Church and a Question

Midnight hour. Well, tomorrow morning is church. The service is set up in such a regimented way that I doubt I will go. It’ll be like a one to one with God rather than a social event, which doesn’t interest me much. All the fun is removed from it. I might be able to help Pastor if I do go, however. He hasn’t said anything to me about it. The question of an absolute right or wrong thing to do is a good one. For me, it echoes Robert Frost saying, “The bridegroom wished he knew.” It’s like pondering the stars and what is written there.

The bridegroom came forth into the porch

   With, ‘Let us look at the sky,

And question what of the night to be,

   Stranger, you and I.’

The woodbine leaves littered the yard,

   The woodbine berries were blue,

Autumn, yes, winter was in the wind;

   ‘Stranger, I wish I knew.’

If there is indeed an absolute moral code, then what ordained it if not an omniscient God? I only wish I knew what I was supposed to do.


Tuesday Morning

Quarter after eight.

It’s just an overcast morning. Supposed to be cloudy all day, chance of rain this afternoon. I pulled out my book of Frost and read “Design” again, a couple of times. His idea of a malign cosmos brings Melville to mind, also the later poems of Dickinson. Originally, it all goes back to Greek tragedy, about which I’d like to know more. I should review Sophocles, and Aeschylus and Euripides. The ideal would be having total recall of everything I ever read. I can start by reading all the Aeschylus I have.

Nine fifty. Fate in Prometheus Bound is ordained by Zeus, simply enough. But it’s humbling to turn the pages of a drama so ancient and venerable… I’m getting a haircut at eleven o’clock. The name “Prometheus” means “forethought,” which adds irony to a story of fate. The Titan knew in advance what would happen to him for championing humankind. He showed us fire anyway. Now he must be riveted to a rock in manacles of brass as his punishment for disobeying Zeus. With a stake of adamant right through his chest. Till the end he will be defiant and bewail the injustice of his fate. And of all beings, only Zeus is free. But what about Prometheus, when he chose to benefit humanity? Did he will his action, or was it part of his fate?… He is a martyr, as so many figures in antiquity were. Socrates, Aesop, Jesus Christ… The question I woke up with was if the universe is a friendly place. The Greeks believed in the lordship of Zeus, similar in some ways to Jehovah. He was the maker of human fates— but there were also the Fates, the Furies, and the Muses. I wonder how all this worked together? Interesting…

Quarter of noon. Karen informed me that face masks are mandatory starting tomorrow, and sold me five of them for three bucks apiece. I suppose, like death and taxes, it was inevitable… Shasta from the insurance office emailed me the information about earthquake coverage. I’ll call her back tomorrow and approve it. Now I guess I’ll read the rest of my Aeschylus.

Step by Step

Eleven o’clock.

I had a donut at the salon and went to the store. Life seems almost normal despite the lockdown. The radio at the market was playing “Rooster” by Alice In Chains. A few times I stopped and told myself that this is reality. I’m supposed to call Todd in a half hour. Darcy was aware of the situation with Ride Source. So I get to have a phone appointment today. She said that Ride Source will be messed up for the next month. I’m beginning to wonder at the process of life. It seems there’s never a respite from the ups and downs. It’s a constant roller coaster, particularly to a sober person. The only nirvana is the delusion of being on drugs. My parents lived in this house as if it had been a safe haven from a world of chaos.

Quarter of one. Todd was concerned about my hemoglobin being elevated, so I called the office of my hematologist. They are working together on the concern right now. I don’t know what to think about that… I guess it indicates dehydration. Again it’s never a dull moment. The reprieve we’re all hoping for doesn’t come, and then we die. For many years, alcohol was my security blanket and shield from the hostile universe. Eventually it became just another item in the same menacing world. Now the force field has been deactivated and I’m a sitting duck. But so is everybody. We’re all in the same boat of danger and uncertainty. I can understand why people get addicted to things. We find a comfortable feeling and want to repeat it. When that comfort zone is used up, we seek another sensation. We don’t realize or admit that we are defenseless. In reality, we survive by our courage and our wits. The logic of the heart is our best weapon for staying alive. The brain can turn traitor on us, and then what do we do? Put one foot in front of the other…

The Big Plan

Michelle joked that I didn’t buy any ice cream this morning—- which gives me an idea. Perhaps I’ll go back and get some. It’s raining right now, so hold off until it stops. The sun goes down every day at around six o’clock. Now it’s a hailstorm!

It’s funny how people once believed that nature sympathizes with human affairs. Shakespeare and all the Romantics thought so. Emerson was serious about it, but he might have been the last one. Melville explored more of the possibilities for cosmology, and ultimately a sympathetic nature was discarded from the mainstream. I was always frustrated with AA because they revived old Romantic notions that didn’t hold water anymore. The evidence didn’t support their claims to mysticism, so I reckon they were a bit deluded. People in a group can make any belief real if they wish, but it’s still a delusion. One need only gather the proof. I never saw a reindeer that could fly, nor has anyone else, except on television.

Meanwhile, here I am, waiting out the rain. I’ve been watching the weather reports, judging when might be a good time to execute my plan.

Five ten. Success! I brought home pistachio almond ice cream. The rain was light, so I hardly got wet. I shared a couple of dollops with Aesop, of course. He deserved it since being brave for the vet on Thursday morning. I suppose I earned my ice cream too.


Seven thirty.

Sun’s just coming up. This is Friday. I hear police sirens. Sometimes I play mind games with myself.

Eleven o’clock. I feel sluggish this morning, but the sunshine is beautiful. I’m contemplating taking my amp head to Mike’s today, before six. Going after one is better, because Oregon Taxi is very busy at noon. The cab fare will be expensive, the repair cheap. I had a dream last night of being on a hell ride with somebody. I had hitched a lift home with him. He moved to the edge of the road and popped a wheelie at one point. He had almost a head on collision with a truck in the left lane. I felt helpless and horrified, and he just laughed and said this was normal for him. It was the price I paid for risking a hitch. We wound up at his place, which might have been on the coast. I wondered how and when I was ever going to get home. The dream ended there, or transitioned to something else. I had censored it out of my awareness quite well, until writing about taxis jarred it loose. I think I know who the maniac driver was in reality, because of the detail about the coast.

Two thirty five. I feel just terrible today, so I should stay home and try to be comfortable. I wish I knew what was wrong with me. Maybe some diagnostic writing will help. When in doubt, I usually resort to blaming the Vraylar for the malaise. It’s a nice day, partly sunny and temperate. There may be a fear of relapse into active alcoholism, and the weather is a trigger. My magnolia tree really is beautiful and inviting to the backyard. On a warmer day, I could go out there and read or write. It could be a sort of pleasure garden, if I knew anything about flowers. Trees and plants give us oxygen to breathe, thus a garden is a place to relax. Seven years ago, I would go outside to drink beer for part of the time. Aesop was still a puppy, and we played with his toys together… I beat on my Fender bass for about an hour, and getting this out of my system got my mind off the alcoholic past. Making music was something I couldn’t do when I drank heavily. Today, everything is back. The clouds are on the wax, darkening the ground. One of my favorite naturalist writers when I was young was Stephen Crane, whose “The Open Boat” I returned to once or twice. I preferred him to Twain because his style was more serious and more studied… And again, I recall my junior year in high school, the last one before I started drinking. What about life was it that drove me over the edge? What couldn’t I cope with? I wasn’t ready for independence, was not prepared. I was just a skinny boy with long hair like a poet. Too sensitive for my own good, and never aggressive or even assertive. Even today, I can handle controlled chaos, but less so total mayhem. I crave sanctuary from what I perceive to be a hostile universe. Some people have faith in a personal God who loves them. I don’t. Instead, my lot is to be frail and sickly, but hoping for a horizon of health that may never come.

Friendly Universe?

Four o’clock. A universe friendly or unfriendly, asks Einstein. So did 19th Century American writers from Emerson to Melville and beyond. Moby Dick constitutes a monument to thoughts about the cosmos. When I played bass with Satin Love in the late 1990s, I tried to solve this intellectual problem myself by intensive reading. At one point I read Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Jude the Obscure back to back to ascertain the truth about the friendliness of the universe. They contradicted each other. I followed these with The Sheltering Sky and As I Lay Dying, both of which were pessimistic, and they influenced my mood while I was playing with the band. All the while I was listening to atonal music such as Schoenberg and Penderecki, and Webern and Berg. In fact, I dreamed recently about the Lulu Suite by Alban Berg. All this cacophony I learned and heard inside my head through my adventures with the disco band, accompanied by the ideas of Thomas Hardy. We took a trip to San Francisco in September 1997, and I was a wet blanket all the way. Lying in bed the last night, I heard Webern’s Five Pieces for Orchestra and wondered how I ever got to this place so far from home. I had insomnia for the whole trip. When we finally got home I went to bed and slept like a dead man. Life seemed as chaotic to me as the atonal music I constantly heard. Was the universe friendly? I don’t know, but the band I was in was definitely unfriendly…


Four thirty. I can really feel what my life was like in 1989. The nostalgia is a bit painful because now could never be like then again. In a way that’s a good thing, because I contain more wisdom now than thirty years ago. Something would be wrong if not. It’s been a beautiful July day, with the blue sky changeless as ever. Before Copernicus, people believed in fixed stars, ones that had existed forever. They believed in a static cosmos, permanent and imperishable. Beyond Saturn, there were no more planets. And man was a microcosm of the universe. Over the centuries, when we get to Albert Camus, we see that man is still a microcosm, but the universe has changed to be benignly indifferent. Perhaps humankind will always conceive of itself as a reflection of the cosmos, whatever its character. After all, we are stardust and golden…