Birthdays!

Three o’clock.

It is difficult though not impossible to find pleasure in this time of the pandemic and climate change. It can be something as simple as a Snapple or two quarts of ice cream, you pick the flavor.

I took my own advice and bought a tub of orange sherbet for my fourth birthday: four years of cold turkey. The streets at three fifteen were deserted until you got to Maxwell Road. At the store the cashiers were Deb and Hank. No one seemed exceedingly cheerful, but I hardened myself to the prevailing attitude and rewarded myself with the sherbet. It cost $6.39, so I paid with food stamps, and the receipt said I still have $195 in credit, which came like a bonus. I brought the sherbet home and ate half of it standing at the kitchen counter, thinking “birthday” with every bite. I gave Aesop two bites, for his birthday is this month also. He is nine years old now. The weather today is perfect for a little celebration, even if the only partiers are me and Aesop. The world is glum, but the world is wrong. There’s still something to celebrate. 

Streaking and Shrieking

Seven thirty.

I hate politics. Biden’s vaccine mandates force me to be political, however. I didn’t know how to respond when our church musician said he had no tolerance for the unvaccinated, but now I can say that he was too extreme. For more than one reason, I want to boycott the church, and Biden’s action makes this decision even stronger for me… Last night I took my medication, and a few hours later felt worse than I’ve ever felt in my life… I don’t know. I don’t care what I say anymore. Life really sucks for everyone right now, so I guess anything goes. I feel like throwing off all my clothes and running screaming through the streets until I get arrested; but chances are that nothing would happen to me… I just trashed the daily church email without opening it. Aesop is whining for his breakfast. At least dogs are apolitical and innocent. I wish people had as much sense as my dog. 

“Cutting a Swathe”

Nine forty.

Aesop’s canned food has been delivered to the front porch, so now I have to go out and get it amid a shit storm of his barking. I really dread doing this. Sometimes dogs are irrational and cause a problem for people… I did it. And then I opened the package for a look at the product. It appears to be pretty good, with lamb and garden vegetables. But the real test is how Aesop likes it… Yesterday my sister used an expression that I had to look up to be sure of the meaning. She said some people cut their own “swathe” in their life. I could relate to this from a song by Talk Talk: “Funny how I plowed myself an avenue.” Both figures of speech refer to independence and self reliance, doing things your own way, which is mostly what I did, starting at least five years ago. But really it’s been going on for much longer. I’ve noticed that my sister doesn’t try to give me advice anymore. If I had allowed her, she would have dominated my life forever, and that simply doesn’t work. Everybody is different, a difference that must be respected. I didn’t want to be my sister’s clone. Everyone has a sense of logic, an inherent rational faculty for making judgments and choices appropriate to himself. As easy as chocolate or vanilla— or strawberry. All the brainwashing in the world shouldn’t make any difference. You are what you are. 

Travesties

Eleven thirty at night.

It is still 82 degrees in the house after a 100 degree day. The cloudless sky was white with the heat and heaven was a long ways away, unless the kingdom of God is within us, held within inner space and created through human thought. Keats wanted to know if poetry has the power to unite people with a better world, an otherworld of spirit, like the Platonic ideal. If we’ll ever know, the time may be getting close for revelation. So far we’ve seen no sign of the coming of Jerusalem, while the sun from a clear sky bakes everybody to a raisin. Were we dumb to believe in Kingdom Come? For the first two years of my recovery I went to church every Sunday morning, believing to be safe. Over time, the antipsychotic grew more effective and the angels fell from heaven like meteors. Perhaps I was a fool. My knowledge of modern science returned: the earth is now just a ball floating in space, orbiting the sun for a complete circuit every year. No heaven and no hell. I was freed from a silly illusion spread by the Church.

The veterinarian returned my call this evening regarding my dog’s moods: to my dismay she suggested putting him on doggie Prozac and calling the Humane Society for advice. Can she be serious? A dog on Prozac? I absolutely refuse to agree to such a thing. Aesop would be bouncing off the walls and just a mixed up mess. Prozac is a terrible drug for people, let alone for a poor dog. Again I have to take the law into my own hands and reply a stentorian negative. Doggie psychiatry is a complete bullshit. 

Around the World

Seven thirty five.

I had a couple of little revelations in the last half hour on my excursion to Community Market. Willie was walking Rosie up my street when I came out the front door. We stopped in passing and talked a little. I learned that he makes a living by selling goods from a booth at Saturday Market. Willie fashions shirts and other clothing, and he makes wooden hand drums. When I asked, he described himself as an “old hippie” with a smile. Next, I rounded the corner onto Fremont Avenue and, to my shock, a for sale sign hung like a gibbet in the front yard of Kat’s house. Her family has only been living there for a year and a half. I have no clue what changed their mind or what the circumstances are. And finally, it sounds like Heather is going through a breakup. Willie honked his horn at me on Maxwell Road as I was walking home. He was on his way to set up his booth, for after all this is Saturday. The sun is out this morning in a clear blue sky, but the air is windless. A prop plane hums over my house. My dog anticipates breakfast. Aesop has been rather agitated lately; he doesn’t sleep well and has nightmares when he does. Probably he feeds off my own disquiet about the world today. I’ll be relieved when summer is gone.

They say that endings are really new beginnings. Even so, bring on the autumn… 

The Slope

Eight o’clock.

Michelle told me she left her other job. Evidently the place was quite mismanaged and there was inadequate communication with her supervisor. When I first got up and looked out the window, the sun was a great copper cannonball in the east. I let the dog out and took out the trash. I skipped my medications last night and so far I feel better for it. The weather people keep telling us the air quality is good, yet the colors outside don’t look right. Next door to me, Lenore is having her house painted a medium gray with white trim by a local budget service. It doesn’t look so great, especially next to my bright yellow house. Lenore also never offered to pay me a portion of the cost of the fence that Damien built last year. I have crap neighbors, and nothing I can do about it. No one seems to have a conscience anymore, while the big brazen sun keeps making its daily circuit: sunrise, sunset… 

Aesop just ate his breakfast. Every morning I give him a peanut butter bone from the store, so now he expects it as a matter of course. I love to see him enjoy it while I quaff down a Snapple tea; it’s a high point of the day. When the world is sloping downhill, it’s good to have a creature comfort or two. Yesterday I thought of my brother, whose immaturity belies his 68 years of age. And I think of how he has no excuse for being a jerk to me, his younger brother. But life is very strange to a person in recovery, far stranger than any fiction. 

Candide

Quarter of four in the morning.

I got up for a few minutes, and maybe I’ll go the distance until sunrise. The idea of Panglossian optimism occurs to me, a kind of teleological absurdity that depends on the existence of a benevolent God. Everything works out for the best because he designed it that way. I haven’t read Voltaire in many years, but I can always remember the chapter about El Dorado. And Candide asks questions out of his sheer innocence while he and his friends go from one predicament to the next.

Six o’clock. In another hour I can go to the store, unless Heather misses her alarm again. It looks like the sky is overcast this morning. Speaking of optimism, mine is restored a bit after the events of yesterday. Now I’m more liberated than I used to be. A burden has rolled off. I got a decent sleep last night as a result. I realize that I take things earnestly and hard— probably too hard; I was always very grave and serious about everything. It’s not my nature to be light and satirical, but rather honest and literal like Candide, who, by the way, is quite the opposite of the author who created his character… The sprinklers have turned off and a prop plane drones overhead. The first birds are cheeping outdoors, as free as their nature. Today should be good, as Aesop my dog stares me down with a question on his face. 

Word on the Street

Quarter after ten.

My burrito was good. Aesop ate his breakfast after he understood the cost to me. He even understands when I ask him, “Are you mad at me?” His attitude softens and he wants to make peace. Very smart dog. I hear a pressure washer somewhere near, and a conversation in my street. I’ve quit eating my heart out about the girlfriend who ghosted me in 2017. Still, I imagine it’ll be hard for me to listen to an album like Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band for the memories it triggers. I guess just don’t listen to that CD. The clouds have formed a solid white sheet that admits only a bit of sun. The religious thinking is going away, giving way to realism again. I really enjoyed Silas Lapham by William Dean Howells and might look into The Octopus by Frank Norris. The opening chapter was very powerful with its description of a train plowing into a flock of sheep that had wandered onto the tracks… Didn’t sleep well last night, so I feel rather wiped out. It doesn’t bother me much anymore who is the US President, or how this would affect my sobriety. Staying sober is an independent thing from all other issues. I had bad dreams about my dad last night. He was a real jerk because no one liked him, and vice versa: a vicious circle…

The chatterboxes in the street are still going at it. I don’t want to know what they’re prattling about. You can’t pick your neighbors, usually. Probably the ones I have don’t like me, just as they disliked my mother.

Eleven twenty five. I’ve got oodles of time to do whatever today. However, days often go by when nothing gets done. And I suppose I’m okay with that.

Dawn is a feeling

A beautiful ceiling

The smell of grass just makes you pass

Into a dream

You’re here today

No future fears

This day will last a thousand years

If you want it to

Mixed Blessings

Seven ten.

Clouds like fish scales have moved in overnight. I got two Snapples and a little peanut butter bone for Aesop. Saw a heavyset woman walking two small dogs, and I passed a skittish cat in front of Kat’s house. Now, my house is exceedingly quiet; the only noise is my tinnitus, a whine in my ears from too many music gigs… Maybe all the music was a waste of my time, because you can’t have the music without the culture. I consider myself a nice guy and probably unsuited for rock and roll, especially when I’m not drinking anymore. I feel myself split between so many polarities. Can we blame a philosopher like Kierkegaard for his either/or principle? Or perhaps Aristotle for the Law of Excluded Middle? Too much of life is forced into a scheme of black and white. Even Jesus Christ had a distaste for lukewarm people, saying you run either hot or cold. Dichotomous reasoning is embedded in our culture, but not necessarily in nature. Sometimes I want to shoot spit wads at Aristotle for being a clod.

Quarter after eight. Aesop doesn’t like his science diet food today. I spent thirty bucks for twelve cans of the stuff and he’s turning up his nose. But with all the things that are going wrong lately, I know that not everything is crap. Life is full of mixed blessings. Whatever else happens, I’m still sober. If the world is coming to an end, I’ll be clearheaded to witness it and write about it. 

Family and Fowl

Eight forty.

I fed Aesop early today. I’m beginning to stress about leaving him here while I go to my band practice, if we decide to do that today. The dog was in such a bad mood yesterday from my absences on Wednesday and Thursday. Very pouty, and he even snarled at me last night… Well now it’s a date set in stone: rehearsal at one o’clock. Maybe Aesop will forgive me. The high temperature might be 95 degrees. I’m getting rather sick of blue sky every day and no sign of any precipitation. You start to wonder if it’ll ever rain again, and will autumn ever come. I hear sparrows and falling acorns out back. Tried calling my sister again with no answer. My guess is her son is probably home. He and I don’t get along together very well; but the whole family thing is stupid and really out of my hands. I wrote them off when I quit drinking almost four years ago. I have no control over family nor the power to change the situation. But at least they also have no power over me. It’s not like they made a little voodoo doll of me for sticking pins in; we don’t cast spells on each other back and forth like two teams of wizards. Right now, as I write, there’s no one in the room with me but for Aesop. The rest is my imagination.

Nine thirty five. I’ve been through a lot of things since 2017 and seen so many faces, heard many stories. I guess none of it was wasted time as it’s part of the same learning experience. Still there are some things I wouldn’t want to repeat. Even now, there are circumstances I’d rather get out of and risk going it on my own…

I just observed a pair of sparrows on the grass, copulating like crazy. It appears that all of nature is in a state of confusion, unless mating season is supposed to be yearlong for these birds. I dunno, but I suspect foul play.