Posts Tagged 'getting a job'

Chapter 48. Follow That Bouncing Ball.



Chapter 48

Follow That Bouncing Ball.


On Monday morning I felt much better.  Yes my left eye looked like she had finally lost patience with the bad jokes and sarcastic jibes she puts up with daily and let me have one as richly deserved.  Yes I still hadn’t worked up the guts to look at my poor nose which remained carefully embalmed under layers of gauze and pressure Band-Aids, checking in at an ungodly 3 times its normal size.  Yes I still couldn’t breathe.  But all of that didn’t matter because today the tide had turned.  The pains were gone and I could see that for the first time the swelling wasn’t getting worse.

There were other reasons why I felt this way. On this particular Monday I knew that this week would be different because I was going to back to work.  Soon.  I could feel it.  My sense of confidence about this was deep, not set in unfounded fantasies about what I might be doing at a new job as I had done too many times before.  I could feel change around the corner.  I just had to let it come on in and it would happen.


I called John at the coffee company that morning to confirm our Wednesday appointment.  I warned him not to be shocked by my appearance when I walked in the door and explained my recent trip under the knife.  It hardly seemed to matter to him and he wished me well as he hung up.  Although impersonal there was nothing wrong with his response. After all, this was business and there was little else to chat about.


With spring in the air and physical recovery on the horizon I felt strong and energized.  With little to do and change coming, I did what any good Jewish man would do at that moment. I opened all of the upstairs windows and then I cleaned.  And cleaned.  And then cleaned some more.  I plotted a blitz attack on my office, clearing piles of bills and don’t forget to do’s, opening drawers that had been shut for months with the Clash and the Who Live At Leeds cranked up so loud that white dog fled the room after barking at the speakers.  I threw away piles of magazines that were more than 2 years old god knows why I kept them.   By the end of the afternoon I had filled several plastic trash bags and spent some quality time with our shredder, stopping short of attacking the closet and settling for a late afternoon margarita instead, my first drink since surgery.  Let me say right here that it felt fantastic.


Where a day like this would have bothered me in months passed, now it was easy and light.  The rest of the day ended with burgers on the grill (never too cold to crank it up), most of a bottle of Tempranillo (how can anyone make decent red wine that cheap?) and a scintillating Monday night match up between the Jets and the Titans.  I barely noticed that she came home early and then left almost immediately for meditation.


The next day, after a breakfast of steel cut oats, bananas and almonds washed down with a cup of oh so sweet medium roasted Timor, I set out for the mancave. I anticipated a meditation in preparation for my job interview.  I wanted to clear my head of the strange energies that had accumulated over the past 18 months of underemployment.  I was convinced that if I could nail down what this unanticipated period of under-activity had meant to me I could start a new chapter of life much more easily.


Well not exactly. When I started in on my ritual manful meditation nothing of the sort happened.  My mind went empty as the blocking schemes of the 49’er offensive line and stayed there.  Instead of panic, my breathing was deep, calm and focused.  I thought of nothing and 20 minutes later I emerged refreshed and centered.  This, I think, was what meditation was supposed to be like, manful or not.


In a sense my inner thoughts were ahead of my conscious mind.  They let me know that there was nothing more to meditate about regarding what had happened over the past year and a half.  It was done, gone and over. I had to be let go, to disengage in order to move on.


And so I had.


After the meditation session ended I didn’t move. I sat peacefully cross legged on the cushun, eyes wide open staring out at the neighbors rooftop and the clear blue East Bay sky once again, noticing that the tree in her back yard had started to shoot forth green leaves as another cycle of life began, an appropriate symbol for what was finally happening to me.  Sitting there, having let go of time, I began to think about what the last 18 months had meant to me.


Lots and lots of thoughts emerged about what it all meant.


For the first time that I can recall it became OK to do less in my life.  I entered into a mental state that I never before experienced, a time of less.  A time where there were no great moments or accomplishments and eventually I became comfortable with that, not that it was easy or instinctive to do so.           This unstructured time was a kind of mental anti-inflammatory, a period of completely unexpected personal calm that emerged slowly and naturally over time.  As I embraced it, I experienced a profound sense of being in place and at peace with where I was in the cycle of my life. I gained an understanding of what I could do and, in the hardest part for me, a begrudging and then complete  acceptance of what I could not.


It was a time to walk the dog for the sake of the walk and not the expectation that she or I ‘needed’ the exercise.  To let dirt crumble between my fingers as I planted bulbs in the fall knowing that there would be tulips and iris in the spring to photograph.  Moments to watch the mozzarella cheese on the pizza bubble to brown perfection and not to burn it in the oven because I was trying to do to many things at once.  Time to rub the back of she who is so stressed she forgets how stressed she is and then rub it again to help her remember how good it feels.  Time to let go of myself my needs, my desires, and let the world come to me as it does not under micromanagement.  Time to be available to my kidults as they passed through the many paths of their own young lives as a mentor, friend and confidante and not have to hang up the phone because I was busy.


More importantly this was a time to slow down. How very very strange that felt at first.  It wasn’t that way now.  I had learned to drink time in and savor it.  Honoring that feeling, I sat and then sat some more, taking in the warmth of the afternoon sun lying on the carpet eyes closed when I felt a paw grab my leg and looked up at the crazed expression of a white dog who had come back upstairs and was now fully ready to play.  We did until, as is her nervous femaleish way, she got bored and walked downstairs.


What else to do in such a mellow mood then to cook?  The fridge was full of vegetables including several gargantuan organic leeks that I had picked up the weekend before at the farmer’s market. I submit that leeks are more delicate cousin of the onion. They don’t burn your eyes when you chop them and they give that je ne sais quoi to the traditional vegetable soup that I was thinking of.  A round sweetness that the onions, food warriors that they are, just can’t.  A vegetable soup that could warm the heart of any woman, including mine.


It was still cold outside that afternoon and the kitchen windows steamed quickly as I sautéed the leeks, celery and carrots along with lots of dill, parsley.  Soon the house smelled ridiculously homey and white dog scored lots of floor goodies as bits and pieces of vegetables found their way to the floor along with several carrot bites which she still had no idea how to catch no matter how soft I tossed them.  I felt that I was standing in some European/Americana moment, linking me back to those grandmothers who had come before us in the soup that cooked slow and long.


The soup worked as well on she who came home at about 7 as a dozen roses.  What a smile.


And then boom, our meeting on Wednesday showed up.  It was an extension of our first one, all business and no bullshit.  Then only negative was that I got lost again and showed up 10 minutes late, a personal peeve of mine when on the other side of the table.  The office looked no different, no busier but no worse and we spent the next hour talking about coffee, how to market their products by segment and how to restart their sales effort knowing just how brutally limited the marketing budget would be.


From the beginning it felt as if I had already been hired and for good reason.  I had been.  And why not?  There was no risk for either side.  He got a sales manager for virtually nothing and I got an office and plenty of upside.  All I had to give up was time and time was something I had a lot of.  As much as I had loved the time at home there had been too much as of late.  I was more than ready to get out.


As we closed the meeting and shook hands John asked what I thought about the opportunity.  I told him that I was excited about getting back into the bean business (true) and that I needed to talk it over with my wife (sort of, I mean you just can’t give it up that easy it looks you are too easy). With that I left and drove back to Berkeley.


Something was missing in our interaction and on the drive home listening to some vintage Tom Petty I thought about what that could be.  What was wrong, why did this feel so odd and empty? Try as I hard as I could I just couldn’t put my finger on it.  Eventually I realized why I couldn’t figure out what was missing.  Nothing was missing because there was nothing to miss.  The process had gone so smoothly that it was boring.  It was a business meeting with only one goal, to rebuild their business and thus my career by increasing sales.  Makes sense doesn’t it?  Everything else was in place and ready to roll.  Why worry? But I couldn’t help but wonder to myself, where was that missing tension? The waiting, the upset stomach that accompanied a job in play?  Where was that feeling?


MIA with my anxieties and my often dysfunctional career choices.


By the time I reached home any doubts about this decision made were completely toast.  Eliminating any leftover sense of bullshit bravado or ego, the choice was an easy one.  There were few healthy alternatives on the horizon.   There had been a couple of vague leads early in the year, some work maybe helping out so and so start up a new business all uncommitted. I knew that I spent way too much time writing food reviews and blogs that didn’t attract traffic or editing photos that I didn’t print.  I had killed enough minutes passing the time when the mediations weren’t working and the walks were dull.   There was no point waiting for imaginary opportunities that would never come.


That evening I set the table right, got out the silver candelabra and blue candles. Found the decent plates and good cutlery.  I started the evening with a champagne toast followed by a dinner of leftover vegetable soup and a roast chicken with vegetables (heavy on the roots) all cooked in the pan.  When I raised my glass and looked her in the eyes after we sat down I didn’t have to explain why we were celebrating.  She who often doesn’t know what was going on in my life knew loud and clear when it counted.  She didn’t even need to ask.  It all felt so good.


Vegetable soup a la maman.


Several large leeks.

4 carrots.

1 head celery.

1 bunch dill

1 bunch parsley

1 potato

2 cups chicken stock (recall the earlier discussion on this subject).

Pinch salt and pepper.

2 tbsp. Cooking oil.


Clean and chop vegetables small and keep separate.

In large cast iron pot, add oil until warm.

Start with leeks and the potato.  Then gradually add celery and carrots until wilted.  If you have vegetables like spinach or peppers, add them.


Add the stock put the lid on and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.  Add the chopped parsley and dill and simmer for another 20 or until mush.  Puree with a blender stick or in a food processor.  If clumpy add water or milk to desired consistency.  If you want it more ‘rich’ add a ½ stick of butter before serving.


Songs for a vegetable soup:


Call Any Vegetable.  Frank Zappa.

Green Onions.  Booker T.

Know Your Onion.  The Shins.

Parsley Sage Rosemary & Thyme.  Simon & Garfunkel.

Salt Peanuts.  Dizzy Gillespie.

Cut the cake.  Average White Band.

Mack The Knife.  Frank “the Chairman” Sinatra.



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