A Fast Farewell to Faneuil

I decided to try a prolonged fast, after about a month of doing some intermittent fasting, both for health benefits and spiritual ones. The first day was fine, aside from bike tires going flat mysteriously in the sweltering, muggy August air (Palm Springs muggy is the worst). The second day was on a good track, woke up feeling weird, but then fine. It wasn’t until late afternoon that anything actually precipitated.

It started simply enough, finding out that a long-time Boston “restaurant slash tourist trap” was closing, the latest place to blame the current crisis. For me it was a little sad, since I worked next door to the place for most of a decade, and counted many friends amongst the staff. The people who worked there stayed and generally like each other, so that’s something. Sure, locals would rag on it, especially the old-timers, but I myself used to put down a beer or three and a good share of Irish whiskey there on occasion. Usually their staff came to us though. We “tourist trap” folk stuck together, we got no respect from the bougie bartenders.

I started reminiscing, and all of the years I spent working in Faneuil Hall came back to me, all at once. The favorite underground hangout, literally, where we spent most of our time and money most days, eating dollar tacos and chimichangitas, that’s gone now. I miss the lock-ins that we would have before people got big mouths, hanging out with the bad kids doing bad things. I was bummed it closed too suddenly for me to say goodbye, I would have flown out for one more day of pint-glass margaritas with everyone if I had been able. Then it was the things that I could still do but wouldn’t mean the same, the chicken salad subs that we ate almost every day before a shift, usually in the sun because otherwise the bar wouldn’t be open. The grimy little locals bar that somehow hung on, around the corner, where we would sneak to for a shot on our breaks. The walks down Union Street, listening to all the guitar players playing all the overplayed songs, or turning the corner to hear better songs. Playing Buckhunter, or trivia, or darts. Talking to drunk tourists, occasionally kidnapping them to the next bar, always regretting it. Not wanting to go home just yet. The late-night halal place with the merguez subs, best eaten in the little park on top of the Big Dig, looking at the skyline at three AM with a couple of friends and a sneaky bottle of wine. Of course one can’t forget the karaoke, and the “chicken on a stick, one dollar!”, and the Scorpion Bowls. Sometimes we’d explore a bit, go on an adventure down State Street or to the North End, even to Kenmore and the Back Bay, but we generally stuck to our favorite places. Why go anywhere else? We had the best bartenders, and we were the best bartenders.

What’s the point of this nostalgia trip? Well at a certain point in my reminiscing, the fasting kicked in, and some kind of chakra burst open or something, and I had a spiritual realization. It shook me to my core, as all of these images flooded me. Images of most of a decade, of people, of memories, friends, strangers, living, passed on, moved on, still there, all the random faces of people I would see everyday but never knew. All of these years that I thought were wasted time, that I beat myself up over for so long, were meaningful. There was beauty in it, and I have spent so much time dwelling on the wasted money, the wasted time, the ways I hurt myself and others, that I never saw the meaning. The meaning was in the people, still to this day some of the best people I have met are the people I spent that part of my life around. The meaning is in the once foggy, now clear, memories. Even in the often embarrassing stories, certainly in the unbelievable ones.

I just wanted one more chicken salad sub, one more shift, one more shift beer, one more adventure party off into the night. That’s life, that’s why we keep coming back to this plane called existence. We rarely know what the last anything is, and it’s usually so mundane at the time that we don’t even know we’re going to miss it. I mean miss the whole time, the gestalt of it. One place goes, another, and many more will soon, I’d wager. The Faneuil Hall I knew has been gone for years, so that’s not new (I even had to double check the spelling), but I think I can finally process it all from a distance. Hey, it’s when I started blogging, if anyone remembers

http://thewildturkeysandwich.blogspot.com

So, to all the people I used to work with, party with, commiserate with, piss-off, make laugh, I hope you’re all doing well. I am sure I will see a handful of you again, as I have over the years, and that’s always a pleasure.

Farewell, that time of my life. Farewell, Zuma, Cheers, Durgin Park, and the rest..

Be careful doing prolonged fasts on a new moon, you never know when or how the Universe will crack your head open!

[Photo credit Jeff Keegan/Paul Donovan]

The Fast and the Cure I/us

No better time than the present to get back to blogging, eh?

How about some practical advice from your favorite bartender/magician in these weird days?

Actually, first can I talk about that? about how weird these days are? These are the strangest times I have lived through (and that’s from a guy who hangs out with spirits), and it’s only going to get weirder. I am sure you feel the same. Empty shelves, empty streets, animals retaking the streets, being constantly bombarded with images of disease, etc. Not working. That is the weirdest part, weirder than the empty shelves, or the leaf blowers and gas hedge trimmers that never stop in Palm Springs- even during a pandemic. Gotta make sure those bougainvillea’s look tidy! For once at least I am up early enough that I don’t want to murder those earnest fellows for doing their jobs. That in itself is weird enough. Well, if you have to be quarantined, Palm Springs in late March is not the worst place I suppose..

Try and find all the butterflies..

I am realizing how often I go to the grocery store, just out of boredom, as a habit. I mean I did this before the pandemic happened, and during the first few days of the quarantine. It became sort of a scavenger hunt as the days went on, trying to cobble together a meal plan out of what’s left on the shelves and whatever my roommate shlepped home from his seventh CostCo trip in four days (slight exaggeration). I have been doing a lot of pickling; but then we all eat pickles, we four trapped in this apartment together. We try not to let our situation become “The Thing”, looking suspiciously at each other with every new symptom. Waiting to see when (if) the checks come.

On to the advice:

On Fasting

It is important that we fast during this pandemic. I don’t mean dietarily, although I can recommend that highly and am practicing that intermittentently to boost immunity; I mean in everything. Take a break from the following each day, perhaps; streaming services, newsfeeds, social media, television, just for an hour. Deny yourself the dopamine rush of turning on a screen, or set hours where you don’t. Take advantage of this amazing opportunity to sit in stillness. Realize you have very little agency to stop a world crisis (even if you are a world leader) and take a moment for mindfulness. Breathe. Find a quiet corner, or a quiet path, and sit or walk. Who knows, you might discover a beautiful patch of morning glory sacred datura blooming where the rains washed out the sand last spring.

If you can’t find quiet, make a quiet space in your own mind. It takes a little practice. There are things that little device in your pocket can do besides waste your time and/or terrify you. Try out a meditation app, or learn a language, or hell.. start a blog! If you keep running to the fridge or the store every time you get bored, you’ll end up bloated and broke with a pantry full of things you are never going to willingly eat when this is over.

I am going to come out of this better than I went in. I hope the same for all of us. Imagine a world wiser, kinder, more grateful for what we have, more mindful. Now that the shelves have been emptied and there is nothing we have to do, we can remake our lives. Be what you want to see. That’s my plan.

[edit: Just found out I was misinformed and this is actually jimsonweed, but that’s ok. Doesn’t change the beauty of the plant, or the experience of discovery. Actually it gives me a great idea for a new post, this is some seriously witchy stuff with crazy history!]