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Late

Am I late?  I know the feeling so well.  Today I board BART  at 8:03 AM.  My goal to be at my desk making calls at 8 AM.  That makes me late…Or do I make myself late?  Walked down to the station rather than taking an Uber, that pretty much made the difference.  Talked with my wife about plans for the coming week.  That made the difference.  Played mini-basketball with my son.  Of course you can add up each little thing or you can pick them out one by one.  Each one makes the difference.  What’s the net product?  I’d rather be late like this than on time missing any one of these things.

Maybe the real feeling of being late that rankles is the feeling of being out of control.  If I’m late by choice it’s OK.  If I pretend it’s not by choice, my whining causes damage to my self.  The train sits at the sunny BART terminal at MacArthur and I see an attractive woman with slumped shoulders.  I have to say she doesn’t appear attractive. Maybe just for an instant before the slumped shoulders registered.  It’s like being late: if you think you’re late and you slump sadly then you’re the essence of late, you’re the self-condemning late person rather than the cheerful late person, and that makes all the difference, doesn’t it?

Now I’m on time, at this moment, because I’m doing the one thing I’ve agreed to do right now.  Write.  Even though not everything went as planned today, I said I’d call the Uber at 4:45PM and start writing for 45 minutes at that time.  Even if I haven’t written for every second of the time, I have done it.  Even pulled a picture of a tree taken against the sky and placed it onto this post.  Why?  Because we all know the tree is not late.  And I’m supposed to switch to going for a run at 5:30 PM, and no, I’m not required to do that while in the Uber as long as it gets me home within another 15 minutes.  So I could be on time for that too.

Here’s the real challenge.  As I was stepped into the elevator to go down to the Uber I could feel it.  The resistance.  Inchoate.  Resistance to actually sitting in an Uber and doing my writing the whole way.  And that is the failure, not the reading of emails, the quick playing a round of a video game.  The failure would be in that tired moment at the elevator.  So I said to myself, at that moment, look at your reflection in the elevator doors, face the resistance because this is it, here.

So, am I late?  Only when not present.  One thing we do that trees probably don’t do:  pretend this isn’t really happening.  I’m thankful for all the things I can do that aren’t getting to work on time.  I’d still like to set a time and be there.  More important to me, to set a goal and reach it.  More important still, to have a clear intention and stand with that.  So my various intentions are to follow through with some core goals, and deliverables in service to these goals.  Such as spending time with my kids, making creative contributions to the world, as for example building applications and writing on subjects that others actually read.  Things I’m excited to be present for.

There comes the tricky part.  I know in principle, what I want to do.  Yet in practice it’s easier to oscillate between two states: reacting to what’s at hand and recuperating from that.  Do you notice those two things can describe a life?  Technically I’m outside the iron trap now to the extent I’m not either reacting to the command to write nor escaping from my life through writing complete crap.  But guess what lies outside the trap?  A wasteland.  Yes, you step out for a second and there you are in a beautiful, terrible and bare place where it’s cold (or unbearably hot), you have no apparent sustenance, and no one to help you.  That’s how I feel, anyway.  The iron trap:  answer emails, then, after an hour or two, go to the cafe and try to forget.  The wilderness: instead of playing a video game, checking email, jumping on the Web while I sip my coffee, I write.  And the most wildernessy thing about the Wilderness is stepping into it.  That’s when the resistance reaches such a peak that to submit to the desire to not move forward seems very pleasurable: “What, you dare to set aside email responsibilities (pleasure of checking, of addressing, of deleting) to create something new?”  Surely not now.  And the pleasure of just a momentary diversion–can’t I do that first?  Or, wait, what about just writing now.  Well, it’s either now or else I’ll be late for life.

Center of Gravity

If you live in the San Francisco Bay area you live in reference to the City, San Francisco.  Yet interestingly that city is on the westernmost edge of the continent.  So everyone in the Bay area faces west until they get to the City, then they stop.  Does San Francisco face west?  Arguably it has been the portal to the Pacific.  But I wonder which way San Francisco does face?  First thought is inward, as it tries to incorporate its exterior constituencies into itself.  The city contains much Pacific Rim culture, China, Southeast Asia, Japan, Australia.  It contains Pacific Northwest.  And more of late it contains Silicon Valley.  For better or for worse.  On a recent trip through Silicon Valley to Cupertino, through Los Altos and out to Santa Cruz I noted, as always, the oak trees, open hilly spaces,  mid-century architecture.  There’s no way San Francisco contains that.  But the life of Silicon Valley, those young hipsters, they face San Francisco and San Francisco consumes them.  So who will win, the oak hillsides of Sand Hill or the restaurants and bars of the City?  The secret is the South Bay was always a staging area or a retreat from the City.  So you enjoy your horse farm and your vineyard in the hills south of San Francisco precisely because you can afford a retreat from the City.

I grew up in the East Bay.  The light industrial side of things.  There are so many people out there, UC Campus, lots of malls and community colleges.  It’s not the heavy industry of the areas immediately north and east of San Francisco, the refineries and former shipyards.  Just lots of people spreading out towards Mount Diablo, washing around it actually, a 4,000 foot mountain that will get a tiny bit of snow sometime during the winter on its deserty scrub and oaky slopes.  The dreams of those people are dreams under an oak tree in summer, ephemeral and gentle.  I see my high school classmates becoming more and more puffy and hunched over as they walk.  I suppose the best of them are like oak trees with a solid, enduring air.  Anyway, that is Walnut Creek.  I had a taste of Concord, also, with its working classes and cheese cooperatives, back in the 1970s.  Who knows what they do now in Concord.  I think it’s a back office city, so what goes on there is subsumed within the expression of multinational corporations to the world at large.  Seen in downtown Walnut Creek, where everything is actually sold.  A hub within the East Bay, a Chicago for the Bay Area.  And what of the Bay area’s Atlanta?  How will Oakland fare this time when it has taken some of the wind out of Little Chicago’s sails?  The wind blows through but as yet no large cranes catch the air and drive development forward.  Will they come this year?

In the meantime I can go to San Francisco to write, or just kick it in one of these other cities.  There’s a ferry from here to Oakland, the 3rd nicest city to live in in the US.  Or I can just have lunch here in the City and remember eating out with my family in Seattle which looks towards San Francisco past the heads of certain high tech giants.  We had a great week there and I can sit here and look back on that week in the city that looks back at San Francisco.  Yes a lot of mirrors and reflection.  And fewer beards here, less competition there.  You notice that’s two things about Seattle, not about San Francisco.  The consumer and the consumed — in a gritty reality contest you know Seattle would win.  But that’s like a contest between the brain and the stomach, the parent and the child, the theatergoer and the director.  Who is in charge?  Who writes the script and who approves it?

The Financial District is a bit unexplored for me.  I’m in a little burger bistro on a restaurant alley I didn’t know about.  It’s 1:30 and everyone suddenly left, except a few of us.  A couple of executives, a man with his sister, two men at the bar looking like they need to discuss important matters with the bartender, a big man and a woman at a high table.  The fast kids left.  Back to work.  The buildings are tallest here.  The water pretty far away.  These pedestrian alleys are cool, right in the shadow of the TransAmerica tower.  The servers seem happy.  Everything is so fast, how could anyone complain?  In the mania of it it almost feels like it doesn’t matter what all of us is doing, just that we’re doing something, and we care.  Counterpoint, my junior colleague at work chooses a pace that gives him lots of time for self-doubt and moaning and groaning.  What’s the point?  Why not drown your doubts and sorrows in enthusiasm and more work, instead?  The doubts and sorrows may go away.

What about me?  I definitely need to keep the momentum going.  And so I go in to work and scream through my calls for the day, finishing them quickly so I can shift focus to follow-ups and projects.  It’s like I’m in a whole different world from my junior colleague.  This woman calls me from Paris and says I’ve promised her an offer on her building.  I have people lined up to gather the info we need, analyze it, write the offer, schedule a follow-up call.  We will execute.  Meanwhile I hear the song Jessie’s Girl playing and celebrate Bruce’s enthusiasm but not his assumed pathos.  If you want a girl like Jessie has, you just have to go out and get her.  Probably in San Francisco, although that is one of the places in this world where you’d have to work harder than anywhere else.  Better try Chicago or maybe some weird hub city like Cincinnati?  Berlin?  Rio?  Goa?  Just don’t stay in that little suburb that Bruce is singing about, where everyone holds on to what they have as prosperity slips away.  Then you’d just have to be satisfied as Jessie’s sidekick.  What girl wants to go out with a sidekick?  Sidekick girl.  Still, that would be a more wholesome song than Jessie’s Girl, much more Marvel.

Over a thousand words.  I have a secret for you.  Wait for it.  Tainted Love plays and all but one of the guys at the bar and a big group praying in the corner leave.  One quiet male couple arrives to snack on sliders and salad…but we’re energized by the unseasonable heat and the Herculean efforts of those who have already gone back to work.  Those two guys don’t seem worried.  Seems like they could be sitting in Puerto Vallarta.  Maybe they own the restaurant.  Thank you, calm, shorts guys; if there’s anything I actually like better than Puerto Vallarta it’s idealizing Puerto Vallarta, and reliving the moments there that seem to have just the right combination of otherworldly and familiar, gay American and homophobic Mexican (or will Donald Trump and Jessie and his Girl have it the other way around?  Homophobic American and permissive, tolerant, long-suffering Mexican).  Just as an aside, Hillary Clinton actually called all of us racist in her effort to highlight the racism of Donald Trump.  Better to admit it and try to change it than to cover it up and have it come belching out under the influence of whatever makes us feel at home.  A woman stomps out of the corporate group praying to the ideals embodied by the leader, the one paying for lunch, in her high-ish heels — a commonplace late Admin exit.  You can hear someone bossily expounding over there.  Almost 2 PM.  Can she finish up in time to catch the Clinton/Trump debate t0night?  Did I mention it’s hot today.  Oh yes, but down here in the artificial valleys of the financial district there are cool breezes and U2 plays.  We shift quickly, here.  Mad rush to cool afternoon.  You find your place.  The secret is this place is not essentially different from Puerto Vallarta, or that pathetic town where Jessie’s sidekick watches his girl.  I have a feeling Puerto Vallarta and Sidekick Girl beat Jessie in his San Francisco suit every day.  The secret is Jessie dreams of escape and he’s probably always had a thing for Sidekick Girl.

 

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.

The Great Outdoors

It’s the name of the dining area I’m at with my kids on the stern of the smaller mega-cruise ship coming into Victoria. The fruit is ripe today and the captain announces it’s sunny. Fresh ground coffee from the machine. Breeze light across my face as the kids play on a computer.  Some magic happens and I later think this moment on the deck came after Victoria.  There’s nothing after Victoria — we wake up and we’re on the dock in Seattle again and the electricians are tearing open the ceiling panels in the hallways and the show has ended.

Back in Oakland remembering this trip — I mainly feel a desire for a vacation (vacation from the vacation), to sit by the pool at a Mexican condominium, to walk past the pool in the 9 AM morning cool and see a caretaker cleaning and know I’ll be able to sit next to that pool later, in a languorous early afternoon with a drink.  The kids, happily playing…  There may be a discussion of heading downtown to the beachside cafes.  There must be a way to not complain that pools on cruise ships are crowded and not relaxing.  Part of the Mexico vision I’m having is the ground doesn’t sway under my feet and it’s quiet, so quiet and empty in that condo complex, except for that one worker tending to a hose, or probably walking off to check on something elsewhere.  Probably not even around, in the cool morning uphill from the beach resort, with the fresh-cut grass and the little broad-leafed plants everywhere about the pool.

Had a gluten-free waffle in Berkeley after my seventeen-day trip to Seattle and Alaska.  Good enough.  Main thing is my choice to go there — I don’t usually get to.  The Heirloom where I got my waffle is particularly disliked by others in my family.  It seems there isn’t enough salt.  And true, some or most dishes are odd, even undesirable.  So how can I complain if they complain?  The problem is I’m seeking an experience significantly about anticipation and the process of discovery.  So knowing a lot of the dishes are wacky doesn’t stop me wanting to go in, appreciate the manicured garden, sip their yellow turmeric digestif and anticipate the gluten-free desert and waffle.  Found medium-rare meatballs to eat with the waffle.  More than good enough.

At a place in San Francisco I haven’t previously liked, Volta.  In the city officially to get a new wallet because mine’s falling apart.  Truly here to reclaim sanity, the process of coming to Volta shaded by intent different than culinary pursuit, intent to survive emotional hits, intent to establish a beachhead of sanity.  Pretty sure that’s what I do most of the time.  Is that what we all do, or am I different?  A song plays here by Carla Bruni; I don’t understand a word.  That’s the point of it being French.  Someone told me that I’m only happy for ten minutes when I’m sipping Cabernet — was that the same person who told me, earnestly, that I’m much more easy to get along with when I’ve been drinking?  I have found a good Cabernet and I enjoy Volta.  And I’m certain that I must sometime more thoroughly evaluate that statement from years past about the drinking.  There is a Buddhist teacher who says your neuroses come to light when you drink?  All right well we all know it is used as a social lubricant…  Laughter from another patron coming in with her partner mingles with a song, Autumn Leaves, still no English.  Volta is a concept and they have a good playlist.  I could live a long time on Dr. Who episodes and the Volta playlist.  So what if their herring tastes like it comes from that same Costco jar at home?

And the trip?  Seventeen days, maybe more, following several in Santa Clara for the Olympic Trials.  And the Intel museum.  Busy month.  Wondered the whole time whether my job was bringing me forward in life.  A good question not necessarily best asked while traveling, but then again what better time?  The answer, now I’m back for the first day in weeks?  Not nearly enough.  Daniel Amen, M.D., publishing writer, says we’re supposed to think positive thoughts.  My thought is I’m not accelerating in my career.  A seventeen day trip tells me that.  Tells me I must get moving again, and faster.  Who knows, with a few gluten-free waffles, an occasional trip to a Mexican poolside, and lots of writing and reflection, I may become more productive and successful in real estate sales.

Out of the frying pan into the fire.  Instead of travel now it’s the day-to-day.  If I write quickly, eating this halibut chowder supposedly-not-full-of-cream at Volta, listening to their music skipping forward when a song comes up the powers-that-be don’t like, will that save me?  I remember wanting to go on the submarine ride at Disneyland and I was too small.  The image of burning blue flames from a little highbrow bar-restaurant on College Ave in Rockridge right on the border of Berkeley and Oakland reflects the locus of desire for beauty imprisoning me.  Burning.  On my way to a pricey restaurant I didn’t previously like, passing two choices closed up or at least not open on Mondays, I walked over so much human urine and past so many lost homeless and was asked over and over how to get somewhere or buy a BART ticket, and so came to doubt my quest was valid, began to feel myself a tawdry lost soul wandering in the 11:40am August heat, the stink of urine rising up to the sun and the gods and the empty wasteland of the sky.

While I ponder, the soup I just ate sits for the moment happily in my stomach and I buy a copy of the song Birds by Emiliana Torrini and remember being in Florence writing for a month and can’t help wondering whether I can just write and somehow all will be OK.  My client who has corresponded with me for three years about selling his building texts me that his knee is much better.  Real estate brokerage is such a tease.  Can I work for several hours and then write, suspended amongst several pinion points — kids demands: travel, activity and dining options limited by them.  Work demands: time and life choices limited by those?

Victoria was beautiful.  I got my family to go to a little gastropub in the young Canadian suburb with only moments (hours, minutes) to stop before our cruise set sail.  Ended up a late night on the ship.  We made it back.  Our final stop, bracketed by breeching orcas and pushing my chair in on the cruise deck for the multitudes to pass while I sip my coffee while the kids delve into their videogame.  A whole pod of orcas, by the way.  But Victoria, so small, so green and humble, the pub in a nondescript shopping center.  A second or third rate musician singing live while we ate mussels and I sipped red wine.  That moment with wife and kids, bracketed, but invisibly, by other events, remains in my memory as a moment of departure.  Perhaps because it was my one true venture into Canada in a seventeen day trip on its borders.  Canada was different, even more different than Alaska.  And this was the European trip called off and re-planned as Pacific Northwest because of terrorism.  And the cruise ship was the same.  So amidst the taxidermy, the outdoor passion and the nativism of Alaska, the urbane, San Francisconess-with-beards of Seattle, the hollow,  cattle-run opulence and excitement about what’s on stage of the cruise ship, rests this tiny gem of European flair.  And upon my return it falls to me to choose celebration of that which is worthy or losing myself in details that don’t matter in the end.

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.

Cool

It’s cool under my mother-in-law’s house.  Here and more important writing I feel free even safe. The thump and crack of my youngest’s gymnastics on the floor upstairs is background.  Loud voices, television, blend with the whoosh of cars from the street farther down the hill.  Into my thoughts of the day.  I email my CPA, talk to my son, text my mom, view a LinkedIn post and a Facebook photo.  I feel the freedom to write or not and the texture of the moment, of my breath as I lie back on this little bed my wife’s mom has down here.  Making the feel of the moment mine.

Earlier I finished Tom Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow.  No need.  Partway through it was clearly about taking control of the moment.  You let life carry you along or you take charge.  Tom Cruise gets the opportunity to try over and over.  Getting it right could take ten tries.  Or, despite the repeated chances it may never happen.  One could just take a half-step back, slow down, and do it now.  All I have to do is take control enough to feel it, to know I’ve done it…

When I’m not in control…is that when I’m uncomfortable with the way things are going, as when I’m with family and my situation seems out of balance because the kids are screaming, I’m tired and something seems missing?  Or is losing control when I feel good, like while playing a computer game or watching a movie?  If the latter, being in control is more difficult to test than just noticing that I feel good.  That could be taking control if I were purely a hedonist.  I’ve decided writing, reflecting and looking at sunsets is taking charge, but not because it’s hedonistic, because it’s a practice.  And taking charge happens in the actual moment, not just from stepping back.  It’s about technique.  The act is everything.  Take perspective; take action.

I could start a new vignette now at Cafe Strada.  Touchpoint: years ago my wife and I would walk here from the other end of town.  We’re closer now and I come with my children who listen to the students.  It was blazing hot while I worked on my taxes, ate and walked.  It was hot at home and the kids fought.  My wife was calm, thank God, but it was not cool there and no escape from the day though still early.  The early evaporated into consultation with my CPA and the next thing I knew I was across UC campus at Strada with my daughter on her bike and it was after six and she was pretty much not interfering with my writing.  And it was cool.

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