A Sublunar Stroll

Seven AM.

The moon shone right over my head when I hit the street in front of my house, a little larger than a crescent. The stars were still out, and I thought of a Moody Blues couplet: “Take a look out there / Planets everywhere.” This kind of correspondence of mind and nature is like Wordsworth in The Prelude, and yet it complicates the scheme unnecessarily to use allusions. I trod the black street gingerly in the low visibility. It was a crisp 27 degrees but with the clear weather I needn’t worry about ice. At the Maxwell intersection I could look to my left and see the dark blue atmosphere tinged rose on the rim of the earth. Finally I reached the store. Lisa wore a black and white knitted beanie with big snowflakes and said with an expletive that it was cold outside. The radio behind her played old alternative rock, probably Pearl Jam. A lot of those bands sounded alike to me because I was already thirty during that decade, and involved in a totally different genre of music. If I’d had my way, I would have tried for jazz fusion, but the demand for electric bass had declined in jazz at the time. My favorite listening music was actually classical, the Modern period starting with Erik Satie. The guy who helped the old man at the Musique Gourmet, named Scott, gave me quite a little education in Modern music, though his occupation was film critic. I long for those days in the Nineties, and especially I miss my dad…

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Under the Atlantic

Nine thirty PM.

A bit ago I remembered my love for Chris Squire’s bass with Yes, back when I bought every Yes record I could get my hands on. This was forty years ago and I was in high school. The band did beautiful work: creative, artistic, and poetic. I want to say that their lyrical inspiration came from Romantic and Victorian poetry, particularly Blake and maybe Tennyson; but I can find no hard evidence of such influences. Nobody seems to know about Jon Anderson’s reading habits along these lines, though I imagine that every young English student was exposed to the classics. So all my guesswork on it is fruitless at least for now… Sometimes I think that, for the sheer quality of the poetry, no one can compete with Alfred, Lord Tennyson. You can see it in a short lyric like “The Eagle,” especially the last line: “Like a thunderbolt he falls.” If I were to dedicate myself to poetry writing, I’d want to be like Tennyson, even though I’m American and he was English. Indeed, such an ambition is probably absurd… 

Music 1977-78

Like yesterday, I didn’t get any reading done, but when I played the bass this afternoon, I finally tapped into my right brain and things started grooving much better. The right side of my head is rather mysterious to me and has a language of its own that isn’t verbal. It understands music, especially rhythm, and has very simple ideas. It operates in shapes and space; basically geometry. But its verbal vocabulary is quite limited. It seems to remember a lot of songs I’ve heard. So I played around with some Steve Miller stuff, ending with “Swingtown” from Book of Dreams:

Come on and dance

Come on and dance

Let’s make some romance

You know the night is falling

And the music’s calling

And we got to get down to Swingtown

We’ve been working so hard

We’ve been working so hard

So come on baby baby let’s dance

I imagine you’ve probably heard it on the radio a million times, on the classic rock stations especially. I really like Book of Dreams, even better than Fly Like an Eagle. It was released in 1977, when I was a fifth grader at Silver Lea Elementary— 45 years ago. Steve Miller was very popular up here in the Northwest. My nephews and I could get tunes on our transistor radios when we messed around outdoors. I always listened to AM radio during grade school. Paul McCartney and Wings was big at the time. Remember “With a Little Luck?” My mother was nuts about that song. We’d just had a tragic death in the family and everything seemed overturned and topsy turvy for us. She happened to turn the radio on in the truck and caught this Wings song. Actually pulled over to listen to it. I recall that the original version was much longer, with an extended synth interlude: very sweet. And of course Paul on bass was brilliant…

With a Coke. To Joni Mitchell and My Brother

Four thirty.

Clouds have rolled in and they’re saying light rain in ten minutes; but they never really know what’ll happen. My head is playing Joni Mitchell’s “Otis and Marlena,” a little ballad I heard again last night, succeeded by a long percussion jam and “Dreamland.” The music is sad for me because it evokes memories of my brother and the trips we took to the coast in the middle of the Bush era. I also think of how complex my mind has become after so much indoctrination: like a baptized Lutheran ought to feel, I guess. My body and my mind truly feel separate from each other as with the Cartesian scheme, or as if my mind had a pre established bucket for receiving the doctrines I did. I’m not the same person I was two decades ago, though I feel a tugging sensation from hearing the Joni Mitchell once again, like undertow, something treacherous and potentially lethal; and I feel that I’m back on the beach with my brother years in the past.

I wonder if it rained yet; I heard nothing like raindrops on the house and the sky doesn’t look like a cloudburst. The colors are wrong for a rainfall just now. But I’m wishing hard for the rain to come as soon as it can while I’ve got “Paprika Plains” running in my head. Music does odd things to me, as if the spirit of Dionysus dwelt in the sound of the notes and chords, the overall atmosphere.

I doubt that it has rained outside, but something has happened within me at this writing. Take it, learn from it, and move on to the next thing. 

Headphones

Six fifty at night.

I made it through Friday, at least till sundown. I lay in bed, half dreaming that I was writing a poem and playing my bass in Whitmanic style, something Civil War and romantic. It was a day of pain and stress, with a crowd of old feelings and memories flooding my mind at once. Likely the highlight today was fingerpicking my new jazz bass, playing songs I used to do with The Owls before my dad passed. The instrument sounds great and surely contributes to my nostalgia for the late Nineties. By dint of a magic spell I can thrum the past into the present day. My notes weave a web, a fabrication of old times that lasts as long as I keep it up. But alas that the music has to stop, the sounds decay away, and the gray prison of reality come back to dominate. Only if we make music together can it wholly transcend earthly existence and make heaven a real place. Instead, we each play different songs with the headphones on. When will we get it together again?

Peace; Absent Friends

Eight fifty.

I really don’t like King Crimson, the prog rock band, anymore, due to the element of demonism they trade on. It hasn’t been a healthy influence for me since I started following them in high school. What a strange shtick for a rock band. I don’t understand the point of it. But maybe I’m the weirdo? I remember feeling psychotic after my mother died and seeing the devil everywhere in rock and roll. Perhaps it’s just as well that rock music is dying or dead already. It’s definitely a thing of Western culture, based on something biblical, and the music makes it scarily real. Whatever people were thinking, the strategy worked and we bought it. Was there something more to it than marketing; something more than money? Why did we find it necessary to raise hell? Maybe now there can be peace on earth…

Eleven twenty five.

It’s a day when I realize how much I miss my parents. The October light is amber through the smoke, somehow conjuring up the ghosts of old friends but my parents most of all. And they were my friends as well as my kin. Probably there’s no bond stronger than friendship. It’s hard to write about. I will go and play my bass for catharsis even though Dad and Mom have been gone more than twenty years. I have to work my way through it every autumn and it doesn’t get any easier with time. 

Maturity

Quarter of seven at night.

I’ve had a great day, with two fun packages for me in the mail.

Quarter after eleven.

I’m very happy with both gifts I got myself. The little Squier Jazz Bass looks, sounds, and plays great. The body is Daphne blue and the neck has pearloid inlays. I had fun unboxing it and plugging it in the first time, setting the tone for my day. Later, as night was just falling, the mail carrier brought my book of four Jules Verne novels, another delight. The pages are gilt edged, the cover probably leather, and the sewn binding includes a ribbon marker… This morning I skipped church as a kind of objection to something I don’t believe in anymore. My journal is full of nostalgia for a band I played in 24 years ago, an alternative groove band called The Owls. It was far more mature than the butt rock band I joined two years on its heels. My dad’s death threw off everything else in my life; sometimes I miss him more than my mother. He gave legitimacy, decency, and taste to the activities I chose to pursue in the Nineties. Even if it was only rock and roll, it could be respectable as well as fun, with a good moral message to listeners as opposed to sheer gaudiness with no substance. Thus I’ll probably think again about returning to church— just for the ethics element if not for the supernatural fluff. 

Simon Sings

Ten o’clock at night.

In the course of writing notes in my diary, Carly Simon’s “The Garden” came up. I’d been pondering the moral absolutes of religion versus rock and roll, or even of good and evil. And then I thought it might be a matter of perspective, and the labels we assign are just fictions. The song at the third verse goes,

Our gates are unguarded

I’ve stolen the key

To where everything holy inside us

Is free to run free

To smell and taste and touch and see

I noted that it was a woman’s good sense that produced this bit of wisdom as opposed to the unyielding doctrines of a patriarchal religion. Then I wondered what it would be like to read Maryann Evans, aka George Eliot.

I think I like Whitman’s poetry, the more I read of it and consider it. I know I’m tired of Christianity. Christendom is no place for a person like me, and I really don’t give a shit what bloggers think anymore. I’ve had just about enough of WordPress. It’s probably time to move on.

Pretty Good

Ten o’clock.

We went to breakfast as we often do and had jalapeño cheeseburgers. The fog burned off and now it’s clear as a bell. I miss doing music with other players but it’s really difficult with their decisions on using drugs. I would feel weird about walking into Guitar Center today, sober as a judge and clear headed. It’s a different culture from what I live with every day. I feel like an island. Suddenly I remember playing “Detroit Rock City” with Blueface the springtime after my mother died. I had a good time doing that. We were a pretty good band and had a good fan base that grew more and more over the months of that year.

Noonish.

Alcohol really alters your behavior, makes a Hyde out of Jekyll, and in your own mind you are supreme: your self esteem is puffed up beyond what is realistic. Everything is about your ego; it orbits around your selfhood. I hope those days are done forever… As Gloria was getting ready to leave for the day, I advised her to “manejar con cuidado.” She took up the joke and said, “Si, con mucho cuidado!” and started her Subaru while I went inside and let Aesop out of his room. I’ve been chilling with the second Snapple tea and the sunshine at my back. Life is pretty good for a change. 

Dynamo 2

One o’clock.

I practiced my bass guitar alone for a while. At first I played a bunch of meandering notes without much meaning, until I felt inspired to do some lines by Pino Palladino, a Welsh session player whose work was popular during the Eighties. So I tuned down a step and picked out “Come Back and Stay” and “Wherever I Lay My Hat.” The last song I played was one by Go West called “Innocence.”

The switch to this cool early fall weather has me confused about how to feel. I almost wanted to cry once today. It’s just weird, and I’ve also got the lonelies this afternoon. I recall that twenty years ago in August I was going to volunteer at the UO Knight Library. But the job was so computer intensive and the tasks so numerous that I was overwhelmed and had to abort my plan. I took the bus home and on the way, I remember watching the driver shift gears like a machine servant to a machine: a Lawrentian horror.

In October of the same year I placed an ad in the paper seeking other musicians to jam with, and got a call from a guitarist who was friends with some local celebrities. So we got together at the lot on W 11th and I auditioned with Marc and Tim. It worked out pretty well, so we kept doing that, and did a gig somewhere downtown and made some recordings. My family meanwhile was skeptical of my activities and my mom had been gone for a year. On the sidewalk beyond the lot of woodsheds was a hotdog cart dubbed Dawgs on the Run. When the days were abominably dark and rainy with the autumn I would go buy a Coney Island before rehearsal. But I often got the nagging feeling that I was in the wrong place, hanging with the wrong people. And my mother wasn’t around to justify what I was doing. For a while I was screwed.