Saying No

Seven fifty.

For some reason I felt better for getting out of the house a bit ago. I’ve been rather besieged at home due to my PCA situation. Sometimes I just want to be left alone… I spent $17 at the convenience store this morning. Not many people were out yet. I feel I want to break free from everything, like the old Queen song by John Deacon. Conceivably I could go buy a load of beer and drink myself to oblivion this afternoon. But if I did, then probably everyone would find out about it. How many ways do I know to fly to the moon? Occasionally I find myself in this position, tempted to get drunk, but knowing better what’s good for me. I don’t think I’m like some people who WTF their way through life, and yet I could really use a little bit of empowerment. Drunkenness is what you do when your life seems painted into a corner, or like a dead end. And when that happens, you need to rearrange your circumstances. Often it starts with saying no when you feel the pressure to say yes. It’s when you say yes too many times that your life gets out of control. It can even make you sick.

Nine o five. At last the sun is out, though it’s still partly cloudy. Time to take the bull by the horns…

Capped

Quarter after six.

Day is just dawning on an overcast sky. Last night, into the small hours, I slipped on a banana peel while writing in my journal: I thought of the fact of consciousness again and its link with language and logic, so I was trapped in the net of philosophy as before. It’s a condition that comes and goes. But right now I feel like the anti philosopher. There’s so much uncertainty and anxiety with people today. For some reason I recall the image of the new high school being built on Silver Lane. It’s an ominous looking thing of dark gray brick and brown windows in a campus of huge buildings. More like a prison than a school; a place for forcible indoctrination, mentally violent. It’s like the idea behind The Tripods Trilogy by John Christopher, of being Capped by alien forces we don’t understand, that deprive us of our own reason and capacity for original thought. No one can be a philosopher who attends a school like that, nor simply a human being.

Eight thirty. I saw nothing very interesting on my walk this time. W—, who lives on Fremont Avenue, was busy with something in his garage. He owns an HVAC business and flies ultra conservative flags on a pole in his front yard. I guess a lot of people around here feel that way, but when I go to Centennial Plaza it’s a blue zone and people are mostly pretty happy. The various demographics even within the same city can be rather baffling. “Second nature comes alive / Even if you close your eyes / We exist through this strange disguise.” Why can’t we be closer to our original nature? Now the sun makes glints off the cars in Roger’s driveway and lights my magnolia up lemon. Aesop turns to me with a questioning look, then settles himself again. 

The Real Thing

Nine o’clock at night.

I had a nap from five o’clock until now. Poor Aesop still has fleas and I’m responsible for helping him out with them.

Between noon and one o’clock today, I made a lot of racket on my G&L bass, doing songs like “You Can’t Hurry Love” by Diana Ross and others from the eighties and nineties with bass lines by Pino Palladino and Flea. The Kiloton really rocks, having a tone similar to a Stingray, but it does it without a built in preamp because the pickup is already hot enough to make your ears burn. I also played around with “Three Views of a Secret” by Jaco Pastorius. I think Night Passage is my favorite album by Weather Report.

The main barrier to playing with other musicians right now is transportation, and also I don’t want to deal with substance use in the community. And finally, I run into many musicians who talk themselves up but can’t deliver the goods for lack of talent or the willingness to work at their instrument; they just aren’t serious about making music with quality. A lot of times it’s a failure to be honest and realistic about their abilities. Like everything, being a good musician takes a great deal of work and time investment; there are no shortcuts, and it’s about a lot more than the image of rock stardom. People try to substitute a shallow appearance for real substance and ultimately these people will have a hard time as musicians and, more importantly, as human beings. 

Good Enough

Ten twenty.

At eleven o’clock I have an appointment with Sean for therapy. I don’t dread it so much this time because I did my homework, more or less. It snowed for a few minutes an hour ago, when I fed my dog his breakfast. I’m looking ahead to Wednesday night, when I’m supposed to rehearse with my church for our Christmas medley… I won’t get to have lunch until noon today. Music: an old Irving Berlin song, “A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody.” I think I still have that vinyl LP somewhere in the house. It makes me think of my mother…

Noon hour. My visit with Sean went okay. He seems to like Alan Watts, and keeps referring to him and to Eastern religious traditions, which is fine with me. My sleep last night was troubled with difficult thoughts and feelings. Right now I ponder whether it’s a good thing to abandon your personal desires and act from altruism. It seems like every major world religion has self sacrifice for its ideal and goal. This can be the real test for some people, including myself and my last girlfriend. I was a very selfish alcoholic. I still don’t understand why I can’t just have the things I want for myself rather than letting it all go and trusting in providence for what I need. Bertrand Russell wrote a book called The Conquest of Happiness. Reading Mark Twain is a little like that as well, but you don’t meet many people who think the same way as Thomas Jefferson these days. The Enlightenment appears to be quite dead as our society continues shifting away from reason and freedom. I wonder if I should simply surrender my beliefs and drift downstream with the other flotsam?

One o’clock. And yet I can’t get rid of the idea of “moral paralysis” in Joyce’s Dubliners, and of trying to be the Byronic hero, however selfish people call it, and worse things. What on earth are we supposed to do? Just be ourselves. 

Letter to a Friend

It was a pretty good day today. I got my account set up at Genoa pharmacy this morning, and the people there were very nice. I saw Darcy and Todd for my appointment. The cab driver was kind of a grumpy old man, yet he was rational to some extent. He didn’t like technology such as tablets and smart phones; and he really hated going online with them. Kind of funny. He said he didn’t like traffic either. I thought of asking him why he decided to become a taxi driver if he felt that way, but discarded the idea! What a moron. Maybe he couldn’t get a job anywhere else. At least he thanked me for guiding him back to my house. It’s interesting to consider how people do such illogical and inauthentic things with their lives. Maybe sometimes it’s because they’re paying lip service to a job they believed they just had to do in order to please another person. Somewhere they choose an option that was wrong for themselves, which takes them completely on the wrong track. Life can be very fascinating from an existential perspective of actions freely chosen by an individual. I find myself in a situation with the church, something that isn’t very genuine for me, and my options are to keep going there and compromise my integrity or to resign from it and be alone but at least okay with myself in conscience. That is, I won’t be a hypocrite anymore if I leave the church. But it takes a lot of guts to do the right thing for yourself; and sometimes it’s not clear which choice is right for you in the long run.

I didn’t do much else today except to play the bass guitar for an hour this afternoon. It was my G&L bass, the one I bought last April with my stimulus money. It’s the best sounding bass I’ve got, by far. Maybe someday soon I’ll have the nerve to look for other musicians again. Guitar Center definitely has a bulletin board for musicians seeking others at the back of the store. Last spring and summer I made some very gut wrenching decisions concerning my music, perhaps the wrong ones. Time will tell, I guess.

Culture is another strange thing. How do certain behaviors get associated with certain jobs or roles in society? Come to think about it, I don’t know what my own role is in this society, but I tend to critique it a lot. Bob Dylan did a song that ends with, “You’re invisible now / You’ve got no secrets to conceal,” and then the chorus goes: “How does it feel / To be on your own / With no direction home / Like a complete unknown / Like a rolling stone?” And I wonder if these lines apply to my own life in a significant way. It depends on how invisible I really am and how persuasive my posts are on WordPress. Or maybe everybody is invisible to a degree?

Writing can be seen as a struggle to get attention to what you write. Some authors go to rash extremities to do that, but it’s probably not worth it to me to join them. It’s better to leave it to the hands of fate than to calculate it too much. So many people are aspiring or disappointed writers. A lot of them end up on WordPress, blogging their lives away. I wonder if I should be planning my next move at this point.

Being Myself

Noon.

I’ve been to church this morning and back. I walked there and got a ride home with Barb. With me I took a book of Hellenistic philosophy for Tim to look at, thinking he might be curious about Epicurus and his similarities to the Stoics such as Zeno. It’s okay if he doesn’t like it; I just thought he deserved to be informed. Also, a book contains a lot of information that you won’t find on the internet… The transition in my medications is going pretty well since a few bad days last week. Last Tuesday I felt almost ecstatic for some reason, followed by a couple of days of despair. My body was a bucket of gravel mixed with sand, or a tin machine badly in need of oiling. Perhaps the missing ingredient was just the company of other people, particularly having a close friend. Good friends are hard to come by in my locality: people who will be likeminded and exceptionally smart… The assembly sang Happy Birthday to Helen, just having turned 98 years old. It’s an amazing thing to be a nonagenarian and to have seen the events of a whole century… I can’t shake off this music in my head, so it’s probably time to listen to something different.

One o’clock. I look forward to the next time it rains, for it’s been a very long summer and not much fun. I’m just thinking: I’ve grown up a lot in the past four years, such that I can stand up to anybody in my family and not feel guilty or ashamed for anything at all. People either like you or they don’t, and being disliked is okay with me because it says more about the other person than myself… It sounds like the children in the street are playing with some kind of pedal car. At least somebody’s having some fun. And you know, right now life isn’t so bad for myself either. 

Double Edge

Quarter after nine.

My neighbor Lenore went away and left her dog overnight. The dog isn’t happy about it, barking her displeasure with being deserted. I feel quite dysphoric this morning, just the general bad sensation of aging. I asked for ibuprofen at the store, but they only had acetaminophen, or naproxen for ten bucks. Much of life is balancing pleasures and pains, hopefully minimizing the latter. There’s no question of maximizing pleasure anymore except on rare days. Last night I thought of someone who used to be a clerk at the market maybe ten years ago or more, a redhead named Pam. I only remember that she liked ZZ Top and chili dogs with ketchup, but she was very nice to me. I was such a lush back then, but she never judged or criticized. I think the summertime is playing weird tricks on my mind, bringing old feelings to light. I was never really a saint, notwithstanding the years in the church. I just want to enjoy my life again, so perhaps the rock and roll has superseded my religious identity. Time will tell. There is plenty to be said for liberty, for simply being a natural human. Or is this just crazy?

Quarter after ten. Right now there’s no breeze outside; the air is as still as death. The neighbors are noisy, shouting and banging car doors. I think of my brother from many decades ago, driving a red Volkswagen van he named Barney. Nothing impeded him from taking a road tour across the United States and Canada, living life to the hilt. But he also often said, “Live by the sword, die by the sword,” which might serve as a warning to me today. 

Life of the Mind

One twenty.

Polly called me up and we chatted for an hour and a quarter. I was able to remember a lot of things that happened back in the ‘70’s when we were young boys. How interesting it would be if our family could somehow come together again in the near future. But it takes a strong desire on all sides to make this a reality. Also, a lot of things I’ve learned on my own will have to be suppressed if we are going to get along. Maybe it’s not worth doing. Yesterday afternoon I read the first 30 pages of a Henry James novel, which is about the furthest thing from my family background. I don’t know: when a person has the intelligence to aspire to something a little better than his kin, should he go for it or should he let it stagnate? It is a real ethical dilemma, yet I’m more inclined to concur with my first psychologist who advised the use of my brain rather than letting it rot. My brother, in my opinion, has made some bad decisions regarding his health and mental well-being. So again I assert that it’s better to be true to yourself, however selfish that appears… Today is a nice 80 degree day with no clouds. I don’t feel like allowing anything to prune my life of the mind. Let it flower like the blooms on my magnolia tree, large and white soft petals to the sun… 

My Big Mouth

I’m afraid I might have blown it with R— and the whole proposition of getting a personal care attendant. I texted her Monday morning but got no reply all day. If I don’t hear from her again, then I guess that’s the consequence of my big mouth, talking big about “freedom” and independence, etc etc. Also I guess I didn’t like R— very much, especially the way she employed dishonest tactics and handled schizophrenia in such a shameful manner. I would have hoped for better because she had two kids with autism. We just didn’t hit it off, and you either like certain people or you don’t.

So, I’ve had rather a bad day all day today, and additionally the wheels seem to be coming off my blog writing. Like in the Carole King song, I am down and troubled, and nothing is going right. Hopefully the darkest hour is before the dawn. This thing called responsibility for our choices has a double edge: it means the individual is in control, but also he is accountable for what goes wrong… It tends to offend people when I use logic with them and point out their fallacies and inconsistencies, such as telling R— about the absurdity of “hiring” a person to give me orders in my own home. But you know, I felt very strongly based on my observation. And when I had my say on the phone, well, I took a chance. I felt pretty big for my breeches. She talked with me for only 15 minutes that day.

I could apply other silly abstractions to what happened with the PCA opportunity, but the common sense answer is again that I blew it by offending the wrong person. I could evoke ideas like the zodiac or other expressions of fate. My brother would say I acted like my dad. He thought my dad had a tragic flaw, the unfortunate tendency to stick his foot in his mouth when the stakes were high.

But I think that either way I acted from a pure and authentic impulse; I spoke my mind and said what I meant to R— on that fateful day last month. And knowing this, I have no regrets for my behavior.

And I guess that’s all I have to say about that!

Signal to Noise

Wee hours.

I slept for about four hours, dreaming of how I was obligated to one or two of my followers on WordPress. I kept trying to escape and just be autonomous and free, not responsible to others who may read my blog. It was like the long arm of the law: a boomerang between freedom and captivity. I needed a get out of jail free card. Also it was like an interesting play by Jean-Paul Sartre titled No Exit. Yesterday evening I’d been writing in my journal something about cultural relativism, and was it really possible to have an original thought when we live together in a society? The availability of the truth is limited to the resources our culture provides. I wrote rather deliriously about my affair with Jungian psychology that went on for twenty years, until finally I made a breakthrough to cognitive behavioral therapy, and then only because the time seemed to be propitious. My home city was at last getting wind of the latest trend in psychology, some forty years after its invention… What do I really want to say that comes from my identity alone? But that’s just the kicker: there seems to be no independent self, none that isn’t borrowed from the readymade uniforms mass produced by society. Pink Floyd sang lugubriously about this in “Welcome to the Machine.”

It appears that in order to find your sanity, first you have to go out of your mind and be a knight errant. Again I ask myself, What did you want to be? When I was nineteen years old, I had a pretty good idea of what that was. But college became a complicated game of brown nosing your professors to get a grade. And then we were turned loose into a competitive world, up shit creek without a paddle. A good expression of this is “45 Mercy Street” by Anne Sexton.

Perhaps Goethe is right that the ultimate truth comes from within your heart. But the difficulty consists in decluttering your system to be able to recognize your voice. It’s the same as tuning out the radio static to isolate the pure signal.