Friday, November 23, 2018

Two nights into a shortened week, the barman, and he's already thrown way off.  Way off.  Tired.  What's Thanksgiving...  Just another reason to be lonely.

"Don't keep people late tonight, eh, Ted," the boss says, tersely.  The busboy expressed concern when he asked me, coming into the shift, how late the people stayed the night before.  Oh, I don't know.  I was so tired I took a nap, I tell him.  "That's late," he says, in such a way as to express disapproval.  That's how my shift starts out.  After all I do, I'm the bad guy, giving away the house.  A couple had come in after kitchen closing, and the downstairs server set them up with a cheese plate.  Now I'm blamed for the step halfway up the stairs to the bar not being fixed yet.  A thick rubber pad to be glued, blue.

Looking back at a shitty night, and a late couple coming in,  the Uli people coming in at a bad time, mourning him, here from Germany, his high school girlfriend.  Goddamn.  Jeremy coming late, I've got to do the goddamn set up all by myself, me opening the wrong Bordeaux, stressed, setting up fro the private birthday dinner party.   (The private party turns out to be its own story...)  Then the stupid stream of wine night, and then, shit, the night wouldn't give up, not until I climbed on top of it, like on a safari, outlasting them, a bottle of Chinon as a cudgel.

Called upon to share a few tales about our friend for those who loved him.  The late cheese plate couple, it turns out, have come from a dinner party of a regular of ours who lives in a big house around the corner from us.  Earlier I shrink their wine tastes, down to the old middle of the plate Chinon.   They're cool.  The guy is a cyclist.  Doesn't take long to be friends.  And, Mr. Boss, from a business point of view, not only had he purchased a gift certificate for our neighbor, he's asking about having a dinner party for his Fiftieth.

Yeah, Happy Thanksgiving.  Wednesday night, the most complex band, Hot Club of DC.  Five dinners for them.  Drew wants to get them a nice Bordeaux, like the Mongravy, Marguax he had before with Kyle and all late night.   I've got an open Canon Fronsac, only a sip out if it or two.

No, I won't keep them late.  And then Doctor A. comes in for the last half hour sitting quietly, having a glass of bubbly, cool.  He gets it.  He takes in the guitar jam session.  Then later, some guitar talk, John McLaughlin playing a Fender on Spanish Key on the album Bitches Brew over the bar's speaker system.

It's been a night, clearly a strain on me, to be kind.  It's the eve of Thanksgiving.  Hi, happy Thanksgiving, the neighbor couple says, says the couple that comes in at 5:40.  The second one, as they come in early, brusquely, "what do ya want..."  (aka, fuck you too.)  But still, I manage to be hospitable.  The first I speak of, she does holistic medicine across the street. the later couple, again I resurrect my gracious humanity by the skin of my teeth.  Eve of Thanksgiving.  A travel day.  If not, a day to feel very sad and lonesome for not traveling.  You're fucked either way.  Visiting mom the week ago doesn't do it on Thanksgiving Day.

Don't keep people late.  Okay, bro.  Boss leaves without saying good night when we still have a long ways to go.

On the ropes, now you let the night become part of the shitcake blur, the first few innocent sips of wine, richly deserved.

But we have fun, me trying to drown him in champagne, me in leftover Beaujolais Nouveau, after a small bite of salmon tartar.  Watching Manuel figure out how to cut a new blue rubber step, glueing it down.  I shine my iPhone light down on him so he can see better what he's doing, needs to cut it again, but the glue won't set for awhile, so no big deal as he pulls it off, to cut its forward end so its snug as a step.  Doing so, the top of my iPhone screen looks like it's about to fall off, and the little home button key floats up inside, detached from its place above a metallic button.

The good doctor wants to take me up the street for this lavish bite to eat at Breadsoda.  They might still have a chili dog at this hour, a good one.  So we walk up there.  I don't have the strength to go to he Safeway for last odds and ends for a proper Thanksgiving dinner.  I have one glass of pinot and talk to my old bar buddy Matt, largely about our mutual friend, who is now dead.  No, they closed the kitchen, shoot, that's how it goes.  There aren't many young women here, contrary to my hopes.

I figure out later, the quickie burger place is open up the old shitty avenue, about five doors up from where I used to torture myself as a bartender at the old Austin Grill under the EAT sign.  For way too many years.  I get a cab home with a double hamburger wrapped in foil in a paper bag.  I eat it whole, bun and all, sitting there in front of the television, a green towel on top of the Ikea coffee table.  All the experiences of life washed away like Days of Wine and Roses...

If you ever write something down, for whatever reason, amusement, vanity, ambition, the wish for a new career, one more spiritual, less of a physical burden, or simply just to process, you will find out the inadequacy of words.  Truth and reality are things that cannot be expressed, and if they could be, it would by only out of human err.  For every side of everything, there is a yin side, and then also, coexisting, the yang opposite.   And even if you got both sides, the terms you worked so hard for themselves would complete fall short and fail, out of the basic universal non-duality in the existence of all things.

Blind shadow work is what we do.

And after realizing all that, maybe it's now then that you can retire from the writing game.  Without a hint of smug self-satisfaction, but knowing, in some way, that you've told the story of the undefinable of yourself, as if, on a good day, you were working on a form, a negative space into which reality could thence be poured into and moulded quietly.  The secret being, to the mould, that there is nothing there, empty, to be filled by the precious substance of thoughts beyond thought.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

I get to work five minutes early, walking through the woods then up past Dumbarton Oaks.  Up early, now I am tired when I find out there is a private party in the back room, wines selected, on top of that the new Alsace pinot blanc for the Tuesday Wine Tasting Night, things to lug up the two flights of stairs from basement cave to the wine bar.  And the bar, as happens when I'm not around,  gone to see mom for a week, is messy, poorly stocked, the beer in confusion, the sink dirty with last night's fruit, the sodas in sloppy disarray, something odd about the rail liquor in the bar bench's rail well.   Disheartening.  Busboy will not be here on time, as always.  And my guy, as always, he too won't be in to help me deal with the customers, coming in from Annapolis, and now close to Thanksgiving, he will be in even later, for which I do not blame him because he will show, he is a good worker, and good moral support.

5:30, door opens, still haven't cut lemon and limes, still looking for a few last stands, regular walks in.  He's back from New York City with restaurant tales.

Then the expected twelve top comes in, ordering cocktails, and then some other regulars, and the handsome couple, a large imposing bearded soft spoken Frenchman with his date, a stylish New York type, blond, spirited, I've got them with a bottle of Chinon, on twenty percent discount, along with seared foie gras and a charcuterie plate.  My friend and coworker arrives, just as things are getting dicey, Old Fashioned, Stoli and soda with lemon and lime, a Tito's martini, shit, no one stocked that, Makers and Ginger, wine shrinking for a second couple arriving, then a few others.  A regular couple, a man with ties to Louisville, comes in with a young woman, but I am too busy to greet him, as I cut an orange.  The Makers and Ginger I make is too strong, the lady asks me to dilute it.  And then old familiar couple comes in to join to birthday party.

At the end of it all, changing back into street clothes on the back landing of the wine room, I lean back like the fallen and, on my back, fall asleep, there with the lights still on, and the old anger of restaurant dreams of unjust shifts.  I wake, it's three thirty five AM, shit, gotta get home, a few final plates to take down to the kitchen.

Earlier, in the unpredictable jumble of walk-in regulars, friends of the man who passed away suddenly.  They have brought me a memento from his house, a tall statue from Africa, dark wooden, a stylized female lifting a drinking vessel.  I put it up on the bar.  I was thinking we might put it here at the restaurant, near the bar, for a way for those who knew him to remember him.  It looks a little unsteady on its base, the statue.  Point them to their table, get some flute glasses ready...  In placing the wooden statue back its bag and into a safe corner, despite my effort to be gentle, falls apart at the top, two pieces detaching from the main structure, the left arm at the shoulder, and also, worse, the head.  A surprise to everyone.  Great.  Sorry.  Just back from the road, feeling a little rattled tonight, the sinking feeling of being pulled down with each arrival, and my coworker tied down by the complications of the familiar group in the back room.  Chaos.

I talk to my Uber driver at the end of the night, now at Four in the morning.   You don't make money at this anymore, he explains.  The impatience of the gig economy.  He finds nice hotels, the bathroom in the lobby, a warm clean place to do your business.  Out at the airport, the company has porto-potty stalls, set up for them, filthy.  Stalls for animal defecation.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Eh.  I don't know...

After returning the white Nissan Altima to the hotel garage, I walk up Calvert, the Omni Shoreham across the street, past a few sleepy restaurants lazily smoldering with the last customers, up to Connecticut Avenue, not much of interest here, Mr. Chen's Organic having closed, then across the bridge high above Rock Creek Park, the parkway, and the horse stables of the Park Police, traffic obeying the turn offs, planes following each other in to the great metropolis blinking in the dark distance of night that is no longer night.  The Chinese embassy building at last nearing completion beyond the chain link fence and the closed in wooden walkway, a recently opened high level sushi restaurant hints of its interior only in the neatness, the stepping stones, the small flags of the patio, its zen front door.

Down past aging hotels, down the hill, and there, on a cold night clear, after all the rain and snow in the upper half of Pennsylvania Route 81 making it slow nervous going, a gibbous moon out, the chill of stars, there is the familiar African American woman seated on a lower stair of the St. Margaret's Episcopal Church.  She too has become a familiar part of my tiring routine of the drive back to Washington, D.C. from up North visiting with Mom.   I think it was last time I gave her the single dollar I had in my pocket, and I joked with her about how oh that will get you far in this town, and she laughed too.  I put a couple of bucks down on the step of her stoop, and she has an Indian blanket draped over her shoulders, and she's just finishing a cigarette.

It's cold, I'd like to get to the grocery store or get some take out Ka Pow, or test my resilience against the temptations of the Bistrot at the corner, where the chef is kind to me, a brother in this business, and I sit down for a little company, good to see you, how you been?

Her father was a Pentacostal minister, so she had a clean if restrictive and regimented youth, church everyday, the world full of evil to be disengaged with, heavy dark garments...

She looks, I would say, a familiar genotype to Louis Armstrong, or to my old friend Herb, mayor of Glover Park, and indeed she has roots in New Orleans and, when she can, cooks in that fashion.

The doors of the foyer of the sheltering church will open at 5:30, but there will be drugged-out hostile homeless men there first, whom she avoids, and the church doors open at 6:00 and they should let women in early so they don't have to deal.   There is a security guard lady from the building across the street, she has friends at the Hilton, and there is a young Bolivian fellow who comes out ofter and smokes a cigarette.  Her name is Brenda.

Returning, it's not easy, but there is quiet to be had.  There is another cold to fight off, the animal flustered,  in the strange routine of helping mom out with her bills, her kitchen, her apartment...  moral support, some odd hours.

Coming in from the road, a seven hour drive accomplished over more than eight hours, including pit stops, the jitters from the bumps of narrow Massachusetts Avenue in rush hour, after coming in with the flow outward from the city backed up all the way to before Frederick, the string of headlights in the darkness outlying the primitive old hills, sirens, flashing lights, firetrucks, emergency crew trucks, the blue flashing light bursts from police cars, and the many lanes of your own traffic to be vigilant over in front and behind, as everyone is racing in to find their narrower roads...  Bumpity, bumpity, over the four lane avenue, up to carefully negotiate the circle of American University, which now takes the steely nerves of a jet pilot, then downhill, apartment buildings, the side lane given to parked cars, down past the woods, then up past the church and the synagog, somewhere up to the left the Cathedral, but the focus being on following the traffic light signals to get across Wisconsin, then the last downhill stretches past the Vice President's Naval Observatory, the British Embassy, the Brazilians, the Italians, then over the bridge, the last few blocks and the left turn, click click lick...  the parking of the car close against the curb of the dirt bank, I get in, use the john, run the water a bit, open the bottle of Kermit Lynch Beaujolais there in the fridge.  After all that, a glass of the red soothes, Jesus Christ, not to take his name in vain.

I'm cold by the time I get back from my chat with my homeless person friend.  She's offered me some good spiritual advice.  Of course I'd lugged my little roller suitcase in, the other bags, shoes, toiletries, the water supplies, cold weather gear.  I open a small carton of chicken bone broth, heat it up and go off to bed leaving the wine to be.

When I wake, still in the morning, as has been the pattern up at Mom's, I self-talk remark to myself, how warped and twisted my life has been these years, the night shifts to support a strange intermittent habit of self pride and the egotistical nature of writing.  And the night shifts are probably the worst part of it, so bad that the wine becomes a crutch, and then you get up late, not having much enthusiasms for the whole thing...

Do you know what 'ego' is, Brenda asks me, after we talk a bit about favorite Scriptures, Job, Daniel, bitter herbs, they ate dandelion root back then, and after my the straight man answer, she reveals it, "Easing God Out."  Asked about my favorite scripture, having expressed my familiarity with Job and Jonah and the story of the Prodigal Son, my answer, "uh, when Peter says, 'depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man,'" her expression tells me, no, fool, that doesn't count...  To be overly anxious about things is to sin against God.

She is optimistic.  People have been kind to her before, and soon, she hopes, she will find a good place to live.

I tell her what I do for a living.  She doesn't seem to find anything wrong with it.  People love that Europe stuff, she tells me, Harry and Meghan, Elizabeth...  Get on TV blah blah blah, here's what goes with this...  She jokes about Gordon Ramsey's TV haircut, Beetlejuice hair... she says, turning away and letting out a good laughing.

This morning bits of the lady's wisdom sifts through the mind.  To listen, to hear, the advising word of God, you need quiet.  Yes, that makes sense.  "Listen to the voice inside yourself, and that's God, too," she tells me, more or less.  "Listen to your breath."   She mentions yoga, and after she elaborates, I offer, yes, there might be some Buddhism in all that, too.

If you were a perfect sceptic, I wonder if you'd hear the old resonance.

But I dislike waiting around to get ready for a night shift.  Take a shower, some yoga.  Walk to work.

Friday, November 9, 2018

I feel stupid these days.
How could you not.
I cannot rest, nor find
smooth burrow in which to read.
My books, my dad's books,
and mom has hers too.

The wine is medicine against
such chill.
the inner empty burn of
Three AM.
Dishes and laundry to do.
Maybe a spot of bachelor vacuuming
to get the pumpkin seeds
and the glass broken in the dark
tidied away.
Doomed to walk the night,
to "fast in fires" like Hamlet's father's ghost.
when the television's blue light glow
gets to you.
One can understand why criminals
and Ernest Hemingway would light a fire
against such times.

Who is it who gives professors
the right to prattle on their wisdom
when mine, of no subject but
the earth and the salt in us
the sweat, the closed down sleep
of rocks, goes flying by in the wind.
A bird no one sees.

Most genius is
never realized.
It takes a special effort,
a situation, the right kind
of a guy, a lifestyle,
mark my words.
No care for hour nor light
but knowing that all comes from within,
that the creature can pick up any old thing
and make it work,
an old guitar, a toothbrush, a pen,
a broom.

All one has to do
is dream
is dream and care for all one meets,
his old mom, his old dad's books passed on,
even the work he does, as no one sees it so,
the work of heirs of holy men.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Tired on a day off, after all that, plus the strain of a busy wine-tasting night, again short-staffed.  They know I can handle it, but it raises frustration levels, and the good guy, a long lasting friend arrives when he can to help me out, just as I am nervously wondering about my set-up and worried for not having an orange in case someone orders an Old Fashioned, and already having to make martinis to spec.  Demoralized.  They hit me early.  Belvedere, shades of dirty...  Christ, have a glass of wine.

Day off number two, still tired, and feeling a personal winter setting on.  I left my Kerouac book and Sapiens up at mom's.  I find a pamphlet, a reprint of an old one, my Dad's, on Theosophy, and it's good reading. Mom's all alone up there.  What do I do?  After lazing around all day, I think of Biblical situations, Job, the Prodigal Son, Jonah.  Something is coming.  Perhaps it will be, in the long run, a good thing. A correction.

But in the meanwhile, having stayed in, being a good boy, there is not much juice for something to be squeezed out into written thoughts and accounts.  Perhaps it would be better to do some cleaning anyway, after the trip throwing your routine up in the air.  So it's time, time for that panacea of a nice light red wine, Pinot Noir, or Beaujolais, and I find some good jazz on the radio rather than listening to the News Hour about the latest shooting, a PTSD ex-Marine, shooting up college night in a place called Thousand Oaks out in California, 12 people dead.   Black-eyed peas over cold rice pilaf isn't so exciting, but something for the stomach.  Something to calm the anxious mind.  A bit of red wine.

I have never figured out anything better to do for a living other than being a Christian Buddhist, a Theosophist open to all forms of spiritual experience and expression.  You can only come across such a thing honestly, out of personal experience.   Of course you're going to be highly attracted to the female of the species, starting off.  And such attractions will cause you some of the greatest and long lasting of pains and heartache and forms of anger at injustice you will experience, or at least serve as an introduction to them.  I don't have Wake Up, Kerouac's life of Buddha with me, but, written within, a woman will always be presenting her physical self, enticing you.

And how could you live without that drive, and without that deserved fulfillment after you've fought and earned it and shown how good a householder you are on top of that, not just a moral pillar, a righteous and fair person.  And you, however, have a greater stronger instinctive drive besides the sexual, one toward wisdom, toward goodness, which causes you to understand the importance of the opposite of the sexual drive, that, in Buddhist terms, you must leave the wheel of suffering and constant desire, in order to find a true life, one of freedom.  Sad though all this may be.  Maybe it represents a fresh new starting point, a rebirth, a new line after all your struggles serving meat and booze and weapons of war and realizing finally that such isn't good, all of this letting yourself get bullied by the financial illusions of money and value in the world.

Beware, the Buddha tells us, as far as the Sangha community goes.  Just like all mortal people, they will want to exercise their powers, and this, they instinctively feel, is through the presentation of themselves as able vehicles of reproduction, of birthing the next generation and family.  If one were to resist their power trips, that person will be viewed as a threat, one to be bullied back into the space of male cooperation.  A woman's agenda, perhaps not always, is a mixed one, when the species falls into a situation of concentrated power, as often happens in the city.  Every message a male will send unto them will be received in the woman's mind as a mixed message, and the female quickly gets huffy.

God help the poor young fellow attempting to be a gentleman, respecting her from a distance as the feminist literature might say, 'treat her as an equal.'  God help the poor young fellow who listens to her literally, who does not take her protests as part of the mating dance.  Show any signs of confusion, even if it honest, and she will tear you apart, as much as she might admire your character.

These are lessons that take years, many, to learn.  And once having completed the course, I suppose it would be a bit difficult not to be wry or bitter about the whole thing.   Oh, one says, thanks so much for all those feminist lessons...  Those really helped, yeah right.

(You will all probably consider me a madman for saying all this.  But I know, I have seen it happen in the workplace, then, now, and again.)

What good did all that temptation do you?  Well, the thing is that probably, originally, with a wiseness beyond your own years, you saw through that whole show of temptation.  You didn't necessarily mean to, but you did.  And once you saw of the great illusions, unfortunately for your career as a future householder, you saw the others to all down the line.  The fakeness.  The falseness.  The act.  The insincerity.  The great lie.  Once expressed very well in a book called All Quiet on the Western Front.  The old pro patria mori line.  Sure, teacher, why then don't you go out and sign up?  People and their marvelous opinions they want to share with you.

Enough to make one an old jazzman.  A poor rebel, battling ill health to make his music happen.

Great art is not ironic after all things have been taken into consideration.  The Buddha statued in lotus position in meditative peace enlightenment is not ironic.  Jesus is not ironic.  Most Wyeth paintings are not ironic, picturing a happy life as if in a Coca Cola ad.

You see them at work.  The money changers in the Temple...

In the end there is Buddhism.  Treat all sentient beings with respect.  Don't tangle with women.

My own inner Civil War, fought up close and personal.  Some women kind.  Some women very kind. Many of them being absolute shits to me.  Bullies.  In my face.  Me the harrasser?  Au contraire, my friend...  Au contraire.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

My father had looked at a piece of my writing a long time ago.  An American Adam, was a phrase he used for what he perceived of my endeavor at poetry or what-have-you, what I was telling, what I was talking about.

And I suppose without fully realizing it, my efforts here could be described as an attempt at, as silly as it sounds, spiritual journalism.  And I would put Kerouac, or much of his work, into that category, by the way, his telling of the Buddha's story, Wake Up, a sort of background, an inner spine to his other works...

The eve of Halloween...  I need to go see my mom.  The endeavor of renting a car from Enterprise up the street near the Omni Shoreham, packing, and then the question of the timing of the long drive.  Halloween is slow at the Dying Gaul wine bar, typically, too close to Georgetown Halloween hooliganism.  There's nothing on the book.  I get in about five from the hassle of traffic on Massachusetts as college age people, young women in full bloom peruse the avenue's embassies in provocative and enticing outfits.  But I achieve a decent enough bar set-up, building on the set-up I did with my own two hands the exhausting night before.

I eye the staff meal down in the kitchen as I try to get hold of mom on the phone.  (Turns out she'd turned down the ringer on her landline, I find out later.)  Chicken joints hacked into small pieces, in a kind of sauce, I finally have little stomach for.  Wings are okay, good even, but this meal, after so many repeats of it, even the Buddha might say, "nah, I'm not that hungry.". Back in the day we'd get whole chicken, good for a breast man.  I get hold of mom, and at five thirty, we are ready to go.

The waitress server has an outfit for Halloween.  A party to go to at a club catering to the Russian community, down on Connecticut Avenue downtown.  "You want me to close for you, so you can drive up to see your mom?"  I should have said, yes, that would be extremely helpful, but I need the money.

And then after the boss shows up, held up by bridge traffic, we let her go.  She had called him three times earlier in the day, asking if she could have it off.

And then the night gets busy.  The boss sits with his wife for dinner, just as I'm sat with the  last string of people, as the downstairs servers have gone home.  A couple, of high maintenance, wants to sit in the back room, taking the table in the middle of a fourteen seat room.   Another couple comes in at nine, after working on kitchen renovations.  The boss is eating with his wife sharing a bottle of Bordeaux when friends, an older couple from down the road take a seat at the bar, and I recall suddenly that Halloween is their anniversary.   So, of course, a splash of champagne, and they order dessert, and soon the five sitting at the bar, as I run around, are talking of what to do and see and where to stay in Paris, including a gentleman at the end, whom I later let finish the Marguax the boss didn't finish.  I'm running out of paper on my little pad, and it's a great rush to get in orders by kitchen closing, which the kitchen, told by the downstairs servers that it's not busy, and I have my hands full, and busboy is partly attending to wanting to get his own side work done downstairs so he can go home sooner rather than later.  I'm there 'til midnight.  And I don't want to drink, and am half thinking of leaving straight from work.  But I'm shaking driving home, and it's dark out, and I am fried, physically and emotionally, and the wine does its job, two glasses of Pinot Noir once I am back, ready to load the car parked out on the quiet street.  It calms me down, yes it does, and I need such medicine for all I face now in life at age fifty three going on four.  Lincoln made it to fifty six, and it didn't let up on him until his final weeks.

I lay down in bed, with iPhone alarm set for a forty minute nap, and I take a little bit longer, and by six forty five, I'm showered, ready to go, a splash of green tea, water bottles full, a quick gluten-free turkey sandwich down the hatch, the phone charged, etc.

So, there we go, up Massachusetts, up around the traffic circle at American University, and in the darkness I stop for a jogger in the cross walk, and he waves, thanks.  Up the hill, Ward Circle, and onward toward River Road, up another hill and over it, and the light behind me and to the East is starting its blueish glow in the rear view.  Past one bit of construction that confuses me on River, I get honked at, but then I am taking the slow rounded slope onto the Beltway, and it is not quiet at this hour, but I am able to merge, left, left, and then again left, and again, to make the split to the 270 spur.  Going forward now, Northwest, cruising along okay, but coming toward me in the other direction, miles upon miles of headlights, merging lanes, traffic at a standstill, and what are we doing to this earth we live on and unto ourselves....

There's a ground fog, low on the banks and fields of the Monocacy River, the land left to nature, as I drive on to Frederick.  The same mist on the fields that have survived the rapacious town home development and highway overpasses as I drive north east along Route 15...

And then it's the usual... the push on past Round Top little mountains in the distance of Gettysburg, the sun out over rolling Civil War country, old Pennsylvania type barns of brick and stone bases and wooden rafters, beams, siding...  Corn.  Earlier the beautiful passage through the Catoctin...

Stopping at the shopping mall south of Harrisburg, to use the restroom at McDonalds and gas from the Giant gas station...  Clouds to the North, looking just like the mountains of the Blue Ridge, moisture in the clouds I will be passing through.

Then onward, onto the PA Turnpike to skirt eastward around the city along the Susquehanna and the military storage warehouses, over the river, fog, the toll plaza, and through the city and onto 81...

81 splits off after the flats and farms and uncertain commercial lots, one for car auctions, and heads into the mountains, soon rising, and here the trucks in the right lane to face the climbing roads...

I get through to mom at some point, as I ease down into Scranton, looking for the 76, the toll road worth every penny, a direct route without traffic that drops you finally back onto 81.  NPR is playing a piece about the long history of political activism in sports in particular the NBA.

Just get here safe, Mom tells me.

I forget where I ate my double quarter pounder no cheese with knife and fork.  Harrisburg, I suppose, just as they switched over from the breakfast menu.

Yes, we will go to the Press Box when I get there, due in about 2:30 to Oswego...

I am relieved coming in the door.  The kitchen is not so clean, and there is a garbage smell lingering.  There are fruit flies this year, in my house too.  An open cat food can on the counter, and in the fridge, but she is still there with us, and spry even at almost 80.  She's been having her moments of confusion.   But over dinner, she is lucid and happy, a good conversationalist, and later we talk about what's going on in my job.  After the nap from eating and drinking so early, we have a grand chat about how Buddhism is true to these very times.

Stories from work about the people who do say, 'I'm very sorry for your friend,' and those who say nothing, absolutely, about it, as if it were something unpleasant to sweep to the side, to not look at as we consume.  They knew him too.  They spoke with him too.  They exchanged chuckling remarks too with him over dinner and wine at the bar later on in the night.  Coldness in people's hearts, I see.  This is all about making money, as if, as if...  Rather than the humanity of the thing, for the Christian minded, for the Buddhist, and for those of Islam who understand that wine can be, according to Issa, a medicinal important to the mathematics of being alive with a mind and all.  Oh, well.  Maybe it's a cultural thing.

It's a wonderful conversation over the dinner table at one in the morning.  We talk about her taking her medicine.  She might have, according to a recent visit to the ER, which pains me to mention, a UTI, and we are going to see the doctor down in Fulton tomorrow, after an earlier appointment with the lady from Social Services, oh boy.

Write this down, she tells me, as I describe the long Fellini horror of all those trucks and busses and cars and vehicles with human souls in them stuck in the unmoving traffic on 270 motionless from Rockville and further back down the line into DC or the Beltway, madness.  Those long lines, that is where our spirit of economic competition and selfish look out for number one economically have led us to.  It's amazing it still even works, strung out more and more on the most ethereal of economic vapors of promise, as if technology of the high will save us somehow rather than destroy.

And I tell my mom, it is because I am naturally gifted at what I do, ostensibly, bar tending, on the outside, to appearances, that bring the people back to me, so that they, many, are driven to say aloud, behold the man, you are very very good at what you do.  As I along the same lines, tell them, well, I'm not sure exactly what I do, but that I see the same on the other side of the bar.

And earlier, as the door opened, as I stuffed check presenters with the little fliers about next weeks wine tasting and jazz nights, etc., and the little sign up for our email, sitting, then going down, I'll be right back, I'm going to check in the basement closet if there are any more water glasses to be had, a few odds and ends that will at one moment make a difference, smooth rather than monkey wrench stop, when I come back and settle in, after she, my co worker, lets leave it at that, has poured him his first glass, I am down on my knees rising from the cooler having restocked a few finishing touches, I rise and ask him, 'hey, sir, where you coming in from today..."

And it turneth out that he hails from Texas, from around Dallas.  Well, I've been to Austin and the Hill Country, granted, a long time ago.  Love Texas hospitality, friendliness, music, food, culture, story telling...  And soon enough we are having, me and him, just, a great conversation.  He did go to UT.  Now he's in investments, reasonably happy.  He's tall and thin, and looks Texan, indeed, from Scotch Irish.  His wife is out of town.

His father had a car dealership back in the day.  Plymouth Chrysler...  He and his brother grew up on the lot, and you learn a lot in such a place, and I know this from my mom's kind mechanic up North....

I'm about to go out of mind with fear and anxiety, but in such a state, there are no beams in the eye between myself and good Bill from TX.  My coworker dutifully goes about the few other tables, officiously, covering the bases.  The man's father kept a local guy around, a helper, whom he'd sometimes fire on Friday, but the guy would come back on Monday, and what the hey, African American guy, named LD.  Lawyer Dallas.  And he says, funny you would ask me that, and all the question that led up to us discussing life's essentials in an eery way...

Yeah, man, I'm Irish, thus it's hard to tell the difference between being a mamma's boy and the literary parts of story telling...  And all the rest.  The bardic wine glass of life...  He gets it, and even with the shade of grey different from, say, 60 to going on 54, there ain't much difference.  And I knew he's the one who can offer more advice upon this life stuff.

Hey, as long as you like what you're doing, that works.  Who's to say...

I could get tired of that message, but yet, it works, still, somehow, though the uneasy and sometimes horrible truths to stomach have forced me toward a Buddhist view, which is to say, a Christian view, and maybe even Islamic, depending what cultural lens you are using.  You don't discriminate against me, I won't discriminate against you.

The man from Texas is the reason I want to stay this night, just to complete the cycle of conversation, as is due to any Christian mind, to get closer to that which one sees when he puts away childish things, sees through the glass, no longer speaking as a child, being a child, but becoming "a man."  I need these days at the old Gaul to remind myself of the meaning of my work, valid as the work of any professionally qualified therapist, and really much finer and better than that dreary exercise of sitting in offices in some miserable city of some miserable empire....

Elaine Pagels, scholar of The Gnostic Gospels, not a stranger to tragedy, son and husband lost within a year, is on Terry Gross, Fresh Air, as I endure traffic crossing from Indian Town Gap on the last marches to Harrisburg.  At the rest stop there, westward, on the in ramp, a tractor trailer has had to pull off to the inside, ripping up the green turf of November, tires sunk in deep.  To merge back into traffic from the exit of the rest stop is difficult to make stopping here a bad idea.  And further up ahead, a tandem tractor trailer has spilt a pile of hay, still green and moist, as if a giant insect had excreted it, as if in some Japanese monster horror film.  As I approach, slowed, the turned-over truck's body and chassis are more evident.  They have just hauled off the cab, a Mack, older than you usually see these days, white paint, bent frame, driver compartment crushed in atop at the driver's side, and hard to tell which side of the highway from which it came even by the tracks here in the field median.  Slowed, on this last approach, one looks out the driver side window onto the median, and there is lots of detritus.  Deeply dug earth exposing dirt tire tracks telling stories of crashes.  Bits of plastic, cracked of in the explosion of vehicles.  Dead deer, cut in half, crushed, ripped into small pieces, or whole, dying broken within.  Coyotes, even hawks.  Lots of road kill the whole way.  One thinks he grows immune to it but each sight of a deer sagged in death or cut horrible apart, carnage, hurts one to see.  Why are we doing all this, one wonders.   And even more deer all along, all along this long route of eight hours driving.  Is all this straw?  Why?  Bedding or fodder?  Farm transport?   Old grass, still green and moist, aged, now spread out across the space between north and south double lanes of 81...

Elaine Pagels returning to life, praying, meditating with the Trappists...  And coming upon the oldest texts of the early Christian life, and gospels heretical quoting Jesus saying that one must bring out that which is within, and that if you do not bring out bring out that which is within, that which is within will destroy you....  And Jesus, a Buddhist, more or less, "lift a rock and I am there, I am there when wood is split, I am there..."   It turns out she knew Jerry Garcia when she was a high school student.  A friend of hers died, in fact, in a car accident that Jerry was in as well, and Jerry went through the windshield.  Grateful Dead, no wonder.

Shake the dust of the offending town in which thou art unwelcome off thy feet, Jesus tells us.  The Buddha would have said, more or less, the same.  For therein shall be a good lesson, a learning, the lotus flower of wisdom.

It's been raining at least lightly, misting, the entire route, from Oswego on down.  I stopped to take a nap at the rest stop near Whitney Point.  After nine hours I am closing in on the Beltway, and in this traffic I decide not to take the usual turn, which involves a sharp merger to the right to get onto River, but instead take Old Georgetown Road, which confuses me in the dark with all the lights.  Slow going.

It's about quarter of seven when I get in to the basement of the restaurant, coming in through the back door, changing into a shirt suitable for work.  The main dining room is already two thirds full, and upstairs at the bar it is busy too, and an old friend is waiting for my arrival at the first seat the bar, a man who cycles, in great shape, biked up some of the great cols of the Tour in the Alps, and who has read my book.  I do not like running late to work, and the bar lacks a good set-up, no fruit cut, no mineral water in the cooler, the popular whites Sancerre and Macon Village not backed up so well either.

Later, the next day, at the end of the trying jazz night akin to being dunked in a river, I find out my server friend, the one with her costume who left early Halloween night gives me credit for only half a shift.  Come on.  All the times I let her come in late, no problem, giving her a full shift on our little checkout report...

Monday, October 29, 2018

Time for work.  Tired today.

I have neglected the Dharma.  That's an easy thing to do here in the USA.