Menagerie

Eight thirty.

I guess I’ve been borrowing trouble. I know that my sister will be gone someday, but it’s nothing to worry about right now. And I don’t want to do things just to please her either. I am nobody’s disciple. It’s always something, isn’t it? One worry after another. My dad never worried about anything, and he slept great every night.

I’ve gone to the store and bought necessities for the day. I was barely awake and didn’t notice my surroundings very much. It’s cloudy and gray and feels like fall. I saw a woman at the market wearing just her pink nightie with an overcoat thrown on. The guys I ran into were very polite to me, even though I didn’t look like much, to my knowledge. It’s usually a strange mélange of people who walk into the convenience store but they have something in common, if it’s only their humanity and a partnership with the earth and the universe. The unity and diversity of life is the truth every day, a fact of natural science and the intuition of human philosophies… There’s a lot of activity buzzing around my street and in the community. Good morning, good morning! People come and go, and they come and go from our lives. The only constant thing is yourself to perceive and process what you see. But I’m still not very awake today.

Quarter after ten.

An appointment I was dreading turned out to be a pleasant experience, which shows that you never really know. I put Aesop in a room down the hall so I could have my video meeting with the nurse practitioner. Everything went fine. I might do a little reading today for fun while things are fairly calm and my time is free.

The King of Pain

Six forty.

We’re supposed to get some rain today. The streets were wet when I was outdoors for my grocery trip and it was black as ink, but I didn’t get rained on. I saw the edges of clouds white against the black heavens before I started pussyfooting my way on the blind streets. The occasional streetlights helped a little, or the light from approaching cars from N Park to the south. Today I go back to being alone as usual but my mind is getting clearer with the exit of summer and the cooler climate. My sense of duty tells me I should call my sister by the end of the week because she’ll be lonely: maybe it’ll be better if we keep it short. I observed to myself earlier this morning that religion often turns racism into a principle. I just can’t accept that anymore no matter where it comes from. The woes of the world do not stem from Black Lives Matter or whatever some people imagine. While I feel badly for my sister, I don’t share her ideas on social issues. It may seem like I’m picking a fight, but in reality the fights pick me, and this is the story of my life. Moreover, my illness seems to be the price I pay for the attitudes of my family; it never started with me. It all came down upon my head like a doom. Now the day is risen behind a gray shroud. It should be a quiet kind of day for reflection.

Tale of Two Lisas

Quarter of noon.

Though I feel exhausted today, everything has gone pretty well anyway. Gloria and I drove to the Bottle Drop in Springfield— and I ran into Lisa from Community Market as we came out of the doors. “What are you doing here?” I said, knowing it was a stupid question. She held up her plastic bag and said, “Same thing you just did. Gas money for the Jeep!” This time I collected $12.20 in redemption value for 5 bags of bottles and cans. While it was clear and sunny here, in Springfield there was smoke in the air from the regional wildfires. Now, at one o’clock, I get my hair cut with Karen just around the corner from home. She’ll set the trimmers for 3 and buzz off the little hair that I have on the sides and in back. Since my twenties I’ve had my dad’s pattern baldness but it never has bugged me. Afterwards I’ll go to the store again and treat myself and Aesop: I could use another Snapple tea.

I think I’ll skip church this Sunday after the lousy sermon I heard last time. Only if I was desperate for company would I go back. And meanwhile I can read some good poetry for illumination, though it may bring me pain. Great writing comes to us at a cost of anguish to the writer and also the reader. I question whether all the rules of the Bible are really for me when my only offense was being an alcoholic. Why bind myself to unnecessary rules if I don’t have to? I think the secular laws are enough to keep things safe and orderly. It must be remembered that a dual diagnosis is not a sin, and disease is not a moral issue, to disagree with the thinking of a hundred years ago. But old traditions die hard even if they are dysfunctional. People don’t test the things they believe in. And I don’t take anything on secondhand report, which is the meaning of “faith.”

Quarter of two.

Karen was busy with two other clients when I arrived for my appointment. There isn’t much to write about it. Very early this morning I bumped into another Lisa at the market. She has a job at the nationwide beauty chain in the Gateway Mall. She told me she was tired. Lisa is tall and very pretty, with black hair, dark eyes, and a few freckles on her face that add to her loveliness. It’s an inspiration to see her when our paths cross on some mornings.

Let There Be Commerce

Quarter after four.

I couldn’t resist an outdoor excursion when the weather is so nice and blue skied, again like my dad’s last days. The sun is murderously hot out in the open, especially where it’s asphalt and cement with no shade of trees. I got myself a Coke and a beef treat for my dog. I’d just been writing to my friend a little about Whitman’s poems, particularly regarding the image of the leaves of grass that suggests immortality in a couple of ways… A tall young blonde girl standing behind me by the checkout counter asked Deb, “Do you take ApplePay?” And Deb smiled indulgently and said yes, so the girl went onto the floor to shop. A number of kids raided the store with the release of school for the day. I could see them crossing the big parking lot adjacent to N Park on the south side of Maxwell Road, making a diagonal for the market beyond Karen’s salon. It’s 87 degrees outside, so I’ve turned on the air conditioner for now. But you know, it’s odd how few of my neighbors I’ve formally met. It seems like a good time for introductions… 

Sunday Ups and Downs

Two o’clock.

I was under the weather when I went to church today, so I skipped the potluck after service. Grant the musician gave me a ride to the market where we both went inside for some stuff, and from there I walked home. Grant was surprised at how big the “little” store was. It’s partly cloudy. Today is Sandi’s birthday, so we sang the song to her. The sermon was kind of a downer; not one of his better speeches. The theme was people who are “invisible,” and he used Lazarus as an archetype of that, waiting at the rich man’s gate.

Five thirty.

In fact, the sermon was really bad, or I just took it the wrong way. It’s not the first time that his sermon left a bad taste in my mouth. Sometimes Pastor is sort of clueless about people, as if he lived in the Fifties or something. Bleh 🤢! I won’t want to go back next time.

Seven o’clock at night.

I’ve got a few things on my mind. The first thing is the question of why I should put myself through worship services at all. Why sit still and be preached to when I am equally capable of judging life and reality for myself? But that’s nothing new for me. The truth is, everyone has the right to make their own observations and draw conclusions from what they see and hear. What do we need spiritual leaders for? I guess that was my main thought.

As time goes by, I feel less appalled by what I heard this morning. The sun has gone down and the twilight is nearly extinguished. I don’t feel under pressure anymore with the close of the day. And tomorrow is tomorrow’s concern. This is my own free time. 

Better than TV

Ten o’clock.

We’ve been to Bi Mart and also gotten breakfast across Silver Lane from it. They were selling televisions for around $200. If I wanted to pay a cable bill each month then I’d probably consider it. It seems like a good way to kill time when that’s all you want to do. On the other hand, it’s just pollution for your mind. Some people say you have no control over what you see when you watch tv, and it’s a passive activity— not like reading a book. My main objection to it is the incredible noise it makes, and my dog would hate it as well. So I guess I’m not buying one… I saw Judi at Bi Mart and the cashier was familiar but I don’t know her name. I got dog food, PineSol, and tall kitchen bags with yellow drawstrings: $26 all together. Again today it’s sunny and the sky is a rich cerulean. I’ll probably go to church tomorrow morning. Gloria is working very hard at the vacuuming. I’m quite lucky that the PCA process has worked out for me. A lot of people who tried don’t get the service that I’ve gotten.

Eleven thirty.

I never did go to the corner store this morning because of doing too much caffeine yesterday. There’s still plenty of time to go there if I want to later.

Three o’clock.

And then, I took a nap and had the most beautiful dream of a gorgeous brunette, kind of like Misty, who kissed me. This dream was like something from a literary work by Goethe or Joyce, where the focus is on passion and romantic love. After that I got up and walked back into the very unromantic world of streets and sidewalks, yet with the gossamer dream still clinging to me to dazzle the view around me like a trillion diamonds. 

Speech Therapy

Quarter after seven.

Sundown. There’s probably a nice view of the red sunset somewhere, but here it’s blocked off by houses and trees. Two hours ago I saw a huge bird of prey lift off from a tree limb with the wingspan of a vulture, right in my backyard. The blue sky fades to gray in the east behind my head. A moment ago, Aesop saw a cat fight across the street from us. The smaller, lighter colored cat chased off the bigger one while my dog barked in a frenzy. But hardly a person could be seen all day on my street.

Again it’s this insularity I’ve observed among modern humans: people are islands to each other, preferring intimacy with devices to others of flesh and blood. The consequence of this is fragmentation and a loss of communication among people: ultimately, we can’t call ourselves a community when we don’t speak to one another. Occasionally the Old School has good insights to offer to the younger generation. This is one such observation.

Cold Coffee

Four in the afternoon.

I made a little run around the corner for something to drink and give to my dog. On N Park I passed a guy on his bicycle balancing a big half case of Pub Beer. He coasted by with a look of satisfaction on his bearded face, mixed with determination. But it was kind of cool on a Friday afternoon in September to see the varieties of freedom people opted for. I felt happy enough to try a cold coffee and get a rawhide chew for Aesop. Deb sold me three items and I also dropped in on Karen, who was busy cutting a guy’s hair. At one point I glanced up and down Maxwell Road and saw no cars at all. The general mood of the day is insouciance.

Parallels

Quarter of seven.

If as they say there’s fog outside, it is neither low nor dense. I put on a light jacket with a knitted purple beanie and braved the darkness of six o’clock. On my own street I began thinking that external reality may be the emanation of human minds. I got to the little store without adventure and of course it was quite deserted. I saw one car in the lot besides Lisa’s. Yesterday she had told me she had gout in her foot from her kidney disease. Today she was a bit better… At nine thirty this morning I plan to help the volunteers get ready for the food pantry happening Saturday. I’ll leave the house at nine and hoof it to the church; it should take me fifteen minutes. Now the sun is up behind the overcast but I see no fog. The late afternoon yesterday was nice with mostly sunshine… When I was five years old, I would play by myself in the front yard. There was a pretty girl who lived up the street from me, a high school student named Denise, and she brought me candy or bubble gum from her trips to the convenience store— but she made me spell her name every time. I doubt that my parents knew it was going on. Once she even took me home to meet her family. I very eagerly would have traded my family for hers, but the paradise was only temporary.

Ancestor Worship / Pleasure

Quarter of six.

My dog Aesop went back down the hallway to jump in bed again. He didn’t use to be so independent, so this is a new habit for him. His birthday was earlier this month: ten years old now. I was done sleeping at three o’clock, after dreaming about my dad, and then I wrote a description and analysis of it in my journal. Dad’s birthday would be this Thursday if he had lived. I think it’s good that I have his genetics to put strength into my recovery. The Japanese have been known to worship their ancestors, so I think maybe my dad is something like a Higher Power to me. My first recovery, twenty years ago, involved him to some extent as well. Yet I don’t know exactly what pushed me to relapse, unless it was simply trying to work a job with the stress that attends it. I found myself in a situation where my choices were inauthentic and it seemed I had no way out, so the only escape was to drink great quantities of beer. Several people bullied and shamed me to do things I really didn’t want to do. And again, it shouldn’t matter what anyone else thinks because it’s down to just you and your life alone. My family can judge away if they disapprove of me: it won’t make any difference because after all I am sober and taking care of myself the best I can. I used to be a people pleaser but I don’t play that game anymore; it’s not worth the grief.

Seven thirty.

Rain is expected at eight o’clock this morning. Even now it looks pretty dark outdoors. I wore my rain jacket with a hood when I made my trip to market. I got Aesop some chicken strips, reasoning that he deserves a little pleasure from life, like everybody. In fact, I’ve denied myself fun and pleasure for a very long time. Meanwhile, the church is losing its grip on people, possibly for the same reason I just mentioned. In my journal I suggested that maybe the Bible is a work of epic poetry and written for the aesthetic pleasure of it. This would be the most skeptical thing I ever said of scripture. As a religion, it has lost its force for many people. Now the forecast says cloudy, so the rain either came and went or it never happened. Pastor’s daily email was very short today. I wonder what’s up with that.