The Slope

Eight o’clock.

Michelle told me she left her other job. Evidently the place was quite mismanaged and there was inadequate communication with her supervisor. When I first got up and looked out the window, the sun was a great copper cannonball in the east. I let the dog out and took out the trash. I skipped my medications last night and so far I feel better for it. The weather people keep telling us the air quality is good, yet the colors outside don’t look right. Next door to me, Lenore is having her house painted a medium gray with white trim by a local budget service. It doesn’t look so great, especially next to my bright yellow house. Lenore also never offered to pay me a portion of the cost of the fence that Damien built last year. I have crap neighbors, and nothing I can do about it. No one seems to have a conscience anymore, while the big brazen sun keeps making its daily circuit: sunrise, sunset… 

Aesop just ate his breakfast. Every morning I give him a peanut butter bone from the store, so now he expects it as a matter of course. I love to see him enjoy it while I quaff down a Snapple tea; it’s a high point of the day. When the world is sloping downhill, it’s good to have a creature comfort or two. Yesterday I thought of my brother, whose immaturity belies his 68 years of age. And I think of how he has no excuse for being a jerk to me, his younger brother. But life is very strange to a person in recovery, far stranger than any fiction. 

Innocence

Quarter after eight.

I had planned on going to church this morning, but I feel tired and probably won’t make it. From my house to the church is a mile trip and I just don’t have the energy to hoof it. I was at the store a half hour ago and spoke a little with Heather, and I also saw Kat and Corey as I passed their house and said hi. There was some activity in front of the dog rescue place beside Valley Restaurant Equipment. I don’t know what was going on. I observed to myself that Maxwell Road is sort of a slum compared to other places in town. For economic reasons, it has become run down and relatively unattractive. It hasn’t looked good since the early eighties, when I was in junior high school… But on second thought, Maxwell was always a little poor and ramshackle. I love it, though. It reminds me of my mother, when we’d have lunch at Luigi’s on spring and summer days. The hot garbage grinders were awesome, toasted in big ovens and packed with veggies, long before Subway came to Eugene. Ninth grade was a great year for me, being a big fish in a small pond. It was the last K12 school year I really enjoyed. We had a very tough vice principal, but I think he was basically a good man. He was the one who got things done, while the principal was rather a reclusive coward.

Nine twenty five. I must’ve read 17 Tarzan novels that year. I still have dreams of those beautiful paperback books occasionally, with the Neal Adams and Boris Vallejo covers. But by the time I was 16 years old, the innocence had worn away and Tarzan appeared corny to me. I was growing up. 

Domains

Nine fifty.

I don’t feel very good today. I suspect the cholesterol medication makes me dizzy and unbalanced, plus I have back pain. Just the wages of getting older. I hope I can make it to church tomorrow morning… But mentally I’m doing pretty well. The raspberry tea must’ve helped me. It is definitely cloudy and overcast today, and I kind of like it. Maybe it won’t get so hot this time. My mind dwells on school during the fall of 1990 for some reason. It was the only time I ever went to a Halloween party— and felt like a complete social klutz. It was also a time when I had to choose between music and academics, ultimately picking school. A difficult decision. But I think I was in the wrong place with my musical friends, though I didn’t realize it right away. I dunno; it’s hard to be a divided person with diverse abilities.

Quarter after eleven. Feeling lonely again. Roger has some project going in his garage, something noisy. Since his retirement it’s been hard for him to keep busy. What is a retired cop supposed to do? His job was to bust the scumbags, as he called them. He didn’t care how the bad guys came to be that way. Didn’t think about criminal justice or whatever. If they broke the law, they broke the law: period. That was the training he received… Roger has been my neighbor for many years. He’s an old conservative like two other houses on this street. The most outrageous conservatives used to live next door to me. They laughed at homeless people and didn’t own a single book. I was actually sandwiched between two ultra conservative homes. Those people all moved away by June 2015, to my immense relief. They hated me and didn’t try to hide it. Those were very difficult years.

Noon hour. When you can’t find a niche where you fit in, you have to carve your own niche. That’s what having a domain is all about. 

Thursday Mood

I don’t know what to do with my book of Jack Kerouac. Perhaps I’ll just place it in the book share on Fremont Avenue; it’ll be a great score for somebody, a beautiful new volume still wrapped in plastic. But no; if I see Ron again, I’ll give it to him… The summer sunshine repeats itself outside.

Quarter after nine. I talked with my sister for an hour. She said her son is on the mend from the virus. It wasn’t one of our better conversations, however. Now I’ve got the rest of the day unspoken for. Very quiet in the house, and the day is still young. It might be a good time to go out someplace, except the weather will be very hot and uncomfortable. The thought of drinking beer crosses my mind, but I’m not serious about that. I can play my bass guitar this afternoon, but by myself is not the same as with other people. So it makes me wonder if sobriety is really worth it when you end up all alone. Life is always difficult for one reason or another. A song by The Motels occurs to me: “Only the Lonely.” It reminds me of my mother’s solitude when I went to high school, and how I made a pact with myself to be her friend in that time. I never knew my own identity because of my sacrifice, yet I still think it was the right thing to do. Today I can relate to her loneliness; she was just a little too smart for her own good.

Quarter after ten. Something bugs me now. I still feel like getting loose with a beer buzz or whatever. I remember the trips I used to take to the coast with my brother, sitting on the balcony of our room, looking at the ocean and drinking beer after beer in the sun. This was my brother’s reality, and I participated in it with him like a kind of religion… until my addiction nearly killed me and I had to stop… Roger fired up his collectible truck and drove away to Highway 99. Life goes on even without alcohol. How would it be to reread A Separate Peace by John Knowles? A classic novel about envy; about the irrational, and the unaccountability of human behavior. Sometimes it’s not all lollipops and lemon drops. 

Trump of Doom

Seven twenty.

The sky was quite pretty when I went out to the store, with a myriad small gray clouds on the blue. Children on my street had made drawings in colored chalk on the asphalt. And I think, let them dream and pretend. Michelle, the store clerk, told me about a customer who was rude to her yesterday. She seems to be on the receiving end of a lot of bad exchanges with people and with life itself. It would be nice if she could turn this around and take control of her circumstances. See herself as an agent instead of a victim to make her life more authentic. But it’s always easier to describe a problem than to prescribe a solution… I believe I was on N. Park when I stopped dead and looked at the panorama of the sky, thinking something inarticulate about time and eternity. Has the same firmament been here forever, or have we fouled it up beyond repair?

Eight twenty five. Heidi called in sick this morning, so my appointment was canceled. Immediately I had to call Ridesource and cancel my trips for today. But it’s okay; I wasn’t feeling so great anyway… How nice if things could be simplified, reduced to one perspective. Yet this wouldn’t be reality, which is rather encyclopedic. For six years I kept a worldview of logical positivism, a kind of empiricism: only our senses can tell us about reality. This method rules out metaphysics, the supernatural, and focuses on tangible things. It might be good to go back to Carnap’s take on life, but then I couldn’t mix with church very well. The beauty of empiricism is its simplicity. “No ideas but in things.” And you only have to understand determinism, or cause and effect, in a material and physical way… My dog, Aesop, senses that something is wrong with the world, or anyway, it’s wrong with me. Again I think of the benefit to us of paring down all perspectives to one. We can subject it to logical analysis to determine what makes sense and what doesn’t. But the problem with positivism is its utter rejection of poetic language as empty nonsense. It doesn’t refer to anything concrete, therefore it is invalid. As a consequence, the angels in heaven come crashing down to earth with a mighty thunder. 

Word on the Street

Quarter after ten.

My burrito was good. Aesop ate his breakfast after he understood the cost to me. He even understands when I ask him, “Are you mad at me?” His attitude softens and he wants to make peace. Very smart dog. I hear a pressure washer somewhere near, and a conversation in my street. I’ve quit eating my heart out about the girlfriend who ghosted me in 2017. Still, I imagine it’ll be hard for me to listen to an album like Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band for the memories it triggers. I guess just don’t listen to that CD. The clouds have formed a solid white sheet that admits only a bit of sun. The religious thinking is going away, giving way to realism again. I really enjoyed Silas Lapham by William Dean Howells and might look into The Octopus by Frank Norris. The opening chapter was very powerful with its description of a train plowing into a flock of sheep that had wandered onto the tracks… Didn’t sleep well last night, so I feel rather wiped out. It doesn’t bother me much anymore who is the US President, or how this would affect my sobriety. Staying sober is an independent thing from all other issues. I had bad dreams about my dad last night. He was a real jerk because no one liked him, and vice versa: a vicious circle…

The chatterboxes in the street are still going at it. I don’t want to know what they’re prattling about. You can’t pick your neighbors, usually. Probably the ones I have don’t like me, just as they disliked my mother.

Eleven twenty five. I’ve got oodles of time to do whatever today. However, days often go by when nothing gets done. And I suppose I’m okay with that.

Dawn is a feeling

A beautiful ceiling

The smell of grass just makes you pass

Into a dream

You’re here today

No future fears

This day will last a thousand years

If you want it to

Mixed Blessings

Seven ten.

Clouds like fish scales have moved in overnight. I got two Snapples and a little peanut butter bone for Aesop. Saw a heavyset woman walking two small dogs, and I passed a skittish cat in front of Kat’s house. Now, my house is exceedingly quiet; the only noise is my tinnitus, a whine in my ears from too many music gigs… Maybe all the music was a waste of my time, because you can’t have the music without the culture. I consider myself a nice guy and probably unsuited for rock and roll, especially when I’m not drinking anymore. I feel myself split between so many polarities. Can we blame a philosopher like Kierkegaard for his either/or principle? Or perhaps Aristotle for the Law of Excluded Middle? Too much of life is forced into a scheme of black and white. Even Jesus Christ had a distaste for lukewarm people, saying you run either hot or cold. Dichotomous reasoning is embedded in our culture, but not necessarily in nature. Sometimes I want to shoot spit wads at Aristotle for being a clod.

Quarter after eight. Aesop doesn’t like his science diet food today. I spent thirty bucks for twelve cans of the stuff and he’s turning up his nose. But with all the things that are going wrong lately, I know that not everything is crap. Life is full of mixed blessings. Whatever else happens, I’m still sober. If the world is coming to an end, I’ll be clearheaded to witness it and write about it. 

The Hurly Burly

One thirty.

I just played my Kiloton bass for a while with the switching in split mode and tuned down to D for doing “People” by King Crimson. Sounds really great. My mother used to spoil me by getting me professional music gear when I was a kid, so I got kind of used to that. Then after the moneybag was gone I felt lost and quite stuck up a creek without a paddle. I’d been so dependent on her and suddenly I was screwed. I don’t think I could reason out my situation very well at first. All I could think of to do was drink a lot of beer, because this made me feel comfortable somehow. Otherwise I was too scared to navigate my course, to make my own decisions and do what was right for myself. Recently I’ve realized that there aren’t that many options for me, unless I rule out some of them automatically. Everybody appears to be stuck with limited choices while the pandemic lasts, though I wonder what a brave person like Sartre would do, if this circumstance is anything like the Nazi occupation of France about 80 years ago. Some people don’t believe the virus is real or that anyone is getting sick, and we’re all just pawns in a government game. Now I have reason not to be as skeptical about Covid, having heard of a case in my own family. I know my sister wouldn’t lie about that.

Two thirty. The sky is a hot white color outside my window, not very pretty. Will this summer ever end? It’s dry as a desert in Oregon. Everything just seems unnatural and out of whack. On the prompt of Environment Oregon I sent a prewritten email to our two Senators this morning. It dealt with climate change from burning fossil fuels, and a plan to change our sources of energy. It was worth a shot… There is Heidi again this Wednesday morning, and Rebecca on Friday. Misty never called me back to reschedule… 

Face to Face

Eight o’clock.

I lowered the boom on my band mates regarding alcohol and weed use in an email just now. It may be a while before they get the message. Aesop didn’t sleep last night, and I had trouble sleeping too… It is still very early in the day. In my blank book I wrote something about D.H. Lawrence again, and the polarization of the sacred and the profane since the Victorian Age. During Shakespeare’s time, there wasn’t such a big divide between Church and State, or between religious and simply human. It’s unfortunate how this split occurred. Ideally, life should be more like Shakespeare.

Nine o’clock. I would say that the weather is beautiful, but it’s so redundantly sunny with hardly a cloud in sight this summer. I bought Aesop some original Milk-bones today. My sister told me some bad news yesterday about her family: her middle son has caught the coronavirus and is very sick. I see a lot of catastrophes happening around me since the weekend. And through it all, the sun keeps smiling indifferently every day. Last night my mind wandered into religious territory and I thought the predictions of Revelation were coming true; that this is the Great Tribulation. Things are falling apart at a rapider rate all the time. It really makes you wonder if behind the veil of the natural world there’s a spiritual dimension. Or maybe I’m merely deluded. Sometimes I have to stop and mutter to myself, “This is reality.” My experience is so surreal that I doubt my senses. Perhaps everything could tumble down like four walls and leave me faced with divine wrath. How can you tell the difference between reality and dream? “If we share this nightmare / We can dream Spiritus Mundi.” 

There and Back

Eight fifty. I guess I’ll go. Leaving in ten minutes. I negotiated with my dog about it, haha, and I think he’ll be okay with me being gone for two and a half hours. Also I called the store: Heather didn’t hear her alarm this morning, so she was late.

Now I’m waiting outside of the church for Pastor to arrive. Maybe I should have stayed home. I hear the sound of chickadees in the trees.

Noon hour. I made it home again in one piece. Service was good: Eduardo and Tori gave us a piano and flute duet of music by Lili Boulanger; very modern and French sounding. Great chords, and the flute dynamics were spot on. The sermon was rather Jungian, I thought; like a collective soul of Jesus Christ in which the individual participates. It seemed to me harmonious with the Shakespeare I’ve been reading. It’s interesting how a person can lose touch with Romantic thinking on the force of history… I probably baked my brains in the sunlight on the return trip. Took advantage of the shade of a few trees. Nancy gave away loaves of white bread, so I took two of them and carried them home, one in each hand. I was glad to see everybody today. I might return next weekend, and meanwhile see about what to do with the rock band. This quandary has been bugging me ever since I started playing in the band last December. I think finally I can choose once and for all which way to go…