Friday, June 30, 2017

The maestro writes if you will in the imagination, when he is napping, just quietly lying while tired bodily in some form of dimly lit room where he is comfortable.  The bed is as much a tool of writing as pen and paper, typewriter, computer.  As if wafting off on the nap's breezes he becomes something other than who he is.  He becomes a great writer with some access to great thoughts and understandings;  wisdoms passed down from the ages, he gets them in the form they are in, and he sees them and interprets them correctly, almost as if, as he imagines, they were something like children's building blocks or geometric sketches or points on a map to be connected with other points.

Who knows what provokes in him the feeling of wishing to take a nap, some feeling identified in muscle or bone or stomach or eye or voice, and it just seems like a law of nature which would behoove him to follow in its biddings, as a greater wisdom is at work, and he works hard anyway, and the dating scene is difficult and requires a lot of energy if he were to do so on times deemed normal by the by and large.

The words will come to him, just there are always words, and they come to him just as birdsongs come in their little phrases in the blue earliest of morning light, in anticipation, even, of the dawn.  The words will take care of themselves, and it is a matter rather of not getting in the way, not overthinking.  As anyone knows who has pretended to be or tried his own weakly hand at it.  Eventually, well, the words come, and contrary to popular opinion and the needs of the book trade and the nature of the marketplace should one wish to come up with something written that might actually sell (and not be given away for free, as, more or less God intended), they do not need to be in any particular form.  The form will come.  The form will arrange the pieces by itself.

Thus if Shakespeare were to come up with a few phrases in his idle daydreams--"such a thing is man," how does that go? "how wondrous in nature, how like a god..." well, sooner or later such a great stream of thoughts would become akin to "a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors," would assemble themselves into a form, with a little need here and there to put up a framework around the edge of them, a vessel to contain them.  Some line of story, well, I, old Will, will simply pluck one rather unoriginally from some other guy's play, no harm done, not at all.

Who knows when you will write anyway?  There is no sense to it, no logic, it just comes about.  Or course, it helps a bit not having to run off to some job, the entirety of it producing great bouts of strain and exhausting, but even so a job that provides through its motions itself a chance to think thoughts, though many of them will slip by perfectly unrecorded...

But maybe, quite possibly, the point at which the oldish man loses it, goes off his rocker on this knight errant kick, is when he assumes the voice, the voice of writer.  I mean, who told him that he could do it it, that he had any right to it, to say nothing of the talent required, the sheer patient work of story telling.  His craziness is to be believe that there is a worthy story within his own life, within his own so-called day to day reality, just to be told, as if it were some gospel pertaining to the life of an ordinary commoner of little or no significance but to the point where he is no longer doing his job and/or causing trouble in society.  It's this great voice of literature that comes out in him, that's the very craziest thing about him, that he assumed the mantle upon himself, as if he were--well--like Shakespeare, and you just don't get to be, boys and girls, a Shakespeare over night, no Sirree.

Thus it was important for him to maintain his job, his duties as a barman in highfalutin Washington, D.C., where there are of course actual people who are actually important to the way the world runs...

"Yes," he thought to himself, "it is the great savior Himself, who sets the model, composing his little sayings and parables and sermons and other things of great meaning, that of taking a nap in the ropes of a boat vessel, even when the storm is raging upon the sea.  It is that great model, yes, indeed."

And so he ventured back to take the second chapter of the nap he had started.  Who knows, anyway, where these creative outbursts come anyway...
In his mind, this what the gallant old barman who regarded his job as a thing worthy of the great maestros of all forms of work, craft and art, sought to write down a little bit of his adventures:

For which we should take with a sense of humor, as what is seen might not be actual reality, nor the full story, but some causes for musings as are found below, not to be taken with great seriousness in an overly serious world, and after all the restaurant is also about entertainment not just the food and the service.

Tuesday night at The Dying Gaul upstairs the thermostat near the opening of the bar is reading a steady 85 degrees.  The busboy, who is married to the assistant manager/server--the boss is taking his family vacation in France--has arrived late and done very little to help me set up the bar and its low tables to be ready for service.  Rarely is he on time.  I don't blame him.  He has young kids, and a long way to drive.  This evening he arrives as we sit down eating our meager staff meal of chicken joints and rice, coming in sighing off the road, which is not easy.   He manages to do is bring me ice and bread.  Good thing I set up the tables the night before.  Another server, a good worker who gets it, will arrive, at some point, but at that point his arrival will be of no help to my setting up.  It's already busy downstairs when he arrives, and I'm already busy, but he is drawn downstairs.  It is not an easy night.  And it is not so fun without the respite of proper air conditioning.  "We should have had another server on tonight," my friend tells me as we hump it.

Wednesday night there are not many reservations.  A jazz trio will be playing up at the bar.  The sleepy eyed server has come up and help me put a few touches for set up, but, still the busboy is late again, and offers cursory help up at the bar.  And then, when the door opens, it is evident, guess what, I will be working it myself.   The assistant manager is doing a double, but when I venture downstairs for a few finishing touches odds and ends to my organization, neither she nor her husband are anywhere to be seen.  I'd like to run across the street to grab some beer in this heat for later, but sleepy-eyes has taken up his familiar habitual stance of standing staring into his smart phone.  There is no one seated yet downstairs.  I have an elderly woman to entertain;  she's lovely, talking about the various happy hour deals at French restaurants.  Anyone coming in right at five thirty just when the door opens is inevitably irritating;  you've barely had time to eat, brush, floss, tie your tie, and get out a sheet of paper to write down the reservations.

And pretty soon a lovely person who meets her husband, a former ambassador and man of note, regal, handsome, an author, older than she, has arrived, and I'm happy to see her.   We smile at each other, long acquainted, a good repartee, people who bring out my sense of humor and the joy of waiting on people.  "How are you, Ted," she asks.  Oh, I'm good, I say.  "But there are a few Hispanics I'd like to strangle at the moment," I add, quietly.  And she responds, "Uh oh.   That's not very politic," she says, something like that, with a supportive tone, as if a teacher shaking a finger at her favorite pupil.  Sleepy eyes comes up the stairs bearing the grilled seafood salad for the elegant older lady with whom I've established a neighborly relationship already, and, knowing what my friends want, put two champagne flutes into the cooler because they are hot to the touch, not as bad as yesterday, bringing her a bottle of Badoit with two glasses and soon the ambassador, an author, arrives.  His happy place, his wife and I joke.  And I am wondering if my friend has heard my quip about a desire to strangle a few particular members of the Hispanic race.  He doesn't let on, or didn't hear.  He's gone back down the stairs, oblivious.  I will be alone all night, while the other three, wife, busser, server, will have their little social hour in Spanish.  I picture them eating snails behind the bar from the bubbling metal dish and then splitting a salmon entree while the last few customers finish up, as I have often seen, sometimes when told that Sleepy Eyes is needed downstairs so the other server can go home already.

Okay, I have people now.  I'm in the mode of entertaining already.  The musicians who will be coming are fantastic.  I show Amb. XYZ an album from Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers explaining who will be playing the horn tonight.  His lady has told me earlier that the hamster has passed away, just in time for the daughter's going off to camp, when I ask her how the cats are.  The older woman tells me about the places of her career with IBM.  Back at Amb. XYZ's table, as they are wrapping up, remembering the last time I saw him, I turn to him quietly, speaking into the back of my hand and leaning over to him, "how'd it go with the Russians?", and his wife laughs and says, "oh, don't even bring that up," (something like that), and he says, "oh, very well," in a sort of purring voice, "they've invited me to visit."  And she's like, oh... no way.   It's good to keep the strain of conversation going, or at least acknowledged, from the previous visit, be it a week or a month ago.

One musician arrives, and I propose he eat his dinner early rather than late.  He's coming from DC courthouse job.  A DC music legend, Tillary plays the horn and sings, and when the bass player arrives, he talks of how as a kid Louis Armstrong blew his mind.  When Table 57 asks for the check, I express my thanks to the wife for helping me avoid an international incident.  He leaves me a healthy tip, which covers a happy hour champagne.  It's a good relationship, gracious.

The nights before I've worked hard.  And long.  Sunday, entertained a party of three, a guy's 50th birthday, and I bring out a guitar at the end and we all jam into the end of the night.  They spend more than two hundred on wine, share a sip of the 2003 Chateaux Margaux with me, order well, even as I run my ass off, the bar full, ladies to entertain, run run run.  Hugo the busser I'm sharing tonight with the downstairs notes my busting my ass, from one end to the other, chop chop chop, comments, 'three servers downstairs, one standing around doing nothing.'  The bar is jovial, people to chat with, regulars.  It's a long evening.  When the birthday guy table was delighted when I brought up a guitar case, toward the end, the explain a bit of their music to me, where they are from, Charlottesville.  "You'll have to play us a song."  No, I need a glass of wine first, I say.  "Shane MacGowan school."  "Play A Pair of Brown Eyes for us."  Sure, but I need a drink first.  I'm rattled by the night, responding to everything, bending around like The Matrix, while the cows downstairs graze slowly on their grass, contended they are doing the job well enough.

And I play just that song for them, though without enough time to really study the chord change, simple enough, but not bad from a cold start.  I get the words right. They sing along with the chorus.   And then they play, original songs, from what I can tell, harmonizing, the three of them, birthday guy, wife, brother in law.

Monday night, too.  Busy.  Jazz night is already difficult, lots of moving parts, and help is help, but never quite as engaged as you want them to be all night.  The singer is lovely, and singing in perfect pitch.

At the end of the night I bring out the guitar again, and the woman who sings gives me a singing lesson, forcing me to sing, critiquing, determining I'm a tenor.  Slightly embarrassing as the downstairs servers come up to watch and pour themselves a glass or two.  Finally they leave, happy, not having to do the last tedious minutiae of closing, restocking for your own good reacher than do it tomorrow and no one else is going to lift a finger to help you out.  They won't have to wait for the dishwasher, nor close the lights off, punch in the security code after pulling the bike upstairs by the door.  When they go the conversation with the singer lady opens up a bit.  She's really cool.  "You're very good looking.  You do your job very well, making people feel comfortable..." She says.  I shrug.  "You don't take a compliment well," she tells me.  She tells me to play through songs, confidently, less self-questioning, less stopping to reconsider.  "You have it, you know you have it," she tells me, and I find a ray of light here in this place.  After a great chat, I walk the jazz singer lady to her car across the street.   Another forty five minutes, a bite to eat, the checkout report and the money counting, a last round of restocking maybe and I'll finally be done.

Tuesday night, busy, and the assistant manager helps with a little food running.

She takes credit for Wednesday night for a full shift, the tips for the downstairs a total of $85 combined for both servers after tipping out the busboy.  She leaves around 8PM.  I'm there 'til 1PM at least,  cleaning up, by myself.  Tips from her dayshift, $14.  Her average tips today, $56.50, will bring down the point, the amount each of us will bring in for the number of shifts we work.  She could have claimed half a shift.  Or, she could have gone home at seven.  Perhaps there is missing information;  I've been kept busy all night from the get go.  Around 10:30 I get the usual "can I go?" from the busser.  Yeah, sure, go.  They've run food for me.  Sleepy Eyes told the night's specials to one or two tables, but from what they made downstairs, obviously they coasted.  It could have been worse, in this uncertain unpredictable business.  But I hope they were sincere about entertaining as I have been with faces familiar and those new.  The busser is leaving a good bulk of the side work for the night undone, but his buddy Sleepy eyes, will be on tomorrow night, not me.  They'll hang out talking about the soccer.  Sleepy eyes pulls things like staring into his phone in the middle of service, like going to eat in the corner to have a nice little snack, both of which with his back completely turned from his tables, leaving me to deal, even when it's busy, or, another trick, disappearing into the bathroom.  Things a professional in the business would not approve of, such as not being able to show up on time.

Ah, but you cannot blame anyone, not a single one of them, even as the great maestro toils away.  He is just being pessimistic and grumpy as he writes down such things, such would be grievances.   And in a better mood, he realizes the compensation Frenchy allows for the assistant manager might warrant the necessity for her deserving as much credit as anyone for her shifts that go toward her share of the tip pool.  And Sleepy Eyes, he does, basically, a good job;  we all have our foibles, and the great maestro neighborhood barman, Hamlet of Quixote, or some form of quiet producer of quietly American literature, such as it is, has his too which allow him to slip through the jaws of a night shift and all its events.  Indeed, if he suffers such monsters as will come out of the woods at him, as these monsters might really be unnecessary but seemingly happy to fuck with him on an almost daily basis, such habits of humanity, well, that is what a princely knight errant must face, at least until he gets some noble back-up as if from the good knight Sir Lancelot du Lac.    But yes, onward will he grumble on about things at The Old Dying Gaul, because that too seems to be part of the landscape.

I'll go home and think of music.  I will go home and dream of playing and getting better at music.  The guitar and learning to sing, this is how I deal.

Really, the first day off, all I do is sleep the day away.  Get up at 8pm.  Thus is the nature of my marathon.  Even the next day, rest, after a doctor's appointment to check on things, and all the grocery shopping I could manage in the muggy heat of DC summer.    My therapist has suggested a sleep-aid, not habit forming, and the doctor approves.

The money is better downstairs, so we are stuck with this tip pool system, number of shifts multiplied by the average tips per shift once all tips are pooled together and then divided by the total number of shifts servers including myself have worked.  As a barman I get a modest hourly of $7.50.  Since our bosses have opened a sister bistrot up the street, business has been less.  I tried working a bar shift up there, but it was miserable, poorly laid out, service bar all night.

I find it an isolating job, even as intensely social as it is.  I guess that happens with jobs, each in its own way.  Going out to socialize for me is always a mixed bag.  Better to stay in almost, cook, clean, organize.  Food is important.

Writing, I've come to think, has been an unproductive pursuit.   Leading me to be not much more than a laborer.   Wine, yes, we can talk about wine, and we can talk to people and make them comfortable, in our own way, as good as any, but where does it lead?  How to get out of it?  What to do?

The singer is right.  I do not take a compliment well.

Continued monologues:

I guess it was Sherwood Anderson, that little bit in the introduction to Winesburg, Ohio, about the writer as an old man, dreaming in bed, friends with the old carpenter who fought in the Civil War, about how within there is this Joan of Arc fighter within...

Or was it Don Quixote, who comes up with the original concept that is an honest theory about the human being and experience.  There is the ongoing Quixotic monologue going on, the interpretation in the mind, such that he is in his own reality a chivalrous knight errant on a quest to do noble and glorious and adventure worthy things.  The great book is not just about his monologues, of course;  the narrator, and Sancho as well, remind the reader of what is in fact actually going on, in what we might term as real everyday reality.  His great helmet is not really a great helmet, but rather a barber's washbasin for things such as shaving.  The malevolent giants he believes he is facing are in fact windmills.  On and on.

Or is it Twain who allows us to be.  Huck serves as the narrator.  We get reality through his eyes.  And there is a peek at the Quixotic schism between reality and story, such as when Jim, who has a lot to lose, reminds us of things.  Huck makes up a story to tell Jim when they get parted in the mists and night of the big river, when they finally find each other, of how the night was all a dream.  But Jim looks down at the raft, all covered with litter and twigs and river detritus, tells Huck how heartbroken he was thinking he'd lost him, and then telling Huck basically how not right he is for telling him such a story, as if it was all Huck could thing of was playing a trick on him.

Or does it go back to Hamlet, the early king of the monologue, undisputed champion for eternity....

Reality must always be interpreted.  Most people keep that tale of reality within certain rational guidelines.  But there's more, a whole lot more, to it all.

And so I come up with these little monologues, forgetting almost to provide the reader with the real story, the true story, the actuality of what one does, work, the job, the real texture of life.  Even Hemingway, you see it, on the one hand the love of writing down reality as it truly is, as best as one can ever tell it as far as recording the things that happen, but yet, even there too, there is the great monologue, the story of being in the head, of how thoughts shape reality.  Of course Hemingway can be very parsimonious when it comes to those inner narratives, perhaps as he deemed it manly to be so.   We get little tidbits, not the flourishes of Quixote, not the great poetry analyzing the meaning of life of Hamlet so broad and encompassing, but the simple sentence at the end.  "Fishing in the swamp would be tragic."  Wow.

The writer's life is a fiction, but one that can not be extracted from reality.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

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

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

Speaking of Dante:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 23, 2017

This be literature.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But if one came into the world, and managed from childhood on upward, manage somehow to not lose that connection with the image of "God," how, would we even be able to, would we recognize "him or her."  Where, in our system, that includes labels.  In the olden days, so strange was his appearance, they attributed some interesting stories to his presence, hearings, miracles, whether or not they happened, who knows.  Perhaps he jus didn't fit in quite so neatly.  How to understand, they would have asked.  There is of course evidence that the local authorities felt an upstart in their midst, claiming their own authority and even more beyond.  His friends and people who knew him would tell his stories, to reaffirm their claim of knowing him and being his friend, and as we all know, this is how folklore starts, continues and perhaps the stories grow, a bit of embellishment upon the truth.

There is left recorded some of the things the man might have actually said, and the people's basic sense that he was something of a teacher, "a rabbi," of some sort, and of which they approved.

What was the kernel of the story, beginning at the real core of it as happened in reality as a history, and then on outward into the common dreams of him and his acts.  People made a big deal out of it, and created and transcribed literature from it.

Where does that leave us, in understanding the "image of God,"  "the Son of Man."

Too much for our minds to even go there, without a queasy feeling of trespassing upon something.  Even if we too kind of get it, deep down, personally, without as much as peeping a word about it.  Reality has its own little cults, its own way of embellishment, of making something important, and then that important self-feeding.

It was all a reasonable myth, this person made in God's image.  More reasonable than other things that would come along....

The whole thing, what this guy comes up with, would be fresh and unpredicted, out of the blue.  It would therefore be a work of imagination, of the realizations that belong to the realm of art.  Unexpected eloquence, unexpected insight, unexpected kindness, unexpected action.  The story, itself, in a way, rather simple, thus allowing embellishment, verses, songs, imagery, retroactive to the beginning, reshaping the story's elements backward and forward, some of it a story-teller's justification, sometimes to further justify the story, to make the rough bones of it all make it in to the overall, to complete it with each step.

But this stuff is not made for making a thinker comfortable with.   There'd be more a feeling leftover by it of feeling "like sick man, an ill man."  Perhaps a necessary part of getting into the role of understanding, poking such a thing.  Cringe-worthy.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am a poet.  Use the platform...

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

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

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