Eye Contact

Quarter after four.

I was just thinking about winners and losers, and how some people take off like a skyrocket and never look back. And then there are the ones like me who get derailed by illness, bad luck, and overthinking things. But I still wouldn’t trade identities with a successful person whose personality was a fake and who climbed the ladder by pushing others down. If that’s the meaning of success, then I guess I wasn’t cut out for that sort of thing. I think maybe the definition of success is relative. The music business is different things to different people. I was never good at hiding behind a persona, or putting on masks for different occasions. I’ve known a couple of successful people who advanced by being dishonest and cagey, and unscrupulous about that. Now I ponder this item called morality, and what makes a person deep and substantial, authentic and real. I know I’d rather have the real thing than an evasive illusion, so I’m content to be myself and not one of the winners of the world. Perhaps those people will be haunted by their conscience later in life. My own life will have been far richer and deeper, more meaningful and maybe a little more beautiful. 

Eudaemonia

Ten twenty five. I’ve been back to bed to sleep in, then I got up to feed the dog. I tried to call my sister but the line was busy. So I walked off to the store for the daily foodstuffs. There was a string of customers ahead of me and one person behind me when I checked out. Evidently the market did a lot of business on Saturday during the beautiful weather. From what Michelle said, people are receiving their stimulus payments in a somewhat random order, or at least I don’t know when I’ll get mine, if ever… Still no answer when I try to call Polly. Robert Burns was right about the best laid schemes of mice and men. But to be realistic, not everything is going wrong this morning. It could be a lot worse… I should have some free time today to read a book, but I’m getting a little annoyed with Emerson, so I think maybe Baudelaire is good… My sleep last night was very troubled. My poor brain feels like a junkyard full of wreckage, a forsaken place where I can’t make any sense. Does everyone condemn me the way I condemn myself?

One ten. Polly called back. We chatted for quite a while about Mom… It’s partly sunny out and I hear a couple of aircraft overhead. Euphoric recall can be difficult to fight, and it seems stronger in the springtime… I wish in hindsight that I had encouraged my mother to write or do anything creative. She likely had the ability. What prevented her from it was the anti intellectual feeling of the family, which is really criminal and ignorant of its members. Mom had eight cylinders to her engine and only ran on two. I wonder how many other people are in the same boat. She could’ve been the next Elizabeth Bishop with the right feedback from people. Instead, she met with incomprehension and scorn whenever she took a risk. Now it’s up to me to challenge the bogus values that ruined my mother’s chances at fulfillment. It can mean isolation and alienation, yet ultimately the result is enduring happiness. 

Lion Spirit

Seven thirty five.

I spent a nervous night for some reason. But you know, the approval of other people matters not a jot, especially if you’re familiar with a little Nietzsche. The church is putting pressure on the members to get vaccinated: just another example of this junior high school mentality…

The streets were black with damp, but the sun was out among small cirrus clouds. I was glad to see Melissa again and hear her deep melodic voice. On my way to the store, my mind revolved old lectures I attended in college on the topic of Nietzsche, particularly how individuals change from their original nature for the sake of approval. He suggested that the desirable thing was to reconnect with one’s natural state. So I thought about these stupid masks we wear and how we all jump through flaming hoops just because other people are doing it. How important are belongingness needs, when it comes right down to it?

Eight thirty five. I bought a chef salad because I wanted it, and cottage cheese and two Snapples. My dog, Aesop, is the best. I can actually communicate with him like a rational animal. Here comes a blast of sun, alternating with shadows, typical of March in these parts. I’m enjoying this moment, listening to raucous crows off to the east. 

Back to Myself

Quarter after ten. I’ve been gutted by church indoctrination. Somehow I need to throw off the brainwashing and just be human again… The radio at the little market was playing “Rock with You,” an old tune by Michael Jackson. Michelle said she was in sixth or seventh grade when the song was popular. Me too. It dates back to about 1979. That was when I started reading the novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs for sheer fun. The sun shone a lot brighter then, and the taste of a nectarine was unbeatable. Outside my bedroom window stood a crabapple tree I could hear swishing in the summer breezes. The sky was powder blue and mellow. We had a Carrier air conditioning unit in the family room that really saved us from the heat. Life was simple and literal, uncomplicated by doctrines or dogmas. Even ethics was intuitive; the Golden Rule sufficed. My mother loved beauty in any form, especially the human body, or maybe that was me? I drew countless figures from my reading, including John Carter of Mars and his friends. I was never happier than during that year. When school started, I made an awesome Tarzan for the girl who sat behind me in English: just No 2 pencil on Manila divider paper. I inscribed it to her and she took it home.

Eleven thirty. There should be band practice tomorrow afternoon. Hopefully it goes better than the last time. It doesn’t really matter which instrument I take with me, so I’ll use the white Fender bass for its sweet tone. The rain has started again.

Two o’clock. Lately it stays light out till after six o’clock. It’s just another overcast day, gray and dismal. This morning I was definitely unwell. When I take leave of common sense and blither about religion, I’m not doing so great. Some people with schizophrenia can’t read Dostoevsky or Kafka because of paranoia. I’d be better off not reading them either. For a long time I’ve felt borderline delusional, but now without church I don’t have to read heavy stuff. Jules Verne might be fun for a while. I’m free to read what interests me, no shadow of the church to engulf me. 

Finding My Voice

Noon. Overall I feel pretty good, except my back pain has gotten worse since Sunday morning when I stooped to pick up a book from a box on the floor… An advertisement from Fender has given me the notion to try playing my neglected Stratocaster. I wish I could get the sound of The Pretenders on my own guitar, but it takes a lot more practice than I’ve given it. I’m probably not driven to pursue the guitar, though it makes me feel kind of sick to admit it. I prefer playing the bass because it’s a rhythm instrument that gets people to move. Maybe I just need a stimulus to motivate me: I wonder what Mark has been up to? I like the way he plays drum kit. I believe I’ve grown more social and extroverted than in my youth, so that practicing solo doesn’t do much for me anymore. Dunno. I feel quite restless. I want something to do that isn’t solitary… I no longer entertain the delusion that I’ll be a famous rockstar someday, nor that my playing sounds like a famous musician. I’m not a member of Rush, so it’s rather silly to pretend to be something I’m not. Have I found my “voice” on my instrument, a character uniquely mine? Sometimes it all seems so futile; yet this is my perfectionism talking, and it’s more about the journey than the destination. Anything we do ought to be an extension of our individual personality. At first we have to be a clone of someone we admire, until a voice of our own comes through the guise. This is strength from the heart. This is self realization. 

Authenticity

Quarter of six.

Church and Pastor’s mob mentality have been destructive for me for a long time. I will be absentee this morning for the recording of the service. It’s time for me to be a little selfish and do what is good for me, not for the herd. The brainwashing is quite enough at this point; I can’t take any more. I couldn’t sit still for one more sermon. You know, I feel like Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn, like a restless boy longing to be free. I’m not a big fan of Mark Twain, but I think I’ll give him a flap sometime soon… There’s nothing to do when the sun hasn’t yet risen and the world is still asleep. I feel tired and impatient with time moving at a snail’s pace. Again I think that my beliefs are diametrically opposed to those of Pastor. I’m an individualist, as I was taught in school a long while back, and I still agree with those teachings.

Eight thirty. I’ve decided to have a good day. My band practice is today at around four thirty, after the Duck football game. I can hardly wait to play with my buddies. It’s kind of like old times, except no alcohol for me. The last time we jammed, I had no religious delusions from the music, no spiritual thoughts at all. It was like junior high school again, when music was a lot of fun. The weather right now is a light rain, and the sky is very dark, yet it doesn’t get me down. I should dig out Moving Pictures and give it a spin to put me in the mood to rock and roll. Aesop is ready to eat any time now. I’m doing just what I want to do, and it feels right. 

Melancholy and Moliere

Ten o’clock.

I just got off the phone with Polly. We talked mostly about dogs, and that was okay. My taxi is coming at ten thirty. I feel a little nervous, but I think it’ll be a good trip to Springfield. Not much to talk about right now. It’s another sunny day. I can’t predict what will happen today, so I’m playing it by ear.

Eleven o’clock 🕚. Here I am at the doctor’s office. There’s some lame classical music on the hifi. The weather is beautiful except for the smell of smoke in the air. The cabbie was quiet but nice enough. Steve Miller was on the radio, uncensored for the “funky shit going down in the city.” I had to chuckle at that. It was nice to be driven by a young woman.

Quarter of noon. I got done early. Waiting for my return ride. Everything seems more optimistic than two weeks ago. Human life has a future, possibly.

Two o’clock. My mood has taken a nosedive. I feel like crying because I’m just not happy with modern life. It has gotten to me. And there’s no self indulgent solution to the world sorrow I feel. Drinking beer wouldn’t help anything. I stopped and visited with K— and Angela over a donut. Thursday is Angela’s birthday, so they invited me for lunch at twelve thirty. Mexican food. It feels kind of wrong to me because I disagree profoundly with K—‘s attitudes. This is probably why I feel so low since getting back home. I’ve said before that I don’t really belong in the Maxwell community. I have to fake everything in order to get along, and that goes against my grain. People will believe I’m something that I’m not. For some reason, it’s important to me not to be an impostor. It may be because I studied Moliere in college. I was only 19, and I never forgot what I learned. My freshman year contained many lessons in integrity; it was the dominant theme in everything I read and heard. I don’t know what other people take away from their college experience, but integrity hit me over the head. If your life lacks authenticity, then it lacks soul… Thus I came home wanting to cry from having betrayed myself. But it’s Angela’s birthday, and I like her very much. It’ll just be rather a challenge for me socially. I’m not good at dissimulation.

State of Nature

Five o’clock 🕔. I made my trip to Grocery Outlet and bought some very fresh foodstuffs. The dry salami knocked my socks off, and the banana peppers were super hot and tasty. I ate about a third of the loaf of sourdough bread. On my way to the store, I figured out who the real tyrant was: it was Pastor and the church. Now that I’m free, even food tastes better than in the chains of Christ. The full rainbow of colors is again available to me. This afternoon is quite beautiful, but the air is still a bit smoky. My new aqua bandanna works great, so I’ll use it often and might get an extra one. The cashiers at the store were exceedingly friendly and nice, and it just felt like the beginning of my life. Part of me is a little scared to be without religion, as if I must be possessed by the devil or something. But no; this secular life is natural for me, and minus the reference point of the church, the idea of the devil makes no sense. This is my life au natural, stripped of all fictions, much like what Nietzsche envisioned. Everyone ought to be this free and pure… Tomorrow I have nothing planned except to call my sister and get some food for Aesop. Tuesday I have X-rays to show up for. Wednesday they said more rain. Other than that, I don’t know what I’m doing next week. 

Be Yourself

Two ten. It used to be that my ear for bass playing depended on having gear identical to my favorite celebrity bass players. I finally decided that this was a fallacy, for I am just myself and not someone famous. Why pretend to be somebody else when I pick up a bass guitar and start to play? Now I’d rather sound like myself. When I used a Music Man bass back in the day, people would compliment me, but I said it wasn’t me they were hearing, it was the instrument. It sounded familiar to them, being a popular bass on the radio and television in the ‘90s. By using one, I was just being an imitator of what was cool. Now I need to figure out a new way of playing the bass, and make it my voice that people are hearing… The afternoon heat is forcing my eyes to close, but my brain still feels okay. Marci from the pharmacy called and said my Vraylar is a special order and will be ready at noon tomorrow.

Four fifty. The indoor temperature has reached 80 degrees. I lay down on the bed for a while and let my mind wander. Feared I would pass out, but so far so good. It’s supposed to be cooler tomorrow… I love the notion of the dignity of man, how with the intellect we can overcome being animal and vegetable and be divine. Psychoanalysis does the opposite of this, strips you down to a defenseless brute, basically dehumanizing you. Because, after all, the only weapon and shield people have is their God-given reason, and this defines us as human, even as Aristotle said 400 years before Christ. What is the point in disabling a person’s reason? Most people reject Freud nowadays, and I have to agree. Whatever promotes the rational faculty is a good thing, because the essence is freedom and happiness.

Life Is Short

Ten ten.

It wastes energy to obsess over getting older. I’m only 53 years old. The way to look at it is, I am sober for the first time in my life since boyhood. There’s still time for new improvements to my life. The only enemies I had were my relatives, but they leave me alone now. I ought to be feeling quite free and happy. The lockdown can’t stay in effect forever, so I’m peering beyond it. Solitude with the same old stimuli is very boring. It is people who make the difference. There’s nothing else like a live presence. I’m going to the store in a few minutes. I might play my Aria bass again this afternoon. The active electronics make it sound sophisticated and nice. Yesterday, I made a discovery by accident: a maker of custom guitars and basses called Kiesel. I’d heard of it before, I think, way back in 1988. But I could be wrong. I should be happy with what I have, anyway. It’s a cloudy morning, and everything seems rather dull.

Eleven thirty. Vicki finally told me the results of her head MRI: she has a tumor. Further testing is on hold due to the Coronavirus situation. It’s unknown whether it’s malignant yet. She has worked hard all her life, mostly for that little store. I only wish that she could do something nice for herself. I don’t know what she likes to do for a hobby, but she ought to find time to do it. Life is too short to spend it being inauthentic, doing things you don’t want to do. This is the lesson I gleaned from reading Don Quixote in college so long ago. Throw off the chains of your life and do what you always wanted to do. No one else can do it for you.