It’s Sunday, 7 March, and we have “sprung ahead” here in Albania. Europe is behind the US, and has been since WWII. Albeit, they too have wrestled with the benefits and the ultimate scrapping of it, Europeans have polled overall to get rid off it. It hasn’t mattered to me one bit. I was still awake at 6:00am, my “internal clock” has clung to my usual work setting. For what seems like a countless age I had been arising at 3:50/4am every morning to chant and meditate before getting dressed and going off to work. “Sleeping in” on the weekends was limited to 5/5:30am, as I didn’t want to lose my edge, nor get “lazy”. The early morning would allow for peace and quiet before the rest of the house awakened on the weekend; it would grant me time to let the dogs out for the morning and greet the day outside of the house. Standing in the backyard of my former house, I was alone with the trees and the wind. That yard was a natural elixir to cure any ailment, and I garnered an immense joy from just standing, or sitting in it. As a matter of fact, I sat for the last time on December 5th, before leaving for the airport. My eyes lingered on every tree and bush, scanning everything in my surroundings like a sort of “mental MRI”. I shall not forget all of the memories made in that place. In coming posts, I may indulge myself and recall some of those memories, sweet or otherwise.
I was out onto the beach this morning at 7:30am. I strolled up the beach toward Durres for about a half hour, and found a seat on an unused hotel patio. The sand was all but deserted, and the sea was nearly glass: the waves came in low, lapping like soup in a bowl, and virtually noiseless. Normally by now there would be a steady stream of foot traffic, and this quiet may have been a result of the time change. At the time I returned on way back to my apartment, people were flowing onto the beach from the walkways that feed the shoreline. These small groups came down the wide gutters of the cobblestone path like ants being washed by rain onto the sand. I made breakfast and repaired to my ballkon to read and write, hence, this short dispatch.
The day has started out cloudy and somewhat cooler than previous. As I sit now it is 15C (59/60F) and won’t get much warmer. Without the sun, it will be like being in the Midwest during Spring. With my old fingers getting cold, I will take my cup of coffee back indoors and finish this note from there. Once inside, I recieved a call from my friend Ahni, and his timing is impeccable. We will go to a cafe to have dinner and watch the F1 race, as we had done last week. I was bouyant wtih a Ferrari 1 -2, and the food , along with his company, was excellent! Ahni and I had coffee at his place last evening, and got into a converstion about individualism, boomarked the discussion on a quiote from Nietzsche – “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”. Our talk arose from his remark about the Chinese and their attempt at it (individualism). He had spent 10 years in China, working for a dot com corporation there. Aside from being fluent in Mandarin, he speaks 4 other languages…Albanian not counted. I spend most of my time by myself and to have the conversation with Ahni, and most mornings with Leo at the grocery store… it is nice to hear another human voice. I fell asleep last night with our conversation bouncing around in my head.
Sitting this morning and watching the cool water lap at the shoreline, I remebered my conversation last night with Ahni and the things we said as we cited various works we loved. I remembered my favorite quote: “The Marivaudian being is, according to Poulet, a pastless futureless man, born anew at every instant. The instants are points which organize themselves into a line, but what is important is the instant, not the line. The Marivaudian being has in a sense no history. Nothing follows from what has gone before. He is constantly surprised. He cannot predict his own reaction to events. He is constantly being overtaken by events. A condition of breathlessness and dazzlement surrounds him. In consequence he exists in a certain freshness which seems, if I may so, very desirable.” I first read this in 1979/80. I bought Christopher Lasch’s “The Culture of Narcissism” sometime during my during my first trip to work on Captiva Island and my first term at University of Georgia. I still have it, and it is in one of boxes stored in my apartment in Bratislava. The themes of the book have been (and continues to be) a guidepost for me.
Looking back at those moments growing up in Blue Island; my Father’s alcoholism, my Mother’s determination, and the near-rancor between my siblings and I… there was a deep need in me to find out why “this was happening to me”. I believed that I was a narcissist, and when I saw the title in a book store, I had to see what was what. In the end, it didn’t reveal any answers toward my own percieved “narcissism”, but it did put my inner compass on a stronger setting. I thought it would be “cool” to be this Marivaudian being. In practice it was nearly impossible, but I tried nonetheless. I tried throwing off my roots, and reconditioned myself to my working-class upbringing. Since the passing of my Grandfather Niles Errft in high school, I seceded from reilgion, thinking no “just god” would take away the man that meant the most to me. I held my own Father in contempt for his shortcomings, only to find in time that I would yield to my own inner demons and failings.
I would sputter and fall to earth, after nearly 20 years of my own alcohol and addiction-fueled refusal to recognize my connection to everyone around me. Now 22 years removed from that mental and spiritual face-plant, I am once agiain Poulet’s “pastless, futureless man”, in the mildest and least romantic sense. I find myself still connected to my past; those that I love and care about keep me tethered to it, and I do not pull on that gossamer thread. On this particular journey, there is an element of that “condition of breathlessness and dazzlement” that surrounds my awakening and discovery of this world beyond my known comforts. In relating this to Ahni last night, he thought it brilliant, which I shrugged off. It is imperative to remain on my “middle path”, practice humility, and gratitude. I am still beholden to Lasch for the greater awakening regarding my political and cultural awareness. As for now, it is in the role of observation and not adjuducator that feels best. I have finally come to this point: where I’m comfortable in my own skin; it’s okay to be alone, and to discover for myself what is being revealed to me about this existence of mine that seems to trouble, and challenge me at times.
On a last and more earthly note: I recieved news from a friend at Holy Sephulcre Cemetery, that one of our co-workers had passed on after an accident in the cemetery. Our friend Ralph was someone who is easy to eulogize. He was my mentor when I joined Catholic Cemeteries after retirement from George J. Roll. He showed me the ropes and showed me how to do many of the jobs there. He was a Navy vet, a father, grandfather, and a devoted husband…he was also active in his church and his VFW as well. I considered him one of the last “old school” guys. Ralph was a musician also, and we shared much in that respect. He and his wife Susan came to The Last Waltz in my backyard…one of many from the cemetery that came to see our band The Dharmic Wheels, play for the last time together. He fell out of a moving vehicle, and remained in a coma for some days. I have been asking for he and his family and friends. The world will be a different place without Ralph texting me his corny jokes, and photos of this season’s crew cleaning up for Spring. For once again, I am devastated, and find solace in the fact that Ralph was truly a unique man, who touched my life and helped me when I needed it most.
I appreciate you who allow me to indulge these moments of scattered notions. I am grateful for those that reply with comments, and I am always grateful for the texts and calls. I will write a more pointed post in the upcoming days…these are just my thoughs today, from the seaside. Please take care of each other. Thank you