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In This Moment

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deeper game

Cake

Deeper magic from before the dawn of time.  Because eating the cake is never enough.  You know we’re waiting for something beyond what we can see and touch, because even the dawn of time, that Big Bang when we really get started, or, if you look a little farther, right now, is never quite enough to satisfy.  That’s why we seem to need the even deeper magic from before, beyond and Outside our experience.  And did anyone ever mention you can’t have your cake and eat it too?  You know why they say that?  Because you have to either live in this moment or wait for another one.  And what they mean is you should wait, for a Better World.  Oh yes, wait.  ‘Cause if you eat your cake now you won’t have it any more, and everyone wants to have cake, right?  Wait, did I ever say I wanted to “have” cake?  Aren’t there contrasting parables about not storing up your grain, or hoarding your talents, and that birds and grass are happy even without “having” anything?  Oh, those radical Leftist Christians rallying against acquisitiveness and greed!

Don’t believe it.  We always have our cake and eat it too.  You can’t have one without the other.  How can you eat the cake if you didn’t spend some time wanting it first?  You can’t; even if you’re a dog you anticipate the treat.  To lose yourself in deeper magic from before the dawn of time you’d have to be dead.  Then you wouldn’t count anymore, not independently.  And so, the deep magic we have in the present is just the eating, just the reveling, and despite our fears (or hopes) of where that may lead, it’s worse than it seems:  not only does the reveling lead nowhere but it’s also unachievable.  You can’t get there.  Sorry Bohemian, your journey is just that, a journey.  You have no place to lay your head, not even Noplace.  No break, not really one moment of eating the cake that isn’t shot through with anticipation of eating it.  You can’t take one bite and just enjoy it.  Do I dare to eat a peach is the philosophical question of daring to think about these things, be aware while eating the cake.  The ultimate hubris (even though the philosophers would tell you it’s only natural to think about things while you do them, they secretly admire the proletariat freedom to just enjoy things, and so J. Alfred Prufrock is afraid of losing his teeth, missing out on sex, and dying; thank you T.S. Elliot, for sharing this perspective, but, sorry, this admiration for those who just do things is ill-founded: nobody, not even a dog, just does things).  I can try to lose myself in eating cake or peach but will inevitably feel the pull of the bungee cord of human reflection drawing me back to thinking about it.  If I jump in while conscious of the cost, the ramifications, the inevitable pull-back, the alternatives, something different may happen.  Do I dare to think about eating cake, the cake that I must forever both have and eat, that no matter how hard I try I cannot stop having and eating?  That’s the thing the Buddhists understand but the Western philosophers miss: the thinking about it mingled with the doing it is the real daring.  And the Western philosophers are doing exactly that.  They should pat themselves on the back!

Why is it all reversed?  You can’t have your cake and eat it too is wrong, you can’t not have your cake and eat it too.  Do I dare to eat a peach is actually do I dare to think about eating a peach.  The core of the Christian Gospel is radically leftist even though Conservative and Christian are words that travel intimately with each other.  Try too hard to do anything and you end up with the opposite.

What about this: sentimentality rots the core of our lives, it’s maybe one of several ways to ruin everything.  I listen to Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd and see two miniature rat terriers lying side-by-side on a woman’s lap outside the cafe and recall the times I lost myself in that song waiting for another time to come.  There’s a lot of Waiting in rock music.  And of course isn’t there also a lot of Eating Cake — do I miss something to say there’s a lot of Waiting to Eat Cake?  Kind of crosses all the Political Divides because I could say I like Little People’s Mickey Mouse Operation better than Lynyrd Skynyrd, but would it actually be true?  I can’t bring myself to mention any politician’s name but what would it help?  If a woman breaks the Presidential Glass Ceiling this year does that speak more about her or about our society’s need for her (and for her opposite) now?  Can I deny I get a good feeling when I hear the opening bars of Titanium by David Guetta,  though I’ve got to slog through the rest to get to another, anemic rush when the woman shouts “I am Titanium”?  If I have the right speakers the off-beat bass is good, if I’m distracted during the build-up I may start thinking again the song is cool.  But there’s almost nothing left for me in that song but sentimentality.  And guess what?  The sentimentality, while it rots the core of our lives, cleanses us.  Your core rots out, you’re left with nothing, an empty husk, and then you go on and let yourself get filled up with something new.  So it goes: we begin this paragraph with the claim sentimentality is our best shot at destroying ourselves and yet its rot is the lifeblood of renewal, laying down the sod for the growth of new things.  Because to eat cake you must have someone go out and plant it, grow it and harvest it, and after all humans don’t know how to eat grass…  But if there were no cake we’d stop eating it, yet we wouldn’t stop trying to have something even while we’re eating it and saying it’s impossible, and always getting it backwards, except for the part we may notice about humans always thinking about things and never just doing them.

 

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We Have It All

Chaamah, or something like that. Adele’s Rolling In the Deep plays as the background. Both kids are here.  Went to the Magic shop, the earring shop, and we’re eating at the Thai place my daughter found on Yelp, near Union Square.  Was about to write my kids were “turned off” because they’re watching TV.  But things move quickly: dinner comes and goes, squabbles over shrimp pass as dark clouds, suddenly here and gone.  Diners pass through.  The kids order dessert.  Feels like nighttime now, so quickly…

The place has become crowded at 7:30 PM on a Sunday with people looking in from the street.  The waitress doesn’t understand the word “dairy.”  For a moment back there I tasted the green curry and recalled a recurrent dream of a trip to Thailand.  In the dream I can eat at any restaurant in a whole park full of restaurants, and there are so many, and something heavenly about having my choice, and they are all good.  For a moment tasting that green curry I’m there, the dream is here, this little hole-in-the-wall Thai place in San Francisco is one of the Good Places.  I think Paris and eat Thai.  In other words, moments that feel good can connect and momentarily coexist.  Paris is a place of mind, a background for experience, a lot of yellow gravel walks and noisy cafes.  When the sound becomes just loud enough you rise up into a different plane…and it’s easier to experience this Paris when you’re not there.  The kids learn about magic and discount deals on earrings, we enjoy half-price Uber rides on a darkening Sunday and the patrons press in while the waitresses with their broken English try to help and the busboy with gold rings folds napkins and laughs with them.  He may as well be in Thailand, or Laos or Vietnam but of course with his gold rings he is definitively in America.  I’m momentarily as much in his place as he in mine while I dine in his restaurant.  And the ultimate secret of Paris and Thailand is revealed while the kids grow restless and the arguing starts, and it starts to seem ludicrous that we’re holding this table while the kids fight over a bite of mango.  The secret is it isn’t just a place.  And there is no milk in this sticky rice sauce, and despite too much broth in the soup there was a moment when the music mixed with the fast motion of the staff here, and their positive energy, and it all came together.  As we weave our way through the narrow entry corridor to the sidewalk, those outside add a final push of value to here even in the moment that it becomes there for us.

Another day.  If I think hard about Paris, recall the summer I lay out on the grass in the park after rising at 5 AM to buy croissants leaving my newlywed spouse to sleep, I feel it  pressing down onto this unusually hot Berkeley street side.  Sitting in the shade at the beginning of a UC Berkeley semester while the heat of Paris comes down onto the roofs of the single-story retail shops on this street.  In other words I sense the world, the hot, dry world, all around me as I sit at my table at the side of the pedestrian way.  Yesterday, deciding how to spend my time while the kids were in school I found I’d divided it up finer and finer until there was little pleasure in it and after a meeting with my boss that morning regarding best sales team strategy I wondered if I’d spent the last minute before 2pm the best way I could.  Actually the minute was well spent, it’s just various other minutes of which I’m unsure.

And today, as always the minutes pass while I, wander?  Not quite, the Uber Pool brought me on a random walk to my several destinations.  A less expensive, erratic path, nevertheless arriving with certainty.  And I wrote during the last-minute again before arriving this time at my house.  No one in it and still it was distracting.  I have a lot of collected experience there.  So much easier to write at a sidewalk cafe…  And I’ve invited the kids to come down here and work with me and they are not here.  So there is a gap between the potential to be with them and the actuality of it.  It all happens in the gap.  A former Berkeley professor called it liminality, the moment that you step from one thing to another.  Really the only moment that matters.  I step from here to Paris to Thailand and back, and you know, all these people driving and walking about North Gate at Cal are doing it too, I’m sure of it.  It begins to feel like home.

Time

My time is subdivided into small pieces.  The pieces twist like scraps of paper in the wind, each blowing away before I can read it.  Sometimes I catch a piece, spread it out, even write something on it before I turn my attention to another matter and the piece snaps out of my hand.  I let it go. So I am accountable, not for the wind but for letting my focus go with it.

If I stop writing now the BART train will carry me on to Oakland, a city filling in gaps between other places in the San Francisco Bay area. I head towards the Center.  San Francisco is less a center than an aspiration while for better or worse Oakland forms the center of gravity, if not the greatest power.  Honestly, the Center of Gravity of the Bay area is likely out in the Bay and south towards the salt flats.  But Oakland is probably the closest city to that center, which is probably just off the industrial shore of the worst part of East Oakland south of the airport.  Oakland’s a rising star but we need to consider the Center of Gravity either the sum of its parts, or better yet the hippest expression of new cuisine near the Uptown BART, or even better Ike’s Love and Sandwiches or a store that sells fine spraypaints for Urban Artists.

Five minutes, or do I have even that?  At my daughter’s music lesson.  Used most of the time reading business articles, and next I shall be cast upon the rest of my Sunday.  Could that possibly be a good thing?  Can I use these remaining moments in this quiet, resonant place to connect with a larger picture.  I have tried.  The Business articles are supposed to connect me with the world of work coming tomorrow.  I intend that this writing should connect me with the world of creative endeavor sustaining me through work and family.  And wouldn’t it be full circle if I reflected positively now upon the family time to come in one minute…

Which minute?  Today I’m parsing the time more carefully than usual.  A Monday, and after the weekend off I feel I must use every minute well.  So, that was a minute waiting for my transfer train back to Berkeley.  Everyone around me seems grumpy, if not despondent.  So it goes.  And despite my fear that trying to create an iPhone app is beyond my reach, I press forward into the unknown…  I have the feeling the fog this morning will give way to sunshine.  Nothing like purpose to create a sense of hope in sheer momentum.  I’ve completed board game projects, why not an app?  The doors of the train open and close.  I’ll be in Berkeley momentarily, then lunch and writing, and the app pursuit as the pinnacle above the rest.

Climbing, climbing to the pinnacle.  If you have read Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead you know about climbing the pinnacle, even if it is pointless.  Even if in the end you’re turned back by your team’s fear of some little thing, some stinging insects–a puny obstacle blocking a truly daunting and terrifying but pointless quest.  But the pinnacle that I seek to climb while eating duck in sweet sauce and sipping a tempranillo that’s a third try best choice here at the Spanish tapas bar, is the same pinnacle that you could guess a person in this society might seek to climb: making an iPhone app.  It’s so logical that I’m going to, laughing, throw in my lot with everyone else in this gold rush of the Third millennium.  And did I mention the buzzing hornets (from Norman Mailer’s novel…)?  I don’t think I’ve reached those yet.  My obstacles are simply the fatigue associated with keeping going, of sourcing and carrying my rations, just making sure my associates have blankets and dry clothes, keeping the body fit to carry on, trying to assure none of my associates falls off a cliff before we get to the top.  We may as well make it to the top because no matter what we’re going to die trying.  No particular morbidity intended.  Just, that’s life, right?

So, lately I’ve been pushing towards that pinnacle because Why not?  And I find the most amazing effect when I push upwards into the high, thin atmosphere of the pinnacle.  I get lightheaded.  Really.  For example, as I push to develop my own iPhone app, surprise, an hour or so a day leads to a huge amount of stress and uncertainty.  Because looking into it shows me how little I know.  Because climbing the pinnacle takes me away from my comfortable surroundings and into cold, clammy clouds, silence, giant blind drops into oblivion as far as I know.  Hanging by one hand on the side of a cloud-covered precipice, I could Just. Climb. Down.  And I do.  Each day that I test myself on this pinnacle, at some point I say to myself OK, time to go do some reading, or, Look, it’s time to take a break, or, My God I’d better deal with This Issue down in the farm kingdoms below where I’ve built  my homestead.  So down from the Pinnacle I come.  And what a relief!

 

 

 

 

French

The Uber driver has Frieda Boccara playing. Why do I like it better when the words are all French?  Happy day, though hard.  Lost my sunglasses, only have ten of forty calls done so far at work.  We’re driving all over Emeryville and Berkeley while a technician waits for me at home.  The driver constantly asking me where to turn.  I’m thankful for what I have: a ride, the chance to write, peaceful music, a sense of well being.  Uber is frothing up the social structure, giving people control over their employment and their travel.  My Uber drivers take Uber, and they seem to come from diverse backgrounds, here in the Bay area, not just the recent African transplants from oil work in North Dakota plus women in their sixties making some cash that we met in Seattle.  The weakness of Seattle is it’s a caste system despite its hipness.  Certain people do certain things.

New day.  Had our inspection for the water leak at home.  Somehow completed more than 55 outbound sales calls today to close the week above my 200 call goal.  Another errand to go, but the downhill side of the week on Friday afternoon.  My goal now to recover, recoup, balance the pressured work with deep breathing and small rewards. Sounds like Frank Sinatra, or similar but more gravelly.  Burger at the Bistro.  Shoe shine, maybe even a back massage.  French, Frank, burgers, fries, what does it matter:  I recall our trip to the Pacific Northwest, to Victoria which I saw for only a few minutes before boarding the tall ship towering over the grassy Landing.  Thank God for recall tying my life together, the promenade deck to my sales and home work engine rooms.

The engine rooms are kind of cool (literally) when I’m not constantly in them.  So, a question:  who is happier here at the Bistro, those who are escaping a life of work, or those who have nothing to do but be here or make their own work?  I see the difference in the make-work.  I make lots of work out of writing and am happy in this.  Each person here must have their own work and make-work and the work is the engine room that powers human happiness.

What are others doing here at Bistro atop Nordstrom in the City?  What does the staff think I’m doing here?  The way I’m dressed on Casual Friday I could be the well put-together husband of a woman shopping.  I think of that when I come here.  I believe that’s what my waitress thinks.  But that’s just a guess and I also guess she doesn’t care.  I tried several months ago to get my game design partners to meet me here to work.  I think they don’t care where we meet, they just don’t want to meet to make work.  So here I am not meeting my partners as the clock ticks and my home work in Oakland beckons.  And Victoria stands in my past, a distant, familiar, strange place out of sync with everything else.  Everyone in that smallish place probably wants to come to San Francisco.  Its allure is it seems to be nowhere and everyone there seems blissfully aware of it.  A trip to nowhere, a suburb out of place and time and not in the United States even though practically surrounded by it.

French is like that mysterious Other surrounded by ordinary speakers yet not a part of them.  So I like it.  On the way to the shoeshine I watch a father and son in Polo shirts and shorts travel down the escalator.  They seem so unlike me and my son and I’m not sure why I feel that.  The boy has a perfect light brown haircut and blue sunglasses.  My son doesn’t have that same pretty-boy look, but will he two years from now?  The man has the crafted grizzled look of an out-of-work movie star but his eyes are hard, as though he usually tells people what to do.  That changes things.  I’ve heard that nearly everyone who has money in America works.  Think of the irony in that.  I suppose the man’s grizzled Polo look trumps either suit-and-tie or my current khaki-and-tie for walking around Nordstom.  To what end?  That’s the thing with appearances.  And of course for value in my book Polo shirts are not exactly mysterious.  I’m trying to be fair, here, and not assign value just because it’s counter to the norm.  Just think, every year this Nordstrom mall gets a little more out-of-date.  And what will replace it?  Someplace that father-and-son will go after others have tread, worn and paved a path, or maybe they themselves are mall designer and designer apprentice, and I will follow them.  At $2.50, Nordstrom has has the cheapest shoeshine I can remember ever seeing.  And on the next escalator I’m behind two Homish guys with what looks like a homemade prayer pillow. Rabbis?  There are a lot of different people here and you know I really don’t know what the Polo dudes are up to.  Perhaps they play their own deeper game.

 

 

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