Monday, September 30, 2013

Socializing Fail, The Bitter Buddha, and Everyone On the Planet Has a Cold

In my new resolve to Get Out More, I was determined to make it to yesterday’s Monthly Poet’s Gathering in Fremont, even though I was still knackered from a stressful week at work. I gussied up (meaning, combed my hair), and headed out. But alas! The pub seemed strangely empty of poets. Since I don’t know a lot of people in the group, I sheepishly asked several patrons at nearby booths if they were there for the Poet’s Gathering, a question to which they responded with blank stares. I just figured I was unfashionably early, settled into a table, and ordered a beer. The waitress asked me if I was “expecting more in my party”, and I told her yes, that 8-10 more people should be showing up any minute now. Then I waited. And waited. And waited. I was momentarily heartened when some gents with poetic-looking berets and glasses came in, but they promptly scuttled off to another booth. I could just imagine the waitress rolling her eyes at me, thinking I was some pathetic, friendless alcoholic who goes around routinely lying about a “gathering” so I can legitimize drinking beer alone at two in the afternoon. I finally left the pub after about an hour. It turns out that every single poet had a cold--not surprising, since the entire planet has a cold. More on that in a moment. On the plus side, for a lonely beer, it was damn tasty!

Over the weekend, I watched Eddie Pepitone’s movie, “The Bitter Buddha”. Eddie's  comedy is not for everybody, but he’s always been a favorite of mine. “The Bitter Buddha” is a documentary that follows Eddie’s mid-life career surge and portrays his struggles to manage his temper, his neurosis, and his self-destructive tendencies. (One of my favorite scenes is of Eddie in his car, listening to Eckhart Tolle espouse inner peace, while he screams at the driver in the lane next to him. I think I found my soul mate!) The genius of the “The Bitter Buddha” lies in its portrayal of Eddie’s frustrating failure to sustain a moment’s peace. It forces us as the audience to recognize our own failures, yet the humor and cheeky compassion that Eddie brings to his inane circumstances invites us to extend the same compassion to our most petty selves. His constant battle with his overactive mind, his reactivity, his genuine rage and disgust at the state of our country, and his inability to fit into the world he’s attempting to succeed in create a sense of semi-tragedy, yet also the recognition that to some degree, we all exist in a similarly absurd tableau. The relationship between Eddie and his prickly, formerly violent father is especially telling, and acts as the focal point for an otherwise meandering film. But beyond all of that, I found moments of authentic love in Eddie’s messy, sweaty mixture of self-loathing and self-acceptance, the fleeting moments where the Buddha shines through his eyes, and his sprawling, helpless vulnerability juxtaposed with his savage intelligence and rage. If that sounds like your bag of Skittles, you can get the movie here.

I barely bother checking e-mail or phone messages at work these days, because I know what I am going to hear/read:  A hacking cough, followed by a wheezy voice gasping variations on the phrase, “Imb sorry, I can’t cumb for my volunteer shift because I hab…(hack, cough, gasp)…a colb!” Or some similar e-mail, covered in virtual phlegm and pathos.  Everyone I know even in passing has a damn cold! Although I don’t doubt the veracity of their claims, I can’t help but feel that something psychological is at work here. As much as I wailed and cried and gnashed my teeth all summer about wanting a return of the rain and overcast skies, when it finally hit, it hit suddenly, with no transition whatsoever. One day it was 96 degrees and blindingly bright, and the next, it was 30 degrees, and there was a violent rainstorm that hasn’t fully let up yet. It was too much of a shock to our delicate Seattle systems. I think everyone’s body freaked out at the sudden weather about-face and responded by contracting a nasty cold, therefore forcing them indoors and under the safety of their nice, warm, cocooning duvets, where they could ease in the process of adapting to the winter. Of course, I didn’t get the stupid cold because I never get sick anymore since working at a hospital has turned my immune system into some freakish killing machine that mows down every germ who dares cross its path. Which means I never get a damn break. If I could cash out my accumulated sick pay, I’d be a rich woman by now, with a yappy little dog and a designer handbag. (Two items which are, by law, automatically issued to rich ladies.)

P.S. My reaction to the Breaking Bad finale is coming soon. Mini-verdict? Not cathartic, but elegant and peacefully satisfying, which in the end is even better. 

--Kristen McHenry

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