Chapter 49: Things Get Wet Easily, But Dry Slowly.



Chapter 49

Things Get Wet Easily But Dry Slowly



At the moment that I made the decision to take the job, I felt something subtle slip deep inside.  The same feeling resurfaced again later during our sort of celebration dinner, an evening that was highlighted by the unmistakable look of relief on she who was wondering if I would ever leave the house again for anything but a walk, the groceries or yoga class.  Not wishing to derail our happy mood, I didn’t let on about the fact that my mental state was off if ever so slightly.  The sense that something was amiss remained there at the edge of my consciousness just out of view, feeling like the slightest miss in a transmission shifting gears.  Enough to let you know something was off but not to take it into the shop.  I couldn’t put my finger on it. Maybe I had found a new lower gear, some kind of personal overdrive that caused my brain rpms to drop?  Maybe I was happy? Or perhaps was it a lot simpler.  Maybe I was just plain relieved to see an end to this phase of my life on the horizon.


Whatever it was I slept like a rock that evening.


I woke up early the next morning to a bright blue sky and the sun shining brightly into our bedroom, she long long gone.  As soon as I got of out of bed, I was set to make the move.  To make the call.  It was time to get off of the bench and check into the game.  On y va mon ami.  Yallah. Schnell. Move the ball. Andale.  Kadimah.  Forward.


It was time to leave the house.


I found the phone in it’s cradle (a good omen) and made the call.  John was already in the office at 8, another good sign.   Our conversation was brief and to the point once again.  We would finalize the terms of our agreement on Tuesday when he returned from a business trip and unless there was some issue that came up, I would start whenever I wanted working as much as I needed to learn the lay of this new land.  It all took less than 2 minutes.  He added that he was excited about the potential of working together and that was it. No strain, no issues.  Weirdly calm, I hung up and just sat there for a moment stunned at how easily this was all going.


That morning time became different.  For so so long I had been challenged by a seemingly infinite sense of emptiness and a lack of structure.  As soon as that phone call ended time, the concept, now carried a sharp point of definition that started next Tuesday when I would get in my car and drive to the office.  That activity, i.e. going to work, as normal as one could imagine, now felt like a rare delicacy sitting on a plate waiting to be eaten.


Afterwards, I said fuck it to myself and returned to bed enjoying the leftover warmth in the flannel sheets.  Next, after  a short moment of shut-eye, I enjoyed a long peaceful set of downward and then upward dogs, stretching myself out, slowly, luxuriously and easily.  Finding new motivation in this newly re-defined sense of time, I threw on some sweats and took big foot on a quick walk to the corner bakery.  (P.S., I don’t care if they call it a patisserie, it’s a still a damn bakery).  I brought home an almond croissant for me and a brioche for her (she who loves a brioche sandwich not big foot white dog).  White dog had to settle for kibble and left over sourdough bits but she didn’t mind.  Made a cup of dark roast Sumatra, thick viscous and chocolaty and drank it slow, savoring the contrast against the pastry.  I lingered over the NYT and let the sun shine through the dining room window warm my back.


I, who do not ever ever recall being calm, was damn close if not there.


Following breakfast, there was only one thing to do and one place to do it in.  At that second, the thought of going to the mancave felt as sweet as the honey and pistachios in a gooey square of baklava.  I couldn’t wait.  The chill had gone out of the house and I tucked myself easily and comfortably onto the cushun’ waiting to see where the practice of manful mediation would take me that day.  Oh, the world felt so fine, I wanted to dive into a pool of clear thought and swim.  And I swim I did.


As I rolled through those moments of precious mental peace my mind drifted over the events of the past few weeks.  As I did, I came to understand a different side of my now limited time frame at home.  To my surprise, I became concerned, realizing that there were so many subjects that I hadn’t had time to work on in my practice of manful meditation. I wondered if I would get the chance to cover them once I started working.  And even if I did, would they be the same?


And then, yes once again, the inner man bhudda showed his wisdom as he spoke to me from deep inside.  ‘Why worry bro’, he said, ‘do what you can now and take what you can later’.


Do what I can later.  Hmmm.  I had the rest of the week and nothing big planned but so much to cover.  That left one answer.  A manful meditation marathon.  A personal conscious-raiser.  A celebration of manful meditation and all that it had been so far and what it could be in the future.  It sounded great.

But what would I meditate about?  How could I choose?


To know where you are going you must know where have gone, although lord knows it would have been easy just to repeat the subjects that I had worked on already.  Looking back over those meditations, for the most part I had kept to the middle of the road of mandom. We honor memories of the simple things we love most first, like alcohol, food, sex, and cars and that is just what I did.   Yet by doing so I had missed scores of important subjects of great meaning that should have been dealt with more seriously during this phase of mental liberty.  Instead they were forgotten or glossed over in favor of tits, beer and a tight spiral or a deep three.


New possibilities raced in and out of my mind bouncing into consciousness and then disappearing again.   How was I going to discover so many missing subjects with so little time left and hope to prioritize them? I needed to start meditating immediately, but how would I figure out what these missing subjects were?  I drew inspiration from she who is the yin to the man Buddha’s yang.   There was no choice.  I broke out of my trance, got off the cushun and went to get out a pen and paper and started to write out a list just like the hundreds that seem to cover her side of the office.


So here are the subjects that I wrote down during that 10 minute stream of consciousness that I could read later.  Alas, many many others were victims of my uniformly and historically horrible penmanship.


What is the meaning of marriage?

How could I improve my relationship with she who is sometimes here with me?

Parenting. How to get over it.

Parenting.  Does it ever end?

How did I relate to my two kidults?  What had I done wrong as a father? What had I done right?

Why had I scrupulously avoided examining mortality?

What was death?   How could I have gone deep and not gone there?

Love and how we play the game of love.



More sex.


Even more sex.


Or no god.

My Jewishness.

Or my not being jewishness.

My Jewish capitulation to the pleasures of life.








All that in 10 minutes.


As I read over this list of subjects I knew that I could meditate about them for the rest of my life and never fully, no partially, understand them even if I worked on them exclusively for all time.  And would never have the time go back to work.  Perhaps more importantly, hundreds, no thousands, of philosophers had spent their entire lives debating these subjects and writing texts that bordered on holy that went on for thousands of pages without deciding these issues. Who did I think I was I to think that I could meditate about them looking for answers? Spinoza?  Freud?  Sartre?


Far from it.  Better to think about the Giants, Cartier-Bresson or a porcini.


That triggered another thought, education. The truth is that I have always been an A-/B+ guy. Now, looking back on my education, I realized that my approach to learning was liberating.  True, I wasn’t a Yale or Harvard grad (with due respect to the Cal Bear nation).  In fact, I was so out of whack on this issue when younger that I felt intellectually inadequate graduating from U.C. Berkeley Phi Beta Kappa.  Although in classic Kragen fashion I squeaked though with the lowest possible grade point average clearing the hurdle by .03% before they raised it for the next semester.


I walked the intellectual line without achieving the singular focus to higher levels of greatness for a simple reason. From the beginning I was drawn to a full balanced life.  Yes, these were all important subject to cover, but so were the arts, music, photography, food, food and food.  Why should they suffer just to score another .05% on a g.p.a.?  I never got that.


There had to be less stressful things to meditate about, things that would make me happy and that I could still learn from. As I finished that thought a vision popped into my head that I knew could follow.  It was a moment I wanted to revisit, so I headed back to the cushun and sat back down.  The manful meditation marathon had begun.  I closed my eyes and took myself right back to the birth of our first child, my son.


This is a meditation that too many men might have had to skip and that is a shame. Maybe they weren’t there, maybe they closed their eyes or left the room. But for those of us who witnessed the birth of our first child, and yes our first son, it is a moment of pure and clear manfullness as bright the first moments of as a desert sunrise.


I remember the date, September 4 (sorry family, just kidding).  Then I tried to think of the time to recall whether it was morning afternoon or evening.  I went back a few hours and put myself in the moment when we looked at each other and realized that this really was the moment that we had been reading about and thinking about and worrying about.  It was time to grab that bag we had already packed and get the car.  I go back to the drive to the hospital, admission and the rooms we were in that day.  This isn’t a test but I remember it all.


After a small eternity passing time listening to Motown and watching the heart monitor, they finally moved us to a birthing room. Where am I? Just trying to keep her distracted and joking and the nurses and doctors. Then I am back at that moment when birth occurs. How hard she worked the pain, the screams, the push and then the head poking through, the wet tousled hair, the sudden shocking moment when the shoulders clear her body, the rush of the being into the world, the first time you see your first child. Totally at peace and fully zoomed in this manful moment, I relive the first time I saw that little penis and knew it was a boy.   There is that skinny pale body and the first action he takes, a cry, a breath and then a glorious pee.  A gentle arcing stream of water, free for the first time and all over the nurse.  Welcome to the world amigo.


Then do the same exercise for the birth of my daughter the greatest Christmas gift of my life.  Remember being at a Christmas party timing the labor pains so we could leave at the last possible second.  How much faster she showed up.  Impatient, stronger, emphatic, louder, darker and more powerful, she emerged like a cannon howling.  She was ready for the world and still is.


All of this memory caused another reaction, my stomach growled and cut through the peace of the moment.  It was time for lunch.  I knew that there was nothing in the frigo at the moment, this called for a steak burrito with black beans and hot sauce, easy on the rice.   I asked for extra hot sauce.  It burned just like it should.


Music for labor (for Dad mostly)


To bring you both up:


London Calling.  The Clash.  This of course depends on your wife and can be a dangerous choice if it fails.  Then again, with the right girl…

A safer alternative, Tom Petty.  Greatest hits.


Maybe better to stick to Motown:

Marvin Gaye, The Master Vols. 1 to 4.  This will kill a few hours.

Dianna Ross and the Supremes, any greatest hits collections (for her)

Barry White.  The greatest hits.  To keep her calm and laughing.

Hall and Oates, Greatest Hits.  Nothing like smooth sailing.


There in case you need to come down:


Keith Jarrett, the Koln Concert.


For the birthing room.


Nada.  You are there to be there, not to listen to music.  Turn it off.




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