“Christmas will soon be here, Svevo,” she said. “Say a prayer. Ask God to make it a happy Christmas.”
—John Fante, Wait Until Spring, Bandini
Music this year:
This part of life is almost monastic. I get up every day at 3:45AM, meditate, then cook breakfast. While cooking, my iPad reads the current book into my headphones. In a normal day, I only get scraps of minutes for reading, so the machine helps me make steady progress. Here are some passages from books I read this year:
I can’t believe how real life never lets you down. I can’t understand why anyone would write fiction when what actually happens is so amazing.
Nora Ephron, I Feel Bad About My Neck
So decide now that you are worthy of living as a full-grown man who is making progress, and make everything that seems best be a law that you cannot go against. And if you meet with any hardship or anything pleasant or reputable or disreputable, then remember that the contest is now and the Olympic games are now and you cannot put things off any more and that your progress is made or destroyed by a single day and a single action.
Epictetus, The Encheiridion
By Donald Trump’s own account, what may have been one of his most important lessons occurred just after he started college at Fordham. One rainy, cold day in November 1964 he accompanied his father to opening ceremonies for the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which joined Staten Island and Brooklyn and was the longest and highest suspension bridge in the world. It was also City Construction coordinator Robert Moses’s last hurrah, and its opening day was an occasion for politicians to deliver remarks and, mainly, receive applause, regardless of whether they had actually backed the project. But what Donald Trump noticed was that Othmar Hermann Amman, the eighty-five-year-old Swiss-born immigrant who designed the Verrazano, George Washington, Whitestone, and Throgs Neck bridges, was alone and ignored. “I realized then and there,” the young developer-to-be told a reporter many years later, “that if you let people treat you how they want, you’ll be made a fool. I realized then and there something I would never forget: I don’t want to be made anybody’s sucker.”
It was in the reign of George II that the above-named personages lived and quarrelled; good or bad, handsome or ugly, rich or poor, they are all equal now . . .
William Makepeace Thackeray, Barry Lyndon
After breakfast, I work on the eternal picture. As you can see, I’m crawling, inch by inch toward the west. I knew this section of the picture would be especially slow and difficult. The work breaks my brain open, which is its reward. I'm still working in Canvas #3, which depicts Pacific Heights, the Marina, and the Presidio.
Here's where I was at the end of 2015
I was able to get most of the buildings in the foreground colored this year, and now I'm lost in the trees.
I start work at my job around 7AM. Misa and Max open their lives for business and leave before 8.
Sometime during the day I exercise. In winter, this means riding a bicycle trail through Carmel Valley. The weather here is perfect at least 350 days each year, so I never have an excuse to skip exercise. The trail follows a little creek. Bunnies scamper across it, lizards crawl across. Twice I saw a skink, which looks exactly like a snake, except it has legs.
After the bike ride, I lift weights. The weights are smaller than they used to be.
We eat dinner at 5:30. After, I read to Max. Presently we are reading Robert Greene’s book, The 48 Laws of Power. Here are some passages:
In the end, life is short, opportunities are few, and you have only so much energy to draw on. And in this sense time is as important a consideration as any other. Never waste valuable time, or mental peace of mind, on the affairs of others— that is too high a price to pay.
Never let the presence of enemies upset or distress you—you are far better off with a declared opponent or two than not knowing where your real enemies lie. The man of power welcomes conflict, using enemies to enhance his reputation as a surefooted fighter who can be relied upon in times of uncertainty.
Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power
I need to be on my way to bed by 7PM. I’m fortunate to have Misa, to work the late shift.
A meditation teacher once told me, “You start making real progress when you can do the same thing over and over, with steady enthusiasm. Once you stop fighting, you receive the spirit of repetition. You don’t need escape. You stop shopping for a different, better life.” When you hit the same nail, over and over again, you get good at it.
Misa had serious health problems this year, but she’s feeling much better. We hope we have them under control now. Despite these difficulties, she continued to make jewelry and needlework. This was one of her projects.
Max is the BIG story this year. He’s taller than I am now, and he's proud of that. The transition to Middle School gave Max big challenges, but he met them with stamina and determination. Late in the year, he received his own phone. He was relieved, because almost everyone else in his school already had one. The old man shakes his head and mutters at these kids and their crazy gadgets.
We visited Washington, DC in summer, and found it pleasant and interesting. Misa helped me get ample time in the art museums; she’s a good girl to take along.
This is a painting by George Bellows of New York City, painted in 1911. His strong tide of paint captures everything I like about New York, the energy, the crowding, the ricocheting walks, as people strive to avoid collision.
Send your stories, I want to know about your year. All the best to you in 2017.