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In This Moment

what if it matters?

Month

April 2016

Coffee

I feel so much better.  Sitting down with my kids at Namaste Indian cuisine listening to the soundtrack of the latest Ballywood release, finishing a small cup of Peets coffee.  Finished.  The beat goes on.  My kids eat and read and burp.  Now my son reads over my shoulder, trying to delete what I’ve written, and, upon being told to keep his hands to himself, concludes that an alien has taken over his father’s body.  Now I feel out of breath from arguing with him…

There’s a movie I want to be really good, London Has Fallen. They probably advertise it on the sides of buses, I’m guessing, because fans rate it almost a perfect five stars while the critics Fandango surveys give it 28 out of 100.  Experience indicates that means it’s a bad movie.  Saw it.  Was what it promised.  Wisdom from main character to bodyguard: “I never criticize my children,  just teach them to treat others as they would want to be treated.”  There you go.  As long as you can twist that into killing lots of people who get in your way you have a morally intact action movie…”Thank you so much for shooting me, that was just what I deserved.  Glad to be of service: I would appreciate the same in return if I were an enraged terrorist…”  Take note, if you read the Magicians series (is this a spoiler, or just a general characterization of the weird vegetarian god?) of Umber wiggling his goaty body eagerly in anticipation of being killed…  So it does happen, at least once in the history of literature (does Socrates count as an example also?).  All right who knows maybe there are legions of heroes asking to be killed (Martin Eden, The Awakening, both about heroes who come to themselves and then drown themselves on purpose…).  Wait, my point was meant to be that those terrorists in London Has Fallen surely didn’t want to be killed, but the tidal pull of our morality is strong, the deadly and apparently deranged Other, so scary that it’s easy to be drawn under.  Yet wait again, they were revenge seekers, and that is classically an end in itself whether the seeker of revenge lives or dies the cycle continues until it burns itself out.  Maybe the US President quoted in the movie actually would want the same treatment if the roles were reversed (If I’m nothing more than a tool for revenge then put me out of my misery)  Wait, he actually did make his Bodyguard promise to do exactly that.  When we’re willing to give up our lives things become so filled with potential.

And now?  The coffee has worn off.  A couple of weeks later it’s late afternoon.  I kind of had a nap and I’m here again in this quiet room I set up for writing.  One problem with this setup is since I always write about whatever is in the moment, that’s going to pretty much be me sitting in this room, right?  But isn’t a monk supposed to sit in a cell, a meditator sit with closed eyes, mystic use whatever is present even when not a lot goes on?  That’s right.  And this monk just at a cold linguica sausage.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.  Now I feel like I can’t get enough water and air and standing and stretching to get all that orange grease to…do whatever it’s supposed to do.  Late afternoon, no coffee, orange grease…a miracle I’m still writing.

How about this.  I’m noticing this weekend every dad at gymnastics, soccer and the school band performances looks and acts just like me.  Not one or two of them.  All.  They talk sardonically to their buddies, look furiously at their cell phones, talk too loudly to their children so that everyone around them is offered the chance to overhear their worldly wisdom, even stand around looking forlorn and gray.  Weird.  Are they all exactly fifty, neighbor-challenged, tired from dealing with kids who no longer think daddy knows everything, and looking for what happens next in their lives?  So much for being distinctive and unique because I have a feeling these men are indeed all in roughly the same place I am.  Berkeley Dads with time for kids.  Kind of cute.  Much cuter with coffee, or with internet that works well enough to look up the word “linguica.”  There, finally.  Bad spell-check, underlining a properly spelled Portuguese sausage.  OK, I’ll forgive you because you helped me spell Portuguese, and OK.  And just thinking about drinking coffee tomorrow morning makes me fell better, sausage notwithstanding.

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Avalon

I’ve been in Puerto Vallarta seven times or more.  I fold and unfold peso bills to pay the restaurant at the beach where I’ve already been three times this trip.  Folding and unfolding is different than at home.  That’s the point.  We’re in a condo here for the first time, far above the beach.  A lot that’s different about Mexico is different whether we’re here in PV or elsewhere, so I take out my pesos and inquire about the water taxi in my fragmented Spanish and it’s a coastal Mexican experience, new because I’ve traveled less in recent years.  Has it really been since 2008 that I came here, or 2010?  Alaska Airlines informed me today my frequent flyer account expired years ago as I haven’t flown Alaska since 2006.  Ten years.  God.

Avalon is pristine. Clean lines everywhere. The hot water heater erratic but the pool warm and not filled with territorial condo owners.  Seems the tourists don’t come up this high, or the wealthy Mexican owners don’t bother to rent out their units to tourists, or both.  It’s quiet.  They use reposado tequila and Grey Goose vodka at the pool bar.  I think it’s the bar guy who says it’s ok for my daughter to shout at the top of her lungs…kids are kids, he says.  Really?  That’s surprisingly nice.

Mexico is nearly as I remember except it seems to be happening in the background while I’m distracted by email and kids, thinking about returning to Berkeley, setting up a dolphin swim.  It’s like I’m separated from everything by a bubble. My auto-correct tried to fill in “Bible.”  I hope I’m not separated from the world by a Bible.  My son and I stopped briefly at the cathedral on our way to get playing cards, on our way to the cafe to play two computer games.  Reminds me of a trip to Hawaii with my parents as a teenager.  Now we’re getting a handmade bracelet for my daughter’s friend while I approve several games my daughter requests from her iPad up at the Avalon pool.  We order after deciding the water taxi would be too bumpy to take us to the dolphins tomorrow, and too slow.  My son plays two games while I play one.

The sun comes out but I feel as though I’m going crazy because as the afternoon wears on  and I try to write my son keeps tapping me a certain way, trying to get me to play Ron Beasley in a Harry Potter game.  But it’s bright now and a relief after a day of clouds.  Writing for the first time in a while.  I’ve been reading this three-book Magicians series, so easy to fall into.  They’re books about mirrors and losing oneself in books.  I could lose myself in a book about losing myself in the details of Puerto Vallarta.  Didn’t I read somewhere that authors have to write and that is the only reason they can bring themselves to do it?  Makes the usual sort of paradox out of free will because if I’m writing it’s only because I have to.  Like actually noticing clouds appearing out of thin air rather than rolling across the horizon.  Free will is like seeing the sun come out and thinking, “What a good job I did!”

There’s something more important than free will, though it’s related, and as we close the glass doors for the evening and hear the  fireworks across the water the darkness amidst the shush of air-conditioning I see it’s personal development:  free will or no, you either develop or you are already dead.  Develop haltingly and you’re haltingly alive.  Tell me about it.  I’m back in Mexico after how many years and the fried Lima beans taste good.  And what have I learned except that it’s much harder to manage four psyches than even the impossible task of managing one. My wife reads and my kids are supposed to be reading too. Mischief managed?  More like mischief overlooked.  It’s too quiet out there so I go to check:  one reads, one doesn’t.

Just like that it’s nine PM.  Different when I’m not lost in a book. More happens. I’m more willing to let go of the day in delicious anticipation of tomorrow.  King Arthur was supposed to return from Avalon someday, wasn’t he?  When I return from my stay will it merge with my other travels into a montage of cobblestone streets and beachside restaurants?  After my conveyance here to the Avalon par avion what is next that isn’t a retreat from the pain of missing this repeated retreat?  Children, challenges, the spirit to say Yes I’ll write.  The courage not to live to please to earn rewards?  The rewards are never enough; only the earning is worthy.  Unless Arthur wakes up and gets some work done Avalon is a quiet place.  As quiet as a tomb.

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