6/05/2017

Above the bricks with music warbling

This is not the place I should be, but it's the place that I am at the moment. I can hear loud dance music coming from a bar about 400 feet away from my sonic 4:30 in relationship to the screen I am currently seeing. I am not usually here at my desk this late, but there are reasons why I am still located here and not at my home. 

One reason is not the music. I am not sure why this establishment feels the need to blast this elevator music at the top of its woofers and tweeters, but that's their policy even though if I look back over my right shoulder I won't see a single person dancing and I only see two or three patrons from my vantage point.

The structure that I am talking about has been home to many places, and anyone with sleuthing skills could find an audio piece I did on the role that place has played in my life as connected to who I am and how long I have been here, at my desk, living a life that isn't entirely typical. 

I decorated the front of my desk with new artwork created by my American son and nothing else matters to me except he feels comfortable to express himself and that I am here to help him become whatever he wants to become.

There are gaps between what I thought I wanted and what I have, and I'm increasingly of the mind that what I have is something amazing. I am living a life I always wanted and that is something many people don't seem to have. I am doing what I wanted to do when I was 20 years old even though that person maybe should have studied harder and figured out something different. But me-in-the-now feels pretty good about the way this is at the moment. I have only to look above my screen to see fives pieces of art from my American son interspersed with photographs of my English son and then I think about how amazing it was that they got to see each other this year for a brief moment. 

My entire year was made by that moment, and a line from my favorite Superchunk song comes to mine. "One minute could last me a whole year" and even though I didn't pen that line it resonates me so strongly. My life, and everyone's life, is a series of moments that when taken together become who we are. I want so much to try to articulate my world view that it's important to understand how every single piece fits together and that we are so much more than what we're being sold, what we buy, what we're told to do. Inside each and everyone of us is a powerful engine that should be honed to question, critique, argue, debate. 

I spend too much time here, and there are reasons for that. I am not ashamed that I work so much and not ashamed that I have decided that my work pursuits outweigh my own attempts to find a new relationship. I know who I am, and I know what's important to me. I have gotten to that point by sitting at this desk for over seven years. 

Which way will this turn of events go? I am not certain. I just lay out the weather one mental cloud at a time. 

6/01/2017

In a room of strangers

Despite all I do, I still feel so anonymous and unwelcome in the place I have lived for nearly 15 years. There's a certain notion I have that I will always be an outsider in this community, always a stranger. This could be that I am a writer, which means my entire reason for existing is to capture the moments in front of me in a way that makes sense to me, while also realizing this is not a time where words have much weight with most people. Words strung together have no worth unless there's a way to create value. And what is the economic value of a mind trying to calm itself down through ordering thoughts in a linear fashion?

Yet, that's the trick. I am capable of breathing deeply and launching into a trance that allows me to stitch together whatever it is I'm feeling into a narrative that adds worth to my soul, a reason for my existence. I get paid for this ability, and I survive in part because I'm capable of capturing my thoughts and fashioning them into parachutes that can help me journey through the tumultuous atmosphere towards steady and stable ground. 

All of us humans in this 21st century, whatever that means, are struggling with meaning and purpose. But maybe I extrapolate. As I type this I am in a room of happy people who are laughing and cheering and smiling and none of them seem to be doing poorly. A block and a half away is a community that may or may not be transforming into a mixed-income neighborhood. On television, a man whose home was vandalized with racial slurs plays basketball on a large stage. I'm struck by how absurd most of our society is and how strange it is to feel so isolated despite the murmurs and susurrations all around me that indicate there is so much health in the space where I am. 

In a few short minutes I will depart and will walk home and walk back into my life after having worked another 12 hour day, having done my part to move things along. I am proud of the way I walk and proud that I have not shirked my obligations. I wish I could do so much more, wish I could find a way to get some sense that any of this matters. I know intellectually that it does, but I'm also the one typing string after string of words in a crowded bar, anonymous and free despite being neither of those things. All of this is random, and all of this is true. 

Writing is a curse. I feel compelled to say something, but there are so many times when there's nothing to say. There's just the need to push that rock up that hill and hope that the inevitable roll downwards scores a lot of points. I have absolutely no ability to know anymore if I'm being effective or if I'm turning into a robot, a ghost, a specter, a dream that only I am having. 



5/31/2017

Looking west as the sun sets and mysterious smoke billows

I sigh as I begin to write this as a task I was hoping to undertake on my computer doesn't seem to be working and I'm not sure how to fix the situation. I'm dismayed that smoke or dust or white particles seem to be drifting north from the vicinity of the unfinished Landmark Hotel. 

I sigh because all is not what it could be. I'm 43 years of age and I'm somewhat accomplished but it appears to me that reality is made of wet tissue paper and at any moment any unwanted force could cause the entire container of me to crumble and tear.

That smoke or dust or cloud of white particles alarms me as the evening sun falls down towards the horizon, changing the quality of light to what filmmakers call the Golden Hour. I am long past the point where I feel the mythology of celluloid has any power over me.

I want to know why things are the way they are in the real world I can see and feel. I appreciate the power of story but I wonder how damaged our society has become through the gradual and perpetual wetting of the foundations upon which we grew.

I have falsely lived my life under the assumption that other people ask questions and want to know why things are the way they are. I am now sighing because the lack of curiosity among people who are also alive alarms me. But maybe that itself is a false assumption.

"It's smoke from the fryer from Citizen Burger Bar," says the owner of the place where I am sitting, and sure enough, that makes sense. With an answer in place I am satisfied. I asked a question and a loop was closed when I got the information that best fits my query.

This is the fourth attempt in a week or so to resume a tradition of writing in this space, continuing a set of descriptions that dates back over a decade of my life. I am not aware of any of how the gravity works in my life and I am not aware of how I affect others. I know I am capable of putting words together in a way that makes sense to me, but I am also aware of the many deficits and defects in my life. I sigh a lot because I don't know what else to do anymore. I am aware that I have made tremendous mistakes and that I have always lived my life with the sense that there was a fire, a fault, an empire of paper so susceptible to corruption of integrity.

But sometimes when  you can work out where the smoke comes from, you can work out backwards how to stop the fire, stop the rot, learn  to work within an ever-changing river that will drown you if you can't work out how to breathe.

5/29/2017

On a metal table on a brick walkway

Strangers stream past me on their way to wherever strangers stream. There's a constant flow of humanity all around me as I sip a third coffee, my price of admission to sit in this metal chair whose four legs are atop bricks that were laid here in 2009. 

I'm transcribing a candidate forum from the other night for a story. It is a holiday but I don't feel like relaxing or doing nothing. I feel there is a great deal that needs work both in my life and in my professional life. 

I crane my head from left to right to witness all of these humans I don't know and wonder what their lives are like and what they dream of and what they are afraid of and what they are interested in. The candidates' chatter is passing over me as I type these words, sipping my coffee, waiting to hear if there's anything else I need to write into the narrative.

Yesterday I worked a wedding at Trump Winery and there were many strangers who traveled here for that event. I believe one of the people from my table just strolled past but I didn't leap up to go ask any questions. These days I am not much of the interviewing type, but more of the transcribing type. 

I dislike that there are so many strangers and that I try to keep people acquaintances more than friends because I'm not sure I have much to offer anyone at this point. I realized today that I stood someone up on Friday night and I'm disappointed but that's the way it always seems to work out. I put work and work and work first before anything else, and I put off the little things such as eliminating the vines that are choking the southwest corner of my roof. 

People walk past and I sit here and watch the patrons at the diner next door to me while the candidates address the current situation in my community and the difficult conversations we may or may not be having. I am not the interviewing type anymore. I watch the river of humanity go by and age on the shore waiting for the next flood that will forever change the banks.




5/28/2017

Another potential last night at the Tavern

It's just after 10:30 and I'm slowly closing up the tavern. The sign on the door says we're open until 11:00 so I'm waiting a couple more minutes until I lock the door. We're close to the point where we close the place on Saturdays in the summer and once I close us up, that's it for this era of me working here. 

Sometimes when I think a second about this space I can imagine me here for the first few shifts I worked here as a server, making $2.13 an hour at lunch. This was in August of 2004. I'd left the full-time job I had in Charlottesville and I'd been sitting in my house doing nothing for two months. When the bottom fell out, this is where I landed. And I began to rebuild my life again.

And now I'm in a life that is full and filled with lots of activity, even though I'm not always certain that I'm in the right place. I believe there is something, or many somethings, that is not quite right at the moment. 

It's 11:02 and everything is done and I'm sitting at the bar having a shift beer and I think about all the times I am this spot as a customer and then I think about how special it is to be sitting here right now on another potential last night here. I don't know when I'll be here on a Saturday again. 

The next time I will work here will be for a private party. And then that makes my mind wander and wonder if this could be a post-wedding destination in the future. That's happened here before and if I think for a second, I can see all of the people I've made happy here in the past in this spot. This spot I love and care for and want to see shine in the future. 

Tonight I cooked 12 dinners and made a decent amount of money for a six hour shift. I'd rather be doing this work than catering because here I can try to build a clientele whereas catering is about becoming an ant and working with a crew to accomplish a series of tasks. 

I'd rather be here figuring out how to make pink lemonade, which I did tonight.

The first set of customers was a family of five from Alexandria who were visiting and somehow stopped in here. Two adults and three little kids, and I got their food prepared quickly and they had a good time, I think. It filled me with joy to see a family come in here, and I loved that they played with the games I've brought in over the years and that they actually played with the Lego!

I like to make people happy and content. There's maybe a conflict between this job and my day job.

So who knows what will happen next? The world can be strange and there definitely seem to be more changes than usual about the world around us. I just know that for tonight I had another great time working at the tavern and I hope for many more.




5/24/2017

In this room at the Omni

2017 had not happened yet the last time I was in the ballroom at the Omni. I was here with my American children for First Night and there was a magician we had seen at least twice year. I was incredibly happy to be here with them.

I've been in this large rectangular space so many times over the last 15 years ever since I moved to Charlottesville, every time as a guest. This is one of the only rooms in town where I've never been a catering server, but every time I am in here I am interested in the logistics of how they do their work. 

I've been to many banquets, many speakers and I've had a lot of fun and a bit of sorrow here. I'm struck by how little I want to say about any of it, this being a public blog and all.Much of my life shouldn't be out there.

Yet this is space where I decide to hit send and decide to once again commit my random thoughts about a dastardly world outward. Maybe I have something to say, I think, as I listen to the murmur of the breakfasting crowd I breathe in for a moment and begin to reflect upon what I might have to say. 

In this room at the Omni I remember who I am and choices I have made and I imagine who I might become. 

9/16/2016

Another night at Court Square Tavern, still

I sat for two and a half hours tonight doing research for my regular job before the first customer came in. He was a visiting medical student who proudly told me he's gotten all his paperwork turned in for the all-important match for residencies. This guy wants to be a plastic surgeon and he told me all about how it's not at all about breast augmentation and tummy tucks. He explained how plastic surgery helps people recover from losing limbs and bodies need to sculpted back in place sometimes to make that happen. 

Of course, he didn't say that right away. When he came in, I was so focused on my research that when he answered if we had any good food, I told him we had food, but it was up to him if it was any good or not.

Then I quickly apologized, explaining I'm a reporter who is neutral and when I'm thinking that way I can't really be a salesman. Then I told him the bratwurst is very good.

Soon after, a friend of mine who works for one of the local governments came in and we chatted for a bit before another friend of mine came in. Then five more people came in, and then another five. It got busy really quick and I made the shift quickly from writer to tavern-keeper.

It's been 12 years since I began work there and I'm still there. As I've written here on so many occasions, it's the place where I feel most at home in Charlottesville. I prefer to be there just as a customer, but when I am behind the bar and business picks up I am fully engaged and happy to make the people who come in welcome and I want them to leave feeling good that they were at the tavern.

Changes are coming soon. I can't go in to much detail, but changes are coming soon. I'm hoping to be part of them, and I'm hoping they will secure the place well into the future. I need the income I make there but more importantly I need to be able to continue being part of the institution.

My favorite times are when people who used to come in come back and see if for the first time in years. I love hearing stories of the old days, before the fire, and back when CST was one of the only places in town you could find European beer. Now there are corporate chains that offer that service as well, and there are so many more places to go. The tavern hasn't kept up, but it's not been left behind.

There is no other place in downtown Charlottesville where you can go and have a true pub-like experience. To me that means a place where you can go in and suddenly get pulled into a conversation with a stranger. I love getting to have that experience as a bartender. It's such a different experience to working as a catering server, but I love that as well. I love helping to make people happy at weddings in different locations across the community.

But the satisfaction I have working at the tavern on a night when I get to see new experiences unfold. A set of groomsmen and a groom made up one of the groups of five. Sadly I won't also get to work that wedding, but I'd love to. I've been witness to so many now and I'm proud to get to be part of people's lives as a background character.

I do prefer the tavern because I get to be a bit more in the foreground. After all, it's one of my stages and the one where I have fit for so long.

I'll keep working there as long as I can and may be there a bit more in the fall. I want to be part of the changes and try to make it a place that'll continue to be there for a while to come.

As the groomsmen left, several said they hope the place sticks around for a while. I do too.