Pedigree

One twenty five in the morning.

“Consider yourself one of the family… it’s clear we’re going to get along…”

To use plainer English, I relate to the misfits in Shakespeare because I feel that an outsider cannot buy, beg, borrow, or steal his way into a religious organization, like me trying to find a place in the Lutheran church. A person must have a pedigree in order to fit into the big Christian universe, but I was brought into this world out of wedlock, fathered by a man who had been adopted after being abandoned by his biological parents… It is all well and fine for the human race to organize into Christendom or a Shakespearean aristocracy, yet my heart bleeds for others like myself, the outcast renegades and rebels with all odds against them. A small thing like alcoholism is a drop in the bucket next to the spiritual alienation that people like me experience. Surely the “redeemer” for the elect is different from that for the reprobate? I reckon time will tell. We may not have long to wait.

Keep Rolling On

Nine twenty.

This just hasn’t been my week, but now it’s almost over. Before I got out of bed, I thought of a few songs by The Police that put me in a better mood. It could be that the philosophy reading depresses me. My poor Stratocaster sits in the same spot disused for many months, so maybe I’ll try playing it soon again. It’s hard to stand by and watch the death of rock and roll in our world. Any attempt to revive music is a good thing for our souls. Music also bridges chasms between people who disagree on everything else. And maybe reviving it is the key to our own revival.

Ten o five. This morning’s weather is cloudy and dismal. Everyone seems pretty wrapped up in themselves lately. It’s difficult to make a connection when people are so self absorbed and every person for herself, but I keep trying anyway. Am I just hypersensitive? A long time ago I was a narcissist and believed the world orbited around me, but today I feel insignificant and unworthy. I could either keep trying to make friends or withdraw into isolation. I could be a flower pressed into a book, shelved and forgotten about for the rest of my life. But that’s not what I want for myself. Somewhere there must be a niche for this ugly duckling to be understood, a place yet undiscovered… 

The Homeless for Mayor

Noon hour.

I’m sitting down by the fountain in Fifth Street Public Market. I’m alone, but it’s still nice and the weather is clear and sunny. Actually, there are other people around, shopping and just hanging out. I mind my own business just watching people and chilling out (quite literally; it’s rather chilly outside). I feel comfortable enough. At Smith Family I bought an old copy of Kierkegaard in hardcover for $20. The truth is that anything is better than staying home, being housebound all day. Some philosophers cloistered themselves in an attic and never saw anybody. Not that I’m a real philosopher. A wise person ought to be experienced in social stuff, and that’s not really me… It’s beginning to get too cold in this spot, so I’ll get up and wander around a little more. Life is very strange and alienating for a few people.

Quarter of two. Home again. On the ride back, we stopped at the big hospital to drop off two passengers. This meant a detour to Springfield before I could go home, but for $7 you can’t ask much more. What really struck me on my outing was how cold and impersonal most people were. At the bookstore, the women clerks were nicer than the guys, one of whom was almost rude to me. I browsed the shelves of the “modern classics” when a woman came in, boasting that she would be Mayor in a short time, and asked the manager for a donation. She also said she’d been homeless recently. And you know, that’s just how it is. Everybody’s invisible and fighting to be seen and heard; just to be acknowledged by others as human and alive and worthy of love. All of this goes on in broad daylight on a sunny day in Eugene Oregon. The sun, 93 million miles away from us, is friendlier than people are to each other. This is what I’ve seen. 

Lonely Hunting

Nine o’clock.

I just remembered an old acquaintance of mine who had trouble making friends when he got to be older. Now I compare myself to him and see some similarities. I’m 55 years old and beginning to look my age. My little trip to Barnes & Noble felt like a failure, and it’s easy to get depressed over that sort of thing. A person gets frustrated and a little angry when there’s a roadblock to friendships. I noticed how tiny the philosophy section was at the bookstore, with only one shelf dedicated to atheism and agnosticism, whereas the religion shelves sprawled over a good portion of the floor. Nobody knew me, so I wound up a wallflower sitting alone in the cafe. But this doesn’t mean I’ll give up on my project… I think I understand my dog’s behavior better now than before. His brain is wired for duty instead of his desires. He believes it’s his job to protect me and guard the fort. When I tell him “you have to,” he does what I command… I saw two house sparrows make overtures to mating outside my back door, but there was a third bird that came between them, then they all flew away… My friend Bill finally did find a companion, but since then we lost contact. I kind of miss the old guy today. 

Lap of Fate

Quarter of ten at night.

Living in American culture hasn’t done me any favors as a person with a mental health diagnosis. Even my family rejects me, as I actually predicted in a story I wrote when I was 19 years old. Sometimes I feel like a perfect pariah, like the monster in Frankenstein, totally cut off from humanity except by the power of his rhetoric. Only his speech gives him any kind of place among humankind, kind of like my own situation. I can remember the lectures I heard on Frankenstein by Professor Pyle when I was a student. It was in the springtime, and occasionally while he was talking, a yellow jacket would fly in the open windows and dangle above his head. I sat next to a young lady named Lori who was nice looking and very smart. She worked for another professor grading papers and exams. Her plan was to join the Peace Corps after graduation and then be a teacher wherever she wanted. I had no such plans after college; I really didn’t know what I was going to do. I had a nebulous dream of being a rockstar. I guess I sort of dropped it all in the lap of fate, though I knew I didn’t want to leave school. Now I’m not sure what happened to me. But I think I knew there was something different about me. And underneath it all I still count on being catapulted to fame, however quixotic this expectation is. I don’t know where I got such a beautiful idea. 

Exile

Quarter after ten.

Life is hard. Kim’s husband started drinking again after being sober for 16 years, so a person in recovery is never really safe. Today I feel like a humbug. I wish the holiday season would all just go away. Since Sunday morning I’ve morphed back to my normal self more or less. People can be very persuasive, but only if you allow them to be… I passed Willie and his dog Rosie on the street. He’s the guy with a booth at Saturday Market, a happy old hippie. He made a comment about smiling under a mask: how can you tell when someone does that?… Michelle said she was aggravated by the customer who had just left the store. He always gives her a hard time. Then she told me that she and her husband got talked into hosting a Christmas party at their house. She was far from enthusiastic. Sometimes people only want to relax and get away from everything. It’s unfortunate that society doesn’t give us any reprieves. If you do choose to opt out, you’ll probably be alone— which may not be so bad. Though I haven’t read Frankenstein in many years, I always remember the image of the monster fleeing across the arctic wastes to go and live in utter solitude. This is kind of like life with a mental illness. 

Earth to a Martian

I have to piece together my day today now. When I got home from my appointment with Misty I went right to bed and napped for a few hours, feeling as I did tired. I was thinking of how my hometown feels so alien to me these days, especially from the back of a taxi, cruising the streets with so many strangers. The cabbie for the return ride was listening to some weird music: old psychedelic jam band stuff that I didn’t care for very much. The agency closed at five o’clock and left me waiting at their doorstep for my taxi. It came before too long, and he took me onto I-105 briefly and then hopped on Sixth Street, which was pretty jungly with people and traffic. For some reason it seemed quite sordid and unfamiliar to me, the sole survivor of the family with my parents twenty years after their demise, riding ingloriously in the back of a cab; perhaps like Jesus riding in on a donkey, but hearing this bizarre psychedelic music. We hung a right on Chambers Street and drove north to the exit for the Expressway. It rained lightly for the whole trip. My thoughts all the way were diffuse and scattered, so I just held on and focused on getting back home. Even then I felt like a stranger in a strange land. I heated up a Hot Pocket and shared the last bite with Aesop, after which I noticed my fatigue and headed right for bed.

The rest of the day is sort of lost and forgotten. I know I wrote just a little in my journal in the morning, but the content has left me. Suddenly I remember an event that happened in September maybe five years ago, when I had just been trying to stay sober, but unsuccessfully. The mail came to my front porch, a huge Chambers Dictionary, a gift from my friend Kate, which had traveled here all the way from Sweden. It’s supposed to be the dictionary for word lovers, and is peculiarly British. At the time, I even believed I would’ve liked to work as a lexicographer, a writer of dictionary entries complete with etymological information for each word. It’s a beautiful book, and it survived the house fire two years ago. But it was sort of the last word I would ever hear from Europe, sadly. I wish there could be more commerce with the Old World.