I don’t know what to do with my book of Jack Kerouac. Perhaps I’ll just place it in the book share on Fremont Avenue; it’ll be a great score for somebody, a beautiful new volume still wrapped in plastic. But no; if I see Ron again, I’ll give it to him… The summer sunshine repeats itself outside.
Quarter after nine. I talked with my sister for an hour. She said her son is on the mend from the virus. It wasn’t one of our better conversations, however. Now I’ve got the rest of the day unspoken for. Very quiet in the house, and the day is still young. It might be a good time to go out someplace, except the weather will be very hot and uncomfortable. The thought of drinking beer crosses my mind, but I’m not serious about that. I can play my bass guitar this afternoon, but by myself is not the same as with other people. So it makes me wonder if sobriety is really worth it when you end up all alone. Life is always difficult for one reason or another. A song by The Motels occurs to me: “Only the Lonely.” It reminds me of my mother’s solitude when I went to high school, and how I made a pact with myself to be her friend in that time. I never knew my own identity because of my sacrifice, yet I still think it was the right thing to do. Today I can relate to her loneliness; she was just a little too smart for her own good.
Quarter after ten. Something bugs me now. I still feel like getting loose with a beer buzz or whatever. I remember the trips I used to take to the coast with my brother, sitting on the balcony of our room, looking at the ocean and drinking beer after beer in the sun. This was my brother’s reality, and I participated in it with him like a kind of religion… until my addiction nearly killed me and I had to stop… Roger fired up his collectible truck and drove away to Highway 99. Life goes on even without alcohol. How would it be to reread A Separate Peace by John Knowles? A classic novel about envy; about the irrational, and the unaccountability of human behavior. Sometimes it’s not all lollipops and lemon drops.
Outside my window, the City of Eugene street sweeper just howled past. It might be okay to get something sweet from the store— and I’m aware that I don’t feel very free lately. I feel encircled by government agencies moving in for the hostile takeover of my life. Is this paranoia on my part, or does the suspicion serve a purpose?
I had a nap from four thirty to eight thirty, and when I got up, my mind was somewhat clearer. Aesop, my dog, is in a good mood tonight. It occurs to me now what dictators my parents were when I was young; I could never do anything or go anywhere without rousing their suspicion that I might blow their cover. My dad was especially paranoid if I did anything different from usual. What kind of judgment did he fear? He and Mom were moderate alcoholics, but this didn’t warrant the world’s disapproval. His life was secure when he could watch tv, smoke cigarettes, and drink bourbon during the happy hour every day. My parents were godless people with no real friends of their own. Mostly they were terrified of being condemned, but it’s hard to know what for. What was their unpardonable sin?
I, for one, absolve them everything.
Four o’clock. I had a pleasant stroll over to the little store and back again, getting a good dose of people on the way. It was only 77 degrees outside: very clement, and the scene was blue and green and shady. I stopped in front of my house and talked with my neighbor Cherie for maybe fifteen minutes. Her parents bought a house on this street in 1961, when Silver Lea Elementary was a new school. She said she cried when it was torn down, and she snapped pictures before it could happen… At the market, Brandi cashiered for me. I bought just a Snapple tea and a treat for Aesop. I saw another customer purchase a truckload of beer, some microbrew with IPA hops in a green package. I think now that it’s no wonder I was always bankrupt when I used to drink: that stuff is ungodly expensive, and reserved for those who can afford it. I don’t think I’m really missing anything by not drinking these days… I said hi to Derek’s two girls on Fremont, Claire and Natalie, being watched by their grandmother. I can hear Cherie returning home from her dad’s house. He is 93 years old and a widower living with two cats, and by her report, doing very well. All of this to the tune of Prokofiev’s “Classical” Symphony, the second movement.
Quarter after four.
So that: what I really miss now is the old elixir of beer and wine, and maybe not so much the people I used to know. And yet I know there are a million reasons why I shouldn’t drink again. The most obvious one is its impact on my personal finances; my money tends to magically disappear when I use alcohol. Also my health would go down the tubes, and psychologically it takes me to some awfully dark places, like living a Herman Melville book… I would only become chemically dependent again, have withdrawals, and at the same time the schizophrenia would grow worse. Now I wonder what happened to precipitate my thoughts about alcohol. Probably there’s a connection with my rock band of these cravings. One of the other guys was keen on a few decadent poets, so out of curiosity I looked them up. I think I’ll let him have the Kerouac book I just bought. Moreover, I might seriously consider leaving the band for a healthier situation… Time flies. Hard to believe it’s July, and the day is sunny yet quite mild. It’s a beautiful summer’s day. I could go for a big root beer from the little store, something really sweet, cold, and wet.
Quarter of six. I waltzed over to the market and bought a two liter of A&W root beer while the weather was perfect. Cathy and JR were working this evening, she at the register and he making ice. Reflecting on it now, it’s true that alcohol increases love desire for people, as Shakespeare wrote in Macbeth. It even imbues people with qualities they may not actually possess. It’s interesting to be a sober observer of life’s drunken drama. I stopped at the salon coming home and had a chocolate donut with Karen and Jessica. Karen told me that Kim is coming back to work toward the end of the month, doing one day a week. Also Karen is able again to serve people in the senior home on Mondays. And she said her husband is doing well… Then I came home. I didn’t notice much else along the way. Now I think it should be fascinating to read my Thomas Hardy books because of the element of alcoholism and its relation to his fatalistic worldview.
Quarter after eleven. I was feeling hungry, so I had my lunch. So many things are gone and so many things remain. Here comes the sun again. Sometimes I have bad dreams about falling off the wagon, but whether I do this is up to my ego to decide. Much of psychology is still pretty Freudian, like when we say that the beer jumps in your hand: it happens without a conscious will, and in fact comes from a bigger unconscious will. It’s like Schopenhauer’s vision of reality two hundred years ago, possibly still valid today. The sky is now mottled blue and white, while it’s yet cool outside… I guess it’s feasible to overthrow the paradigm of Freud and the thinkers who inspired him, and cognitive therapy is one way of doing this. Do people really operate on the pleasure principle, or is that just a myth?… The phone just rang and my dog went cuckoo. It was my insurance agent: my life insurance policy is all set… I can’t find a subject worth writing on right now. What is spirituality to me? I don’t believe it’s real.
I miss the summers when my apple trees produced so much fruit and my sister would come over and help herself. Particularly I remember August 2012. In the afternoon I would drink Rolling Rock from a plastic cup and go out in the backyard for a few apples to munch on. My pug had been put to sleep in July and I was without a dog for a few months. I kept myself company by writing my journal and emailing my friend across the Atlantic. Otherwise I felt like I didn’t exist in my solitude. And I suppose that in a sense I really didn’t exist without the validation of other people. Something about the atmosphere today is a cue for memories from years ago. Perhaps the quality of the light is just right. And just maybe in an alternate universe, the past is still present, and what I recall is still reality.
Quarter of eight.
For once, a cloudy morning. Mostly gray skies, with a small blue patch here and there. I paused on the sidewalk to have a look. The ambience feels more alive now than when it was so warm. I just saw two fox squirrels on the ground out back. I don’t know what to think about spiritual things; if they are real, then it’s a phenomenon like parallelism, and the experience is very human. I think everyone can understand energies of light and dark. They may be felt, seen, or heard, especially in works of art. I’ve satisfied my curiosity about the poetry of John Berryman and decided to put it aside… I was beginning to think I’d never see another cloud since the heatwave that hit Oregon and Washington. When I got to the store today, I encountered a long line of customers at checkout. So I went to the shelf with dog treats first, then crossed the floor for a Snapple and frozen pizzas. In the back of my mind, I can remember how the place used to look inside, and the item I used to always buy, but usually not in the morning. I had a wonderful time being an alcoholic while I could, but ultimately alcohol is a snake disguised as an old friend, a snake that often bites you… A lot of people still drink, which seems rather strange to me because I’m at a different place from them now. A song by Yes occurs to me: “To Be Over,” a very pretty piece from their 1974 album Relayer. I guess I’m just thinking, now that I don’t drink anymore, what’s next for me? And perhaps the rock band project won’t work out. Then what? It’s the journey and not the destination, it is said.
Nine o’clock. My pen pal is late in writing me today, so I don’t know what’s going on. We haven’t been on the same wavelength for a couple of months… I just got her email now: it’s never accurate to assume anything. Also I know I tend to over generalize and try to read people’s minds, but to no avail. But it’s frustrating when people don’t speak their feelings and thoughts. And on the other hand, some people talk too much. They say the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. I imagine it’s an art to be content with your current situation, to be mindful and centered in the immediate reality. As it is, I suppose I flunk the test for today because I have a lot of regrets and frustrations in life. Satisfaction seems so far away to the past or the future. What if, as Carly Simon sang, these are the good old days?
Eleven twenty. I wonder why I view things so differently from my sister’s family? I still remember when, as grade school kids, our families were quite close. But maybe it was only alcoholism that united us and gave us something in common. Our parents used to get blasted and play pinochle until the hour was late. The boys and I played children’s games with GI Joe dolls, hide and seek, Chinese checkers, and even Atari home video games. We had transistor radios that picked up AM stations, so we could hear Steve Miller Band, Paul McCartney, and everything Top 40 from the mid seventies. We could toss the frisbee and bounce Super Balls. We could ride dirt bikes in Central Oregon. We hadn’t learned how or what to think yet, and probably we lacked consciousness altogether. I only knew that I loved dinosaurs and whales, and comic books of sword and sorcery heroes. I grew up in a quiet home environment that over the years promoted time for reflection. I was raised like an only child; no need to compete for attention. There were many factors that ultimately divided our families. So I guess it would be silly for me to blame myself for the outcome of the split. In fact, the fission of my family is similar to the Big Bang, with the particles being driven farther and farther apart… or so it seems sometimes. The copy of The Doobie Brothers I got by mail order I still haven’t listened to. The memories linked to it would be too painful to experience again.
Quarter after six.
It is overcast this morning, and the indoor temperature has dropped to 70 degrees. Maybe now I’ll recover my ability to think. I feel kind of sick since the super hot weekend that baked my brain. I learned that even people who have air conditioning struggled with the heat; beyond a certain point, the ac couldn’t keep up with the rise in temperature. It was 111 degrees here in Eugene on Sunday… I wonder what sights I’ll see when I go to the little store this morning?
Quarter after nine. The ordinance on face masks was lifted today, so some businesses like the market are complying with the State of Oregon. When I arrived there, the front doors were thrown wide open and I was the only person with a mask on. As I approached west on the sidewalk I scanned the sky: it seemed strange to see gray clouds again after the sun brutalized us for so many days. I saw a mask on the asphalt that someone had dropped. I kicked myself later because I’d forgotten to buy dry dog food and ibuprofen for my back pain. If it doesn’t get too warm this afternoon, maybe I’ll make another trip.
Last night I had the same recurring dream of the driverless car. I am inside the vehicle, getting close to the on-ramp to the highway, but then the car goes ahead without me and like a drone keeps sailing along the Beltway. And of course you know it’s going to crash with no one to steer it. Meanwhile I’m left on River Road, worried about calling the police concerning the incident… I imagine the dream is a bit like the famous Robert Frost poem about two paths diverging in a wood. For all I know, I shouldn’t even be here today. My alcoholism should’ve killed me four years ago. Instead, it claimed the life of a crash test dummy.
Quarter of five.
I made some beautiful notes tonight in my blank book having to do with passion in our lives, and how this is missing since the pandemic. But woven with this theme is also my regret that I’m not drinking anymore. If my deity used to be Dionysus, the god of wine, then I’m at a loss to name my higher power today. I remember reading the tragedy by Euripides about the capture of Dionysus and the vengeance wrought by his devotees. He was older than Jesus Christ, and Christianity borrowed images from the pagans: “I am the vine, you are the branches; without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5)… As I marched eastward on Armstrong Street under the azure, I spotted the moon high in the sky, a thumbnail sliver. The heavens were cloudless and deep. But on the earth, the scene was sterile and loveless. I observed that it resembled a nuclear wasteland in the wake of a grand passion that had spent itself. And probably this passion in my mind is my past alcoholism, a disease that apparently ran its course and left me devastated… The first light of dawn is visible outside. The forecast said sunny weather again today. I’ve got DDA on my plate for this afternoon. Just let go and go with it. Knowing how to act after quitting alcohol can be quite difficult. I’ll have four years of sober time three months from now, but I’m never complacent.
Six o’clock. Michelle will be opening the store just now. Suddenly I feel rather tired, but I suppose that’s okay. The morning Snapple tea should taste very good.
I should probably write an email to Pastor about the difficulties posed to rainbow people by Christianity, especially now, with Pride Month and so on.
Eight twenty five. I’m wearing a mauve sweatshirt that reminds me of when I had a job at the agency a long time ago. But I used to drink back then, and now I don’t even understand why. It had something to do with rebellion, I guess, but it did more damage to me than to anyone else. I used to believe that my brother was very cool until his alcoholism turned him into a creature like Gollum in LOTR… Michelle’s husband is having to answer for some legal infractions related to his past drinking. She said it’s the gift that keeps on giving… I really don’t know which way I want to jump regarding the issues. The sun is out and the sky is powder blue, and that’s a fact that everyone can agree on… It seems that justice has two faces, two definitions of what is right, but the analysis of this is over my head. I was thinking last night that I would try to read the rest of Les Miserables. Maybe this would keep me quiet for a little while.
Eleven o’clock at night.
I just ordered The Best of the Doobies to sort of commemorate my brother, or maybe even channel him by a trick of sympathetic magic. I’d been dreaming about “Taking It to the Streets,” because of the line, “You don’t know me but I’m your brother,” and because of the simple bass line in the key of C that I could pick out in my head. Jeff gave me this album for Christmas in 1976, when my parents had just given me a new stereo system made by Panasonic. A few minutes ago I went on Amazon Marketplace and found the disc offered by Import CDs for nine bucks, so I took the plunge. Will the magic spell actually work, and communication with my brother be restored?