Ten thirty five at night.
I woke up from my nap at nine o’clock with a desire to hear Burt Bacharach once again. So I found the CD in a stack of them and played it, thinking of my last love interest six years ago. What I really miss about her is not only her intelligence but the full range of her emotions, like a piano keyboard. She was not a severed head at all but could actually feel something. Since we separated, I’ve met many people who are impassive and cut off from their feelings, the things below the neck, that come from the heart and the gut. This stolidity might be the result of being too religious or maybe immersion in this age of electronics and cyberspace. People are becoming more mechanical than the machines they use, but the only ones who can change this condition are human beings themselves. “As long as we see / There’s only us / Who can change it / Only us to rearrange it / At the start of a new kind of day.” A few people lately have said what I’ve been saying for a long time: we need to get back to basics and experience life like biological beings again: emotional beings. Get ourselves back to the Garden, as it were. We are stardust and golden. It’s time to turn away from our apocalypse.
Seven o five.
Maybe it’s time to give blogging a break. I want to be more in touch with people in the flesh here locally rather than intimate with gadgets. I have a Luddite’s dislike of machines that I learned from reading Lawrence half my life ago… I don’t see any fog through my front window, but strips of lavender and pink cloud. It’s a beautiful sunrise like grenadine progressing to salmon with purple smudges. Today promises to be better than my crap day yesterday.
Nine twenty five.
I walked through the foggy morning to the market where it surprised me to see Doug behind the counter. I have no idea what the situation is, and maybe it’s none of my business. I got in and out of there and didn’t say much to anyone. Again I observe how the store has become less personal and human than when Belinda owned it. Now it’s an economic enterprise, a game of numbers and quantities above all else. The customers themselves are numbers as well… On my way there and back along Maxwell Road and N. Park I went very carefully, keeping my eyes open to the traffic. I dunno anymore. Everything seems so desolate and lifeless— dead, like the Ireland of the James Joyce story. We need an infusion of humanity in our lives, but we stubbornly persist in error. We’ve made a desert of the places where we live, refusing to love each other, rendering ourselves robotic and heartless. I’ll be looking forward to Groundhog Day, which happens to be Joyce’s birthday, and the anniversary of the publication of Ulysses a hundred years ago. They say the pen is mightier than the sword. Perhaps the centennial is a test of this proverb.
Six o’clock in the morning.
It is a morning kind of like yesterday morning, with the difference that today is my birthday. It’s raining out in the jet blackness. I don’t remember when my appointment with Rebecca is, but it’s supposed to be this morning. It interests me how individual behavior gets channeled according with social pressures, even if you are self aware. You can only fight the trends for so long, then you surrender and say okay, whatever. Or perhaps I’m wrong about that. If the world told me that I couldn’t write human interest stuff anymore, then I would probably rebel. We seem to be getting farther away from humanity and closer to money and machinery: anything quantitative over qualitative, and I feel there’s something unnatural about that. Is it an American thing? Now more than ever we need to be humanized and made to feel like unique individuals. I hate to see the demise of philosophy and everything that makes life worth living, because when there’s nothing to live for, existence has no meaning, and the universe might as well vanish away.
I was just looking at the A— News headlines, and trashed the email before I could get halfway through it. Funny, a song by Ralphe Armstrong of Mahavishnu Orchestra comes to mind: “Planetary Citizen.” And I’m thinking that there are multiple ways a person can be a member of society. Sometimes it’s a fight to carve yourself a niche, but where there’s a will, there’s a way. Which reminds me of the poem “Root Cellar” by Theodore Roethke, where life is shown to be irrepressible (“Even the dirt kept breathing a small breath”).
Quarter of eleven.
The rain continues. It was 38 degrees when I ventured out to the market for the daily foodstuffs. Once there, I ran into Lisa the hair stylist who used to work for Karen. She said she was on her way to work and asked me if I was ready for the holiday. I answered that I don’t do much for Christmas and let the matter drop. But I had already told Heather I would play music with my church on Christmas Eve, and that’s something, I guess. It’s kind of ridiculous when people try to dictate to me my own worldview as if they were right. Christianity is one way out of many of looking at reality, not the only one. We are all discouraged from using our brains for ourselves, and I find this very offensive. It seems to be a growing trend in the United States to defer all judgment to a spiritual leader or whatever; someone who does your thinking for you when we ought to be capable of doing that on our own. It’s a sort of mental dictatorship. We’re being bullied by the Church and we don’t even realize it. People work at their jobs and are told to keep their mouths shut. If you have a problem, you’re supposed to see your spiritual leader for the solution. It’s beginning to look like a George Orwell novel. Even my iPad tries to put words in my mouth.
We had a really good practice this afternoon and got quite a bit done. I took my blue Fender bass and felt very comfortable playing it, which makes a big difference to the way rehearsal goes. This bass also cranks out a great tone. I think I’ll use it all the time after this. The other guys played better than usual, too, and Mike and I smiled and winked at each other while Ron would take a very long solo or something silly. We were basically indulging him and being gently deprecating, or saying, Well you know how Ron is. We have two or three really strong numbers that we can use for playing in a gig, and we’ve got plenty of time to work up the others.
Yes, instinctively human versus a consumerist society. I was just thinking of how it’s difficult to be free and human in a culture that has us so utterly pegged. It’s the sentiment of Pink Floyd in “Welcome to the Machine,” by now a lugubrious and kind of stale song, but it gets my point across. Everything you can dream of has been already thought of by the monster of society, so, before you can express your feelings on this or that, you’re in a certain category of people in the eyes of the government and whatever shapes our destinies. My observation is not an original one. It should have been obvious to me long ago. I suppose it’s a cynical view, and perhaps rather defeatist to see human life as a mass production run, like being on the assembly line or shot through the chute. When our lives are set up this way, at the mercy of a culture we can’t control, is it even possible for us to express something new and independent, original and real?
And how has the band changed me… and do I like it. Mostly it’s just the fact that we’re a trio of guys, more or less the same age. I feel that I’ve been bonding with them, for better or worse, but I think our project could lead to something good in terms of a career for me, and I love doing music anyway. It started out as just having fun on weekends, but I believe it may grow into something more serious and disciplined.
Right now, I don’t feel that the band has been a bad influence on my mentality. I might’ve gravitated away from the church even without playing with Mike and Ron, just as a function of time. And by the way, my sobriety feels very secure, though I should never be complacent.
Overall I feel pretty good at this writing.
I listened to Prokofiev during the wee hours, from a very old cassette tape that I’m surprised didn’t break. Just now I read an article about the red tide in Tampa Bay: six hundred tons of dead fish have washed ashore. Nobody knows the exact cause of the disaster. In Oregon, I don’t remember the last time it rained. The drought is severe and doesn’t seem normal to me.
Seven forty. Back from the market already. I reminded Michelle to turn on the sign that says “open.” She cursed and said she knew she’d forgotten something. The sky is gray and overcast, but rain will be very far off. I found out on short notice that I have an appointment for a lab this week. So, tomorrow morning I’m taking a trip to Springfield by taxi. The last few times I’ve gone there I was unimpressed and just wanted to come home.
I think Walt Whitman was absolutely right that the body and the soul are one and the same. To be emotionally alive you must be in tune with your body, though the Digital Age tends to pervert our natural instincts. Some people use technology to cover up what they feel; they become a severed head with no sensation at all. This has happened to me as well, but I also find fault with church doctrine, which is centered in the head rather than the heart and the gut… The clouds have blown away and the sun is out, yet it’s very cool today. Looks like the band will play this Saturday afternoon. The weather is really quite nice, so maybe I can go get another Snapple or something. Aesop peed on the carpet a while ago: probably revenge for getting his breakfast late this morning. Dogs are smart enough to get even with you. Now my mood is taking a dive for some reason… Again, I’m tired of living an incorporeal life, a severed head staring at computer screens. The soul of us below the neck is nothing infernal or otherwise bad but simply human and natural. Most likely I’ll never go to church again… The Prokofiev was good last night; I hear echoes of it right now. It had been thirty years since I last listened to this music, thus to hear it again breaks open a trapdoor in my psyche that I’d nailed shut.
Seven fifty five.
In my driveway I paused to examine the sky: light blue with white swirls. Right now the sun is partly covered. I’ve just received a package in the mail, left on the doorstep. Aesop will have a fit when I go out and get it. I actually ran into the mail carrier at the store a little while ago. She was not exceedingly friendly; rather businesslike and maybe a bit shy. While I was there, Michelle worried to me aloud again, which is pretty normal each day. It’s weird to observe how people in society are functionaries, robots operating in the big machine, everyone’s job linked to all the others, with very little free time to be fully human. This is why writers like Henry James are important, or the makers of popular music. The world needs some beauty, or else we’d go bonkers as servants to the neon god… It promises to be a fine day, probably not too hot. I was wise to invest in an air conditioner. I saw a headline reporting that the Northwest is in for another heatwave.
Nine o’clock. There’s a lot of cardboard recycling I should do; boxes from Amazon and other places. What’s the difference between being unmotivated and laziness? The second is a moral imputation, but essentially they amount to the same thing. Anyhow, I brought in the package and cut it open. The seat cushion I ordered works great; I’ll use it when I play the bass guitar or listen to CDs in my hard chairs. I never did buy any furniture after the house fire two years ago. The inside of my home is an obstacle course of boxes and Snapple bottles because I just don’t have the gumption to pick them up and get myself organized. I’ve also developed a bad back since the disaster. But the PCA ought to be able to help me with all that… A very old ballad by Duke Ellington plays in my mind: “Sultry Sunset.” I was three years old when my parents gave me the compilation record from the era of the big bands. My dad was always grumpy on weekends, and my mother was rather indifferent to me— although she did take me to a child psychologist that year. Apparently I would run across the room and bash my head against the wall, probably to make the music stop. Now I know that it won’t stop until my last heartbeat…
Life is strange. If you don’t drink, it’s even stranger. Apparently someone stole a letter from my mailbox a few months ago and used my identity to try to get a refund from the IRS. I don’t know how long it will take to sort the whole thing out, but there’s only so much I can do each day. The days when people were honest and trustworthy seem to be over. I know I sound like an old fogy saying this. A couple of factors are involved in our decline: the failure of the education system and our dependence on machines. Nobody knows anything anymore off the top of their head, and people can’t think their way out of a paper bag. It’s as though we externalized our minds to cyberspace and then forgot how to use our heads. But in doing this, we’ve sacrificed our own souls, given ourselves over to an alien power and left our fates up to it. As if the machines could be more intelligent than humankind; but this will prove to be a fatal fallacy for us. It tempts me to go throw my iPad in the Willamette River. Short of this, there must be something we can do to correct the course we’re on. Crack a book, maybe, preferably something by D.H. Lawrence, or anything organic and healthy.
Recently I’ve been doing more writing in my blank book and getting away from electronica. I said somewhere that I don’t care if I never type on another PC keyboard, because it reminds me of the office job I had 15 years ago. It was data entry and very bad for the soul. I got addicted to alcohol and also to typing, and became a kind of machine hooked to a machine. And I externalized the contents of my mind to my computer in order to preserve them, like a sort of cloning process. In essence, the activity was quite sick and unnatural, the type of thing D.H. Lawrence would despise. It was like a mental blood transfusion, a vampiric exchange from me to the computer. It sucked the soul right out of me. So I’ve been trying to get away from that old habit to be able to live naturally and happily… Speaking of Lawrence, I still haven’t read his stuff in a long time. It doesn’t mean I don’t think about it. He had a healthy horror of industry that I could resonate with. I regret to see his work going neglected nowadays. He could inspire us all to be more human and alive… The sun is beginning to clear the roofline across the street from me. Yesterday it was beautiful all day. Today there’s Heidi at two o’clock. I guess I’d better get over to the store to buy my food and Snapples.
Quarter of nine. I just got back. The sky is cloudless and azure. Michelle wasn’t working today, but I didn’t ask any questions. Cathy checked out my purchases. No one in the store was particularly smiley this morning. A big shipment of food had been delivered in gray plastic crates, so Suk and Cathy were sort of preoccupied with inventory and getting ready to unpack. Then I ran into Derek on the way back home. Wade had hired him for his HVAC company. I tend to judge those guys for their politics. Wade used to fly a big MAGA flag at the top of his pole in the front yard. It’s just a rather sad situation with the neighbors. Way out east on Maxwell Road, my church makes an oasis in this political desert. The demographics are very interesting, the way people are zoned to different places. When it isn’t interesting, it can be a little disturbing.