I wish I felt better than I do today. I’ve been reading a sci-fi short novel by Pohl and Kornbluth, full of wild action and adventure. It gives me interesting dreams at night sometimes of being kidnapped or shanghaied and left for dead by some enemies. Maybe I can finish it today or tomorrow. The novel is part of a set of volumes I bought last September for my sobriety birthday. The next birthday is just next month: four years clean and sober. I think I’m anticipating it… Mike is bringing my stuff back at one o’clock, and then the business is pretty much finished.
Four twenty five. I did a lot of reading in The Space Merchants. When I put the book down, it suddenly hit me: I quit the band! That’s a huge move for me, not without regrets. But then I remember that last practice that was such a disaster because of substance abuse. It wasn’t my fault; they sabotaged themselves and wasted my time a week ago.
Quarter of ten.
I slept or slumbered about four hours. It was an interesting kind of day today, and Sunday night is usually rather dead. One of the most memorable books I ever read was Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny when I was fifteen and a high school sophomore. My parents didn’t care what I read, and besides, I was old enough to choose my own reading material. It was weird how out of touch with reality my parents were; just thoughtlessly marking time with whiskey and cigarettes and apathetic about everything. I guess they weren’t very smart; but I can say one thing good for them. They bought this house and paid it off before dying so I wouldn’t have to worry about having shelter. And so I could go on dreaming little dreams and big dreams of faraway places and things like the perfect realm of Amber in the Zelazny book. And who’s to say who is out of touch with reality? We all need a good escape now and then: a dream to implement, which is the meaning of Blake’s Poetic Genius. Whatever proceeds from this is right. It builds Jerusalem on England’s green and pleasant land. It takes you on the long road trip with Corwin and Random to the forest where Julian hunts you down on the way to the palace of Amber. The perfect realm is a place inside your head.
I don’t know what to do with my book of Jack Kerouac. Perhaps I’ll just place it in the book share on Fremont Avenue; it’ll be a great score for somebody, a beautiful new volume still wrapped in plastic. But no; if I see Ron again, I’ll give it to him… The summer sunshine repeats itself outside.
Quarter after nine. I talked with my sister for an hour. She said her son is on the mend from the virus. It wasn’t one of our better conversations, however. Now I’ve got the rest of the day unspoken for. Very quiet in the house, and the day is still young. It might be a good time to go out someplace, except the weather will be very hot and uncomfortable. The thought of drinking beer crosses my mind, but I’m not serious about that. I can play my bass guitar this afternoon, but by myself is not the same as with other people. So it makes me wonder if sobriety is really worth it when you end up all alone. Life is always difficult for one reason or another. A song by The Motels occurs to me: “Only the Lonely.” It reminds me of my mother’s solitude when I went to high school, and how I made a pact with myself to be her friend in that time. I never knew my own identity because of my sacrifice, yet I still think it was the right thing to do. Today I can relate to her loneliness; she was just a little too smart for her own good.
Quarter after ten. Something bugs me now. I still feel like getting loose with a beer buzz or whatever. I remember the trips I used to take to the coast with my brother, sitting on the balcony of our room, looking at the ocean and drinking beer after beer in the sun. This was my brother’s reality, and I participated in it with him like a kind of religion… until my addiction nearly killed me and I had to stop… Roger fired up his collectible truck and drove away to Highway 99. Life goes on even without alcohol. How would it be to reread A Separate Peace by John Knowles? A classic novel about envy; about the irrational, and the unaccountability of human behavior. Sometimes it’s not all lollipops and lemon drops.
Quarter after ten.
My burrito was good. Aesop ate his breakfast after he understood the cost to me. He even understands when I ask him, “Are you mad at me?” His attitude softens and he wants to make peace. Very smart dog. I hear a pressure washer somewhere near, and a conversation in my street. I’ve quit eating my heart out about the girlfriend who ghosted me in 2017. Still, I imagine it’ll be hard for me to listen to an album like Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band for the memories it triggers. I guess just don’t listen to that CD. The clouds have formed a solid white sheet that admits only a bit of sun. The religious thinking is going away, giving way to realism again. I really enjoyed Silas Lapham by William Dean Howells and might look into The Octopus by Frank Norris. The opening chapter was very powerful with its description of a train plowing into a flock of sheep that had wandered onto the tracks… Didn’t sleep well last night, so I feel rather wiped out. It doesn’t bother me much anymore who is the US President, or how this would affect my sobriety. Staying sober is an independent thing from all other issues. I had bad dreams about my dad last night. He was a real jerk because no one liked him, and vice versa: a vicious circle…
The chatterboxes in the street are still going at it. I don’t want to know what they’re prattling about. You can’t pick your neighbors, usually. Probably the ones I have don’t like me, just as they disliked my mother.
Eleven twenty five. I’ve got oodles of time to do whatever today. However, days often go by when nothing gets done. And I suppose I’m okay with that.
“Dawn is a feeling
“A beautiful ceiling
“The smell of grass just makes you pass
“Into a dream
“You’re here today
“No future fears
“This day will last a thousand years
“If you want it to”
I’m watching the gray and citrine sunrise out of my front window. I got a pretty good sleep this time because I was very tired from the exertion yesterday. I’m also waiting to get an email from my Texas friend. The convenience store doesn’t open on Sundays until seven o’clock, so I’m basically twiddling my thumbs in the meantime. Like the guy in The Stranger by Camus, I’ve never cared for Sundays. In the days when I used to work, I even loathed Sunday because of the prospect of Monday morning. I was in a strange limbo back then, not daring to dream or think of being anything like a qualitative person. I remember one day on a weekend wanting to read some Lewis Carroll for the idea of being transported to a different reality by falling down the rabbit hole or going through the looking glass. But I denied myself this luxury because I had to stay focused on the material world, which seemed so alien to me, and so unpleasant, like wearing a hair shirt or something else to mortify the flesh. And the bondage was never ending, since every weekend was inevitably followed by another Monday. So anyway, on that day, when I thought of flying over the rainbow, I don’t remember what I did with the Lewis Carroll book. Perhaps I took it off the shelf and indulged myself in a little humanness, even though it was dangerous to do so.
Six thirty. Now the light of the sun hits objects in the living room, and rather than being a galley slave chained to my seat, I’ve passed permanently to Wonderland.
Going to the store was quite nice this morning. Heather gave me some jerky strips for Aesop and was smiling at me when she thought I didn’t know it. Compared to yesterday, I have a bit more common sense today. My sister may try to call me, but I will just let it ring. There is band practice this afternoon at one o’clock. I have to take a few things with me: a small hex wrench, a guitar pick, and gifts for the guys.
Nine o’clock. The air outside is immobile as death; supposed to get up to 90 degrees, and with no breeze it’ll feel warmer. The house is super quiet right now. The last time I read a book was over a week ago: John Berryman. But I find contemporary literature dysfunctional and disturbing and not very didactic. From Emerson to Philip Roth shows quite a moral decline, like reading the “General Prologue” to The Canterbury Tales. It takes one genius to spearhead a literary movement and a host of successors to screw it up. Perhaps due to the cooler weather, my wits have come back and I can think again about virtue of the Emersonian kind. I didn’t care for June and its events in my life. Hopefully July will bring better things.
Ten o’clock. I have a gorgeous big volume of Montaigne that I haven’t even begun to sample, so that’s something I can do on a quiet day.
I guess I was feeling kind of festive, because I bought a big bag of Doritos and some chunky salsa for a treat, plus two Snapple teas and a peanut butter bone for my dog. The same music by Prokofiev still dances in my mind, making me feel pretty happy. My band is probably going to rehearse tomorrow early in the afternoon; looking forward to that. The morning haze is going away while the sun comes out. It’s supposed to be warmer today, but still under 90 degrees… Family dynamics are strange things, particularly the language shared by the members, in which their beliefs are couched. I feel a bit uncertain about avoiding my relatives, yet otherwise I’d never be free and happy. In fact, I’d be miserable if I had to think the way my family thinks. So I suppose I’ll quit kicking myself about it and try to enjoy my life… Although I’m not wealthy by any stretch, my financial situation is fairly secure. I have enough to live comfortably, and that’s all I need.
Eight thirty. A little while ago, someone dropped off a package of snacks for Aesop. Just now I brought it in from the doorstep while my dog went bananas, barking his head off… Is individual freedom just an illusion? Sometimes it feels like we’re all in this together, everybody tied to everybody else with strings. You can do something unique, but you still jerk the strings attached to your neighbors. Beyond the family of blood relations sprawls the much bigger family of humanity. There’s a passage in Absalom, Absalom! I should look up that addresses this condition of bondage to family.
Nine thirty. On the other hand, an individual knows what he knows and there’s no reversing knowledge. It’s hard to say what is the right policy to adopt with relatives. Maybe I’m no more than a windbag. Another observation: it might be better not to intellectualize my feelings and life situations, but rather respond to them from the gut. Thus, a book by William Faulkner has nothing to do with me, and every circumstance is unique to the person experiencing it. Therefore, I should listen to my instincts and act accordingly.
Quarter after eleven.
I was able to relax and fall asleep for about four hours this evening. I had some more driving dreams, and this time I didn’t get lost or separated from the car. It seems that I had a job as a volunteer to help people, kind of like what I did for the cancer society when I was 26 years old. Before dropping off to sleep, I thought about the tone of the times. Everything would be peachy if I didn’t have to deal with my sister on the phone every weekend. Somehow, hearing from her does violence to my peace of mind. The difference between her and my mother, again, is night and day, or perhaps religion and rock and roll.
But the problem is not the Bible itself; it’s only a book, which without a reader just sits there on the shelf. The problem resides with the interpreter.
I don’t know much about the career of Martin Luther, but one thing he did was to publish the Bible in German to be available for everyone to read for themselves. The historical significance of this is huge, for it liberated individuals to interpret the Word of God away from the Church. So now, looking at my sister and myself, my understanding of Jesus ought to be equally true with her own reading. Is this a form of relativism, and do some Christians see it as a bad thing; or instead does it restore the Bible to its original integrity, speaking different truths to different people?
Luckily I am no theologian.
Cloudy morning again, and the sprinklers were just on. Music: “Teen Town.” Since yesterday afternoon I’ve been in a Jaco state of mind. I played his lines from Hejira by Joni Mitchell yesterday on the jazz bass I put together from a kit. That was fun, while outside my window the wind whipped the rhododendrons and the maple tree, as though nature had an answer to the thunder I was making.
Quarter of eight. I only spent about ten bucks on my food today. I didn’t encounter much on my trip. I could hear some bird twitters but saw nothing: no birds, squirrels, or cats anywhere. The world seems to be sleeping in, and it’s an early Saturday. The temperature is very warm: 57 degrees outside. I feel inclined to dig out my Wallace Stevens and study “The Man with the Blue Guitar.” I first read it when I was a junior in college, and barely grasped the concepts. Winter term that year was like a dream to me, gazing out the window on the third floor of Gilbert Hall, observing the rain on the pavements and the people who appeared like mindless automatons. I had no idea where life was taking me, so I sat back and enjoyed this Eldorado known as college… On the Maxwell sidewalk I reflected that my second grade teacher mocked me for swinging my arms when I walked. And then it struck me that the old Silver Lea school is now a heap of dust. Nothing remains of it except in my memory.
Quarter of nine. Aesop just had his beef vegetable stew and now we’re sort of in limbo for a while. Roger’s garage door is open while he tinkers with a project. In my head I hear “Singing All Day” by Jethro Tull, a very old song collected on Living in the Past. But sometimes the old songs are the very best ones.
I was feeling desultory on my way to the market a while ago, and undecided on what stuff to get. I took my time, debating this or that purchase, finally choosing some tortilla chips and fresh pico salsa for a treat. I don’t know if I deserve to reward myself, but life has been unusually hard for the past month or so, and there seems to be no explanation for it. People give each other hell when they could just as easily love each other and forgive. Even when we have the power to build heaven on earth, we choose the alternative out of short sighted greed, lust, or some unreasoning hate for one another. I guess that’s excuse enough for me to enjoy my Doritos and salsa in peace. Now I consider a powerful poet like Robert Browning. It’s the kind of day to take a look at Pippa Passes and ponder why the girl is so happy, and meanwhile others are plotting a murder… I hope I get a call from Heidi this afternoon. An hour ago I observed the female sparrow feeding her young in that old birdhouse. The mother carries on the ritual of life just as if she had hope within her heart. Then what is it that makes human life so difficult? Maybe I’m simply melancholy like Hamlet. Why carry the weight of the world on my shoulders?
Nine o’clock. I dreamed this morning that it was my brother who stole my identity, but in reality it’s unlikely. Whoever it was, dishonesty sucks. I slept so soundly that I didn’t hear the sprinklers turn on at six o’clock. The band agreed to have a rehearsal this Sunday at four o’clock, and I’m happy about it. This may be the creative catharsis I’ve needed for over two weeks. There’s no other panacea like music. It would be really cool if we made a few good recordings this time. I think I’ll suggest it to the guys.
Looking out my window, it appears to be mostly cloudy right now, and it feels considerably cooler in the house. Tomorrow it might even rain a bit. Years ago my old psychiatrist said, “There is life without alcohol.” At the time, I couldn’t imagine what that would be, but today I have a better idea. Sobriety has involved one or two big sacrifices in my life, but in return I gained mental clarity and the pure pleasure of using my intellect… I guess I’ll go now to the store for my morning Snapples. I hope Michelle is having a good day.
Seven o’clock. She gave me the promo deal on the Snapples just on the strength of my word; for some reason it wasn’t in the computer system. So I saved myself a dollar today. Michelle has a cat that needs to lose four pounds. The dairy distributor was there and they were about to do inventory of the delivery. All the while, my brain has been playing a passage from The Miraculous Mandarin, a great dark ballet by Bela Bartok. I don’t know why… I noticed yesterday a couple of guys outside of Betty’s old house in leathers and studs with wild hair, apparently rock musicians. Now I question my involvement in a rock and roll band, especially when we have one member who does a lot of alcohol and gets surly if he can’t drink. I’m contemplating bagging the whole idea of playing local gigs. It isn’t really consonant with my character, never mind that I have the ability. However, a jazz fusion group could be a different ballpark. I suppose it’s one day at a time.
Eight forty. It’s probably going to be a dull day for me; no engagements with people in person. I could follow through on my curiosity about the fiction of John Dos Passos. This might be a good day for reading and staying quiet.