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From Hunger

by Dr David, Editor, Publisher

My father would speak of hunger as a place. If he disapproved of someone, he might say that they were "from Hunger." It was probably a Yiddishism, one of those idioms, so full of meaning, that is hard to translate into another language. To me being "from Hunger" meant being impaired, ineffectual, lame, as in, "That's a lame excuse."

I myself have a strange attitude to hunger. I frequently ignore it. I am ignoring it now as I write this. I wanted to get a start on this article before the day got going in other directions, before I go up to the rooftop and do my yoga. And I want to do my yoga without a big breakfast in my belly. I've had a couple of dozen grapes. I will have an extra large slice of watermelon roofside before my yoga, which will satisfy the hunger for that 40 minute session, but right now I am hungry, unsatisfied.

Sometimes I like the feeling. The angels, we are told, do not eat. Sometimes not eating makes me feel angelic, my body rarified. Other times my low blood sugar makes me irritable, a little devilish. My relationship with food is complicated. Overall I am very good at delaying gratification, too good.

Always my delay in eating is because I am working; I am following a good lead, deeply into a task, which I want to complete before I stop to eat. I tell myself that I will eat with greater tranquility with that phase of work behind me. That's true. But why can't I experience satisfaction more readily? Why do I push myself so?

I have to admit that in some ways I, too, am coming "from Hunger." I am damaged goods. These days the label "narcissistic" is bandied about quite liberally, but my mother was clinically so. I don't like speaking ill of the dead, but this article is my therapy. If Mom were the center of attention she seemed more or less normal, but for her we all were things. She told me once, tearfully confessing after I had accused her of the same, "I know I didn't touch you enough when you were kids, but that doesn't mean I didn't love you." Well, yes it does. Actually, to the baby I was it meant something worse; it meant, your life is in jeopardy.

I push myself. I have difficulty experiencing satisfaction, because this sense that something is very wrong has accompanied me on my life's journey. There are a hundred variations on the theme, but the basic melody is an underlying feeling of lack, of hunger, of something missing. There is a void, a winter in my veins. The Talmud says about the manna that the Jews ate in the desert that it was a "food that caused hunger." The rabbis explain that when you are eating the last of your reserve of food, and have nothing for your next meal, then your eating causes hunger, you worry about food even as you are eating. (The manna came down a day at a time and those without faith worried about tomorrow's portion.) I lack faith. Literally and metaphorically, I think about my next meal even before finishing the one I am eating, even though my cupboard is crammed full.

Two Tango singers, Keila and the birthday girl, Katy

I was invited to a friend's birthday party last Saturday night. Some of you may know the birthday girl, Katy Campos, the Tango singer. There was to be food, but, not knowing how much or when it would be served and only having eaten a very late breakfast that day, I decided to have a good meal before attending. Having just bought a slew of tomatoes at the Saturday Market (which delayed my yoga, which delayed my breakfast), I elected to make my famous pasta sauce, great even when just made, but really out-of-sight the next day.

While the sauce was simmering away and the pasta approaching al dente my mind turned to some excellent cannabis oil I acquired from a man who has been growing marijuana for 35 years. A real connoisseur, when I told him that the pot I had was old, he told me that marijuana, like wine, improves with age, if you store it properly.

Someone who drinks regularly develops a great reserve of liver enzymes whose specific role it is to breakdown alcohol in the bloodstream. That's the main reason A can drink B under the table. By the same mechanism, because I use pot infrequently, because the specific enzymes to break down THC are not waiting in readiness in my liver, I never need to use very much of it. I get higher for longer than those who frequently indulge. In this marijuana follows the seemingly paradoxical maxim, less is more.

Still with edibles, eating the drug, it can be hard to measure dosage. I't's hard to smoke too much pot at one sitting, because you regulate the dose by how many times you toke (inhale). When you get too high, you don't get too, too high, because before you do, you refuse or forget to take another hit.

Today, with the greater accessibility and popularity of marijuana in edible form, people regularly eat too much pot. They don't know how much of the active ingredients they are swallowing. In the digestive system, unlike the lungs, it takes a while to enter the bloodstream; you don't instantaneously feel its effects. Still, once it's swallowed, whether you feel it or not, the train has already left the station and you are going for the ride. Those inexperienced in these matters, freak out when they get higher than they have ever been before and then, as the THC continues to enter their bloodstream through their intestinal wall, get higher still. They go to the hospital when all they need to do is go to bed.

Eating pot on a full stomach will delay the effects sometimes for an hour or more. Knowing this I swallowed the oil before I ate my spaghetti, licking it off a spoon. I think he added some honey to the mixture, because it is sweet.

Good wine has many levels or flavor. Good mezcal or tequila has, in addition to the alcohol buzz, other levels of psychoactive effects. Good marijuanas have their own distinctive highs, unique cannabinoid profiles. I am far from a conocedor on such matters. Still, arriving at the party, I knew that I was very pleasantly very high. Of the forty or fifty quests who came and went that evening I and a fellow from Wyoming were the only extranjeros. Pot makes me talkative. That, the good company, my quirky, often humorous observations and the fact that my Spanish has gotten to the point where I can make myself understood, made me feel at home. Being funny in a foreign language reflects a certain level of mastery, even if I still have to ask people to speak slowly so that I can understand what they are saying.

Mole at the party in an early stage of preparation.

The food was served. Normally one of the first in line, I had only the vaguest awareness of guests queuing up at the buffet table, filling their plates. When the crowd dissipated I made my way to the table and filled a couple of tacos. I was floating along, without urgency or direction; not a strange mood to be in at a party, you might say, but it is a strange mood for me anywhere. My hyperactive mind was quiet. I was content. I didn't want to leave. I didn't want a different seat, a different person with whom to speak or a second piece of cake. I watched the dancing woman acrobat get progressively more drunk, admiring the gyrations of her plump, attractive belly and bottom without lust. I observed, without desire, the long legs of the young djembe player, covered only by the shortest of shorts, as she stood with the drum cradled between them.

The tacos at the party were tasty, but my own are tastier. The women at the party were pretty, but my girl is prettier, outside and in. I lack neither food nor sex nor much of anything else. Like certain of the Jews in the desert, though, I lack faith in the abundance even as I receive it. Mine is a free-floating dissatisfaction. If I have something to pin it on, I pin it there. If there is nothing to blame, it just hovers like a noise in the background.

Dickens writes about a bee trapped between two window sashes, banging his head against the glass, believing himself enchanted because he cannot fly off into the oh-so-attractive outside world. Soy yo. That's me. But Saturday night the window opened and I flew free.

What can I say? As much as I have dreamed of the fullness it wasn't anything I could have imagined. In fact I understood that my imagination of it had been the greatest obstacle to my recogniton of it. I could say it was like arriving home after a long journey or finding after a long search. But it was at once more subtle and profound than that, more inclusive. It was the difference between squinting in the glaring sun and putting on a pair of sunglasses. The tone of the world changed. Everything became cooler, smoother, less of a struggle, easier on the eyes.

The fullness wasn't a filling of the void. It wasn't the opposite or antithesis of lack. It wasn't dependent on the arrangement of circumstances. Like my free-floating dissatisfaction, my contentment was not anchored on anything. It wasn't about being good enough. It wasn't about my getting or achieving. It wasn't about me at all. It wasn't even my contentment. And I suppose that is the deepest lesson of all.

The party largely broke up at 1:00. I came home and, a little bit hungry, ate what was left of the spaghetti. For someone from Hunger, I really got something to chew on last Saturday night.


Dr David tends to see life in terms of lines from Bob Dylan songs. One that comes to mind apropo of this article's theme is, "We are idiots, babe. It's a wonder we can even feed ourselves."

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