It’s pitch dark outside yet, no daylight for another 45 minutes. Even then it’ll remain pretty dark from the overcast. My Snapple can wait a half hour. Bonnie Rose just fired up her black pickup truck across the street. If she can go out in the dark then so can I… By this time, the dawning light is visible through my front window, the black trees turning green and red.
Eight twenty. When I came out of the market, a gigantic rainbow arced right above it, and here and there it was raining lightly. A woman told her children, “It’s a rainbow. It’s beautiful!” The store was very busy, mostly with teens on their way to school, stopping to buy munchies. Whereas time dragged on before the sunrise, now it’s getting away from me as the world wakes up… Pastor is offering rides to church for Katie’s memorial service on Friday night. I was planning on going anyway, but getting a ride is a good idea, especially in the rain. It’s always interesting how a poet’s mood creates the meaning of a real scene— or maybe it’s just an absolute that a rainbow is a beautiful thing, aside from all human perception. I know people who believe so.
Michelle wished me an awesome day today as I was on my way out the door. Every day has a different quality to it. I just feel lucky to be above ground sometimes. It’s cloudy now after raining all night off and on. It’d be so nice to get my pleasure thermometer on the positive side rather than just managing my pains, but it’s also about the pleasure of others. So I would urge people to enjoy life while they are still young and capable of having a good time. And don’t defer happiness to an afterlife that probably doesn’t exist. “This is not a dress rehearsal.” I have an appointment with my med prescriber this morning, a guy named Todd. It could be a fun trip if the taxi goes through town instead of on the highways. I try to get a little enthusiastic for Halloween, but today is not the day. I’m tired and feeling like a grumpy old man. I need a shot of the elixir of life, if there is such a thing, a draft from the Fountain of Youth. As it is, I can cheer on the young people who still have a chance at fulfilling their dreams.
Nine o’clock. If the truth be known, I’d rather stay home than go to the agency. I’m a walking contradiction between individualism and religion. Last night I thought of Mallarme but I didn’t look at his poetry. My life needs some beauty when all around are ugliness and pain, like the sidewalk of the Maxwell slum. Occasionally I lift my eyes to the skyline to note the shape of the clouds and their colors: an opportunity to transcend. And when the moon brights in the west it’s like a call from far away.
Quarter of three. Just now I went to the little store around the corner. In his driveway, Colin was blowing leaves a bit early in the season. The same smoke alarm started cheeping again, so I’ll have to hit the button on it. At the market, JR helped a woman out with a lot of plastic bags of empties. Cathy covered the registers and rang up my Snapple tea. I saw some rather rough looking people today, strutting around puffing cigarettes, and I think they come out in the afternoon. Generally, the morning bunch is nicer and more reputable. I’ve been going to that place for nearly twenty years, to begin with for a watering hole, but now just for convenience of location. When I reflect on it, the place seems haunted with old memories of how it used to be. Since those days, I had therapy that was traumatizing, opening a can of worms we should’ve left alone. But as it is, I know more than I ever did before the experience… The little store in the afternoon is quite a seamy place, or can be, depending on when you hit it. Sometimes I feel that I fit right in with the squalor; yet other times I long for something better, like a gutter ball looking at the stars on a romantic night. I’ve got one foot in each world, though I know I’ll never live to colonize the stars: or perhaps I’m wrong about that. Stranger things have happened.
The cloud formation I can see from here is very pretty, more natural than during the wildfires. When I go out the front door, the writing in the sky might say, “Surrender, Robert!” Vapor trails left by a Wicked Witch. This idea made me laugh. No clue what it pertains to or what it means. I only got up an hour ago. Guess it’s time to go to the store. So far I feel good today.
Quarter of nine. I met with a couple of surprises on my outing this morning. The first was seeing Lisa, who used to work at Karen’s salon, in the parking lot of the market. She greeted me by name and with a deft movement stripped off her mask while I fumbled to remember who she was. Then she told me she had a new job at a salon that fit her better. I’m happy for her on one hand, but the happiness is superficial when you begin to think about it. I also think to myself that cream rises to the top, but it’s always at the expense of somebody else. Maybe I’m being too Charlie Brown about an otherwise good thing… The other surprise was the sight of schoolchildren on their way to the middle school. I was a bit worried for them crossing Maxwell Road, but apparently they knew how to do that… The more I think about Lisa, the more I dislike her supercilious attitude. There’s something very Scott Fitzgerald in this scenario: an oligarchy of the beautiful people, whereas those without beauty are the losers. It makes me self conscious. I tramp around the neighborhood in soiled clothes, the epitome of penury; and yet I have something that Lisa seems to lack. Give me a few minutes and I might recall what it is… Does she know who Fitzgerald is? And what is an oligarchy?
Quarter of midnight.
It is best for me to take responsibility for my loss of faith rather than attribute it to the spirit of the age. I must pick up the pieces and go from there, reassembling them to a picture that pleases the eye and makes the most sense. Do we have to call it a fiction? But there’s a purpose for our imagination, an adaptive reason for being; perhaps it is the science of God, the fingers touching in the Sistine Chapel. Humankind has an instinct to reach for its creator and its own being, as I can remember hearing in an old song by Yes, about creating or recreating heaven by means of the heart’s dream. At the very end of the song, the dreamer is gently awakened to reality once again: like in a Keats poem, but made more powerful by the medium of music… It’s rather odd how we can forget the things that are the most important to human progress and perfection, such as music and Romantic poetry; and if it was only me, then my heart repents this thoughtless trespass. So now, it makes sense to take an hour and listen to Going for the One once again, a classic album of progressive rock, timeless and timely. You who have an ear, may you hear, and let the error of the times slide by.
The rain still continues. I just got the trash out in time for pickup and now I have to go to the store. Taking a breather first. I texted Rebecca about resuming the process of hiring a PCA… The magnolia has at least three new blooms: beautiful white flowers.
Ten o’clock. Now the rain has slackened and everything is very quiet. I’ve been to the store and seen Michelle. She was busy making bags of ice and didn’t know I was waiting alone at the counter until I grabbed her attention. Michelle doesn’t like making ice. Probably no one else does either… It occurs to me to think about beauty, or rather the absence of it from my life recently. Yesterday, I suppose you could say the band created some beauty, and this had a healing effect on me. Yet it wasn’t the same beauty as opening a book of poetry by Wallace Stevens. Our band has a rather rough industrial edge. I don’t know what I contribute to the overall sound, but it seems to blend in okay and keep time rolling along. After all, we play rock and roll, not so much the refinement of jazz fusion…
Eleven o’clock. Before long I’ll hear the noise of garbage trucks barreling up and down my street. Sure enough, here comes the first one. If it’s true that a mythology reflects its region, then is it right to say that a soundtrack does the same? Then we might call our band the Maxwell Road Prophets. The intelligence of our soil… while the trucks boom and clank throughout the neighborhood collecting trash.
Quarter after eight. Michelle was cute this morning, with a cobalt blue T-shirt that said, “Well bless your heart!” We talked about the products of a regional food company: potato salad, summer sausage, dips, and so on are all good from this place. Aesop needed his canned food, so I looked for that and my usual stuff. The music by Chick Corea I heard the other night was very pretty, particularly the four slow songs I have in mind. Sometimes I really enjoy good jazz fusion. Unfortunately it’s a dying art, just not popular anymore as our culture grows increasingly primitive and selfish. No one has any time for beautiful things, time to unwind and be fully human. It’s kind of an Ayn Rand existence for us: always technical with no space for feelings and sensibility, as if we were slave to our own machine heads. In this regard I am very old school. The technocracy is running our legs off and will be the end of us. And to compensate for this state of affairs we defer all happiness to an afterlife that probably doesn’t exist. The job of a musician is to make people happy here and now, today. You get loose with a little wine and groove on the sound of music and maybe reflect a bit on the lyrics. What are we here for anyway if not for happiness? “It is not the reason that makes us happy or unhappy.” Still, we keep getting it backwards and make ourselves miserable, and life is pointless except for the desert oasis known as music.
Nine twenty five. The psychiatrist I left behind often quoted Freud on the two primary functions of humankind: to work and to love. But what music does sort of combines the two modes… My bass guitar will arrive this afternoon, between the noon hour and five o’clock. I feel excited but also a little nervous about the uncertainty when it comes: what might go wrong? I just hope the instrument isn’t damaged in shipping, and my dog is going to act berserk, barking his head off… The weather is still sunny and bright, though this Saturday it’s supposed to start raining. Tomorrow I have a follow up appointment with my primary care provider, which means a long taxi ride to Springfield again. But it’s okay; I sort of like Springfield sometimes. I miss my psychiatrist when I don’t think about it. I have to remind myself of my reasons for terminating with him four years ago. I feel as if I’d rebelled against a father figure, and done like Zeus to his father Cronus in classical mythology. Not only does he murder him, but he liberates his siblings who had been swallowed up before him. It is a powerful story of rebellion and independence, and the defeat of tyranny…
I’m just beginning to understand the difference between prosaic and poetic, and what poetry is supposed to do. It is something untaught in a book like Perrine’s Sound and Sense, a mere handbook of literary devices. The effect of poetry ought to be like that of intoxication either by liquor or very abstruse ideas. It should transport the reader to heaven and back again, or to the world of Platonic Ideals. Sometimes a dream does more than fulfill a wish: it unveils the reality beyond this shadowy illusion. A dream can be a poem, and a poem can be a dream.
My dog just jumped out of bed and trotted down the hallway to see what I’m up to. In a few minutes I have to take my medication to banish “false beliefs” and perceptions that aren’t true. Occasionally I think this judgment is an arbitrary call. Still, I take the pills dutifully every night to be responsible for my behavior. And it’s worth it to be able to play my music without the assault of religious delusions on the dark side.
When I was a junior in high school, I fell into quite a depression without knowing the clinical terminology for the condition. Now it seems to me that depression is a doorway to more severe mental illness, as well as to substance abuse. These things are colloquially known as “demons.” And after all, maybe certain kinds of music really are unhealthy for the soul. How can we guard against darkness and look instead for the sunshine?
Two o’clock. Some music simply strikes me as intrinsically beautiful. Right now I remember the sound of “It’s My Life” by Talk Talk, with the words, “Funny how I plowed myself an avenue…” Around the same time, I was reading an arabesque by Lovecraft full of fantastic images, such as being aboard ship on a transparent sea and peering down at the life on the ocean floor. And again, these things are not taught in a manual like Sound and Sense.
Seven fifty five.
The clouds appear like molten iron in the east. History never repeats itself. Or not intentionally, like a sleeping Sphinx. The inside of my house is a wreck from negligence. Sometimes it bugs me, other times I can excuse it by some mental trick. The supervisor at my job accused me of doing only what I wanted to do. I resented him for saying that because he was a hypocrite moralist. Probably the one who judges me is myself. Occasionally I run into people who criticize… And sometimes history repeats itself.
Quarter after nine. Michelle said it was good to see me this morning. At eight forty, the store was quite busy with customers. I waited in line for a minute to check out. During that time I looked at myself on the surveillance screen above the sandwich display, wryly noting my male pattern baldness. It’s Monday and people were on break. A small part of me misses the job I had fifteen years in the past, but there was nothing beautiful about labor. Only when Supertramp came on the radio was I pleased, and then I regretted that I hadn’t the time to make music myself.
Today I ought to have plenty of time to soak up some nice French poetry and meditate on the Ideal. Out of the industrial litter of ashes, butts, gravel, and fast food debris rises the full moon, enormous and red, close enough to touch. It’s hard to see the moon when you’re on a hamster wheel, reliving the same day, day after day. Once in the springtime years ago I saw a young student on the campus smelling the flowers. At the time, I sort of judged him for a weirdo. Now I think he was brilliant.
Quarter of ten.
I felt pretty good on my trip to the store, though with a few dark thoughts about my future. No one likes to admit defeat by the whips and scorns of time, this item called aging, walking on three legs in the evening. As usual I met with very few people on the street. Just the old man in blue denim and two children at Darlene’s old house, with their chocolate dog. I bought a can of chili and a sandwich, two Snapples, and treats for Aesop. In my mail I found an advertisement for a cannabis retailer on River Road. I was a little curious, but not really enticed. It would only turn into a very expensive addiction that would screw up my whole life again. I’m not interested in artificial ways to get high anymore. The challenge of living sober is its own kind of high.
The sun came out in a gray sky, an odd contrast. Every day is something new. Memories are all behind me, the future unforeseeable, but coming nonetheless. New formations of clouds in heaven… Time, stars, wings of angels. Sea green sun luster, like emerald on the neighbor’s fence. Pensive, I must be dreaming someplace far away…
Quarter of eleven. Am I too old to rock and roll? But never too old to versify. Those bass guitars get heavier and heavier to hold up. Inevitably my dexterity will slow down. It’s important to be realistic. But the mind retains its versatility as long as you feed it on good things… Everything advances in the medium of time. Nothing travels backwards, and memory is distorted. And yet this twisting of ideas is the means to creativity. What goes in comes out of the process something original, properly yours and beautiful.