Wednesday Words

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. 

Orpheus IV

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.

Eleven thirty.

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. 

New Thrills

Eight o’clock.

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. 

Low Fidelity

Eleven forty.

Aesop and I are up again after having a nap for several hours. I have opened the windows for the night hoping to cool off the house. In the fuddling heat I slept shallowly and dreamed about bass guitar and the old ‘90’s band Alice In Chains, which by the way I never really liked. I used to have a friend who was into most of the grunge bands, but throughout that decade I stocked up on King Crimson CDs and other stuff from the ‘70’s and ‘80’s that qualified as “progressive rock.” Occasionally I’d buy a jazz fusion disc, and I also went through a phase of modern classical music until I more or less exhausted the genre. I remember listening to Edgar Varese in the summer of 1997, really enjoying Ameriques, a piece that sounds like The Rite of Spring. While I traveled around doing disco with Satin Love, my brain would play back Varese or Arnold Schoenberg during the day, or maybe a film score by Jerry Goldsmith. My mind entertained itself this way and kept me company when I was alone or felt alone with others.

Quarter of one. I’ve been thinking about the particular sound of the band I find myself in. It’s hard to classify. Ron called it eclectic, and I would add that it’s unusual, quirky and peculiar. I doubt if it will ever be popular aside from a small devoted following. But I think I like it. Whatever else it may lack, the music has a kind of integrity and fidelity to the people involved in creating it. And I get to be a part of it. 

Orpheus III

Seven forty.

I had a great time yesterday with Ron and Mike. We held practice at five o’clock and it was a sunny evening. My old Aria bass through the Fender amp ground out a beefy tone, kind of aggressive, but perfect for our music. I described our sound to a friend as unsubtle and often dissonant but with a beat that gets you moving. It is probably more rock than jazz because the keyboard is sometimes fuzzed and gritty. Ron said his influence is more Keith Emerson than Rick Wakeman, hence visceral and raw as opposed to refined. I think we do pretty well as a trio of keyboards, drums, and bass guitar. One of the songs we did yesterday was “Bubble House,” in which I have to take a solo on bass in G minor, not one of my better keys. But I hacked my way through it and came out sounding reasonably good. Before and after rehearsal I got a lift from the other guys. Now I owe Ron a book of John Berryman, so next time I’ll bring him The Dream Songs. The sunny weather continues this morning. At the market I bought a peach Snapple tea in honor of my friend who did the same thing yesterday. My cattle dog seems happy that I’ll be home all day today: no engagements at all. 

Industrial Beauty

Nine ten.

The rain still continues. I just got the trash out in time for pickup and now I have to go to the store. Taking a breather first. I texted Rebecca about resuming the process of hiring a PCA… The magnolia has at least three new blooms: beautiful white flowers.

Ten o’clock. Now the rain has slackened and everything is very quiet. I’ve been to the store and seen Michelle. She was busy making bags of ice and didn’t know I was waiting alone at the counter until I grabbed her attention. Michelle doesn’t like making ice. Probably no one else does either… It occurs to me to think about beauty, or rather the absence of it from my life recently. Yesterday, I suppose you could say the band created some beauty, and this had a healing effect on me. Yet it wasn’t the same beauty as opening a book of poetry by Wallace Stevens. Our band has a rather rough industrial edge. I don’t know what I contribute to the overall sound, but it seems to blend in okay and keep time rolling along. After all, we play rock and roll, not so much the refinement of jazz fusion…

Eleven o’clock. Before long I’ll hear the noise of garbage trucks barreling up and down my street. Sure enough, here comes the first one. If it’s true that a mythology reflects its region, then is it right to say that a soundtrack does the same? Then we might call our band the Maxwell Road Prophets. The intelligence of our soil… while the trucks boom and clank throughout the neighborhood collecting trash. 

Orpheus II: a Letter

I didn’t go to church this morning but the band practice today went very well, probably because we came at it fresh after a hiatus of three weeks. We played for two hours: hard on my fingers, so Mike let me borrow a guitar pick for the last half hour or so. This worked out great. Also we made three recordings that ought to turn out pretty good. The bass I used was the same old beater that only cost me one hundred dollars plus the cost of a replacement pickup and a bridge. But it sounds really great. When we were done, I just left it with Mike again. Boy, the weather was very wet today, and I had to walk in it over to the studio. My trouser legs got soaked. I put on a rain jacket 🧥  and carried an umbrella 🌂 for the 15 minute journey on foot 🦶. It was also very warm outside, making it feel quite muggy and kind of gross, but I didn’t have to bring an instrument with me this time. As I was traveling through the parking lot of the convenience store 🏪 I missed seeing Deb’s black pickup truck, but maybe she doesn’t start her shift until three; but just now I remember that today is Sunday and not Saturday. And of course Karen’s salon was closed for Sunday.

I think I’m a little better at cooperating with other people in musical situations than I used to be, as long as my recovery feels secure. However, I also can really feel my age in my poor old body. My back still hurts every day and sometimes my whole body just feels lousy, especially when I get up or sit down. Probably I could use some more physical therapy if my insurance will cover the cost 💲. All I have to do is ask my doctor for a referral.

Anyway I think this band might go somewhere when the venues reopen this summer or fall. Meanwhile, blogging may go a bit more on the back burner; I’m just not very inspired to write new ideas— and by the way, that’s really cool about your discovery of your Goethe book. I think it’s well worth reading and pondering when you have the time.

Okay, that’s my report on my day today. I’m quite exhausted now and pretty sore; glad I didn’t go to church this morning or else the damage would be somewhat worse. See you in the morning and take care of yourself.

High Fidelity

Midnight hour.

I must be going through a depression this year, especially since last month, around the time I bought my G&L bass and felt so divided and at war with myself. To be totally honest, I would have preferred to spend my stimulus payment on the American made G&L bass because I felt I really deserved it. If I get another chance at it then I’ll spring for it, and to hell with the other guys in the band. The take-home message is always the same: you ought to do what is right for yourself rather than trying to please other people. And this is the same old jam I used to find myself in when my life was more functional. The truth is that it’s impossible to make everyone else happy by your actions, and the only person you can really please is yourself. For this very reason, we should never do anything self harming to gain approval from others. Nobody’s worth it, no matter how they try to shame you.

One ten. I’m beginning to think I’m in a bad situation with this rock band. All we have in common is the music. None of our other values are the same. A friend once told me that I’d do better in a jazz fusion band, if such a thing can be found in this area. At least those musicians would be totally serious about making music. 

Art and Life

Quarter after eight.

Everyone at the store was very courteous this morning except for one man who walked in and conducted business without wearing a mask. Michelle resented this disrespect but didn’t say anything to him. As I was walking down my street I could hear the scraping of squirrels’ toenails on the trunks of large trees. It’s only partly sunny so far today. I’m expecting a phone call from Heidi this afternoon. The song in my head is “Norwegian Wood.” A friend once told me that John Lennon deliberately imitated the style of Bob Dylan when he wrote this song, and yet it inevitably came out sounding like himself. Another time, when I was 21, I sort of rediscovered “Across the Universe” while listening to the blue compilation late at night. I was totally unprepared for what I heard, and the effect of the music just made me bawl hot tears. Also the words, of course. Someday I’d like to commit the whole lyric to memory. In stark contrast to my experience with the music, my clueless and insensitive dad was sleeping in his room down the hall, oblivious and obtuse. Why would anyone ever want to be like my dad?

Quarter after nine. And yet I named my dog Aesop because I was thinking of my father. Also he was very proud of my grades in philosophy. Dad could be logical, and sometimes made jokes that were absurd, though he was never shrewd or sharp, nor very perceptive. The best I can say about him is that he was constant, as if rooted to the ground like a great tree. He resembled a Faulkner character or two in this respect. And his core values were comfort and security: not very imaginative, but you could always depend on him in a crisis. Who would I be if I were a Faulkner character? 

BS&T

Eight thirty.

I was at the store looking over the frozen foods when I heard “Spinning Wheel” by Blood, Sweat & Tears come on the radio. I listened along and then I realized it was the album version with the incredible trumpet solo by Lew Soloff. I mentioned it to Michelle, but she didn’t know how to respond. But for me it was a kind of inspiration, and in spite of everything else that goes badly, I feel that my life still has cosmic meaning and purpose, as guided by the “stars.” It is difficult having Saturn for my ruling planet, yet it motivates me in my perambulations east and west along Maxwell Road and elsewhere in the city. I shuffle on the sidewalks like an old bum, hearing music in my head and muttering things to myself, though I’m an intelligent old bum. 

The BS&T song this morning makes me rethink my music projects, even if the issue of alcohol is one that will never go away. I just hope I’ll have the wisdom and strength to resist the temptation in the future to drink. It’s a gray and overcast day so far today, so maybe it won’t get as warm, and I can make my trip over to Bi Mart without any trouble.