Thursday, May 11, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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