An Old Gideon

Eleven twenty five. My friend’s favorite dog passed away last night, and this changed my mind about social media. Coming home from the market, I stopped by the salon and Karen gave me a double chocolate donut, kind of like old times. Jessica doesn’t work on Monday. Karen was going to make a house call to do a haircut today. Her work is pretty much her life, and she tries to help people out. She hires people with problems who need a break. Her activity is very principled, even religious. She keeps plodding on with her life regardless of the world. And this brings me to think on duty and how people feel about it. Where does the sense of duty come from? Kant believed that it comes from the faculty of reason, which participates in the divine. But this highbrow philosophy doesn’t really explain how people behave. Most people get a moral education from Sunday school, and this is the doctrine of flesh and bone, of the real world of poverty and hard knocks. They don’t teach Kant at the Eugene Mission; they preach the gospel. 

One autumn day, up on the campus, a kind old man stood on the corner by the student union handing out Gideons pocket New Testaments from a box. I accepted one because it was reading material, then continued on to my class in Renaissance Thought in Fenton Hall. But I didn’t ponder it much after that. I didn’t suspect that in the blink of an eye, your whole world can be inverted, leaving you dispossessed and friendless. So today I do sort of wonder about that old Gideon on the street corner. 

Day of Rest

Five ten.

I had a good day yesterday. I also got a good sleep with some interesting dreams of friends and family. The music was fun. I stayed and kept playing with Mike after Ron had to go. There’s potential there musically and in terms of friendship.

Eight fifty five. Nothing unusual about my trip to the store. It’s a wet morning with an occasional drizzle. I’m very optimistic regarding the band’s future and the friendships we’re building. Today, Sunday, there’s nothing really on my plate, except right now I have to feed the dog… Something Mike said made me rethink my back pain. It occurs to me to say, Think muscle, not bone. Do the exercises from physical therapy to strengthen my back… Melissa helped me zero out my food card today, so my purchase was under ten dollars. I got a sandwich and potato salad, and a Snapple of course. The music yesterday must’ve been cathartic, because now I feel cleansed and rather empty in a good way. The cheapie bass I used sounded decent, though its construction feels kind of flimsy and maybe precarious or fragile. It only cost me a hundred bucks, so I can’t expect much. When I passed the salon in the afternoon, Karen flagged me down and showed me some new furniture for her space. Otherwise my walk over to the studio was uneventful. And I didn’t have to walk home, either; Mike gave me a lift. Ron expressed an interest in Robert Frost and E.E. Cummings, so next time I might bring him another book. He wasn’t too enthusiastic for the Ezra Pound due to the poet’s politics, which I can understand. Pound will always be sort of iffy because he committed treason and had some weird ideas about Jewish people. Still, to some extent I can forgive him. His poetry is often very beautiful and Modern. Ron also likes T.S. Eliot… 

Gray May Basket

Seven thirty.

It rained during the night. The forecast says no rain today, but the clouds look quite gray. I got a good sleep for a change. I got up in the small hours and read to the end of Symposium. I feel like I’m getting another chance to do what I’d always wanted to do, which is to make music with my buddies. The only thing that could thwart this is substance abuse. Life for an active alcoholic tends to crumble to ruin, as I’ve seen firsthand. It’s kind of ironic how Oregon has legalized marijuana, since this can be a drug of demise like alcohol.

Quarter of nine. My mood was rather weird on my outing to the store, as I turned over thoughts about criminal activity and declining morals. I saw a number tattooed to the back of the cashier’s neck and began to wonder. And then I almost inadvertently stole a bottle of pain medication that was in the bottom of my shopping bag. It is strange how our thinking modifies our perception from moment to moment, as Wordsworth describes in The Prelude. As if events in the world were fitted to the workings of the human mind, or perhaps reality is completely projected by the latter. It started to rain lightly when I was coming home, so my rain jacket was a good call. On my own street, maybe five cars were parked in front of Betty’s old house, and again I felt suspicious. The blinds were all closed in everyone’s front window, and I observed that my front lawn is in need of a mowing. Presiding over the whole scene was this sense of gray ambiguity from the cloud cover and also from my own vision. An odd sort of May Day morning. 

Anticipation

Quarter of eight.

I think band practice is going to happen tomorrow, at four o’clock. Mike suggested having an easy jam oriented get together, and I added that we might record ourselves. My sister said she would call me this morning, so I’m kind of waiting for that. The weather is partly sunny and rather nice. I’ve been to the store and bought a green salad and two Snapples. I grunted somewhat under the cold and just old age as I ambled along the street. I observed my neighbor Steve getting in his car, but he didn’t see me… I had a series of dreams earlier about a possible moral decline from family values to selfish hedonism. But whatever happens, I’m involved in the American scene. It may be a ship of fools that’s out of control; or maybe just the contrary: every individual contributes to the direction humanity takes. It starts with one person going against the flow, like Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the grandfather of Romanticism… When I was a student, I didn’t do well in history courses. It would be wonderful if I had another opportunity at it. There is so much to know.

Quarter of nine. I also dreamed about my mother this morning: we were sharing this house together and not getting along. I don’t know if I’ll ever shake my memories of her. At least I know I’m doing music for myself and not to please someone else.

Ten thirty. Mostly I’m anticipating having a jam tomorrow. It isn’t much fun to live alone with no escapes, but I suppose I could read a good book later today for stimulation. The sunshine comes and goes. I reserved a dose of flea medication for Aesop, so I can pick it up tomorrow morning or maybe even this afternoon. My heart aches for happier times when I had a friend in Scotland and international borders were open. I hope it won’t be too long before communication is back to normal. 

Thursday

Quarter of noon. I walked to and from my appointment for the vaccine. A very sweet girl administered the shot, and then I was kept there for 15 minutes to make sure I was okay. I ran into Carol and Helen from church while I was there at Bi Mart and said hello. It’s really a beautiful day today, good for going out and seeing people. A lot of senior citizens shop at Bi Mart, which endears the place to me because of my parents. It’s like backwards time travel to step inside this store… So many of the faces are familiar to me at Bi Mart; the same employees have worked there for ages. As I was going home on Silver Lane I started hearing “Lovely Rita” in my head, just the chorus looping, and I thought of how John Lennon found beauty in ordinary life, the things no one would consider poetic, for instance a meter maid doing her job. Meanwhile I looked at the bulldozers working on the site for the new North Eugene High School; the layout seems quite massive. Maybe voting for this action was a good thing to do, so no regrets. And when I got home, I opened the package of Aesop’s marrow snacks and gave him four of them. 

In Transition

Eight twenty five.

I see myself moving away from the talk therapy perspective on schizophrenia. Psychology and morality have nothing to do with the illness, so the church is useless to me anymore. The only useful therapy is cognitive therapy, which is not a moral or spiritual thing. I’m totally burned out on religion… The clouds have moved in, making it partly sunny this morning. I slept in for a while, with bad dreams of my vaccination tomorrow. Aesop has fleas, so I should get him some medication for that.

My favorite writer when I was younger was probably Herman Melville. The first book I finished reading after my mother died was Typee. I was aware as I read that this was very different from my sister’s family, with its working class Christianity and general narrowness. And this was my heritage, the values my mother left me: basically epicurean, a life of pleasure. It was either very shallow or very smart, depending on what the truth is. I suppose my mother wagered that God didn’t exist, and lived accordingly. No punishment, no wasted piety.

Nine fifty. Heidi is going to call me at ten o’clock. I can tell her about my confusion over politics and life today.

Quarter of noon. I’m at my best in the morning. After twelve o’clock it’s all downhill, possibly because I crave beer or something to kill time. I was late getting to the store this time, but it was rather nice. I saw a small group of Mexican youngsters who probably lived in those new apartment complexes towards Northwest Expressway. They were very clean and handsome people, polite and courteous. JR was working today, as he does every Wednesday. From the street I saw Derek in front of his garage, and little Natalie chimed out something like hi Robbie and waved to me. That was pretty neat… I told Heidi that my beliefs were in flux, and she said this was okay and pretty healthy. Better than being an extremist or other stick in the mud. We had a good talk for an hour. Hearing from her makes me feel less alone in the world. 

Arrivals

Noon hour. My bass came UPS a little before eleven o’clock and then I opened it up and played it for 45 minutes or so. It has a three way selector switch for different pickup modes. It sounds the best in series, I think. And the bucking pickup happens to be very loud and boomy. They put wimpy strings on the bass, but I change them anyway. Overall it sounds pretty cool! I like the finish color: Irish Ale, just a clear dark red over swamp ash.

It’s still perfect weather, sunny and not too warm. I already had my lunch, and I’m still hungry. This day with this weather reminds me of something I can’t put my finger on. Somehow it’s like the 1990’s again, and I feel quite content this way. Of course I miss my parents and my old friends, but it’s enough to think of them. Finally it looks like life is settling down and it’s safer for people to go out and socialize. We’re in much better hands than we were for the last four years. I feel like a Pepsi or something. I could go get a liter of soda for the joy of it.

Four o’clock. So I went out and got a Pepsi and saw Michelle, Cathy, and on the way back, Karen. This last made me an appointment for a haircut on Monday morning. When I got home I had about half of my Pepsi two liter and then played my Kiloton bass again: it definitely sounds awesome in series mode. I noodled around and picked out the Hungarian Rhapsody, plus a song by Chick Corea from Light Years. This bass is the best one I’ve got now, so it’ll be my main axe for a while.

The color of the sunshine in the late afternoon seems rather mellow, and more summery than springlike. It’s 75 degrees out. It just doesn’t feel like April to me. But I didn’t use to be sober years ago during the spring, so I have no point of reference for comparison. Beginning at three o’clock, I would start drinking like a fish and put on The Beatles; have a big bacchanalian party for one person and his dog. It was really no way to live because I didn’t know what was going on in the world, or I was numb to what was happening. My mind was ruled by crazy rationales and paranoia, even delusions of telepathy or thought broadcasting. I was miserable and out of touch with reality. But today, it feels so much better to be free from more than one kind of oppression and injustice in my life. I am my own ship’s master and commander, steering myself toward what’s right for me. 

World in Recovery

Seven thirty.

I just dreamed about Vicki from the little store on Maxwell Road, except she doesn’t work there anymore. Now she’s a Covid sanitizer for the school district. She is a cog in the machine like everyone else, going where the money is. She used to believe she could express anything she wanted on the job… until her job changed. I guess money speaks louder than words. Could there be exceptions? What kind of chaos would a cashless society be?… Up to two o’clock this morning I listened to Moving Pictures, followed by certain tracks from Light Years by Chick Corea Elektric Band. The second CD called to mind my working stint around 2005 in the summertime.

Ten o five. It’s kind of inexplicable how alcoholism ruins lives, like a form of kryptonite to any would be superhero. The opposite process, recovery, is equally mysterious, but it seems to be a matter of time and letting nature do its job. I’ve been doing recovery for three years and seven months, and right now it feels like a spurt of health has been granted. Today the weather is beautiful yet again. I had a good conversation with my sister from eight until nine o’clock, then gave Aesop breakfast. I was pleased to see Michelle back to work this morning. She was wearing an orange sweatshirt with a black apron, which happen to be the colors for Oregon State University. I also saw a Black man in the store, and even an Asian guy looking at the newspapers. Meanwhile, Roger still drives the old Ford truck with Trump stuck to the rear window. My own BLM yard sign still stands as well. The neighbors on my street are peculiarly paranoid and unfriendly with each other; very selfish, stingy conservatives with hearts the size of the Grinch. I really deplore their attitude, but I own this house and am quite stuck with living here. But Mike’s house is only a stone’s throw away from me. Every Saturday I am privileged to make my little pilgrimage to our studio where the world doesn’t intrude too much; where the world is more like a stage. 

Travels of Orpheus

Two forty. I’m leaving for band practice in less than an hour. We should have fun today. Going with my original plan to give away the SX bass after playing it this afternoon. I’ve shaved my beard completely off, leaving my face clean. Not sure why I did this, but it looks much better now. I can’t believe the self destructive way I used to behave. My teeth are in pretty bad shape from many years of alcohol abuse. I just didn’t love myself, and I kept the kind of company that always put me down. My brother is absolutely toxic to me. I can’t figure out what’s wrong with him. For some reason he hates my guts and does everything he can to mess me up. I don’t like other alcoholic people who lie and do dishonest things. My old supervisor was another lousy person. So I had to take care of myself and get out of that situation. The bumper sticker is true: Mean people suck… Outside, the sunshine is bright yellow. Today I can finally get down to business with music. No worries, no guilty conscience— because there’s no reason to feel badly. At last I’ve shaken the crap off of me so I can just mind my own business… Only about seven minutes to go before I take off out the door. I feel pretty calm right now.

Two o’clock in the morning.

If I believed that the future could be reconnected with the past, I was probably deceived. I don’t believe history repeats itself in a circular way, whether personally or publicly, but rather keeps going forward in linear fashion. Does a straight line ever cross itself in its progress to infinity? I’ve forgotten my geometry lessons… I had a good day yesterday. The events of the day were as favorable as the sunny weather. Mike must think I’m a little nutty on the subject of Rush. Neither he nor Ron wanted my SX bass, but I left it at the studio anyway and walked home empty handed. By the time I got home it was just after seven o’clock. As I passed the Fast n Fresh Deli I peered in the windows to see any customers. I found only one person, and he probably worked there. I don’t remember what I was thinking on my way back. I felt rather giddy from playing music. I do recall being suspicious of the passing cars, and I hugged the inside of the sidewalk whenever they went by. Just now I was thinking about going to Grocery Outlet sometime soon. I would kill for some of that Seattle International sourdough bread and some Gallo dry salami; maybe some pepper Jack cheese, too. But you know, it isn’t very thrilling anymore. Music is the only thing that floats my boat. My taste buds are in my ears… 

Firelight

Six thirty five. Sun is rising outside my window. I may go to the store a little earlier today, despite the cold morning. A Snapple tea will taste really great, though it isn’t a necessity to me. My brain is trying to pull up the memory of the Tchaikovsky I heard two weeks ago. I’ll probably listen to the disc again soon. It amazes me that I fired my psychiatrist a few years back. I’d believed that I couldn’t live without one. Yesterday noon I feared that I had made a mistake and lost confidence for a little while; and then it all came back to me. My verbal ability has always been reliable, so I was able to use it to establish my independence from authorities. How could that be a mistake? Now I am a much stronger individual than I was four years in the past. My relationship with my shrink was like Prometheus in reverse: I gave my fire to a god instead of to humankind, but the fire was always mine to keep or give away. Isn’t it the same for everybody? What will you do with your fire? The firelight of reason is native to everyone, and educators are people who ought to fan the flame of curiosity rather than douse it with oppression. To think that I deposed the dictator over my life! I guess I’d had enough of parent figures. At some point we all need our independence.

Eight ten. I saw no clouds on my walk to the market, and so far there’s no wind. It is calm. I feel that there is justice in the world, or anyway the world is good to me lately. Aesop is asking me how long until I feed him breakfast, so I tell him in minutes exactly when it will be. I got the store to myself this morning except for one person behind me, a woman with a baby. Suk ran business on his own because it was still very early. Going along on the sidewalk, I was wary of cars passing by me, thinking a person could be driving drunk or something. My back twinged with pain once when I took a step. It’s unpredictable when this will happen. Getting older has its pitfalls as well as perks. I was thinking I would play my Aria bass later today, but now I have my doubts. The instrument probably weighs 12 pounds, maybe more. Take an ibuprofen and forget it.