I awoke at four o’clock and knew I was done sleeping for the night, so I got up and listened to Herb Alpert. I noticed that the bass, an old Fender with flat wound strings, sounded close to an acoustic upright bass, but then I heard the frets. The tone was incredible and the player was very good. He was very loud in the mix for the first three tracks, which I liked. The album is called Warm, and the Tijuana Brass recorded it after they re banded around 1970. All of the instruments are real, nothing is synthetic, and that means the musicians had to work much harder. Alpert actually sings on two songs: “Without Her” and “To Wait for Love.” Usually he plays trumpet, feeling every beat, every note that goes by…
I must be a weirdo, having music playing in my head all the time like a human tape recorder. People ask me if the music I hear is at least good and not annoying, and I don’t have a good answer for them. It’s something I’ve had to live with all my life. And sometimes, wouldn’t it be nice if we really could show our “nerves in patterns on a screen” to know exactly how each other feels and thinks, to share our interior experience with the world? Maybe someday we’ll possess the technology to do that, if anyone cares to know.
I figured out that my life is in a kind of limbo since I left the rock band two months ago. I need a new music project to keep me sane. Also my feelings are in a tangle concerning the church. Pastor’s ideas, especially on personal happiness and freedom, to me seem unnatural and smack of Christian stoicism. Again I remember the cousin of Jane Eyre in the book by Charlotte Bronte, whose stoicism is cerebral and whose love is entirely impersonal and dispassionate. Jane finds it odious and tells St. John she scorns his love. I think Pastor’s understanding of eudaemonia, or a collective happiness, is a mere feat of intellectual gymnastics bordering on inhumanity. Nobody with a heart will be satisfied with a “happiness” so located in the head. In this connection I also think of Dubliners by James Joyce, a collection of stories about the decline of passion in people’s lives. It’s a book that Pastor has not read… Before Christmas this year I want to be done with the church and doing something else, hopefully a new rock band project. I’d love to play my bass with somebody again, make people feel good.
Quarter after eight.
It can be over a month before Risperdal takes full effect, so I should just be patient and a bit sympathetic with myself. I had my morning Snapple tea for my caffeine buzz and I’m feeling better. I didn’t see Michelle today; Suk held down the fort himself. There were quite a few customers, and also a small beer distributor for a product called Boneyard Beer. I saw a few Mexican guys and some blond woman who was obnoxious for saying excuse me— or was it thank you? Aesop is whining for his breakfast. I texted Rebecca about this week’s developments a few minutes ago… The funny thing about different brands of beer is that they all have the same active ingredient: ethanol. No matter how unique they say their product is, they all just get you drunk.
I guess I’m going to church this Sunday to participate in the service. My mind keeps playing the same Yes song, “Awaken.” I shared it with Pastor and he said he liked it when he emailed me yesterday evening. He even researched it a bit for some background information on its composition, particularly the lyric. I suppose I was way off when I compared it to Keats. It is different when you engage with the text alone from digging for historical and biographical contexts. Maybe there’s no wrong interpretation of a work of art. So, to my mind, this Yes song may always be like Endymion or “Ode to a Nightingale.” …The air quality outside is getting even smokier, clotting the blue sky and changing the color of the sun. For a moment I forgot about the trouble with my medication. Everything is the same when I don’t think about what drug I’m taking. Or maybe music and poetry comprise a drug in themselves, one that’s nontoxic and good for the soul.
Quarter of midnight.
It is best for me to take responsibility for my loss of faith rather than attribute it to the spirit of the age. I must pick up the pieces and go from there, reassembling them to a picture that pleases the eye and makes the most sense. Do we have to call it a fiction? But there’s a purpose for our imagination, an adaptive reason for being; perhaps it is the science of God, the fingers touching in the Sistine Chapel. Humankind has an instinct to reach for its creator and its own being, as I can remember hearing in an old song by Yes, about creating or recreating heaven by means of the heart’s dream. At the very end of the song, the dreamer is gently awakened to reality once again: like in a Keats poem, but made more powerful by the medium of music… It’s rather odd how we can forget the things that are the most important to human progress and perfection, such as music and Romantic poetry; and if it was only me, then my heart repents this thoughtless trespass. So now, it makes sense to take an hour and listen to Going for the One once again, a classic album of progressive rock, timeless and timely. You who have an ear, may you hear, and let the error of the times slide by.
Quarter after seven.
I stopped and chatted with Kat for about ten minutes on my way to the store. I asked her about the for sale sign I had seen in her yard. It was not a hallucination: they plan to sell the house, and meanwhile they are building their own home that will be ready in December or January. Then I suppose the “ghost truck” with Confederate flag plates next to Derek’s house had been real as well— and the times are as crazy as I am… I have an appointment for a lab today at the hematologist.
Somehow, my brain started playing “Josie” by Steely Dan. I was thinking of the lines ending in “live wire” and “eyes on fire,” and then I heard the bass line by Chuck Rainey: so utterly cool with Becker’s rhythm guitar, like something untouchable and perfect. I guess there’s nothing more I can add to that…
I slept okay but I think I’m done now. Unbidden, the old song by The Beatles comes to me, written by John for Brian Epstein: “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away.” It’s more an attack on culture than on his friend, so the title is actually ironic. It raises the question why… Yesterday I had doubts about my participation in rock music. But right now, on the contrary, I’d be stupid to do anything else. Speaking of The Beatles, my mother was a fan, though in the closet with it. Her own mother found the band disgraceful, and her daughter fell in with her opinion. Why was my mother the family pariah? In my estimation, she was far more intelligent than my sister, and probably for this reason she had a difficult time making friends. I wonder why it is that the very best of us get derailed into a self destructive pattern? But she pinned all her hopes on me when I was growing up, perhaps a bit too much pressure for me to handle. Still, I don’t want to let her down, even twenty years after her death… Therefore, it’s rock and roll till I die— or until rock and roll itself is dead, which is a real possibility given these circumstances. Yet like the Ark of the Covenant or the Olympic flame, someone keeps the dream alive and safe.
Five thirty. The sky is bloodless over the treetops across the street. A cadaverous gray. The store doesn’t open until seven on weekends. Not really looking forward to hearing from my sister; maybe we can skip it this week. A mournful train horn sounds in the distance to the southwest alongside Northwest Expressway. I used to know a guy who stowed away on a freight car and rode it all the way from Portland to Eugene. I wish I were so adventuresome. But this guy’s dad was a rich timber consultant, so his poverty had a silver spoon tucked in it… The crows wake up east of me. Squirrel prances on the roof of my house. And now I just await my friend’s email…
We had a really good practice this afternoon and got quite a bit done. I took my blue Fender bass and felt very comfortable playing it, which makes a big difference to the way rehearsal goes. This bass also cranks out a great tone. I think I’ll use it all the time after this. The other guys played better than usual, too, and Mike and I smiled and winked at each other while Ron would take a very long solo or something silly. We were basically indulging him and being gently deprecating, or saying, Well you know how Ron is. We have two or three really strong numbers that we can use for playing in a gig, and we’ve got plenty of time to work up the others.
Yes, instinctively human versus a consumerist society. I was just thinking of how it’s difficult to be free and human in a culture that has us so utterly pegged. It’s the sentiment of Pink Floyd in “Welcome to the Machine,” by now a lugubrious and kind of stale song, but it gets my point across. Everything you can dream of has been already thought of by the monster of society, so, before you can express your feelings on this or that, you’re in a certain category of people in the eyes of the government and whatever shapes our destinies. My observation is not an original one. It should have been obvious to me long ago. I suppose it’s a cynical view, and perhaps rather defeatist to see human life as a mass production run, like being on the assembly line or shot through the chute. When our lives are set up this way, at the mercy of a culture we can’t control, is it even possible for us to express something new and independent, original and real?
And how has the band changed me… and do I like it. Mostly it’s just the fact that we’re a trio of guys, more or less the same age. I feel that I’ve been bonding with them, for better or worse, but I think our project could lead to something good in terms of a career for me, and I love doing music anyway. It started out as just having fun on weekends, but I believe it may grow into something more serious and disciplined.
Right now, I don’t feel that the band has been a bad influence on my mentality. I might’ve gravitated away from the church even without playing with Mike and Ron, just as a function of time. And by the way, my sobriety feels very secure, though I should never be complacent.
Overall I feel pretty good at this writing.
Four fifty five. As I was playing my bass guitar, I fell into doing some passages from “The Gates of Delirium” by Yes, one of the most impressive songs by a progressive rock band ever recorded… It put me in a sort of dreamy mood, reminiscing again on my high school years with so much great music. At my school, not many kids listened to art rock, but the old Yes albums of the seventies happened to get reissued on vinyl in the early eighties. So, like a person with good taste I bought every Yes record I could get my hands on, and my plastic brain memorized all the music like a tape recorder… But now I’m getting older and not as dynamic as I used to be. The good news is that I’m not so paranoid or delusional anymore, which frees me up to do more things with my life.
I left a voicemail for my sister today but she hasn’t returned my call yet. I thought of her just now because she is a pious Christian. My faith in a literal God, Jesus Christ, and all the other supernatural beings is total toast. I don’t see any way to recover my credence. It isn’t that I don’t believe in being kind to each other, or that love is the greatest thing a person can experience. It’s just the metaphysical nuts and bolts of religion that I can’t accept anymore. There’s no evidence at all for the superstitions that most people take for granted.
I wonder why Lord of the Flies was such a staple of the old literary canon? We students were brainwashed with this book at the age of fifteen, and the precept of it was that human beings are naturally evil, a contemporary version of Hobbesian philosophy. But why sow this seed of learning in young minds? Forever it would rule our fates as we graduated from school and sought our fortune in the secular world. A few kids rebelled against the curriculum; they were the smart ones, dropping out of advanced English and finding an alternative way. They were the ones who disappeared from my sight in the high school halls, while the rest of us took the full dose of the indoctrination and headed off for college— perhaps to end up many years later writing blog posts for a lucky few followers to puzzle their heads about.
Quarter after eleven. I feel rather tired and anxious about our practice today. I’ve had lunch already and turned on the air conditioner. I don’t know if I’m going to church tomorrow or not. If I do, then I really don’t want to be lector for the service. I guess I won’t go. I don’t like having to sing hymns anymore because my voice doesn’t sound good to me… Before long we’ll be having our rehearsal at Mike’s place. I’m going to walk over there, passing through the parking lot for the convenience store. I also have to go by the salon on my way… Funny but I don’t think like a Freudian these days, with his ideas about dreams and slips and so forth. I used to go far astray using his methods to understand human behavior. It was entirely inaccurate…
Quarter after noon. I’m leaving in a half hour. Aesop is not happy about it… I suspect that Freud was wrong about a lot of things, like the cause of schizophrenia. Was Jung any closer to being right? Psychotherapy just seems useless against severe mental illness, so I won’t worry about it anymore. I’ll be my own judge and live my life my way.
Another rehearsal came and went this afternoon. It was rather disappointing to me for a couple of reasons. I think we’ll have to scrap “Peter Gunn” because our performance of it is just not acceptable. Meanwhile, “Jersey,” an original by Ron, turned out pretty good except you couldn’t hear my bass in the mix unless it was my dissonant notes. But that’s okay; I only have to use a different instrument and also change my strategy a little bit to minimize blue tones and bring out the harmonic ones. I told Mike that if we could get airplay on KWVA, the university station, then I’d be impressed with our little band. Now I want to encourage Ron to write more songs to add to our repertoire, or maybe I could make a few of them too… I gave him my copy of The Dream Songs, and to Mike I gave up my cd of Discipline by King Crimson. I believe we need to get inspired and get the creativity flowing. Then a few hours ago I popped the plastic on the selection of poems by John Berryman I bought recently. It’s a beautiful little book with a nice representation from his corpus, though I don’t yet have a feel for where he’s coming from spiritually or otherwise. Also I’m not sure what Ron finds so appealing about his poetry unless it’s a matter of sheer style, of form more than content. I guess that in addition to learning about John Berryman, I’m trying to get a better sense of my band mates in terms of mentality and focus. Where have they been, and where are we going to? But I believe KWVA is a good and realistic goal for us.
Ever since Sunday I’ve been worried about Pastor’s reticence regarding my rock band. This silence tends to make me imagine all sorts of things that may be blown out of proportion to reality. In the first place, I can’t figure out why his opinion means so much to me. It’s as if his approval were the ultimate judgment on the quality of the music, especially its spiritual goodness or badness. So then I have to remind myself that Pastor is just a human being, not a god or even a saint. Maybe he’s just concerned that I might be tempted to use drugs with the other guys and mess up my life?… I didn’t notice much on my excursion to the store today. It’s cloudy right now. I bought Aesop two peanut butter bones for a special treat. I’m not so afraid now that I will lose my sobriety, so when I go into the market, the place feels rather dull and insignificant to me. It is simply where I get something to eat every day and chat a bit with Michelle. The old excitement associated with the store is gone. The only thing that gives me a thrill now is playing music in the band, and I anticipate it all week. Intellectual gymnastics don’t interest me as much as they used to. I still like good books, though perhaps something a little lighter than heavy old classics. Dunno; I’m just figuring myself out while the times keep changing and developing into new things. Now it’s time to feed my dog.