice piece of a nature photographer traveling Ireland's Wild Coast, beginning at the Skelligs with the limestone steps cut into the steep climb up to the beehive monastery, to break the mesmerized stare at all the upsetting things going on in the world, not the least of which is the man in The White House now, addicted to his takeover of self-promotion and Fox News tactics of the big darkening lie.  As one cabbie here described him, Mafia, of a real estate kind with lots of unsavory ties in his dealings, a lacking of moral sense.    The PR distortions of truth incite the actions of those precisely who feel they need some sort of action, some sort of standing up.  The actions of the incited are those of bigotry and lacking.

There was that break from it, The Tour, and I had trouble catching it, but caught just enough to remind of me of something.  Maybe it was the rare spectacle of the race in the old days, everyone in France on the side of the road, nuns, school kids, old people, priests, families on picnic outings, all participating somehow.  The historical landscape of France comes forward, the churches, abbeys, bridges, cathedrals, the bastides, the high-walled castles built on high outcroppings, the chateaux, the vineyards, one region different from another, the weather.

This particular Tour de France fades, as if I weren't sad enough about everything else.  But you can't make them keep riding around, riding around.  The only proposal would be to cover a bunch of normal joes, perhaps from different countries and cultures, covering the same route, left to their own resources, a really old school kind of a Tour, without the constant pressure of team cars and the race tactics, a bunch of guys, not even that kind of high fitness level natural athlete.  Tribesman, a group of restaurant guys, with the sound on, to catch their jokes and their foibles.  At the end of their shift, their ride, we could find them finally sitting down to a dinner of local fare, local wine, if so inclined, and with an emphasis not on competition but in the grace of being out on the road, the picaresque, the receptions back and forth between traveler and travelled.  Their might be specialists in lingerers, poetic types, the bull strong guys who are practically talented in making things work out, that group who might chat with the locals, some with eyes for the ladies.  The emphasis would not be on speed, necessarily.  Though of course, the effort would be mighty and be a measure of endurance.  No one is ever ready for the Tour.  As they ride, they get in shape, because they are not so completely professionals, but have other jobs, things like that.

The Tour de France, perhaps now particular as I go through mid-life, reminds me of the spiritual, of the balance we must keep in our own lives between the illusions, the illusions of ease and getting ahead, consuming things that on the ends of both parties, hopeful consumer and the illusions of the offering,  on one hand, bringing yourself forward presenting yourself in an honest way, and on the other, the offerings of comfort, the ideal lover match.  Come to find out, everything is a struggle, and sometimes it's best just to bear your own burdens without complicating it with reaching out for 'supposedly fun things' that leave you sad in the end anyway.  An honest tale, the endurance of life, and as they say, you need the legs for it, and yes, fortunately God gave us legs.

In the final, the Tour invites me to look again at the calling, the calling to look for those things which do have meaning, which are true, the things of poetry, easily taken in, easily remembered, the simplicity of Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians, by example, and he or she who could remember and place such words in some form of context is no common idiot in these burdens of being alive.  How do you soothe the soul at the end of the day, when you've run this way and that way, and feeling all the while that you just want to, seriously, go home.

Kindness, and that love spoken of, is super-human.  It does endure all things, seeks not itself.  And such statements upon the reality of our physical presence, they hold out a soothing cup of water or cleansing tea to a road-wearied soul, where small acts of kindness indeed go a long long way, the refreshing wine of some sort of sacrament closely tied to the deepest realities of existing in the world.  What Paul writes is true.  It stands up to study and test.  And to consider, in some way, the departure that those types of spiritual thinkers, Merton, Buddha, The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris.  The Tour reminds me of the sincerity.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Then comes the quiet, the day off.  Enough groceries in the house, laundry, tidying to do.

And the quiet, an opportunity to get down those loose thoughts not fully observed, and where do you start, where do you begin?

When the Tour de France came around, it took a while to wake to it, meaning I'd not been riding the bike, thinking even those good old days of rides down in Rock Creek Park when Beach Drive is closed to vehicle traffic, even the sports match of the Tour itself, childish and unimportant.  Ride the bike to work, eh?  No time go out on long joy rides.  Not even the rides close by, narrow roads in quiet neighborhoods with steep climbs.  Time to get serious, here at age 52, no time to 'mess around,' to 'fuck around,' to goof off, to do anything that does not immediately acknowledge and attempt to rectify the economic reality of personal situations...

The Tour was on, and the inspiration slowly built.  I got to go to work, and then I got to get ready for the big trip, I said to myself, as I watched the noon rerun of the Tour's opening Time Trial stage in Dusseldorf, where a significant rain was making roads and particularly the painted road indicators, cross walks, lane markings, slick and high up on the list of the dangers the Tour riders will face through 20 stages and more than two thousand miles.   Once a habit, to get home from work, put bike shorts on, get on the bike on the trainer, unwinding from a shift, getting in a workout, building up a good lather.  The time lost getting ready for bed as soon as manageable, worth the time getting back in shape.   Yes, it's an old story, something from some form of adolescent childhood's end, where you are trying to find a moral compass that reflects you and your awesomely true parents, kind of like King Arthur, kind of like, by extension, Wyeth paintings, of father, son, and grandson, Lord of the Rings, and along comes this long race through historical France, passing all major rivers, all major towns and regions (at least by the general idea of it), applauding those storied towns that are at crossroads.  The French people, regional as their cheeses, and more, characters linked to this landscape of natural human coexistence with nature...  France is not all Paris.  There are a lot of very small towns...


And so, I'd been doing my yoga sometimes, and then not sometimes.  The red Saeco Mario Cipollini era Cannondale Caad5 road bike I'd ordered with Campagnolo Chorus had stood in the living room on that bike stand trainer with the roller bar and the radiator heat release attachment to it that got quite hot if you'd gotten a decent workout in.  And then, finally, I got on it, and started pedaling some, even if it was just after a shift and I was relaxing drinking a bottle of chilled Beaujolais.

And then, even better, I brought out the '98 Bianchi Velocé celeste green/blue bike, the last year of the lugged frame, and with the automatic easy finger 'ergo shifter' not working on the right end of the handlebar, the chain set in the rear cluster's smallest cog, unable to shift, plotting to find a down tube shifter mechanism like I always wanted, to go classic, old school bad boy back in the day Tour, I put that bike on the stand and found again what made me fall in love with a bike that was, to my budget, an ungodly sum of $1,100 back then in 1999 or 2000.  Back when I was making about, I don't know, $28,000 yearly starting out trying to be a grown man.

Riding her, the Bianchi, the direct line back to the bikes of Coppi...


When the legs are good, when the blood gets aerated, if you will, the head is good, the attitude is good, the burdens a lot easier, a lot.  Positivity comes in.



Back as a high school kid, and earlier growing up, there was no problem getting exercise.  I had a used Peugeot UO8, blue, not in the best working order, but fun.  As soon as the winter receded from the roads, I was out there.  And before, I'd been a distance runner out on those country roads, cross-country skiing in the winter, making trail through the woods through powder snow.  I knew how to handle my body, I made the time to go riding, and things went along well.

Is that the animal has a hard time focussing, a condition of Attention Deficit Disorder, ADHD, or whatever you could call it...  There are any number of shades of it, and we all have it, to varying extents at varying times.  Even just in our daily ups and downs.  Some of the work situations we face really do have ups and downs, just in their nature, just in the reaction you must have to them,

A commercial for Specialized, was it?, has set up an ad campaign.  A kid tells us, having a hard time grasping a concept his teachers give him, riding the bike, here at night with headlights with a group of buddies, lets him catch up with the world that speeds by him when he cannot get his rides in.

Seems like a weird connection to make.  You're in your fifties, and you still need that forty five minute ride, else you unravel into paranoia, anxiety, all that stuff...  I mean, not that bad at all, just that the ride turns all that might be negative into the positive, a lesson for us all to know and comprehend and remember and practice.

And here is the day off, and it's hard to focus, to clean the apartment.  And again, I feel that need for quiet, to catch up with a world that has sped by me yet again.  It's kind of pathetic, no?

I am sorry I'm that way.  I have had a hard time focussing.  This is true.  The world has come as a jumble, with lots and lots of thoughts uncaptured, uncultured, un recorded.  And so I needed the monkish life, and in the physical load of tending bar, which itself was at least some form of load-bearing exercise, a physical challenge, much more organically satisfying to me than sitting in an office being poked by the clerk's ringing phone line, the computer screen...  I needed to ride, I needed long rides.


And that was what I wanted to do, when I began at  the Old Gaul.


So why is there a Tour de France?  Why do i find it so captivating?

Why does one find himself in some subtle form of anguish there on the first day off after a week of work, after all the efforts, physical and mental, all the people you had face time with many in some depth.  And along comes this little bird, here in summertime, when the days of light are longer, the old Tour, reborn afresh.

Blondin wondered out loud, why the feeling of wanting to chase the riders like the young boys he'd see by the side of the road as the Tour went by, wishing, as they did, to be one of them....

In the olden days it looked simpler than it does now.  The bikes and the outfits were basic...

That's what I saw with my becoming vintage 98 Bianchi Velocé on the trainer stand catching the modern coverage on NBC Sports.  Unfortunately I'd thrown out a lot of VCR tapes, patiently recorded, helicopter aerial view of the long road up the Galibier pass, too many to mention...

I rolled, and thought, realizing I that I might as well ride, as I can realize I have little idea what I'm doing now of any importance, significance, or value, other than showing up to work, as I suppose many a Tour rider has to do over the years, leave the glorious road behind and go back to work pumping beer or whatever, and the footage whatever you can find is not bashful about showing us towns and work towns, and work places, the old Bourinage still with its mines and factory chimneys there in the distance, no need to hide anything

And who knows, somewhere within, off in that work place off the side of the road in the filmed distance, who knows, perhaps men would have remembered their grandfathers telling of a strange red-haired Dutchman who came to preach earnestly to them, wanting to go down in the mines with them, and like just like they did, and eat what they ate.  The organized Church, needing their business model, their high claim to high fundraising, would of course not liked this interloper, and banished him, shaming him.  And one day he would be a painter.  A painter of men and women, of meals, of rooms, of fields and fruit trees and olive trees, and ancient roads, drawn by the hot sleepy eyed women, and the light as well, of particular towns in the South of France...

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Then comes the quiet, the day off.  Enough groceries in the house, laundry, tidying to do.

And the quiet, an opportunity to get down those loose thoughts not fully observed, and where do you start, where do you begin?

When the Tour de France came around, it took a while to wake to it, meaning I'd not been riding the bike, thinking even those good old days of rides down in Rock Creek Park when Beach Drive is closed to vehicle traffic, even the sports match of the Tour itself, childish and unimportant.  Ride the bike to work, eh?  No time go out on long joy rides.  Not even the rides close by, narrow roads in quiet neighborhoods with steep climbs.  Time to get serious, here at age 52, no time to 'mess around,' to 'fuck around,' to goof off, to do anything that does not immediately acknowledge and attempt to rectify the economic reality of personal situations...

The Tour was on, and the inspiration slowly built.  I got to go to work, and then I got to get ready for the big trip, I said to myself, as I watched the noon rerun of the Tour's opening Time Trial stage in Dusseldorf, where a significant rain was making roads and particularly the painted road indicators, cross walks, lane markings, slick and high up on the list of the dangers the Tour riders will face through 20 stages and more than two thousand miles.   Once a habit, to get home from work, put bike shorts on, get on the bike on the trainer, unwinding from a shift, getting in a workout, building up a good lather.  The time lost getting ready for bed as soon as manageable, worth the time getting back in shape.   Yes, it's an old story, something from some form of adolescent childhood's end, where you are trying to find a moral compass that reflects you and your awesomely true parents, kind of like King Arthur, kind of like, by extension, Wyeth paintings, of father, son, and grandson, Lord of the Rings, and along comes this long race through historical France, passing all major rivers, all major towns and regions (at least by the general idea of it), applauding those storied towns that are at crossroads.  The French people, regional as their cheeses, and more, characters linked to this landscape of natural human coexistence with nature...  France is not all Paris.  There are a lot of very small towns...


And so, I'd been doing my yoga sometimes, and then not sometimes.  The red Saeco Mario Cipollini era Cannondale Caad5 road bike I'd ordered with Campagnolo Chorus had stood in the living room on that bike stand trainer with the roller bar and the radiator heat release attachment to it that got quite hot if you'd gotten a decent workout in.  And then, finally, I got on it, and started pedaling some, even if it was just after a shift and I was relaxing drinking a bottle of chilled Beaujolais.

And then, even better, I brought out the '98 Bianchi Velocé celeste green/blue bike, the last year of the lugged frame, and with the automatic easy finger 'ergo shifter' not working on the right end of the handlebar, the chain set in the rear cluster's smallest cog, unable to shift, plotting to find a down tube shifter mechanism like I always wanted, to go classic, old school bad boy back in the day Tour, I put that bike on the stand and found again what made me fall in love with a bike that was, to my budget, an ungodly sum of $1,100 back then in 1999 or 2000.  Back when I was making about, I don't know, $28,000 yearly starting out trying to be a grown man.

Riding her, the Bianchi, the direct line back to the bikes of Coppi...


When the legs are good, when the blood gets aerated, if you will, the head is good, the attitude is good, the burdens a lot easier, a lot.  Positivity comes in.



Back as a high school kid, and earlier growing up, there was no problem getting exercise.  I had a used Peugeot UO8, blue, not in the best working order, but fun.  As soon as the winter receded from the roads, I was out there.  And before, I'd been a distance runner out on those country roads, cross-country skiing in the winter, making trail through the woods through powder snow.  I knew how to handle my body, I made the time to go riding, and things went along well.

Is that the animal has a hard time focussing, a condition of Attention Deficit Disorder, ADHD, or whatever you could call it...  There are any number of shades of it, and we all have it, to varying extents at varying times.  Even just in our daily ups and downs.  Some of the work situations we face really do have ups and downs, just in their nature, just in the reaction you must have to them,

A commercial for Specialized, was it?, has set up an ad campaign.  A kid tells us, having a hard time grasping a concept his teachers give him, riding the bike, here at night with headlights with a group of buddies, lets him catch up with the world that speeds by him when he cannot get his rides in.

Seems like a weird connection to make.  You're in your fifties, and you still need that forty five minute ride, else you unravel into paranoia, anxiety, all that stuff...  I mean, not that bad at all, just that the ride turns all that might be negative into the positive, a lesson for us all to know and comprehend and remember and practice.

And here is the day off, and it's hard to focus, to clean the apartment.  And again, I feel that need for quiet, to catch up with a world that has sped by me yet again.  It's kind of pathetic, no?

I am sorry I'm that way.  I have had a hard time focussing.  This is true.  The world has come as a jumble, with lots and lots of thoughts uncaptured, uncultured, un recorded.  And so I needed the monkish life, and in the physical load of tending bar, which itself was at least some form of load-bearing exercise, a physical challenge, much more organically satisfying to me than sitting in an office being poked by the clerk's ringing phone line, the computer screen...  I needed to ride, I needed long rides.


And that was what I wanted to do, when I began at  the Old Gaul.


So why is there a Tour de France?  Why do i find it so captivating?

Why does one find himself in some subtle form of anguish there on the first day off after a week of work, after all the efforts, physical and mental, all the people you had face time with many in some depth.  And along comes this little bird, here in summertime, when the days of light are longer, the old Tour, reborn afresh.

Blondin wondered out loud, why the feeling of wanting to chase the riders like the young boys he'd see by the side of the road as the Tour went by, wishing, as they did, to be one of them....

In the olden days it looked simpler than it does now.  The bikes and the outfits were basic...

That's what I saw with my becoming vintage 98 Bianchi Velocé on the trainer stand catching the modern coverage on NBC Sports.  Unfortunately I'd thrown out a lot of VCR tapes, patiently recorded, helicopter aerial view of the long road up the Galibier pass, too many to mention...

I rolled, and thought, realizing I that I might as well ride, as I can realize I have little idea what I'm doing now of any importance, significance, or value, other than showing up to work, as I suppose many a Tour rider has to do over the years, leave the glorious road behind and go back to work pumping beer or whatever, and the footage whatever you can find is not bashful about showing us towns and work towns, and work places, the old Bourinage still with its mines and factory chimneys there in the distance, no need to hide anything.

And who knows, somewhere within, off in that work place off the side of the road in the filmed distance, who knows, perhaps men would have remembered their grandfathers telling of a strange red-haired Dutchman who came to preach earnestly to them, wanting to go down in the mines with them, and like just like they did, and eat what they ate.  The organized Church, needing their business model, their high claim to high fundraising, would of course not liked this interloper, and banished him, shaming him.  And one day he would be a painter.  A painter of men and women, of meals, of rooms, of fields and fruit trees and olive trees, and ancient roads, drawn by the hot sleepy eyed women, and the light as well, of particular towns in the South of France...

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

In the beginning, yes, of course, it's who we are.  Man could, would do everything.  He could do many things, applying himself with some focus to all the odd jobs required for survival.  With his own hands, more or less, he could feed himself, catch, gather, cook, find shelter, health, friendship, all the things we do today.

He could clean, keep a yard, tame the natural world around him enough to use it, to make a roof out of nature's offerings, walls, keep a garden, figure how to make fire, figure out how to talk to other people, figure out how to do many things.  An excellent observer, a learner, a quick study.  Learning from mistakes.

Ah, yes, then came the industrial age.  Then came the corporate age, the computer software age, the holocene, the anthropocene...

Well, what do you do?  You cook what you find healthy, you clean, you have a job...  Exercise.  A glimmer of the human being you once were, as you were self-sufficient, either alone, or in a small tribe.  The original diet works for you, the modern adaptations do not.  The talents come from the original abilities.

And one is best put to use, not in a law office, not an accounting office, but in something more physical and direct a job, somewhere to be a jack of all trades, a talent at all.  The restaurants were good for that.  Jacques Pépin would be a classic example, chef, also a scholar, a woodworker, a gardener, a sportsman, an incredibly broad range of abilities to do things.

The only unfortunate thing would be that only the economically advantaged, having worked at the modern jobs dictated by present forces, those who would be the professional would then have more an opportunity to do the things that would then offer a sense of that original homestead.

The original being would be too much a migrant, a person of many abilities, talents, a broad range, a natural being...  He would end up sitting by the pool, visiting the mansion, a guest, but he would always go back to the simple life, the tangible livelihood, the life of cooking, gathering, cleaning, finding the habits of good health, of enjoying nature, distance, trees, birds, sky, wildlife, nighttime, the blank page, the stone...

Wine a thing to help you get some work done.  To see clearly, to find the strength to do work.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Interviews

I don't think you can really write until you accept your basic drive to ignore.  The Buddha is right.  You're better off ignoring.  I mean, it's nice to sample here and there, what people might construe as life...  It's nice to know the history of people, the places, your own people, but, the usual Friday night stuff, as a writer, you know your better off just staying home and focussed.  Get a bike ride in.  Do some dishes.  Have a glass of wine, by yourself is fine, no need to deal with anyone.  Peace.  Time to catch  up on your thoughts, freed from the business of work.  An old friend, manager, now he owns a Japanese tavern, calls from the restaurants worked at together, remembers you as a hard-working guy, hey, nice.  Cool.  A conversation of such is acceptable.

"Attachment is the root of all suffering."  Distraction is the root of all suffering.   A day off is a day off.  Go grocery shopping.  Procure wine from old friends, as is customary.  Then, get back to the apartment, exercise, clean, cook, eat, take it easy.  This does not exclude having meaningful conversations, once that lens has been accepted.  The ego has been banished.  Along with that, a lot of the tiresome, a lot of the dishonesty.

There are enough thoughts to get back in touch with, while the mind is still able to do such things, the balancing act of thinking.  Catch what lightning you can while you still can.  The burst of thoughts that pulse through the mind.  The brain functions still, even we might be unconscious.

The bike ride is a long thing.  The pedal strokes are many.  That's why you have to let yourself have that time to write, until it's no longer possible.  Long distance.  The long slow pace.  Steady.

I used to get superstitious about writing.  In the morning.  No talking, not that anyone nor I was in such a position where I'd have to talk.  Order a coffee.  The online thing was less back then, when I wrote so.   Avoid any outside infection  of thought or word.  Minimize, as best you can.  I'd go down to the corner patios of coffee shops and attempt to let it flow.  Background noise helped.

As an older fellow, it's more about the self protection, the exercise element.

People marry narcissists.  The apparatchik evil of the world, of the self-chosen dictator.   Bad money driving good money out of the market.  Narcissist buy large houses, shout their politics, conform...



The basic law:  if you accept or strive for a job. the more it is your ego, thus the worse you will attend to its duties.  If you've not been chosen immediately, nor strived for it,  or been tasked with it, then you will be a good servant.

John F. Kennedy did not want to be a pol.  He was shy, sick, skinny, not good at it, wanted out the back door.

If you seek out the job, then you are the typical at it, using it selfishly, an imitation, which might fool some people.

If you battle with the very choice of it, and in some ways mentally despise what you do, but on the gut level accept it because you must, taking it through physically, because you have to, then you'll be good at it, by some law that must be observed.


I've always taken jobs no one else really wanted that badly.  Busboy.  Day-bartender, on up to head bartender.  The place then got corporate.  The wine bar had nothing going on.  Patience.

It's perhaps the most monkish of occupations, actually.  It falls under cover of evening, under the guises of the sins of the gluttonous and the wine drinker.


Let out your own spiritual thinker;  listen to your spiritual teachers whose actions are lessons.

Forty days, out in the desert, silent, what did he eat?   An unimaginably long time, like unto years almost...  What's he doing out there?  And for his part, he found himself worthy, enjoying the riches allowed by the instinctively met challenge, a calling he heard.



Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Col D'Izoard is on TV, the first time I'm able this Tour to get on my trainer stand with the Cannondale road bike.  The chain is in the big front chain ring and the smaller cogs on the rear cassette.  The first pedal strokes are slow.  It takes the body a while to warm up, but warm up it will, and it takes its own pace.  Ten minutes in, fluidity, and the pace, the cadence of pedal strokes, increases.  The body stretches out, comfortably on the bike, and the deep breaths come.  It's a good feeling being on a bike.  "This is the good part of me," one says to himself, and it helps to think you're back at it, working out.  I cannot remember the last ride I took that wasn't a mission to get to work or get home, just for exercise, like one use to taking the trouble to get up and down into Rock Creek Park.  Long Saturday rides out to Garrett Park, or further out into Potomac.  The countryside, quiet roads, a general store, the peace of the road, horse farms...  Those rides are better, obviously, when you've done a little leg training.  The muscles and bands of leg remember, all those rides taken as a younger fellow, and the feeling of a general cleansing that comes with the building perspiration feels very good.

The body is heavy, not much exercise while on a trip, a lot of driving, 1700 miles or so, too much dough, unavoidable on the road, and the belly area is not svelte as it used to be, and a far cry from that of the pros on the television, offering inspiration.  July, The Tour, comes as a kind of vacation, inspiring, quiet, scenic.  History, as the human mind can only remember, can only go back so far, such as is comparable to the enjoyment of a silent film, that's going back pretty far, and Le Tour in its history is almost simultaneous with that invention of the moving picture.  No wonder then, that it is the latest in the technology of filming so far advanced now, looks back on itself as an homage, both for the Tour and the ability of the captured moving image to tell a story, just by holding up a mirror to nature, capturing that oddest of moments, "now."

The Col D'Izoard is a strange and barren stage.  The riders pass through the steep gorges of the valley of the Guil in Queyras.  There are no spectators gripping on the sides of the road here, bare pines, glimpses of that moonscape that marks the Dolomitic mountain stretches further up on the slopes.   The roads have not changed since Fausto Coppi climbed as the legend he was.  Nature is silent here, and no caravans of spectators.  The road is paved, but here Louison Bobet, Gino Bartali, Coppi, the old gentleman of the classic Tour fought it out, riding like birds.  The old road bikes they rode, with their lugged frames, elegant, are super cool.

After a timed forty-five minute riding session, coinciding with the coverage and the post-race report, with a good lather rom head to toe, considerably wet, a hot shower, releasing the spine, and then some yoga.  Meditation pose feels good after the effort.  A headstand, plow, shoulder-stand, warrior.  I am tired from the week, and find myself lethargic and in some form of depressed mood.  I've been back to work for five straight nights, trouble falling asleep several nights.  Heat, throws the guts for a loop.  A series of naps follows as afternoon turns to evening turns to dusk turns to night and cooler air.  The body wishes to get back into running, or to get out for a nice walk without having to get somewhere, but the bike on the training stand is quite helpful.  And the aerobic exercise, the free movement, helps the mind in no small way.


The first sentences are slow, coming tentatively.  One is almost afraid of the keyboard, the lingering thoughts, those that come alone, but sparks of the brain which mean something and ought to be recorded.  Reluctant to face their charge, the reality of feelings, the sense of how things are a cause for a wish to start all over again somewhere else rather than holding the old bit in one's teeth and pulling vainly forward.  It takes 'til the beginning of deep night for the writer to get started.  Forget trying to line up a date, with going out, even with grocery shopping.  Momentum, time is what you need.  One thought gotten down will lead to another.  One stroke, then the next from the other side, like Tai Chi.  No wonder Ernie Hemingway liked boxing, the back and forth, a left then a right, the real thing, followed by a glimpse of the metaphorical quality, often self-reflective, inherent in the act of writing.

Yes, work as a barman takes it out of you.  The sleepy-eyed kid got out of there early, claiming a doctor's appointment the next day.  "Don't believe a word he says," a trusted coworker tells me about him, while I suspend my judgment for the kid's likability.  "Look at how he works."  The night is not so busy, but I end up in my element after the band finishes playing, the bar with three customers, the final orders and a dessert or two to worry over, blind as I am, upstairs, to  know what's happening in the kitchen, entertaining and being entertained by key elements of The Old Dying Gaul's jazz project, one a violinist, and K from our main attraction who plays the first Wednesday of every month.  And the good old regular whose visits are soothing at this end of the night.  I pulled the acoustic guitar out from the liquor room, and K obliges me in changing out the G string I broke, tuning up and breaking out into song, I'm Just a Bad Boy, as the musicians who played finished up with their packing.  Yeah, man.  Play those blues, alright.

In dreams I'm looking for a bottle of wine while at a quiet college reunion.  In dreams I am playing the guitar, getting a lesson.  In dreams there is a ten inch long cockroach that needs escorting out of the kitchen.  In between dreams I am haunted by being a bit of a bad student toward the end of my career as one.  There were times I got carried away with the party, beer, friends, and neglected getting up to meet a girl on the bus up to Williams for the hockey game, one jackass move after another, that year.  Alone on a hill, away from those friends who have proven themselves then and now.

The yoga feels good, very good.  I've returned to my little place  and its Buddhas after visiting the writer's mom.  She is a seven hour plus drive away.   She has far too much stuff ever to be moved, short of Moses and his staff.  And I have enough stuff on my own,  Lord knows, one can like their books, too much perhaps.


Academic types are of the most conservative cloth.  A consolation to me, the maverick spirit making me run my own way, for better or worse.

You have to feel comfortable on the bike.  You don't need to start out fast, you just need to know that you'll be in for the long run.  And that by each ride, be it home on the trainer, or out somewhere, and then maybe further, once inspired, and the traffic of cars tamed convincingly, you get more comfortable.  Your own work might never make the theater, but in the great tradition you will document a kind of a life until the end, through a lot of things, non of it necessary stellar, but a thread, a system of some health.  Don't start out too quickly, don't flame out writing some brilliant work exhausting yourself and setting yourself up for fame.  No, take it easy, do it slowly and steadily...  again and again.http://www.velominati.com/anatomy-of-a-photo/anatomy-of-a-photo-fausto-coppi/comment-page-2/


The Tour coming to end, it makes me a bit wistful.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

I'd gotten down the road, heading back to DC, the valleys fertile and green, heavy rain as I approached the rest stop near Whitney Point.  Pulling in, parking, calling into work.  I'd been slow getting up, didn't get on the road 'til past ten, not due in until 6:30, a bit late.
Yeah, hi, L, it's T, how you doing, looks like I might be a bit late, probably around sixish.  "Okay, I'll let them know."  It's just about noon, the restaurant is busy, don't want to keep her on the phone.  I go in to use the john, a composting toilet system.  The AC causing me a chill.  Mom's made me a little lunch with an ice pack in it, and a pull out a roast beef roll up.  Then back onto the highway.  A bit more, rain, not quite as heavy as the rain outside of Albany taking mom back to Oswego from my aunt's wedding in the Berkshires.  From one NPR station to the next as they fade in and out.  Analysis of Donald Jr.'s meeting with Russians in fortress Trump to plot, no one telling the full story, so that new revelations are coming out, each with a  new effort on the part of the administration to claim it was nothing, nothing at all.

Onward, long curves, climbs, through Binghamton, then across the Pennsylvania line and the Welcome Center.  Hot and muggy beneath the hills, green like the Basque Country, different from the ridges of New York State and the Finger Lake glacier events.  The rest stop building new and clean, brochures on one side, vending and restrooms, the other side, freezing cold on damp skin, and again, my guts don't feel quite right.  I take my time, and get back to the car, get in, and then my cell rings.  "You can stay home tonight," cool.  They are kind to me.  They realize I'm a bit different, enabled to be a sort of kind fool, the idiot, the nice guy, a steady figure in the ever-changing world, and I must say I have a general feeling of soullessness to the town I work in driving back to it, a country boy, what can you do, not fitting in.  My job is me.

So, I call my mom.  I'm only two hours plus down the road.  I really don't feel like driving all the way to DC, another five hours anyway, not including rush hour traffic.  She doesn't pick up, so I wander back into the Welcome Center, use the john again, try her again, talk to the guy mopping the floor.  "Yes, this is Pennsylvania bluestone."  Quarried locally, the guy, bearded, pony tail, intelligent, answering my question.  It's frigid inside, I feel clammy, and coming back in I'm wearing the old green LL Bean chamois shirt I travel with.  Back to the car.  A sense of relief, and then Mom calls, and I explain, and we agree we needed to go once more to The Press Box, a favorite spot in Oswego, simple, easy, friendly, great.  Cool.  It'll take about three hours or so, okay, take your time.

Then, as I am standing outside the car, facing a picnic table and a coal mine trolley railroad car on permanent display, a fellow walks up, and I finish the call, okay mom, just at that time.  Should have stayed on the line.  Moments are precious.  He's a guy, talking fast, his interruption an act of urgency, sorry, sir, oh, I'm sorry, sir.  He's in a tee shirt, muscled like a dog.  The tops of his work boots ripped up on the top layer, jeans dusty with drywall or gravel dust. Hey, man, look, I'm sorry, I hate to bother you... I look at him, regretting I put my phone down, sorry, my sister just got T-boned by a semi, and I left my wallet, and I gotta get down the road...  I look at him, nod slightly.  sigh.

How much do you need, I ask slowly, fishing in the pocket of the chinos I've work through my whole trip up the old spiritual home, my mom's, my aunt's where my grandparents spent their last years.  $20 from T.J. Maxx.  An old American type, he is, and maybe I am too.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.  Is this Kerouac encountering Neil Cassidy again, in a new life, a new go-round, one more circumspect, if less incandescently literary?  At least I'm in the driver seat, for now, with my rented Nissan Maxxima.  He pauses, well, sir, whatever you can spare...  Well, at least that's a bit more honest.  I reach into my pocket, give him a fiver and an extra buck or two.  Okay, man.  Thank you sir, thank you.  He reaches to shake my hand. I reach and take it.  I look him in the eye.  "Take care of yourself," I say slowly, looking at him, and he departs.  Not immediately to scam more people, flush with his junkie victory playing the game, but it deflates me a bit, after the nice talk with the guy in the building, and being spared from work and the rest of a long drive.  I'd stayed up late, fixing mom's new bookcase, I finally persuaded her into, vacuuming, recycling, having some wine.  Perhaps in my mind, my reading from the wedding, Corinthians, about love.  My guts still feel uncertain, my skin ready to perspire again, even in the cold of the air conditioning.  Back in the car, already hot again, I close the door.  I'm a bit rattled.  Wallet, phone, keys, I look around, putting them all together finally, and a swig of soda water.  Just glad to get out of there, glad to be turning back around, north again.  And back into my little NPR bubble.

Now I can take it slowly, back up through the New York State farmland valleys.  But first, I have to go down the road to turn the boat, a rented Nissan Maxima, handles beautifully, and going down Route 81, the next exit is for Great Bend.  Burger King, tobacco, fireworks, a McDonalds,  a KFC, and just a bit down the road, just over the river, in the little town of Hallstead, a place well advertised on billboards as you drive northward, then down the hill.  Ultimate Massage.  And then, rolling up in the muggy hot sun, there it is, it must be, a modest brick two story storefront, next to a pet food story, with curtained windows and front window, white painted door, and a sun-faded racey pink awning that simply says Ultimate, and the phone number below it...  Being a correspondent, I stop, turn around, park, get out and take a few pictures, to share with my guy friends...  A woman, plain, not quite matronly, is walking down the sidewalk with a new gallon trashcan or bucket of some sort, and I play it cool, observing that she enters the side door of Ultimate, or must have, seeing the door close shut from across the street.  There's not much in this town.  A sign points to a library, up the road by the muffler auto repair shop where I initially turned around.  I have to get going.  Chinese herbs might well be helping things in this anxious state I live in, but...

Satisfied with my iPhone photo documentation, I get back on the road, over the Susquehanna, then passing through the light to get ready for the ramp onto 81 North.  A sign points the way to "Mess's Fireworks," and on the long curve coming around and upward to the highway, another fireworks shop, windowless cinderblock, plastic tarp crumpled on the roof, the sign says open.

There's another hard rain up ahead, enough to turn on the hazard blinkers, going at a pace I can feel comfortable about as 18 wheelers and SUVs ride by in the left lane.  Binghamton again, and then a climb from the river flats, very pretty around here, farms cut into wooded hillsides, further, something that looks like a Buddhist monastery, Southern school perhaps, with its brightly painted gates, and there used to be a few vintage autos in a nearby field, a tidy old well-kept barn. Dropping down again in long roads that parallel the ridge until curving over rivers such as near Whitney Point.    Somehwere around here, back when we used to drive up together from Washington for holidays, my brother telling me, at the rate I'm going, I'm going to end up in a trailer park.  Probably right.

Onward, as the Zen of the road settles in again, somewhere below Cortland, someone proud of his land has put up a kind of cross-like scaffold, with the large figure of what is obviously a scrotum hanging distinctly and disembodied above the road in a field, back where signs stood pro-fracking, now the home made billboard accompanying announces that "Trump is going to need some big balls to solve all these problems."    Great.  And further along, not far away, in the man's woods, two flags on poles, one USA, the other, yellow, that of the Don't Tread on Me disjointed colonial snake.

Rivers, small towns, steeples, enough rain to pay attention, no need to go more than seventy, just taking it easy, through the bend marking the Iroquois country, and then Syracuse laid out in the distance, once past the green NY State sign that announces Dome Parking.

Then onto the last leg, Route 481.  Highway, then into Fulton.  Past the stretch of McDonalds, the rubble field of the old Nestle plant they started tearing down on one of my trips North to see mom, was it Christmas, her birthday in March, bricks, machines, now a great space opened up where structures stood... Past the empty pizza sub shop, the mini mart multi pump gas station and the Burger King, and on the right, the same little girl I saw five hours ago, in front of Studio tattoo parlor, taking a picture of herself as she prances, holding an cell phone out, shaking her hair, there on the sidewalk.

Driving on, passing along the wide still river with islands and high water over tree trunk banks, then a highway straightway, a Siberian stretch, then, finally, along the river again, the Catholic parish cemetery on the hill on the right, and then into Oswego and across the bridge over the canal lock and the river strong as it comes through the last mill dams.

It's four o'clock, and mom is pretty much ready to get ready to go out to the friendly spot we like overlooking the port.  The bookcase looks good.  Things are better organized.  Vacuumed.


My mom, in reflection, went through a lot of stress.  As a child, and following in life, in her experience, leaving her sometimes an anxious creature.  The heavy rains on the New York State Thruway were not easy to go through, blinkers on, eyes on the front flashing lights of the pace of the car before me, and looking in the rear view mirror, to make sure no car or truck might be closing.  The rain pours, I can't hardly see, and Mom, tense as can be, is staring through the windshield please please please pull over...  Pulling over does not seem safer than keeping going, and after several bursts of downpour, wipers up al the way, guarded, nervous myself, we go through the merge with traffic from Albany here on Saturday after my aunt's wedding in The Berkshires.  Mom wanted to get home to her cat, to her familiar place, and it is a bit of a drive to get there. Crossing the Hudson we saw how dark the sky ahead was, green and yellow and red on the local TV news weather radar.

Here in her home, a townhouse at a modest end of a modest town, near the high power lines, in Northern nature, bullfrogs, herons, all sort of water fowl, turtles, moles, beaver, even a family of sable or mink crossing the road nearby, there are lots of books and papers.  I am happy in the afternoon when she reads from Yankee From Olympus, some old hardbound copy of it she found for a buck.  Oliver Wendall Holmes.  Neighbors with Melville, Hawthorn, the Jameses.


And then after the deprive I must drive back to DC.  Work calls.  It's Bastille Day.  Usually I end up getting up early, making the long drive, going straight to work.  But I decide to take off around 5 PM, gassing up.  I've watched the Weather Channel radar loops, I'd like to watch the Tour in Pyrenees, I hate to leave, but I must now.  And then, passing along, more summer downpours, calling mom from that rest stop with the composting restroom plumbing, I call mom again, and ask how the Tour stage looked.  Down in the valley the streams are overflowing, brown water in new channels through the fields.  In Great Bend, down the road, another massive downpour, I pull over, Burger King.  The rain passes.

Out on the road again, darkness is falling, and even darker clouds, the rain is starting again, and flashes in the sky with rumbles, and now, worse than before, the road disappears, pitch black, pouring rain and such a feeling of lonesomeness, I cannot describe it's Odyssey-ian depths.  And a long way to go, and NPR has switched over to music radio on a Friday night.

What was this effort, a sad one, to go so far away from anything resembling the home of my youth and the people of my life and temperament, the bold move to come to a city, but this one too far, too far south, as if I wished mainly only to hide my pain, my sense of isolation.  And now time is running short, very short, and those people and that sense of familiar home disappears bit by bit...


Riding the bike, watching the last mountain stages of the Tour, a bit of relief.  But mom needs help.


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

With the first customer, a gentleman from the neighborhood, a lawyer nearing retirement age, I converse with him with the French restaurants of the town, and of Paris.  I mention the places on the general historical radar, the classics of Paris, Deux Maggot, La Coupole, La Rotonde, eateries from the Hemingway pantheon, mentioned in A Moveable Feast, I explain, and he's been there.  "Hemingway was broke all his life.  Patrons kept him going."  He enjoys his pea soup, a pleasant green color, with mint and ham, and then his favorite of the old Gaul menu, potato crusted salmon.  Two glasses of Pouilly Fuissé.

On the Fourth, I wake up late.  One of the musicians from the Hot Club band is moving on, to the west coast with his wife.  I pour him and the Englishman a late round, and myself a little chilled red, the night before.  I wake up late.  My cell fell down off the bed, and I didn't hear it vibrate as I snoozed under the sound of the fan of the window AC unit.

I think of American writers on this day.   That sort of peculiar branch of literary beings.  I think of their problems.  Kerouac would have been okay, a good focussed workmanlike creature, had it not been for him branded "King of the Beats," strangers coming to knock on his basement window, there at his mom's house on Long Island, "hey, let's party."  Hemingway, well, we know his work schedule, up early at first light, then writing, for a good five to six hours, but then, the drinking.  Work, drinking, sometimes, involved, mutually wound together.  Kerouac's adventures, with people like Neal Cassidy...  And then, of course, their relationships with their mothers.  People like them.  And like the great American writer, Abraham Lincoln, often enough touched by depression, a whole list of them, one might gather, writers, humorists like Twain.  A good background in the human saga and psyche.

The Fourth often enough seems a set-up for the kind of social disappointments, like missing the parade, the picnic on the National Mall as night falls, music, then fireworks, all the people belonging to the American herd, different walks, modest firework displays and smoke in immigrant alleyways, celebrations, cook-outs.  And where does the lone writer fit in, on this day?

Well, he remembers those long efforts.  As JFK spoke, at Amherst, a tribute to a poet, the contribution to the national character, their spirit, their reality....  Were they often enough as sometimes batshit crazy as Abraham and Mary?  Well, sometimes, but like them, not always, honest workmen with decent concerns.


After the fireworks with good old friends... riding my bike home up past Volta Park, where there beneath the same trees in that same corner Jack and Jackie tossed the ball around with Bobby and Ethel, shorts, white tee shirts, just over there.  Earlier past JFK's senatorial house near 33rd or 34th and N, Caroline held up high on that front stoop, Jackie looking on.  Kids from Georgetown walking around, happy to celebrate, shorts, dressed for hot summer nights.  The bridge, the place to watch the fireworks, and I wish to walk toward the arch, where you're over the river, the wind coming from the old nature along the Potomac.  Cracks of local fireworks, the highlight finale from the Mall back eastward beyond Roosevelt Island, the glimpse of Washington Monument.  Kennedy Center.   The  contradictions of America, to my left friendly Arabic speaker with friends speaking English, a Chicago Black Hawks tank top, to my right, a group of four, Waldorf Ink tattoo parlor ad, stocky kid with a rebel flag hat, a good load of chew in his right cheek, his girlfriend looking Indian or Native American, or Cuban, his buddy with Navy anchors tattooed on the back of his meaty calves....  Then the kids from the University, Georgetown, and unsmiling Russian families, curious, still taking the trouble to come, and I smile at the little blond kid, and wish him a Happy 4th, and that's the good vibe that we are all sharing, to be us, Americans, nodding to each other, wishing each other well, sweet families of six and seven and ten, on the bridge, over the empty canal, looking forward to the fireworks show, and everyone is basically wishing each other well, all the peoples of the world, and when I lean over and say to my Mauritius diplomat old master writer friend, to tell him the Chinese invented all this, to my right, there's a kid with short hair and glasses who's quite probably of Chinese ancestry, doesn't say anything, girls from Georgetown walking by...

And then packing for the trip.  A family wedding.  The writer's loneliness again, the loneliness of being poor, of having a job.  Duties to attend to.  I try slacks purchased years ago, for dress occasion, but I have put on bulk in my midsection.  Too much pasta for staff meals, too much hunger, stress, not enough exercise, and here is The Tour de France, on television as I pack.