With everything out of sorts, out of true and out of balance, it should be no surprise that I am running out of patience. Particularly with the staff of Trader Joe’s, normally stalwarts, but on this particular evening most disappointing. For I have many notes to go before I sleep, all of them in the bass section, aimed with various degrees of accuracy at John Rutter, tonight’s favorite composer at the weekly rehearsal of the Menlo Park Chorus. But for now, with minutes to go before the start of vocal warm up, I am knocking off a last-minute errand at Trader Joe’s. Freesias. They smell so nice, after all, and with Menchu turning up in the morning, there will be someone to arrange them…. So, a quick purchase and out the door to fling myself at voices and music and…no, I can’t find it any freesias. They are not among the flowers displayed against the entrance wall. And damned if I am going to let this go unremarked. Freesias do not come and go like the seasons, even if they should, for Trader Joe’s is much addicted to the virtual realm of airfreight from Chile, Africa and so on. Freesias turn up on their display stand just like the newspaper on my doorstep. And never mind that the newspaper is all paper, no news, for we do not have time to quibble. Chorus practice is about to begin.
I have seen her, the young woman who circulates about Trader Joe’s with a clipboard displaying the words ‘Ask Me.’ Never mind that this invitation sparks middle-aged fantasies, for in reality she is a nice touch, this wandering info source. The clipboard girl just disappeared from the bakery area in the general direction of hummus, so I roll after her. It’s a bit of a maze, this place, with the aisles, and the general movement of staff and shoppers. By my calculation she should have reached the frozen pizzas, the hummus section being empty.
Ah, yes, there she is, emerging from milk. She is a pretty young woman in a mass-market sort of way. Does Trader Joe’s have any freesias? Note that I do not overly personalize this with the ‘do you have any freesias,’ preferring the more impersonal and less threatening query concerning her institution. A byproduct of having made a larger investment in psychotherapy than anyone I know, except for Woody Allen. And I don’t know Woody Allen, do I? There you have it. As for the freesias, the girl blinks. What are they, she asks. Okay, I tell myself, okay, perhaps this is not going well, at least at this early stage, but not to worry. The girl clearly has little to do, Trader Joe’s is almost empty, and we will pursue it, this matter of the freesias, and do so together, to the betterment of all. For I like the world to be an orderly place. Somewhat reliable, dependable even.
The girl guides me to the Wall of Flowers, glances up and down the merchandise soaking in buckets of water, and tells me no, freesias nicht. How she has reached this conclusion is difficult to say. After all, she does not know what these flowers are, and from my vantage point there are no signs to provide any illumination. However, I am seated and she is standing, so one gives the benefit of the doubt. It is, in fact, time to shift mercantile gears into the general line of inquiry…when will they be in? She disappears behind the high counter where Trader Joe’s management seems to reside. This is where one brings inquiries, complaints and, if one is minus 10 years old, gets a free balloon. Not that there is any hard and fast rule concerning the balloons, and eyeing the helium tank, the thought does cross my mind…. But I leave her to it, the looking up of the next freesia shipment. How do you spell it, she asks. Yes, this annoys me. But time is short, my temper is frayed, and I tell her f-r-e-e-s-i-a. Glancing down I notice a row of plastic buckets disporting themselves at my feet, a whole other offering of flowers…including the ones right in front of me, freesias. I ask the girl to grab two white bouquets. She looks rather sheepish, which is a good thing. I hand the two plastic-swathed packages of freesias to the checkout guy who inexplicably scans both at once. Not surprisingly, I am charged for one package. The gears of life are slipping, things falling ever so slightly apart, and it’s time for chorus.
I am a warrior, someone told me. That someone…well, it’s a long story, but I do not discount his expertise in this realm. And I have been trying it on, this notion. Warrior being better than victim. But is it credible, this term? The air hangs in the decay of evening, this being the very edge of autumn, day’s end always slipping backwards. And with the earth giving up its heat, pavements exhausted from a long bake…how can people be streaming about Menlo Park’s center as though daylight would go on forever? Which it won’t. Daylight saving time pulls its own plug within a matter of weeks, plunging day into darkness. And don’t these people know? That it, and we, are doomed? Daylight wasting time looms, and we are fucked. And a warrior….
Well, it is better than survivor. Victimhood already having been dismissed for its way of accentuating helplessness and defeat. Survivor? Well, it is too passive. Perhaps a better description is static. Even better, value-neutral. A survivor stumbles out of the wreckage, counts himself lucky, even grateful…but that is all. A warrior, as someone has been pointing out to me, defends the community. And I am on the knifeedge about this matter of warriorhood. The Walter Mitty angle seems obvious, all inflation and self-glorification. But it is very much with me, the experience of that violent night in 1968. I was defending nothing…or so it seems. Not even defending myself, at least not successfully. Or is this too harsh? I was defending myself against death, this can be said. A reluctant warrior, perhaps. And defense of the community? Perhaps that is where things are now, the world being what it is. It is a nobler calling, warrior. It brings social approbation. Or at least, social context. It has purpose and is not passive. I am late for chorus, and already tired, more tired than the season. And it is time to sing.