Monday, May 02, 2011

Live and Learn

Today is not a usual day.  I'm in more than two minds and I'm filled with dread and anxiety about the back-to-work routine at salary hell.

I made it to the gym after lunch. Changed my routine from running mostly to running and lifting equally.

I found that my bench-press numbers belong to a little boy or girl. Yeah the pump was there but I was glad the gym was mostly empty except for a huge man with bulging arms made smaller by a middle-age paunch I want to avoid even worse than taxes.

After a week of spending time with me moms and the folks who treat our family home like a bus terminal I have a tune playing in the back of my head.

It has played before under different contexts. I put the draw to the tune down to being a Gemini. You know, a two-faced jackass who can like and dislike the same thing inside of mere seconds.

I am decidedly a brutha who is both "confident and unsure" like my lost friend Rajeev used to say long ago.

Just before entering my local Pick & Pay More I sent the Guru a text confirming his Saturday rendezvous with other middle-aged men from our Rhodes past.  I sincerely hope the words "strip-club" are not in the Guru's noggin for next Saturday.

His Guruness did not reply being that he is most likely too tired after texting all and sundry today about his theories on Osama bin Gone this day(s) of killing.

"Is it halal to bury at sea," he enquired. "No it ain't since the Qur'an calls for the body to return to the soil from which it comes and for it to face Mecca," I replied.

"Well he is Japanese now ..." he replied mouthing something about Sushi and the (un)kind.

With god having died last week I bet the Coronation Guru of all things coloured and mixed-up must be mourning I thought as I entered the grocery store in search of Coke Zero.

And there the tune started playing again. But louder this time.  And not just in my head.

I looked at the white folks around me shopping and the black folks working and could see the tune was not playing in their consciousness like it was in mine.

And so it was. The return of The Boss from 1980 (just two years before I made Baltimore my new home) with a lament about routine, family, and its gluey circumstances. No not that one about riding my motorcycle home in the rain ... that was the Piano Man.

This one:

Got a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack!
I went out for a ride and I never went back.
Like a river that don't know where its flowing,
I took a wrong turn and I just kept going
Everybody's got a hungry heart
Everybody's got a hungry heart
Lay down your money and you play your part
Everybody's got a hungry heart
My "hungry heart" forced me to leave Baltimore in 1987 for South Africa where I met the Guru in training as he smoked copious amounts of whacky tobacco to still his political obsession to bomb all "whites-only" pubs in Grahamstown.

I returned to Baltimore in 1988 after a Cuban-American girl-woman followed me to South Africa and convinced me that being engaged was a good thing (she lived in Baltimore after escaping from Cuba).

It was not.  Turns out having a "hungry heart" is not just a man thing. 

It also turns out that life can sometimes hurt you bad for good reasons.  I was blessed to have escaped.

In the mid to late nineties I learned a new personal mantra from my grumpy but lovable landlady (Nancy) who cared for me and fed me while I wrote a doctoral dissertation ... in Baltimore no less.

Yeah I returned to Baltimore to "live and learn" like Nancy would say.  And like The Boss it pressed me to appreciate some of the words of Ulysses (1833) by Tennyson (particularly the emphasis on "roaming with a hungry heart"):
 Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
  Gleams that untravell'd world, whose margin fades
  For ever and for ever when I move.
"Hungry heart(s)" and "arches" aside, leaving it seems is a good way to return.  And to leave again.  "Cause "you live and learn" along the way.



pserean said...


I remember that poem. That strong feeling of dissociation -being surrounded by people 'who feed and hoard and sleep and know not me'...
something like that, I think.
I'm a horrid misquoter.

'It also turns out that life can sometimes hurt you bad for good reasons. I was blessed to have escaped.'
Yeah, that too.

I remember before getting married, saying a secret little prayer-
Please, Allah- let it be good. Let it make me stronger and better, and bring me closer to You-
but please- not through a lesson.
I don't want despites, I want becauses. Please.


Well. Now I'm learning how to build up my faith again.
It is harder the second time around. It sometimes seems that the strength that pushed you to stand, forbids you to bow when you should.

The point-? I don't know. Just glad you seem past that curve of 'live and burn'.

Ridwan said...

Salaam pserean:

Thanks for your thoughtful words.

I see and appreciate the willful courage of your stand and know that you are moving Onward!

I also know from experience that life is your first and only "time around" (the second part is just unfinished business - sometimes a minefield of regrets and pain).

I like that my life is mine and not some version of socialized or capitalized expectation.

These days I find my father's insistence that "I look to my own strength" in all life matters to be a guiding wisdom.

It is, of course, never just cut and dry so to speak.

But being past the "live and burn" as you say is absolutely freeing.

Thank you for writing so close.

Be lekka.