I have been depressed lately despite the fact that I’m on vacation, I’m just not happy. I am very concerned for a far away friend who may be having a health crisis and I can’t do anything but pray and hope. The fact that I am reaching the end of my available cash and will be back on austerity within a week or two is not helping matters any, and I am very unhappy with the state of the world in general, as I have mentioned before in my writing. The job market is again on the down turn, my brother is out of work…again! I’m going broke subsidizing the family income. But it’s the lack of culture here that I find so frustrating. In New York no matter what your into you can find something to do at almost any hour, and many things are free or cheap. I love having a garden and growing veg and flowers, but you have to drive everywhere if you want entertainment. Living in the suburbs is nice to a point , but there is just nothing to do around here day or night. Unless you want to hang round in a bar or go to the movies, there is nothing much to do but shop or eat out. The thing I am most sad about is the total lack of friends, especially friends in the arts or literary world, you get to a certain age and you don’t have the opportunity to make friends anymore. This week has been hot and humid and I spent all my energy last week on a walking tour of New York’s Chinatown on Friday and then two days of prepping the house and garden for a family Forth of July celebration on Monday. So by Tues I was completely exhausted and yet at the same time restless and just couldn’t get out of my own way.
I just finished reading Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” and my desire to be an expat in Paris reared its ugly head once again, the” lost generation” might have been lost but they lived in a time when it was good to be alive and everything was cheap and accessible. I know I’m typing on a computer that wouldn’t have been available back then, but I still feel that we lost much when we passed the age of telegrams and typewriters. It seems then it was still possible to live well on a stipend from a parent or the advance of a publisher. I think the thing I desire is a simpler life in a far away place, some sort of escape from the misery of the modern world and all its problems. I know the recent case of an Casey Anthony; the allegedly killer mother, whose daughter drowned possibly out of neglect, makes my concerns sound like the whining of a child. But guess what; that young mother who will go free. Is already receiving offers in the millions to appear on talk shows as soon as she gets that magic get out of jail free card. That kind of money could put me in the position to make my life what I want it to be. There will be no offer like that coming my way any time soon, since I will not be committing any crimes-except of course excessive complaining and ranting.
So I have spent a few days being miserable, driving around aimlessly looking for that which I just can’t find.Finally, I realized I was wasting time. Next week when I’m back at work at that miserable hot counter listening to the sounds of air tools and screaming bosses, I will look back on this and kick myself. So I picked up my dry cleaning and even though I didn’t want to spend the money, I joined my mom and brother at an Indian restaurant nearby for an excellent buffet lunch. Afterward I decided to go to the liquor store.
Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off – then, I account it high time to get to the liquor store. I am quoting a bit of Melville’s “Moby Dick”, one of my favorite books and one that I used to great advantage to get an A+ on my term paper for English 101 in college. I go here as a kind of spa, not for the wearing of mud on one’s body and cucumber on the eyes, but rather for the wearing of a smile on ones face. There is an enormous cast of characters to amuse a dull spirit and chief among these is my good friend Sam.
What can I say about Sam, he is the kind of guy that can make anyone feel special, he has a good line of bull too. He has a heart of gold and every customer wants to see him. I am one of the people who is allowed in the back office to shoot the breeze and tackle some of life’s mysteries with Sam, he also respects my taste in wine and it guides his purchases for the store. Sams brother Tommy is a great guy, he has been sharing his knowledge of Sommelier school with me and has been brushing up on his studies again, I like to think I inspired that to some degree. He is married to Evelyn, who also works full-time. My buddy Evelyn is my foodie friend and a good listener, she knows more about my life than my last therapist and never judges me, just offers what I need… positive support and friendship. I don’t know Christine too well, she is Evelyn s daughter and they fight in a quiet funny way as only mothers and daughters can, but she is interesting and a whiz with technology. The co-owner Jamie is a funny mom with great stories about her travels and the tribulations of being a mother, and some recipe advice for my foray into Greek cooking. Jamie is the kind of fun, energetic woman I would like to meet, someone who knows how to live well but not spend foolishly. Then there’s Carina, she is not around much anymore, she is going to be a teacher and is in school much of the time now. But those kids are going to get one of the nicest, bubbly, happy teachers they’ll ever see, I hope they don’t ruin all that positive energy. Lastly, there is Gene. He comes in and does the grunt work and the shelves and dusting part-time, he actually has the job I wanted. Gene is a riot, he messes with Sam and Evelyn and cracks me up with his provocation.
The cast of characters that come in to the store is as varied as the shelves of wine and spirits. I sit in a stool on the side of the counter and hold court a little and watch and listen to the stories and the antics. There’s the dog lady who is very reserved unless she has been drinking, then she is a fascinating study in unrestrained behavior. The friendly guy who is shaking hands with everyone because he’s high and buys little airport bottles of cheap Hooch to add to the buzz. The loud ba-da-bing guys who are too numerous to name whose antics with Sam include hugging, high fives, and occasional gropes. There is the bad foot lady who I also see at the food store who is always got a story to tell. The trio of lesbian fire fighters, several gay couples who are impeccably dressed. There is a cross dresser who has very bad taste in frocks and the famous “Buddy Guy Dude” who unfortunately died before I could meet him but the stories about him are legendary. I sometimes help a customer find something and most people think I’m an employee on break or perhaps security. I listen and laugh and make mental notes for future use as characters in as yet to be written plays or novels.
Today however was special, after spending an hour listening and laughing, I went home just as the rain was getting heavy and went upstairs and started to clean my room, organizing everything and putting away things that were not needed. I opened up my easel area and made it possible to paint, and continued with the change in my desk set up after getting rid of some stuff I was happy and energized. I then proceeded to take the laptop down to the kitchen and started to write this story. I haven’t wanted to write in weeks but now find myself happily drinking Pinot Grigio and writing this piece. So for tonight at least I’m out of the dark seas of depression and sailing off into the calm waters of contentment. Maybe I too could learn something from Melville’s most famous work. I think that Ahab was chasing Moby Dick to try and get his soul back from the whale who had torn it apart when it took his leg. I have been chasing dreams that I’ll never see, the Paris of the twenties is gone. I could be there right now typing this al-fresco at a cafe and still not have the experience of the lost generation. I couldn’t have the experience of the post-war generation either, only the famous St Germain cocktail can bring you closer to 1947 Paris. The thing that Sam said to me out of the blue has made all the difference, searching for your bliss starts in the moment, it’s right in front of you all the time. It’s not in Paris or Provence or even on the moon. It’s how you feel right now and what you choose to do in the moment right in front of you. That’s the secret to life. Not the Holy Grail or the fountain of youth; although those things would be nice if they existed, just making every moment your own.
So thanks guys, for all you do for me. We may only see each other at the store but you guys are my true friends