On BART. Again. This time the fog hangs thick and low, cool over all. The trains swish in and out of curly tendrils, down into the heart of the cloud. So beautiful, and the moment is mine. Mad Max: Fury Road won a lot of Oscars yesterday and my kids saw the whole social-political spectacle. A line from the movie mentions that our life is in the moment. Every existential pain I feel is tied to this feature. I don’t exist outside of it so I’m constantly under pressure when I try to bridge the gap between one perceived moment and another. Why do neurons have gaps? Humans have separate male and female counterparts? The short circuit is death, life is in the gap, in the movement from one place to another.
In the gap time has passed since Mad Max took the Oscars home. Months. If I were Mad Max wandering the desert I might wonder how many months and see the stubble on my chin in a broken shard of mirror and laugh at death coming swiftly for me. Have you noticed six months is 160th of a lifetime, an eightieth of a working career, a thirty-sixth of a childhood? So if Mad Max looks in the mirror and it’s a flash of time since six months prior, and if that’s a single frame of a film he’s in he’s got 4.4 seconds of life since his birth. Of course we don’t know what 160th of a lifetime is, because no one knows intuitively what anything from a thirty sixth through a 160th is, so it doesn’t matter to us (we can understand 4.4 seconds, though, it’s a long intake of breath). How about this: I’m likely to stay in a home for six years, stay in a career for nine, watch my kids go from preschool to college in thirteen. Take any one of those items and six months is between one twelfth and one twenty-sixth of the whole. That’s something anyway. Impressive? No, we have no idea what anything as small as one twelfth is. Oh well, I just had the idea that six months is a big chunk out of a lifetime. I know it is. I know by the time I slowly draw breath (4.4 seconds) the leaves will blow through this narrow outdoor corridor of this cute restaurant in Walnut Creek once more and I’ll be dead. What will my kids think? What will those 4.4 seconds look like on screen, if anyone watches? It’s getting so cold here, and you know what warms my heart? The knowledge that I’ve changed so much about what I’ve written, today, that I will not publish it yet. I’ll wait for a day, a week, a month, God knows how long, to review, revise and consider publishing. My stand in defiance of the impossible power of the passage of time: I’ll wait until the moment is right though it cost me everything, though the writing is stillborn, incomplete, or even a soul that never was…
Picked up this thread, So Beautiful, because I’m at Cesar, the tapas place with the good wine. Thought it appropriate to appreciate beauty here. More than wine, the bartender last week said their cocktails are of higher quality. I’m usually disappointed with cocktails. Because of the lower quality. Take a mimosa. Why adulterate champagne with orange juice…unless it’s not very good champagne, and then why drink it? To get high from cheap champagne and also have a heart attack drinking orange juice? Here at Cesar they play Spanish guitar music I can’t Shazam and take home with me. Sometimes they come up with fresh garden vegetables you couldn’t get at the Chez Panisse. And Cesar has a collection of Scotch that’s So Beautiful — varying shades of brown. So I sip my Cabernet and observe their Scotch collection surrounded by Old People from Berkeley. I’m relatively young here in this un-Shazamable place. If you don’t know what Shazam is then Google it. If you don’t know what Google is then congratulations to you. Just kidding, of course. You know what Google is. But the point is I’m not a big Scotch drinker and yet I appreciate this Wall of Scotch. It adds to the credibility of the place. Even though I only sip the wine here.
Did I mention why I came to Cesar? No? If I do will you let me know, because I’m unsure. And more than that: I’m not at Cesar, I’m at Va de Vie in Walnut Creek. Watch out, the transition from one place to another can seem instantaneous, even though a day, a month, a year or a decade passes. Would I dare pick up this same piece after a decade? Would it give you a chill if I said that’s what I’ve done? I came (to Cesar, to Va de Vie) as an exercise. I’m writing the script of a life, so wherever I choose to go and do becomes the story. That’s obvious, but the point is my choices aren’t existentially important for what they produce but for their stories. God, it just went from hot to cold at Va de Vie as the sun passed into shade and the wind picked up. I’m reminded, as I have often been, of The Swimmer, a story in which the protagonist swims his way home through friends’ pools in the neighborhood but finds his self-absorbed focus takes him on a much, much longer journey through the loss of his social credibility and many of his friendships, and his youth before he can ever complete the simple exercise. 4.4 seconds. An in-drawn breath. I try to get my outbound sales calls at work completed by noon each day, and then shift my environs at noon. For lunch. But also to tell a story, the story of a creative afternoon. Does it matter the exact course it takes? No, the point is it’s not an office. My client just called me after I sent him multiple prospects to review. Another several weeks pass with no further contact with that client and another client calls me in person for the first time and says “Oh yes, I am open to doing this transaction” that would make half my year’s goal. Half my year’s sales calls all realized in that one statement if it turns out that it’s realized… Uncertainties and perhaps 18 months of extended transaction ahead. What are the probabilities? Has this intrusion into my creative time defined a success? Or a half-hour step farther into the darkness of failure. Or, guess what, no one knows and yet I am here, I am here, like the smallest Who crying out to the unknown. Do I sit next to a high mountain peak in Colorado sipping Cabernet with family members? No, but given I’m having lunch, having lunch, having it again, I can call my client back and the moment and the paella form a bridge to that mountaintop (and don’t forget the steak, and dare I mention one hundred other meals?) A creative afternoon. Maybe I’ll close a deal with my client (which one?), but not at the cost of my soul, I hope. Not entirely, anyway. A discount half price sale on souls for half a day today. I have a break, the story has a twist, and today it was Cesar, I mean Va da Vie, I mean, shall I claim a future lunch date with myself, before it arrives? The wind has died down. It feels warmer… Notice the lie because there is no future. Our family plans to go swim in the pool of an old friend of mine soon but be clear, please, we can only claim the plan. And as we seek a date the weeks shift from September to November. Big difference for a swimming date, though.
Not on BART, or Uber, now. Certainly not driving. Getting places is important to the story, but how much more important being there? Here. Being here. By the time my fingers reach the keys to type out where here is, it likely won’t be Va da Vie. It’s not. It’s called Desco and they have great espresso. Looking back, too, perhaps this alley was once not paved with stones and dotted with tables (Perhaps? Come on, you know it wasn’t.) But the wind very likely blew leaves from the enormous oak tree even before either of the brick buildings formed an alley there. Of course that tree was once an acorn, perhaps 120 years ago? The current length of a human lifetime without accident, disease, or genetic failure. I’m 50 in so far, so I’ve got a ways to go if I fight for it. Or maybe 7% chance if I don’t? Or, what, 20% chance if I do and the world continues on its current elitist development course? And what does fighting mean and by fighting do I change my in-drawn breath from 4.4 seconds to 5.3? Since I live in Berkeley I may as well eat at Cesar, seeing the vehicles swiftly pass on Shattuck Ave in the Gourmet Ghetto. So close to the Chez Panisse I can see the shadow of its Chez Panisse (connifer?) tree. I talked to their gardener the other day when he picked me up in his pickup to take me to a potential job site for him. And he told me the name of that unusual tree that you see in front, and that surrounds the most cute dining area in the cafe upstairs that Bill Clinton probably didn’t get to sit in because his entourage was too large (all probabilities, of course, and what I wonder is what was actually on his mind and did he care whether he could sit with the unique bunya-bunya framing his, for that moment, Arts & Crafts window? Did he know about the tree? Did he notice it? Would he have cared? I think he would have, if someone (the gardener?) talked with him about it. And I am here, in the shadow of the Chez Panisse and its bunya-bunya, listening to un-Shazamable music. Oh, one of the pieces got Shazamed, but I don’t know which one, and it’s not available on iTunes. For some reason this reminds me of visiting the famous main library in Seattle and my daughter hurt her leg running on the escalator and the Uber driver waited for us on the far side of the building. I got so little satisfaction out of that visit because my daughter complained the whole time. And in memory I have nothing immediately before or after. Pike’s Place chaos market before? Our tiny Airbnb apartment after? Logical. Still, I just remember beautiful escalators suspended in air, and my daughter falling on one and whining, whining. The quality of her whining is so demanding, so confident. I feel like the world had better watch out for her. We’ll see. Always in the shadow of something, I write so late in the summer that who can remember it’s summer? The fog coming and going, mostly coming, over Berkeley, and at 2 PM in late summer of course it may be typical, if not the Indian Summer delight we look for. Yet how can it be Indian Summer when it is still actual summer and so we must endure the summer fog. And if six months have passed who can say whether that’s a big piece of my life. I know it is. And yet Seattle was barely six weeks ago. Seven. Eight. Is six weeks long? Seven, eight? Is time long? And when was it we were at the boardwalk in Santa Cruz and did not ride the tram cars, the cable ride, the one where you dangle your legs over the park as you travel over it? My wife got beautiful and cheap sunglasses there. And we got passes that we haven’t yet used. Maybe we will soon. Oh yes, Santa Cruz, I have you in my sights.