In This Moment

what if it matters?


November 2016


I wanted to bring some sanity to my life.  So I went out to a cafe that plays jazz music (did I know it would?  No…just that it has a small, European flair so it would play something distinctive if anything), sat down to write.  Did I write?  Not right away.  First I had to work through a friend’s comments that my writing’s a waste of time (I’m still working through that…), a Presidential candidate’s insane-sounding misogynist comments (easier to be distracted by the fear and hysteria this person creates than face my self-doubts), and then got down to it.  Yep.  I disallow the friend’s comments, and the candidate’s, leaving myself hollowed out.  Thank God for the happy, jazzy music.  A psychic survival tool.  I feel I could stay here a long time, that I should have come sooner.  Earlier, I rushed home from my day job and ran to another cafe with my dog.  That lead nowhere.  The staff questioned the dog’s credentials, there were no seats, it was too shady.  The dog was cold.  So many reasons not to write.  “Excuse me, Monsieur Dog, may I please see your papers?”  Second class citizen to a dog, to a better writer, to a chauvinist.  (Oh, God, thank you, Economist, for giving Donald Trump a true name, chauvinist.  He would likely be proud to bear the title, and it is the source of all the misogyny, ethnic nationalism, and everything else that he brings.  Too bad it comes from apparent insecurity.  What if it came from strength?)

Time to go.  Last light of a fall afternoon fades as the jazz music stops.  God, how lucky I am to have beautiful music that can run out!  How much better than to be threatened by neighbors, friends and misogynists.  Does anyone know what it does to you to have someone attack the opposite sex, to have someone tell you one of the few things you love is crap, to have a neighbor who cannot handle the closeness of the neighbor relationship and decides persecute you as evil?  These things run in parallel.  They drain the life out.  Like debt, or sickness.  Your only chance is to get through it by main strength because these things literally drain the life energy.  Too much and you’re gone.

Or is there another way?  Only today, after writing this weeks ago, before the chauvinist came to be elected, only today did I say to myself: I need a psychic defense.  Of course if you look up psychic defense online the meaning of the word isn’t “mental,” it’s woo-woo energy.  But…I’m such a believer in first principles, and roots of words.  That sort of thing.  Psychic means “mind” to me.  Why?  Because that’s what I believe in, what I bring to the table.  So, to damn the torpedos, and flak and stuff, and full speed ahead I type “psychic defense” into Google and start reading the I’m Feeling Lucky first reference.  Why?  Because I am the road less travelled by, even though I walk down the main street.  So why not?  I put the first technique in the first article into practice within five minutes and my day is changed.  Yep.  I’d been debating commissions with a colleague and was dreading facing him in the office.  Psychic Defense 101, Exercise I, The Mirror.  I visualized a mirror  between me and him, protecting me from his “bad energy” and Viola! or maybe I should say Violin! what I’m sure was my own self-pitying defensiveness lessened and I was able to ignore my colleague’s presence and focus on my work.  Then later I addressed the issue at a time and a place of my choosing.

So today I’m here again at the European cafe, small, not the large outdoor French-style cafe, at the same place with my shivering dog who cannot stand any temperature outside a ten-degree range.  I’ve taken her in my lap instead of bringing her home.  I wanted to go inside the cafe, where it’s warm, but instead I’m out here shivering with my dog.  Can’t hear the jazz music, if that’s what is playing, if anything at all is playing in there right now.  Let me be clear.  In possible contrast to the other day (and the prior paragraph) I’ve chosen this.  I’ve decided to walk and run the dog, then see what’s next.  I could’ve taken her home then come here, and in retrospect should have.  However, I gain two things (at least) this way.  One, I get to choose my course, having considered and discarded the option of taking her home first, now I live with this choice of mine.  I wasn’t forced!  Somehow that seems to matter in this post Donald Trump p-grab world (I’m told I shouldn’t spell out the word in this context, and that “p” could mean either male or female private parts, and that men should imagine The Donald grabbing them, too, because that’s exactly what he intends?, plans?, that is exactly what he is going to do, so get ready for it, fat white men without college degrees, get ready for it…).  Second, I have something to potentially look forward to on another day:  another day, having proven how silly it is to sit with a shivering dog, even though she perches in my lap, I can pursue the course of walk-dog-and-then-sit-in-warm-cafe.  You know the anticipation is worth at least as much as the experience itself.

There is a gnat in my kombucha beer.  My iPhone is down to 10% power.  The song I just tried to Shazam is Allah-Las, woman-with-a-seashell-to-her-ear, but it sounds like the Rolling Stones.  Try to double-check.  Too late.  Sun goes behind a building.  Will I ever be able to listen to these songs?  Last time I tried the speaker wouldn’t (mate? sync?) connect with the phone.  Debate tonight.  The Donald debates The Professional.  Is “The Donald” a dirty, non-PC word, now?  If he wins, will POTUS become a swear word and the United States an insult when used in an imperative or declarative sentence?  Did you actually work out what “imperative” or “declarative” mean or just reflect for the briefest moment on whether that sounded cool.  Did it?  The kombucha beer is gone.  I’m down to 5% and hoping for an Uber ride (using this phone) home.  The Russians are the one’s trying to win here by pushing the Donald as far as he can go.  Will they win or will we, through the adversity of an actual competitor, join forces internally and prevail.  I bet Putin is not smart enough to actually make us fail.  I think he’s looked into the eyes of the stupidest and greediest of us and thinks he understands our soul.  Putin, not only do you not understand our soul, you’re not qualified to understand it.  You cannot understand what you’re not willing to entertain.  Send your kids to college here and then we’ll see what happens.  Your Russian patriotism is not linked to any ideology, it’s just nationalism.  At least we believe in something abstract, be it nihilist.  We’re something worth writing about.  You’re only history in the making.

My cafe looks down on my dog.  At least I have that first world problem, now I can listen to the crows caw above the massive outdoor semi-transparent shade-lighting-and-heating cover at the gluten-free place that’s so idealistic the servers look like deranged monks and the customers have permanent over-serious expressions on their faces.  I’m right at home.  I’m struggling with the existential dilemmas because the biggest challenge I face is deciding whether to walk twenty feet to the private restroom and pee.  I think it’s time.


I Am Eating Salami

The perfect segue into the Election of 2016.  If Donald Trump wins we’ll all be eating salami.  If Hillary Clinton wins we’ll go on eating whatever we were eating before.  I think the Trump supporters just want us to all join them at the table and stop putting on airs.  OK, I admit it, I’m having two different kinds of salami (they call it salumi here), by choice.  And smoked gouda with some pretty good Zinfandel.  Yeah.  I seem to be the bad guy?  I don’t know…I care about women.  Wait, that’s what Trump says… OK, how about this, I’m open to criticism?  So, how well do I score on the Fact Checker with that one?  Because Trump has shown us that you can say anything…  Here’s how I check out:  I’m open to criticism as long as you put it into terms I can support (my logical structure), and you present it in a diplomatic way (stroke my ego while shattering it).  Is that too much to ask?  Frankly, or salamilily, I do think that I’m worlds different from Trump, as I push my way through paperwork and sales calls to try and grow my own real estate empire.  Um, I’m not a politician.  Wait, he says he’s not either.  He probably says he’s not a liar.  What am I supposed to do, say that I am?

My active, always-on spellcheck tried to make “salamilily” into “Salami Lily.”  I bet Trump called somebody that sometime.  Sigh.  Truth has a hard time in an environment where people are being regularly abused.  Or maybe it’s humor that has a hard time.  Or maybe…what if people have been being abused for a long time and we’re all just trying to figure out how we make our way out of this smoky room into the sunlight?  I think so.  In that case Truth is really about something called integrity.  And I have a question about that.

Just now I’m sitting at a bar in a tapas restaurant with a whole bunch of other people from Berkeley who have lot’s of apparent character.  They aren’t looking around trying to figure out whether to pick up on someone, no, in the afternoon glow at 4:35pm I’m with the Berkeley geriatric crowd.  These people are charging into their older years full force and full of purposeful talk.  It’s almost a 1960’s Madmen feeling of camaraderie in which I don’t participate.  Or maybe I do.  I predict in 15 years my kids will be out of the house, my mom and my wife’s mom will be in a stable place, and I’ll have quit my job and so will my best friend.  So me and him and my wife and his wife can come here in the afternoon and have chitty chatty about the new condominium towers in Berkeley, the fall of the Russian and Chinese empires, the virtual worlds that have consumed all the have-nots, and maybe, if I’m allowed to temper the mood, the diminishing world of ours in this tapas bar, in the late afternoon, in the fall sunshine, at 4:35.

Maybe.  I hate to be a harbinger of things that no one will hear, but one of us will have suffered a change of life that will throw off the others.  Even if it’s just an unremitting sadness of heart.  And another one of us will be looking far beyond the confines of this little bar.  The other two will be trying to figure out what the f*ck is going on.  And the Trump supporters won’t actually be gone, they’ll be in the virtual worlds doing stuff.  And I hate to pop your bubble (if I am, which I’m not, because you either already agree with me or won’t listen…unless you are that odd person who actually keeps an ear to the wind and a foot across the threshhold) but that stuff will actually matter in proportion to the amount of passion and luck those people have, not their presence in the virtual world.

The virtual world will be so blended with this one in fifteen years that we’ll wonder how the two were considered separately.  So, I’m all wrong about the have-nots because they’ll be marginalized in all Worlds, even if they elect a president to try and represent themselves.  The best they can hope for is to try and change the dialogue.  And that matters…  OK, sorry, it’s not that I lied, just that I got carried away, made an assumption that just because someone goes into a virtual world, and just because the virtual world is where the power resides, that someone who goes there becomes powerful.  Nope.  But give me one shred of Hope to hold out to those of us who don’t want to see other humans lose every last part of dignity: of those who disappear into a virtual world some will prevail there when they failed here in the bricks and mortar, de-industrializing, AI-got-my-job real world.  After all, the AI lives in the virtual world so at least you’re taking the battle to it on its home turf.  At least you’re meeting the adversary unblinking.  There is something to that, you know.  Let me whisper it to you: it’s called Meaningful Work.  Because all work, in a world where less than 1% produce food, is make-work.  So, make work that means something to you.  Why?  Because then you have many advantages: you’re moving, you’re engaging, you’re building and you’re giving.  The worst possible thing, in America, is to be prevented from doing those things (otherwise known as pursuit of happiness).  So go go.

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