Sunday, September 15, 2013

A workday without coffee is a workday without

Your work day begins at the approximate time of the penultimate dream, the one coursing through your mind with such great clarity that you are lulled into the belief you do not have to get up to jot its salient points.

The final dream assumes greater importance because it is often the one you remember with most clarity.  You call it the wake-up dream, the one that brings you raising your eyelids the way shop keepers in foreign movies roll up the barriers covering their stores.

If not for the prospect of coffee, waking up would not be so simple, but now, you begin to imagine the smell from the powdery grind, kept in the freezer to insure freshness.  You cause yourself to hear the happy gurgle of percolation as it stalks upward through the grind, into the trapped area where it becomes espresso.  You anticipate putting the frother to the heated milk, watching the foam appear.

Often your social or class schedule requires you to be up early, otherwise you would fulfill one of the cliches about your sort:  late to bed, late to rise, leaves a man with fog in his eyes.  A bohemian.  A lounge lizard.

With no classes or meetings or the need to be up and about before Lupe comes to set aright the things you and Goldfarb have left untidy, you would sort through available bread or pan dulces for a semblance of toast, or consider such exotica as oatmeal, eggs, and the potential ingredients for a frittata.  While taking sips of coffee, you work your way through the pile of magazines and reviews on the kitchen table, waiting for an appetite to appear with which to confront whatever you've prepared for yourself as the seriousness of the day drive away the mists of sleep.

If that penultimate dream were of any substance, it might cause an itching sensation in your cerebral cortex as you sought to fit its elements together.  In a real sense, your day is attempts to fit clues and keystone pieces together for some vision, some plan.

There would be fewer scribbled notes to yourself if your dreams were less coded.  There would be less books piled up on the table next to the reading chair.  There are times as well when you understand there would be less books if there were fewer reviews and journals, just as there would be fewer notes and, as a consequence, itchy cortex feelings if your dreams were clearer or ordinary enough to go unremarked.

Much of the work day is the preparation for it; the reading, checking through threatening piles of notes, envelopes.  Solving minor mysteries: Why has that Introduction to Hegel been on your desk for so long?  Does it rest atop Pictures from an Institution by Randall Jarrell for some purpose beyond accident?  Had you thought to review both books?  Had Lupe left them there, thinking you were using them?  And why the red Moleskine notebook atop these?  You shudder away from this line of inquiry, relieved to understand why Uta Hagen's Respect for Acting is directly under the computer screen, its purpose clear.

You would call the first cup of coffee some name of formal recognition such as The First Cup of Coffee, as opposed to Coffee, if it were more a prescription than the companion it is.  

Coffee has become your collaborator, suggesting through the subtleties of its conversation the challenges of persistent dialogue, pushing the story that is you along through the stages of the day, past the fiddling and quasi-compulsive preparations and superstitions, into and past the actual compulsive gestures and into, at about three or four in the afternoon, a state of muscle memory, of engagement.  Time has lost its boundaries.  Through intense practice, you've managed to push away what you call critical thought.  No judgment permitted beyond this line.  

This is a delicious state where you can ask for help in the way of searching for the right word, putting yourself in a frame of mind where, say, you are testing for yourself the difference between the word spectacular and the word splendid.  Choice made, you are able to move on, listening for the next word or seeking the next clue or cue or even that delightful play on words, the pun, which so delights you.

At such times, you are likely to recall a mood, say the mood of mischief and camaraderie you often felt when, seated on the front steps of the Vedanta Temple with the poet, Kenneth Rexroth, both of you imbued with inner mischief too boyish and boisterous to give yourselves over to the ritual going on inside the temple, you'd look out at the awe-inspiring sweep of coast line and the setting sun, then indulge trying to recall limericks or Clerihews, boys in a high school locker room, snapping towels at one another.  And perhaps you'd be joined by Bill Downey, similarly too excited with being a writer to sit at meditation inside.

Such feelings, come for visits in that way, are not distractions.  They support and supply the sense of mischief and satisfaction you try to bring to life, to your work day, and, if you are successful, the occasional sentence of clarity.  Conventional wisdom has put its metaphoric head toward trying to convince you to delete such sentences.  Kill your darlings.  True enough, do so if you've come up with them first, then puttered about, trying to fit them in.  But if the mischief and enthusiasms are there, if they're the gifts you've brought to the host and hostess of today's work day, so be it.

They define you and the work.  So far as you can tell, there is nothing amiss with having them define you.

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