Spirit of Solitude

Six o’clock.

I finally got up after having a dream that refused to make sense. Now, Aesop is up as well. I’m quite convinced that he understands most of what I say to him. It would be odd and frustrating to comprehend language but be mute like a dog except for barking and whining. It looks like a cloudy day ahead. The sprinklers have turned on, startling Aesop, so I tell him this is normal and it happens every day now. The music in my head is poignant: “Long Ago Child” by Pat Metheny. I used to listen to New Chautauqua when I was a senior in college. In the summertime I felt very lonely, so I would go to the bookstores to hang out and try to meet people to talk with. There was just nothing to do during the summer, and no one seemed really interested in talking about abstract things. Everyone’s mind was on the matter, thus I would be very disappointed when I came home and read a book by myself or listened to music… The little market is open now. I could go buy some foodstuffs anytime, if I wanted… One remedy I’ve found for loneliness is the activity of writing. This is like Henry James, keeping himself company with thousands of pages of his own prose, but which he shared with the reading public, to his great acclaim. How would it feel to be awarded the Order of Merit and then be buried in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey? Did he still feel lonely or was he at last fulfilled? And do I really want to live a life like Henry James? Well, on certain days I don’t have much of a choice… Later today I’m going to DDA for a meeting. I’ll get to see a few people, and the most interesting ones are often the cabbies who drive me there and back. I think I’ll go buy a Snapple very soon, and take a look at the neighborhood around me.

Quarter of eight. Now there is sunshine through the heavy clouds. Michelle was distracted by her cell phone when I was checking out. As I was standing in line, I saw my image on the monitor and marked how stupid I looked: a bald guy of average height with poor posture and a clueless expression on his face. Just an intellectual geek caught on Candid Camera in a convenience store at seven in the morning. Otherwise I noticed nothing out of place. Crossing N. Park on my way home I thought again of Henry James, of his loneliness and the way he often went to dinner invitations to hear stories from which he could fashion new fictions. Music: “A Day in the Life.” Aesop looks at me and I tell him 49 minutes till his breakfast. It is good to be understood. 

Long Night, Long Day

Seven o’clock.

I spent a very long night last night. I reacted to the shot rather uncomfortably. It didn’t catch up to me until bedtime, but now I feel only a little bit better. It’s good to see the daylight again. Mostly cloudy with a patch of blue sky. It would be great if I could mind over matter the way I feel this morning. That’s what philosophy is good for, so maybe read a bit of Being and Nothingness… I received a call from my bank yesterday afternoon: they just want to do an annual review of my financial wellness. I can say it’s a lot better since I quit drinking. I’d like to go get myself a Snapple tea but it isn’t obligatory. Suddenly I realize how lonely I feel. I’ll call my sister in a half hour… I wish I had a girlfriend like Kate again.

Eight thirty five. I sucked it up and went and bought a Snapple raspberry tea. I got some good news in my mailbox. Feeling better than I did when I first got up. The sky is growing more blue now with a splash of sunshine on the ground. But it’s intolerably quiet in the house, the silence of solitude. It might be a long day.

We may decide to have band practice tomorrow. If Mike doesn’t work on Saturday and if I feel up for it then we could probably do it. I don’t want to miss church on Sunday either. If Aesop weren’t so aggressive towards everyone but me I could take him for a walk around the neighborhood. As it is, he scares people to death. I guess no situation is ever perfect, so you take the bad with the good. I’m glad now that I bought the G&L bass. I think I’ll buy some Ernie Ball strings for it soon. I’d love for life to get back to something like normalcy, but it seems like such a long time coming. Not only that, but maybe there’s no normal to return to. 

Parsimony

Seven thirty.

I looked at the political news during the night and regretted it. Better instead to steer clear of those things and focus on my own happiness. Also making others happy, for I am a utilitarian. The sun splashes orange on my back fence… A neighbor from over on N. Park just brought me the mail that had been delivered mistakenly to him. Aesop went absolutely berserk, barking his head off. The man apologized for ringing so early in the morning; he was a big burly guy with a brown beard in a fluorescent green sweatshirt. I appreciate his honor in returning my mail to the right person, though I was a bit unnerved… Last night I dreamed about my pug Henry, whom I lost nine years ago. I had him for ten years after my mother passed away. He was just adorable and very sociable with everybody. Occasionally I’ll have a dream about dogs or puppies. I remember when Aesop as a puppy would lick my face at bedtime.

Quarter after nine. I have three engagements this week, plus Damien is coming to do more yard work for me. Today it’s Heidi at two o’clock unless she is still sick… Speaking of sick, I don’t feel so good this morning. I think it’s allergies; I coughed and sniffled while I was outside a bit ago, and then there are the natural aches and pains of aging. Mental pain is the worst of all, so I’ll probably not go to church again. I think Carlos Williams nailed it: “no ideas but in things.” Elaborate ideologies are a huge headache to me, moreover they’re less likely to be true. I love what is immediate and sensory. Sometimes I want to take a holiday from my brain. Untie the knots and smooth out the kinks and simply exist for a time. Feel something. If a notion is too complex, weed it out and go with the simpler explanation. It’s a beautiful sunny sky flecked with white clouds. A distance off, someone is mowing their lawn. Simplify your life. 

Monday Morning

Eight twenty five.

The sky is cloudy and gray to match my mood. I think the world is still trying to understand itself, but while it’s doing that, I’m going to live my life. Relationships with people are often difficult. They go more easily when we know what we’re responsible for. Sometimes I have to stop and analyze the thoughts that cause my distress. It doesn’t pay to own other people’s feelings, or to be an emotional caretaker. And yet it’s hard to keep up boundaries with others. One has to be quite self contained, and maybe a little bit cold, to remain intact and not enmeshed with friends. I’ve never done anything like this in my sobriety, so I’m just learning.

I feed Aesop at nine o’clock. He gets Hill’s Science Diet chicken and vegetable for senior dogs. The package arrived in the mail Saturday afternoon, just as I was stepping out the front door on my way to practice. Today, after Aesop’s breakfast, I’ll go get foodstuffs at the market like I do every day. My mind begins to play “Jumbo’s Lullaby” by Debussy, a little piano piece from Children’s Corner. It’s about a circus elephant falling asleep and having an animal dream. It is my favorite work by this composer, and it always makes me emotional… Now Aesop has been fed, so I guess it’s time for my trip to the store. 

Quiet

Six forty.

I feel like being an introvert today. Or not so much that as wanting to keep my life local and off of cyberspace. Last night I saved myself over a hundred dollars by canceling the McAfee on the old computer I never use anymore. I recognized their email as legitimate— something I can do when I’m sober. There are so many scammers claiming to be Norton or McAfee to phish for your information… Is rock and roll really dead, as some people say? I guess we’ll see about that. I might as well go to the store for the daily stuff. I think I need my Snapple tea…

Eight o’clock. I bought a peach tea and drank it up. Feeling a little better. I should have an appointment with Rebecca in an hour. But you know, all the business and red tape is making me kind of crazy and I just want to be organic for a day or two. I could restring my Aria bass and jam on that today. Tweak the eq on my amp to dial in the tone. Enjoy myself. I’ve had that bass for eleven years and never done a gig with it… Something on my mind is messing with my mood. Maybe it’s a little of everything. But I need a break from the digital world for a few days before I lose my mind. It’s a sunny day, so everything ought to be peachy with me, but instead I’m so worried over nothing. If I see another computer I’ll probably shit on the spot.

Ten fifty five. I had my appointment with Rebecca, and it went okay. We agreed that my IRS letter is legitimate. It could be a long time before I get through to someone on the phone. Oh well. It’s time for lunch.

Quarter after three. Aesop’s diet doesn’t agree with his system, so I’ll have to feed him something different. He will be nine years old in September. We’re just kind of keeping quiet this afternoon. I was feeling very out of sorts this morning; some thought or other on my mind, but I think it was my dog’s health bothering me. It took a day for me to accept it… I just left a message for Dr Yamada on behalf of Aesop. She might call back this evening… The neighborhood is super quiet this afternoon. It is overcast with white clouds. Sometimes my nocturnal dreams surface to me out of nowhere at odd times of the day. One dream I have recurrently is of me going to an auto repair shop to meet with someone, but I have no idea why. If there’s dialogue to the dream then it is censored out. It seems that I arrive first at the shop and wait a few minutes for my friend to show up. Sounds like the story of my life. And sometimes they never do show up… 

Thirty Years / Necessity

Nine o’clock.

Still another clear and beautiful day. I bought Aesop’s wet dog food an hour ago, ground beef and chicken. I got myself an extra Snapple tea to take to practice this afternoon. It should fit in my gig bag with my bass. Sort of by accident, I was wearing both a Duck T-shirt and a Duck mask to the store, but then Melissa also wore a Duck sweatshirt. As I was reading a few pages of Symposium last night, I realized how alcoholic the university lifestyle was, a tradition that started with the Greeks. First they would have dinner and then would proceed to get wasted on wine while they talked philosophy. It seems such an artificial mode of existence to depend on alcohol for any kind of feeling and profound thinking. And when you become addicted to it, your life goes down the tubes and you lose everything you had. On the flip side, if you stop drinking in time, your life will be restored to you. Despite Plato, I still love philosophy, especially the modern tradition begun by Descartes in the 17th Century. College was a lot of fun, and yet I got there rather unintentionally. At 18 years of age, I couldn’t make my own decisions on what I wanted to be. But I don’t think I would change my past even if I could. The real derailment was my illness at 24 years old. And I just realized that it was 30 years ago when I became sick. I stuck with the same psychiatrist for 26 years and never seemed to get anywhere. I took a medication that didn’t work very well. But now, on the new one, and minus the alcohol, I feel as though I had rejoined with who I was in 1991 or maybe a little earlier.

Every day when the sun shines, it appears brighter to me than ever before, which suggests how I am healing from the illness. As far as the idea of free will, sometimes adversities hit us that are out of our control. With me it’s been a very long waiting game for this new drug called Vraylar; though I wonder if the change in my fortunes can be entirely attributed to the medication. My big decision to quit drinking happened a year before I actually did that. Maybe there’s simply a time for everything, nor could it be otherwise; like a kind of necessity, another word for fate. In two parallel worlds, fate and free will both hold true at the same time. Whatever the truth is, the process of living is fascinating to observe in action. 

No Surprise

Nine forty.

I just looked at the forecast for next week: sunny every day. Aesop is nosing through his dry food, playing with it. He wants water, so I tell him 18 minutes and he understands me. Today is cloudy but it isn’t dark like the wintertime. I’ve bought my two Snapples and things to eat for the day. I had some trouble keeping my bandanna on my face; the knot in back kept coming undone and I feared the whole thing would hit the ground. I stood in the parking lot farting with it until it was safe. The store offered two kinds of potato salad, one from the deli next door and the other one packaged by a larger company. I went with the latter because I knew it had sweet pickles and pimento. Melissa said she was looking forward to a nap after work. 

As I approached the parking lot from the sidewalk I thought of my old Scottish friend, a person with excellent common sense with whom I shared an interest in cognitive therapy ten years ago. During that time I ordered a book from a local shop called Tsunami on Willamette in the south part of town; the book was Cognitive Therapy of Schizophrenia. The same day I went to pick it up I realized that my heat pump had quit working. The outdoor unit crashed and I was without air conditioning after that. I was always penniless due to my alcoholism and couldn’t afford the repairs. So today, when I ran my card in the slider at checkout, it was no surprise that I had money. I think good things happen to people who don’t abuse substances, for whatever reason. It could be magical or maybe it’s simply natural, but either way it’s good. 

Above the Fog Cover

Five o’clock.

The same old Pink Floyd song keeps coming up: “Wish You Were Here.” I don’t know why. Pastor returned my phone call yesterday evening with some information about AA groups that meet at our church. And then I’ll probably go back to church service this Sunday just to be around healthy influences. The phone visit with Heidi was very nice, and it will be a regular thing on Tuesdays from now on… I didn’t sleep well. There’s this bit of unfinished business I have to take care of. Also I have to make a decision on the band: to stay or to go. Polly said that their habits were not going to change, and I agreed with her.

Six o’clock. At the first light of day I’m going to the store. I need help with the photocopier, I think. Aesop is begging me for a treat. The sun will come up in a half hour, but it’s cloudy outside.

Quarter after nine. I’ve put my letter in the mailbox for the carrier to pick up. I was having paranoid dreams about getting it done. Finally I think I can relax again. It’s very foggy out this morning, and it’s supposed to clear up this afternoon and be another beautiful day. I believe I understand better what Impressionism was partly about. It’s a kind of missing link between Romanticism and the decline of the Absolute in the 20th Century. Probably many of us would like to return to the 19th Century for its beauty and optimism about spiritual things. And I suppose no one denies us the right to embrace the beautiful and true, however much technology conquers nature. My copy of Mallarme traveled all the way here from France, taking a month for delivery. The language of another country far away was brought to my door, something like a brush with the sublime, and rekindling some old knowledge that had lain dormant a long time in my brain. And some new ideas clicked for me that I hadn’t known before. Do you believe in eternity? Is there a fourth dimension behind the veil of the natural world? Maybe it’s an issue of wanting to believe it, because all the speculation in the world cannot unveil the truth. Maybe again I’d have nothing to write about without this problem of knowledge… Aesop has been fed his breakfast and the house is nice and warm. When the fog and the clouds lift, it should be a warm and sunny afternoon like yesterday. 

Lots to Think About

Eight thirty five.

Heidi is going to call me today at two o’clock, so I’m really jazzed about that. In concert with my mood, the sun has come out. At the store I bought Aesop a pouch of ribeye steak treats just because. Michelle wore a Peanuts gang sweatshirt under her work apron while “Honky Tonk Woman” played on the radio. She said she prefers The Beatles, and I agreed with her. The Stones were too garage band for me. When I got home I scheduled a ride to my appointment for a lab Thursday morning; no sweat. Earlier I was thinking that Aesop is more than just a dog: he is a pure intelligence with the appearance of a canine. He gets breakfast very soon. If not for his aggression towards other people, I would recommend blue heeler as a breed. They are very smart and very devoted… Now his breakfast is done. With the band and the church, I have a lot to think about. It’s probably not as cut and dried as I’ve been making it, and I don’t necessarily share my sister’s opinion on rock music. Her views are as hard as adamant, but couldn’t constitute the absolute truth. I know she’s worried about me. However, I believe my sobriety is strong enough to endure environmental stress.

Nine thirty. My new stainless steel strings should come in today’s mail. I’ll put them on my J Bass as soon as I can. I miss seeing my old friend Todd, another bass player who left town about ten years ago. They said he had an opportunity in sales he couldn’t refuse. He taught me how to adjust the intonation on my own bass guitars, and in general had very good taste and knowledge of bass gear. People you know tend to come and go. My sister observed of the music community that the A&D condition is unlikely to change, and I realize that she’s right. Thus I have to judge whether I want to deal with people who drink and use. I’m at a kind of crossroads in my life, so I hope I choose wisely. 

Sunday Truant

Eight thirty five.

Though I spend it alone, today could be a good day. Hours ago I ordered my favorite bass strings on Amazon. They ought to sound great on my Jazz Bass copy, at once bright and deep… Aesop just had his chicken dog food for breakfast, plus some dry kibbles. He likes Purina stuff better than anything else. He’s a very intelligent dog, the same way poodles are smart.

Nine thirty five. Church will be underway, and I’m not there to see it. It’s so quiet in the house right now. My mind dwells on events from nine years ago, when Kate was my girlfriend in a remote way and my pug dog was 14 years old. But now I wonder how I ever could rationalize the exorbitant drinking I did every other day. It seems like such a feat of mental gymnastics. Part of it was being close to my brother, another alcoholic. But I finally realized that he didn’t care about me at all; booze was number one to him, and all human relationships secondary. It’s a heck of a way to live. I understood that I was no different to him than his wife who was number two to his alcohol. So then I prepared myself to sacrifice what I believed in for the purpose of recovery. Yet I don’t embrace my sister’s beliefs either. Gradually I’m coming into my own as an individual. My mother was right about the importance of beauty in our lives.

Ten thirty five. By now, church is done. I’m glad I didn’t go. I wasn’t interested in hearing another gloomy sermon. “Hey you, don’t help them to bury the live / Don’t give in without a fight.” And how can the church call us Pharisees and Sadducees when the ones who are lifeless are themselves? The shadow of the church disfigures people to inhumanity, turning all colors black and white. For some of us, the veneer of indoctrination was thin enough to shed. It’s like reading the early Margaret Atwood: waiting until the fur grows…