Another Letter

I think it’s good that you took the day off from reading today… I just got back from the store, where I bought a Coke and Aesop’s favorite treat of chicken jerky. I looked around at the sky and it was blue with a lot of white from clouds or maybe smoke. It’s 90 degrees. You know, what you’ve been saying is right. The fact is that I really like my Edgar Rice stuff. Why should I let anyone ruin it for me? It takes me back to a happy time in my life. In 79 I was 12 years old and just finding some things that I really loved. I read my pulp novels and drew pictures to illustrate what I’d read. I had a wonderful time. I didn’t really hit the wall until I started high school and caught mononucleosis. There’s evidence now of a possible correlation between schizophrenia and the virus that causes mono. In my case, this makes good sense. My battle with mono in high school was awful and depressing. At the end of my senior year, my doctor did some work on my blood and determined that I had a low level of immunoglobulin type A, which may also turn out to be related to the schizophrenia. But I’m only guessing, and the research on this stuff is going very slowly. Anyway, I was terribly sick during high school, and the schizophrenia happened to me in college.
A problem with my ex psychiatrist was that he never believed anything his patients said until there was a consensus, a considerable body of evidence. It always drove me kind of crazy to have him pooh pooh my observations or complaints about something with my illness or a medication I was on. He had to see it in JAMA or whatever before he would believe it. He didn’t credit us with any intelligence, sometimes even humanity. His patients were beneath him. Ick! He was an autocrat.
The Coke tastes really good this afternoon. I’m resolved to read my Edgar Rice and enjoy it.
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A Letter

As I said in my post today, I didn’t enjoy church this morning, but the whole day wasn’t a loss. My books came by the mail and I got to flap through them. And yes I did get a CBT workbook. I looked at that one first and wasn’t really impressed. However, the Tarzan book is very nice. I skimmed four or five chapters in the middle of it, read the whole introduction, and glanced at the afterword. I was 12 years old when I first read Tarzan of the Apes, so it’s amazing to remember my experience upon reading it again now. Gore Vidal is right to say that Tarzan is a daydream of power and domination of your habitat and to refer to Alfred Adler, not so much Freud. I think it’s an individual’s answer to feelings of oppression by an over civilized society: this and over organized. At some point this morning I also thought of 1984 by George Orwell, about the dystopian future, though I’ve never read the book yet.

The other book doesn’t address cognitive therapy as much as it does behavioral therapy, but it cost only ten bucks and I might still use it somehow.

I think a lot of my feelings nowadays resemble the theories of Adler, who in turn is a bit like Nietzsche. I feel the need for empowerment, for control over my life. And when you have a disability like schizophrenia and its stigma, these feelings make good sense. The opposite of this, Christian abnegation, doesn’t have the same appeal and doesn’t really compute for me in my situation. I don’t know if you’re following my argument or not but I’ll keep writing about it.

I’ve got a couple of books of Adlerian psychology that I can examine. I doubt if a contemporary therapist could understand or help me with my puzzle. I’m trying to be my own therapist, as inadequate as I may prove to be.

Rethinking Edgar Rice

Well I guess I’d better quit talking about Edgar Rice Burroughs. Maybe even Nietzsche as well. I was just reading and skimming the “introduction” to the loa Princess of Mars: it’s full of venom and swear words and name calling regarding the author. Junot Diaz has a point. Burroughs is not very politically correct, but Diaz goes further to accuse him of fantasies of slumming on top of colonialism, etc etc. I can almost agree with his points about white domination. He uses the word “superman” at least once, which also makes Nietzsche suspect. In a way, it’s kind of good; it stimulates me to rethink the whole topic of Burroughs and his creations. And perhaps Nietzsche really did go too far with the ubermensch notions. And what’s the difference between the Aryan race of Hitler and the white superheroes of Burroughs?

I don’t know! These ideas are New School. I feel how dated my education is. But even so, I want to take refuge in my old classics, the things that make me feel good. Like Greek philosophy, even though you have to remember that it’s elitist and sometimes eugenic, possibly dangerous stuff. Is there a reason why people don’t study philosophy anymore?

The world has changed a great deal while I was drinking my life away.

Todd approved a prescription for me of the gabapentin for anxiety as needed. So now I have that insurance for emergencies. I didn’t really enjoy my excursion today. It’s a sunny day and beautiful but my heart feels rather heavy, and I’m a bit nervous. The cabbie today said something like, “My give a shit is busted.” I guess my problem is caring too much, though I’m getting better about this.

When It Was Tarzan

Eight fifty.

I purchased one Snapple tea this morning. The air felt very cold to me outside and the fog is hanging around longer than usual. Otherwise I saw nothing extraordinary on my walk. Though I rack my brains, I can’t remember what I was doing a year ago this month. I only know I played bass with Ron and Mike at Mike’s place in the neighborhood. But as far as what I was thinking at the time, I have no clue today. I think my Vraylar works maybe a little bit too well.

I love my little community in the environs of Maxwell and N Park because of my old school on Howard Avenue, where I attended when I heard my first Rush albums and began taking advanced English classes. I was a dunce at math and barely passed the competency test in the spring trimester with a score of 80. I remember the smile on Mrs Vaughn’s face when she said it to the whole class. She read the scores off to everyone one by one. For entertainment I still read Conan books as a ninth grader, plus Doc Savage and during the summer, some Ian Fleming novels. Purely masculine fantasies good for a 15 year old boy. The next year my taste grew more realistic, admitting some human weakness to my reality, though it wasn’t as fun as Edgar Rice Burroughs. In the end it all got left behind with the Kelly Bombers: no more innocence, for life was not a fantasy of control, strength, and courage; or if it was, it became more abstract and mental than an action hero like Tarzan. Gradually there was a better match between reality and my reading habits. Still I miss when the stories were graphic and very exciting, kind of like Nietzsche’s superman rendered in pictures… 

Fantasy

Eleven twenty at night.

I got out of bed hearing an old song by The Pretenders, a ballad called “Brass in Pocket.” It takes me back to junior high school halls and the afternoons when I’d go to Safeway or Oregon Foods with my mother, perusing the paperback titles on the stands. Things were so different then, just the cultural attitudes and the protocols and rituals that people obeyed. I never had a girlfriend at that age or went to a dance at my school, probably because my mother dominated my life for her loneliness and her need for a friend. She needed to assert herself in a different way than by controlling me, but in hindsight I probably wouldn’t change a single day. The summer I read Tarzan of the Apes and A Princess of Mars and drew my own illustrations for them in the morning was the happiest time I ever spent. I would sit up in my twin bed and read on sunny mornings, hearing the soft breezes in the crabapple tree outside my window, filling my senses with romantic adventure by means of the written word. I could easily imagine a blue sky with not one moon, but two. Or any new combination of shapes and colors in flora and fauna, helped by some great illustrators like Michael Whelan… I learned to escape to worlds that my imagination could control, but someday my imagination came to control me. The ultimate goal is control over your life in the real world, which the use of language and imagination couldn’t hurt. But again, my mother should’ve asserted herself in her own life instead of dominating mine. Now maybe the fly knows the way out of the bottle of fantasy… but will he choose it? 

Books versus Candy

Midnight hour.

The world really is a lapsed place of blasphemy, so tomorrow morning I guess I’ll go to church, just like old times, to search for my lost innocence… At around noon yesterday, Damien and his friend came and did some important yard work for me. I felt terrible all day from the threat to my sobriety I perceive in the band. I think music is not a very safe profession if you want to stay sober. Now I’m looking for a way to transcend the fallen society that surrounds me. Last night I thought of Boethius and his Consolation of Philosophy, considering the things that are immutable, like rational love, as opposed to the things that pass transiently like the pleasures of the senses. I figured that wisdom was more important than a beer buzz, and longer lasting. 

When I was a kid, and my nephews and I were turned loose in the shopping mall known as the Valley River Center, they went off to buy candy, while my destination was always the bookstore for what was imperishable: Logos, the written word. I read trashy Edgar Rice Burroughs books, yet they were good for building vocabulary. My mother helped me write my first book report for seventh grade reading class, and the book was Tarzan of the Apes. It got a perfect score from the teacher, but Kelly, the girl who sat behind me, was quite outraged at my success. Once during this class I was reading The Moon Maid and David accused me for looking at a book with a naked lady on the cover. Mrs Cheleen passed it off because I was her pet student— and after all, she was right: there was nothing wrong with reading Edgar Rice Burroughs at the age of twelve. Funny but I had a full head of hair back then, and braces which came off the next semester. 

I didn’t hear my first Rush album until the summer after eighth grade, and that was where my true education really started, both mentally and emotionally. I heard someone say that their son had outgrown Rush, but of course they were talking nonsense. Rush is a band you never outgrow. 

Back to Myself

Quarter after ten. I’ve been gutted by church indoctrination. Somehow I need to throw off the brainwashing and just be human again… The radio at the little market was playing “Rock with You,” an old tune by Michael Jackson. Michelle said she was in sixth or seventh grade when the song was popular. Me too. It dates back to about 1979. That was when I started reading the novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs for sheer fun. The sun shone a lot brighter then, and the taste of a nectarine was unbeatable. Outside my bedroom window stood a crabapple tree I could hear swishing in the summer breezes. The sky was powder blue and mellow. We had a Carrier air conditioning unit in the family room that really saved us from the heat. Life was simple and literal, uncomplicated by doctrines or dogmas. Even ethics was intuitive; the Golden Rule sufficed. My mother loved beauty in any form, especially the human body, or maybe that was me? I drew countless figures from my reading, including John Carter of Mars and his friends. I was never happier than during that year. When school started, I made an awesome Tarzan for the girl who sat behind me in English: just No 2 pencil on Manila divider paper. I inscribed it to her and she took it home.

Eleven thirty. There should be band practice tomorrow afternoon. Hopefully it goes better than the last time. It doesn’t really matter which instrument I take with me, so I’ll use the white Fender bass for its sweet tone. The rain has started again.

Two o’clock. Lately it stays light out till after six o’clock. It’s just another overcast day, gray and dismal. This morning I was definitely unwell. When I take leave of common sense and blither about religion, I’m not doing so great. Some people with schizophrenia can’t read Dostoevsky or Kafka because of paranoia. I’d be better off not reading them either. For a long time I’ve felt borderline delusional, but now without church I don’t have to read heavy stuff. Jules Verne might be fun for a while. I’m free to read what interests me, no shadow of the church to engulf me. 

Sophomore Thoughts

Four thirty. I’m having fun with my laptop now; no painful memories. The wildfires have been such a shock, and now my mind is settling down a bit. Times don’t seem so apocalyptic as on Monday. We’re planning on having the food pantry Saturday, so, conditions allowing, I’ll go help. Seeing Sue and Nancy should be fun. I played my white Precision for what must’ve been 90 minutes. The classic tone inspired me to pick out some Queen songs from the mid- to late-70s. I guess The Game was released in 1980. I haven’t listened to those albums in years. I’d like to hear News of the World and Jazz in their entirety again. John Deacon was a wonderful bass player… Wow, the smoke is still quite dense outside. Aesop is handling the situation okay… I remember, in the band Blueface, how I wanted to cover “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” But with our inept guitars, it wasn’t realistic. You can’t cop a Queen song with just a rhythm section and a lead vocal. I’ve wondered before why I chose bass over guitar; is it just because it’s an easier instrument? But no, I genuinely love the tone of electric bass. It sounds great to me. There’s nothing better than the sound of Chris Squire’s powerful bass on “The Gates of Delirium.” Suddenly, I feel like I did as a sophomore in high school. I bought every Yes record I could get my hands on. I also started listening to Led Zeppelin…

My taste in reading material changed from ERB to stuff with more magic in it: Michael Moorcock and Fritz Leiber, especially. Their writing just seemed more mature somehow. It dealt with essential problems of life, such as death, in a more realistic way. Perhaps it came across sadder and wiser than the adventurousness of ERB. The latter was like reading westerns, with clear-cut heroes and villains, and it was gratifying to see evil punished. But in the other two writers, victories often were pyrrhic. Emotions were more complex and confused, and the truth was ambiguous. It seemed that more serious thought went into their content, and feelings ran deeper. Sure, it was only sword-and-sorcery fiction, but it was comparatively well-done. I also enjoyed Roger Zelazny and Karl Edward Wagner. The second raised questions of the rectitude of selfishness. The antihero, Kane, was brutal and ruthlessly selfish, and even megalomaniacal in the scope of his projects. Basically, he wanted to rule the world himself. He was all about gratification. Where Conan had been power hungry, it was presented in a way that made you cheer for him. He was plainly the good guy fighting the bad guys. But Kane’s designs were not so clearly for the general good. And in the whole array of writers from ERB to Wagner, you witness a loss of innocence over time. The naïve romance of ERB beginning in 1912 gradually collapsed to the cynicism of the 1970s. Just as the wars grew more complicated in real life, so did the fiction that was written. Thus, you have the reluctance and remorse of Moorcock’s heroes, the slowness to answer the call to adventure. The adventures were no longer fun and exciting. Heroism was not so heroic anymore…

Beliefs and Burroughs

Noon.

This is Thursday. I’m wearing a shirt that reminds me of working years. It’s a nice shirt, though a bit threadbare. It’s a maroon sweatshirt, made by Russell Athletic. My experience at the store this morning was rather negative, and I seemed haunted by fire engine red wherever I went. The new checkout counter is finished in bright red, and the Coke I bought has a red label. I suppose I’m seeing political significance in the color. I can’t find much of anything that’s blue. Very strange. The wildfires rage on, and Angela at the salon awaits the order to evacuate her home out east in Springfield. Everybody is so preoccupied today. I started to contest the price of a couple of burritos at the store, then dropped it. Prices are going up while quantities are going down. The little market is getting expensive. I spent over $14 on 4 items. If I can manage the long walk, I should shop at Grocery Outlet more often.

It’s odd how Christianity is the ideology of the masses, especially the poor, while materialism is reserved for educated rich people. Victor Hugo’s comments on this are spot on. Then what are you supposed to do if you are educated and fallen through the cracks? The Christians you find yourself among don’t understand you. Does this mean that your education is wrongheaded? I may never know the answer. But I do know that I can’t fake my way through prayers of intercession anymore. It isn’t fair to either me or the others in church. And though I keep saying this, Pastor keeps hoping that something will magically change. My policy is honesty, and I’ll just pursue my truth as far as it goes. It will be my dower, for better or worse. But I will have the satisfaction of my integrity. I may end up unjustly dead like Cordelia, or alone and miserable. Still, I refuse to lie.

One o’clock. I can’t think of much else to say. I do think honesty is the best virtue I possess. I might pick up my Lloyd Alexander book that arrived yesterday and give it a flap. Then again, I could look at an old Edgar Rice Burroughs novel to determine what was so appealing about his writing when I was a teen. I read about half of his whole corpus of 90-odd books. I also lost a lot of my collection in the house fire. More than once, I’ve thought about subscribing to one of his fanzines. I even considered starting a blog dedicated to ERB. It would still be fun to meet other fans and compare notes.

Memories of June

Ten twenty five. I rested for a little longer, and now Aesop’s been fed his breakfast. I recollect when I bought Going for the One by Yes. It was in June 1983 at the Lloyd Center in Portland. My parents and I had lunch at the Hippopotamus and afterwards I found the record store. The sleeve for the album blew me away: the nude man in the foreground awed by leaning skyscrapers in the gleaming sun.

Vicki was wearing a mask today for the first time. I bought Aesop three peanut butter bones and a Coke for me. I need to wake up a bit more. There’s a book in my mail today, a collection of Conan by the original creator Robert E Howard. The 1930s pulps were generally very good. My favorite is Lovecraft, I think. When I was growing up, the bookstores offered very little poetry, and what was available even in grocery stores was sci-fi and fantasy. In the late 70s and early 80s, a lot of older writing was reissued with fantastic cover art. Edgar Rice Burroughs was a forerunner to the pulps, starting his career in 1912. It was actually DC Comics that introduced me to Rice in June 1976. Also the publication of Burne Hogarth’s Jungle Tales of Tarzan the same year. What was so great about Rice’s writing I don’t remember at this time, but it might have been the idea of primitivism, of barbarism, but in a good way. It was emotionally refreshing to me to feel closer to nature. In some sense it was Jungian. And imaginatively, Rice and the ensuing pulp writers just seemed more sophisticated than the new fantasy of the 60s and 70s. Perhaps I had an antiquarian streak even as a child.

Noon hour. While my parents picked out spy thrillers and historical romances from the bookstalls, I was drawn to heroic fantasy from the pulp era. We were at the mercy of the material that was available in local stores. The occasional trips to the bookstore were heaven for me, and I snapped up all the Conan books I could find. The cover art was beautiful, with contributors like Frank Frazetta and Boris Vallejo.

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I got ahold of Conan of Cimmeria in June 1980 at B Dalton downtown. As June approaches, these layered memories of my childhood surface. They are even specific to the very month.