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You get to pick one

Saturday 8/5/23

When a person says, "It's not about me," what they almost always mean is, "It's totally about me! Hooray for me!" Be aware.

Encountered this bit of wisdom from a social media sage: "Better to be alone, then in bad company."

Yep. Confident they have that figured out.

Yesterday I saw where someone wrote, "It was kind of transcendent." No, it wasn't. It was or it wasn't. You get to pick one. Stick with it.

I was reading in the cafe Thursday, which meant I had my head down. My table was not far from the door. A woman had come in and you could tell that she thought she was a remarkable beauty and an overall very special person. An individual of great note. Had this air of entitlement.

She looked like someone who would be a nightmare to try and deal with. Someone who expected things to be given to her, said to her, done for her. She was attractive in one way, but one would be unwise--or have to be what is these days called "thirsty"--to give her a second look, let alone have anything to do with her.

She had this tiny Yorkshire terrier. Small even for that breed--not as big as a Nerf football. The dog wasn't on a leash. I saw him first, because he, being down so low, was more within the field of my vision, and then I looked up at his owner, who was also talking to him.

It can say something when someone brings their dog into an eatery. You're really not supposed to, but usually at cafes the staff aren't hard asses about it, though at Starbucks--which this wasn't--they'll chase you and the dog out if you're sitting there instead of just passing through. But when you don't even have the dog on a leash in the cafe, I feel like that's revealing about you. You're treating that place like you own it and can do whatever you wish.

Anyway, I return to my book and making my notes in the margins, when I hear the voice of the woman again. She's returned to the door, to hold the door open for a woman--young, able-bodied--entering the cafe with a stroller containing her child. The owner of the Yorkshire terrier says, "Takes me back to my days when people were jerks and wouldn't get up to open the door for me and just sat there."

I'm really the person this was meant for, because I'm a guy and I'm closest to the door.

First of all, if you're near the door, you can't get up and hold the door for every woman who comes in with a stroller. It's not some old woman who needs help. It's someone who elected to produce offspring and that means going around and opening doors when you're out and about, because that's life. That was part of that choice. No one can expect someone busy with something to stand up eighteen times an hour and play doorman.

I didn't even see this woman and her stroller anyway, with the whole reading and looking downwards thing.

And I just thought, "What a..."--I need not mention the word my mind (correctly) summoned--regarding the woman with the dog. Really, lady? This is what you do with your days? Because if you do this once during the day, you do it throughout your day at each and every place you go. You drip your nasty, toxic attitude everywhere.

Do you know, too, how ridiculous and desperate and crazy you'd look getting up to hold the door for everyone who came in with a stroller? As soon as you sat down, you'd be back up. It's not like you're both going in at the same time, and you hold the door then. And I'm that guy who holds the door for someone, and twenty other people just keep coming through with nary a thank you, because of course I'm that guy. No one is more likely to be that guy.

I felt bad for the dog, to be honest. Sure, he's probably spoiled near to death, but he must know what this woman is all about living with her and all, as I knew after thirty seconds.

My nephew and nieces are coming to Boston next week, so I will see them and we will go on the Swan Boats together. Getting scalped yesterday at the barber. Hair was unkempt--I don't own a comb or a brush, so it just goes the way it goes--and with the headband on my hair made for this strange tuft atop my head.

Ever since I first read the Bible as a kid, I've mulled that line about how it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich person to get into the kingdom of heaven. Why was I reading the Bible? Did I come from some crazy religious family? No. I read the Bible for the same reason why I read My Turn at Bat, The Brother's Karamazov, Lady Sings the Blues, The Mystery of the Green Ghost, and Typee. I read everything. Not because I loved reading and that was the main reason. It was because of what I was. I knew before I could read that I was a writer and I was here in order to write. I knew that as much as I have ever known anything. It was bigger than myself. But I knew it--from my first remembered thoughts--more than I even understood what my name was. I entered the world as that thing.

It's only recently, though, that I've understood what is really meant by that line. It's about power. With money comes power. We've seen throughout these pages how petty the forms of power can be. Look at pathetic people like Christopher Beha at Harper's and the likes of Speer Morgan and Evelyn Somers at The Missouri Review. Bigots such as Rebecca Markovits and Adeena Reitberger at American Short Fiction (entry coming about them soon pertaining to another bigot named J. Robert Lennon, the editor of a literary journal called Epoch and who teaches at Cornell University, and the email he sent the bigoted American Short Fiction clowns--who had hooked him up, of course--after I caught him in the act of discrimination against me).

But you can be on the condo board, you can be an admin of a Facebook group about film noir, you can be the shift manager at Starbucks. It doesn't matter what it is--people want power, no matter how small that power may actually be, and if they weren't an asshole already, they become one then. You would have to go through millions of people who, when given power--and again, it can be this nothing version of power, with low stakes--would remain or be a good person. That's what it means. It's not about money, per se. It's about power.

Power can be some man-hating woman with purple hair who gets the best book she's ever seen, but because of her position, she can turn that book down from this person she sees as worlds above her. She has the power in that moment. Do you know how few people aren't going to try to even that score when they get that chance? Not that they can. But they sure as hell aren't going to help send that other someone who represents those things to them on their way, even if it's this tiny way at that. Not if they can help it. Being able to do that in that situation is what they live for, such as they live at all. They don't, really.

As for heaven and what that means--salvation is something that you carry around inside of you. The word doesn't matter. It's something you house. It's a way you are. It's a fundamental goodness, no matter what. No matter what is done to you. And by being this thing, living as this being, with intention and goodness, you live a life of faith. And that's not about Jesus and God and whatever those things may or may not be. It's what you embody. And there comes a time or a place when that time and that place embody you, because of how you have lived, how you are. It's complicated. But it begins with what is housed within you. And what that is is sacred. It's to be protected. Held up and followed, even within yourself. By sacred I don't mean it has to do with a church or a religion. A chant, a prayer. It is that thing that has true power. The guiding power. The good power.

I believe its ultimate manifestation is art, where truth and beauty have their zenith--a human zenith, with something of the beyond, too, so that there's always something to follow and continue towards, no matter how evolved we become--just as I don't believe anymore that you can be a horrible person and make true art to go into people's lives, hearts, and souls, to either add to that power they have within, or help them find that power within.

You can have flaws, certainly. But if you're not a person of fundamental, unshakable goodness who seeks to be and bring light to others, I don't think you can make true art. That's only part of it. One part. Which speaks to how difficult it is to make art that is really art. How rare such people have always been. With all that is needed. The ability, the imagination, the focus, the vision, the strength, the purpose, the discipline, the courage, the understanding of human nature, the empathy, the ability to enter all lives as if each last life was one's own, the understanding of what's behind the veil, the mysteries and their reasons why. I'm not talking about bullshit. David Foster Wallace and Paul Harding and George Saunders and Lydia Davis and just bullshit. I mean actual art.

My mother met her new primary care physician the other day. It was a twenty-month waiting period. She had her check-ups in the meanwhile with a nurse practitioner. I have no idea why the wait was this long. This new doctor, who is my age, spent an hour with my mother, who asked me--half-jokingly--if I had spoken to her. I had not, of course. But the reason she asked was because this doctor said to her things I've been saying to her. Walk. Exercise. Don't drink. Drink water. Be present. See. Separate. Don't bundle emotion with reason.

She put her on a routine where she's supposed to do this many minutes on the treadmill every day, then stretch, then meditate. The doctor asked my mom how much she drank, my mom said four drinks a week, like a glass of wine with dinner, and the doctor said, nope, too much, cut it down to two and have sixteen ounces of water after each time. Drinking, the more you look into it, just isn't worth it. Any amount. Just isn't. Your body is better off alcohol-free. Obviously people can still drink within reason and be fine, but all things being equal, just cut it out if you can. The doctor seemed to be very no nonsense and also hues to a more holistic approach. I was simply expecting my mom to just have a new doctor, but when I got the lowdown I thought, hmmm, this is pretty good.

I have been joking about writing a book called Drink Your Way to Health, because I'm a huge believer that you can really influence your health by what you drink. People think it's just food that matters, in terms of what goes in the gullet. I think you control a lot with liquids. I actually could write that book. It'd be funny. A memoir of an ex-drinker of no less than 150K units of alcohol, who has all of these weird non-alcohol drinking routines now. But look how it's worked, right? Obviously the stairs (different book) have played their formidable part, but I wholly believe in the value of what I'll call salubrious drinking and I think I'm pretty good living proof that there's something to this.

Ran 5000 stairs yesterday, to bring the total for that now-concluded week to 30,000. The other day I walked to Charlestown after running the City Hall stairs, just to get in a few miles and also did a quick Monument circuit. This is from the way back, on Prince Street. I've charted my various physical states in this window/mirror over the years, like it's the constant.


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