They say it’ll be a mild day. I did an all nighter with a two liter of Coke but I feel okay, my mood good. Some days it’s hard to reach people, and others I get too much of them. Today is the first kind of day. I have an appointment tomorrow morning with Todd at the agency. But today there’s this big void to fill, a whole long day ahead of me. I did something rather capricious after eight o’clock: I tried emailing an old friend who lives abroad and who quit responding to my messages five years ago. I should know better. Now it’s going to make me kind of mad and frustrated if she doesn’t reply. I told her I’d been sober nearly five years, but I don’t think that’s what she wants to hear. If anything, maybe she’d prefer me as a drunk person, though that doesn’t make much sense. It’s difficult to read people sometimes. I believe there’s a lack of trust on her side. I might as well just drop it. What made me email her in the first place? This is a more pertinent question than why she doesn’t reply. Usually I sort of forget that I’m a guy and not just a neutral person. I have a guy’s motives. I think it’s something to do with the time of year, the August summertime, that triggers my impulses which remember old times. I believe I’ve been a complete fool since I got up this morning. And there’s a lot to be said for self control and rational restraint. The pain of desire is as bad as the pain of fear— depending on your values. I think James Joyce says something quite different from the Greeks of antiquity: more like Nietzsche. Still, one ought to beware of Dionysian passion and madness. This might be a long day. Would it be kinder of my friend to reply or ignore me?
Nine twenty five.
I slept in this morning, which was kind of nice but for some bad dreams about people I know from the community. My dreams are often quite realistic and plausible, and now that I’ve quit going to church, the “net” or filter of language has mostly dissolved and dropped away from me. This means that my dreams and feelings come through clearly with more force… I think an optimistic outlook is a good thing, and I wonder why I have this boding of gloom and doom at all times unless I catch myself and correct it with a rational response. The beauty that once was still is today as long as we’re looking for it. I don’t go to the extreme of Descartes saying I think therefore I am; this is probably backwards from the truth, and philosophy might be quite disposable in my opinion. But it’s a truism that the item of language is very difficult to overcome. Stripped of everything else, I still hear music in my ears, and music is just another language, a vocabulary of feeling rooted in mathematics.
Right now I’m relaxing with my dog in our family room. He’s had his breakfast of beef in gravy and my Snapple tea was great but I drank it too fast. Outdoors it’s quite warm and cloudy. I heard Lisa say that today is her first Friday on the job at the market. She seemed a bit stressed but she was handling it okay. Karen of the salon was jabbering on her phone when I passed her door, so I figured I wouldn’t interfere today. She appears to be always on her phone and doesn’t know how to prioritize between people in person and those on the phone line. This behavior comes across as a little rude whenever I try to talk with her. And voila just another case of crossed signals in human contact with each other.
Quarter of ten at night.
I’ve awoken feeling overheated because the dog was plastered up against my side in bed. Before I slept, I made some personal notes while the rain trickled down like a narcotic lullaby. I said that I miss my old friends from an alcoholic social network and observed what an outsider I am today, not really belonging to any group of people because I can’t commit myself to a particular system of beliefs. I certainly don’t feel like waiting for the Second Coming to have something like happiness with my existence, and I don’t think life has passed me by; instead, it should be just beginning. I’ve spent most of my life being meek and mild, the thrall and victim of authoritarian parents who handed me down to my siblings to control, until finally I broke away from the whole family quite deliberately. I remember having dreams of my mouth being sewn shut, and even in my sleep I tried to speak but couldn’t get the words out because of the stitches. And if not for the power of the written word, my life would still be out of my own control, yet you know it’s a real struggle even now. The world is set up to be a devouring cannibal, always keeping the upper hand and gainsaying my every thought, as if it were criminal to hatch one original idea. But the progress of the human species ultimately depends on original voices, much as our philosophers are stuffed into a bottle and thrown in the sea, a desperate message of distress afloat on the waves towards unknown shores very far from here… or a bottle stowed in a balloon and released on the winds to seek its fortune long away.
Eleven o’clock. I just got an email from my friend Mark, the drummer and composer who lives in the south part of town. He included a link to his Craigslist ad and asked me to call him tomorrow. I can hardly wait until then, though I’ll bridle myself and keep a level head.
I awoke at four o’clock and knew I was done sleeping for the night, so I got up and listened to Herb Alpert. I noticed that the bass, an old Fender with flat wound strings, sounded close to an acoustic upright bass, but then I heard the frets. The tone was incredible and the player was very good. He was very loud in the mix for the first three tracks, which I liked. The album is called Warm, and the Tijuana Brass recorded it after they re banded around 1970. All of the instruments are real, nothing is synthetic, and that means the musicians had to work much harder. Alpert actually sings on two songs: “Without Her” and “To Wait for Love.” Usually he plays trumpet, feeling every beat, every note that goes by…
I must be a weirdo, having music playing in my head all the time like a human tape recorder. People ask me if the music I hear is at least good and not annoying, and I don’t have a good answer for them. It’s something I’ve had to live with all my life. And sometimes, wouldn’t it be nice if we really could show our “nerves in patterns on a screen” to know exactly how each other feels and thinks, to share our interior experience with the world? Maybe someday we’ll possess the technology to do that, if anyone cares to know.
Quarter after eight.
This morning it’s overcast and not very warm outside. I will feed Aesop before I go to the market since we got up a bit late. Everybody is tired and uninspired from the lockdown. I’ve been feeling bored with my life recently, looking for something new and different to do in a day. The other day I spotted a woodpecker in my magnolia, though I’m not a birder necessarily. I’d rather be a watcher of people, quite honestly, but they make themselves scarce these days.
Nine ten. Heather was too absorbed in her phone to give me much attention when I stepped inside the store. It hit me as being rather rude, though she seemed oblivious of her effect on others. Maybe next time I’ll say something about it to her. She’s not a rational person, from what I’ve seen of her… I saw two great piles of wood where two trees had been destroyed on Fremont Avenue. One pile had a sign on it: “Free wood.” The other one said nothing. And this cold reticence begins to get on my nerves. I encounter it everywhere, and people don’t seem to give a damn how other people feel. It isn’t just my perception. Not an exaggeration—
Ten forty. My sister called, interrupting me in mid sentence. This was a nice thing to have happen. I’ve got Thomas Dolby music in my head, from The Golden Age of Wireless, while a gentle wind agitates the maple tree outdoors. The sun is out in the pale blue sky, shining on Roger where he works in his driveway. My sister talked to me about Halloween past and present, and how the pharmacy at Bi Mart is being taken over by a bigger company. The way of the world…
Quarter of seven.
At midnight I dug out my CD of Three Friends by Gentle Giant and spun it. The music brings back the time of being housed at Residence Inn on Club Road… I just saw the news headlines, all of which was bad news. Oh well. There must be some good news somewhere. Yesterday evening I finished reading the treatise on The One by Plotinus. I think it’s basically an ontological argument for the existence of God, sort of like saying that nothing can be made from nothing. All of the world of being depends on The One for its existence. I feel like reading the rest of Les Miserables, but the actual achievement of this is much harder. Victor Hugo is great, except he digresses a lot and throws in a lot of confusion… I can’t seem to write a good letter to my friend in the Southwest anymore. It’s very frustrating to communicate with ghosts.
Eight o five. Sometimes I just don’t give a shit about anything, and I defy anyone to pick a fight with me. Today is one of those days. Satisfaction is very far away. But then, the mood you’re in creates your reality. You think the way you feel and the converse. When you catch yourself being negative, you can stop the spiral by looking for positives. There’s one stressful thought behind all my negativity, and it’s about taking out the trash. I should probably just call the office of the disposal service and tell them my situation. There’s nothing else like clear communication between people. Just be honest and good will result. The only people who will punish honesty are those who are themselves very dishonest. By far the majority of people tell the truth, however, so you can trust them.
Nine twenty. I’ve left a voicemail for my sister and then I called the garbage people. The weather is cloudy and smoky. There’s an old punk song that goes, “This ain’t no f—g picnic,” and that just about says it all.
Nine ten. Besides Michelle, I was the only geek wearing a mask in public today. Everyone else ignored the mandate from Kate Brown, or maybe hadn’t heard the news about it. I met with more signs of life this time because I went out later than usual. People greeted me with a good-morning on Fremont Street, face mask or no. I saw Jessica in the store and said hi. She is shy and not very friendly, or perhaps it’s because I’m a guy… I left a voicemail for the PT people to cancel my appointment. My pretext was very reasonable: the heat is just too much for me…
I would like to do some more reading in Goethe today. I wonder if I should dig out the massive volume of him and pore over it? There’s always more to learn, even if people generally have discarded metaphysics and magic: mysticism in a word.
Ten o five. Across the street from my house, Roger keeps busy on a tinkering project, his head not in the clouds, but his mind on the matter. Of course I could be wrong about that. He might be wool gathering— or in his mind, inventing the greatest thing since the wheel. A perpetual motion machine will be reality even as I make guesses about Roger’s thinking. Somewhere, a mad scientist is creating life in a test tube, no zygote or cloning; just from the substance of life and a little electricity.
Eleven o’clock. The prospect of lunch calls me away. Reality bites.
I went to the store super early because I judged that I was free to do so. As I was on my way down my street I heard Aesop barking and crying for some reason; maybe he thought this was unusual for me. There is free will and then there are expectations from others. I saw one Black man inside the market and another guy in a motorcycle helmet. At the checkout counter nothing was extraordinary. I bought four pounds of Dog Chow and two Snapple teas. Michelle might’ve been a little paranoid. Coming home I passed an older couple who greeted me good morning very cordially. Kat was just opening her garage door when I was rounding the corner and said hello. Rather stupidly I showed her the dog food and she said you can’t do without that. I never know what to say to Kat. Her values are probably quite conservative, but you never know until you break the ice, and then you’re taking a risk. People are often not what they appear to be. I have another neighbor who keeps his wife in a pumpkin shell, to allude to the old nursery rhyme, and I always feel so sad for her. She could be having a lot more fun with her life, and meanwhile the decades fly away like sand off the desert dunes. Life can be an open and generous thing, like a bird on the wing, if we only seize opportunities as they are offered. Life also can be deceptive, a thing of duplicity, so again appearance may not be reality.
Eight thirty five.
Life is hard. It might be easier if we could survive without a thinking brain. If necessities grew on trees. We could dream our lives away like the Lotus Eaters. Never have to worry about sailing home to face hard realities and responsibilities. Instead, for us there’s no escape… I got a lousy sleep last night, so then I was up early. Finished business at the store and spoke with Michelle. She vented to me about the cost of healthcare and things she can’t afford… I just fed Aesop and I received a text message from Ron: “Psyched for Saturday.” I agree, it should be a good time. I just hope my body holds out; I’m not a spring chicken anymore. For just one day I’d love to have peace of mind. The weather is dry at least, with skies of lavender gray. January is usually a strange kind of month. Hopefully some of the oddity will go away in time.
Nine thirty. What’s really weird is the way life’s events seem to converge around me. Everything I do is a response to pressures from without. I said goodbye to Kate four years ago as I conformed to the spirit of the age. Who knows what might happen after today? The phrase “spirit of the age” was first used by Percy Shelley and his friends during the early 19th Century. They didn’t know that their historical period would come to be called Romanticism… I hear a mourning dove hooting in my backyard. What is he saying in bird language? But my neighbors are eerily silent. This could be a long day…
Two o’clock. I put Aesop outside and picked up more of my empty Snapple bottles. They’re in the garage now. The weather is beautiful this afternoon. Why can’t we just fast forward to New Year’s Eve and forget about the religious holiday? Am I the one who has a blind spot or is it everyone else? All the while, my book of Victor Hugo beckons me to read more.
Five o’clock. Twilight outside. I rested in bed for a while, and the sun was in my face as it declined in the sky. Clearly I miss alcohol, but there’s no recourse to the way it used to be, so I must adapt to the present circumstances. The biggest hurdle is the church. Or maybe it’s my attitude toward the church. I can’t decide what to do. Yesterday afternoon I had some odd thoughts about good and evil while I was poisoned by caffeine, sort of like religious delusions. Very uncomfortable. Caffeine is a wild card drug, always unpredictable… Philosophy is getting that much closer to religion in my experience. I’m coming near to a definitive answer Yes or No. And I wish S— would agree to meet with me in person someday. Today she told me she was not sure it would ever happen. The lyric to “Hello, Goodbye” occurs to me. I even played the bass line to it the other day. Now I think I know why.