The Picture

Ten thirty five. Some days make me wonder about the meaning of it all. After doing my daily shopping, I stopped by the salon and spoke with Angela, who was alone for a few minutes. I asked her how the homeschooling was going, and she said her fifth grader can’t read. Two of her kids have a learning disability. Also, Angela doesn’t understand the new method for teaching math. Then I asked her if anyone was helping her, but everyone she knows is too busy working. I felt like volunteering myself to help teach them to read, except children don’t take me seriously as a disciplinarian. They see me as just a playmate, and they can get away with murder. And then Karen arrived. The retirement home can’t let her in to do hair styling due to the coronavirus… This episode at the salon plus the phone conversation with my sister started me pondering the real utility of my cerebral life of books and music. There are very real practical problems that could use my help. The need is everywhere for help with survival skills such as reading and arithmetic. Meanwhile, I loaf around eating the lotus of philosophy and poetry. Is there something wrong with this picture? 

Persistence

Three thirty in the morning.

My old dollar store readers are about to break, so I ordered five new pairs on Amazon, arriving Thursday. I heard it raining out a few minutes ago. Thank goodness for freedom. I remember how S— L— used Tru Thought leaflets to brainwash people that altruism is the only acceptable way to live. This literature was also used on convicted criminals, I discovered by researching it online fifteen years ago. But I never identified myself as a criminal simply for having addiction issues. The real crime was the indoctrination at the treatment facility. I also did myself a disservice to ever enroll in treatment. Many people will try to tell you what is what, but what do they know? S— L— counselors drove vintage sports cars. One of them had a ‘67 Chevelle in maroon with black stripes. No one ever said anything about this extravagance, but to me it was a ridiculous contradiction. Suffice it to say that there are much better ways to invest your money than in treatment programs. You can start by building your own home library, or downloading free ebooks from Project Gutenberg. I even heard of a rebellious teenage girl who thwarted her oppressive father by sneaking 150 classic books onto her Nintendo. He never suspected a thing. He imagined himself a working class hero who despised books or anything intellectual. Video games were okay, books not okay for his kids. But where there’s a will, there’s a way. 

Prudence

Eight o’clock.

No email from my friend yet. I don’t know what she is up to today. I don’t want to go to church tonight or on Sunday. I’m going to boycott Christmas and just take care of myself. I know how to do this better than anyone else. I think I’ll leave the church for good. Religion is usually a right wing thing.

Nine thirty five. It was lovely to see Michelle this morning. From her I bought a new orange bandanna and peppermint candy ice cream, plus ribeye chewy treats for Aesop. It was cold and a little foggy outside. A pretty girl on the sidewalk passed me and we said good morning. I saw Dell carrying some cardboard boxes out to his car. Michelle helped a customer with the propane tanks while I was walking into the store. Her temperament is a lot different from that of Vicki; kinder and friendlier, not so jaded and sassy. Her logic is not so clouded by personal hurts. She is always fair dealing with people, but when she is on the receiving end of injustice, she’ll defend herself. When she had more money, she used to go to the theater… My pen pal let me know that she’ll be late today… The changes are coming a bit more swiftly now. I sense a shift in attitude and mood around me generally. Christina on Wednesday was kind of fun. She even said it was fun working with me after we’d done some exercises in physical therapy… I am hopeful that musicians can play again when vaccines are available this winter. Just wait it out and see what happens… 

Thankful and a Little Wishful

Quarter of nine.

Thanksgiving Day has started out quite nicely. I bought Aesop a special treat of T bone snacks. The peppermint candy ice cream tempted me but I passed today. In the home stretch of my walk, I met with Bonnie Rose in her big black pickup truck. She rolled down the window and wished me a Happy Thanksgiving. I wanted to ask her if she was the one who kept setting up my lawn sign, but there wasn’t time. It was a little like Beauty and the Beast as I trudged up the street in my sapphire hoodie with a full shopping bag. Or maybe Lady and the Tramp. I can remember when she was a young girl and my mother had just passed away, nineteen years ago. Her older sister played the piano and her younger sister shot hoops with their dad in the driveway. The parents divorced a few years back, and now the family of women keep more or less to themselves.

Quarter of ten. The other morning I spun the disc of Rush’s Power Windows and was impressed with their mid eighties sound. Hearing Geddy Lee play his Wal bass made me wish I had another bass with active electronics. Perhaps someday. I wish even more for opportunities to play with other musicians… What I’m thankful for today is my sobriety and the positive effects this has had on my relationships with people. My pen pal thanked me this morning for my kindness, and it’s nice to be perceived that way. I still believe that alcohol is the root of all evil, though I know madness can stem from other factors. It does seem that avoiding alcohol has a magical impact on my fortunes, the year 2020 with its strangeness notwithstanding. It’s miraculous alone that I stayed sober through the trials of this year. I think fleetingly of my parents: they could never have maintained sobriety for three years. Whatever helps me today, my parents had nothing to do with it. 

Out with the Old…

Five o’clock.

Now I wonder if Vicki will be working this morning. My imagination can summon all kinds of fates that could have happened to her. But the only fact I know is her absence yesterday. I also know the circumstances of her headache that never went away, the tumor on her brain, and the doctors who didn’t give her any straight answers… I don’t know how I feel about it, but I was used to seeing her every week morning for many years. Her quality of life probably wasn’t so great. She lived by herself and worked like a drone every weekday. She didn’t seem to enjoy it anymore; even stopped bantering with the guys who came in from the distributors. Her sense of humor had gone out of her life… What makes life worth living? Endless drudgery doesn’t seem to be the best thing. Rolling that boulder up the hill over and over again gets tiresome and boring to tears. The futility of it brings you down after a while. I lived that way for a short time until I learned that I couldn’t do it anymore. I had options available to me, and I chose wisely. My brother can call me names all he wants, but he isn’t happy with his life. He tends to blame others for his own unhappiness, but he needs to bring responsibility home to himself. He is free to choose for himself, regardless of what other people do with their lives. The truth is that everyone is responsible only for their own feelings, their own behavior. The ultimate arbiter is you.

Quarter of seven. I imagine that with the change to a Democratic administration, blogging will change accordingly, but I was prepared for this. I plan to keep writing on into the next year and see who shows up… I heard a shower of rain a few minutes ago. There should be daylight by seven twenty or so. When it comes, I will go to the store as I do every day. My heart is open to what the new year and the new government bring. It seems like anything can happen, but personally I’m very happy for the defeat of a tyrant who made us an embarrassment to the rest of the world. Aesop has finally gotten out of bed and wants a snack. I catch myself still avoiding the salon because I think Karen is very disgruntled over politics. Roger probably is too. I don’t see people openly jumping for joy, and yet my heart leaps quietly. Eventually it will be okay to talk about it. The rain has begun again, fortunately, though it’s still very dark outside. It’s going to be one of those days. 

Mardi Noir

Eight thirty.

When I got to the store this morning, I saw Michelle’s car in the parking lot, but Tuesday is supposed to be a Vicki day. Michelle told me she’d been called in to work with no explanation… Have I been brainwashed to believe that human beings are more than just biological organisms? And maybe they’d be right. It’s hard to say. Today is Evolution Day, though I think the Church excludes humankind from natural selection. People don’t mention Darwin’s other book, The Descent of Man. I observe that much of my current thinking is a response to my church, sermons creeping in by osmosis. They’re sometimes intrusive like a virus I try to fight. Ideas are airborne like infectious diseases, or like radio waves going right through you. They diffuse everywhere… The sun is farther south in the sky than it was during the summer. Right now it’s clear and cold. Through the windows of the store it shone directly in Michelle’s eyes as she rang up my stuff. She seemed a little dazzled and bemused. This morning has started out rather odd. Trash pickup for Sanipac is going on today. I fed Aesop a breakfast of turkey stew for dogs. Also, I left a voicemail for my sister. And I have a package coming by UPS today. Life continues on, but I hope Vicki is okay.

Noon hour. My sister called back and we chatted mostly trivia, like different foods and the toys we played with when we were kids. After that, my Sophocles book arrived, a quaint little thing of beauty… For fun I just looked up “quaint” on Search Chambers online, and it reminded me of a friend who gifted me the 12th Edition Chambers Dictionary in September 2016. It particularly impressed her for its etymological detail and for the stress on short, muscular, Anglo-Saxon words. It is a distinctively British dictionary. She used it for solving crossword puzzles, and she told me she won cash prizes from the local newspaper. So that’s a bit of British culture my friend shared with me. 

Blame the Winds

Quarter of three. On a whim, I looked up the consensus on the most popular Star Wars movie ever, and I would have guessed right: it was The Empire Strikes Back… I’m in a retro mood today, and maybe that’s okay for me. I found my copy of the Star Wars Trilogy and put it in a safe place. How many times did I get wasted and watch Empire? I had a job at the time, but I was very unhappy with my dead end life. I was coasting or treading water throughout that period. I didn’t realize what potential I had, but then again, I was on a different medication that didn’t work as well. Everywhere I looked I saw religion, no thanks to some of the healthcare professionals who shoved it down our throats. The system is just set up that way. It used to be a lot worse than today. By the time 2009 arrived, I was overdue to escape from it. I was a delusional wreck. I’d been surrounded by terribly racist right wing people who didn’t know the difference.

Quarter of five. I guess I would drink beer if I could get away with it. And yet I know I won’t do it. There are too many things in my life that drinking would screw up. Today has been kind of strange and solitary. I feel bad for the salon girls and I wonder why Karen is so grumpy lately. Perhaps business is not so good right now. Also her candidate for president lost the election. Maybe things aren’t going her way in general, but she’s taking it out on her friends, and she might regret that later. Overall it was a topsy turvy week. Some people aren’t very happy with current events. Derek had a sheepish look on his face when I walked by his house. His little girls seemed aloof to my presence. And in spite of everything, somebody keeps setting up my political lawn sign when it blows over. I don’t have to lift a finger. Attribute it to the winds of change… 

Inalienable

Quarter of nine. Day has dawned, but it’s still pretty dark. Feeling tired and tempted to drink. This is because I’m lonely. Sometimes it might be nice to have a wife, somebody to live with and to love. And who is anyone to say no? My sister would be stupid to tell me what to do. She should have learned that by now… I guess I’ll go to the store and get something to drink. Never underrate freedom, which is inalienable by anyone else. You always have options. This is the endowment of nature, no matter what the system of government. Yet I do feel very tired and heavy hearted. For a treat I could buy a Coke…

Ten o’clock. I passed the salon and caught Karen chewing out Kim for something, so I didn’t stop. Michelle told me she got a new second job. The job as security officer she perceived as sexist, so she left it last month. Now she works in a small grocery store in a small town on the outskirts of Eugene. She is pretty good at taking care of herself. Michelle is always very nice to me, thus I look forward to seeing her on weekends. It was so cold outside that I flipped up my hood to keep my head warm. Just briefly I saw Derek with his two daughters in his driveway. All along on my walk I thought about society versus personal freedom. It makes me think I should check out the writings of Thomas Jefferson myself: just what did he mean by liberty and the pursuit of happiness? And what did the French people think of that? I wonder if Pastor ever read Henrik Ibsen. Somehow I doubt it, but A Doll’s House was such a cornerstone to my education. I am unlikely to ever forget it. 

Goodbye Silver Lea

Nine thirty.

I did things a little differently this morning. Aesop was out of canned food and I was concerned that he didn’t get enough variety, so I walked the mile to Grocery Outlet under the clear sky. I bought him four cans of Blue Buffalo in three flavors, plus sourdough bread, dry salami, pepper Jack cheese, and a summer sausage for me. A demo team on Silver Lane is tearing down my old grade school. I stopped and watched the big Caterpillars doing this dirty work. I don’t know if a new building will replace the old… According to the official report, the new North Eugene High School will be built on the grounds of the old Silver Lea school. The Japanese immersion program has moved to Kelly on Howard Avenue, and Corridor School has closed forever. So this really means goodbye to my elementary school. I attended there from 1973 to 1979. Learned a little bit of everything. Through the wrecked walls I could see into the classrooms, with the wall clocks frozen at two o five. I don’t remember how I voted on that ballot measure. I didn’t realize that revamping the high school necessitated the demolition of Silver Lea. Obviously the measure passed. Be careful what you vote for. Otherwise it’s a beautiful morning, and now I have a few groceries. 

Dreamer

Ten o’clock.

The same thing happened with my Black Lives Matter lawn sign: a good fairy set it up again after it had been knocked over. The little market was doing a good business this morning. I actually saw a person buy a pack of cannabis capsules. The guys in line ahead of me were probably construction workers or something else blue collar. I had the sensation for a second that I wasn’t really there, that I didn’t exist or maybe it was a dream. As if I could close my eyes and be back in bed. It required more effort for me to walk to the store this time. When I stopped by the salon, Karen’s mood was foul because the girls had made a mess while she was gone. She tends to vent at whoever happens to be in the way. Yet she gave me a chocolate brownie anyway. By degrees she controlled her temper. I just stood there and waited for her to calm down. On my own street again, I said hi to Roger. He was bundled up in a khaki green jacket against the chill… 

I don’t have any real worries today, and no engagements until tomorrow night for church. Physical therapy with Christina yesterday afternoon went quite well. She is supportive of my writing and encourages me to switch to my laptop to do more serious stuff. It’s good to get a boost now and then. The clouds are huge and lined with gray, permitting a little sunshine through. On the edge of my memory I can feel what college life was like. It was a lot of fun to study Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz when I was still twenty one. I still have my course text, an Anchor paperback called The Rationalists. It was like living in a dream to sort of deny objective reality and turn inward to a priori experience. Very strange approach to knowledge. My head was in the clouds…