Fate and Fame

After midnight.

A while ago in my journal I wrote about the incongruity of finding myself in church. It would be like my dad showing up for worship the morning after a night at the Elk’s Lodge. He was a confirmed skeptic on the issue of Jesus Christ. You either believe in him or you don’t, as even Jesus said himself, though it seems rather Calvinistic and unfair. But ultimately I have to just accept the fact. If I’m a goat and not a sheep of the fold, then it’s better to live with this knowledge in peace. A goat must be good for something after all. By the way, the other day I met a woman with the same birthday as me: January 4. What are the odds of something like that? One in 365? And her colleague was named Destiny, with the letters transposed… For some reason my mind has been turning towards mysticism in the past week or so. I suppose it’s a function of getting older, but not necessarily more feeble witted. There’s some truth to “seek and you shall find.” What you look for determines what you see… Aesop is sleeping the sleep of sheer exhaustion, but it’s good to see him so relaxed. His breathing is slow and regular. The music in my head is a recording I made during the summer of 1986, back when my dream was to be a pop star. Yet in their own way, every individual is a rockstar by virtue of their very existence. Trust yourself. 

A Little Plan

Ten thirty.

I feel much better now than I did before four o’clock today. I knew I felt well enough to play my G&L bass, so I did that for an hour or more, and then I sat down and analyzed my feelings in writing, concluding that therapy is not for me. It was like throwing a millstone off my shoulders, and immediately I felt better. I think I’m capable of navigating my own ship. Sometime this month I want to take my other bass guitar to a technician for modification. I have the part I want to install already: a Di Marzio Model P hum bucking pickup with ceramic magnets. I love these pickups for their milky tone and high output. I hope the weather cooperates next week so I can walk over to the bank to cash my check. This will be my transportation money. I think everything will work out just fine.

Until now I’d forgotten how I love January, and you know, it doesn’t matter if I get mystical with the zodiac; I might take a peek at my new astrology book, indulge my curiosity and contemplate the thing called fate, even like Thomas Hardy, once my favorite novelist.

B-day Cash

Eight thirty five.

Unfortunately I feel like I’m getting sick with something. It started with my ears being stopped up, and then I had a dry cough, especially at night. Now, my sinuses are a bit congested. I got to the store in a light rain. I found out that Michelle’s daughter is in the hospital with Covid. In my mailbox I found a birthday card from my sister, so I came inside and opened it: she had enclosed a check for fifty dollars. I thought, she shouldn’t have. Even the card was very nice: serious and not silly… I dreamed last night about an old man I passed on the street who uttered a stream of vituperation at me for some reason. When I saw him again later, I thought to tell him I’d been sober for four and a half years, and this information seemed to soften his attitude somewhat… I definitely feel under the weather, but I have no plans for today. I can just stay home and watch the rain come down, or hopefully concentrate on a book. Something quiet and easy. 

55

Six o’clock in the morning.

It is a morning kind of like yesterday morning, with the difference that today is my birthday. It’s raining out in the jet blackness. I don’t remember when my appointment with Rebecca is, but it’s supposed to be this morning. It interests me how individual behavior gets channeled according with social pressures, even if you are self aware. You can only fight the trends for so long, then you surrender and say okay, whatever. Or perhaps I’m wrong about that. If the world told me that I couldn’t write human interest stuff anymore, then I would probably rebel. We seem to be getting farther away from humanity and closer to money and machinery: anything quantitative over qualitative, and I feel there’s something unnatural about that. Is it an American thing? Now more than ever we need to be humanized and made to feel like unique individuals. I hate to see the demise of philosophy and everything that makes life worth living, because when there’s nothing to live for, existence has no meaning, and the universe might as well vanish away.

I was just looking at the A— News headlines, and trashed the email before I could get halfway through it. Funny, a song by Ralphe Armstrong of Mahavishnu Orchestra comes to mind: “Planetary Citizen.” And I’m thinking that there are multiple ways a person can be a member of society. Sometimes it’s a fight to carve yourself a niche, but where there’s a will, there’s a way. Which reminds me of the poem “Root Cellar” by Theodore Roethke, where life is shown to be irrepressible (“Even the dirt kept breathing a small breath”). 

Juneau

Noon thirty.

I have a few complaints about where society is going. We seem to be straying away from nature as far as our romantic relationships go. Masculinity is mislabeled as “toxic” in the United States, almost categorically, and the origin of this attitude was the rise of feminism that started thirty years ago on university campuses. In some ways, political correctness is good for a person with a mental illness; it encourages us to empower ourselves. But I don’t see women and men loving each other with desire and passion like they used to.

The way my parents eloped to Alaska in December 1964 was scandalous but very daring. I think they did the right thing, the intelligent thing in the face of conventional morality. I am the fruit of this audacity, the brainchild of something bold and brave, and this couldn’t be a dumb mistake. It isn’t even dumb luck that I exist. I belong in the world today, thanks to my parents’ adventure, the blind dash to the ferry bound for Juneau on a black winter night. 

Rejection of the Stars

Five thirty five.

I had an unexpected dream just now: I was a “jumper,” just like the ones in Hollywood cop movies. I got myself into an elevator shaft and climbed it to the top, where I was just about to throw myself down when a rescue team cut through from the outside with a saw or blaster. After I got out, my parents took me and my nephew to dinner in a convertible. The nephew let my dad know how much he hated him, and he just smiled and drove on. He was probably stinking drunk.

Nine twenty.

By now the snow on the ground has melted nearly away, with little shreds of it left on people’s yards and roofs. I donned slip on shoes rather than the lace up running shoes with better treads and made my daily trip to the market. There’s not very much to report about my experience this time. In general I’ve been speculating on whether I can discard my superstition about astrology, and what will be the outcome of doing this. It’s like the choice between fate and free will— even like the old song by Rush. I think the zodiac is just a human fiction, something for us to wrap our lives around to give them sense and meaning. But when it is ruled out, the meaning is up to you to provide. The character of Edmund in King Lear is right about the “excellent foppery of the world,” even though you’re not supposed to like him. Shakespeare and Milton both subscribed to astrology, but this doesn’t mean that we should. They lived four hundred years ago, so what did they know? This year I will think differently about my birthday, and try not to refer to my horoscope and wax mystical on my destiny. I’m not a teleological thinker; life has no predetermined goal for every person to fulfill. Is this heresy or is it good rational sense? The power to make decisions resides with us. This is where it belongs, and not in the lap of the gods or the influence of the planets, moon, and sun. This sets the tone for my 55th birthday and the whole subsequent year. 

Good Things… Small Packages

Two o’clock.

I jammed on my G&L bass for a while. The snow was so bright that I didn’t have to turn the light on in the room. Out the window I could see Victoria sweeping her car of snow. A lot more people are coming out today to drive or walk around. They talk together in raised voices as if excited. When I was out on the sidewalk I heard this lyric: “The moments seemed lost in all the noise / A snowstorm, a stimulating voice / And rest for the day / With cold in the way.” During the time I played my bass, I moved the switch to the center to tap all the pole pieces, giving me a full range of tone. Sounds great, but I need someone else to play with. I expect two packages today and tomorrow, but the one coming by mail might be delayed… I can’t believe it’s only two thirty. But our daylight will be spent in another two hours. I don’t know if my little Rumble 25 is reparable or not. I may have to get a new amp for church, which doesn’t break my heart at all. There are some really nice combo amps for bass for a bit more money. Although, I don’t want to leave it in the sacristy all the time to be disused.

Nine forty.

Some very old music rises to my consciousness by the Ray Brown Orchestra. He was an amazing bass player, and hardly anyone realizes that he could play electric bass as well as acoustic upright. The tone of his Fender Precision would melt in your mouth and he was all over it with his huge hands… Amazon had one more copy of the music I wanted in stock— so I snagged it. It arrives on my birthday. 

Liberty

Five o’clock in the morning.

I have the bug to play music with people again. Upon listening to our recording of “Burning Coal” once more, it comes out that my old band was pretty good when we were on. So my birthday wish is to put together the next band project for gigging locally and having some fun… Right now it’s raining out in the darkness before the dawn, but the sound is quite comforting to me. Yesterday just before noon I tramped a mile over to the veterinary hospital for Aesop’s flea medication, but encountered nothing very interesting aside from the work on the new high school buildings. Generally I felt out of my element, like I was missing my purpose in this life, if life does have a plan for us. If life is absurd then you have to impose meaning on it. It’s amazing what you can do with an astrolabe and a few old myths, and your imagination fills in the blanks, sort of like Gestalt psychology. Yet the planets probably have nothing to do with our fates because existence in itself is devoid of human significance. And by this reasoning, if there’s no destiny, then we are free to create one for ourselves by our very actions. Rather than pessimistic, this freedom is good news, and let the gospel be spread of human liberty. 

Birthdays!

Three o’clock.

It is difficult though not impossible to find pleasure in this time of the pandemic and climate change. It can be something as simple as a Snapple or two quarts of ice cream, you pick the flavor.

I took my own advice and bought a tub of orange sherbet for my fourth birthday: four years of cold turkey. The streets at three fifteen were deserted until you got to Maxwell Road. At the store the cashiers were Deb and Hank. No one seemed exceedingly cheerful, but I hardened myself to the prevailing attitude and rewarded myself with the sherbet. It cost $6.39, so I paid with food stamps, and the receipt said I still have $195 in credit, which came like a bonus. I brought the sherbet home and ate half of it standing at the kitchen counter, thinking “birthday” with every bite. I gave Aesop two bites, for his birthday is this month also. He is nine years old now. The weather today is perfect for a little celebration, even if the only partiers are me and Aesop. The world is glum, but the world is wrong. There’s still something to celebrate. 

Time and Durability

Quarter after eight.

I’m housebound until FedEx brings my big package today because they require a signature for delivery. This means no Snapple tea for a while. I might as well go back to work on my project of the bridge on my Fender bass. During the wee hours this morning I listened to Stravinsky and Borodin on an old CD my mother gave me for Christmas when I was 22 years old. It was absolutely beautiful. The “Polovetsian Dances” was exquisite, and the clarinet lead always reminds me of how my mother played the same instrument in her school band. Of course the booming bass drum is like me playing in the percussion section in my youth… It isn’t raining right now, but it feels rather cold inside the house, and the sky appears bleak and indifferent. Cold white and lavender clouds shimmer over the roofline.

Nine fifty five. I think I’m done tinkering with the bridge. I fixed the whine from the G saddle and adjusted the intonation to near perfection. Almost ready to rock and roll.

Four o’clock. The bass amplifier came at 2:22pm. Aesop behaved terribly, but I couldn’t do anything about that. I plugged it in and played with it right away. Sounds pretty good. I don’t know what my obsession with the Omega bridge is since yesterday. I don’t even remember what year I bought it for sure, but I think it was the fall of 2016, when Kate was still my friend. Maybe it’s a symbol of something political for me, a sign of hope for the future of the whole world. I wish the world could unite once again, and I’m hopeful that it will do so. Anyway, the bridge works quite well on my favorite Fender bass. Another way of looking at it is that it’s symbolic of recovery and perseverance. The bridge is a piece of metal that has survived addiction and still carries on, strong and fearless. The tone it creates has incredible muscle. A house can burn to the ground, yet the cornerstone endures, a gold plated hunk of zinc called the Omega bass bridge.

Five o’clock. After playing with the new amp a bit, I ambled to the store for my Snapple tea and a sandwich. Deb was the sole cashier this afternoon. Her birthday was on New Year’s Eve. The other day I reviewed the birthdate of Edgar Allan Poe: January 19, 1809. And Paul Bowles was another Capricorn. I get an eerie sensation from astrology, but it’s only a weakness of mine. Once I thought about buying myself a garnet ring or pendant, just as a token of my identity. Something to outlast the incarnate existence of myself. Still I know that sand is the residue of all stones… and the prime material of new ones.