A Four Letter Word

Wee hours.

The last time I read the poetry of E.E. Cummings, his nihilism disturbed me. He was saying that there’s no difference between love and death, being and non being. But in my experience, there is a phenomenon that cements people together no matter what their opinions are. It’s a force that transcends friendship and loyalty. It is a four letter word, not a curse, but a blessing… The events of Saturday evening really impressed me. Karen stopped me as I passed by her salon to tell me about Kim. What drove her to do that, in the midst of so much strife over what we believe? And then I met up with my band to make music in spite of everything that has happened in the world. What motivates musicians to do this? On another day, Michelle at the store gave a homeless panhandler a cup of coffee because it was cold outside. Why did she care about a complete stranger? Because we sympathize with each other, yet the idea is even simpler, and the word a monosyllable. 

Close to Home

Eight twenty five.

The next day it rained. I had planned to do some soul searching today, but now I think I’ll just have a day in the life. My dreams this morning concerned issues of control and why I read so many Tarzan novels in my youth. Maybe it doesn’t matter what I fed my mind with when I was young. The last therapist I saw seemed to think that being a control person was a problem. I’m not even sure what she meant, and what would be the alternative to being in control? I asked her that and she had no answer. She was full of buzzwords and cliches and hadn’t really thought anything through. I don’t think she was capable of original thought but instead sponged her ideas from current trends. A lot of people do that. The result is that people go around prattling nonsense they know nothing about. They were never taught critical thinking skills in school, or how to think rather than what to think. It seems that society doesn’t encourage freethinking anymore. We’ve done away with philosophy classes in some schools or made them an elective to the point where students don’t bother with them. But without philosophy, people have no compass to steer their lives by. They just shoot the chutes of mass production and become model citizens with little self knowledge.

Quarter of ten. I observed something strange on my way to the store this morning. Two guys were working on the roof of a shed where Derek lives. Parked at the curb was their truck, a big white pickup with “Redneck” on the windshield and a Confederate flag for license plates, no number anywhere. Only a block away from them, Chico was still doing yard work for a neighbor on my street. I just hope that Aesop and I are safe here at home. It’s been raining all morning, so I took my umbrella to the market. People were fairly civil to each other inside the store, patiently waiting in line like they’re supposed to. I just wish I could do something to moderate the extremes I see in my neighborhood. What has the world come to? And how can we repair the damage? The situation is enough to make anybody paranoid. 

Saturday Night Jam

Midnight hour.

When I was walking past the salon in the afternoon sunshine, Karen came out and flagged me down to tell me that Kim’s shoulder surgery didn’t go very well, and to keep her in my prayers. I understand that she’s in quite a bit of pain and sleeps most of the time. I was on my way to band practice with bass guitar in hand. 

Ron was already there when I arrived at Mike’s studio and knocked on the door. Mike said I could walk right in, joking that only cops ever knock. Our practice went pretty well, but the energy was less intense than the jam the week before. After two hours and twenty minutes Ron said he was tired, so we called it a night. A few times I had doubts about my involvement in music during the time we played. It seemed like an activity done better under the influence of alcohol. And generally, I realized that alcohol enhances pleasure I take in everything else in life. It’s like seasoning for a meal. In its absence, the meal is more of a chore to eat. It doesn’t taste as good but I suppose you still have to eat it… The tone of my bass through the new amp was pretty massive and powerful. I liked it. Low G on the E string hit me in the right spot. I think I had the most fun playing “Burning Coal” last night, a riff in G7 that goes on infinitely, no bridge or anything.

All in all, it was a good practice. Maybe we can add a new song to our repertoire before next time. Mike made a good point in passing, and this was that we need organization. I think this is true in general, so maybe we can open a discussion about it. 

Restored

Quarter after nine.

It’s mostly sunny and below freezing this morning. I got wise and indulged in my quart of Snapple tea today. I feel better for it. On my way to buy dog food I passed a crew of workers led by a Mexican. The side of his white pickup truck read Chico Yard Service. Evidently they were paid to remove some debris from a neighbor’s property. Aside from that I ran into nobody during my walk. There was one other Mexican pedestrian, but he was a distance behind me. He caught up to me at the store. Melissa wore a black hoodie with the motto, “Nothing is under control” on the front. I smelled something that had burnt behind the counter, which corroborated the statement. No one was in back of me when I checked out. My pace was quite slow, subdued by the frigid weather. In one of his writings, Jack London describes the murderous cold of the Yukon, as if nature were intelligent and intent on killing people. I’d forgotten how good he is at his style of brutal naturalism. So I got home with Aesop’s canned food and gave him breakfast close to nine o’clock. I’ve got band practice this afternoon. Mike’s place is just a fifteen minute walk away. Like a wandering minstrel I will tote my bass in its gig bag, and hopefully no one will mistake me for a sniper or something.

Quarter after ten. This is Saturday, a non business day for many. It’s a nice breather from the worries of the week. I did my church duty last night, and now I can forget about it. I hear a chainsaw laboring outside: probably Chico’s people. Sounds of shouting off to the west of me. Are things back to normal again? I guess it depends on how you define normal. But I for one feel relieved that the madness has gone away for a while. 

Torn

Eight fifty.

It’s almost time to feed Aesop. He doesn’t care that Joe Biden is being sworn in this morning. And maybe it isn’t such a big deal after all. I got another scam call regarding the warranty on my car, when I don’t own one. In the mail last night I received the Sandburg book. I’m very pleased with it. I read twelve pages early this morning… Now I have to go to the store. Hopefully they’ll have some of those sandwiches.

Ten o five. I came upon my neighbor Willie and his small dog Rosie on the return trip from the store. He saw me coming down Fremont and stopped and waited up for me. Willie has long white hair and a goatee. He’s always pleasant to talk with. His street is the one parallel to mine to the east. Once when I was out walking in the summertime I took his picture with my Kodak PixPro. It was my new toy and I shot everything for a while. Right now it’s quiet and peaceful in the neighborhood. Things seem to be settling down and people can breathe again. Perhaps now we can move on with the new year. First thing this morning I found another good book of analytic philosophy in my stuff. It’s about time for unfounded metaphysics to be put in its place, at least for me. Church is all right with me if it’s just about the people, but I’m not into the supernatural. I think my dog believes in ghosts and things he can’t explain, but human beings ought to know better. I just remembered a passage from Blake. Newton blows the trumpet of doom and consequently the angels in heaven crash down to earth. This is to say that science kills the religious imagination. Possibly I should think on this a little more. It’s hard to know what’s right. 

And the Word Is…

Six o’clock.

I didn’t sleep very well. I had nightmares and in general just couldn’t relax. Also I felt like I couldn’t get enough oxygen. I’m probably overtired from Saturday evening. Music: “Show Me” by The Pretenders. I remember listening to them the term I took my Chaucer class in spring 1990. What a great guitar band they were. Simple but also tasty in their choice of chords, the same way as The Police. Chrissie Hynde had a lot of heart. “Brass in Pocket” reminds me of going to the grocery store with my mother when I was in junior high school. She would go off to shop while I perused the books on the stands. Thinking now, I can’t believe the trash I read at that age, yet it served to build my vocabulary. Some of the reissued pulp fiction from the thirties was pretty good, especially the original Conan tales.

Ten twenty. Karen has hired someone new at the salon, starting tomorrow. She says that Angela has lost her enthusiasm for work, her whole attention absorbed by homeschooling her kids. And Kim has other problems. I suggested something vague about Karen being too much of a Good Samaritan. She hires people with issues, and farther down the line it hurts her business. But it’s up to her how she does things. Everything that’s going on lately is a little too much for my poor brain to process. It makes me glad that I’m only a musician. I’ll try giving Polly a call in a bit. I feel sort of weepy and sad, and pulled in different directions simultaneously. Everyone is so different and does things for different reasons. I can’t sort it all out. Maybe no one asked me to. Maybe it’s me putting pressure on myself. I wonder if I’m alone in feeling this way?

Show me the meaning of the word…” 

Before and after Band

Two thirty. Hard to believe that Vicki got fired last November. I was so used to seeing her every day, though I can’t say I really liked her much. She became an anachronism in the little market, a fish out of water. Everything else changed, but she didn’t. I feel bad for her. And it’s true how much the store has changed since May 2019, when Belinda sold the business and the run of history would be altered forever. No going back.

It’ll be time to go to practice pretty soon. Stay calm. It should go well. A lot of life is free will and making good choices. And that is a matter of wisdom.

Wee hours.

Practice went great again. While we were playing, I noticed a transformation beginning within myself, a revival of my creative spirit. This is related to my philosophical beliefs about determinism versus free will, and I think creativity depends on a libertarian perspective. Also while playing music, I was able to arrest intrusive thoughts and just concentrate on my business. We jammed for nearly three hours yesterday evening. Messed around with “The Mincer” at one point. Ron told me that he’d gone back and listened to Starless and Bible Black, saying he’d forgotten how good it was. During the solo section of one of our songs, I found myself playing the bass line to “Fire” by Jimi Hendrix. The tone of my Fender bass sounded great. I need to figure out how to manipulate the pre gain and post gain controls on the new amplifier, and maybe cut the high frequencies a bit. The sound I was getting was very bright. 

Weariness

Seven thirty five.

I got quite a restful sleep last night, so today is already off to a better start than yesterday. It’s the first light of dawn out. The sky looks gray with clouds, though currently there’s no rain. Amazon tells me that my new hoodie has been delivered. I ordered it in gold, and I think it should be rather pretty… I retrieved the package and put on the sweater: the color is bright and reflective. I really like it. My band will practice again today at four o’clock. We’re going to try out my new bass amp in our studio. I will run my blue Fender through it. Last night I went to church with Roxanne and did my duties of singing and reading. Pastor was downhearted and nobody was really bursting with joy. I felt tired and apathetic. Still, we got it done. Now it’s time to go to the store.

Nine ten. I encountered no one on the street; only a cat that I startled. When I approached the doors of the market, two cars pulled into the lot, but otherwise the place was pretty deserted. Or maybe the emptiness is inside of me? I thought of how we’re all forced to wear a mask in public just because someone said so. I read that the death toll from the virus has reached two million worldwide, yet it still seems kind of unreal to me; more like an exercise in obedience. It surely hasn’t been much fun. I picture myself in the parking lot of that silly little store, observing the drastic changes over the years. This is the pain of having a long memory, seeing things change irrevocably, leaving behind people and good times that I loved. You may wish to freeze and dogmatize the progress of the world, all to no avail. Time moves in one direction only. Turning back clock and calendar is denial. So we move on with the current of life… 

A Human Mirror

Quarter after eight.

It was another red dawn today: “Red skies at morning, sailor take warning.” I hesitate to go out in the cold, would rather be comfortable indoors. Tomorrow there is church again at seven o’clock. I plan to go and participate. I hope Roxanne is feeling okay. During the wee hours a while ago I started reading The Gray Notebook by Josep Pla out of a nagging curiosity regarding the content and his attitudes in general. It had been a big mystery to me. Fifteen pages into the book, it appears to be simply a realistic diary of a person’s life, starting with his family background and the people he has known in his native Spain up to his 21st birthday in 1918. I think his project is to describe things with very little personal bias, being a human mirror of the life around him. This is sort of the contrary of Romanticism, full of ego and bombast. But I’m getting ahead of myself… It’s almost time to feed Aesop his breakfast. I count down the minutes to him while he gets increasingly excited and vocal.

Nine thirty. I bundled up and went over to the market. Saw nothing unusual. My neighbor Jeff passed by me in his burnt orange Mustang as I was coming home. I can never remember his wife’s name, but I think it’s Sara. He used to be a high school science teacher. He has a long white beard with a swarthy complexion and a little snub nose. Jeff doesn’t invite much conversation when I see him on the street. Outside of his house he flies a skull and crossbones pirate flag, and his mocha colored boat is called the Second Wind. Just across the street from him is Harry’s house, an old conservative guy who lost his wife over a year ago. He used to have two Doberman pinchers in his garage. His daughter Cherie lives on the cross street to the north. Occasionally I see her in his front yard, trimming rose bushes or whatever to help out… The clouds have burned off, showing the light blue winter sky. Yesterday at noon the sunshine was intense, or maybe I’d had too much caffeine. I hope for a serene day today, calm and quiet, except for the rock and roll noise from my bass guitar this afternoon. 

Briar Rose

Quarter of ten.

Conditions were pretty normal at the little market this morning. Michelle and the customer ahead of me were talking about the new tax on cigarettes. Because of this, the cost has gone up to ten dollars a pack. Michelle considers the tax to be punishing people with addictions, which isn’t fair. I can see the sense of that. Pricing people out of nicotine is effectively a form of prohibition. It’s a one sided way of looking at things; I don’t smoke, therefore you shouldn’t smoke either. Well, I voted against the tax, though the decision took some thought. 

I bought a sub sandwich, cottage cheese, and two Snapples. The mail carrier mistakenly gave me Diana’s letter, so I went across the street and wedged it in her door. Bonnie Rose passed me on her way back from the espresso shack and waved without smiling. It really puzzles me that I never see Colin outside his house anymore. We had a big windstorm last night, yet the political sign in my front lawn still stands. So does Roger’s black and blue striped police flag, in a strange and silent standoff between neighbors. Most of the time, people around here are peculiarly quiet, the silence rudely broken by my bass guitar nearly every afternoon. No one says anything, and no one has vandalized my sign or any of my property. The magic spell reminds me of a fairytale in the Brothers Grimm. I believe it was “Briar Rose,” or “Sleeping Beauty.” A woman pricks her finger on a spindle and everyone enclosed by the hedgerow falls into a deep sleep, or maybe a paralysis. They freeze as if catatonic. I forget what or who breaks the enchantment, but it was probably a prince happening by the scene…