City Life

Quarter after seven.

The city installed a cable on N Park to monitor the speed of drivers nearby Randy’s lot. They ought to do that on Maxwell Road, where the limit is 35mph and people actually go 50mph or faster. I didn’t see the moon this morning, though I did the last two days. “Wake up in the morning with a good face / Stare at the moon all day / Lonely as a whisper on a star chase / Does anyone care anyway?” An old Queen song by Brian May. The world needs more beauty instead of the industrial ugliness I see around me every day. To witness something pretty, I have to raise my eyes to the blue and wish upon the moon or the morning star. But this is the curse of the suburbs. The psalm goes that the Lord is my shepherd and I shall not want. I ought to be content with my daily bread. And yet so much is still desired. When the reality isn’t very attractive, this is the time to make poetry and pull humanity out of the gutter. “…Some of us are looking at the stars.” Remember that you shall not live by bread alone, but the gospel we need is beauty.

“Look in thy heart and write.”

After the Rain

Quarter of seven.

I saw nothing unusual on my daily trip to market, but in the west there was a passenger jet slowly dissolving in the clouds as I watched from the sidewalk. I kind of wish I could be on a Concorde headed for a place in Europe. I know it’s not realistic. Out on River Road I hear a car drag racing; some maniac driver tempting fate… I just got off the phone with DHS about my food stamps: the people are very reasonable to talk with, but the letters they “generate” tend to be rather menacing and intimidating. The very word “reasonable” makes me want to digress on a little discussion, if it works out that way. I just wonder how reason obtains its quality of humaneness as opposed to being cold calculation. For sure, the French philosophes were more than just robots, purely technical people. Those like Voltaire had warmth and humanity as well as a wicked sense of humor. It seems to me that the rationality of the Enlightenment had as much to do with the heart as the head. It took the math and science of the last century to divest reason of its meaningfulness.

Quarter of eight.

It’s another overcast morning. My dog waits patiently for breakfast time. The neighborhood crows make the accustomed noises in their own language. We made it through the storm. A song by John Coltrane enters my head, called “After the Rain.” The version I heard was recorded by Mark Egan with Steve Khan and Danny Gottlieb for the disc Beyond Words. It is absolutely beautiful.

Look No Further

I’ve been writing notes to myself along the lines of appearance and reality, and saying that when I do a Plato, I miss the joy and fun of the surface of things. Maybe there’s something to say for superficial beauty sometimes? Life doesn’t have to be heavy and ethical all the time. A philosopher wants to know the moral truth of everything; to grasp its inner essence: to know and understand it by analyzing it. But dissecting life tends to kill it. Think of dissecting a frog in high school: you learn how it works but you leave it a dead body… I’m not sure how I got onto this topic, though it started when I was reading Eiseley. I took away one idea and now it’s kind of dominating all of my thoughts. Once you’ve learned to be a philosopher, is it possible to will to forget it? I want to be able to enjoy life like I used to in my childhood; to appreciate the aesthetics of everything around me. This is like the approach that Poe takes to write a poem. It’s for the music and not a moral. This and the image are sufficient, and don’t look for allegorical meaning. That’s why Mallarme suggests that music is the greatest art form, and Walter Pater repeats his claims later.

I think it may be desirable for me to unlearn how to analyze and critique everything I see and try to adore things as they appear, not as they are to a philosopher’s mind. To apprehend reality without lectures and sermons; without ethics or anything heavy: with the sugar coating and no pill to swallow. Because, you miss something if you look beyond what is manifestly there. You miss the beauty and the joy of living.

The Parthenon Question

Nine PM.

I tried to take a nap, but lying in bed, I could only hear echoes of the Steve Khan music I’d listened to very early this morning. Now I feel wooden like a zombie or some undead person. I’ll avoid Dr Pepper after this, for it kind of poisoned my system. Just before seven o’clock tonight it cleared up, giving us two hours of sunshine. Hearing Khan’s music vaguely recalls Ulysses to my mind; I was exposed to both as a senior in college, when also my mother had cancer and needed surgery. After Joyce I started reading Sons and Lovers on my own time, a beautiful book by D.H. Lawrence, back when our minds were not enslaved by a brainwashing god and government and it was okay to think and feel something human.

Much more recently I read Jacob’s Room by Virginia Woolf, who raises the question of whether the beauty of the world would endure or rather perish, and what will it take to preserve it. This is still an issue today, for those of us with open eyes and a feeling heart. While the world seems to be dying, we let the humanities fall to ruin: the things we used to live for that were worth living for. Woolf was undecided on this question, but I’m sure she wished for the beautiful things to last perpetually, like the trip to Greece to see the Parthenon at the end of the novel: a fitting climax and perhaps a statement of triumph for the works of humankind. So now, who’s going to write the next Jacob’s Room to answer the same question for our time?

Melodies

Noon hour.

Gloria’s workday for me is done now. I’m feeling a lot better than I did over the weekend. Last night I dreamed about M— for several hours, though I don’t know why or what my motive was. The dream was certainly not a bad one. The Prokofiev music I listened to recently floats back to my ear: very pleasant. I especially like when his spirit is playful and fun, sometimes uptempo. Often he will resolve a phrase with such a good feel to it, as if to say that everything is right and good. The second movement of Symphony No. 5 is my favorite, particularly a little melody in D major on clarinets, joined by a low string counterpoint, that concludes very pleasingly… Like a lot of days lately, the sun shines from a cloudy sky. My masochistic treatment of myself seems to be over with. I hope it doesn’t happen again soon. I had a great turkey and cheddar sandwich on a croissant for lunch: delicious. It’s worth it to reward yourself whenever you can, for this life depends on your perception alone. 

Poetry in Motion

Nine twenty at night.

The weather was very pretty this afternoon, and 70 degrees out. Only a few lonely clouds drifted across the blue sky. And like a little cloud, I had a disagreement with the rep for my health insurance on the phone today. However, I stood my ground and got my way with them after she spoke with her supervisor. The only drawback I’ve seen with my insurance company is how they insist on a really bad dental program. It was like pulling teeth, but I managed to switch over to something much better. Sometimes you have to advocate for yourself to get what you need. I’ve also heard of other people having trouble getting help with the taxi service for the disabled. I don’t think it’s a matter of good or bad luck in dealing with people. Rather, it is being persistent and smart about doing it.

The most picturesque thing I saw at the agency this morning was Misty when she glided in the automatic door from the sunshine. And like the sun, she spoke not a word to us guys who greeted her, but made a cryptic gesture with her left hand, then sauntered majestically away towards the pharmacy and the dispensary…

Now I remember that I corrected the rep’s pronunciation of “colorectal.”

Across…

The sun has been trying to peek through a few times today, and the clouds have thinned out to show some blue sky. My mind feels very clear, no longer like someone who is brainwashed and bound in the chains of some doctrine, although I shouldn’t be cocky or complacent about it. That’s like Odysseus crowing at Polyphemus, but finding out later that Poseidon was his father and then paying the penalty all the way back home. All of literature has lessons for us, the Bible included, and also philosophy and so on and on. The purpose of it all is essentially to teach and to preach. 

Funny but my mother loved music yet she disregarded the lyrics unless it was something like “Penny Lane” by The Beatles, whose words made a simple vignette with no heavy moral overtones. And really I don’t blame her for that. She also esteemed Edgar Allan Poe a genius for similar reasons as The Beatles. Suddenly I remember a bit what eighth grade was like. It was the school year when John Lennon was killed. Shortly after this, Mom bought me the red and blue Beatles compilations at Fred Meyer. The one I listened to more was the red, which covered the years 1962 to 66. But gradually I got to like the later stuff better, especially when I reached college and heard “Across the Universe” again. It made me gush hot tears; caught me totally off guard. My parents had gone to bed and I listened by myself after midnight. The thing about it is not just the music but the awesome lyric, like a work of poetry, all put together for devastating effect.

From the Otherworld

I’ve just got up from an evening nap. Then I checked my emails: someone liked my post from last October titled “A Calling,” after two other people had since Friday. I frankly didn’t remember it, so I went back and read it again. Turns out it’s about transcendence and also the moon in the sky over the Maxwell overpass: rather a romantic observation, especially when the surrounding streets are in a fallen state of poverty and squalor, ashy gray barrenness like a human desert. Above all that, the moonlight calls from very far away as I trudge the sidewalk early in the morning, the spirit of Diana luring me on (although I didn’t say that in my post). And now I think not of Mallarme but of Keats’ Endymion, which describes a lover’s tryst of himself with the moon goddess. But this wasn’t in my post either. Maybe it was better without the allusion to Keats and Diana. The best part of it is the contrast between reality and the ideal that you can feel tugging at you like the moon’s magnetism causing the tides; still I’m embellishing what is only implicit. I should probably write another post on the same subject: maybe when the moon shows up above the overpass again in the clear sky like a smudge of white chalk against the blue blackboard, a little hazy and dreamlike, a fantasy of Vishnu, not quite real. Kind of like when I walked out of the market and it was virtually framed by an arc of rainbow 🌈 to either side of the doors and the whole building, like a blessing from God, a token, a benediction from a high place, and again, a vision in a dream.

Taste

Wee hours of Thursday.

The wet weather continues. I think that with the current trends in psychology, certain good things are being forgotten, or maybe just not discussed anymore. I have a painting by Picasso in my mind called Joie de Vivre, made to celebrate the end of WW2 and remind us of the things that give us happiness. Today’s culture looks upon such things with incomprehension. I remember giving a book of Salvador Dali to a friend who I thought could use it because she had an interest in being an artist. A few days later she returned it to me saying that it was bizarre. But the art really expressed some truths of psychoanalysis that apparently were above her head. At the time, I took the rejection hard, so I gave the book away to St Vinnie’s, now to my regret… It was a beautiful book that I bought from Borders for only twenty dollars, and a very full collection of his paintings… I guess the point is to trust yourself when you find something of great value to you, and persist in the face of the world’s ignorance. Public opinion is cheap and uninformed. Everything is geared towards making money, whether or not they’re selling quality. If nothing gold can stay, then it’s also true that cream rises to the top. In the end it’s not about the money, or the kind of gold I mean is psychological, and what Mephistopheles has to offer in the second part of Faust… When people are blind and obtuse, just consider the source if they say your taste is bizarre. Whoever said taste makes waste was an idiot. 

A Land Beyond

Nine o’clock at night.

Today didn’t amount to anything, except my dog was pretty happy, maybe because I didn’t play the bass. Last night I priced different brands of flat wound bass strings from three different sellers, and they were all close to forty dollars. With an eye on my finances, I might spring for the Rotosound set as the month progresses. Nothing is a giveaway right now because of holiday consumerism. They get you coming and going. It could be a very long season.

It’s interesting when it isn’t frustrating how people are pressed into such solitudes for the things they believe or don’t believe. America is notorious for this kind of alienation, as some people know who have traveled abroad and experienced cultural differences here and there. Sometimes I feel inclined to do a Henry James and emigrate from here to the Old World, if I only had enough money to do this, and a monopoly of daring. Most people’s imaginations are so limited by what they learn from their environment, their immediate family and upbringing. I vaguely remember the photographs that Kate used to send me of Rosyth, the little town across the bridge from Edinburgh in Scotland, with cobbled streets and foreign cars in black and white. Was it all just a drunken vision or did I really see those places on my computer screen? I’m beginning to lose my sanity thinking of it. Somehow in my euphoria I slipped over the rainbow to a land beyond my wildest dreams.