Friends / Philosophy

Nine twenty five.

I left the house for the store at eight thirty, just missing the rain. Before that I called Polly to have a chat. I bought Aesop some original Milk Bones. He was pretty excited to see the red box in my hand when I came in the door… My mind is kind of a blank right now. Last night I urged my pen pal to treat herself to a new book she really wants. She has her eye on a book of bird writing from an online seller. I hope she springs for it today. She deserves a reward just for being herself. I think more people need to spoil themselves a little. We tend to believe we have to rationalize being kind to ourselves, and we feel guilty when we splurge. It depends on our upbringing… I was rather zoned out last night, didn’t realize what I was thinking or saying, but it turned out good. My heart expanded and I was full of benevolence for my friends. To start with, I felt anxious about the well-being of Polly and Roxanne because I hadn’t heard from them in a while. So I called Roxanne to see if she was okay and we talked for a half hour.

Ten twenty five. Probably I was in a reverie yesterday afternoon, hypnotized by the book I’d been pondering. It contains some mathematical logic that’s alien to me, plus some unfamiliar terms and usage. But overall the concern is with truth and language. I keep running into the condition of pessimism regarding what people can know, a hurdle everyone jumps every day anyway without a thought. And being introduced to philosophy is the real trouble, because then you have to find your way out of its problems. Wittgenstein: “Philosophy is the disease for which (philosophy) is the cure.” Most of us get along fine without philosophical complications. I guess I’m not like most people… Honestly, this stuff I had put aside and forgotten about for many years. My sense of smell remembers the reek of burning mint fields when I was 21. After taking Aristotle in the winter I had a loss of philosophical faith. I just turned to intuition and irrationalism like the existentialists. Soon my mind melted down completely. Is it possible to live without logic? Seems you can exist on Romantic feeling and take things on faith… 

A Human Mirror

Quarter after eight.

It was another red dawn today: “Red skies at morning, sailor take warning.” I hesitate to go out in the cold, would rather be comfortable indoors. Tomorrow there is church again at seven o’clock. I plan to go and participate. I hope Roxanne is feeling okay. During the wee hours a while ago I started reading The Gray Notebook by Josep Pla out of a nagging curiosity regarding the content and his attitudes in general. It had been a big mystery to me. Fifteen pages into the book, it appears to be simply a realistic diary of a person’s life, starting with his family background and the people he has known in his native Spain up to his 21st birthday in 1918. I think his project is to describe things with very little personal bias, being a human mirror of the life around him. This is sort of the contrary of Romanticism, full of ego and bombast. But I’m getting ahead of myself… It’s almost time to feed Aesop his breakfast. I count down the minutes to him while he gets increasingly excited and vocal.

Nine thirty. I bundled up and went over to the market. Saw nothing unusual. My neighbor Jeff passed by me in his burnt orange Mustang as I was coming home. I can never remember his wife’s name, but I think it’s Sara. He used to be a high school science teacher. He has a long white beard with a swarthy complexion and a little snub nose. Jeff doesn’t invite much conversation when I see him on the street. Outside of his house he flies a skull and crossbones pirate flag, and his mocha colored boat is called the Second Wind. Just across the street from him is Harry’s house, an old conservative guy who lost his wife over a year ago. He used to have two Doberman pinchers in his garage. His daughter Cherie lives on the cross street to the north. Occasionally I see her in his front yard, trimming rose bushes or whatever to help out… The clouds have burned off, showing the light blue winter sky. Yesterday at noon the sunshine was intense, or maybe I’d had too much caffeine. I hope for a serene day today, calm and quiet, except for the rock and roll noise from my bass guitar this afternoon. 

Rainy Sunday

Eight thirty.

Aesop has pain that makes jumping on and off the bed difficult, so I’m going to buy him his own doggie bed… That’s done. It should arrive Wednesday. He may need some doggie Tylenol too.

Nine forty. His appetite is good, however. The rain is constant, but it’s warm out: over 50 degrees. I used my umbrella and left my jacket at home. Got a little bit wet in my hoodie, not bad. A man walked into the store requesting the Register Guard newspaper, explaining that his subscription copy got soaked so he couldn’t read it. As I write, it’s coming down harder. I left the umbrella on the front porch step to dry. I can’t think of a time in the past to compare this to, although earlier this morning I visualized the album cover to Crash and Burn by Pat Travers Band. It takes me back to eighth grade, a very musical Christmas for me. My parents gave me a little Panasonic cassette recorder, and I taped everything I could think of. It was just the novelty of the thing, like getting your first camera. My sister was very skeptical of my involvement in rock music; so was my dad. My brother tried not to judge, but I learned later he didn’t approve. Only my mother was supportive, and of course my drum teacher and the school band. Mom bought me the red and the blue compilations of The Beatles that year. I favored the red one. She believed they would be instructive for me.

Ten thirty five. I wouldn’t dream of giving up music now, lockdown or no. It is too much a part of me. The show goes on next Saturday, when I’ll walk over to Mike’s house, my bass in my gig bag. The Muse finds a way to express herself, whatever the weather. 

Birthday Blues

Eight fifty five.

I don’t feel very good this morning. Something feels unbalanced. At the store I saw a handful of customers checking stuff out. And of course there were packs of beer piled to the moon here and there. Holiday cheer. I wasn’t enticed, but only felt kind of tired. It’s a cloudy day, and the rain isn’t through with us yet. I do my best to keep warm. Aesop guards me and the house. He’s a great watchdog. I don’t even have to lock the front door when I go out. Last night my thoughts digressed to Freudian psychoanalysis. Today, hardly anyone thinks that way anymore. About ten years ago, Freud’s contemporary William James was revived on the Campus and continues to win the day. I possess a good copy of Pragmatism. It may be worth a look. Basically, he subordinates the factual truth to whether or not a belief works for you— and calls this a kind of “truth.” In my opinion this method could be a mistake. The world is full of mistakes, a process of trial and error. Maybe we’ll never get it right.

Quarter after ten. I thought on my way home, Just because everybody believes something doesn’t make it true. In general we seem to be regressing to a more primitive state, or perhaps just more ignorant. It might be a good day to stay home and quiet. I observed that the street cleaner removed the leaf pulp yesterday, so the going was much easier on foot. Someday I dread that I’ll need my cane to get to the store and back… or maybe I’m only dreading my birthday on the Fourth.

I ought to go buy myself a big present! 

Unruffled

Quarter of eight.

It’s the same old story: Aesop is out of canned food. I should call Polly after nine o’clock.

The sounds of bird life around Fremont Avenue are insane today. I halted on my walk to examine the treetops, where you could see them perched, twittering in a frenzy. I took my excursion very slow this morning. Also I was slow at the checkout counter, and it annoyed the customer behind me. But it didn’t concern me that she was irritated. Michelle acted as her emotional caretaker and checked her out immediately at the other register. My business wasn’t even finished yet.

Eleven o’clock. It’s been raining and shining by turns while Polly and I talked on the phone. Our chats keep getting better. It seems that she’s done some serious independent thinking over the past few years, or maybe she’s always had a separate opinion from her son. I feel privileged to get to know her. We agree that money and material success are really negligible, and the important things are integrity and caring about other people… I missed the garbage pickup this week, but the service is cheap. I guess I’m feeling kind of relaxed today. Not exactly devil may care, but nothing inconsequential can ruffle my feathers. People can chase their tails all they want and it doesn’t bug me. They can foam at the mouth and throw a fit, but it’s all fruitless for them. I’m having a pretty good day. 

“Empty as a Pocket…”

Eight twenty.

I imagine it’ll be Melissa at the market this morning. I will take my time. I still have to open the blinds in the living room. There’s $169 in food stamps available to me. My utility bill was a killer, so I’m keeping the room temperature lower than before. Funny how I remember old friends, when I’m quite certain they don’t think about me at all. Dave introduced me to the stories of Borges, even lent me his copy of Labyrinths, 17 years ago. I never got past the first two tales, but I liked them. I always resented Dave for his self righteous attitude regarding AA. For recovery, there weren’t many options in the last decade. He would have scorned me for taking a route that cost money, but in my case, CBT was the best choice. I also felt kind of bad for Dave, not having much and martyring himself for it. His younger brother was the spoiled one who got the advantages. My family situation was just the opposite of his. Maybe that’s why we didn’t get along.

Quarter of ten. A rare thing: I caught a mistake at the checkout counter and had to correct it. One of my burritos got scanned twice, just an accident. Usually I don’t consider money very much. I almost never carry cash and I don’t bother with arithmetic since I quit drinking. Numbers I associate with buying beer… I took note of the cloud formations on my pilgrimage to Maxwell Road: large white cumulus ones, and partly sunny. A neighbor on Fremont used to fly a gray blue MAGA flag in his front yard. Now it’s been replaced with the green State of Oregon. More than one house sports a flagpole out front. The remainder of the fallen leaves at the end of my street have been pulverized to a yellow purée, a bit perfidious to walk on. I feel a little silly as a pedestrian around the community, but I know the limits of my income. I could not afford to maintain a car. Besides, I don’t want the inconvenience… I saw Angela on my way back. She was setting up the ramp over the steps for the benefit of people with walkers and wheelchairs. Karen hadn’t arrived yet, so I just said hi and continued on home. Aesop sniffed my shopping bag, but this time there was nothing in it for him. 

Thankful and a Little Wishful

Quarter of nine.

Thanksgiving Day has started out quite nicely. I bought Aesop a special treat of T bone snacks. The peppermint candy ice cream tempted me but I passed today. In the home stretch of my walk, I met with Bonnie Rose in her big black pickup truck. She rolled down the window and wished me a Happy Thanksgiving. I wanted to ask her if she was the one who kept setting up my lawn sign, but there wasn’t time. It was a little like Beauty and the Beast as I trudged up the street in my sapphire hoodie with a full shopping bag. Or maybe Lady and the Tramp. I can remember when she was a young girl and my mother had just passed away, nineteen years ago. Her older sister played the piano and her younger sister shot hoops with their dad in the driveway. The parents divorced a few years back, and now the family of women keep more or less to themselves.

Quarter of ten. The other morning I spun the disc of Rush’s Power Windows and was impressed with their mid eighties sound. Hearing Geddy Lee play his Wal bass made me wish I had another bass with active electronics. Perhaps someday. I wish even more for opportunities to play with other musicians… What I’m thankful for today is my sobriety and the positive effects this has had on my relationships with people. My pen pal thanked me this morning for my kindness, and it’s nice to be perceived that way. I still believe that alcohol is the root of all evil, though I know madness can stem from other factors. It does seem that avoiding alcohol has a magical impact on my fortunes, the year 2020 with its strangeness notwithstanding. It’s miraculous alone that I stayed sober through the trials of this year. I think fleetingly of my parents: they could never have maintained sobriety for three years. Whatever helps me today, my parents had nothing to do with it. 

Goodbye Silver Lea

Nine thirty.

I did things a little differently this morning. Aesop was out of canned food and I was concerned that he didn’t get enough variety, so I walked the mile to Grocery Outlet under the clear sky. I bought him four cans of Blue Buffalo in three flavors, plus sourdough bread, dry salami, pepper Jack cheese, and a summer sausage for me. A demo team on Silver Lane is tearing down my old grade school. I stopped and watched the big Caterpillars doing this dirty work. I don’t know if a new building will replace the old… According to the official report, the new North Eugene High School will be built on the grounds of the old Silver Lea school. The Japanese immersion program has moved to Kelly on Howard Avenue, and Corridor School has closed forever. So this really means goodbye to my elementary school. I attended there from 1973 to 1979. Learned a little bit of everything. Through the wrecked walls I could see into the classrooms, with the wall clocks frozen at two o five. I don’t remember how I voted on that ballot measure. I didn’t realize that revamping the high school necessitated the demolition of Silver Lea. Obviously the measure passed. Be careful what you vote for. Otherwise it’s a beautiful morning, and now I have a few groceries. 

Monday Morning

Quarter of nine. I bought pumpkin pie ice cream at the store, but no drinks. I grew tired of insomnia from the caffeine. I feel kind of tired today. This afternoon I have Erin for physical therapy. I leave the house after two o’clock. It rained all night again, and now it’s just cloudy. On my walk to and from the market I encountered nobody except one old man with white hair wearing earmuffs, or maybe headphones. We passed each other without a word. I also had the store pretty much to myself… Aesop just had his chicken and rice dog food. He doesn’t complain about the monotony of flavors, but I’m considering a trip to Grocery Outlet for some variety. Things are getting stagnant. To avoid getting upset, I won’t call my sister this week. It takes all kinds of people to make the world go round, but sometimes I can’t tolerate bigots. Her concept of what is orderly I don’t share… Now I hear “Love Is the Drug” by Roxy Music. I want to pick up my Precision Bass and make people dance around the world. Maybe someday this will be more than just a dream, and British people will love what they hear. Until then, I’ll keep practicing and waiting out the pandemic. 

Hallowed

Quarter of nine.

Feeling thankful for my sobriety this morning. I thought about how I never went to grad school, and how I couldn’t measure up to my brother’s accomplishments… and joined a church instead. But you know, I am sober while he is not. And it seems to me that my life couldn’t have been any different. I actually feel quite happy today. I have sufficient money in the bank, a lot of friends, and a great dog who gets more affectionate all the time. Perhaps sobriety came at a small cost of puffed up pride. Right now I’m okay with that… The mail carrier just brought a package, and it’s probably for Aesop: a canister of marrow snacks from Amazon. The weather is hazy now, or is it simply foggy? I have to go get canned food for the dog in a few minutes. There’s no one else I envy in the world today. Just now, it’s very good to be me.