Very Fitzgerald

Seven thirty.

The cloud formation I can see from here is very pretty, more natural than during the wildfires. When I go out the front door, the writing in the sky might say, “Surrender, Robert!” Vapor trails left by a Wicked Witch. This idea made me laugh. No clue what it pertains to or what it means. I only got up an hour ago. Guess it’s time to go to the store. So far I feel good today.

Quarter of nine. I met with a couple of surprises on my outing this morning. The first was seeing Lisa, who used to work at Karen’s salon, in the parking lot of the market. She greeted me by name and with a deft movement stripped off her mask while I fumbled to remember who she was. Then she told me she had a new job at a salon that fit her better. I’m happy for her on one hand, but the happiness is superficial when you begin to think about it. I also think to myself that cream rises to the top, but it’s always at the expense of somebody else. Maybe I’m being too Charlie Brown about an otherwise good thing… The other surprise was the sight of schoolchildren on their way to the middle school. I was a bit worried for them crossing Maxwell Road, but apparently they knew how to do that… The more I think about Lisa, the more I dislike her supercilious attitude. There’s something very Scott Fitzgerald in this scenario: an oligarchy of the beautiful people, whereas those without beauty are the losers. It makes me self conscious. I tramp around the neighborhood in soiled clothes, the epitome of penury; and yet I have something that Lisa seems to lack. Give me a few minutes and I might recall what it is… Does she know who Fitzgerald is? And what is an oligarchy? 

It’s a Sign

Quarter after one.

I’m kind of glad I did what I did and stayed home this morning. It helped me to scan my new magazine, so maybe I could grab a book and read a few chapters, particularly in the Harlem Renaissance volume I’ve got. I am tired of feeling broken and helpless, and at the caprice of fate, or whatever force controls my lot. And I know I’m not alone with these feelings. The people need empowerment somehow. It’s not only my failing body that traps my mind, but also this age of lockdowns and government strong arming. Somewhere I have a book of Thoreau with Civil Disobedience in it. This essay may resonate with my mood today. I guess it’s okay to feel angry and frustrated with events and conditions in the world now. One of the smoke detectors in my house has harped at me for five days to replace its batteries. I have stubbornly refused to do that, probably out of noncompliance and nonconformity on a miniature scale. What more can I do? What can anyone do? At the store this morning I saw a male customer wearing no mask, but nobody said anything. The signs on the front doors make it plain that everyone is expected to cover their face inside the building. Maybe I feel a bit jealous of this guy who broke the rules. Why should there be a double standard for him? We all feel the way he likely does, but we don’t act on this impulse. For my part, I feel my mind imploding under pressure from my body and the outside world. And the smoke alarm goes on chirping at me minute by minute… 

Mice and Men

Quarter after five.

The cocktail of meds I took last night really conked me out. I can’t even think about church today. Of course the sky is still black.

Eight o’clock.

Now it’s sunny out, but I still feel pretty crappy. I’m going to sit here for another half hour before my trip to the market. I’m tired and my brain hurts.

Nine ten. I peeked into my mailbox and found The American Scholar, the Kappa magazine. This might be rather interesting to look through. It’s definitely better than The Tribune News, though clearly it isn’t free. College was so long ago, and I went there on my mother’s money. I was too young to make decisions for myself; I had no clue what I was doing there, and even if so, my best laid schemes went wrong. When I read The Fountainhead, I believed I had a rosy future, and good fortune would fall into my lap. But then the very faculty of reason betrayed me: you don’t have a future without logic. My best friend of eleven years turned on me when I fell ill because he couldn’t accept the change in my thinking. He passed away eight years later, still feeling jaded and bitter. I should’ve been a great musician and composer; but no: there is no “should” in this life, or not according with my will. I don’t beat myself up for it now. You do what you can, and that is all… The sky is brilliant and dazzling white. I thought I noticed a little smoke in the air when I left the house this morning. Heather said some nice things to me. She had actually missed me at seven o’clock, thinking I might not make it today. She said her trip to DC was amazing, and she wasn’t used to the workaday grind now. I was a half hour late getting Aesop his breakfast. He bore it very patiently. And by now, church is getting kickstarted without me to see it. 

Birthdays!

Three o’clock.

It is difficult though not impossible to find pleasure in this time of the pandemic and climate change. It can be something as simple as a Snapple or two quarts of ice cream, you pick the flavor.

I took my own advice and bought a tub of orange sherbet for my fourth birthday: four years of cold turkey. The streets at three fifteen were deserted until you got to Maxwell Road. At the store the cashiers were Deb and Hank. No one seemed exceedingly cheerful, but I hardened myself to the prevailing attitude and rewarded myself with the sherbet. It cost $6.39, so I paid with food stamps, and the receipt said I still have $195 in credit, which came like a bonus. I brought the sherbet home and ate half of it standing at the kitchen counter, thinking “birthday” with every bite. I gave Aesop two bites, for his birthday is this month also. He is nine years old now. The weather today is perfect for a little celebration, even if the only partiers are me and Aesop. The world is glum, but the world is wrong. There’s still something to celebrate. 

Like Montaigne

Four o’clock in the morning.

I took a Vraylar pill tonight and feel pretty good, except I’m not sleepy now. I have to make up my mind about going to volunteer this morning. I’ll probably be doing well to get to church on Sunday, so don’t sweat it. I can be my own judge. Today, the store doesn’t open until seven o’clock. Also it takes longer for the daylight to dawn. For these reasons I might as well sleep in as long as I want. Suddenly it’s a flood of Debussy’s orchestral music, especially “Fetes” from the Nocturnes. I hear an arrangement of his Reverie as well, such a swelling, crushing little piece of music: and I remember being 25 years old again, with these sounds still fresh in my brain. I had a volunteer job with the American Cancer Society. I helped them move locations from Pearl Street to Oakmont Way, schlepping a lot of stuff in the late summer or early fall. The word “volunteer” must have called up this memory from long ago.

Seven ten.

Although my conscience says I should go to the food pantry and help out, I still don’t feel very great this morning and want to rest and regroup.

I’ve been to the store and back. Feeling kind of tired, and I know that the church has expectations of me; but it’s not worth it to feel guilty. I’m always just inches from quitting the congregation anyway… There’s not much intelligent life in this sector of the city. How can people read a book like Moby Dick or Huckleberry Finn and still make it consistent with Christianity? I guess they place information in different buckets and don’t try to unify it to coherence. The contradictions are allowed to coexist in their minds; but that would drive me insane. I couldn’t be like Montaigne. All of the disconnected bits and fragments of ideas beg to be stitched together in a worldview, a system, and what is incompatible with it gets tossed out. I’m not sure where I learned to do this, except I know it was in school. It’s just the way I impose sense on reality; although you know, the ones who think like Montaigne may be onto something. The truth is that reality is full of contradictions and incoherence and downright illogic.

Quarter of nine. Some people can live like an encyclopedia, with the odds and ends of information scattered about their brain. They keep their religion in a lockbox separate from everything else and let the particulars dangle, disconnected, disunited. I don’t know if I could ever do that… The sky is silver like mercury with a little sun peeking through. I’ve decided to stay home today. Maybe I’ll peruse my volume of Michel de Montaigne to see what I’ve been missing. 

The Love Scholar

Quarter of midnight.

Gazing over the book titles on Amazon and reading reviews of The Bell by Iris Murdoch takes me back to a little trip I made to the university bookstore with a friend in June 1987. In the section of general books I found The Bell and also The Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle, which I bought because I wanted to understand more about the subject of love. It didn’t benefit me very much, however, for my friend dumped me a few weeks later, on the weekend of the Fourth of July. I was devastated by this rejection. Now I ponder if love is a thing anyone really understands in an intellectual way. Perhaps my approach was all wrong the whole time? And yet I can’t change the way I am, so I might as well accept myself as I am. Would this be a kind of love?

Why is there such a disparity between loving and knowing? The first one does, the other one thinks. It’s a sort of dualism, a reflexive situation: mental energy turned back upon itself, like narcissism; like gazing at one’s reflection in a pool or stream. You pursue the stream back to its wellspring, but in doing this you lose knowledge, because perception depends on opposition of subject and object. Two years after I was jilted by my girlfriend, I wrote a paper on “Alastor,” a poem by Percy Shelley, but my essay really said more about myself in its analysis of the water imagery, which was like Narcissus and his reflection… So what have I learned about love since then? It is in the chest and not in the head; something done and not cogitated. Love simply is. 

Mental Health

Quarter after eleven.

My visit with Todd went fine; I’m going back on the Vraylar starting tonight because I’ve felt so terrible on the other medication. My rides back and forth to my appointment were with senior citizens. Then I walked to the market at a later time than usual. Michelle told me what a crazy morning she’d had. Their Internet connection had been down for an hour and a half, so customers couldn’t pay with a credit card or even use the ATM. She thought they were pissed off when they had to go someplace else. I also saw Suk and said hi to Brandi, who has worked there for eleven years or longer. I remember when she was a new employee and was mentored by John. He left the business long ago due to illness. He said once that you choose to either drink or not drink— as simple as that. At the time, I disagreed with him, thinking that alcoholism was genetic and not a matter of free will. Now I can’t really say one way or the other: is alcohol use an issue of fate or do we have control over the behavior? Perhaps saying it’s fate is just rationalization, and what it comes down to is the desire to drink or not drink. So that what you end up doing is what you wanted to do. And this would make good sense…

Noon hour. Today is cloudy and overcast, and I felt a few drops of rain out walking a while ago; just isolated, random drops that don’t mean anything. Cherie was out walking her big puppy up the street and Roger worked on the fence shared with Lori’s property, telling everyone it was a project he didn’t want to do. Lori’s house reminds me of something that happened in December of 2010. It used to be owned by some older guy. One day his mail got delivered to my box by mistake, so I went to his door to return the letter to him. That same month, I kept getting free copies of the Junction City Tribune, which I put in the trash without delay. The articles in it were conservative Christian and not interesting to me at all. They demonstrated a lack of intelligence. I can remember how I struggled with personalization and paranoia about the neighbors, especially when someone moved away. I automatically believed it was my fault. This paranoia was just like my mother’s. Thank goodness for cognitive therapy, which is the antidote to the other therapies and programs that don’t work. 

Streaking and Shrieking

Seven thirty.

I hate politics. Biden’s vaccine mandates force me to be political, however. I didn’t know how to respond when our church musician said he had no tolerance for the unvaccinated, but now I can say that he was too extreme. For more than one reason, I want to boycott the church, and Biden’s action makes this decision even stronger for me… Last night I took my medication, and a few hours later felt worse than I’ve ever felt in my life… I don’t know. I don’t care what I say anymore. Life really sucks for everyone right now, so I guess anything goes. I feel like throwing off all my clothes and running screaming through the streets until I get arrested; but chances are that nothing would happen to me… I just trashed the daily church email without opening it. Aesop is whining for his breakfast. At least dogs are apolitical and innocent. I wish people had as much sense as my dog. 

Azure

One forty.

Last night I raised the dose of my medication to 3 mg, as I was supposed to do, but as a consequence I got up feeling terrible, with the blackest of thoughts. The only logical thing to do is reduce the dose down to 2 mg again at bedtime tonight. If I still feel this lousy by this weekend then I’ll stay home from volunteering and from worship on Sunday. At best, I’ll do only one and not the other. Schizophrenia is a frustrating mess. I hope tomorrow is a better day than this. I’ve got my eye on the sky out of my window: it’s still white instead of azure, the celestial blue that it ought to be. I guess sometimes you have to look upon the world with blue colored glasses when the reality falls short of perfect. 

Old as You Feel

Nine ten.

I was probably wise to never get married in my life. No one ever blessed me with a Midas touch, nor cursed me with the same thing. Solitude, like everything else, has pros and cons. My life has ended up being like the conclusion to Aristotle’s Ethics: that of the lone philosopher. Insight tends to be keener this way, though most people couldn’t stand it. Some lessons I’ve learned by observation, others firsthand. Addiction is a thing you have to go through yourself; no amount of warning is effective, because we never think it can happen to us. An alcoholic death only happens to other people until the Grim Reaper pops up right in our face… While I was outdoors I didn’t study the color of the sky. Looking at it now, the atmosphere is still very smoky, the sky a dirty white, and the reflection of the sun burnt orange. The transition to my new medication has had rough days mixed with better ones. My dog Aesop is really good about rolling with the changes. When I don’t feel good, he doesn’t complain. I doubt if anything will make me feel like a thirty year old again, so I just accept what is. The older I get, the more I try to avoid pain, but forget the pursuit of pleasure. Fun is for younger people. I also feel amazed and thankful to have made it this far… I’m always polite and courteous when I go anywhere. It was later this morning when I went to see Michelle and buy a few things. A pretty young lady smiled at me with her blue eyes when I held the door for her and her boyfriend. Otherwise it was just another trip to the store.

Quarter after ten. I have nothing planned for today. It’d be nice to see the blue sky a little later. Maybe I can brush up on my French; take a look at Baudelaire, cross the rainbow bridge to a different language. They say that the languages we learn are stored in different “buckets” of the brain. French may be my ticket to the Fountain of Youth. It’s worth a try.