An Old Gideon

Eleven twenty five. My friend’s favorite dog passed away last night, and this changed my mind about social media. Coming home from the market, I stopped by the salon and Karen gave me a double chocolate donut, kind of like old times. Jessica doesn’t work on Monday. Karen was going to make a house call to do a haircut today. Her work is pretty much her life, and she tries to help people out. She hires people with problems who need a break. Her activity is very principled, even religious. She keeps plodding on with her life regardless of the world. And this brings me to think on duty and how people feel about it. Where does the sense of duty come from? Kant believed that it comes from the faculty of reason, which participates in the divine. But this highbrow philosophy doesn’t really explain how people behave. Most people get a moral education from Sunday school, and this is the doctrine of flesh and bone, of the real world of poverty and hard knocks. They don’t teach Kant at the Eugene Mission; they preach the gospel. 

One autumn day, up on the campus, a kind old man stood on the corner by the student union handing out Gideons pocket New Testaments from a box. I accepted one because it was reading material, then continued on to my class in Renaissance Thought in Fenton Hall. But I didn’t ponder it much after that. I didn’t suspect that in the blink of an eye, your whole world can be inverted, leaving you dispossessed and friendless. So today I do sort of wonder about that old Gideon on the street corner. 

Monday Morning

Eight twenty five.

The sky is cloudy and gray to match my mood. I think the world is still trying to understand itself, but while it’s doing that, I’m going to live my life. Relationships with people are often difficult. They go more easily when we know what we’re responsible for. Sometimes I have to stop and analyze the thoughts that cause my distress. It doesn’t pay to own other people’s feelings, or to be an emotional caretaker. And yet it’s hard to keep up boundaries with others. One has to be quite self contained, and maybe a little bit cold, to remain intact and not enmeshed with friends. I’ve never done anything like this in my sobriety, so I’m just learning.

I feed Aesop at nine o’clock. He gets Hill’s Science Diet chicken and vegetable for senior dogs. The package arrived in the mail Saturday afternoon, just as I was stepping out the front door on my way to practice. Today, after Aesop’s breakfast, I’ll go get foodstuffs at the market like I do every day. My mind begins to play “Jumbo’s Lullaby” by Debussy, a little piano piece from Children’s Corner. It’s about a circus elephant falling asleep and having an animal dream. It is my favorite work by this composer, and it always makes me emotional… Now Aesop has been fed, so I guess it’s time for my trip to the store. 

Quiet

Six forty.

I feel like being an introvert today. Or not so much that as wanting to keep my life local and off of cyberspace. Last night I saved myself over a hundred dollars by canceling the McAfee on the old computer I never use anymore. I recognized their email as legitimate— something I can do when I’m sober. There are so many scammers claiming to be Norton or McAfee to phish for your information… Is rock and roll really dead, as some people say? I guess we’ll see about that. I might as well go to the store for the daily stuff. I think I need my Snapple tea…

Eight o’clock. I bought a peach tea and drank it up. Feeling a little better. I should have an appointment with Rebecca in an hour. But you know, all the business and red tape is making me kind of crazy and I just want to be organic for a day or two. I could restring my Aria bass and jam on that today. Tweak the eq on my amp to dial in the tone. Enjoy myself. I’ve had that bass for eleven years and never done a gig with it… Something on my mind is messing with my mood. Maybe it’s a little of everything. But I need a break from the digital world for a few days before I lose my mind. It’s a sunny day, so everything ought to be peachy with me, but instead I’m so worried over nothing. If I see another computer I’ll probably shit on the spot.

Ten fifty five. I had my appointment with Rebecca, and it went okay. We agreed that my IRS letter is legitimate. It could be a long time before I get through to someone on the phone. Oh well. It’s time for lunch.

Quarter after three. Aesop’s diet doesn’t agree with his system, so I’ll have to feed him something different. He will be nine years old in September. We’re just kind of keeping quiet this afternoon. I was feeling very out of sorts this morning; some thought or other on my mind, but I think it was my dog’s health bothering me. It took a day for me to accept it… I just left a message for Dr Yamada on behalf of Aesop. She might call back this evening… The neighborhood is super quiet this afternoon. It is overcast with white clouds. Sometimes my nocturnal dreams surface to me out of nowhere at odd times of the day. One dream I have recurrently is of me going to an auto repair shop to meet with someone, but I have no idea why. If there’s dialogue to the dream then it is censored out. It seems that I arrive first at the shop and wait a few minutes for my friend to show up. Sounds like the story of my life. And sometimes they never do show up… 

Simplicity

Eleven twenty five.

I got a lot done this morning. Now Aesop has his flea medication; all I have to do is give it to him. It was overcast a while ago, but just now the sun is coming out and the sky is mostly clear. Nice to see the blue sky. In the old days I would drink it up and savor its beauty. Sometimes I wonder what Thomas Hardy would do with a problem like recovery. He was such a fatalist, but presented the idea brilliantly. I especially liked his writing because he challenged my position on free will so convincingly. It made me want to prove him wrong. I don’t know if that’s what I did or not. Recovery itself could be fated from a first cause, so Hardy would still be right. The Mayor of Casterbridge is one of the best books I ever read… It’s almost like magic how sobriety increases your fortunes. It used to be that I never had any money. My checking account was often overdrawn due to my alcoholism.

Three ten in the morning.

There isn’t much to say right now, but I happen to be up. I took my daily medications, thinking about my separation from the church. It seems to me that Pastor’s sermons messed with my mental health, and this went on for a long time. Finally I think I can just be myself. No ideologies are really needed to live by. I used to believe that Freud was my belief system, but now it’s not even that. I was right about Pastor being excessively political and sociological. This complicates the experience of life unnecessarily. I think I’m just a realist at this point. It’s like what happened to philosophy after the 19th Century: the decline and fall of the Absolute and the rise of the age of analysis. But even this is too cerebral. In the case of schizophrenia, all that is required is to take the medication. The rest is simply getting on with your life, and for me, music is all I want to do. 

Day of Rest

Five ten.

I had a good day yesterday. I also got a good sleep with some interesting dreams of friends and family. The music was fun. I stayed and kept playing with Mike after Ron had to go. There’s potential there musically and in terms of friendship.

Eight fifty five. Nothing unusual about my trip to the store. It’s a wet morning with an occasional drizzle. I’m very optimistic regarding the band’s future and the friendships we’re building. Today, Sunday, there’s nothing really on my plate, except right now I have to feed the dog… Something Mike said made me rethink my back pain. It occurs to me to say, Think muscle, not bone. Do the exercises from physical therapy to strengthen my back… Melissa helped me zero out my food card today, so my purchase was under ten dollars. I got a sandwich and potato salad, and a Snapple of course. The music yesterday must’ve been cathartic, because now I feel cleansed and rather empty in a good way. The cheapie bass I used sounded decent, though its construction feels kind of flimsy and maybe precarious or fragile. It only cost me a hundred bucks, so I can’t expect much. When I passed the salon in the afternoon, Karen flagged me down and showed me some new furniture for her space. Otherwise my walk over to the studio was uneventful. And I didn’t have to walk home, either; Mike gave me a lift. Ron expressed an interest in Robert Frost and E.E. Cummings, so next time I might bring him another book. He wasn’t too enthusiastic for the Ezra Pound due to the poet’s politics, which I can understand. Pound will always be sort of iffy because he committed treason and had some weird ideas about Jewish people. Still, to some extent I can forgive him. His poetry is often very beautiful and Modern. Ron also likes T.S. Eliot… 

Idea from Atwood

Eleven twenty five. I’ve been on the phone with Damien regarding my yard work; he’s coming out sometime this week. The band will jam this afternoon at four o’clock. I seem to hear the sounds of someone playing a bass guitar on my street, but sometimes my senses are unreliable, even deceptive. Instead of a solid gray sheet, the clouds are now individually distinct, permitting occasional sunshine through the cracks. I was somewhat paranoid a few hours ago, a little skittish and scared. I feared being hit by a car, and then I thought I’d lost my wallet when I got home. When bad things happen to you, it’s easy to color everything else black. I guess the trick is not to personalize what happens… It’ll be interesting to hear what kind of music comes of our jam today. Go with the flow, don’t force anything. And don’t think too much.

Quarter of one. It’s different when I feel like I have to depend solely on myself, and there’s no providence or intervention of any kind from a supernatural place. God is quite dead all over again, which should mean that more things are allowed for us to do, as Dostoevsky wrote in Karamazov. I guess this is the problem bothering me since this morning. I even dreamed that Belinda, the convenience store ex owner, was one of my English professors. How in the world does that happen, except in the lunatic experience of dreams? She was coaching me on how to write essays that were more organic and less mechanical.

Two o’clock. I’ve decided not to take my new bass with me today. It’s probably going to be a casual practice… I was just thinking that I don’t know what I am or why, or what my purpose is in all of this. I think many people feel that way. A collection of cosmic dust that happens to have some self awareness: this is nihilism, and sometimes I feel like that. I’m losing my religious indoctrination as the weeks go by. They can stain it in your fleece, but it washes out rather effortlessly. All you have to do is stay home on Sundays.

And then what happens?

As Atwood put it, you wait until the fur grows. 

Gray May Basket

Seven thirty.

It rained during the night. The forecast says no rain today, but the clouds look quite gray. I got a good sleep for a change. I got up in the small hours and read to the end of Symposium. I feel like I’m getting another chance to do what I’d always wanted to do, which is to make music with my buddies. The only thing that could thwart this is substance abuse. Life for an active alcoholic tends to crumble to ruin, as I’ve seen firsthand. It’s kind of ironic how Oregon has legalized marijuana, since this can be a drug of demise like alcohol.

Quarter of nine. My mood was rather weird on my outing to the store, as I turned over thoughts about criminal activity and declining morals. I saw a number tattooed to the back of the cashier’s neck and began to wonder. And then I almost inadvertently stole a bottle of pain medication that was in the bottom of my shopping bag. It is strange how our thinking modifies our perception from moment to moment, as Wordsworth describes in The Prelude. As if events in the world were fitted to the workings of the human mind, or perhaps reality is completely projected by the latter. It started to rain lightly when I was coming home, so my rain jacket was a good call. On my own street, maybe five cars were parked in front of Betty’s old house, and again I felt suspicious. The blinds were all closed in everyone’s front window, and I observed that my front lawn is in need of a mowing. Presiding over the whole scene was this sense of gray ambiguity from the cloud cover and also from my own vision. An odd sort of May Day morning. 

Praise

Quarter of five. I feel pretty good right now. It’s cloudy and yet still bright outside. The thought occasionally rises to me that I love music, for music is the experience of feeling. I can hear a scene from Spartacus in my mind, a piece by Khachaturian, so sensuous and lush, quite voluptuous. And the origin of this word is Voluptas, meaning Pleasure, the daughter of Cupid and Psyche as related in The Golden Ass, and again in Marius the Epicurean by Walter Pater. I doubt if my mother was familiar with Pater, but she might’ve gotten a similar notion from reading The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone when she was in her thirties. I probably don’t even need to read it to know its philosophy. My mother absorbed it and lived it— embodied the book… I could be wrong about that. I only remember how I felt when my siblings and I unearthed the book in a trunk of Mom’s things after she passed away. The fact is that she was not very philosophical, even in an aesthetic way. She had trouble with abstractions and understood everything literally. So, it doesn’t make much sense to discuss her “belief system,” or to puzzle it out behind her back. Most likely there was no ideology to my mother at all. In this regard, she and music had something in common. Her life was a bit like reading “The Bells” by Edgar Allan Poe: all sound without sense. To say that she was “aesthetic” would miss the point. She was the sound of music itself… 

Anticipation

Quarter of eight.

I think band practice is going to happen tomorrow, at four o’clock. Mike suggested having an easy jam oriented get together, and I added that we might record ourselves. My sister said she would call me this morning, so I’m kind of waiting for that. The weather is partly sunny and rather nice. I’ve been to the store and bought a green salad and two Snapples. I grunted somewhat under the cold and just old age as I ambled along the street. I observed my neighbor Steve getting in his car, but he didn’t see me… I had a series of dreams earlier about a possible moral decline from family values to selfish hedonism. But whatever happens, I’m involved in the American scene. It may be a ship of fools that’s out of control; or maybe just the contrary: every individual contributes to the direction humanity takes. It starts with one person going against the flow, like Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the grandfather of Romanticism… When I was a student, I didn’t do well in history courses. It would be wonderful if I had another opportunity at it. There is so much to know.

Quarter of nine. I also dreamed about my mother this morning: we were sharing this house together and not getting along. I don’t know if I’ll ever shake my memories of her. At least I know I’m doing music for myself and not to please someone else.

Ten thirty. Mostly I’m anticipating having a jam tomorrow. It isn’t much fun to live alone with no escapes, but I suppose I could read a good book later today for stimulation. The sunshine comes and goes. I reserved a dose of flea medication for Aesop, so I can pick it up tomorrow morning or maybe even this afternoon. My heart aches for happier times when I had a friend in Scotland and international borders were open. I hope it won’t be too long before communication is back to normal. 

Thursday

Quarter of noon. I walked to and from my appointment for the vaccine. A very sweet girl administered the shot, and then I was kept there for 15 minutes to make sure I was okay. I ran into Carol and Helen from church while I was there at Bi Mart and said hello. It’s really a beautiful day today, good for going out and seeing people. A lot of senior citizens shop at Bi Mart, which endears the place to me because of my parents. It’s like backwards time travel to step inside this store… So many of the faces are familiar to me at Bi Mart; the same employees have worked there for ages. As I was going home on Silver Lane I started hearing “Lovely Rita” in my head, just the chorus looping, and I thought of how John Lennon found beauty in ordinary life, the things no one would consider poetic, for instance a meter maid doing her job. Meanwhile I looked at the bulldozers working on the site for the new North Eugene High School; the layout seems quite massive. Maybe voting for this action was a good thing to do, so no regrets. And when I got home, I opened the package of Aesop’s marrow snacks and gave him four of them.