Solfege

Six twenty.

At the crack of dawn I will probably go to the store for a soda and things to eat. And yet the ritual has gone so smooth. The groove has become a rut. What could break the monotony? Just about anything. I could go to Grocery Outlet and buy some banana peppers and some artichoke hearts. But this is for people whose taste buds are all in their mouth. My mother used to say that. I see the first light of day out my front window. The only hope now resides with instrumental music, music with no words. The sounds of music are feeling. Feeling describes; it cannot prescribe. It can’t moralize— and really, it is the moral that we need to get rid of, with everything we face today. The only poetry we need, a most blasphemous thing, is that of Edgar Allan Poe. To recite “The Bells” again over our gravesite is to be sublime. Poe made poetry for the music of it, for the sound, not the sense. His verse slips under the net of language and meaning. Music is the one art form to which the other art forms aspire to be. Walter Pater said this. Poe anticipated the Aesthetic Movement by a few decades, inspiring especially the French… People need something to make them feel good. To my mind, the greatest help to us right now is instrumental music. And the best that words can do is to strive to be music.

Philosophy

Four o’clock.

I’ve been reading Nietzsche. I came across some ruthlessness that I didn’t care for. And I can see why Christians don’t like his writing. To him, kindness and virtue are done out of cowardice. He says people don’t want to be hurt, and for this reason they abstain from hurting others. And though this is quite true, what would the world be like where people reversed the Golden Rule? My high school friend was a Nietzsche nut, possibly for the wrong reasons. I remember exchanging letters with him when he was a Marine. We argued over moral philosophy versus amoral. It was such a long time ago, and I drank daily back then. I think I was disposed more toward Hume’s and Kant’s ethical philosophies, while Sean was vehemently opposed to them. I could never understand why, because his outward demeanor was rather shy and quiet. I still can’t really picture him with an UZI. One debate we carried on for a while was over my notion of “security and peace.” It wasn’t much of a philosophy. I learned it by observing my dad’s behavior. In informed retrospect, it resembled the psychology of Alfred Adler more than any philosopher per se. I don’t know where my dad learned his protocol for life, either. Where had he run into Adlerian theory? All he asked of life was to be comfortable. Consequently, he never learned much about himself. Or, if he did know himself, he didn’t share his feelings with others. He wasn’t brave enough to admit to his weaknesses—which would’ve been a commendable strength. Basically, my dad was a coward… I suppose I’ll read the rest of Zarathustra. But I disagree with the deemphasis on kindness. If anything, it requires courage to feel and show kindness to other people. “He held up his riches to challenge the hungry / Purposeful motion for one so insane / They tried to fight him, just couldn’t beat him / This manic-depressive who walks in the rain.” From “Cinderella Man” by Rush, 1977.

“Karma”

Eleven forty. I took a 300 mg capsule of gabapentin. Gee, I only want to enjoy my life, and instead I’m getting a lot of negativity. I don’t think other people blame me for anything, but I get down on myself. Polly’s criticism used to hurt unbearably, but I don’t detect any condemnation from her anymore. Then where is it coming from? It must be internal, must be me. Okay: somebody did say something critical at the last food pantry, about my disability income and Medicare. I tried to deny that this was hurtful, but the truth is that it cut very deep. Realizing this now, I just want to go back to enjoying life. Forget I ever revived Ayn Rand and all that stuff. I feel a little like confronting the woman who made the unfortunate remark, because after all it really did hurt. Maybe what goes around comes around, as we used to say 15 years ago. Good karma and bad karma are like a game of tag. They get passed along from person to person until they arrive at someone with the insight to make the game stop— or change… I feel better now, and I think that tomorrow I’ll be able to go and make some music.

Mandalay Moon

Eight ten.

I feel a little wiped out, but my mood is fairly cheerful. Early this morning the moon shone through my bedroom window, bright and full. Under its spell I thought of my mother in her last two years, after Dad had passed away. We drank a lot! And she made breakfast for dinner often, or else I would get takeout from Tio Pepe, the Mexican restaurant on River Road. I lived in sort of a dream then. My friends in music must have thought I was strange to be living with my mother. But I was comfortable. I had no worries financially. I bought a lot of books and read every day. And I learned more about my mother’s aesthetic mentality, although it was beginning to decay. She told me about a song her parents used to sing for their parties, “The Road to Mandalay,” with words by Rudyard Kipling. On one of my trips to the bookstore I bought a big book of Kipling’s verse that contained “Mandalay.” I brought it home and read it to Mom. I also purchased two novels by Harold Robbins in an effort to make sense of the thinking of my parents. I was very aware that it was different from most people I knew. Quite amoral, in fact, like the poetry of Edgar Poe. Maybe what I sought was the root of schizophrenia. There was such a schism between Mom’s beliefs and those of everyone else that madness could result. But that’s only a theory. Perhaps Mom was simply more intelligent than the average people I knew…

Confusion

One o’clock. I’m tired of worrying about what people think. But I’m kind of tired in general. Just a fish out of water in a lot of ways. Before I was born, my parents were profligate with alcohol and sex. I don’t know what to think about that now. And my mother liked rock and roll. It’s hard to think about because they were my parents and I spent three decades of my life with them. Does everyone have a soft spot for rock and roll, maybe? My dog hates it, but it’s nothing to get superstitious about. I was raised on the music, though my piano teacher was upset when I quit lessons and dedicated myself to drums and percussion. Morally speaking, my upbringing was kind of a mess. The company I keep today makes me feel self conscious about my past and uncertain about my future. It would be scary to cast aside everything I grew up with and adopt a new lifestyle completely. It entails breaking with my mother, mostly, the hardest thing to do for me. It will take a rock solid constitution like I never knew I had, because I’ll be doing this without family. I still utterly reject my sister’s evangelicalism as being ethnocentric. And oddly, Pastor likes rock music, especially The Beatles. Even blues music is okay according to him. Thus my life is in a state of confusion. It appears that I have more sacrifices to make as I move forward. This will have to be okay.

Church and a Question

Midnight hour. Well, tomorrow morning is church. The service is set up in such a regimented way that I doubt I will go. It’ll be like a one to one with God rather than a social event, which doesn’t interest me much. All the fun is removed from it. I might be able to help Pastor if I do go, however. He hasn’t said anything to me about it. The question of an absolute right or wrong thing to do is a good one. For me, it echoes Robert Frost saying, “The bridegroom wished he knew.” It’s like pondering the stars and what is written there.

The bridegroom came forth into the porch

   With, ‘Let us look at the sky,

And question what of the night to be,

   Stranger, you and I.’

The woodbine leaves littered the yard,

   The woodbine berries were blue,

Autumn, yes, winter was in the wind;

   ‘Stranger, I wish I knew.’

If there is indeed an absolute moral code, then what ordained it if not an omniscient God? I only wish I knew what I was supposed to do.

The Great Divide

Quarter of eleven. I forgot my Vraylar last night, so I will take it again pretty soon. I don’t really know why Polly isn’t talking to me, but it’s probably something childish and stupid. I had a dream about my nephew Ed a few hours ago, but it didn’t make much sense. I was on the phone to Polly while driving or walking on the Beltline where there was a wreck and a fire 🔥. I was saying something about the gravel quarry next to the highway. I often dream about that section of the Beltline Highway. And then Ed was in the dream, and we met in the same location. It was evening time before sunset. But I don’t remember what we talked about or what the issue was. I only know that I felt like the bad guy, and there was reproach in the look on his face. In reality I don’t know Ed very well except for his ignorance and his sexual morals, which are excessive and conservative. His morals in general are simplistic and judgmental. And yet he drinks too much, and even drives drunk 🥴 or with open container. So then what issue would he have with me that I would dream about it? Poor Ed. He just isn’t very smart. Maybe I feel guilty about that? He seems to be Polly’s successor as the moral leader of the family. Very strange. And of course I am on the outside of all of this. So much time has been wasted since we got along okay. But no, not wasted, because I wouldn’t want to be uneducated like them. I guess I left my family behind a long time ago. No sense in regretting it now, whatever I may dream. There’s no blame to be had. I did what I had to do, and sacrificed my family for wisdom. Still, my unconscious regrets that it couldn’t be different…

Love of Money

Eight ten.

A cloudy morning that promises another sultry day. Pastor still needs three more singers for Sunday worship. It will sound pretty funny with only two male voices. I won’t preconceive too much, or preoccupy myself. Worrying is just borrowing trouble.

I recall a time at the coast with my brother. He was out or watching tv while I wrote a poem in a spiral notebook with an inkjet pen. It was the first week in September 2007, and the composition of the poem was a decision making process. I said something about building castles in the air, concluding that matter didn’t matter to me. In other words, I didn’t share my brother’s obsession with money. That was the groundwork that prepared me for leaving the industrial job I hated so much. I planned my escape meticulously, and step by step implemented it. This was the first big decision I ever made in my life. The ramifications are still being played out like a ripple effect.

Nine thirty. I ran into B—, the former owner of the market. She was collecting her mail. She’s the same penny pincher she always has been. I can’t help feeling a bit resentful of her for profiting off of people’s addictions, and she did it for 45 years. Think of the alcoholic deaths she contributed to by selling the poison to customers. This morning, she looked to me like a little old witch with long gray hair. “Love of money is the root of all evil.” Funny, but B— wasn’t always that bad. It got worse after they tore down the old shack and rebuilt the store. Her greed has corrupted her mind and body the same way the Ring deformed Gollum in the Tolkien classic. And my brother’s fate has been quite similar. It makes you wonder…

Byron or Buddha?

Seven forty. During my phone appointment this morning, Todd discussed with me some options for talk therapy. One of them came from a spiritual approach and aimed at the client’s self abnegation. As a knee jerk response I blurted, “Eww! I don’t think I’d like that.” I didn’t think about what I was saying, though I know it was honest and authentic. It was too much like Serenity Lane indoctrination had been. And I’m too much of a Byronic person to blow away my ego. Obliteration of the will is the goal of Buddhism. Success in doing this is to reach nirvana— theoretically. The Twelve Steps borrows from Buddhism, or so it seems to me. I can’t prove where Bill Wilson got his inspiration for the program. Anyway, the spiritual talk therapy is not for me. Todd said deciding to do therapy depends on what I want to get out of it. This is a good point, because I don’t really know. Right now I’m inclined to forget the whole idea. Maybe I’m just a Faust freak. If I could have all the knowledge in the world, what would I do with it? Not so much the knowledge in the world, but the knowledge of the world and existence itself.

History Lesson

I found my copy of The Carpetbaggers by Harold Robbins, a cheesy old bestseller that both of my parents read when I was a toddler. Maybe I wasn’t born yet. It is quite decadent, dealing with money and sex mostly. I wonder why my parents fed their minds on such immoral stuff. Were the sixties and seventies so very different from the present? This book could be said to be the bible of my parents’ marriage. A constitution of sorts. A handbook, an owner’s manual of conjugal ties…

I suppose The Carpetbaggers expresses a moral creed in a way: aestheticism, or maybe Epicureanism. Indulgence in pleasant sensations is the highest good. Living with my mother after Dad passed away was odd. I spent that time trying to pigeonhole her belief system, which was fairly easy. I purchased my own copies of Harold Robbins and the verse of Kipling. Did some thinking about Poe. Then I reread Lord of the Flies and part of Thomas Hobbes. I finally joined a butt rock band— and Mom had a heart attack and died. The combination of smoking and drinking caused her demise. I was left behind still trying to solve the mystery of her life. I knew what she believed, but I didn’t understand the why of it. “I am lost now in this half world / It hardly seems to matter now.”

My sister perceived Mom’s life as something naughty and taboo, as well as prideful. I beg to come to her defense. Mom might have been misdirected when she lived in Glendale California and brushed with movie actors at her high school. She graduated at age 17, which would have been 1945, the year the war ended. She never gave me a good timeline of her life as a teenager, but she described a little what high school was like during WW2. Instead of an honor roll posted on the wall, there was a roster of senior boys killed in action. Mom had a classmate who was a Hollywood actress, and who asked Mom to do her homework for her. I think my mother was immersed in a culture quite alien to what Polly and Jeff grew up with in Oregon. My parents both were raised on the movies, on Marilyn Monroe and John Wayne. Dad wanted to be a war hero and enlisted as soon as he could. He was discharged from the Navy because he caught rheumatic fever, while in France his twin brother was killed in action in the Army.

Times were a lot different for my parents, and the silver screen gave not only escape but also a representation of their lives. It would be difficult to judge my parents and the dreams they were raised on. To judge them is to judge a whole generation.