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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.

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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.

 

 

Happy

Happy for now.  Somehow the good feeling spikes each time I hear a chop of the machete, eight floors down by the cobblestone street.  Seriously, cobblestones.  Does anyone around here realize how valuable is the texture of cobblestones set in cement?  Even more, the irregular pattern, the patches, the inconsistency of it. How nearly impossible it would be to recreate the depth of experience and history of these Mexican cobblestones.  And someone has planted bougainvillea in the hairpin turn down there. The commons works well enough for me in this pinnacle of costly condo development above Puerto Vallarta.

The cathedral bell tolls, like a gong, quickly and frenetically.  Not like Italy, any of this, yet so much like.  I look forward to Spain–I have no idea how cathedral bells toll in Spain.  And just like that we’re out and driving around the Bay of Banderas towards the airport to go home.  Am I happy now?  It’s so hot and dry and, commercial, out here on the busy highway.  I haven’t seen any of the poorer parts of Puerto Vallarta.  Our cab driver says he lives out in the country with three horses.  I gather he’s fortunate.  He speaks calmly and intelligently on a range of topics from the benefits of Spanish to the distance one can see land across the ocean.  He delights in counting the horses beside the road and complements my wife on her Spanish.  The handmade bracelets and the dolphins are behind us.  The frantic cathedral bell.  The walks in the morning to get coffee and sweets.  The quick debates about where to catch a taxi.

Mexico, I don’t question your charms.  What better way to reflect upon them than to next see Spain? Though the idea resonates the moment isn’t happy.  Strange, because now I’m back in the Bay area, though I don’t have to work tomorrow I feel frustrated.  There is talk about our cute dog, oohing and ahhing at photos of her exploits while we were abroad, the kids bang their water bottles they’ve found in the back of the airport limo, and I have a headache.  I feel like everything in the car is happening inside my head as everyone seems to talk at once.  Perhaps it’s just me.  If I relaxed a little maybe I wouldn’t mind so much?  That presupposes I can let go of the pressure I feel to perform so I can travel more.  Let go and be happy.  Maybe I ate something with gluten earlier.  So the headache could be from that.  Welcome home!

I remember sitting on a beach at the end of another trip to Mexico, also Puerto Vallarta.  I’d been traveling that Winter, first to Hawaii, then Mexico.  As we prepared to return home, with our two very young children, I sat with my youngest on the beach while she played on the sand and I watched the sunset from a beach chair next to her.  I said to myself “We’ll come back as often as we like.”  Then life whisked me away, back to California.  And the kids grew up.  I won’t say we came back As Often As I Liked, but I eventually got to plan a train trip with my daughter and read Calvin and Hobbes to her.  Years later I did get to walk down to a restaurant on the beach at Old Town with my son and write while he played on his computer.  From the restaurant I could just about see the Melia, up the bay, where I’d sat most of a decade earlier watching the sunset while my infant daughter played in the sand.  And the decade hadn’t been all bad.  And I could have told myself again that I could come back as often as I’d like.  But I didn’t.  And my son is two-thirds of his way to eighteen, and in ten years these childhoods will be gone.

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.

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.

Fall

French Hotel.  Fall.  Berkeley.  With my Americano I have the sense of times past, Italy and train stations, of wandering freedom.  An older woman sails across the cross walk towards where I sit.  She looks so much like a man I’m sure she is for a long time.  But as she stands and talks with the other elders gathered outside the cafe I see something feminine in her features and then that she wears a dress.  The elders have this guy with them that I’ve seen many times before who is clearly autistic.  They talk as though they’re having a council meeting.  Anyway, not that the dress is definitive, just that it confirms by observation that the person’s features are distinctly feminine.

I’m waiting for pickup time for my kids.  Late in the day and only three p.m.  There’s something old-style about this cross walk with all the old people using it, as though a bridge back to the sixties and seventies, whether by way of seventy-year-olds who were in their twenties and thirties then, or by way of people in their twenties and thirties who carry yoga mats and dress in seventies styles now.  What’s the difference if you put them into a place like Berkeley where all can focus internally on their own life path?  The youngsters have more natal chi, but they waste it.  The elders floating across the cross walk or gathering for their meetings hoard it and use it…to what end?  The circle: young frivolous seriousness and old serious frivolity.  Where is my coffee; this is a bit much for my fifty-year-old brain, halfway between thirty and seventy.  But those ages don’t matter, do they, all in the mix.  More important I’m half-way between 20 and 80.  Those are real ages, moments in life when we’re something unmistakable.  Logical follow-on question: at fifty, am I an unmistakable age, or am I unmistakably mistakable in my place in this continuum?

The cross walk is an old crossing in front of the BMW’s and Acura’s today.  Actually I bet it’s newer than the traffic lights at the two nearest corners.  A mid-block cross walk to a cafe.  Those cars have to stop or-at-least-slow-down while oldsters and youthful acolytes drift across their way like ducks or metal targets. Microcosm of Berkeley.  The French Hotel, Gourmet Ghetto next to the cross walk is not gourmet and seems the opposite of ghetto.  The opposite of a ghetto would be a truly integrated city, and Berkeley isn’t.  Berkeley is nearly a ghetto town in which each ghetto is a ghetto of one single person living a fantasy of his or her own.  How well I fit with the misfits…

I feel my most recent work here was one of those targets, floating through time, shot down by an undeciphered error message while I sat at a little table in a new restaurant serving oversize sushi rolls.  Sumo.  I trusted their wi-fi network, thought I was so smart, and all the updates since the elder crossing were lost.  Now I climb from Sumo to the Rotunda at Neiman Marcus.  This feels like a ladies’ place with all these salads.  I mean tell me if I’m wrong about that, I didn’t even look for the steak, just accepted what they suggested for me; I always love trying the press-button solution.  And it’s good.  I would hazard to say it’s better than what they have at the Nordstrom Bistro on top of that institution.  And the wine seems pretty good.  I’d love to see a comparison of how much food, wine and experience quality you get for the dollar at different places.  Can you guess my guess?  I propose it would be the-more-you-pay-the-better-it-is.  I know practically everyone who writes about things or pursues things tries to get a deal, tries to see how one thing is better than another for reasons other than price.  Do you see the fallacy?  All these people writing about things and thinking about things are the ones making sure that it’s an even playing field: if one restaurant is a relative bargain then everyone will want to go there and try it (long lines theory of quality).  If a restaurant is overrated in terms of price per increment of value then fewer people will attend and I can’t help thinking it will be in a hotel (or a department store?) and people in pajamas will be nursing coffee refills at three in the afternoon, or a stampede will be there at 9:30am if you happen to be there then.  The point: my wife says I’m a hedonist and I’m having a pretty darn good glass of wine many floors above Union Square at 2:30 in the afternoon.  I bet the people around me are filthy rich but what do I care, I’m not going to try to proselytize them, in fact I’d rather read about the downfall of the Comanche empire a century and a half ago than look at their pale white hair, their clenched Asiatic jowls, or listen to them go on about how the project the one hired the other to do was so…successful?  Just a project.  I bet the white-hairs have made real contributions to the University of California, San Francisco, the Asians own a lot of San Francisco property and I’ve called them on the phone before, and the interior designers know someone whom I could use for both my home remodel and the exterior project in North Oakland.  Just being practical, there is no way in I’m going to approach any of them.  Oh well.  I find in writing this out I’ve actually generated a wish to do exactly what I am saying I shall not do, make contact.  Deep breath.  Other projects first.  Maybe in a dining car on a train through Russia.

Break. Work for several hours, receive relentless complements on my cuff links, sweater, hat and tie, buy Christmas presents for the kids, read about the Comanches, eat, drink wine and write.  That’s a perfect day. I found a Chinese restaurant in a Chinese mall today with a tiny front filled with hanging ducks and went back inside to where they don’t speak English well.  The hostess shooed another patron over so I could sit at the big round table and there I read about the Comanches and ate steak with brownish sauce.  Good.

How many things I could do.  I didn’t expect to find presents for the kids here at this other mall (Nordstrom, Westfield) in San Francisco.  But I did. There’s a building I’m selling that I’d really like to look at, but as darkness falls and I’m burdened with two bags of presents I won’t venture into that neighborhood.  Not the plan but here’s what is:  another day. I’ll come back (maybe tomorrow!) and I’ll see that building. God help me my source of energy is this balance of personal pursuit with work.  If I had gone up to that building today after already exceeding the planned time on real estate work it would have led me to a place where I’m less happy, less successful, less alive.  Dangerous abyss one skirts working for oneself, working sales.  I must keep some balance or lose all hope.

Fall.  Nordstrom Bistro.  So many meetings this week and last week. I’m swimming in them.  December 16.  That’s Fall, but barely.  So many meetings that my life is swim, meet, eat, family.  Answer emails and make a few calls. Field questions from clients. Write. Wonder why it feels like a treadmill. Start over the next day.  I’m on the outside looking in at my life, in a way.  How can I get back in?  Hello, you at the table at the Nordstrom Bistro, listening to Frosty the Snowman, sipping Cabernet, asking your assistant to do things for you.  Yes you.  You’re buying a charmed life.  Hope the tab isn’t more than you can pay.  Hope you’re having fun.

And you know what?  I am having fun.  For seventeen years now I’ve been grinding away at real estate and I actually like real estate.  So that’s lucky. I like writing too, and the real estate seems to support that as the late almost shortest-day-of the-year sun reflects off a seven story building for a moment into my eyes atop Nordstrom.

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