I feel really good today, despite that the temperature is supposed to reach 93 degrees. The sunshine is very cheerful and I can’t complain about my life. I’ve got beautiful music in my head from Dave Brubeck, a piece called “Strange Meadowlark.” The music takes me back to happy times in the nineties when my parents were still here. And who’s going to judge me for enjoying a little reverie of the past when things were better? Music used to be so much better 30 years ago than today; I think we need a revival of good stuff for our souls. Another song comes up, by Donald Fagen titled “New Frontier,” all about having a big party in a fallout shelter, equipped with the best of everything including Brubeck. If I were still a drinker, then I’d get myself a six pack of Widmer Brothers Hefeweizen and have a little party for one— and invite everybody. It wouldn’t be a sad situation like the poem by E.A. Robinson about Mr Flood. I believe everyone feels a bit like Mr Flood, so we might as well party together. Whatever gets you through the day is fair game, and nothing’s gonna change my world.
Quarter of eight AM.
I tend to generalize too much when I’m writing in my journal. Also my mental state has been kind of unstable since I had the virus, so it’s really hard to say anything with coherence and consistency. I’ve got an old tune by Chic bopping in my head, rather annoying but that’s the way it goes. Aesop has just eaten and my taxi doesn’t come until ten thirty or so. “Rhumba and tango / Latin hustle too / Yowza yowza yowza / I wanna boogie witch you / Bop bop bop bop bah…” I do love Bernard Edwards on the bass guitar. He was my favorite to listen to in disco, along with Louis Johnson. Edwards also backed up Sister Sledge on songs like “We Are Family.” It’s probably on my mind because in June 98 our band did the Loveapalooza gig at the Hilton here in Eugene. My last one with them, and our third Hilton gig. Sometimes I wonder if that ever had to end. But I wasn’t really on the same page with those guys. I don’t think my personality complemented disco or the other way around, so I guess no regrets. It doesn’t mean I never think about them.
It should be a mellow kind of day— interrupted suddenly when Aesop barks at someone in the street. I entertain the hope of jamming with other musicians again now that I’ve heard from Mark, the drummer who lives in the Friendly neighborhood. We’ll have to work around my transportation issues for a while, but I really want to make this thing happen. Inspiration can’t come from hanging out by yourself. Nothing can be made from nothing. Until we get together, I might try to pick out a few lines by Jaco: no amplifier; just playing dry, me and the fretboard. I was never very good at music theory, and always had to rely on my ears and my instinct. For this reason, I was better suited to rock than jazz.
Nine thirty five. The weather is again very cloudy and glum. A good day to put on my thinking cap and ponder what’s really important to my life. A good day for mind over matter and making progress. To put aside inhibition and intimidation and try a little harder.
Ten thirty five. Unplugged, I figured out most of “Teen Town” by Jaco. I feel like I’ve accomplished something I wouldn’t have tried before, a great feeling. It came to me more easily than I’d expected. Like something that was meant to be.
Quarter after ten at night.
I’m awake since having lots of dreams of the collapse of civilization tonight, and when I got up, my conscious thoughts ran to The Handmaid’s Tale, the dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood. Now I’m trying to clear my mind entirely and start over again… During the day I played my modified P Bass two different times. At once, the instrument is a war axe and a highly sophisticated piece of technology. In neither light is it quiet and subdued by any means. I did a great deal of shredding on it, eventually slowing down to pound out a few Rush tunes from the turn of the eighties. It makes me emotional to revisit old songs like “Cygnus X-1,” a throwback to happy times as a drummer jamming with friends my age for the summer of 1982. They were no older than 16 and ready to go pro in the L.A. music scene, but my parents protected me from such a future and ensured that I’d finish my education. My path with my friends crossed again in another 15 years for the disco gig. I’m not sure what I learned from that experience, or even how I feel about it. Music as expression and music as a business are different things. Robert Fripp advised young musicians to stay out of the industry if they really love music. From what I’ve seen, I’m inclined to think he’s right.
Quarter of one in the afternoon.
Yesterday I went across the street to ask Roger for his help with my bass guitar again, since we did a rather incomplete job the first time. He smiled and agreed to work with me tomorrow at ten o’clock. It’s sort of a symbolic truce to my mind. Though he’s a Republican and I’m a Democrat, still we are civil to each other and achieve something together in the name of music, which shouldn’t have an ideology… The unseasonable rainy weather keeps on day after day, with showers that come and go. I suspect that when the sun shines again it’ll be like summer already, so there’s no hurry on that. Gloria was here and we did some tidying up around the house. In passing, she expressed her hope that the former president doesn’t run for office again, saying how rude he was and how insane— and she’s a Republican. A few lines from a Yes song come up. “A simple peace just can’t be found / Waste another day blasting all the lives away / I heard the thunder underground / Tunneling away at the very soul of man.” And later: “There, in the heart of millions / Seen as a godsend to us / There stands our future / There can be no denying / Simple as A B C D / There stand our children’s lives…” Is this too optimistic, or too utopian for people to grasp? Have we lost our faith in the power of poetry and song? It is said that two wrongs don’t make a right. When love is no longer the solution to our problems, then humanity is in deeper dudu than ever before. This demands that we go back to the drawing board and search not just our minds but our hearts. “It takes a loving heart to see and show / This love for our own ecology.”
Quarter after three.
I’ve awoken in the dead of night to the sound of a heavy rain. I thought I would get up temporarily and scribble a note. However, I’m drawing a blank at the moment. For some reason I keep hearing music from the late seventies. A few hours ago it was two old hits by Al Stewart. Something’s bugging me. It has to do with family and belongingness, and yet I was never good at compromise, particularly from the age of nineteen. The greatest lesson in familial love for me came from reading Ulysses, but even then, my sobriety was impossible without my independence… The rain has ceased for now, as if to support what I just said.
Seven twenty five.
Life is pretty good today. I made Cathy laugh at the checkout counter with a silly joke about being in the doghouse. The sun comes and goes, and also the rain. Music: “Time Passages” by Al Stewart, so I’m thinking I’ll pull out the disc and listen to it. Some people would rather hear underground music for reasons of integrity, but I like the music polished, albeit packaged for mass consumption. You can drive yourself batty trying to avoid consumerism, so I usually go with the flow. I believe that The Beatles was a good phenomenon.
“Buy me a ticket on the last train home tonight…”
Gloria’s workday for me is done now. I’m feeling a lot better than I did over the weekend. Last night I dreamed about M— for several hours, though I don’t know why or what my motive was. The dream was certainly not a bad one. The Prokofiev music I listened to recently floats back to my ear: very pleasant. I especially like when his spirit is playful and fun, sometimes uptempo. Often he will resolve a phrase with such a good feel to it, as if to say that everything is right and good. The second movement of Symphony No. 5 is my favorite, particularly a little melody in D major on clarinets, joined by a low string counterpoint, that concludes very pleasingly… Like a lot of days lately, the sun shines from a cloudy sky. My masochistic treatment of myself seems to be over with. I hope it doesn’t happen again soon. I had a great turkey and cheddar sandwich on a croissant for lunch: delicious. It’s worth it to reward yourself whenever you can, for this life depends on your perception alone.
The sun has been trying to peek through a few times today, and the clouds have thinned out to show some blue sky. My mind feels very clear, no longer like someone who is brainwashed and bound in the chains of some doctrine, although I shouldn’t be cocky or complacent about it. That’s like Odysseus crowing at Polyphemus, but finding out later that Poseidon was his father and then paying the penalty all the way back home. All of literature has lessons for us, the Bible included, and also philosophy and so on and on. The purpose of it all is essentially to teach and to preach.
Funny but my mother loved music yet she disregarded the lyrics unless it was something like “Penny Lane” by The Beatles, whose words made a simple vignette with no heavy moral overtones. And really I don’t blame her for that. She also esteemed Edgar Allan Poe a genius for similar reasons as The Beatles. Suddenly I remember a bit what eighth grade was like. It was the school year when John Lennon was killed. Shortly after this, Mom bought me the red and blue Beatles compilations at Fred Meyer. The one I listened to more was the red, which covered the years 1962 to 66. But gradually I got to like the later stuff better, especially when I reached college and heard “Across the Universe” again. It made me gush hot tears; caught me totally off guard. My parents had gone to bed and I listened by myself after midnight. The thing about it is not just the music but the awesome lyric, like a work of poetry, all put together for devastating effect.
Ten thirty at night.
It finally started raining late this afternoon. Some nights, like this one, are serene and calming to the nervous disposition. Before the rain, a Baptist pastor who was new to Eugene came to my door to promote his church on Irving Road. He asked me what Lutherans believe on how you get eternal life, so I told him what I knew from my experience. I took his postcard from his hand and he moved on with his young son to other houses on my street… Early today I read a chapter on Pythagorus in Russell’s History. Russell takes that opportunity to praise pure mathematics and the pleasure it gives people, but also it is used in music and metaphysics. But the geometric quality of Western metaphysics is different from Eastern mysticism, he says. I suppose the difference is like Descartes versus Joseph Campbell… When I practiced my bass guitar afterwards, I thought the geometry of the fingerboard had become subconscious.
Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard / Are sweeter…
The loud and visceral tones of my electric bass are physical things, yet the conceptual notes are incorporeal and perfect, just as an ideal circle differs from a circle you draw with a compass. But I’m not sure that Russell’s treatment of Eastern philosophy is fair. I feel a counter impulse to read Campbell’s commentaries on Brahman— maybe tomorrow.
There was frost on everything when I stepped out my front door. My dog is feeling better this morning, and he appears to forgive me for Tuesday. So I told him I’d be right back and walked out the door. Victoria was busy scraping ice off her car windows just across the street. The sky to the east was striped with white cloud as I trudged south. Two other cars idled in the driveway to thaw out. But I saw no human bodies outside. A little later, Michelle told me the delivery truck never came yesterday. So, I made do with a sausage and egg muffin, some cottage cheese, and my usual Snapple tea, plus two snacks for Aesop. My appointment with Todd is at eleven o’clock, but there’s still an hour before I have to go. I just let my dog know I’d be gone for two hours this morning. He’s really smart enough to understand that. Music: David Gilmour’s guitar lead on “Time,” the Pink Floyd classic. It is nearly a half century old by now, old as the hills, or as time itself. I was an eighth grader when I got my brother’s vinyl copy of Dark Side of the Moon and played the grooves off of it. That was before I ever heard Rush…