Utility Is Simple

You have to face down your worst fears if you’re going to quit drinking. One of mine was that I might turn out to be some sociopath. The way my family reacted to me, I never knew. My grandmother and my sister had such extreme views on “selfishness”— really very irrational and unrealistic. My sister’s speeches always harp on this same string. It is the only moral philosophy she knows. But not even the Bible condemns egoism, or makes a huge issue of it. Anyhow, I had to reject the family doctrine that “selfishness is wrong.” If I hadn’t, then I would still worry about being a psychopath.

Nine ten. Now I don’t know: was my education from the University of Oregon an evil thing? It was secular, but that doesn’t necessarily mean wicked. Then there’s my sister’s religion with its built in racism. People have various attitudes toward sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Yet everyone believes that they are right. I guess a moderate position is the one to take when I consider all the extremes, the polarities that divide people. And breezing through everything are the winds of change. Historians say that history is cyclical and tends to repeat itself. Philosophers say that history is a rational process, working toward ever greater freedom. Ultimately, humanity is free and responsible to choose whichever way it goes. We can go in a better direction, or we can steer ourselves further into the darkness. Meanwhile, I go about my daily peripatetic routine, taking in the sights and sounds, trying to be a good utilitarian, keeping people happy. Happiness is a simple concept, nor is it difficult to practice.


Seven o five. The weather suggests that it will be mixed again today. Mostly cloudy. Typical June. Everything is gray and green outside, with a bar of pale yellow. The shadows of the clouds are lavender and gray. And people are all colors and none. Does the idea of racial equality even need vindication? Unfortunately, some people think so, when this truth ought to be self evident.

Eight thirty five. Aesop gets peanut butter treats today… America has been going in reverse for too long. We need to open our doors to the world again, but instead, people are closing them even more. What is COVID to us but an excuse to isolate ourselves from the world and perpetuate MAGA? Do we really prefer The Monkees to The Beatles? Or Elvis Presley to Elvis Costello? My sister used to talk as if the Revolutionary War were still being waged against England. Hello! What we need over here is another British Invasion, another New Wave. Terry Bozzio of the LA band Missing Persons first played drums with prog project U.K. It featured John Wetton on bass and Eddie Jobson on keyboards. This happened in 1979, and Bozzio brought the British scene back with him to the USA. The Police was another cosmopolitan band from the same time period. We did it before, and we can do it again.


Ten ten. I lay in bed in a half conscious stupor, thinking about the year 1980, the music and the books I was familiar with then, though I don’t know why. Everything I was then was what 1980 had to sell me. The year 1980 was less a time than a merchant and a teacher, an industry captain, a god and government, society, the people en masse, a spirit of the age. There’s something about the number 40 that rings of perfection and magic. We were at the coast when I bought Tarzan and the Golden Lion from a grocery store. It was probably Waldport. I obtained At the Earth’s Core from the same supermarket. Mom remarked on the boobies on the woman in the cover painting. I thought she was being vulgar. We stayed at the Wayside Lodge, between Yachats and Waldport on the Oregon Coast… Probably tomorrow I will hike over to Bi Mart for my prescription. My heart is full of melancholy tonight as “Achilles’ Last Stand” soars through my head. I’m an old school dinosaur in search of a place to belong in a new century that hasn’t figured itself out yet. What great discoveries lie in wait for the 21st Century? What new things under the sun— or is it all just reinventing the wheel, and vanity of vanities, all is vanity?


Five ten. I tried to call Jeff this morning: danger sign. I associate democratic politics with drinking, whether it’s true or not. Liberalism to my mind gives an open door to alcohol use. My brother thinks similarly. The only times I’ve succeeded at sobriety were during a Republican regime. The coming election will be a very difficult time for me. I’d feel like an idiot voting for Trump, but maybe it’s in my interest? If the pattern is right, then I’ll drink again under another Democrat. Maybe find myself a girlfriend too. She might be from a foreign country, as was Kate. Politics is a strange phenomenon, with this pendulum swinging left and right. It is quite Hegelian in being dialectical.

Six twenty five. Also, I left my job at Sweep just in time for the election of Obama in 2008. Liberty again. I recall watching his inauguration that November. A lot of people did what I did, which was to depend on food stamps and other human services. When Romney ran against him in 2012, he referred to him as the food stamps president. Obama’s administration was all about people of color and people with disabilities. I remember watching the election returns that year and his acceptance speech, and Romney’s concession. And Wendy, a clerk at the market, reportedly wept bitterly when Obama was re-elected…

The mail came, with Aesop’s new treats. I gave him six of them. My Clark Ashton Smith book came as well. The worst thing about drinking is how it affects my ability to read books or concentrate on anything. And my medication now is different from the one during Obama. Hopefully history is not cyclical. I’d prefer to forget politics altogether for as long as I can. Nor do I want to hear from Jeff.

The Rock

One forty. It hasn’t begun to rain yet. I jammed on my white Fender until I resolved to install a heavier bridge and beef up the sound. I’m used to hum canceling pickups, too, but I think a high mass bridge should make the desired difference. I’ll find out when I try it… Forty years ago today, Mt St Helens blew her top. The cloudy weather this afternoon is much like it was in May 1980. The community here hasn’t changed a whole lot since then. The soil itself seems to sprout the same kind of people with the same ideas as always. This is actually comforting to know. It gives a sense of home and security. People need a rock to build their lives on and around. I can remember things like Pepsi and Bubble Yum and Nacho Cheese Doritos for a treat when my brother and Denise visited us from up in Pullman Washington. We played Uno and Mille Bournes, sometimes Monopoly or chess. I always did better at witless games of lucky chance. Our home was very modest compared to what Denise was used to. Poor Mom worried about that. But this little suburbia has always been here for me. I grew up in this place, and on its fundamentals. The spirit of the community breezes everywhere in the air, goes right through us like radio waves. What we put into the soil determines what has come out. It’s a good feeling.

History Lesson

I found my copy of The Carpetbaggers by Harold Robbins, a cheesy old bestseller that both of my parents read when I was a toddler. Maybe I wasn’t born yet. It is quite decadent, dealing with money and sex mostly. I wonder why my parents fed their minds on such immoral stuff. Were the sixties and seventies so very different from the present? This book could be said to be the bible of my parents’ marriage. A constitution of sorts. A handbook, an owner’s manual of conjugal ties…

I suppose The Carpetbaggers expresses a moral creed in a way: aestheticism, or maybe Epicureanism. Indulgence in pleasant sensations is the highest good. Living with my mother after Dad passed away was odd. I spent that time trying to pigeonhole her belief system, which was fairly easy. I purchased my own copies of Harold Robbins and the verse of Kipling. Did some thinking about Poe. Then I reread Lord of the Flies and part of Thomas Hobbes. I finally joined a butt rock band— and Mom had a heart attack and died. The combination of smoking and drinking caused her demise. I was left behind still trying to solve the mystery of her life. I knew what she believed, but I didn’t understand the why of it. “I am lost now in this half world / It hardly seems to matter now.”

My sister perceived Mom’s life as something naughty and taboo, as well as prideful. I beg to come to her defense. Mom might have been misdirected when she lived in Glendale California and brushed with movie actors at her high school. She graduated at age 17, which would have been 1945, the year the war ended. She never gave me a good timeline of her life as a teenager, but she described a little what high school was like during WW2. Instead of an honor roll posted on the wall, there was a roster of senior boys killed in action. Mom had a classmate who was a Hollywood actress, and who asked Mom to do her homework for her. I think my mother was immersed in a culture quite alien to what Polly and Jeff grew up with in Oregon. My parents both were raised on the movies, on Marilyn Monroe and John Wayne. Dad wanted to be a war hero and enlisted as soon as he could. He was discharged from the Navy because he caught rheumatic fever, while in France his twin brother was killed in action in the Army.

Times were a lot different for my parents, and the silver screen gave not only escape but also a representation of their lives. It would be difficult to judge my parents and the dreams they were raised on. To judge them is to judge a whole generation.