Chapter 34 | Leisure

Chapter 34. Oh my he is sacked. That didn’t look good. No Marv, not at all.

I think they are going to need a stretcher. Moving in the pocket the quarterback senses pressure coming. He moves instinctively to the left to avoid the onrushing speed move of the light at 265 pound and very quick left guard who misses him and continues up-field beyond and out of the play. For a moment he is out of danger. Unfortunately at that same split second our narrator realizes that the young, cocky and still somewhat out of shape right tackle has missed his block. Yes, he has turned directly into the grasp of the opposing teams nose guard, all 340 pounds of him, who has “shot the gap” and now crushes his body into the dirt. I wish this was the theme of another manful meditation. It isn’t. This is an allegory for what is about to happen to me. But back to that same Saturday night that featured the pound it pounded chicken breast dinner. That meal was always a reliable hit with la sweetessa and a very very pleasant evening ensued between us fueled by several margaritas and a lot of recent time spent apart. We slept deeply and blessedly soundly that evening. When the phone rang late, neither of

us heard it, not that we would have answered it if we had. Who calls at that hour that you want to talk to with news you want to hear about anyway. I don’t know why I checked the messages the next morning after breakfast and the NYT while sweets sweated away at her traditional Sunday morning workout with les girls but I did. There were 11 phone calls. 9 hangups (a curse of that younger generation), 1 intimidating sounding solicitation for the Oakland Police Association ‘children’s show” and the aforementioned message from very late last night which played last. I immediately recognized the voice and the accent. It was Jesse. He got right to the point as always. “Uh Jules. Listen, um, my sales manager called me last yesterday and asked for her job back, and uhm, well, she has been with me for 4 years, you know how it is and well, we won’t be needing you at the show. Thanks.” And like that he was gone. Except this time he was really gone. Not even his smile remained, only the psychic remnants of what had just happened which lingered in the room like the smell of ozone and electricity after a lightning strike. As this spiritual equivalent of a 340-pound defensive tackle hit me it drove me into the ground all of the air went out of my body. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t get up. I lie on the ground on the psychic football field and gasped for air.

Meanwhile in the bitter reality of home and the living, I couldn’t breathe either. I stood there for a long while just staring out at the grey blustering skyline of a cold January winter day listening to the silence and trying to catch my breath. Strangely, I felt like I couldn’t breathe even though I knew I was breathing. I couldn’t think clearly as well. But I had no problems feeling a flood of emotions pulsing through my mind and my being. My feelings started with anger. Then betrayal. Next up stupidity. Then on to embarrassment followed by uselessness. Then paralysis, devastation and a sense of despair accompanied by lots of worthlessness. It ended with the killing of all hope. For those who have experienced a Passover Seder you might recognize this personal set of emotional plagues. Yes these were the 10 plagues of unemployment. But in my personal telling of the out of work story there would be no kindly midwife to pull me out of the rushes and save me as she did Moses. No, there was only a cold rainy day and the knowledge that I had been sacked, taken out of the game before I threw a single pass and carried off on a stretcher. Something spiritual broke inside of me that day. I would later learn that the something that broke was the part of me that cared deeply about these job opportunities. The part that rose and fell with each new sniff or disappointment. The part of my ego which was linked to my career, whether going well or poorly. No longer would I would put it on the line

emotionally with each opportunity that I encountered. That aspect of my life would soon be gone forever. I would never feel emotionally tethered to another ‘opportunity’ again. They would come and go, I would be my professional self, but emotionally I would break this bad habit for once and for all. And that was a good thing. I thought about calling Jesse and asking him if I could attend the show anyway without an hourly charge. My only hope of making a real couple of cruzados was the commission that I would earn at the show and now that was gone. I thought about calling all of the contacts that I had told about the show and telling not to come but that was cheap, really low road, and this was a small pool that I swam in. I imagined how my contacts/friends would get to the booth and wonder what had happened to me and moreso, how they would love the product anyway and would buy buy buy and he would get the advantage of all of my work and never pay me. Great. Even in my overwhelmed state of mind I recognized that there was little upside on this path and I didn’t call. Mostly I hurt. A lot. I missed a lot of the people that I used to work with and the camaraderie we felt in taking on the food world. The gossip swapped, the weird acronyms that we would use, the inner knowledge that only comes from a deep understanding of an industry.

Then I worked my emotional state into a good lather that no walk, no meditation, no yoga session would cure. I was pissed off at Jesse, myself, life, work and the world. I allowed myself to mainline the meth of the job surfer, to feel sorry for yourself. To put salt on this inflamed situation, I had no contract with Jesse. I had a confirming email, sure, but how would you prove what you might have earned? I was sure I could squeeze the 10 days of work that he owed me out of him but the rest was going to be impossible. So there sat the former attorney, too into the situation, to afraid to blow a trust that did not exist to protect himself as he would others. As a distraction I tried to watch a basketball game. It was a pitiful Eastern Conference match up full of half court sets and uninspired selfish play accompanied by a loud hip hop and 80’s disco soundtrack and a stadium full of insipid fans waiting desperately for a team hack to thrown them a t-shirt or a coupon for a pizza. I sat dazed on the couch with white dog curled up along side of me wonderfully oblivious to it all turning herself into the smallest ball possible, something I would have like to have done that afternoon. Abandoning the soulless NBA, I went back to my mancave with hopes of salvation through meditation. As soon as I closed my eyes and settled into calm breath the days events came up into my thoughts as sour and forceful as projectile vomit caused by food poisoning. I couldn’t control the anger of the

situation and resentment over how long and how bitter this had all been. I had read enough about how the Eastern team would handle this. Don’t get upset over what you can’t control. Don’t be afraid of your negative emotions, or any emotions for that matter. Don’t try to run them out of your mind. Hold them there. Examine them, feel them, understand them and let go of them as they flutter away like clouds. Not really. Not at all. This approach was not working. Period. My feelings were cutting me raw like razor wire dragging slowly across an exposed thigh. Getting nowhere I opened my eyes and stood up. I had to get out of the house. I got the dog up and into the car and we headed up the hill for a walk in Tilden Park, maybe sky, trees and fresh air would help. Tilden is not the most beautiful park but it is big and open and the views are often inspiring. But that day it started to rain less than ½ way through wiping out the views and soaking white dog and me. At least the rain made me feel alive and I forgot about my frustrations for a moment. When I came home I discovered that Le Sweets had not returned. Then I realized that she was out at a work function that afternoon. So there I sat in the kitchen, wondering what the fuck to do on a rainy Sunday afternoon full of would haves and could haves all cut short.

What to do? Why look there is a familiar face. It was that old drunk at the bar looking over at me, my old acquaintance idle time inviting me out for a cocktail. So why not call one of my buddies from my old hard running crowd for some company? I knew where he was before I called and that he would already be drunk at 4:30 in the afternoon. Increasingly bitter over his lack of a love life and the ineptitude of those around him, only his wicked sense of humor kept him centered and alive. He picked up on the second ring. Didn’t say hello. Waited for me to speak first. “Where are you? Your Uncle’s Den. What are you doing? What the fuck do you think I am doing? I am at a fucking bar. Want company. No. OK, I will see you in ½ an hour.” He hung up. So I showered quickly, put some warmth into my body and left the casa to hit the bar and pound back some hard quick ones and commiserate about life

and its meaningless state as we enjoyed the burn of several Vodka greyhounds. Your Uncle’s Den had abandoned its blues music policy to get a younger crowd and sadly for me it had worked. The place was full of quasi beautiful upward late 20 still not married and not quite grown-ups. I wasn’t really comfortable with the atmosphere, but the vodkas helped change the mood and we got into another long conversation about the ones we knew back when that had slid off onto the edge of the cutting razor of excess stimulus and temptation, not be seen again stealing from their friends and burning out their lives. They were gone forever, friends once so close. How we had walked the same line yet came back every time while they couldn’t was a testament to our tenacity and good genetics. Somewhere around the 5th drink it became incoherent. so I left the bar and yes drove home. Safely. I didn’t see the time but it was dark. When I got to the casa I found Sweeter than me in the living room reading to a single light. She didn’t say hello but made a comment about how late is was and did I have any ideas for dinner. Instead of responding I blew up but good. I went off on her about how her version of cooking, i.e. to get out her credit card and get take out and her ambivalent feelings about food. Finished the conversation with a booming, “If you were so concerned about dinner why didn’t you do something about it. Why don’t you just boil a fucking egg, you don’t care what you eat anyway.” Always a winner that approach. She reacted by saying she wasn’t hungry (she rarely was) and that I could talk to her in the morning when I had sobered up. She

went upstairs without another word, leaving me in silence to stitch together some leftovers into a patchwork meal which I did. And there I sat alone at the dining room table reading an old newspaper when I realized that I hadn’t even told her about what happened that morning. Ay grasshopper, the newly anointed master of communication so in touch with himself and his world as he followed this calming path was too pissed off drunk to even discuss the brutal events of the day. Some real good inner work. The evening ended in the upper reaches of the cable world on a channel I didn’t know watching ‘Lonely Are the Brave’ by accident, an early 1960’s black and white tour de force of the collision between the old and new west featuring a hysterically deadpan young Walter Matthau as the sheriff and Kirk Douglas as the protagonist as mystical as the New Mexico setting, then falling asleep on the couch. Even big foot white dog Kelly seemed to be keeping her distance from me now eschewing the couch and tightly curled up on her own bed. I made it upstairs at 2 or something like that basically falling into bed. Sweetest was breathing hard but not loud enough to bug her about it. I passed out, mouth sour teeth not brushed. Tonight’s dinner recipe. Find leftover pizza from night before (zucchini/goat cheese/cornmeal crust). Place in toaster oven, hope for best. Find decent red wine. Open a bottle. Use lots of parmesan cheese

and chili flakes. Try to enjoy. Finish bottle. The day’s sound track was primitive and bluesy. My head was filled with roaring flights from Hendrix, whiling solos from Townsend and Guy, tasty bites from Robertson, Thompson, Knopfler and finished with bluesy riffs from Hidalgo. I heard their guitars in my head but I couldn’t recognize the tunes.

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