Sundry Subjects

Quarter of seven.

In my mailbox this morning I found my prescription from Genoa pharmacy, so now I don’t have to pick it up in person. The post office people have been doing crazy things lately, just small unprofessional stuff, and they have an attitude about it, like refusing to deliver mail and lying about getting it done. Wtf is up with that? But the main thing going on with me is that I won’t be a masochist anymore. I think I’ve done my penance for a bad relationship that happened 23 years ago. I’ve tortured myself for long enough, so now it’s time to enjoy life once again.

Quarter of eight. The sun still struggles to gain the tree line across the street from me. The cloudy heavens are light gray where the sun doesn’t show. I’m thinking of a story by Borges, and I often resolve to read something more from him. Maybe today. Also there’s a short novel by Sturgeon I want to finish. It’s about telepathic youngsters, kind of like King’s fiction, but before he became popular. It’s interesting to trace the history of an idea to its origins. I’ve seen mixed reviews of the 40th Anniversary Moving Pictures by Rush. Mostly people didn’t like the packaging, and the liner notes precluded the lyrics in the booklet. The strong point was the Toronto concert to support the album. They say the sound quality was better than for Exit… Stage Left.

Quarter of nine. Gloria is coming at nine o’clock, and I’ve let Aesop know what is happening today so he’ll know what to expect. More gray clouds roll along the east side of the sky. 

A Rite of Spring

Midnight hour.

The wake of a beautiful sunny and warm day with a lot of social activity outdoors. During the mid afternoon I wandered over to the salon to chat with Kim about her successful divorce. She seems to feel quite good, or as she said, relieved. The first thing she will do is purge her house of everything that reminds her of her ex husband. And from there I strolled to the market for the usual treats. Deb asked me about my dog, so in kind I asked her about her cats, which she said were big and fat. She has tomorrow off, when she said she will mow the lawn and simultaneously get some sun. Every spring and summer Deb basks in the sun and turns a deep brown… Later, I waited at home for my yard guy to come and mow my lawns, but evidently he had other plans or something came up. Out in the street I could hear Diana calling to a neighbor, “Are you looking for your dog?” And I guessed the rest… I’ve read up to Chapter 8 of The Portrait of a Lady, impressed more by the style than the plot, which isn’t very kinetic, but kind of holds still for a dozen analyses. The writing is anything but crude. Its fineness and sensitivity are Victorian, a little bit boring, though the book may be worth getting to the end of. 

Pleasure

Quarter of eight.

Gloria is coming today at nine, but lately I’ve been feeling tired every day, so I’m not really looking forward to this. I don’t know of anyone who is actually clicking their heels these days. It’d be nice to believe in astrology, particularly the coming around of Jupiter to bring jollity. I wonder if it’s possible to conquer happiness as Bertrand Russell suggests? But it seems to be more like sunrise, sunset day after day. In this case we ought to appreciate the minutiae while they are still available to us. Dust off the Thornton Wilder book… The trip to market was pretty boring today. It’s Saturday, so the espresso shack wasn’t doing very well this morning. Lisa is always nice to me. My sense of things being larger than life is dwindling down to ordinariness. I realize that I’ll probably never be a rockstar, especially at my age. Even the local rockstars made it big one time, then spent all their money and faded back to relative obscurity. How do you get to be an icon in our culture? You have to be in the right place at the right time. It is best to set realistic goals, if you must have goals at all. And dust off the Thornton Wilder book.

Noon.

I feel tired and dizzy, probably from the Lipitor I take for cholesterol. My dog was amazingly good while Gloria was here. I was just thinking about the place of pleasure in human life, and whether it is the highest good, or if instead some people have it backwards. The work ethic is strong in some people. Others may be indolent epicureans, maybe alcoholics, and maybe they’d be smart to enjoy life. I always wonder what I am to do in the wake of addiction. Only time can sort this out. Nothing is very clear in the meantime. We just do the best that we can. 

Footlights

Wee hours.

I thought I would jot some words and see where they go. I woke up with Pat Metheny jamming in my head in the middle of the night, when I’d been dreaming of Shakespeare’s plays. Now it seems that I’d love to read The Tempest once again, if I never read anything else in my life. It would make me think of the crucial mistakes I made in love with somebody at a young and foolish age and try in my mind to rearrange history. On the other hand, it’s better to make errors and learn from them than to dwell on the past and repeat the things we did wrong. Another book on my list is still The Ambassadors, though this also would express a regret in my unconscious mind. I might be better off to open up The Octopus or something I’ve never thought of reading before. Or instead of reading anything, I could go take Aesop for a walk around the hood and have ourselves a little adventure. But not at two forty in the dead of night. There must be a way to go beyond what I learned in school thirty years ago, a way past bibliomania into a wider reality; but the real world offers nothing as exciting as the ideas found on a college campus: ultimately, in books and music, the theater and art exhibits. All the world’s a stage, but it is illuminated by genius. 

Jack London

Quarter of ten.

Business goes on at the market. Michelle is training another new employee, a gray haired woman named Lisa. She seems very nice as well as competent. As I arrived in the parking lot, I observed a woman wearing her jammies and a clownish red and white robe getting out of her car. She cursed when she dropped a bottle on the ground, and had an armload of plastic cups and other debris. Apparently she’s a regular at the store, because Michelle knew her and maybe Lisa too… It was rather calming to stroll off on my errand today. The gray clouds stood around the flat valley floor like sentinels. But there were no people outdoors at eight on a Sunday morning. I’m tempted to look at Russell’s history of philosophy today but his style is so dry and flavorless; quite a chore to read. Still I respect his reputation as a mature and responsible philosopher. Another impulse would have me read more Paul Bowles for his understated writing, a little like Jack London in places: impassive and naturalistic… The expected rain didn’t pan out, and in fact the whole forecast has changed to say cloudy weather all day… Speaking of Jack London, it’s been ages since I read “To Build a Fire.” I tend to underrate his stuff, but really some of it is brilliant.

Quarter after eleven. I found a good copy of his writings on the shelf. As I remember, London was a heavy alcoholic and he died young of its complications. After writing his ten thousand words daily, he permitted himself to drink. Once he tried suicide the fast way by drowning himself. It’s kind of strange to consider being so close to that threshold, yet I did something very similar with my life. The most pertinent question is, Why? 

Proportion

Quarter of nine.

During the wee hours this morning I got up and read 15 pages of Richard Wright. He made an observation of freedom that was reminiscent of Sartre, except three years before the publication of Sartre’s big essay. Native Son is a gut wrenching read because Bigger gets himself into such trouble. Sometimes I have to take my reading in small doses… It rained on me on my trip to market today. Michelle had been worried about my reaction to the antidepressant. I’m feeling better gradually. I remember something a meter reader said to me a few years ago when I worried about the condition of my back gate. I stopped her and apologized for the situation. She looked at me like I was stupid and said, “I haven’t had a problem all day.” It only proves that you never know what other people are thinking. You might as well let yourself off the hook and stop feeling guilty. I wonder why people don’t use cognitive therapy anymore. It’s a very useful tool to parry the thoughts that cause depression. I think it’s a lot better than Jungian psychology and everything that overemphasizes religious ideas. Cognitive therapy is realistic and based on evidence, plus it really works for depression and even schizophrenia.

Quarter of ten. A good author for reinforcing cognitive therapy is actually Jane Austen, so maybe I’ll finish reading Sense and Sensibility, focusing on Elinor more than her sister. I could use a good infusion of proportion and sanity today. 

Pirandello

Six thirty.

I’m in a cloud of worries about a lot of things, but foremost I have to confront my therapist about the future of my sessions with him. I’ve been so confused and messed up lately. I don’t want to drink again, and I don’t think I will, though it’s very difficult for me to resist the call of the beers sometimes.

Eureka! I found my copy of the plays of Luigi Pirandello on the shelf. I’d been dreaming about it during the night and now it’s a reality. I want to reread Six Characters in Search of an Author to explore ideas of freedom versus determinism for human beings. I almost wrote a paper on the topic when I was a student a long time ago but did Eliot instead. Today, it’s like unfinished business for me to learn the truth of human freedom and how it is possible to think about it.

I believe it’ll be a good day today. Daylight has arrived, gray blue and cloudy. Michelle might be back to work this morning; I hope she feels all right on the job. I’ll know for sure when I go to the store in another hour. I’m waiting for the Monday rush hour to die down before I set out. 

Quixotic: A Letter

I read and skimmed the chapter on Sartre in my new book by William Barrett, and I came away from it feeling inspired and rejuvenated. I wrote some notes in my journal, arriving at the conclusion that human freedom has no limits, at least from certain perspectives. I know it probably sounds too optimistic, or “idealistic” in a naive sense of the term, yet what else is philosophy for if it can’t exaggerate a little? And now I’ll finish reading Native Son to see what ideas the story bears out.

I bet I sound like a kook to you with my talk of freedom and so forth, but it’s still important to me. Maybe there’s something kind of Peter Pan about libertarian ideas. However, the implications of liberty in the abstract are far reaching, and it’s a serious philosophical issue with a lot of relevance to our lives. Someday there’s a couple of books I want to read in their entirety: one is Being and Nothingness and the other is Don Quixote. In my experience with Cervantes and Shakespeare, the former is about individual freedom, the latter is deterministic and fixed, more like Freudian psychology. It’s interesting that the two writers were contemporaries and died on the same day in 1616. For me, it’s kind of either/or, one or the other, and I think I pick Cervantes.

I remember when in college I was sort of forced to accept Shakespeare and Freud, the unconscious, the idea of nature, and all that, after I’d been exposed to Sartre and other philosophers, plus Don Quixote. There’s a world of difference between these two angles. It might be said that the idealistic side has no common sense, hence the meaning of “quixotic.” And then you have to consider the role of Sancho Panza, the one who has sanity and a clear head. Sancho is realistic.

I don’t know about all of this, but I’m just getting started with my exploration of the possibilities, and the Barrett book fueled the fire for me today.

Saturday Babble

Quarter of nine o’clock.

Today I’m kind of glad for the bland weather. We’re actually getting a real winter this year, whatever they may say about climate change. I believe I’m nearly over the virus I had for a week; I feel much stronger and healthier now than last weekend. And my mood is good today. Aesop gets bacon strips, the kind processed by Purina in the yellow pouch. Yesterday afternoon I received the new Ulysses book from Amazon. It is so beautiful that I hesitate to desecrate it with my touch. I know a bookshop owner whose brother can read a book and leave it still looking immaculate. He barely opens it up when he’s reading, to protect the spine. Tsunami is a neat little shop in the south of town on Willamette. I haven’t been there in years but I still think of it. Scott is a good man and very fair in business. When I didn’t have any money I used to bring him books to sell. The very same books had been rejected by shops in North Eugene; they couldn’t use classics, which had no value to them. They were after Louis L’Amour and Danielle Steele… What is it with me and books? But I’m not alone in bibliomania, this worship of totems.

Nine forty.

My dog just had his breakfast of canned food. The air outside is as still as death. A while ago I saw a fox squirrel through the window, but there’s no sound of birds at all, not even crows. I wonder what happened to them? When I was younger I used to listen to a local radio station that played elevator music, but it was really quite good. Often they put on George Benson’s “Gimme the Night” and “Follow the Sun” by The Beatles; also “Do You Want to Know a Secret.” It was good for me when I felt anxious or depressed, in the days before my illness. Above all, I’m very thankful that my virus is gone. 

Centennial

Nine o’clock.

Another dreary winter morning with a touch of fog. Cold: 37 degrees out. Frankly I’m depressed lately, so it was an effort to drag my feet to market today. Heather had on her Ghost of Gatsby T-shirt, an advertisement for a local rock band. I understand that they’re pretty good, though I imagine they are much younger than I am. I’m a dinosaur of rock, pretty much. I like most things that are done intelligently and with quality. Accordingly, this morning I bought myself a new hardcover copy of Ulysses, and I realized then that this year is the centennial of its publication in 1922 in France. Its theme of universal love makes me self conscious of the way I proceed about my life: am I a hypocrite? I’m just an old bachelor, irresponsible and free as a bird, instinctively pulling away from entanglement with women. I don’t want to compromise in any way for any reason; and the price of this is the loneliness I often feel. Can I honestly say “I love everybody” when everyone is a stranger to me, or is this a kind of intellectual stunt, a delusion by dint of mental gymnastics? It’s the sort of objection that Sartre would raise. Maybe it’s easier to feel universal love with a bellyful of beer or wine? Aesop is hungry for breakfast, so I won’t put it off any longer…

Ten o’clock. I’m trying to think of a counter argument to support Joyce. The world would be a better place if everyone held the same love in their hearts and shared it with everybody. It is good to read Ulysses because we all could use a dose of humanization. We all need to be churched in James Joyce.