Chapter 52 Last Weekend. Final Performances. Show Must Close Soon.

Chapter 52

Last Weekend.  Final Performances.

Show Must Close Soon.

‘If you ain’t gonna get it on then take your dead ass home.”

-George Clinton

The sports theme carried right into the Saturday morning sitting as soon as my eyes closed.  This time my thoughts took me on an express train way back a to a more innocent time where sports, and sporting events, were not overwhelmed by big screen televisions, strobe lights, 120db plus sound systems and a barrage of ads, free pizzas and rap music.  Most times we were content to watch low def and even, yes even black and white TV.

Before television came to dominate our lives, we enjoyed the pleasure of sports at home through a simpler now seen as primitive source, an audio signal.  In this meditation, I imagined a scene from those days.  A chance to recreate those moments in my childhood listening to sports on a transistor radio under my covers with the volume turned down to low low low. I hear the voice of the announcer.  I see the court in my imagination, how my favorites players look, how the crowd sounds.  I dive in.  It feels great.

Listening to sports was a unifying factor for so many young boys (and yes some girls). Who was it that took you out of your shitty bedroom (and away from your parents!) and onto the court without leaving when you were young?  Was it Vin Scully or Chick Hearn for those lucky kids like me who grew up in LA? Was it Mel Allen, Ernie Harwell, Jack Buck or Harry Carry if you had the chance?  The likelihood is that it was some announcer that no one in their right mind but you could possibly remember, but we can take ourselves back to those moments with pleasure. Where were you? Sitting in the vinyl front seat of your car with your dad driving in the country at night picking up a remote AM station with a flamethrower 50,000 watt signal or scrunching down down down into your chair in class with an earphone, wire hidden in your shirt, on so no one would catch you listening to the world series.

You are back at the game again and it’s all still alive in your memory.  I hear Vin Scully’s voice and take myself back into those innocent times.  It’s a 3 and 2 count on a warm September night.  The bottom of the ninth.  The bases are loaded.  The crowd is cheering.  The pitcher (Drysdale?  Koufax? O’Steen?  Sutton?) goes into his windup.  The runners, who have taken their leads, begin to move.   Strike 3 call got him looking.  The stadium goes wild.  In this meditation the home team always wins and I am smiling.

Afterward things calm down a bit and my thoughts turn to a more sedate and adult path. I visualize the daily newspaper that I love to read, the Chron.  It doesn’t matter where I do it, I just find a happy place put my feet up get a cup of coffee and get the day started. Pulling the sports section out first, still readable unlike the rest of it, and I read every word about the local teams and then every word about any team that might be competitive with them.  Can’t miss the gossip about the major players and if the morning is slow, I find myself scanning the statistics.  I even wander into the standings every day.  I love my sports section, from the columnists to the weather on the back to its stupid green color.  It’s a simple basic pleasure and reassuring to know it is there for me each morning.

The session concludes with a real treat.  I let myself wander far and wide scanning my mental hard drive for some favorite sports moments.  A path of pure unadulterated joy, full of spectacular visions of players that I loved over the years.  To  recall the smooth release of a basketball from the reliable left hand of Jerry West. The vicious break on a Koufax curve ball.  A vicious tackle by Ronnie Lott or David ‘Deacon’ Jones. The incomprehensible rainbow arc on a baseline shot by Purvis Short.  The acceleration of Jerry Rice running under a pass thrown with the quick release from the right and left arms of Montana and Young.  The awesome power of a Chamberlin slam..  The sheer speed of Barry Bond’s swing.

I am quickly overwhelmed with images that begin to blur with one another. Then a moment emerges. It is the 1989 super bowl between the 49ers against the Bengals.  Oh that final drive in the 4th quarter when Montana hits Taylor with no time left and the room exploded as did our heads, all in a highly altered state of consciousness in every sense of the word. I can hear the scream to this day. Ahhhhhhhhhh what a noise.  My back arches at the thought of the collective scream as John Taylor crosses the goal line.  A city feels a moment as one.  It is electric.

Saturday afternoon I break.  Everyone needs to rest and every week should have a Sabbath moment.  Even she who encourages me to meditate seems to think it is a good idea.  She suggests a movie but I can’t concentrate so I decline.  We wind up like most couples searching for something good on the TV (didn’t) after take out burritos (steak black beans mild salsa) and fall asleep without a good night.  It’s not big deal and we sleep well.

In a long run or bike ride there is a moment when your exhaustion fades and you find another gear.   The second wind, that extra something that allows you to burst through your perceived barriers. That is what happened on Sunday where my mind went a bit awry looking at altered states.

At first I honestly believed that it was going to be a meditation about music.  There was no visual image when this particular meditation started, just darkness when I heard a sound in the distance.  It was soft, I couldn’t tell what it was.  Ambient and non-directional it grew until I recognized what it was, a bass line in my head that wouldn’t go away.  There was this ‘thump thump ah thump thump ah thump’ that sounded suspiciously like the opening of a P-Funk concert I attended years ago.  Yes, do not adjust your dial.  Something had taken control. The feeling was dark and viscous and potentially vicious.  It just stayed there, no instruments came forward, no vocals, no drums and I sat for a few moments in anticipation. confused.  Waiting. Waiting.  This was some long intro. And then it happened.  From deep within I now knew that I stood at the gate of a temple of mandom which contained the greatest idol of man-worship, where I would receive a vision which stood head and shoulders above the others.

There it was. It was beautiful.  Holy.  Perfectly shaped.  Graceful in its simplicity.  I could not take my mental eye off of it.  It was breathtaking in its perfection.

It was a cold one.

I see it.  The unmistakable shape of a dark brown bottle with a long thin neck centered against a black background.  It has no label. Then it begins to spin, rotating slowly around and around.  Then there is movement from the top. I see a hint of foam and then a full head emerges.  It begins to overflow. A rich caramel colored liquid began to emerge from the top of the bottle.  Yes, yes, it was a river of India Pale Ale.  And it flowed and flowed and flowed. It was the endless fountain of beer and I was Ponce De Leon. I discovered a source of eternal brew.

As I watched the beer flow I shifted gears subtly and without reason began to meditate about beer and mandom and immediately lost most of this pure pleasure.  We know that beer is deeply hardwired into our male consciousness to the tune of billions of dollars a year of sales and countless television ads that seek to shamefully capitalize upon artificially constructed manful moments to sell a particular brand and lifestyle.  That fact depresses me.

In stark contrast, in my meditation I had the freedom to choose the beer I wanted based on real factors like taste, smell, finish and color.  This was real choice, not one dictated to me by talking frogs and imaginary male bonding.  To make things even better I had free beer to enjoy.  So I turned the meters back to pleasure and away from too much analysis.  Screw sociology, I wanted to think about the pleasure of a good cold beer.

Eventually, the bottle gradually faded away into black. As it did I returned my focus to the pleasure of drinking beer, where the rubber meets the road.  Things began to slow down.  A sense of peace and purpose emerged.   It was a simple path that I took, well trodden and well know.  First, I examined the question of the glass.  It is chilled? Yes, absolutely.  I pull one out of the freezer.  Where to start.  Keep it simple, how about an easy Belgian beer to get started?  Nice.  Yes, a Stella sounds right, lets start slow.  There is that glass with that classic Stella logo. I put it on the table, alone naked empty. I envision the wonderful light pale lager, blonde clear, and so pure. I am ready for the moment of heightened intensity, the pour.  Everything seems to slow down even further.  I hold the glass at a slight angle.  Pour the beer from the bottle into the glass slowly watching the head begin to form.  Now I wait and let the beer settle down.  The head is perfectly shaped at the edge of its geometric possibilities.  The moment arrives.  I bring it to my lips and sip, drawing the cool clear refreshment inside.  I rest for a moment and then a sort of beer tour begins.

My visions move slowly into wheat beers cloudy and sharp with the juice of freshly squeezed lemons.  They turn to the medium body and bolder flavors of the pilsners.  I let the hops and barley come into play as tastes become more forward into a variety of ales, porters and then stouts.   Suddenly I am overwhelmed with nostalgia for beers from the past. Those old beloved warriors, from Hamm’s to Lucky Lager to Raineer and Olympia and Falstaff.  I remember their labels, the shape of their bottles, their tastes.  I honor their memories.

Finally the beer images fade.  But my mind isn’t done.  Oh no not even close. It wants more much more and I can see where it is going.  Yet  I can’t start a new alcohol steeped meditation without setting the stage, and what goes better with a beach on the Pacific Coast of Mexico than a, well, you know what.  If you have been there, you know what is coming next.

I begin the next self-guided meditation with these simple and elemental thoughts.  Warm sand warm sun blue sky warm clear water.  I repeat  those words five times.  Now I feel them. Warm sand, warm sun, blue sky warm clear water.  I repeat them again and when I am done I am ready for my personal Latin lady, a cold perfectly made margarita.  How will I make it?  Over, never ever slushy.

The fun begins.  I go to the freezer.  Open it.  Watch the condensation slowly pour out as I pull get the ice tray.  Crack the tray and put 4 ice cubes per dose in a big ceramic bowl. Now go to the bar and pull out that favorite tequila.  Hmmmm.  What to choose? How about Porfidio out of Vera Cruz.  The greatest looking tequila bottle, tall and slender with that glass cactus coming out of the bottom.  Or that old standby, Don Julio? Don Cheapo from TJ’s?  It’s a matter of choice now. It can be silver it can be gold, reposado, anejo, all are available in this meditation.

It continues on. I bring out a silver cocktail shaker from the bar.  Get several limes.  Cut them in ½.  Take a moment and look at each ½, put my nose up to them and draw in the tart but sweet smell of the tropics.  Squeeze them by hand or with a squeezer.  Watch the juice run into the cocktail shaker.  Smell the fresh citrus spray in the air.  I take the tequila bottle and pour in twice as much of the lime juice that has been set aside.  Get out the Cointreau or the Grand Marinier. Pour in one part.  Feeling aggressive?  Let’s make it a double.  Why not?  Who is counting? Add the ice cubes.  Cover with the strainer.  Shake and swirl.  Round and round. Find that favorite glass from that trip to Sayulita.  Now hold the strainer over the shaker and begin to pour. Watch the margarita as it pours into the glass, cloudy and cold. Sit down some place comfortable.  Take the glass.  Return to the beach. Look at the view.  Bring the glass to my nose and smell this sacred blend of the fruits of this earth. I take the first sip, not too long, but enough to fill my mouth. Sip and sip again.  I pause.  Then I repeat the vision, stopping at five times. I am happy just thinking about it.  Repeat again and again and why not, here in the mancave I won’t get drunk.

The tour continues. Next up is an appearance by Mr. cool calm and collected, the Martini.  Why is the Martini so sexy? Is it the exquisite detail in preparation of this austere yet complex combination flavors or is the damn shape of another holy manful vessel, the martini glass?  And no other meditation offers quite the same manful moment, as I take a moment of truth to focus on the ultimate martini drinker, James Bond.  The mind becomes even more clear and I repeat the manful mantra, shaken, not stirred. Shaken, not stirred.

As those words repeat. I return my focus to the beloved receptacle, the martini glass. I move to the freezer where it waits, cold yet clear.  Waiting for me alone. I choose my alcohol and the accompaniment of choice.  Onion, lemon peel, vodka or gin, this hallowed menu is shaped by personal volition.  Imagine the cold metal cocktail shaker in my hand as I shake it back and forth.  Now strain the drink into the glass.  Look at it.  Hold the glass by the stem, raise it to my lips and sip.

I let a botanical cloud of flavors descend over my lips and tongue and down my throat.  The spices and herbs of the gin, forward yet understated, the beautiful luminous quality of the cold liquid.  It is an elegant and manful meditation as cool as the drink itself.

The tour accelerates.  I see a Cuba Libre and a gin tonic on a very hot day. A water glass of Scotch over ice. A warm brandy snifter, a spectacular French cognac. I  hold the bowl in my hands, swish gently dip my nose deep.  I smell wood, caramel, smoke and I breathe as deep as I can.  Again. Again.

Then, as with so many joyous moments, and just as with the experience of alcohol itself, a cloud appears on the horizon.  First it is small and far far in the distance but it quickly begins to grow darker and envelop the mind.  I feel strange.  Could it be? Yes, even thought I thought it couldn’t happen, I begin to feel drunk. This makes no sense.  I try to go back to that moment where I crossed that internal frontier just ahead of the word coherent but it is too late. While it is fun and always easy to meditate about a cocktail or a beer and the pleasure it brings at a given moment, suddenly focusing on being drunk is quite a different paradigm altogether. It is as hard as the real thing to control.  My stomach begins to feel queasy.  My head is pounding and I am warm, flush, but my sweat is cold.

Then the room begins to spin.  This is stupid.

I open my eyes and end the session. It takes me several minutes to calm down and for the sick feeling to pass.  It is way too real. Sitting there I close my eyes and without real choice it starts again. I travel back to a moment when I was really drunk. Where was I?  Bar?  Home?  Or at party? And I ask myself this question: Why did I get drunk?  Just how did it came to pass that I wound up having that extra one too many?  Sadly, I think of this:  how is it that I can’t remember the last time I was in the past 20 years when I know that I have been?

To make things worse, I start to think about the pain of the next morning. When considering a hangover an obvious choice emerges. Why meditate about it?  Why would anyone want to focus on such an unpleasant subject as a hangover?  I can’t think of a reason and I decide to end the session there. Enough is enough.

She who is not so clueless as to notice that she is being ignored schedules a Sunday afternoon yoga class for which I am grateful. Once there the class comes easily.  It feels good. I stretch into a triangle and as I do I wonder about why such negative thoughts come into these meditations.  Considering them, I see a reason. Bringing mental focus and increase acuity to the more unpleasant subjects and aspects of life helps me to deal with them when they occur.  Overcoming negative thoughts and finding joy in that teaches me to minimize their damage and to look forward when things are bleak.  A skill to carry out of the mancave and into life.

The day ends after class, well really it ends after to go Sushi, no brown rice  and tofu tonight.  After more than a few sakes, I pass out.  Before I do I sense that there has been a shift in thought in these mediations.  Tomorrow is the final day at home.  That session isn’t going to be an easy one unless I want to be.  I don’t.

Songs that love the liquor.

Demon Alcohol.  The Kinks.

Warm Beer.  Cold Women. Tom Waits.

Spill The Wine.  Eric Burdon & War.

Palm Wine Sound. Fela.

The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me).  Tom Waits again!

Gin and Juice.  Snoop or OAR versions.

One Bourbon.  One Scotch. One Beer.  John Lee Hooker.

Drinkin’ Wine Spodeeohdeee.  Jerry Lee Lewis.

Tequila.  The Champs.

And on and on it goes.  My last image before going to sleep is that of  chimpanzee holding a beer and laughing at me.  I have no idea what the fuck that means.

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