On the Town

Quarter after noon.

I needed that.

I took a ride to Laurel Hill to see Todd, my PNP, this morning, and I saw a lot of people, including Misty. She said she’d love to have me back for her DDA group so I took a calendar off the wall of the lobby. Also I saw Joy, who still works in the optical office of the agency. It was a nice break to get away from my own neighborhood for an hour. I made a point of observing whether the leaves were changing yet; it’s a bit early, though some greens were turned to gold. I told Todd that my thinking had been disorganized and the nostalgia of past autumns was overwhelming for me, and his answer was common sense: I need more social stimulation. Laurel Hill is located in a “blue” zone of town off of MLK Blvd, across the way from Alton Baker Park. Today they were giving away stuff like backpacks, notebooks and binders, etc for back to school. There had been a surplus of stock that wound up going to the agency. Every day there’s something new you can pick up for free. Cassidy asked me if I wanted another 40 pound bag of dog food which I declined because I hadn’t used up the last one… I feel as if I’d been housebound for a very long time, so it was excellent therapy to get out of my community today. Roger asked me about the person who’d been coming to my house, and guessed it was my sister. I explained that Gloria helps me with housework. The cabbies with Oregon Taxi were both really good; the first one talked with me about old music popular in the Eighties. He was a fan of Men at Work, the band from Australia way back when I was in high school. A lot of people wouldn’t remember those days.



Ten thirty.

My ride is coming for me in a half hour or so, and I’m feeling nervous about that. I’m doing a good thing for myself but I feel guilty for it. It might be because of my dog and his moods, as silly as that sounds. But I never do anything for me anymore. Just this once I’m splurging and spoiling myself with a trip to the bookstore. I feel as if some catastrophe could happen to me today just because I’m being selfish for a change. Funny how that works. It’s like belief in karma or something. But it doesn’t make any sense.

Noon hour.

Here I am at the bookstore, sitting down in the cafe. I feel like an outsider and almost unwelcome, maybe because I never come here. I bought one book from the philosophy section by William Barrett. Now I’m just people watching and trying to relax. Very strange to just hang out by myself at a table, an old guy who never goes out or does anything for fun. Everyone is a total stranger. But I’m stuck here until one o’clock, when my return ride comes for me. A lot of these people are well dressed and professional.

Two o’clock.

The ride home was fun; I shared it with another passenger, and the driver was very nice. When we approached my house, the sun was shining right on the yellow side of it, as if on a pot of gold. By the way, the title of my book purchase is Irrational Man, and it’s a study of existentialism. But I probably picked it for its symbolic significance, and the absurdity of just hanging out at Barnes & Noble for an hour. Still, it was worth it for the stimulation from the people I saw. 

Sunday Driver

Nine twenty.

Aesop and I slept in for a while this morning. I think a good day is on the way. It is cloudy and cool right now and my mind is a blank. Music: an old James Taylor song about feeling great and blameless. And finally an idea comes to me. This is the one of immediacy of the senses, like the Paterson slogan: no ideas but in things. Sometimes it’s really nice to feel literal and realistic, to feel the earth under your feet, and leave imagination alone…

Eleven thirty. It sounds like Bill across the fence is mowing his lawn. His dog and mine occasionally get into scuffles through the fence, but they don’t last very long… It occurs to me to wonder how long it’s been since I had a burrito from Burrito Boy to take home. It’s been years, because the last time was when I still owned a vehicle. I used to drive to the restaurant, following N. Park around the bend to another street where I’d hang a right. A short jog, then a left turn on Hilliard Street and from there out to River Road. The cool thing about this little community is how the trees flourish, like being in a shaded miniature wood, and the houses are mostly very old, built probably in the forties. The drive was pleasant because I didn’t have to go very fast. There is a hook on N. Park to the left where the Northwest Expressway is visible just on the right, with the railroad tracks also in view… I don’t remember the last time I went to River Road Park, but it might be kind of fun to check it out. On the other hand I think I’d rather take a trip downtown to the vicinity of Fifth Street and visit the shops. 

Letting Go / On the Town

Eleven ten. I’ve had two quarts of Snapple tea and I really don’t know how to characterize my day today. This whole week has been rather strange. The silences and the blind futurities are intense, sort of like a story by Hemingway I read long ago. At noon my taxi is coming to pick me up and whisk me away to Laurel Hill for a DDA meeting. Part of me would rather stay home and make the world go away somehow. But every exchange with people is an opportunity to assert myself and prove my courage. It is a way to validate my being, to affirm it and feel good about myself. The worst that could happen is I walk out on Laurel Hill; and actually, that could turn out to be the best thing I ever did… The sparrows have made a nest in an old dilapidated birdhouse on my back patio, so I see and hear them all the time. I think to myself that I’d love to go home, wherever that is, but possibly there is no home for a person who stays sober; no comfort zone, no sense of security. I read in an Iris Murdoch novel that no one is ever secure, which at the time I couldn’t accept. But today I’m closer to acknowledging this truism as being true indeed.

Two forty. My cab driver was quite late to pick me up from home, and I feared I would be very tardy for the meeting. So I got in the backseat feeling rushed and impatient with the cabbie’s lackadaisical attitude, until I presently relaxed and accepted what would happen. As it developed, I arrived right on time and Misty was late. 

Now, in writing this, I suddenly remember the cabbie from another taxi ride I took a few years ago. She was totally lost up on the campus and I had to guide her to the drugstore on 18th Street and from there to Chambers and onward to my home. It was a dark rainy night in December, her second day on the job, and she had no working gps to steer by. To start with, she didn’t know how to get from the hospital to Hiron’s, and somehow we wound up on Franklin Boulevard heading east. So I told her to make a right turn on Agate Street and pursue it to 18th. The funny thing was that we were in the middle of the university campus and had to wait for a great number of students to cross at a few intersections, especially at 13th and Agate. There were three of us in the taxi including the driver. I don’t recall how long it took me to get home that night, but it was a memorable experience. And I really felt sorry for the poor cabbie; glad to see she’s doing better now. 

On Winged Sandals

Five o’clock 🕔. And then the phone rang: the PT receptionist asked if I could come early today, since they’d had a few cancellations. I said yes, though maybe should’ve said no. Suddenly I had to put my shoes on and hit the road. Hoofing it through my neighborhood, the phone rang again: Sally from my health insurance wanted to do my annual review. So I kept her on the phone for as long as I could hear her voice above the traffic noise. Meanwhile the clouds to the north were black and forbidding, portending rain or maybe hail, and my destination led me right towards it. Luckily I felt only a few raindrops. It was the first time I’d ever had a phone conversation on the run. When I got to the medical building, I was already a bit tired, and then Erin chewed me out somewhat for not doing my homework exercises. Otherwise my appointment was tolerable. I found out that Erin is a rock drummer: I spotted the eighth note tattoo on her hand and said something. She is a fan of John Bonham of Led Zeppelin, and also the drummer for Tool… For the return home, I realistically took Oregon Taxi. The dispatcher was very friendly and the cab arrived in only five minutes. The cabbie was a white haired old gerontion and new to the job. I gave him directions as we moved along. He did pretty well, except he almost hit a pedestrian crossing River Road because he simply didn’t see him. I had to yell to him to “watch out for this guy.” Finally I got home and I gave Aesop three bacon strips for his inconvenience and patience with the developments of a couple of hours. 

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… 


Three twenty five. I suddenly remembered my appointment with Todd for tomorrow afternoon. It will be a video call, sort of like Zoom or Skype. I asked about Heidi, and they said she hasn’t come back from furlough. Something smells fishy. It sounds like she’s not going to be my case manager after this. Miranda took over part of Heidi’s case load, but I haven’t heard from her since early summer… I hope L— H— doesn’t put pressure on me to be religious or something that goes against my personal beliefs. If they do, then I’ll have to figure out other options. I never did like the Christian character of the agency. It was too much like Serenity Lane: Jesus or nothing. I always will find it unconstitutional and unlawful to shove Jesus down our schizophrenic throats. If push really comes to shove, then I’ll emigrate to Canada or something drastic just to preserve my sanity.

Quarter of three in the morning. Yesterday evening I published a post whose sincerity was dubious from the start. A moment ago I went into my posts and trashed it. The writing of it was probably inspired by my trip to Sacred Heart yesterday morning, a phone conversation with L— H—, and finally a shotgun email from Pastor. I retired to bed at ten o’clock and slept four hours, dreaming strange dreams. At one point, I saw a white crockpot that was full of tube worms but which also yielded up old editions of Tarzan, one after the other. At another juncture, I was walking to the church at night and got hit by a car. Though it hurt, I kept walking. When I awoke, I reflected on the nature of heroes: how was Tarzan different from Jesus? Answer: Tarzan did not depend on supernatural powers to expedite his adventures. His strength was purely physical and mental, never spiritual. I considered that I grew up with heroes like everyone else, but they happened not to be Christ. Not even Luke Skywalker, who relied on the Force for his power. Nor Frodo Baggins, aided by the old wizard Gandalf. If anything, the heroes I read about pitted their wits and strength against the supernatural, in the form of nefarious cults with weird, soul devouring gods. Which type of hero was correct? I only know that Tarzan fueled my fortitude in my youth. 


Seven twenty.

There are some clouds this morning, so maybe it’s going to be cooler today. Obviously I would welcome that. I’m in the process of shedding my church indoctrination, including the silly belief in teleology, which says that life’s events occur for a purpose. It seems to me wishful thinking, and besides, nature doesn’t revolve around you and me. It is egocentric to think so. But I figured out my interest in my trees lately. Indeed it is me anthropomorphizing them, giving them human character in order to feel befriended. Loneliness is a strange thing. Like Tom Hanks in Castaway, making a human face out of a soccer ball and naming it “Wilson.” The high winds are rolling in these clouds, thankfully. In my head I keep hearing “Because” from Abbey Road. Acorns from the oak keep smacking the house. It is a huge tree, visible from blocks away. The shape of its branches suggests that it is shooting straight for the sun. I don’t know for a fact that squirrels eat acorns, but it would be a convenient arrangement for them. They could hoard a lot of them away for the winter… I haven’t been to Grocery Outlet in a very long time. It’s a painful reminder to go inside it because of my losses of friends and family. However, I think I’ll go there today and buy some food. I need an adventure to break the monotony. I love their Seattle Waterfront sourdough bread and some of the cheeses.

Bi Mart

Quarter of noon. Executed my trip to Bi Mart in the sunshine. Felt calm but a bit distant from the here and now. I took Kourt Drive for the return walk, noticing the dandelions at the roadside. Cars passed me occasionally. Before getting to the road, there’s a little path of dirt and gravel leading alongside the tennis courts where I saw a couple practicing their game. The path comes out next to the old Church of Christ on the right. The building is just a beige shack with a cement walkway leading to the door. Gravel parking lot. I’ve speculated on what their religion must be like. The pastor camps outside the church in a motor home. Dandelions grow in crevices of the walkway. I used to drive past it all the time… On the way to Bi Mart I felt repelled by the Carl’s Jr. in the Silver Lea Center. The sight of it reminds me of meetups with my siblings. Unpleasant times. I bought two pairs of Rustlers in slightly different sizes. Just under 30 bucks. Even as I write, I sort of wish to resurrect the past, but time only moves forward. But if it could be done, Bi Mart would hastily comply. Such a conservative store, an anachronism.

KODAK Digital Still Camera
The storefront. Taken a couple of years ago.

More to Learn

Ten o’clock. After Damien was here to mow and remove the dead blackberries, the wind picked up and it grew cloudy. Aesop and I turned in for a nap near seven o’clock, and I had some funny dreams about church and my parents. A third dream was about being assigned a long division problem, 3 figures into 6 figures, and the quotient began with 222. I asked my school valedictorian to solve it, and he wrote it on an overhead projector and used a calculator. All three dreams dealt with reading and arithmetic, of the Bible and writing checks respectively. Overall I was dreaming about what we call the “real world,” the kind of stuff I learned in junior high school. I wasn’t particularly smart throughout the series, but people liked me… What was the point of this dream sequence? No idea.

When I first opened the sociology textbook and saw the terms “culture” and “society,” I recognized a concern that runs through a lot of my own writing. And yet this science is so broad and so vague that it seems meaningless. Contained within it are things like history and political science, anthropology and psychology, etc etc; why do we even need such a bloated discipline? Just another perspective on the same world, I guess. More macroscopic than other fields. Too extroverted for me, in the end. Now that I think on it, however: wouldn’t it be strange if groups, societies of people behaved according to independent scientific laws? As if the group were an entity in itself and not merely composed of individuals. This would be a novel concept for me, and maybe worth pursuing, simply because it is so foreign to my mind. My curiosity is getting bigger than my ego, reminding me to never stop learning.