There are lots of things I used to do before I got married and had kids that I don't do any longer. But I do smoke about three packs a year.
I found myself lying awake at 5:30 this morning which is odd considering how out of it I was last night. The fitted sheet is coming off one corner of the bed and when that happens, the shock of raw mattress intrudes on my slumber. So I decided I may as well go to 8 o'clock services.
The two way fan that fits in the window sill would be a joke in Brooklyn, but here in Southern California it is just right for the oncoming summer. I installed it after some struggle with sliding the window up the other day. I brushed aside some cobwebs and turned it so that it blows cool air in and set it on high. By 6pm I was putting on long sleeves and had cured the oxygen deficit that had me feeling faint. This morning that fan and the other that sits on my dresser were both quiet and the early morning low clouds and fog along the coast had still not raised their dreary blankets from the neighborhood. It's May and I put on a mock turtleneck, my new style to go with my new hair.
This morning's service was about friendship. According to scripture, the New Commandment says that we are friends with Jesus and he no longer calls us his servants because servants do no know what their master is thinking. But Jesus is sharing the love of the Father with us and so we are all commanded to share love with our neighbors. Father Joseph reminded us two things. One, that we don't have to agree when we love our neighbor and Two, that it is not a suggestion that we love our neighbor, but a commandment. You *must* agree to disagree and live in love because God has decided to be your friend. And if God has condescended to love us miserable human beings, who are we to be intransigent?
I have had my post called 'A Christian Mob' in park for the past few days. I can't figure a way to complete it. In fact I can't find a way to complete much of anything these days. I am preternaturally lazy. My back still hurts and I'm feeling completely sympathetic with characters who are broken down and tired. Like Jean Paul Sarti in Grand Prix. Like Randy the Ram in The Wrestler. Like Paul Volker must feel. There are evolutionary dead ends all of us must face. Sometimes we come to grips with our irrelevance other times we come to grips with our apathy. They are both very hard to accept, especially if you've been a success. In the end, I gather you have to die trying. Some ambitions are like that. The alternative is that you start from scratch halfway through your life. I'll check out Shakespeare, I'm sure he had something to say about that, or perhaps he didn't. After all, he didn't make it much past 50.
The Christian Mob is about some great fraction of us coming to consciousness about Mark Steyn's predictions. It's going to be hard on a lot of people who don't agree to disagree. Muslims, I mean.
After services I went to my trunk to put away my jacket. On the little shelf opposite the GPS drive, I had stashed away a pack of cigarettes. Dunhill Blue. They were part of my few remaining deceptions. I bought them on the Friday afternoon that I snuck away to see Star Trek without the family. I stuck an unlit fag between my lips and trolled around View Park having stopped to closely observe some of the more fabulous houses on Angeles Vista. I was on my way to the richest black Starbucks in America, but I didn't have my lighter. I wondered if anyone does that - walks around with an unlit square in their mouth. Oral fixation. Indecision. Chalkline walking.
Sure enough there was a cream colored Silver Cloud convertible in the prime parking spot at Starbucks Ladera. I parked the Transporter 40 paces away and headed to the door giving a once over to the crowd of men outside. Grande mocha whip. Apple fritter warm. Six bucks. I sat alone, made one trip back to the car for my reading glasses, registered with the free AT&T wifi and caught up on my email while sitting alone amongst the groups of affluent middle aged black men. There were three conversations, and two of them were about basketball and one about real estate. I figure that the guy who dresses very much like T.D. Jakes, the commercial real-estate guy from Jersey, had a good chance of being the owner of the Rolls Royce. Or else it was the Caribbean gent who sat alone like me with a similar appearance of oblivion the the too-loud conversations about Jordan's retirement, Kobe's personality and Trump's craftiness. Meanwhile, I texted a friend to see if he were in California. No, still at the Cape. Rocket science.
On the way to church there were five motorcyclists in the fast lane. Three of the five were on red Ducatis, the other two were equally red, but I couldn't tell what kind of bike. I wish I were in a motorcycle gang. Five Ducatis are enough. Stand apart together. There were half a dozen black men at the alumni golf tournament last week, half of them were in our foursome, except there were only three of us. There were only four guys from our entire class of 78 in attendance and I was the only one not an officer of some sort with one of the many alumni associations. D is my connection to that holy land of my own history, all the black Catholics in LA with which I am connected in my exuberant youth. I have traveled too much in my life to have kept all of my roots close enough, and so on this cloudy morning I am thinking about the fleeting camaraderie of semi-private events. Two weeks ago it was the funeral of a gamer whose voice brought joy but whose face I never knew. Four years ago this Starbucks was a regular hangout.
I am a writer. Which is why I am writing this to you. I am overly perceptive. I am overly articulate. If it wasn't for the internet, I'd be in a library right now and these words would be going into a diary.
The apple fritter was much better than the Dunhill I never ignited. But that means I shouldn't eat again until 3pm. The Spousal Unit called and I headed home. And since we all go to different churches at different times, agreeing to disagree but one in love, I dropped my eldest daughter down at the contemporary Baptist's joint on Pacific Coast Highway. She noticed the pack of Dunhill Blue and asked what they were doing in my car. I told her that they were here for no good reason, but I didn't tell her that I hadn't smoked one.
She needs to know that I cleaned up my act to have a family. That there are a lot of things I used to do but no longer do. I'll figure out some way to communicate that, because like most teenage girls who are 'only' 3.2 GPA students, she figures somehow that she's not good enough. I'm trying to figure out how women negotiate as the weaker sex through a civilized form of quid pro quo that doesn't seem to exist in the swamp of our contemporary society where the Gospel is spread through Powerpoints. There are far too many lines instantly available through Google and nobody seems to have the patience to read between them. Every movie has a rating, every query has an answer, and almost nobody is trying to speak to the entire world. It's all rude niche marketing.
I'm an outsider. I possess alien observation mode. I know that none of it is prefab for my consumption, so I've got the critical thinking skills. None of the world makes sense to me, not in an easily expressible manner. Nor do I trust it much, which is why I process it all independently and spew it out here. I try not to be so flavorful or artistic as I once was on The Well or at Cafe Utne. It's good enough to have subscribers in the UK. I've got the English standards figured out. No need to try and be so awfully clever. The kind of writer I want to be is not niche. That would be for my motorcycle club, or my guys in Beef Alcohol & Tobacco, whenever they show up.
This is why I need my friends so much. Which is why I need the church. Which is why today's lesson is so important. It's a lonely world. I could not invent an invisible friend as complicated as Jesus, and even if I could, I could never expect that such a friend might haunt the dreams of so many millions asleep or abruptly awake at the crack of dawn on Sunday. We can all agree to disagree. That's easy for guys like me who may not say it, but am thinking, 'fuck you' to all those insipid personal questions. A person who can tell people to fuck off but is not a total asshole recognizes that we all belong together at a higher level. That's a bit complicated to explain but I'm not going to do it right now - I just know the type. Gregory House, for example.
So there's an emphasis on do instead of be. Yeah I did smoke Dunhills, that's what I did, not who I am. Now I don't - I just was remembering.