There’s no daylight yet. I have no plans for today; maybe a phone call to the veterinary hospital to schedule Aesop’s appointment. How strange if the light never came this morning. But I see it rising very gradually, a change of color in the east. Sometimes I feel like a stranger to myself. It’s hard to monitor what’s happening with my identity over time, and I feel quite invisible and inconspicuous to other people. “I could be replaced by any bright spark.” This may be a sign of maturity or it might be depression. Now I see cloud stripes behind the tree line, gray blue upon pale white.
Dawn comes regardless of how I feel, and I feel damn lonely.
Of course it’s still dark outdoors, but I was done sleeping for the night. I wrote something about memories and regrets before bedtime. I concluded that because I decided as I did, I am still alive, safe, and writing today. In other words, I made good decisions, so those regrets are useless. It’s sort of like Pollyanna or Pangloss, reasoning from what is optimistic, looking on the bright side, the glass half full. This made me feel better before I went to sleep… I reread my letter to a friend from yesterday and remembered how I felt at the time of composition. Not only were there no regrets, there was no guilt or shame whatsoever. I believe that being remorseless is the key to solving depression. And if a person wields guilt as a tool to manipulate you, then you should probably blow them off. Life is too short for feeling shame. The experience of pride is our ticket to joy… The “mild yoke” that Milton refers to is the yoke of shame, in my opinion. Under the burden of guilt, your whole perspective is darkened as long as it remains to plague you. Therefore it is desirable to liberate yourself from it.
We went to Bi Mart where I bought some things. The paper towels were free because Dona forgot to ring them up. I felt bad. Six dollars in my favor. But it’ll probably average out another time. Afterwards we had cheeseburgers as we usually do. Gloria bought mine this time, saying she had a windfall yesterday… Sometimes I think I should call up my old psychiatrist to see how he’s doing, though I know that bridge is pretty much burned. It’s just strange the way it goes. I feel sort of tired, with the aches and pains of growing older and the same mental pains as ever. If I could only be natural in my life instead of keeping my chin above the mire of dung.
It is good to rest now. My mind wanders to my mother. With her gone and without the alcohol, life is still kind of mysterious. I used to compose music to please her. In fact, my existence fairly orbited around Mom. And now it’s an empty vessel, though I can remember what went before. Losing her was to lose my soul, so I go around desultory and displaced, a specter of my old self. I’m like the traveling shade in the poem of “Eldorado,” experienced in the mountains of the moon and the valley of the shadow. Or maybe I am the knight yet to discover the place called Eldorado?
This day is starting out better than the last few days. So far, so good. I solved Pastor’s Riddle of the Day. It was fairly easy because he’s repeating himself, or there’s a pattern to the sort of puzzles he puts out there. It’s foggy out but not awfully dense, yet still the atmosphere is pretty dark and gloomy. I think sometimes that something good has to happen sooner or later. It can’t all be darkness and despair. But it’s also up to me to stop the spiral to depression. Aesop is funny. Now, at the first sign of darkness outside, he goes down the hall on his own and jumps into bed, where he stays all night… I already miss the summertime. I don’t think I was prepared for autumn to come this year. Is it possible that nobody is really happy with life right now? If so then I don’t feel so alone in the world. “Seems I’m not alone in being alone / A hundred million castaways looking for a home.” I hear Roger my neighbor tapping away on something metal, keeping himself busy in his retirement. Where do we all belong? This is an even better riddle than the one I guessed an hour ago.
Quarter after eleven.
Gloria and I spent a quiet and easy day this time. She dusted the furniture and then we took a long break and talked about random stuff… I might have problems with my blood sugar or maybe blood pressure, or maybe it’s just the change in the barometer; but I feel very lightheaded and absentminded.
For some reason I went looking for a few books in a series by David Drake, a fantasy epic that isn’t great. Drake was a friend of Karl Edward Wagner and Wagner really was a great writer. I bought Drake’s Mistress of the Catacombs at the airport gift shop in February 2002 while I waited for my brother’s flight to arrive. From there we were headed to the coast for a holiday. The purpose of the whole thing, I guess, was to drink beer and have a good time. But what happens when you remove the element of the alcohol from the party? Now it’s more of a dilemma, a problem of ethics, and there’s no clear answer one way or the other. I thought of the David Drake fantasies because my brother was on my mind and the time we spent together at the oceanside getting hammered… He’ll be 70 years old next month; kind of blows me away, and he’s still up to the same old pranks as ever. I quit only because it would have killed me at 50. Choosing to live is the most serious decision.
I try to see the human mind as a unified whole and not bipartite or tripartite, with an ego and an unconscious at odds with each other. If I did subscribe to Freud’s topography, then I’d probably go back to drinking because it appears that my “unconscious” desires alcohol. It’s better to write the unconscious out of existence than to make it more real. The self is a flat piece of paper with words scribbled on it: that is all. And the one writing and editing the words is me.
Another book I want to look into is an omnibus of Jules Verne.
Six twenty five PM.
Another long day’s journey into night. It might be easier if I didn’t have to do it alone but this frog has no wings except the viewless wings of poesy. My dog’s fleas drive him crazy; he’s crunching his kibbles without complaining. I only know that a day like today is the lowest point in my life I’ve ever experienced. The only consolation left to me is my ability to write my way through it to the other side. It’s like blasting a black tunnel in the heart of a coast range mountain: and I think that reading the Jules Verne might be helpful.
The other way is to be Jules Verne…
The change to fall is very difficult for me this year. I wasn’t ready for summer to end, and now I’m up a creek without a paddle. The days will only get darker and drearier as time passes onward to winter. I wonder what the problem is? I’m a smart guy; I should be able to figure it out. Probably I simply want to drink beer and get loose with somebody and have a good time. That’s why I’m not very happy with my life today. I grew up like an epicurean, and all of my friends were like me. Now I’m sort of lost in the twilight world in between daylight and the nightlife, or culture and counterculture. It’s interesting that even Thomas Jefferson declared himself an epicurean; and I knew someone who had respect for Jefferson, referring to him often. Another friend of mine told me she liked pleasure and having fun. Wouldn’t a person be stupid to avoid a good time? It’s turning from a philosophical problem to a practical one. I’ll just have to talk myself through it. Maybe it’ll be like this every day for a while until I’ve ironed out the rough spots. And perhaps it’ll take a reevaluation of the place where I got an education a very long time ago…
Four twenty five.
I’m eating my heart out to the tune of “Knowing When to Leave” by Burt Bacharach. The music destroys me, particularly the interlude following the main theme, where the strings are deep and rich and the women’s voices have replaced the trumpet… My self analyses have been hit and miss lately, but as autumn deepens, so does my perception of the truth… She didn’t want to be around longer when my dog died ten years ago and she cried for two days. But she hung on as a friend in spite of herself several more years… Why did it have to be so complicated? And yet, in 2013 when I was abandoned by my family, she was the only friend I had other than the booze. She must’ve seen this quite clearly. I was probably never lower than in January 2016, when I began to realize what was really going on. She was doing all of this against her inclination. I had been utterly deserted. And then the booze turned against me.
Lose one, gain one. I looked for an old copy of Stephen Crane but could find it nowhere in the house, so I concluded that I gave it away to a friend and later forgot it. In the process of searching, I found an Ian Fleming book I thought was lost. From Russia with Love was a novel I read forty years ago in the summer, and then my mother decided to reread it as well. After that, she revisited the whole series of James Bond, leaving me in the dust. The last Fleming I finished was Diamonds Are Forever, just as I was starting high school.
How interesting if I could tap the psychology of myself when I was 15 years old. At the time I lacked the words to identify my feelings and thoughts, though I know I was growing more sensitive and perhaps a bit depressed moving into high school. I think I was ambivalent regarding music, because it was a huge relief to drop the school band program as a junior. Now I don’t remember how that came about or whose decision it was. I believe maybe it was mine, but my mother disapproved strongly. My health dictated something else. She cried when the doctor said I had mononucleosis. He kept me out of school for five weeks and put me on horse pills of erythromycin. Mom felt so badly that she made me oatmeal several times daily. I played a lot of Phoenix on my Atari setup, which messed with my vision. A girl from school called me on the phone a few times. I felt awkward and didn’t know what to say.
My phase of Edgar Rice Burroughs ended after tenth grade; I never finished Tarzan and the Madman, the 23rd in the series. I didn’t feel like a hero anymore. Life became more complicated than good guys and bad guys. The heroes themselves could show weakness and melancholy, or perhaps I was the one who changed. My reading changed to match my self concept. Eventually the hero thing dissolved totally.
Still it would be cool to have another peek at From Russia with Love. I had a wonderful time during the summer when I first read it. My friends and I played Rush tunes in Pleasant Hill, and we were really pretty good. For a time I felt I was on top of the world. I guess disappointment is inevitable but you have to get up again sooner or later. Sometimes it’s later.
Nine o’clock. I tricked Aesop into going outside before Gloria arrives so she can clean the room he usually stays in. I feel a little upset and agitated over something… I guess I feel tired of everything, and I could really use a good friend with ideas like mine. It’s so hard to make a friend and keep her or him. Admit no impediments to the marriage of true minds. I feel like a throwback to very old times, maybe more romantic ones. I think I’ll establish my own peripatetic Academy, a place for people to live the life of the mind. Sometimes I relate to Fahrenheit 451, seeing the threat to artists and intellectuals nowadays, being swallowed up by a consumerist society… It’s easy to complain, harder to find a solution. It feels as if everything was dying on the vine. And to top it off, it’s a cloudy day!
It was a hectic morning, kind of. I still feel pretty exhausted, and Aesop has been through the wringer. I won’t go to church in the morning; I need a day to rest. I notice how I’m growing older and slower, and feeling every ache and pain all the time. It’s okay to make allowances for my age and to know my limitations. You might as well be realistic. Some days I feel downright crabby. But if a day is going badly, it’s all right to admit it to yourself. When life is this imperfect, it’s harder to imagine paradise on either side of the threshold. Though I want to say it’s a beautiful day, it’s really gray and overcast, lifeless and not pretty. There may be an underlying cause for my bad mood today, some thought I conceal from myself. What would a perfect life look like? A time and place where I’m not in debt to anyone, maybe, and where it’s possible to find someone to love.
Seven twenty five.
I’ve got “Tea for One” playing in my ear, the old Led Zeppelin classic. I slept badly last night, but I’m thinking that Freud was close to the truth about human beings. The clouds are gray and puffy in the east; maybe we need a good rain today. Something to wash away cares and worries. Memories from my childhood keep haunting me, though I don’t know how important they are to the present day. My experience with the church was just a veneering with doctrines. The situation now is unique: I am sober and also have a lot of free time for soul searching… Freud is depressing. I prefer to feel happy and free and proud of myself. Like being in ninth grade again, and having a skill I was very good at. But even then, I had latent feelings for people, but it wasn’t my fault. You are just what you are.
After nine o’clock.
I’m in the waiting room of my doctor’s office. The music on the PA sucks; very drippy and sad sounding. No one here seems very happy, and I’m already having a bad day. The receptionist was rather rude and cold. I don’t know. Something is wrong with the whole scenario. I’m so sick of going to healthcare appointments one after the other. My life feels controlled by forces I can’t perceive, by god and government, by the media and whatever else. I don’t have the freedom to choose what I do with my life anymore.
Eleven o’clock. I guess I was just in a foul mood, and I waited a half hour past the time of my appointment, which lasted 15 minutes. My cab was there when I got back to the lobby. I didn’t want to keep him, so I hurried out to start our journey home.