Gut Reaction to Cummings

Quarter after one. I read thirty pages of the Cummings poetry. Some of it is great, and I see how it influenced me when I was around thirty years old. He often muses on the something of life and love versus the nothingness of death, and how could life spring from nothing? This problem is like that of Sartre, but I don’t know who had the idea first. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was Cummings. His thinking joins together Freud and Sartre but without being systematic. Still, it’s very complex, even convoluted, and always difficult to disentangle. I sometimes get the sense that love and death are identical from his poems, or at least one is inseparable from the other. He is full of paradoxes and double negatives that pull you in and force a feeling of disorientation, or maybe what Sartre calls “nausea.” Some readers may not find this very affirmative. And the equivocation does feel rather disturbing, even like Shakespeare’s Macbeth. We want the reassurance that things are what they are and not something else, not a fusion of opposites. Not a prevailing oxymoron. We want a yes, a positive and not a zero. But Cummings still makes fascinating reading. 

A Dream and Some Books

Quarter of one. Feeling terrible. And it looks like the world is coming to an end. I bought the CD of Mark Egan because I needed something to relax me. His music is soothing and pleasing to the ear— and the mind… I hope Damien doesn’t stand me up again today. I want to take a nap this afternoon. My head continues to hurt and I recall things from twenty years ago. It must be the Vitamin E supplement.

Seven ten. Damien brought me the animal trap at around two o’clock, and then I paid him for four mowings. He was not allowed to mow today due to the restrictions on ignition in this dry weather. After that, I went to bed and snoozed until six thirty. I wish I knew what Pastor is thinking lately. Last Friday he told me to stay home for the weekend. Right now I appreciate the comfort of my home. There’s enough overhead light to see by, and just enough money in my bank accounts for comfort. I recall one of my recurring dreams from my early thirties. In a darkened room, I flip the light switch to turn it on— and nothing happens. A blackout, and it symbolizes death for me. That same year, I had read The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles, such a well written but deeply nihilistic book. With the coming of 1999, I read Melville’s Pierre, still trying to solve a big mystery. And finally in September my dad passed away, mystery yet unsolved. 

Whimpering: a Letter

I played the bass guitar yesterday noon like a madman, incorporating way too many notes to be very tasteful music. As a technical workout it felt good, and my instrument sounded great, but musically it wanted something. It could have used more dynamic feeling and better attention to my choice of notes and chords. I just feel sort of devil may care about it, for no one is playing with me and no one else is listening. “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” It seemed pointless.
Similarly, WordPress was a real ghost town yesterday. Some days are like that. I felt very frustrated and unhappy. But on the other hand, I don’t spend much time reading other people’s posts, either. We are mostly amateurs anyway. What’s the use?
I am very sick of the Covid lockdown and of people saying that this is the end of the world. It is merely an emotion and not a fact. My response to the situation is to say, Why pay lip service to the general attitude of despair? …Funny, but the words of T.S. Eliot keep surfacing to my mind. “This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but a whimper.” People go around feeling dejected and dispirited, having lost all hope and a sense of utility. Again, what’s the use? People have given in to futility and despair. The end result is a feeling of apathy. But— I still try to resist the epidemic of depression.

Lunes Loco

Quarter of seven.

I must be crazy, because I just ordered myself a Dell laptop for under $400. Do I deserve to have a laptop? No, I think I’ve just gone off the deep end. But then I remind myself of the pandemic and crazy times, and how everything is in turmoil. Indeed, life has been nutty since my refrigerator burst into flame a year ago last March. Meanwhile, I haven’t been hurting for money in all this time. I see many blessings in disguise, ambiguities with benefits. I don’t understand this fairytale existence. It is so much like something from the Brothers Grimm, for example “The Star Money.” Rather than try to make rational sense of it, I ought to give in to this Romantic mystery. Let the waves take me for a ride. Make peace with Carl Jung and roll with it… The caffeine from the Coke gave me a sleepless night, so I won’t do that again today.

Eight thirty. I catch myself trying to be perfect again, as if a mistake meant sudden death. I need to relax. I don’t know what’s bothering me. I feel like the stakes are very high.

Nine fifty. I figured out what’s been bugging me: it’s Vicki. Thursday she will find out if her tumor is malignant. I have a lot of feelings about her, both good and bad. But either way, she’s been a part of my daily life for about 12 years. Even casual acquaintances get under your skin after 12 years… I did my errand at the bank: people were friendly and it went smoothly. Next I stopped at Grocery Outlet and bought three items. The cashier was very nice. I sweated like a pig on my way home. The entire trip took me about 55 minutes. Now, Aesop’s been fed and we’re relaxing for a while. I’m glad I was able to do some thinking on my walk and get to the bottom of my feelings.


Eleven thirty. I asked Roger what the emergency had been at Jennifer’s house on Monday afternoon. Four fire rescue units came out to my street. He said he thought Jennifer had died. I was surprised and incredulous. Apparently a mortician had been here as well as the medics. Lenore will be alone now— if Roger’s guess is right. And the fence will still be built this week. Life and death are very strange. This is so unexpected, and untimely. I don’t know those neighbors very well, but I know how difficult it will be for Lenore. I’m resisting the impulse to believe I was somehow to blame for the death. Such a delusion is fairly common in human emotional makeup. Throughout the human tragedy, the beautiful sunny day persists, with the sound of lawn mowers and the sight of Cherie trimming rose bushes. The world still goes on, heedlessly and forgetfully, through the day… and the night.

Tragic Flaw

Seven ten.

I just read that my friend from church was admitted to the hospital yesterday with possible pneumonia and is being tested for the virus. Not a good start to my day. This is the day when restrictions are being relaxed a bit. Karen will reopen for business officially today. I am really sick of Pastor’s emails every morning. Maybe I’ll unsubscribe. Since last summer I’ve been thinking about leaving the church. I just don’t know what I can replace it with… It’s mostly cloudy with a ray of sunshine. I awoke a little grumpy and this news about my friend made me even grumpier. I realize something however about me. It is that skepticism can be harmful. I never took it on faith that alcoholism would kill me. I had to be inches from death to be convinced to quit drinking. Therefore, skepticism in other areas can be toxic as well. Better safe than sorry, and an ounce of prevention… But I doubt if this flaw in my character will change.


Four fifty five. Sometimes I think about Karen and the girls from the salon. It kind of astonishes me that they liked having an old bum like me around. As if they saw something in me that I don’t. I particularly miss seeing Angela; but they’re all great. Lisa was going through a tough time, the last I heard. The salon was hit with several little catastrophes before the lockdown. Maybe the respite is needed, and then they can come back refreshed. Darlene’s passing was very difficult, for she was my reason to hang out with them. Now I know it would be hard to work as a caregiver to seniors, because they tend to die… Karen was great on the day of the funeral. As usual, I didn’t look like much. I just brought myself, take it or leave it. I was impressed with Janet’s family; her husband and young son seemed very upright and honorable. She had done well, as she deserved. She gave a speech about her mother and family. Janet was still a little in shock from having lost her brother thirty years ago. The music selections were new country, which was fine for them. I was kind of glad to get out of there, though. People were saying that now Darlene is reunited with Lewis in the afterlife, and it was a good thought. I can see the way he used to ride his bicycle home from work every late afternoon. The family always liked me okay up until I was ten years old. Then I had a falling out with their son on the way home from school. Afterward, I still saw Darlene delivering the local newspaper for many years. And she still came over to visit with my mom, often while I was away at school. Mom would tell me about it later. It was only me who kept my distance, and it became a little awkward. Kind of like what happened with my nephews and me as we were run through the chute of the education system. Our fates got sorted far apart from each other, on different paths. It was nobody’s fault, though it’s hard not to regret what happened…

After the Altar

Quarter after five. I was being silly. The past is past. What happened 17 years ago can’t be repeated. And the vintage basses I owned are long lost. So hold on to what I have now.

Six o’clock. I ordered some 9V batteries from Amazon for my Aria bass. Then I was curious about these boxes of my stuff that I never opened. I found a couple of mouses and a pair of headphones, plus a lot of junk that belonged to my mom. Poor Mom. She was not happy, yet she didn’t try to reach out to anybody. She could never let go of the past. Couldn’t get over the loss of her parents and others in her family. Couldn’t accept that now is now, and life goes on. She refused to move on. Who knows what she thought about inside of her head? She bought herself this Baldwin spinet piano made in the 1930s to play and remember her mother— then realized she couldn’t stand the pain. Why didn’t she just release herself from the past if it brought her pain? Or journal it out of her system? She was so lonely, yet she devoted her mind to the dead. Henry James wrote a great story about that, called “The Altar of the Dead.” It’s very ironic. The man and the woman meet and grieve their losses together, never seizing the opportunity to build on their relationship. The two of them are, after all, alive… The temperature inside got up to 74 degrees, so I opened the back door and the bathroom window. Aesop is here and now, so I’m glad for that.

Nevil Shute

I see the images of my parents in my head. I remember how they sort of retired from living when they were only 50 years old. They started hibernating, especially Mom, and marking time until it was time to die. They claimed that they had seen it all and done it all, which was just a rationale to do nothing now. I saw a headline today that said the pandemic is an opportunity for humanity to revolutionize our quality of life. Amen. I believe that people could learn something from a novel by Nevil Shute titled On the Beach. It’s about what a group of friends decide to do with their lives when they know they are doomed. Nuclear winter has happened, and the fallout is heading for their home in Australia. They do the things they had always dreamed of doing but never had before. They even break a rule or two, but their actions are justified. The friends learn what in life is truly important, and they do it with no chimeras, no self delusions. Maybe we should take a lesson from On the Beach. Another great book is Dubliners by James Joyce. We ought to really think hard about not what is right, but what is good and true.

My Friend

Four thirty.

I just listened to part of The Wall by Pink Floyd. It was on my mind when I woke up, but the stimulus behind it was the memory of my old friend Ken from when I was in high school. I was very sick with mononucleosis for my junior year, and to cheer me up, Ken made me a cassette copy of the album by Pink Floyd. He was a big fan of Roger Waters, the mastermind of the band during the 70s. Looking back on my emotions when I was 17, there was a lot that I didn’t understand. I still don’t, but I know that my bond with Ken was the strongest of my youth. We listened to music together down in my room, and my parents were always glad to see him come over. There was nothing not to like about Ken; he was loved by everybody. I happened to get to know him very deeply. He had a depressive side to him that he didn’t show to most people. Hence his admiration for Roger Waters of Pink Floyd. I had no idea myself that I would later be diagnosed with schizophrenia. Nobody knew. When the illness came, my friend grew more distant emotionally. He was disappointed in me, because in his opinion I had a great deal of musical talent. He couldn’t accept the loss of the person I had been. So now, I often think about my junior year in high school when I was so sick. It was a kind of harbinger of the bigger illness to come in college. Ken hung around, but never with the same love and trust as before. Instead of music, he took up golfing and microbrews and became still more aloof. His politics got conservative and narrow minded. And then one summer day in 1999, his black Dodge Ram hit a tree and he was killed. It was a senseless death. Quite a multitude came to his memorial service. But the person they remembered was not the same one that I knew, the one who shared The Wall with me when I was sick.