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.
Quarter of nine.
With church being over for me, I should find other people to see locally. Wait for the dust to settle, then look for a social activity; probably music. My new copy of Karamazov is coming today. Too little, too late. I’ve crossed that bridge, and now I’m unwelcome in church. It’s been a strange and hectic month. People say it is a time of division. I suppose there’s nothing magical about this during an election year. People in groups behave in specific ways, though I don’t understand the ways of sociology. There are predictable patterns of social behavior, as if the group were a conscious entity in its own right, a massive organism composed of individual humans.
Quarter of ten. I don’t know where I belong now, but I’m still along for the ride with everyone else. To be conscious is to be involved with the world. Maybe I’m just watching the wheels. A major part of me would love to go to Ireland or Scotland and have a few beers in a real British pub. This will never happen, but I can daydream about it. Careful about dreaming; it tends to leave you stranded… One needs to be his own guide through life. But sometimes it seems that there’s nowhere to go. No place for a new adventure. At the same time, there’s no turning back, so you’re stuck in limbo for a while. It’s important to be fearless with your thinking, to follow where it leads. Like being in a maze, you sometimes reach a dead end and have to start again. Life is one big maze, a labyrinth possibly with a Minotaur wandering through it. Alcohol was my Minotaur, but the labyrinth goes on and on.
Two thirty. The rain may not materialize today, or even tomorrow. I tried three times to call the middle school and finally decided to wait until Monday.
It’s okay to soul search through writing. By four o’clock I may get a second wind for my thinking. Perhaps it’s uncharitable not to fib sometimes, but I think my sister supports my honesty. It does damage to later find out you’ve been lied to. My brother hurt me the same way he hurt Polly, and one night dropped the bomb, saying he despised our mother. Was it a bomb or a gauntlet he threw down? And at the time, in 1993, I was not well mentally, hence it was a low blow. I spent a sleepless night down in his basement, alone with this new secret. I remember reading Women in Love that summer, and listening to Aaron Copland. Appalachian Spring ran through my brain that night. Subconsciously I had to make a plan. And whether my parents were worthy of my devotion could be irrelevant. Mostly they were pretty dull and selfish, yet what they had, they shared with me. We lived a comfortable life at home, so I can’t complain.
Quarter of five. I suddenly noticed that it’s been raining. I hope we get a lot more… I sort of miss being a hedonist back in the day, but life probably wasn’t as honest then, nor as ethical as today. My last girlfriend and I were quite voluptuous, and my alcoholism fueled the fire of desire for a few years. Of course I miss those days! We had a great deal of fun, though we were indulging ourselves with sensation. Like everything, it was fated to come to an end. Or at least, everything physical is transitory, raising the question of what can be eternal and imperishable. But she and I also shared a rational love for one another, and I learned from this that the marriage of true minds is indispensable. Then, the alcohol nearly finished me, forcing a new mentality and lifestyle…
I hate theology, so I doubt if I’ll ever finish reading Les Miserables. The intricate logic of religion pulls my brain apart, so I’m opting for the parsimony of science. The simpler the better. The simpler the truer. My mind echoes “Blue Motel Room” by Joni Mitchell. Yesterday I farted around with the bass line to “Take Five.” It sounds really good on a P Bass with flatwounds. Music is a wonderful thing precisely because it has no ideology, and yet expresses so much. It is the being of the phenomenon, sort of. The quintessence. When words tangle me up and throw me into a tizzy, I take recourse to music to unwind.
Eight o’clock. No plans for today except to go to the market. I noticed that they had some doggie pepperoni on the shelf, so I think I’ll buy it. I might even splurge on a Coke today. The chance of rain goes up this afternoon, but isn’t guaranteed to happen. The squirrels are up and busy. There are still a lot of acorns on the ground. If I overcome my trepidation, I may take another look at Hugo’s massive book. But it’ll be more work than fun to read and think about. Will I come out of the experience converted to religion? Probably not, but I’ll know a few things I hadn’t known before.
Nine ten. There was an autumnal glow to the clouds in the south as I walked home on the Maxwell sidewalk. They appeared purplish and I felt some wind. It’s a reassuring sign that maybe nature forgives us our trespasses in some degree. Michelle gave me a price break on the doggie treats, which was very kind of her. I gave Aesop two of them, to his great joy. Today seems like Saturday to me… On my way home, I thought vaguely of the past when I would go to church, another mile east on the sidewalk. The little green espresso shack has been doing a fair amount of business across the street from the salon. But, I feel like an outsider to the Maxwell community for my views, which are not conservative. The collective consciousness around here has not progressed much beyond WW2, unless you ask the kids.
Ten ten. That reminds me of the errand I purposed to do a few months ago: to make a visit to Kelly Middle School and give a small contribution…
Debris from the wind yesterday is everywhere on the street. Aside from that, fall is in the ambience outside, replete with memories of previous seasons. Mostly cloudy skies right now. I’ll probably stay home from the church event this morning. The squirrels are still busy in the backyard, making no attempt to be furtive. Aesop is bored with them. I’m trying to ignore the discomfort of my body today and get on with what makes me happy. I could do some music this afternoon, go for a bit of jazz on my bass. The healing properties of music might override the pain. I can’t believe that the tradition of social music is gone away forever. Not for a silly thing like the coronavirus.
The present I ordered for my birthday is coming tomorrow by UPS: two volumes of sci-fi writing from the Library of America. I don’t know much about the genre as such except for its classical roots in Edgar Poe and a little Jules Verne. Doubtless it came a long way from there.
Like yesterday, I bought two Snapples rather than a Coke and saved 75 cents. For some reason, soda doesn’t appeal to me lately. I’ve had quite a few bad experiences with Coke. I think the carbonation disagrees with me. And maybe I just got tired of pop. It’s a rather big step for me quitting the soda. In the parking lot outside the store I passed by two people smoking cigarettes. I asked myself why people do things like that, but then my addiction to alcohol was likewise inexplicable. I still think about it every day, but I believe I’m safe in the absence of toxic and slippery people. The person I worked for was like the devil on the subject of alcohol.
The sun is splashing down on my backyard, orange and mellow. The notion of freedom and control comes to mind. Possibly my willpower keeps me sober, but what’s wrong with that? I wouldn’t entrust my sobriety to the wheel of blind Fortune or the four winds. If I’m not in charge of staying sober, then nothing is. It’s nothing to be fatalistic about, but instead, free and responsible… I can remember deferring credit for my bass playing to the inspiration of the “muse.” It was my little romantic superstition, influenced by Homer and Plato, and by Emerson and Jung. I believed in it for a decade, from 1999 to around 2009. The problem with this belief was that my muse quickly assumed the form of a demon, if not the devil himself. This happened because of the Satanism of the local rock music scene— however ridiculous that sounds. Eugene is a rather backward community for rock and roll, and in the outlying boonies it’s even more unintelligent. Perhaps it wouldn’t break my heart to have to give up my music. Life is changing radically with each new year, and no one is immune from mutability.
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.
Three twenty five. I suddenly remembered my appointment with Todd for tomorrow afternoon. It will be a video call, sort of like Zoom or Skype. I asked about Heidi, and they said she hasn’t come back from furlough. Something smells fishy. It sounds like she’s not going to be my case manager after this. Miranda took over part of Heidi’s case load, but I haven’t heard from her since early summer… I hope L— H— doesn’t put pressure on me to be religious or something that goes against my personal beliefs. If they do, then I’ll have to figure out other options. I never did like the Christian character of the agency. It was too much like Serenity Lane: Jesus or nothing. I always will find it unconstitutional and unlawful to shove Jesus down our schizophrenic throats. If push really comes to shove, then I’ll emigrate to Canada or something drastic just to preserve my sanity.
Quarter of three in the morning. Yesterday evening I published a post whose sincerity was dubious from the start. A moment ago I went into my posts and trashed it. The writing of it was probably inspired by my trip to Sacred Heart yesterday morning, a phone conversation with L— H—, and finally a shotgun email from Pastor. I retired to bed at ten o’clock and slept four hours, dreaming strange dreams. At one point, I saw a white crockpot that was full of tube worms but which also yielded up old editions of Tarzan, one after the other. At another juncture, I was walking to the church at night and got hit by a car. Though it hurt, I kept walking. When I awoke, I reflected on the nature of heroes: how was Tarzan different from Jesus? Answer: Tarzan did not depend on supernatural powers to expedite his adventures. His strength was purely physical and mental, never spiritual. I considered that I grew up with heroes like everyone else, but they happened not to be Christ. Not even Luke Skywalker, who relied on the Force for his power. Nor Frodo Baggins, aided by the old wizard Gandalf. If anything, the heroes I read about pitted their wits and strength against the supernatural, in the form of nefarious cults with weird, soul devouring gods. Which type of hero was correct? I only know that Tarzan fueled my fortitude in my youth.
It was kind of a hectic morning, but I got the X-rays out of the way. The nicest people I dealt with were the actual X-ray technician and a young girl named Ophelia who helped me with the lockers. The rest were rather perfunctory. And the cabbie on the return trip was also kind. On the way to the hospital, we passed the park under the Washington-Jefferson Street Bridge, where I saw a number of homeless people camped in particolored tents. I hadn’t been to that part of town in many months. It was an alarming sight, quite a shock to see it suddenly again. I got a sense of coldness and apathy from the general scene beneath an indifferent gray sky. These were the dispossessed and forgotten, but still not invisible. The feeling of coldness extended to the waiting room of the imaging place. The clients in their masks eyed each other with mistrust, and the receptionists were either dull and impassive or else obsequious and fake. I ran into a Black man from Belize I had met in church riding the elevator. He didn’t recognize me, nor I him until I thought about it later. Evidently he was employed with P—Health; he and a lot of people. All in all, it felt like consorting with a bunch of robots except for a few who were more personal and organic. In every way possible, the scenario was one size fits all, right down to the chaplains. It was so much like a scene out of A Wrinkle in Time, where the suburbs were run by a huge ruthless brain called IT…
Having church to go to was helpful for a couple of years. I hope the congregation doesn’t feel used or cheated now that I’ve left. Was I merely deceiving them through all those services? Sort of going through the motions? I don’t think it was a deliberate swindle. It was early in my recovery, and I wasn’t quite myself yet. And the falling away from faith was gradual. I was never dishonest about it, but rather, aboveboard the whole way. Pastor didn’t want to believe it. The first barrier I noticed was the problem of prayer, and this came up a year ago last summer. And then it was the whole concept of Jesus, especially since the virus made it appear like the end of the world. The apocalypse would spell out the Last Judgment, and essentially this entailed the dividing of human beings into saved and lost. My whole being found this proposal offensive. Unfortunately, it is built into the entire New Testament. Parable after parable taught by Jesus refers to the righteousness of Christians. When I cornered Pastor about this, he had no defense, no recourse. I think that by now he has finally dropped me and the whole issue. The one who’s still bothered by it all happens to be me. I regret that it couldn’t have worked out for me and the church. If I could rewrite the Bible to make it more reasonable, I suppose I would in order to get along with more people. The scriptures would be an okay thing if the pages were blank. Some churches try to treat the Bible in just that way. Interpretations can be very plastic, almost as though there were no text at all. I think that this was the impasse I came to with Pastor. At some juncture, his latitude with interpretation would hit a wall and break down. Perhaps I really was a jerk to be so insistent on a point. I believe that, at bottom, maybe Pastor acceded my argument. But in saying so, I’m merely mindreading. For myself, anyway, I wouldn’t want life and mind to be circumscribed by the Bible… Pastor wrote something that suggested to me that I’d been “hardhearted” in deciding to leave. But is it hardheartedness or rather toughmindedness? My heart is a reflector of what my mind earnestly thinks. Perhaps it would’ve been softhearted to put on blinders and forget what I had seen. But that wouldn’t have been my way…
Five o’clock 🕔. I made my trip to Grocery Outlet and bought some very fresh foodstuffs. The dry salami knocked my socks off, and the banana peppers were super hot and tasty. I ate about a third of the loaf of sourdough bread. On my way to the store, I figured out who the real tyrant was: it was Pastor and the church. Now that I’m free, even food tastes better than in the chains of Christ. The full rainbow of colors is again available to me. This afternoon is quite beautiful, but the air is still a bit smoky. My new aqua bandanna works great, so I’ll use it often and might get an extra one. The cashiers at the store were exceedingly friendly and nice, and it just felt like the beginning of my life. Part of me is a little scared to be without religion, as if I must be possessed by the devil or something. But no; this secular life is natural for me, and minus the reference point of the church, the idea of the devil makes no sense. This is my life au natural, stripped of all fictions, much like what Nietzsche envisioned. Everyone ought to be this free and pure… Tomorrow I have nothing planned except to call my sister and get some food for Aesop. Tuesday I have X-rays to show up for. Wednesday they said more rain. Other than that, I don’t know what I’m doing next week.