Jackknife Barbers

Quarter of ten.

I was off to a late start this morning; I simply slept in a while. One thing I keep telling myself is the difference between fantasy and reality. And it’s the reality that counts for more. We’re having rain showers today, so I took my umbrella on my walk. The FedEx driver waved when we passed on my street. Just now a little tune by Jethro Tull appears out of nowhere, with exaggerated moralism: “And the jackknife barber drops her off at school…” I ran into Melissa, a former employee of the market, while I was there. She says that her four year old boy is a dinosaur expert and can inform you all about them, and correct you when you make a mistake. At the time I was shopping, I sneaked a peek at the price on my old poison of choice in the beer cooler: $10.49 before deposit. But I was only curious and not seriously tempted. “There’s no problem that a little alcohol can’t make worse,” said my next door neighbor five years ago… A few factors have conspired to make me think of Aqualung, the classic prog album. It gave alcoholics a bad reputation, perhaps, even with these lines: “Aqualung my friend / Don’t you start away uneasy / You poor old sot, you see it’s only me.” I guess I’m sensitive to criticism like this. It’s much easier to judge others than be in the hot seat yourself. Everyone needs a taste of their own medicine occasionally… The showers have ceased for now, and in a symbolic way also. My five year birthday will be sweet.

Alcohol

Eight thirty.

Inflation is very bad, so that I can hardly afford groceries every day. For a couple of reasons I’m cutting out the Snapple tea each day and just buying bare necessities. Right now it’s mostly sunny and nice, so how could anybody have a problem? I suppose I should read more than I write to be wiser. But the older you get, the more you become a fogy and resist new ideas. I often long for not just the past but for other countries; and of course I wish I could drink beer again and sample heaven as before. When you are sober, the world weighs on your shoulders as if you were Atlas. When you are drunk, the world rolls away and you don’t even care. I know I won’t do it anymore, but I still think we are too harsh on alcoholics in hospitals and other places. Carlos Williams made a little poem about a drunkard that was quite sympathetic with him. I don’t remember the ending to the one by Robinson, “Mr Flood’s Party,” or whether he had compassion or not. Does an alcoholic have to have a reason to drink? Whatever, I think it shows strength and courage to stay sober and deal with the challenges head on rather than try to make them go away.

Americans

My journal is a cool place for figuring things out. This past evening I wrote an idea dealing with my solution to alcoholism using the church. Basically I said that the ritual of worship, repeated again and again, was a form of self hypnosis, and it worked to stop my addiction. As such, it was a psychological thing and not necessarily theological in a literal way. The details of course are debatable, but even Jung couldn’t make the jump from psychology to metaphysics per se. Then towards the end, when Pastor talked of demonic possession as the cause of mental illness, I knew it was hyperbolic and I had to get out of there. I found his attitude offensive and really not very kind to people with schizophrenia; in fact he was ignorant of the truth about psychiatry.
Oh well, my explanation usually falls on deaf ears, and I’m getting sick of it. Suffice it that the agency is a much safer place for me now than the church, and that poor Pastor is full of beans, with his head buried in the nineteenth century, totally disregarding advances made after the end of World War 2.
Americans always subordinate science to religious visions that make no sense, so I think a good question to ask is, Why? If it ain’t broke then don’t fix it, but the Jesus thing doesn’t function for us anymore. We have decades to go to catch up to Europe, although the case has been the same even when Henry James lived and wrote at the turn of the twentieth century. It’s a very sad situation for the United States, yet not even a writer like James could remedy it, so why do I bother?

Leaves that Fall

Seven fifty five.

I read the daily email from the church pastor; evidently their little world hasn’t changed in my absence. I wonder if I can be called a “lapsed Lutheran,” or was I ever a Lutheran at all? I sort of dropped myself on their doorstep almost five years ago, desperate from my addiction to alcohol. Today, the idea of drinking doesn’t even sound good except when I feel like disappearing down a snake hole. And that still happens sometimes. Facing the world sober can be burdensome. I sympathize with people who need to escape from reality or enhance it to sweeten it up. I guess my weakness growing up was my broken brain. Fortunately for me there’s Vraylar for the delusions and hallucinations. By now I’ve given up the classic theories of what causes schizophrenia. It is not caused by repressed urges or by demonic possession; not even by suppressed anger at unfairness, or whatever else they can dream up for an explanation. Schizophrenia is just a biological disease passed down by genetics… It’s an overcast morning with a bit of wind. Moving about the house a while ago, I recalled the fresh autumn days before the pandemic, when I would go to church and everything was peachy. Now I ponder why most situations with people turn sour. Nothing is ever permanent, nor was meant to be. 

Illogic

Quarter of eight.

I’m figuring things out about my life. I think being an alcoholic can totally warp your personality, right down to your soul. I saw it happen to my dad and then it happened to me. I had no understanding of him until I started drinking with him in high school. All I could see was that his behavior was malevolent and diabolical, cruel and malicious. Now I get that my dad’s identity was disguised, even from himself.

At the store this morning, Lisa was taking too much time with one customer. For some reason she opened five different packs of cigarettes for this person who seemed to be looking for something. The guy ahead of me in line turned and walked out the door. No one could comprehend why Lisa indulged this customer this way. The latter was clueless that people were growing impatient behind her. It was one of life’s irrational and embarrassing moments, and an oddball mistake. 

Green Glasses

Eight forty.

There’s been a fine mist of rain this morning, so I took an umbrella to the store. They were out of Snapple tea; I bought a Dr Pepper instead. I seemed to see green everywhere on my way, like a symbol that follows me around. I think it means nature and pure life as opposed to the dead language of old traditions, also ubiquitous but unpromising, unless the god you believe in is not sandwiched in a book. If there must be a bible, perhaps a person can use Leaves of Grass, something roomier than the other options. My umbrella is black, but during school I had a green and yellow Duck umbrella, lost in the fire three years ago.

The essence is happiness, I always remind myself. Though I have no complaints, neither am I jumping for joy. What happened to the fun I used to have? There’s always something to screw up any utopia, so the best we can do is make the most of every minute.

Two thirty.

Were the good times with alcohol really fun for me or was it all just an illusion of joy? My experience with drinking was a relationship, a romance or an old friendship, and everyone else was second to the booze. Before the pandemic came, I enjoyed church, and now those are the good old days. Maybe I overindulged in using my brain for a long period, because today I’m burned out on intellectual pursuits and only want to feel what is true for me. But it’s hard to tell between emotional truth and rational defense. First thing this morning I felt pretty good. Right now the sun is shining and won’t set for another four hours. It could be a very pretty afternoon and evening.

Self image: A Letter

Well tomorrow’s the big day. I was just playing my bass. The song I wound up with was “Yours Is No Disgrace,” an oldie by Yes from their third album. Now I’d like to listen to that one again soon… I thought last night that I’ve been under a great deal of pressure and stress since this year began. I agreed to do a lot of things that I probably should have refused to do, so it wouldn’t turn into a runaway train. From the start with Misty I got talked into stuff I didn’t really want to be involved in. For some reason I couldn’t say no to her. I spent the last weekend feeling pretty miserable, remembering the way I drank 18 packs in 2017. That was the year I finally quit drinking. I’m not sure what triggered these memories, unless it was just being stressed out.

You know, with the schizophrenia and everything, sometimes my life just seems hopeless and not worthwhile.

I think I’ll go take a nap right now and write more to you a bit later.

I’m quite certain that I feel so lousy due to having been manipulated and forced into this situation. Maybe I shouldn’t blame myself but rather Laurel Hill and all these government organizations that steamroll right over your human rights, shoving their version of what’s appropriate down your throat. And of course I feel mad and resentful about all that. So maybe the thoughts I had about drinking 18 packs were a desperate attempt to rebel and feel free. The same is true for reading Native Son. Underneath it all, I have very strong libertarian feelings traceable to my teens and twenties.

Perhaps I’m just a divided person? There’s the Robert before schizophrenia and after schizophrenia, but I want to believe in the continuity of my identity throughout my life.

One Thing

Eight o’clock.

Saturday morning. It’s very quiet in the house right now, which is kind of nice. I can’t think of a way to describe this month so far, except as a time of temptation for me to drink beer again. Last night I caught myself trying to rationalize doing this. I seemed to think that sobriety has a finish line, and after that you’re free to drink all you want. Now I have to figure out how to correct my thinking errors about this problem. It’s hard to accept that staying sober is a lifelong proposition; maybe it really is one day at a time, as AA says. Meanwhile, my life without alcohol can be pretty dull and anhedonic, and it seems like the One Thing I want to do is get drunk and forget the world. This feels like the authentic and genuine action for me to take. But even this is rationalization to do something essentially bad with my life. And as time goes by, I come to believe a little more in the existence of good and evil in human affairs. It started when I sampled some Baudelaire in French two months ago. Wickedness is just that, no matter what mental gymnastics I try to pull off. And goodness is the free and clear path, however boring it may be. 

Jack London

Quarter of ten.

Business goes on at the market. Michelle is training another new employee, a gray haired woman named Lisa. She seems very nice as well as competent. As I arrived in the parking lot, I observed a woman wearing her jammies and a clownish red and white robe getting out of her car. She cursed when she dropped a bottle on the ground, and had an armload of plastic cups and other debris. Apparently she’s a regular at the store, because Michelle knew her and maybe Lisa too… It was rather calming to stroll off on my errand today. The gray clouds stood around the flat valley floor like sentinels. But there were no people outdoors at eight on a Sunday morning. I’m tempted to look at Russell’s history of philosophy today but his style is so dry and flavorless; quite a chore to read. Still I respect his reputation as a mature and responsible philosopher. Another impulse would have me read more Paul Bowles for his understated writing, a little like Jack London in places: impassive and naturalistic… The expected rain didn’t pan out, and in fact the whole forecast has changed to say cloudy weather all day… Speaking of Jack London, it’s been ages since I read “To Build a Fire.” I tend to underrate his stuff, but really some of it is brilliant.

Quarter after eleven. I found a good copy of his writings on the shelf. As I remember, London was a heavy alcoholic and he died young of its complications. After writing his ten thousand words daily, he permitted himself to drink. Once he tried suicide the fast way by drowning himself. It’s kind of strange to consider being so close to that threshold, yet I did something very similar with my life. The most pertinent question is, Why? 

Pirandello

Six thirty.

I’m in a cloud of worries about a lot of things, but foremost I have to confront my therapist about the future of my sessions with him. I’ve been so confused and messed up lately. I don’t want to drink again, and I don’t think I will, though it’s very difficult for me to resist the call of the beers sometimes.

Eureka! I found my copy of the plays of Luigi Pirandello on the shelf. I’d been dreaming about it during the night and now it’s a reality. I want to reread Six Characters in Search of an Author to explore ideas of freedom versus determinism for human beings. I almost wrote a paper on the topic when I was a student a long time ago but did Eliot instead. Today, it’s like unfinished business for me to learn the truth of human freedom and how it is possible to think about it.

I believe it’ll be a good day today. Daylight has arrived, gray blue and cloudy. Michelle might be back to work this morning; I hope she feels all right on the job. I’ll know for sure when I go to the store in another hour. I’m waiting for the Monday rush hour to die down before I set out.