Skinner Butte

Quarter of one. The thought of religious ideals reminds me of a true story that happened here in Eugene about twenty three years ago. At the top of Skinner Butte there used to be a gigantic concrete cross erected as a memorial to Vietnam veterans. Somehow it was decided that the public monument violated the Constitution, and it would be taken down. As I recall, a group of protesters rallied to the cross. Some climbed up it and camped out on the crossbar, defying the City to tear the thing down. But ultimately the government got its way and the cross was moved to the grounds of a local Bible college. I guess it was reading Victor Hugo that jarred my memory of the event. He describes a conflict of the Church with the State with great conviction. Obviously this opposition is nothing new, since Les Miserables was published in 1862. 

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Ancient Ethical Dilemma

One thirty. The guitar stands came, so I unpacked them and set them up. My mood is still pretty rotten, though better than a little while ago… I don’t enjoy much of anything lately, and it’s very rough to experience. Kate liked pleasure, and so did I; we both were sensual and commonsensical about it. Except, it wasn’t rational to drink a half case every day. The Greeks prescribed moderation, and it’s still the truth. I’m a little afraid that I’m close to a relapse of alcoholism, and this could depend on the outcome of the election. I know it shouldn’t be that way, but party politics are what they are, I guess. It looks like my vote went for sex, drugs, and rock and roll. The movies will go berserk with a Democratic win, like Pulp Fiction all over again. Life in general will be decadent and liberal, and even irreligious. This is how I see the Democratic Party, whether or not it’s absolutely true. Thus the presidential race still bugs me, and will keep doing so until after November 3rd. It’s possible I voted for the wrong guy. I guess I really want sex, drugs, and rock and roll, or however you formulate sensual pleasure. I used to have too much fun with my old friend Kate. But it’s very difficult to know what is right between the choices of stoicism and Epicureanism. The latter nearly killed me, and yet I want to have fun so badly. Some people are satisfied with just having more money; that’s all they wish for. And then there are those who want to burn the candle at both ends and party like there’s no tomorrow. That was me four years ago and before. I don’t know. Which way is more commonsensical? I realize that alcohol is my curse and not good for me, yet I voted for the liberal party in hopes that everybody could have a good time once again. It’s too late to change my vote now, but I see myself white knuckling it until all the votes are counted. 

“If I Had a Hammer”

I’ll be getting physical therapy twice a week from this Monday till the 9th of December. The receptionist called me this morning and we scheduled all these appointments in advance. I plan on walking to each appointment, weather permitting, since it’s only 1.3 miles away from home. And it may be rather a pleasant walk in the afternoon down Silver Lane to River Road and beyond Division Avenue. The leaves on the trees will be turning and dropping all this autumn, and hopefully the sights will restore my confidence that all is well with Nature. By the way, I looked up a weather prediction for 2021 in Oregon: typical La Niña, and we may get an early winter, and wetter than usual, which is okay since the drought we suffered this summer and into the fall. Another good reason to walk to physical therapy is because it discourages pollution from fuel emissions. Pedestrian power doesn’t contribute to climate change. The weather today was really beautiful in the afternoon, though I didn’t go outside and take advantage of it. The color of the sunlight was a deep and mellow orange, the sky cerulean as it ought to be. I know that the wildfires continue to burn, but they seem to be more under control by now.

I keep saying this, but being sober in 2020 is a very strange experience. I think most of my family has deserted me, and Polly is just testing the waters with me until further notice. I don’t really care, just on principle, because she and her whole family are terribly racist and show no signs of wanting to change. On Columbus Day, a citizen vandalized a public statue of Christopher Columbus and Polly didn’t understand why— being ignorant of the facts regarding him and Cortes, the way they treated the Natives, and how the way history is taught today is vastly different from what she learned in the 1950s. The truth about Columbus is that he and his crew wiped out six million Arawak Indians by bringing Caucasian diseases, plus he forced them into slave labor and often mutilated them as punishment for disobedience— all for the sake of discovering the gold that he was sure existed in the Americas. This is the truth! Cortes and Columbus were no kind of heroes at all. Only from a white supremacy perspective did they pave the way for civilization. But the new perspective on history is very difficult for older people to grasp, just because old dogs can’t learn new tricks as a general rule. I feel sorry for Polly, but her son who is my age has no excuse for his ridiculous bigotry. In their family, people who graduated from college are seen as the enemy. Their suspicion of new ideas is very conservative, but the genesis of conservative politics is, in my opinion, ignorance and fear of the unknown. I think Edmund Burke might make a fascinating study for me. He was a renowned conservative Englishman who reacted against the French Revolution, seeing the bloody and inevitable consequences and concluding that ideas are dangerous. Does that seem relevant to our time? I wonder if it makes me a political radical, along with all the other protesters for the sake of people of color… Whatever, I don’t have much sympathy for bigots. If I must defect from Polly’s clan, then so be it. I can’t reverse the knowledge that I have, nor can I teach those who don’t want to learn. To them, like to Burke, ideas really are dangerous, so maybe they are better off left alone.

Sorry this turned into a little rant on racism. It’s a hard pill to swallow for a lot of people. I hope you weren’t offended by it. But it’s something I feel very strongly about, and damn the torpedoes if people can’t handle it. Many truths are inconvenient and untimely, but on the contrary, they arise when the need is the greatest.

What Debate?

Five ten.

We live in the Age of Unreason as things stand. It is the acme of rudeness to interrupt and fail to listen to other people. I knew someone like that 15 years ago. She described herself as logical, but really she was the farthest thing from it. She always presumed that what she had to say was more important than your input. She was the most ignorant person I ever met… This country was the brainchild of the Enlightenment, a time of scientific optimism and the audacity to know. A time that revived reason and logic. Nowadays, it is like a country beheaded, having no rational mind to measure out justice and equity. Leaders can get their way by throwing a tantrum or jumping down your throat. How can we call this civilization anymore? The worst part of it is that people vote for it, being unable to distinguish good from bad temperament, or perhaps not caring about that… I sit here and ponder how I can defect without actually leaving the country. I bet I’m not alone… 

Tricentennial

Quarter of nine.

Rain today, but it’s light, not torrential. Already been to the market and bought canned food for Aesop. I took my black umbrella and my American flag shopping bag. I strode off to the beat of Thomas Dolby’s “Hot Sauce” in my brain. Nobody else was around on my way there. I observed nothing unusual. Just a typical morning in the “new normal.” Insipid and blah, but it’s better than eventful in a bad way. As I was opening my umbrella, I thought of how inanimate matter is our friend, the way it conforms to immutable laws. When you put something down, it will stay where you left it. Now I conceive of how Oppenheimer interfered with nature, releasing all this radioactive energy. Where did that place human beings in the food chain? Was it a heroic discovery, like Franklin flying a kite in an electrical storm? It was much graver since it was used as a weapon. I like to believe that America is the brainchild of the Enlightenment, exactly like Benjamin Franklin discovering electricity or Jefferson writing the Constitution. In this spirit, the nearly deaf Thomas Edison invented the phonograph. The Tricentennial 2076 is still a long way off, but it’s not too soon to speculate on what a 300 year old America wants to be. How far away have we wandered from our original ideals and intentions? How far are we from realizing our goals? How long until “all the colors bleed into one,” as in the old U2 song?

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.

Polemic

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.

Ecclesiastes

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?

Insights

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.