SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 131: The Metaphysician

Cavaretta’s Deli: The best Italian Sandwiches in the Valley for over thirty-years and, happy to say, “A personal haunt of mine.

It’s one of those family owned places, with a long lineage of loyal customers and dedicated employees. Just entering the joint is an experience in itself, an experience where you are welcomed as if walking into the center of an Italian family’s living room, banter and all.

The aroma of good food is in the air, and as promoted by the Proprietor himself, “If you can’t smell it… we don’t have it.”

But Cavaretta’s is more than a mere deli counter; surrounding you is a boutique grocery store stocked with hard to find, and very authentic, Italian products and the best soda selection you will ever see — my favorite? “Give me the Dr. Brown’s Orange Cream Soda.”

Yet the pièce de résistance is the Italian sandwich counter, and I tell you, it is the real deal!

They’ve got it all, pastrami, ham, salami, capicola, mortadella and about every other cut of meat and cheese you can wrap your taste buds around, all cut fresh, and all lovingly sliced to order.

I enter Cavaretta’s this evening with 365 on my agenda. Ten years I’ve been frequenting this establishment, and although I have been caught up in the rapport of the place, I am ashamed to say that I have never really introduced myself or gotten to know anyone, so tonight is the night.

Lucky for me the store is emptying and it’s close to closing time. I wait for a moment as the last customer clears the counter, and as she does, I give my 365 introduction. Instantly the invitation is accepted by Michael, a very cool bloke sporting a jester’s hat. I’m telling you Cavaretta’s has color.

Not wanting to distract him too much from supporting his co-working buddies in their closing efforts, I jump right in.

“What words of wisdom or council do you have for the world?”

Without a flinch and backed by the greatest sense of humor, Michael replies, “Get over yourself, it’s not about you.”

A bold statement to swallow, but stick with us, it gets really good.

We talk in generalities for a short time, you know, that getting comfortable with each other stuff.

“I’ve been working here on and off for the last ten years. I’ve lived in the Valley all my life, went to Canoga High School, then to University, and now live in West Hollywood.”

Where did you study? I ask, “University of Washington. I was a Humanities major.”

“So you said you have worked here on and off, what else do you do?”

“Lets just call me a freelance Metaphysician.”

At this point we’ve got about ten minutes vested into our conversation.

Now, I need to let you know one of my few 365 rules, and tonight I have unintentionally crossed over the line of rule number two, The  rule: “Never approach someone when it will jeopardize their employment.”

It’s closing time and all are still on the clock, busy in closing the shop. The owner politely walks up to us, and very kindly remarks that Michael needs to help shut down. We all agree to give it one more minute in allowing time for a few photos, and Michael and I make plans to conclude the interview via phone during his bus commute home. And with that I’m off.

An hour and a half later we pick it up, compliments of AT&T.

We resume exactly where we left off: “Tell me more what it means to be a Freelance Metaphysician?” I start.

Michael begins with what he calls a classic definition: “Aristotle questioned, he contemplated and explored anything that was not physical. He examined philosophies and pondered spiritual questions. He was on an intellectual and ethical journey.

“’Most people don’t understand what I do, and now days the mention of ‘Metaphysician’ is very often looked upon as new age thinking, and that is not so.’”

Michael is an amazing thinker, a study of human nature and interaction, and it is fascinating to speak with him.

For Michael, life is not about status, income bracket or self-gratification. He speaks of balance, “If you are like me, you can be content. It’s not about what you do, it’s about who you are.

“It’s about who you are. To be more specific. It would be good to see people with a more general awareness of self and  outside of their own lives, able to redirect a self-awareness that includes the world around them and an understanding that they are not the only person they are responsible for.

“It’s like in traffic – if you know your destination, the street you will need to turn on, then be aware of your path ahead of time. Why wait to the last possible moment to change lanes and rudely cut into another’s lane, causing stress and possibly the safety of not only yourself, but also the person in the other car?

“I see too much, ‘What about me?’ and not enough ‘What about us?’”

It seems to me that Michael’s perspective of, it’s about who you are, is really a check for us in deciding how we will navigate life – the what we do? how we do it? and why we do what we do stuff. It also strikes me as a double check in posing this question: What is our intent?

Michael encourages us to reach beyond our own thoughts and reach out to greet the world, “Interaction is another path to self-discovery as opposed to withdrawing to self-seeking answers, answers that there may not be if attempted to find by one-self.”

Interaction is another path to self-discovery?… Michael is an amazing philosopher and his intent is pure.

“My wish for the future?… A global awareness from the top down,” he tells me.

Yet, Michael is a realist. “I’d like to see the world turn around, but it’s hard to see it in these turbulent times.”

Still he stands firm on his challenge to the world. That challenge: “We all need to be more aware of one another.”

I had no idea of the depth of conversation I would be having this evening, and it has been a pleasant surprise to meet a man of such wisdom standing behind a deli counter that I have frequented time and time again.

That in itself is a supporting argument for Michael’s call to awareness – if I had not reached out to him we would all be missing out on his message.

“For myself” Michael expresses, “I’ll continue where I’m going, slow but steady. After all, deep thought is not for everyone.”

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