Three o’clock in the morning.
I had dreams of intrigue: of kidnapping people and stealing cars. My nephew Ed came to the house and we did some paperwork together. It might’ve been application for Supplemental Security. In real life, my mother helped Ed with the forms, and he never seemed to appreciate it. His five year old son had leukemia and he couldn’t have afforded the medical bills without government assistance. In the dream, as he left he took a car I had stolen. In reality, Mom made me give him my old Roland synthesizer, which his family sold and used the money to buy a home organ. I always resented this injustice by my mother, and Ed didn’t deserve to take away my keyboard and convert it to an instrument for praising the Lord. Today, it’s hard to say what was right. If Ed’s family was Charles Dickens, mine was probably Scott Fitzgerald. Over time, life has a way of equalizing things. Or at least it makes you think about things with a new perspective.
The rain is supposed to begin late this afternoon. My mind is a blank except for the last chord of Mark Egan’s “Waterfall Cafe.” Like a spontaneous burst of purple fruit. Intoxicating and wonderful. It’s all that remains to me of my drinking days, just a nostalgia of heavenly bliss. I used up all the bread and salami I bought on Sunday.
Quarter of ten. I stopped and chatted with Karen for a few minutes. She told me that business is slower due to inflation on groceries and everything. People don’t have any money for hair styling. My own experience had belied her opinion— until I got to the store and paid $4.79 for a burrito. But still, some things are going up while others are not. I don’t pay much attention to prices anymore, and I never carry cash. If I obsess over numbers, then I get triggered to drink. The flow of currency is equivalent to the flow of alcohol as addiction overtakes you and dashes you on the rocks. So, I avoid quantitative thinking like the song of Sirens.
I hear a squirrel on the roof. Yesterday afternoon was insane with the activity of squirrels, jays, and sparrows competing for acorns. They were busy at it until nightfall. The natural world is confused just like the human world. Their habitat is being destroyed, so obviously they move where the food is. Tomorrow morning will be the ringing of the church bell in observance of the firefighters and others affected by the wildfires. My pen pal remarked something romantic concerning the bell; it’s a symbol that people are a collective. It reminds me too of the novel by Iris Murdoch, wherein the church bell betokens Christian love that reaches back many centuries. The bell rests at the bottom of the lake, sleeping deep in the human psyche. Then one night it is dredged up, dripping and slimed with algae, and restored… I haven’t decided yet whether I’ll attend the church bell ringing. It’s a long way to walk on my rickety hips and knees. Maybe I’ll be offered a lift home.
Quarter after eight. I’m preparing to go to the store, primarily to buy Snapples. I’ve been getting away from soda, out of boredom with the same old stuff…
I observed a few fallen leaves on the street. The blocked gutter at Fremont created a little pond, as usual. I heard more bird life than is typical; wonder where they’ve been all summer. There were lost coins on the pavement, and even a discarded Bandaid. In the market, Michelle was wearing a pink sweatshirt over her blouse; yesterday it was Snoopy and Woodstock. She is always kind to me. I saw Derek on my way back, and we exchanged a hello, nothing more. The vehicles were missing from his driveway, which seemed strange. I’m counting down the minutes to Aesop’s breakfast, as he begins to lose patience.
Nine forty. The damp street, as I plodded along, called to mind countless times I’d gone to church by a hop, skip, and a jump. I reminded myself that it’s been the same old me for the past three years. And yet, the self can be a vessel for big changes. And no one may ever be expected to stay the same forever. People grow and progress with the passing of time, and the natural world we know is changing too. There’s no revoking it. The universe that began as a mere point of light and exploded into diversity keeps expanding like a balloon, and everything in it gets farther and farther apart… I encountered only four people at nine o’clock this morning. Overhanging tree limbs dripped water on my head here and there. I’m ready for the fall season.
Quarter after eleven. The sky is getting dark with rain clouds. I hear thunder. Again the squirrels are very active on my property. Now it’s raining… I used to fear criticism from other people so badly, and I got the worst of it from my brother. But since I stopped drinking, the shoe is on the other foot. I think about him less than before, but I can remember how mean he could be. One thing keeps me straight, and that is the quest for the truth, whatever it proves to be. Another peal of thunder ripples across the sky. I feel more optimistic today, since the rain cleared the air outside. Earlier this week I thought I’d been psychotic, but the next day I felt fine. I actually like myself today, and life is worth seeing through to the bitter end. Perhaps we can colonize other planets, as has been the dream of sci-fi writers since HG Wells and before him to Poe. It’s a matter of how wise and how durable is the human spirit. A scrub jay screeches even in the rain. The creatures are all confused after the fires and the smoke for nearly two weeks… I owe a debt of gratitude to my pen pal for maintaining her composure while I was going a little crazy during the wildfires. I could not see the light at the end of the tunnel, and believed the end was imminent… An idea from Percy Shelley occurs to me occasionally: we all are really just one person, participants in the One Mind. Individuality is an illusion created by language, he said. It’s a trippy concept, yet there’s something attractive about it. I imagine that whatever happens, we all share the same fate… How curious to think about interplanetary existence. Or any solution humankind comes up with to the problem of the uncertain future. The sun peeks through the charcoal gray for a moment. I hear the sounds of the train yard off to the south. More screeching of jay birds. My cattle dog Aesop just got a drink of water in the kitchen. Life is better today, even if for just a day.
Four forty. I rested in bed for a while. Towards the end I began to hear “Strange Meadowlark” in my head, an old Brubeck classic that always lifts my mood. The temperature outside is dramatically down from the summer heat we were having before. Currently it’s 70 degrees. This relief makes it easier for me to function again. It was fun to play my Strat a while ago, and I might do it again tomorrow. Maybe even plug it in. I don’t have many thoughts about literature and life right now. Perhaps something about learning from our regrets but not beating ourselves up. I remember that I asked a woman cabbie out once. I never saw her after that, yet I don’t regret doing it. Life was strange early in my recovery. There are things I don’t recall, but mostly I just wish I’d had more self respect at the time. It didn’t matter that I had a diagnosis of schizophrenia at all. It finally becomes clear to me. What counts is that I am a very intelligent human being, and very worthy for that reason. I don’t know where I got the misconception that having a brain is a terrible sin. There’s not an iota of truth to that. So, it would have been nice to avoid all the therapy and the abuse and suspicion I received from the professional people who really didn’t know what they were doing. I’m so much happier now, without being stigmatized. All I needed was to take the Vraylar. Over the time since the fire, my blog has metamorphosed from being about schizophrenia to being about human life without labels. But this doesn’t subtract anything from the beauty of “Strange Meadowlark,” does it? The bird is an ugly duckling destined to be an awesome swan.
Turned to Stone
Humanity with fear is paralyzed,
Unable to enjoy a single pleasure,
Dissatisfied to even shed a tear
As if a Gorgon stared us into stone.
Medusa, hair of snakes, in spirit form
Sends out a signal petrifying all,
Revenge against her slayer Perseus.
But Perseus, the favored of the gods,
Is not asleep, and armed with sword and shield,
Is ready to behead her as before,
Releasing everybody from her spell.
So once again the world is free to feel
The joys and sorrows proper to its kind,
And more important, act accordingly.
Noon hour. I’m hearing an old song by The Cars in my head: “Good Times Roll.” It was their old sound, before they went synthetic in the 80s… I wanted to buy some Snapples for Damien before it gets too warm out. I didn’t think of it on my trip this morning. I looked out for Number One instead. I think a lot of people are doing that, but it’s making us miserable. One thing I am enjoying, however, is A Farewell to Kings by Rush. I still haven’t heard all the bonus material or read the booklet. IMO, this album was the beginning of their more sophisticated sound, working with complex chords and soft subtleties. It was more sensitive overall than 2112, and more musical in the abstract. It was just different from their previous stuff. Basically, it was inspired.
Three twenty five. Damien hasn’t replied to my text from this morning, and he isn’t here yet. I take people too literally, I guess. He has things on his mind and a lot of work to do. I skimmed the liner notes to the Rush album. It goes into some musical detail about each piece, some of which looks inaccurate to me, particularly the analyses of time signatures, but I know I’m being pedantic. I’d forgotten that the band recorded it in Wales, so this explains part of the difference in temperament from previous records. Alex Lifeson also reports having used chorus effects on his electric guitar for a fuller sound… The music gets sort of lost in the translation into words. I can say with confidence that hearing these old songs makes me feel happy. And it’s very satisfying to sit down with my bass guitar and nail a part played by Geddy Lee on the original recording. I feel as if Rush were in the room. Who says rock and roll is dead?
Quarter after ten.
The possum under the house made a big racket early this morning. I missed some sleep because of it. At dawn, I slept in until nine thirty and then fed the dog. My walk to the store was rather difficult. I just felt tired and defeatist. What was the use? So I bought a two liter of Coke to pick myself up. I feel a little bit better now. Sometime between noon and four o’clock today, Damien is coming, so that’s something to look forward to. I wonder now if the key to human happiness might consist in generous acts. I should visit the salon more often than I do. Even if I feel awkward when I go there, still I ought to do it just because it gives someone pleasure. The Vraylar tends to put my thinking in Enlightenment mode, but as Wallace Stevens says, “It is not the reason that makes us happy or unhappy.” Perhaps all the knowledge in the world wouldn’t conduce to joy. Think of Odin, who possessed perfect wisdom, but for whom this was a woeful burden. The Father of the Gods was melancholy because he foresaw their own demise… Yet a little generosity and kindness can go a long way. And it takes my mind off of myself. Let us all share a Coke and a smile, on me.
Three thirty five. I’m not going to church tonight. I let Pastor know in an email this morning, and then I texted Roxanne. I wonder what the upshot of these times will be to posterity. We who are living through it sit around and scratch our heads. Nothing in our knowledge seems to add up. Our venerable traditions are unequal to the situation we face. I find the apocalypse prophecies especially inadequate, because at bottom, nobody wants to pretend there are righteous and wicked people. The objections I felt to the Last Judgment still stand. This is the real reason why I’m an absentee tonight. If one person goes to heaven, then everybody should go to heaven. But IMO it’s better to dispense with religion entirely and work together to save our natural lives. I like to envision a future of joie de vivre, as in the Picasso painting done after WW2.
Meanwhile, Rush’s “Madrigal” floats back to me, reminding me of a trip my parents took with me up to Victoria, BC. One evening, from the hotel we walked up the street to a restaurant with a glass enclosure where you could watch the chef grilling your steak on a big cauldron. I also remember buying a hotdog on the ferry and having a look around outside the cabin. The ferry was called the Coho, and it was black with red trim. On our second trip to Canada, we left the car in Port Angeles and just walked around Victoria. We may have taken cabs; I don’t recall. We shopped at Eaton’s, and Mom bought a teapot in the gift shop of the hotel. We enjoyed ourselves immensely. Who needed heaven when Victoria was just across the water from Washington? I prefer to think that my parents went to Victoria when they passed away…
Yesterday morning, my neighbor Derek offered me an air conditioning unit that sits on the floor. He was letting me have it for free. He asked me to think about it and come back when I’d decided. So, this morning I went back to accept his offer. His face clouded and he told me with embarrassment that the unit doesn’t work. My brother used to say, “If it sounds too good to be true…” And then, as if in response to my sign that says “Black Lives Matter,” Roger put out an American flag with black and white stripes and one blue stripe in the center. I stopped and asked him what it symbolized. He answered, “The police.” This makes sense, for he and Alice are retired cops. But what gives me pause is the thought that there may be something beyond the mere phenomena. Facts are one thing, but behind the outward show I feel sometimes that there’s a karmic law. Good is rewarded with good, bad is punished with bad. The mechanism for this is mysterious, while the effects of it are easy to see… I tried to drop in on the girls at the salon, but it was still too early. Damien called me: apparently I owe him for the past three mows. He’s coming over on Sunday. Life seems to be dumping on me, so now I stop to ponder why this is. “You say there’s no reason to conjure / With the force as it has been known to be seen / You say I’m a fool, a believer / Put your feet on the earth, it is green.”