Suburbia; Rob Roy

Anyway, the sun shines without mercy, though at least the high will be just 79 degrees today. The light from the sun looks a florid orange and the greens are all lit up, while the azure sky is deep and fathomless but void. You look straight up at it and see a rich powder blue, and down below here, people chase about their business as obliviously as the forgetful sky above. It doesn’t look much like the natural world of a Wordsworth poem. As I neared my house coming back, I saw a large dark bird with enormous wingspan in the air behind Lenore’s house: like a hawk or buzzard if it wasn’t some waterfowl. I didn’t get a good look at it.
It’s as though the moral virtue of nature and people had vanished from both. It’s also like The Hollow Men of T.S. Eliot, I suppose. You don’t get the sense that God is in his heaven, all’s right with the world like in Robert Browning. Our world has gone quite prosaic— unless it’s only me with these observations. All I had to do was take a walk outside and mark my surroundings. But maybe it’s different living in suburbia, shuffling the streets and sidewalks…
A crazy thing just happened on my phone. An emergency alert came up saying look out for a car stolen from someplace in CT or something like that. It didn’t say if the people were armed or anything. It’s just another example of how ours is not a romantic age anymore. Instead it’s looney tunes, and perhaps the politics here form a big part of it.
But there’s not much we can do about it. People are selfish and corrupt; those with power want to keep it and all their money, and screw the people who have nothing.
I wonder if Rob Roy is a good book?
Rob from the rich and give to the poor.

Routine Excursion

One forty.

I’m at the agency, in the lobby right now. The sun has come out from a mostly cloudy sky. The ride here was smooth and without incident and people are pretty nice. I just saw Cassidy walk in the door with his laptop and head towards administration deeper in the building. Mostly I’m just sitting and minding my own business. Often I have flashbacks to the times when I had a job here and denied that I was one of the clients myself. I was in far better shape than the other people, of course…

Three twenty five.

When I came out of my appointment I noticed T— sitting alone parallel to the front desk. She was afraid she had missed her ride home, so I let her use my phone to call the service. But just then, her taxi arrived: I went outside and the driver shouted who he was looking for, so I asked him to wait. My own ride came a half hour later. Our path took us through Skinner Butte Park, eventually to First Avenue. We passed a fancy liquor store and a bunch of weed dispensaries in the Whiteaker Neighborhood before arriving at the bridge where River Road meets Chambers Street. Continuing on to the Northwest Expressway, out of my left window I observed distant shafts of pale sunlight on the hills beyond the railroad tracks. Above another bank of clouds, the sun was implied in the reflection on a silver cloud like a flash in a pan. I said at the end of the drive that the gps’s were getting better all the time. The cabbie was a nice old guy with gray hair who put on glasses from time to time. And he agreed with me. 

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. 

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:


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. 


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.