Changes

Eleven o’clock.

It’s hard to admit that I’m getting older. The root beer from yesterday disagreed with my gut, so I guess I can’t tolerate soda anymore. My brain can think one thing, while my body has quite a different opinion of what’s healthy… My drinking days are definitely over, even though I still remember when getting tipsy felt great. And that’s why I keep reminiscing on my old friends, long since gone away… I really love my Kiloton bass, and I rue the death of rock and roll. It would be such a devastating loss if people couldn’t enjoy live music anymore… Any minute now I’m going to pick up Henry James and spend some quiet time reading.

Two o’clock in the morning.

I think reading James will make anyone a better writer, although I put down The Ambassadors yesterday morning, declaring it quite boring. I have to be in the right mood for it. Here it is the limbo time before Friday. No one said anything about having a band rehearsal this weekend, so I assume it won’t happen… I understand that cyber friendships are becoming more and more common in our culture, thus I guess there’s nothing wrong with accepting the changes wrought by technology. Two different therapists I had seemed to believe that internet relationships were invalid due to being somehow unreal, hence they were unhealthy. But these people were older and resistant to change. One of them insisted that body language was over fifty percent of communication between people, an opinion that I contested on the spot… Sometimes I used to summon the vision of D.H. Lawrence to decry the computer age, saying how unnatural it was, how it perverted our instincts, and so on. However, hardly anybody reads Lawrence anymore, as if he’d been a relic of the 1980’s curriculum. A month ago even I tried to read his poetry and was shocked by the pornography on every page. So I reckon that in the end, everyone must go with the flow and roll with the changes, or else get left behind. 

Airborne Things

Eight forty.

It’s another sunny day, already 61 degrees out. I’m going to feed Aesop before I go to the store this time. That little market is open every day of the year. Sometimes frustration and futility get the better of me and then it’s tempting to drink my life away. But the wiser self usually rules my choices and my actions.

Quarter of ten. In the blue sky I saw a newsroom chopper flying westward and also a jet airliner leaving a vapor trail. There was a peppering of small white clouds to the east. I again thought of the poem by Mallarme about the azure sky and how the heavens drive him a little crazy. I could fish out my book of his poetry and try to make some sense of the French… It was Michelle at the store this morning. I said I was feeling kind of depressed and she thought the vaccine had something to do with it. My food credit is down to the last 15 bucks, but it’s no problem. Today will be good for ice cream later on if I can manage a second trip over there. The burden I bear almost constantly is guilt and even shame at times. Some people are very nice about my shortcomings but others think one size fits all. “Remembering games and daisy chains and laughs / Got to keep the loonies on the path.” Of course I prefer the ones who accept me as I am, not those who only see how I am deficient in something. I’ll never be perfect. Even if I were, some people would still take a dislike to me… Occasionally I see a bird or two flit across the yard in back. I observe a lot of airborne things, floating, gliding, and flying, like the seed pods hovering in the breeze, seeking a place to take hold and grow. Hope is a thing with wings. 

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. 

What It Is

Five forty.

For some reason I didn’t go to church yesterday. I can’t figure out why. I had every reason and none. The only fact is that I simply didn’t go. It was sunny all day and the sky is clear right now. Over a long period of time I’ve been trying to debunk psychodynamic theory by going back to its classical sources, eg Plato, Sophocles, and much later, Goethe. If there had been no Freud or Jung, would someone else have discovered the unconscious and its properties? The whole issue makes me question why I bother with intellectual inquiries. I could just as easily get drunk and forget myself every day. Instead, I spend my time on useless speculation, probably with the aim of disabusing myself of all indoctrination to be free at last. I’m always looking for precedents for people’s ideas just to know who had the notion first, if it can be traced to an individual at all. It’s sort of like asking who is John Galt: the one genius operating all this machinery that we see. Maybe my relentless quest reflects an instinct for a reliance on God, which is a Jungian kind of thought. What is the original source for all of our ideas? It’s the sort of question Faust would ask. But it’s all merely a lot of psycho babble. The smart thing to do is get on with my life— and that means music as much as possible. The intellectual stuff is excessive, while the experience of music is very real and shared by most people. I feel like music is all I want to do.

It’s the twilight of dawn outside my window. I hear bird calls, mostly the cawing of crows. I am so tired of religion and even of philosophy and would like to just be literal for a while. Things are what they appear to be, and that’s good enough. 

Serenity: from a Letter

The little market was rather busy this morning, but the line was all gone by the time I was ready to check out. I saw one regular customer, a heavyset girl in her thirties, walking out with a half case of beer at nine thirty. My mission was primarily to buy dog food today. In line at the espresso closet I saw a deputy’s pickup truck. The salon looked open for business but I didn’t see Karen or her car outside. I know, it’s an awkward situation I have with her. I guess it is what it is, to use the empty cliche. From about eleven thirty to one thirty I read fifteen pages of Les Miserables; difficult going with all the names of people and places I’d never heard of. The setting has changed to the lives of Parisian street urchins called gamins. Eventually Hugo will get around to a character named Marius. His writing is always circumlocutory, beating around the bush and baffling his readers, but also what he says is usually pretty fascinating and quite ingenious. His breadth of knowledge is really stunning. So anyway I read up to page six hundred and have another eight hundred and fifty left.

At two o’clock Heidi called me to reschedule our appointment because she wasn’t feeling well today. And then with the beautiful sunshine I began to crave alcohol due to euphoric recall. For an alcoholic, there’s no greater pleasure than intoxication, though I know it’s hard to explain to people who are not alcoholic. The release of endorphins from drinking beer is comparable only to heavenly bliss. So then I emailed Mark, my friend who plays the drums and lives in the Friendly Street community in the south of town. And next, to divert myself, I played one of my bass guitars for an hour. Finally I had a can of dinner and, at four thirty, took a long nap with Aesop.

Now I’m awake again and don’t have the cravings for alcohol. But you know, life can be pretty difficult for me, when the sun comes out in springtime and I want to feel the best I can. One idea that helps me is that of accepting everything that happens without judgment, to just let events flow into futurity without comparison to other times in the past, without trying to idealize them. Does that make sense to you? In other words, I have to let go the past and let the future work itself out as it will regardless of my wishes. It’s possible that my musical projects will never pan out— and what then? Just take things as they come and don’t drink, no matter what happens. This experience of life is quite like reading an Emerson essay, following its flow like a river, never knowing the destination, and really, not having one. It’s also like the process of writing, unintentionally and with no clear goal in mind, and arriving simply where you do. And wherever you do is okay with us. Kind of like the quote by Ursula K. Le Guin about the journey being logically prior to the destination.

So anyway I got through the day without drinking.

Il Pleuve

Eleven ten. Outside, it rains, and I just woke up from a nap. Suspense over the election gives me wild dreams. Life can be quite unfair to people, and the only way out of caring is by drunkenness or by Buddhism. To take things with equanimity is foreign to my nature, but then I have to remind myself of what I have no control over, like the weather and like politics. 

A song from the era of big bands presents itself: “Rhythm of the Rain,” but does the rainfall really have a pattern to it? It’s the same as listening to wind chimes in the outdoor breeze, or in Romantic times, a wind lyre. Only a bit more sophisticated is the I Ching, the ancient Chinese Book of Changes. You flip a coin and consult the corresponding hexagrams for your fortune. I once imagined setting the book open on a tree stump outside and letting the wind rustle the pages, thereby deciding the wisdom of nature. Is this randomness or is it intelligence? A passage from a Merlin novel by Mary Stewart has it that he, on horseback, lets the horse pick their path through a wood. I suppose this passivity is a variety of wisdom, as is the rhythm of the rain. Letting go and letting a nameless Something take control. Like the wind. Like the rain. And the pages of the Book of Changes. 

My Personal Wall

Four o’clock in the morning.

I had a lousy day yesterday. Just one of those things. Maybe Monday will be better. I still hesitate to buy myself a birthday present for financial reasons. The holidays are always very rough on me, particularly the pressure to believe in something absurd. I keep trying to end my relationship with the church, but feel duty bound to stay and help out…

Quarter of ten. I just reread “The Sisters” by James Joyce. Very subtle and symbolic. Speaking of sisters, I should probably call mine this morning, but I’m still kind of mad at her for not calling me on Christmas Day. I generally feel frustrated and uneasy with my situation in the church and some of my friends. I realize what a hypocrite I am to continue going to church when I have no faith in Jesus Christ. This fact bothered me all during the summertime. It sometimes seems that words only get me into trouble, so maybe I should just play my bass and keep my mouth shut. Two decades ago I was in a band with a guitarist who used to say, “Play your bass, Rob.” In other words, shut up… In addition to these problems, I haven’t been very mentally well lately. But overall, I’m just not a happy camper, especially on WordPress. I can’t expect myself to change the world singlehandedly, and besides, I don’t have the right. I think I’m simply in the wrong place, and ought to look elsewhere for friends. As it is, I’m butting my head against an implacable wall. 

There Is No Nirvana

Eight thirty. I know that nine years ago was a long time, but I have a hard time letting it go. I loved Kate, simply enough. Yet the simplicity was complicated by other circumstances, including my alcoholism when I knew her. I guess what I need is to be patient with the process of recovery. In some ways I feel quite lost, while in others I’m very confident. For a while, I have to content myself with smaller pleasures before I’m ready for a relationship. But I have no regrets for what happened in the fall nine years ago, and hold those memories sacred.

Nine thirty five. I wore my new Duck mask on my trip to the store. Michelle was very nice, as always. Sometimes my thinking is clearer when I’m walking around. I realized that what I really miss is not my Scottish friend but rather the alcohol! Booze is a great facilitator of daydreams, and truly I lived in a fantasy years ago. I had a wonderful time when I drank, yet nothing short of heaven is permanent bliss. And then I speculated on the necessity for fantasy in all our lives. Dreams keep us going. If the frigate can’t be alcohol, then give me a good book. Today I’ll probably read more in Victor Hugo. The sky is overcast, though not as dark as yesterday morning. I think I love November. Music by Stewart Copeland runs in my mind, a souvenir of old times when I believed I was happy. Is all happiness just an illusion? Whatever your bliss, nothing in life is forever. Sobriety is to experience the roller coaster of real life. And these ups and downs are what I have to accept. 

Under the Sun

Quarter of nine.

Patience is a virtue. Apparently my pen pal can’t receive emails from me by some glitch. I have to wait until the bugs are fixed. It’s another sunny morning. Furnace is running. I won’t participate in the Zoom service. There’s nothing factual about Jesus, and that’s why it’s so hard to believe. It is unfortunate that real information is expensive while BS is free. Even worse when the BS is also expensive… But maybe the best avenue to faith is the Intimations Ode by Wordsworth. Childhood memories hold the key to everything that is spiritual in us. It can take quite an effort to remember back that far. When things were “appareled in celestial light.” We may be asked to give up childish things, to grow out of them. There is conflict with “the Child is the Father of the Man.” And then what are we supposed to do? Go on growing up, or cling to the child inside? This is my personal brain teaser lately. Do I go with Wordsworth or try for something new and more mature?

Ten o’clock. Pretty soon I will hit the street and head to the store. Destination Snapple. Destination something new… 

Foot and Mouth

Eight forty.

Walking west on Maxwell Road, I saw a man in a white Comcast truck peel out of a parking lot and scream up towards the bridge, swerving out of his lane as he went. I was thinking about the dumb things I used to say when I abused alcohol and kicking myself. When I got to the store, a few older guys with white hair came in and bought Budweiser and Keystone Light, with some incidental biscuits and gravy. Michelle held down the fort by herself. We talked a little about driving drunk and traffic violations. I had a few stupid accidents in my alcoholism. But the worst mistakes were verbal. I cringe to remember some of the things I’ve said to people, both in speech and in writing. So now, when I behold other alcoholics still doing their thing, I’m not sure how I feel. I doubt that I’d want to lapse back to drinking again. Curiously, I still catch myself putting my foot in my mouth sometimes. It makes me think again and repent for being a jerk. They say that alcoholism is more than just the drinking behavior. It’s a personality type. I don’t know if I agree with this, but then nobody asked my opinion… The sky is overcast this morning and it’s quite cool. That’s a fact that no one will dispute. Facts can be comforting, yet even they can be driven to support someone’s argument. The search for truth is a useless passion. Today I will try to simply go with the flow, though for me it’s very difficult. It’s nice to have a reprieve from the heat.