Small Business

Ten o’clock.

I’m watching a house sparrow out of my glass door while hearing Tchaikovsky music inside my head. The convenience store was a desert again, owing to the Black Friday sales around town. It’s kind of nice to hang out home alone with my dog and my memories from when my parents were still alive. My favorite holiday year was 1993. The Musique Gourmet on Fifth and Pearl formed a big part of the experience. Today, Fifth Street looks a lot different. The Public Market is still there but the smaller businesses up and down the street are all gone, including MG and Cat’s Meow Jazz and Blues Corner, plus Escape Books, Perelandra Books and Music, and Monster Cookie Company. It’s like saying goodbye to a Renaissance or a Golden Age to remember them. 

Inside Perelandra they always burned incense, which was a bit irritating in more ways than one. Still, I bought a handful of books at that place. Their specialty was metaphysics. Once I purchased a book called Your Psychic Powers and How to Develop Them. It had a yellow cover and was a reprint of something very old. I guess I was susceptible in those days, and it probably seemed weird for a guy like me to walk into a shop like that. I notice now that my dad didn’t want to go in there, so I usually went on my own in my own car. He wasn’t interested in what he considered “far out” stuff. Also my psychiatrist told me I didn’t belong in the Western world. But it didn’t hurt my feelings… Much.

I still have that yellow book in a bookcase down the hallway. 

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Cabezas de Piedra

I was just observing more things about the difference between the River Road community and the bluer zones around town. It’s really remarkable, like the difference between life and death. I still would urge you to read Emerson’s essays when you have the opportunity. His stuff is quite relevant even today. In my neighborhood, people are selfish and hoarding, and any god they worship is a lifeless statue, just as Emerson describes. This is known as dogmatism. These conservative people resist change and the natural course of growth; they stop life from happening. It’s like being brain dead versus having a brain that works. Heads and hearts of stone. So obviously it is refreshing to get away to the blue places like Laurel Hill where you can actually breathe the air and feel something like natural. I’d much rather hang around vivacious spirits than reanimated corpses, those people gutted by tradition, each one a carbon copy of everybody else from generation to generation, insensible to the real spirit of nature that lives today if they would just tune in.

On the Town

Quarter after noon.

I needed that.

I took a ride to Laurel Hill to see Todd, my PNP, this morning, and I saw a lot of people, including Misty. She said she’d love to have me back for her DDA group so I took a calendar off the wall of the lobby. Also I saw Joy, who still works in the optical office of the agency. It was a nice break to get away from my own neighborhood for an hour. I made a point of observing whether the leaves were changing yet; it’s a bit early, though some greens were turned to gold. I told Todd that my thinking had been disorganized and the nostalgia of past autumns was overwhelming for me, and his answer was common sense: I need more social stimulation. Laurel Hill is located in a “blue” zone of town off of MLK Blvd, across the way from Alton Baker Park. Today they were giving away stuff like backpacks, notebooks and binders, etc for back to school. There had been a surplus of stock that wound up going to the agency. Every day there’s something new you can pick up for free. Cassidy asked me if I wanted another 40 pound bag of dog food which I declined because I hadn’t used up the last one… I feel as if I’d been housebound for a very long time, so it was excellent therapy to get out of my community today. Roger asked me about the person who’d been coming to my house, and guessed it was my sister. I explained that Gloria helps me with housework. The cabbies with Oregon Taxi were both really good; the first one talked with me about old music popular in the Eighties. He was a fan of Men at Work, the band from Australia way back when I was in high school. A lot of people wouldn’t remember those days.

A Sign of the Times

Quarter of two.

Roger vs the Hobo

I witnessed the most bizarre battle at ten this morning. A guy in an suv parked on my street and proceeded to steal stuff from our trash and recycle bins. When he got to Roger’s, Roger was on top of it and asked him not to take anything. I looked out the window and saw them tug of war with his green roll can. The hobo threatened to kick Roger’s ass but he let go his hold and went on his way, still stealing from other cans. Before this, however, he flipped the bird at Roger a couple of times.

People in general are acting very weird: they can be discourteous and even downright contemptuous, while the churches are dying: no sign of the Holy Spirit anywhere.

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.”

On a Banner

Quarter of seven.

Yesterday morning I walked past a roadkill squirrel on N Park and felt a pang of remorse. Squirrels are such happy creatures when you see them frolic around the neighborhood, chasing each other in twos and threes, taunting and scolding the dogs that try to catch them, and sometimes frying themselves on a power transformer… Later in the day I caught sight of a banner on the fence outside Randy’s car lot:

COMING SOON: WILL’S AUTO REPAIR… ON MAXWELL

I don’t know how I feel about that yet, though it seems like a weird time for someone to start a business anywhere, let alone on Maxwell Road. This place has always been poor and rather on the squalid side. The only business that gives it any respectability is Community Market— to say nothing bad about the salon. Everyone around here has had to struggle to stay alive financially, and it’s been the same way for forty years. Why doesn’t some rich person buy the community and spruce it up to make it prosperous again? But then it wouldn’t have the touch of personality and humanity that gives it the Maxwell vibe. According to Karen, Kelly Middle School will inherit the old North Eugene High School building on Silver Lane, and the Japanese immersion school gets the entire place on Howard Avenue. While everything changes, the general spirit of the neighborhood remains pretty much the same: kind of old fashioned, the way I remember it for all these years. Some kids are destined to fly this place and never come back. Others will stay and describe its history and speculate on its future.

Water on the Smoke

Quarter after one.

I played some Jaco and Mark Egan parts on my white Fender bass and it worked out pretty well, so I guess I’ll hang onto that axe rather than sell it. As I write this, the sun appears from behind the clouds and splashes the ground with pale yellow light. Two of the songs I played were from American Garage by Pat Metheny Group, way back in 1979. I never heard that music until ten years later, when I was a student at the university, reading a lot of British literature of the Renaissance and the twentieth century. But my taste in music was for American jazz at the time. I imitated Jaco on the electric bass and made quite a few home recordings, but I had no jazz musicians to play with while I was working on my degree. I guess there was no money in jazz for local players, or maybe my attitude was rather cocky, especially for a bass player. I wanted to play lots of notes like my heroes on the instrument, but Eugene was a Blues town and very slow and conservative. Also very hippie, like a throwback to the late sixties with some people. It’s weird to stand back and take a look around at the culture of Eugene: a friend of mine described it as a place of mostly rednecks and hippies. Almost all of the bands I played in used weed every day, as if it were their religion or something. The dividing line between hippie and conservative is often the drug of choice on each side… The more I think about it, the more I believe I should probably hang up the music ambition and just forget the whole thing. The music community in Eugene will never change, nor do I have the right to try to change it myself. 

Jungles

Seven thirty five.

I saw a few snowflakes on my way to the store just a bit ago, some stray spots of white. I formally met Kim, the person who is replacing Heather on weekends. Her hair is long and red and she seems like a nice woman. She addresses people as “sweetie” and “hon” whether she knows them or not. In general I noticed how rapidly things are changing for that little business and maybe for the world as well. Michelle is leaving pretty soon to go live in Wyoming with her family, and Heather has already gone. The store has switched distributors again, so that means different goods for sale. I know that the bottom line to every change is economics, making the most profit at the least expense. Every life is numbered and packaged in a compartment. It makes you want to live like a rustic or even a caveman sometimes. Grow your own crops and live off the land. Perhaps do a Thoreau: build yourself a log cabin in the woods. But doing this requires practicality and the ability to work with your hands. No city slicker would survive very long in the wilderness… My taxi is coming to pick me up after nine o’clock. I have a visit with Misty… Which is the more jungly, the country or the city? In either case, we have to survive. 

The Homeless for Mayor

Noon hour.

I’m sitting down by the fountain in Fifth Street Public Market. I’m alone, but it’s still nice and the weather is clear and sunny. Actually, there are other people around, shopping and just hanging out. I mind my own business just watching people and chilling out (quite literally; it’s rather chilly outside). I feel comfortable enough. At Smith Family I bought an old copy of Kierkegaard in hardcover for $20. The truth is that anything is better than staying home, being housebound all day. Some philosophers cloistered themselves in an attic and never saw anybody. Not that I’m a real philosopher. A wise person ought to be experienced in social stuff, and that’s not really me… It’s beginning to get too cold in this spot, so I’ll get up and wander around a little more. Life is very strange and alienating for a few people.

Quarter of two. Home again. On the ride back, we stopped at the big hospital to drop off two passengers. This meant a detour to Springfield before I could go home, but for $7 you can’t ask much more. What really struck me on my outing was how cold and impersonal most people were. At the bookstore, the women clerks were nicer than the guys, one of whom was almost rude to me. I browsed the shelves of the “modern classics” when a woman came in, boasting that she would be Mayor in a short time, and asked the manager for a donation. She also said she’d been homeless recently. And you know, that’s just how it is. Everybody’s invisible and fighting to be seen and heard; just to be acknowledged by others as human and alive and worthy of love. All of this goes on in broad daylight on a sunny day in Eugene Oregon. The sun, 93 million miles away from us, is friendlier than people are to each other. This is what I’ve seen. 

Country Mouse

Noon hour.

My therapist is concerned that I’ve been too withdrawn lately, so I think I’ll plan another trip to the bookstore, although I wouldn’t know what I was doing there. I could go to Smith Family for the sake of nostalgia, to remember my dad when we liked to knock about town in the mid nineties. I could go to Tsunami on Willamette to visit with Scott, if he even remembers me now. I used to sell him my books when I didn’t have any money. In those days I was more mobile than today, having my own vehicle and a different situation in life. It makes me feel nervous to consider going there because I’m a Highlander and Tsunami is in the rich south part of town where my psychiatrist still has his practice. I’m completely out of the habit of visiting the south hills of Eugene; it’s an intimidating prospect to me, plus it might trigger me to drink beer. The difference is like the Country Mouse and the City Mouse; like a person from Drain Oregon going to New York City and being totally outclassed and mortified by the culture shock. I’d be tempted to stay in North Eugene and embrace the place, even though it’s homely and plain, with values of meat and potatoes: basically, survivalism. But it’s where I live, judge it how you may. If Tsunami is a little too swanky then the happy medium is probably Smith Family on Fifth and Willamette, where Downtown Eugene starts.