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.

Victorian No More

Ten o five at night.

The sun appears brighter now that I’ve separated from the church, as if no longer through a filter of piety. As long as I maintain my recovery I want to continue on this adventure, a game of seven card stud in the words of Tennessee Williams. It’ll be my last frontier, the search for a love interest in my life, because I know that love won’t come looking for me. Some people just aren’t interested in romantic love at all, maybe because it’s safer not to get involved. But to me a loveless existence is flat and two dimensional; and even a huge literary figure like Goethe bids you come away from the books in your moldy old study and go out into the world of experience to find your Gretchen and beyond to Helen of Troy. My sister will probably say I’ve lost my mind. Let her think so. A pious life of chastity is not for everyone, however self righteous you feel about it. And no one has the right to lord it over others. For me, the new Victorian Age has come to an end. 

Water on the Smoke

Quarter after one.

I played some Jaco and Mark Egan parts on my white Fender bass and it worked out pretty well, so I guess I’ll hang onto that axe rather than sell it. As I write this, the sun appears from behind the clouds and splashes the ground with pale yellow light. Two of the songs I played were from American Garage by Pat Metheny Group, way back in 1979. I never heard that music until ten years later, when I was a student at the university, reading a lot of British literature of the Renaissance and the twentieth century. But my taste in music was for American jazz at the time. I imitated Jaco on the electric bass and made quite a few home recordings, but I had no jazz musicians to play with while I was working on my degree. I guess there was no money in jazz for local players, or maybe my attitude was rather cocky, especially for a bass player. I wanted to play lots of notes like my heroes on the instrument, but Eugene was a Blues town and very slow and conservative. Also very hippie, like a throwback to the late sixties with some people. It’s weird to stand back and take a look around at the culture of Eugene: a friend of mine described it as a place of mostly rednecks and hippies. Almost all of the bands I played in used weed every day, as if it were their religion or something. The dividing line between hippie and conservative is often the drug of choice on each side… The more I think about it, the more I believe I should probably hang up the music ambition and just forget the whole thing. The music community in Eugene will never change, nor do I have the right to try to change it myself. 

Country Mouse

Noon hour.

My therapist is concerned that I’ve been too withdrawn lately, so I think I’ll plan another trip to the bookstore, although I wouldn’t know what I was doing there. I could go to Smith Family for the sake of nostalgia, to remember my dad when we liked to knock about town in the mid nineties. I could go to Tsunami on Willamette to visit with Scott, if he even remembers me now. I used to sell him my books when I didn’t have any money. In those days I was more mobile than today, having my own vehicle and a different situation in life. It makes me feel nervous to consider going there because I’m a Highlander and Tsunami is in the rich south part of town where my psychiatrist still has his practice. I’m completely out of the habit of visiting the south hills of Eugene; it’s an intimidating prospect to me, plus it might trigger me to drink beer. The difference is like the Country Mouse and the City Mouse; like a person from Drain Oregon going to New York City and being totally outclassed and mortified by the culture shock. I’d be tempted to stay in North Eugene and embrace the place, even though it’s homely and plain, with values of meat and potatoes: basically, survivalism. But it’s where I live, judge it how you may. If Tsunami is a little too swanky then the happy medium is probably Smith Family on Fifth and Willamette, where Downtown Eugene starts. 

Agnostic

Six o’clock.

I woke up from bad dreams of the lockdown and so I got up to shake them off. Today I need to run over to the veterinarian for Aesop’s flea med. I remember the last time I went: some of the house fronts were decorated for Christmas along the sidewalk of Silver Lane. But it was hard to have the Christmas spirit when I live alone. I was just thinking about how silly I’d been to believe that my sobriety was blessed by God a few years ago. Yet maybe a lot more people had faith in religion back then. I don’t know. About a week ago I pulled out my French copy of Blaise Pascal and pondered the introduction. What brought on his religious crisis on that fateful November night? It came out of nowhere to this successful mathematician and scientist. Now he’s only known for his religious writing, very personal to him and published posthumously. Was he illuminated somehow or was he delusional? To me it seems like everyone in America got a megadose of wormwood at the Millennium, making us crazy and stupid for a long time. Some people still haven’t recovered from it. There are times when I could use a dash of color in my life, though I doubt if religion is the way. It’s a big mystery. 

Reveille!

Five twenty five.

Since my visit with Misty yesterday morning, my brain finally made a connection and I did a little research on the homeless mentally ill. I realized also that my sister and her park ranger son were ignorant about the situation. Their attitudes are moralistic and damning of the homeless, not bothering to try to understand how and why people end up that way. They ascribe evil motives to their behavior as if they were “responsible” for their fates, but really, things just happen to people. It’s not a human problem, but rather a clinical problem, and religion has nothing to do with it. At least 25 percent of homeless people are severely mentally ill, and as many as 45 percent have any kind of mental illness… Now I recall my church’s incomprehension of mental illness when Katie passed away and we had her memorial service last fall: it was so embarrassing. And I was another schizophrenic person looking on, a witness to the whole thing. And then Pastor with his sermons on demonic possession and other crap! Americans need a wake up call to reality, and reality is certainly nothing spiritual. We need a revival of science in our culture before Dark Age America seals its own doom. 

A Bradbury Scenario

You asked me if it’s difficult to sell a musical instrument for a fair price and the answer is yes usually. As soon as you walk out the door with a new instrument the value drops by half.

Right now I’m not so concerned with my musical future. Frankly I don’t think it’s going to happen again. There’s no end in sight to the pandemic. Also I can’t afford the cost of a vehicle to get me to rehearsals and gigs— and I don’t want to drive a car anymore anyway. I like the feeling of being a pedestrian, I guess; and when I don’t drive I don’t contribute to greenhouse gases quite as directly. The expense of a car is more than I want to pay. Either way is inconvenient, with or without a car, from a different perspective. Society has to figure out how it wants to solve the problem of transportation with regard to the ecology over the next ten or twenty years— if it even happens. Probably we won’t be hauling around a lot of stuff from place to place anymore, and the internet will make rock and roll obsolete along with the same old rock instruments. The people who make rap music and post it to SoundCloud or whatever are the wave of the future, no matter how I kick at it and how untalented they seem to me to be. I’m just being realistic and honest with myself. You only have to look around to see where things are going. The Age of Dinosaurs is really over with. There will be no more stadium rock in this world except as a memory, a thing of history that few people will recall. Rock is irrevocably dead. And rock instruments will be found only in a museum someday soon. This is the wave of the mainstream; although, I can imagine a scenario like Fahrenheit 451 coming to pass, where a small band of intelligent people break away from a culture headed for World War 3 and preserve what is good for the human spirit, namely music and books. It could be like a New Romanticism, people living in the woods and committing wise words and beautiful things to memory for posterity: it’ll be a culture of Poetry.

Twenty Years

Six o’clock.

It’ll be good when we’ve distanced ourselves a little more from the Millennium and regained our sanity. The 00 decade was very uncomfortable for me, when people tortured each other over their religious ideas at all levels of society and across cultures. Was it all because of a prediction by Nostradamus that 1999 would see the advent of the Antichrist? I remember seeing editions of his books on display in bookshops and even in grocery stores up until the year my mother died, 2001. His prophecies were just the wormwood people needed for crazy stuff to start happening. But the fault was not that of Nostradamus, but of consumerist culture and whoever controls this and the media. I’m still not a fan of sociology, the study of society. There’s always more going on than meets the eye, and what we see is a puppet show. This is not the behavior of people in groups, but rather manipulation by our leaders, though it sounds fanatical to say it. Who was it that ordained the distribution of copies of Nostradamus everywhere for a span of ten years? Was it the Priests of the Temples of Syrinx?

Quarter after seven. The rain started as just a whisper and now it’s coming down in earnest. It’s a soothing sound like a lullaby. Because it’s still dark out, I’ll wait to go to the store. I want to have some visibility on the road, in both directions… The last book I bought of Nostradamus was at the Safeway store on River Road with my mother. I remember the flower bouquets they sold there, vaguely. Mom usually wore a little kerchief on her head when she went out, called a “doobie.” This store closed in September of 2007 for reasons of productivity. I especially recall Tiffany, a young checker with blonde curls who was always pleasant. But with the coming of dawn these memories fade like dreams. And the rain washes them down the gutters. 

Dostoevsky

Eight forty.

Thinking about going to church today. I might be able to make it. If it’s not Pastor Dan, then I can go a little bit later, as long as I’m there by ten o’clock. I keep forgetting that it’s Halloween today. It doesn’t seem very relevant to anything or to me. It’s not supposed to rain at all today, but it’s pretty chilly outdoors. The time is going rather rapidly; before I know it I’ll be out on the road, pounding the sidewalk. I can always hear more than I want to. Right now someone is making noise on my street.

Quarter of noon.

Service was pretty good today. Now it occurs to me how fragmented our culture is these days, mostly because of people like me who are honest and follow their own truth. I saw a funny Halloween decoration at a neighbor’s house: a headstone with the name “Metta Physik.” But this is exactly the problem I have with religion, that is, metaphysics or the supernatural. Without evidence, the spiritual stuff falls to pieces. So it’s probably better if I don’t go to church; just stay home and read my books of analytic philosophy or something else realistic. This is more responsible of me than spoiling a worship service with my presence. There is one argument, however, for metaphysics that gives me pause. It’s that our sense of right and wrong hinges on the spirit, and that with no Lawgiver, everything is permitted. You find this point in The Brothers Karamazov, and the amorality in the story leads to a murder. Dostoevsky is a thinker to reckon with before you dispose of religion altogether. Probably the world needs a good dose of his writing right now, and I might go back for another look at Karamazov, even after I thought I’d exhausted its possibilities. It brings up the serious question, What is existentialism all about? 

Earth to a Martian

I have to piece together my day today now. When I got home from my appointment with Misty I went right to bed and napped for a few hours, feeling as I did tired. I was thinking of how my hometown feels so alien to me these days, especially from the back of a taxi, cruising the streets with so many strangers. The cabbie for the return ride was listening to some weird music: old psychedelic jam band stuff that I didn’t care for very much. The agency closed at five o’clock and left me waiting at their doorstep for my taxi. It came before too long, and he took me onto I-105 briefly and then hopped on Sixth Street, which was pretty jungly with people and traffic. For some reason it seemed quite sordid and unfamiliar to me, the sole survivor of the family with my parents twenty years after their demise, riding ingloriously in the back of a cab; perhaps like Jesus riding in on a donkey, but hearing this bizarre psychedelic music. We hung a right on Chambers Street and drove north to the exit for the Expressway. It rained lightly for the whole trip. My thoughts all the way were diffuse and scattered, so I just held on and focused on getting back home. Even then I felt like a stranger in a strange land. I heated up a Hot Pocket and shared the last bite with Aesop, after which I noticed my fatigue and headed right for bed.

The rest of the day is sort of lost and forgotten. I know I wrote just a little in my journal in the morning, but the content has left me. Suddenly I remember an event that happened in September maybe five years ago, when I had just been trying to stay sober, but unsuccessfully. The mail came to my front porch, a huge Chambers Dictionary, a gift from my friend Kate, which had traveled here all the way from Sweden. It’s supposed to be the dictionary for word lovers, and is peculiarly British. At the time, I even believed I would’ve liked to work as a lexicographer, a writer of dictionary entries complete with etymological information for each word. It’s a beautiful book, and it survived the house fire two years ago. But it was sort of the last word I would ever hear from Europe, sadly. I wish there could be more commerce with the Old World.