Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Abbey Road

the beauty of banter
was everything
to kiss by moonlight
or streetlight
a tonewood hum inviolate

Some nights ago I stumbled upon Abbey road after having gone to Mecca.

Earlier in the evening, a friend mentioned she was fasting. “For Ramadan?” I asked, but I said it all hipsterish, like I thought I was cool—because I did. “No, for Yom Kippur,” she replied. Truly surprised to be wrong yet totally tongue in cheek, I coolly said, “Oh. Am I being insulting?” “No,” she said, “just ignorant.” We both laughed, hearty-har.

When I say I went to Mecca, it’s not another religious crack, though I believe I mentioned a trio of miracle workers in an earlier post. Two of the three, Trish and Jane, were present at the pilgrimage, as was their friend Petey. Honestly, they are some of the best folks I’ve met in a genuinely long time: real people, few hang-ups (or least the decency to keep them under wraps), open, interested and interesting… it was really quite refreshing. They made my night; wrestling demons has never been so fun. Thanks girls and boy!

But no sooner than the next night, I bumped right up against it all again—that ever-present magic circle. I didn’t get sucked into it, but it’s essence trussed me up like a turkey for a few, long moments. I’d never noticed an Abbey street in San Francisco before, and I couldn’t help thinking how apt is was for me to be staggering down it, segueing in step with the end of the Beatles classic album. While innocently I sought “Golden Slumbers," the night reminded me that “Once there was a way to get back homeward / Once there was a way to get back home again”—and immediately comes the heads up: “Boy, you’re gonna carry that weight, carry that weight a long time.” It’s a yin yang world with comfortable unknowns and known discomforts.

For me it is often people. Some people are here to help, others to hurt. Take my office, which, of late, has turned into the Gulag. It’s so clear cut, who is on which side of the fence. But those of us who can actually read the fence are the ones most feared. We also often tend to be somewhat powerless in these contexts. I’m no superhero. Now that the spotlight is on me for associating with the one who has become the scapegoat, I’m bowing and pandering like the best of ‘em. I don’t have much a choice at this point except to bide my time. And maybe that’s one of the takeaways from my stint in the circle: you just gotta let shit play out however it may. That goes for all facets of life and all attachments.

Surviving the magic circle means that you’re on, like the curtain’s up and it’s showtime. So I put on the work show. I’m sure I’m not the best actress, but I’m creating the perception that I believe the organization to be of greater value than myself. My friend, the scapegoat, hadn’t learned yet that perception is everything. You can work your ass off, maintain the whole organization on your shoulders, but if the perception is otherwise, no manner of tangible results will work in your favor. If you sit around twiddling your thumbs all day while assuming the aura of someone who’s the most valuable employee of all, you’ll probably make the managerial fast track.

My friend was naïve. I warned her. I knew where the fence was. But people just don’t listen sometimes because they can’t. I don’t tend to listen either. But it’s really hard to watch someone on the take down and be 100 percent helpless to do anything. The only thing I can do is refuse to be bullied into ostracizing her along with most everyone else. She’s done nothing except refuse to wear the mask of pretense; she’s doing it now, but it’s too late. I’ve been standing my ground beside her, but there will be repercussions down the road, when they've succeeded in eating her alive. I know that. Those of us on our side of the fence all know that. It’s gotten so bad that we’ve taken to leaving through separate doors to create the illusion that we’re not going to lunch together or becoming adept enough to shift into client work jargon at the drop of a hat, which requires going from hurried, hushed conversation to purposely loud, go get ‘em tonalities. And are we really fooling anyone? It’s all about perception. Acting the fool is much better than being the fool. The office is simply a microcosm.

And in my personal life, I have suffered great betrayals of late. It’s another round of coming of age, I think. But everything actually is all right, in fact, so right because there is art in the world. There is the music that I love, there are the random, anonymous smiles of others and my own, there are moments of collective synergy in which everyone gathers at the same time—like the 31-hour grand re-opening of the De Young Museum inside Golden Gate Park. From noon on Saturday, October 15 until 5 p.m. on Sunday, October 16, the museum was open and free. Alex and I went on Saturday night, joining approximately 600 other people in long winding line. I guess there were that many because the official stat was that they were letting in 660 people per hour and it took us just under an hour to get into what is a magnificent space. More amazing still is that when we left at midnight, there were as many people waiting to get in as when we had been in line. As exhausted as I was from what was a very tiring weekend, I felt an immense pride in the city and in the miracle of people and art. Sure it was a “scene,” and I’m sure especially in the wee hours some of the twenty- and thirty-somethings were there simply to be seen, but a lot of people also brought their kids and a lot of people were older and seemed happily bewildered as if it’d been ages since they’d been out and about past seven o’clock at night. There were working stiffs and people dressed in brand new Armani. There were hordes of people, all drawn peacefully to a center of art. That just rocked my world.

And then I finished up the weekend in good company with a couple drinks and dinner and a splendid walk that ended underneath a streetlamp. I got to make art. The more I think about it, the only way to temper the 9 to 5 is to use the 5 to 9 for artful living and that includes more of the comfortable unknown.


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