Sweet Mysteries

Five o’clock 🕔. Last night I went to the front door and found the new book of Montaigne that I had ordered from Amazon. I opened the box, revealing a beautiful fat hardcover, denim blue with a cloth binding and creamy new paper, complete with a nice dust jacket. I opened it to a random page to see the typeface, and likewise it was gorgeous, though perhaps a bit small. I think I can manage it, however, with my dollar store readers.

I hope that Tori, Eduardo’s wife, doesn’t have Covid. Last night she had a fever and we had to postpone recording the service. She’s being tested for the virus in the meantime, and then we’ll know what to do.

The music in my mind is from a recording I made around Halloween in 1985. It was entirely synthetic, using both analog and digital keyboards along with a drum machine. I had a lot of creative energy when I was young. It seemed to be endless because life was still a mystery with a long prospect ahead of me. In fact, I hadn’t even begun to analyze the truth of human existence, but rather took life for granted as a springboard for creativity. Only later did I learn to dig deep into the substance of life’s very being. This analysis has been inexhaustible for all these years, but also it removed the mystery from creative activity. I began to figure it out after my first love affair over a year later. The motivation behind my music composition was Freudian libido. When I told my girlfriend about this, she understood what I meant…

Nine o’clock. Except, the word I used was “love.” Freud uses it too, but in the sense of desire. It’s not the same thing as Christian love… Again I don’t know why 1989 keeps recurring to my mind. It must be relevant somehow, but as yet I don’t see the connection to today. I suppose it’s something I just have to work through. Right now the sky is gray and overcast, the street a little wet.

Quarter of eleven. Karen insisted on giving me a chocolate donut to take home. At the store I ran into Patty, for the first time in months. She was bundled up in a dark blue parka with a hood, anxious that it might rain. I wasn’t bundled up, but I had my umbrella with me. I got the benefit of the doubt on a pricing discrepancy and saved about a dollar and a half on my burrito. Michelle is always very fair in such matters. I feel good right now, even though haunted by ghosts of the past… Tori just tested negative for the coronavirus. I had a feeling that we were overreacting to her fever… 

Glory Days

Six thirty 🕡. I just listened to an old Rush album; kind of corny but it was fun. I think of one of the rock bands I was in and have to smile at how bad we were. We played by instinct and the sense of hearing alone. Never mind music theory, we’ve got this. From the perspective of jazz theory, we had no idea what we were doing, so there were times when it didn’t work. I recall a gig at the Moose Lodge in Cottage Grove, around Christmas time 21 years ago. We did a Judas Priest song with an extended intro, just chugging eighth notes on the same F sharp chord until people recognized the tune. Supposed to be dramatic, but really it was cheesy. There was food for us, but I don’t remember eating very much. I sat at a table with the drummer and we talked about music; we had nothing else in common. The gig was a little disappointing because we had to mix our own sound. There was no house PA system or sound man to give us credibility. Our Cottage Grove gigs were all like that. But two years later we scored a steady situation at the Hollywood Taxi in downtown Springfield. The owner of the club mixed sound for us, yet we still weren’t very good. Our rhythm section was very competent overall, but the guitarists were rather awful. We tried to do Led Zeppelin and slaughtered it. The Hendrix we did fared even worse. One time we played two different AC/DC tunes simultaneously due to confusion of one with the other. Both songs were in E minor and cut from the same cloth.

Everywhere we played, the singer depended on the band’s “bible” of song lyrics because he couldn’t memorize the words. To his credit, however, he had perfect pitch. Also he was good at impersonation while singing a song. And when he brought out the harmonica for a tune by The Romantics, everybody caught the spirit and we rocked the house. It was a lot of fun when things clicked with the Muse, as happens to people in a group. Probably because we could work this energy in the band and with the crowd, we gained a little following locally and regionally… And then come home with my ears ringing all night long. One night at the Taxi I played hard enough to scrape the skin off of my fingertips and bleed on my ‘79 Precision Bass. The blood came off with some Windex, but for a few weeks I could only play using a pick.

There are lots of things I don’t miss about being a professional musician… and then something conspires to call me to adventure all over again… 

Generations of Music

Two o’clock. I could indulge in a bass guitar practice, but my wiser self doesn’t see the point in entertainment anymore. The aesthetic things I used to love have lost their charm. Religion is just another plaything for my intellect. The only truth is scientific, and this is serious work. I lack the mathematical ability to be a good scientist, yet there must be something I can do to promote the discipline… Something is happening to me. I feel much different, and my attitudes are changing. If science is the truth, then I should act accordingly and do something to help scientists.

Five o’clock. I did end up playing my white Fender for around a half hour, and glad I did, because the sound was quite inspiring. Such a wonder sometimes to plug in, touch the strings, and be unaware that it’s me making the sounds; to ponder where the music is coming from, where within my soul. My grandmother was a consummate pianist, left handed, hence heavy on the bass clef. Her father sang contrabass with the Gleemen. So that now, the instrument in my hands could virtually melt away and what you hear would be the sound of Moore family genetics; indeed, the voice of my great grandfather bellowing down three generations, breathing music to my hands on the big four string electric bass, myself just a vessel. All I have to do is let go and be in the zone to give articulation to history that stretches back indefinitely…

Six o’clock. My portable air conditioner just arrived after two months of waiting. I won’t need it until next May, probably. At least I got what I paid for. 

Excursion Deferred

Ten o’clock. I have to plan my next trip to Bi Mart to get my prescription. Should I walk or take a taxi? Darcy said walking is great exercise and I should keep mobile. So I guess I’ll walk over to the pharmacy in another hour or two. The air is even smokier than yesterday. The sunlight on the ground looks amber or burnt orange. Again the issue of climate change raises its head. I’ve heard some people say they’ve been preparing for a major cataclysm; stockpiling supplies, etc etc. I’m too lazy to do anything like that, or maybe not paranoid enough. Whatever happens, I think it will be a natural phenomenon, although the dreamer in me wonders at a metaphysical complication. The human imagination has been an item since the time of the Egyptians and Moses and before. Hearing a voice in a burning bush. Hearing is the last sense to go. What voice will we hear out of the machine when the time comes? What vision out of the shadows? There are always mirages. What happens when time breaks down; do we see eternity behind the wall? Or are we merely dreaming self indulgent trash? What can we do instead of dreaming?

Eleven o’clock. By now you can hardly see the sun for the wildfire smoke. When I get up and walk to the pharmacy, I need take nothing with me. Maybe my iPhone. And I can take my own sweet time. I’ve always liked Bi Mart despite its conservatism. It might be a different experience if I were Black or Hispanic stepping in the front door. Something to be mindful of at all times. Put it off until tomorrow?

Quarter of noon. I ate most of my cottage cheese for lunch and I feel much better than I did over the weekend. After today, my dad’s anniversary will be over with. Nothing to worry about then. There’s really no pressure on me to do anything today, so I don’t know what the trouble was before… 

I miss the days of New Age music back in the early 1990s. Somewhere near is my copy of The World’s Getting Loud by Alex de Grassi, one of my favorite CDs from the era. “Facing South” is such a beautiful song, so acoustic and understated, yet so powerful in its depth of emotion. The deceptive simplicity reminds me of Satie. There’s a lot of space in between the minimal chords, giving room for speculation. His approach is very modern and progressive, and overall very creative. Years ago I sent a copy to my Scottish friend, and she was delighted with it. I guess it sounded like the epitome of American music to her ears. 

Vendredi Soir

Four twenty. I finished reading Macbeth. Now let it incubate for a while. Also, UPS delivered my Mark Egan music. The thunder has come back, and the sky has gone quite dark. I finally scheduled my ride to the X-ray place, for Tuesday morning at nine o’clock. Even now, my lower back gives me a hard time. The sky looks ominous of some heavy weather. But the rain will do much good for the air quality and any fires still burning. It seems like the longer I stay sober, the direr life gets for everyone. I haven’t heard from anyone from church, either. I suppose they will film the service without me, and that’s okay. It has started to rain now. Occasional crackles of thunder. Sky is a very dark gray. I remind myself that the same weather is happening to everyone locally. My paranoia tends to believe I’m being singled out, much like Jonah or Job in the Old Testament. It’s a feeling of delusional guilt for something. But how grandiose is it to think that the god of the weather has singled me out for punishment? It’s a delusion of reference. Psychotic people believe everything that happens is about them…

Six forty. The Mark Egan was pretty good, and would be better if I could listen to it in a comfortable chair with the lights low. It kind of inspires me to do something similar; find a hand percussionist and guitarist and lead the project with my bass. We could go for an ambient sound, perhaps trance; simple and slow, and slightly repetitive. But it’s a long way off with the coronavirus. I could still text Tony the hand drummer and see if he’s into it. The whole point is to be relaxed and serene, and to do it for the sheer pleasure of playing music together. And further, to share the good vibes with people who want to listen… 

More dark gray clouds are moving in, though no more rain is forecast until midnight. It was good to read some Shakespeare. I don’t think Macbeth is supposed to be a likable character, but maybe we’re moved to pity and fear for him anyway. He certainly carries a boulder of guilt for his awful crimes. Why was he so tempted by the prospect of power and glory to murder people for it? And to be emboldened by hearing the prophecies of the witches— only to be deceived by a trick of language. Would anybody do what Macbeth did in his situation? I think the germ of his ambition existed before his first encounter with the weird sisters. So that, spooks or no, Macbeth was always guilty in his heart. 

Solfege

Six twenty.

At the crack of dawn I will probably go to the store for a soda and things to eat. And yet the ritual has gone so smooth. The groove has become a rut. What could break the monotony? Just about anything. I could go to Grocery Outlet and buy some banana peppers and some artichoke hearts. But this is for people whose taste buds are all in their mouth. My mother used to say that. I see the first light of day out my front window. The only hope now resides with instrumental music, music with no words. The sounds of music are feeling. Feeling describes; it cannot prescribe. It can’t moralize— and really, it is the moral that we need to get rid of, with everything we face today. The only poetry we need, a most blasphemous thing, is that of Edgar Allan Poe. To recite “The Bells” again over our gravesite is to be sublime. Poe made poetry for the music of it, for the sound, not the sense. His verse slips under the net of language and meaning. Music is the one art form to which the other art forms aspire to be. Walter Pater said this. Poe anticipated the Aesthetic Movement by a few decades, inspiring especially the French… People need something to make them feel good. To my mind, the greatest help to us right now is instrumental music. And the best that words can do is to strive to be music.

Saturday Morning

Eight twenty five.

I paid my utility bill this morning. It was very low again due to the summertime. It amazes me that fall is almost here. I’m thankful that people treat me with respect these days, and actually care what I have to say. My relationship with my family is changing for the better. But I still prefer WordPress to Facebook; it seems a more intelligent platform because you have to be able to write… Today I’m trying not to put pressure on myself to be perfect. A song comes to me, “Walking on Air” by King Crimson. It makes me want to learn to play my Stratocaster better. But there’s that pressure again. Maybe I’ll just listen to the CD and admire Adrian Belew. If I do pick up my Strat today, I’ll be languid about it. I won’t expect too much of myself. I want to enjoy the experience and not be frustrated.

Quarter of eleven. I bought some mint ice cream and shared two dollops with Aesop. The conversation at the salon turned political again, accusing the other side of being political and hateful. It was typical redneck philosophy. I didn’t stay very long because I didn’t agree, and it was awkward for me. Under my conservative clothes I’m still an educated person. People can bray their ignorant opinions and I won’t say anything to their face, but as long as this is my domain, I will write about it. The same people are the ones who hate Mexican immigrants and refuse to learn Spanish to accommodate them. It was always an atrocious attitude. We treat nonwhites very shabbily, and at some point justice must be carried. I’m tired of seeing red everywhere I go, and I’m not the only one… Now I want to play my guitar for a while. 

Sophomore Thoughts

Four thirty. I’m having fun with my laptop now; no painful memories. The wildfires have been such a shock, and now my mind is settling down a bit. Times don’t seem so apocalyptic as on Monday. We’re planning on having the food pantry Saturday, so, conditions allowing, I’ll go help. Seeing Sue and Nancy should be fun. I played my white Precision for what must’ve been 90 minutes. The classic tone inspired me to pick out some Queen songs from the mid- to late-70s. I guess The Game was released in 1980. I haven’t listened to those albums in years. I’d like to hear News of the World and Jazz in their entirety again. John Deacon was a wonderful bass player… Wow, the smoke is still quite dense outside. Aesop is handling the situation okay… I remember, in the band Blueface, how I wanted to cover “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” But with our inept guitars, it wasn’t realistic. You can’t cop a Queen song with just a rhythm section and a lead vocal. I’ve wondered before why I chose bass over guitar; is it just because it’s an easier instrument? But no, I genuinely love the tone of electric bass. It sounds great to me. There’s nothing better than the sound of Chris Squire’s powerful bass on “The Gates of Delirium.” Suddenly, I feel like I did as a sophomore in high school. I bought every Yes record I could get my hands on. I also started listening to Led Zeppelin…

My taste in reading material changed from ERB to stuff with more magic in it: Michael Moorcock and Fritz Leiber, especially. Their writing just seemed more mature somehow. It dealt with essential problems of life, such as death, in a more realistic way. Perhaps it came across sadder and wiser than the adventurousness of ERB. The latter was like reading westerns, with clear-cut heroes and villains, and it was gratifying to see evil punished. But in the other two writers, victories often were pyrrhic. Emotions were more complex and confused, and the truth was ambiguous. It seemed that more serious thought went into their content, and feelings ran deeper. Sure, it was only sword-and-sorcery fiction, but it was comparatively well-done. I also enjoyed Roger Zelazny and Karl Edward Wagner. The second raised questions of the rectitude of selfishness. The antihero, Kane, was brutal and ruthlessly selfish, and even megalomaniacal in the scope of his projects. Basically, he wanted to rule the world himself. He was all about gratification. Where Conan had been power hungry, it was presented in a way that made you cheer for him. He was plainly the good guy fighting the bad guys. But Kane’s designs were not so clearly for the general good. And in the whole array of writers from ERB to Wagner, you witness a loss of innocence over time. The naïve romance of ERB beginning in 1912 gradually collapsed to the cynicism of the 1970s. Just as the wars grew more complicated in real life, so did the fiction that was written. Thus, you have the reluctance and remorse of Moorcock’s heroes, the slowness to answer the call to adventure. The adventures were no longer fun and exciting. Heroism was not so heroic anymore…

Time Capsule

Nine forty.

It’s another sunny morning, and the high temperature is supposed to be 93 degrees. When I work up the courage, I may try uploading more music tracks of my own to SoundCloud using my laptop. But I don’t know if it’s worth the time and grief. Earlier this morning I dreamed about home recording, and it was very exciting to hear new music from myself. Much easier dreamed than done, unfortunately. The new digital technologies are very difficult for me to master. I loved the old days of four track cassette recorders and intuitively obvious drum machines. Those were the days when the technology was still dumber than human beings. Today, all these gadgets are a cryptogram for old school musicians. So, once in a while I have a dream about recording, but it might not be realistic… Tomorrow morning I have an appointment in Springfield for a blood draw. My clinic has its own lab unaffiliated with Q— Diagnostics. This makes things a little easier. Last winter, my healthcare service dropped my insurance company and left many people scrambling to find new providers. I had a couple of options, but I stayed with the same insurance and eliminated P—Health. I made this decision based on the experiences I’d had with both organizations.

Eleven forty. Now I’m curious about hooking up my external hard drive to my laptop and delving into some old files. The project could be rather painful emotionally, but there may be some little gems worth preserving.

One thirty. Most of the old poems I looked at were quite smutty, like Henry Miller attempting to write poetry. Not so good. Some of them weren’t even very clever. The mood was definitely rebellious and frustrated with a culture I perceived as repressed. But probably my overindulgence in alcohol increased the desire for love, and moreover, I’d had such lousy role models in my parents. I don’t know. It also seems that I blew my chance to fulfill my secular dreams with Kate. Maybe the secularism wasn’t working for me, or at least I couldn’t stop drinking and ruining my health until I tried something different. While I was surfing my old files, I listened to “Clockwork Angels” by Rush. This pitched me into remorse about losing my opportunity with Kate. However, thinking about it, if I had continued with the same “secular” friends and lifestyle, very likely I would be dead by now. Vicki told me about an acquaintance who had recently died of alcoholism at 52 years of age. The thing about Kate that really makes me kick myself is how smart she was, how worldly wise and a little bit defiant and daring. But no, I couldn’t keep it up. It wasn’t so much that I “blew it.” Rather, I wanted to live beyond my fifties. 

Musical Sunday

Noon hour. I’m hearing an old song by The Cars in my head: “Good Times Roll.” It was their old sound, before they went synthetic in the 80s… I wanted to buy some Snapples for Damien before it gets too warm out. I didn’t think of it on my trip this morning. I looked out for Number One instead. I think a lot of people are doing that, but it’s making us miserable. One thing I am enjoying, however, is A Farewell to Kings by Rush. I still haven’t heard all the bonus material or read the booklet. IMO, this album was the beginning of their more sophisticated sound, working with complex chords and soft subtleties. It was more sensitive overall than 2112, and more musical in the abstract. It was just different from their previous stuff. Basically, it was inspired.

Three twenty five. Damien hasn’t replied to my text from this morning, and he isn’t here yet. I take people too literally, I guess. He has things on his mind and a lot of work to do. I skimmed the liner notes to the Rush album. It goes into some musical detail about each piece, some of which looks inaccurate to me, particularly the analyses of time signatures, but I know I’m being pedantic. I’d forgotten that the band recorded it in Wales, so this explains part of the difference in temperament from previous records. Alex Lifeson also reports having used chorus effects on his electric guitar for a fuller sound… The music gets sort of lost in the translation into words. I can say with confidence that hearing these old songs makes me feel happy. And it’s very satisfying to sit down with my bass guitar and nail a part played by Geddy Lee on the original recording. I feel as if Rush were in the room. Who says rock and roll is dead?