Crushing Grapes

Seven thirty AM.

On my walk for groceries this morning, I paused at the intersection of Fremont and N Park to watch an airline jet fly over my head. And the words came, “Where would you rather be / Anywhere but here.” Then I continued to Maxwell Road, where I had the whole place to myself— except for one man walking his beagle towards me. He said nothing, and frowned and seemed rather surly. Only the dog acknowledged my presence, straining on his leash to get at me. This experience was not like the afternoon yesterday at the little market, when it was packed and bubbly with people gabbing almost merrily. Perhaps it was “beer thirty” for some people, and the market and the deli comprised something like a pub, a place to get loose a little and enjoy life. Even though I’m sober, I’m still with them in spirit. The Dionysian tradition is about more than the wine, or rather the wine becomes symbolic of a mental state. Is it overstatement to say that intoxication gave birth to our notions of heaven…? The cult of Dionysus preceded Plato, who came before Christianity. “How did heaven begin?” Historically, it probably grew on the vine.

Used to Be a Bacchant

Quarter of seven.

I’m just getting ready to go to the store for a Snapple tea and some food. The light outside is gradually coming on, showing the gray sky in my window. It may be warm enough to go without a jacket, and no rain is forecast for today. Later I should read a good book to try to goad my brain out of its lethargy. What I really miss is playing music with friends. However, I’m not a Dionysian person anymore since I quit drinking. It’s still hard to figure my life out.

Quarter of eight. Aesop looks more alive than he did last night… To say that I used to be a bacchant is a romantic way of saying I was an alcoholic. There are different ways to intellectualize alcoholism and make a culture of it, but a skunk is still a skunk. And yet for me, sobriety is the undiscovered country, the last frontier of experience. After four years, I still don’t know what to expect with my life without beer. If I’m not exactly happy, then I’m at least alive and fairly healthy. Different kinds and qualities of pleasure are available to people. I guess the life of the mind is good enough for me. It is said, Live by the sword, die by the sword, but I’ve put the sword away, and the dragon I once fought has shrunk down to a baby alligator. Don’t feed it and don’t piss it off and it will stay little and cute… I’m looking at a lonely day ahead, but it beats a day of frenzy and uncertainty— sometimes. Both offer a chance to learn new things. 

Bacchae and a Dream

Quarter of eleven.

During my nap I had a wild dream about a cult of chicken worshipers that bore a resemblance to my church. Like the devotees to Dionysus they tore their victims to pieces. The chickens may actually have been turkeys, because of November and Thanksgiving. Towards the end of the dream I was being prepared for slaughter, but the parishioners delayed my sacrifice until November. They had been feeding me the flesh of chickens, whatever that means, and the whole chicken or turkey worship thing… I guess I’m not going to church tomorrow morning. I imagine that the chicken symbolizes a certain kind of spirit, in the style of Nietzsche, where Christians were represented by the camel. Traditionally we say “chicken” to indicate cowardice; also the chicken is a flightless bird and a witless piece of livestock. And turkeys are known for their stupidity. But I still wonder if there’s a connection with the ancient cult of Dionysus and the way the bacchants in a frenzy ripped people to pieces. Or more specifically, they tore King Pentheus of Thebes limb from limb after he had imprisoned their master and summoned him to trial. The earth itself squirts geysers of wine and milk at the liberation of Dionysus. I should review the tragedy by Euripides; I read it once fifteen years ago, in order to prove that Jesus Christ was a fictional character, no more real than Dionysus. It pays to know your classics and to compare mythologies. The price of ignorance is your freedom.