A Life For A Life
I had not considered this life. I have to now: I am in it. I have no doubt that it will end, only little idea of when. The hardest decisions to make, I suppose, are the ones that lead us from our good fortunes. My good fortune is nearly accidental. I have worked at it tirelessly, for years. Only I never considered it. I walked blindly into it—choosing this path, surely, but having no idea of where it led or ever announcing it as my ambition. It is not my ambition. It is only that I am very good at it, and that I sometimes enjoy it.
That’s enough, I think. I can prosper like that. Only the gulf between life and fantasy widens, and not only do I not know my way over, I’m losing sight of my dreams altogether. New dreams arrive. And everyday I have to convince myself that I do not want to open my own restaurant, my little vegan bistro featuring food inspired by Mediterranean France, Spain, and Italy, with good wine and cold beer (it’s damned hot today), blond wood and brass, live gypsy music, and old posters of Jean Gabin movies on the walls. (I will not say the name of my restaurant because I love it.)
I do not want that! I would be good at it, what with what I’ve learned running a similar place—though not nearly as good, because it belonged to somebody else—for three years and all that I’ve learned at my current job, one of the very best—hand on heart and it’s a consensus anyway—restaurants in New York City. Hell, I’d have the best vegetarian restaurant in New York, because no one does good Mediterranean food, though Counter comes close, but they are inconsistent and often uninspired.
See how seductive that is? Who doesn’t want to own their own restaurant? And when you’re as sure as I am that it would be good, it is a battle not to dive into it. It is not my dream, and it is too large to be a diversion. All my professional life has been a diversion.
I am in a new life, dear readers, not close enough to the last one, though similar to the one before that. I live again on Staten Island. I am a waiter, though this time, as mentioned, it is at a very fine restaurant (where, sadly, wholesale carnage is the order of the day). And though I have lost some things I should have held onto (this journal and my literary life, movies!, cooking, and, some days, my sweetheart), I have gained new things that are nearly big enough to make up for it, and even allow room for some of those old things (as you see here, with what I hope is the first sign of a comeback).
I have friends, or nearly so, which can go a long way to filling the absence of my best friend. I have taken up improv, which has inspired me a hundred percent, and though my ambition is not in performance (remember that I wish to make films), I find I am good at it and want to be better. I have discovered a great deal about myself, and have improved in all aspects of living. I didn’t see that coming. (I head to a class now, writing this on the ferry, which I think is a good place to write and plan on doing so more often.)
I gave up cooking for gardening, because there were no good ingredients available to me. Oh, they are coming now. Ten varieties of heirloom tomatoes, but especially Amish Paste, which I think will make an excellent sauce, Brandywine, and Cherokee Purple. Beets, too, and carrots and squash and cucumbers and herbs. My garden is well-worked and time-consuming. That is why I do not write (an easy excuse).
(Now I am waiting for a pizza marinara at an astoundingly good pizzeria in the East Village, and I have a glass of chilled red wine, a little frizzante, that is making me very happy. This place is only open four days a week, from five o’clock to whenever they run out of that day’s dough. I hate that I work nights, because improv and good food all happen after dark.)
Things may get better. I think a new promotion is coming at work, and with it perhaps less hours and much more money. I work incredibly hard and it still seems that this comes so easily. This allows me to think about moving to Manhattan, which would be a new life altogether. I have always disliked Staten Island, where there is nothing for me, except my family and now my garden. I hope to move after the harvest.
There will be more time then. I will get home sooner, and can write before sleep. I can write a screenplay, which must be my next step. I have ideas for short films that gnaw at me behind my temples. I have like-minded friends, actors and improvisers who push me forward. People have been waiting for me for over a decade. I have a streak of cowardice in me that I hope to smother.
I am a bon vivant, and that (now) is a weakness. I cannot enjoy life this much until I have struck a balance with my art. I cannot work and work just so that in my off-hours I can pretend that I am retired. I must work even harder. I must commit to my current job and move to the city. I can find a balance between a forty-hour job and art. Someday art will pay the bills and I will have equilibrium. Until then, though, I mustn’t spurn good fortune. We’re in a recession, you know.