Death Is Nothing

Noon.

I feel really good today from the switch in medication, and it’s even better because the change was my decision alone. I had a nice little excursion to the agency to see Misty. She talked me into returning to DDA group, so I’ll see them again in two weeks from Thursday. Actually, it didn’t take much talking. The incidence of COVID-19 has been insane lately; I’ve heard about more and more cases from people I know. I’m finally beginning to think, What if I caught the virus myself? But still I won’t let it get me down. I don’t have much of a life, so I should go for broke and do everything I can. It’s great that I feel so much better now. Everybody ought to feel as good as I do right now. The psychology of the pandemic is a very strange thing. We get to see what human beings are really made of now that we are so tested. And it reminds me of the book by Nevil Shute again, On the Beach, about how people respond to the fallout after nuclear war. Basically, they choose to live life to the hilt while they still can. I think it’s up to us to live up to a book like this and prove ourselves worthy. So far I’ve seen more of cowardice and depression than anything else from people in general. The worst that can happen is you die, and then everything goes black forever; a dreamless sleep from which you don’t awake. People ought to read their Lucretius on not fearing death, for death is nothing to us. It is nothing, therefore there’s nothing to fear after it. Thus reinforced, we should be able to do some good and maybe turn this ship around… I don’t think my church would agree with the Epicurean point of view, but really it’s tough luck if they feel that way. His philosophy, if you are open minded, makes excellent sense. Over the centuries since his time, Christians have blackened his reputation by calling him a hedonist, but what motivated it was his denial of the afterlife. This is a big stumbling block for most people who want to live forever, but they need to grow out of their greed for eternal life, and while they are here, live for today. 

Do unto Others…

Eight ten.

Something on the periphery of my mind is bugging me, and I think it’s a feeling of guilt, whether or not it’s appropriate. Also I’m a little worried about her because she hasn’t posted anything in a long time… It is another cloudy and temperate morning. The walk to the convenience store was uneventful except for something Heather said. She expected that I would razz her for the “open” sign not being turned on, but this time I hadn’t even looked at it. But it makes me think about what I’ve been doing with people lately, perhaps being too critical of them. No doubt I will make more of my own mistakes, and nobody’s perfect. It feels good when we can shine. It feels bad when we fall short. I tend to challenge the idea from cognitive therapy that no one causes others to feel a certain way. It strikes me as baloney. We have to take some responsibility for the feelings of other people, and try to encourage them rather than cut them down. This is simple common sense. It may be emotional caretaking but it is what it is.

Some people call it the Golden Rule. 

The Deep Shallows

Quarter of one.

I dug out my volume of John Dos Passos and decided I would read more of The Big Money. But right now I’m waiting for my taxi, expected here between one and one thirty…

Nine o’clock.

The cab came and got me at about ten minutes past the hour and dropped me off at G Street at one thirty seven. The driver’s route took us onto the Beltway, the Delta Highway, and I-105 to the Mohawk exit; then through Springfield and a lot of businesses to left and right, finally passing McKenzie-Willamette Hospital on the left side of the boulevard and taking the turn lane left to the clinic. The heavy clouds were big and gray and seemed to promise a little rain that never materialized. We crossed the river before the Delta intersection, which was very low from the drought. 

I got in to see the doctor finally at two twenty five. His nurse Brittany was very nice and genuine, but the med student he brought in with him, a tall blond bombshell in a red satin blouse and black slacks with dress shoes, immediately struck me as rather shallow. I was disappointed in the doctor for more than one reason. Somehow I sniffed something wrong with this arrangement, and also he didn’t remember my case very well. I was very glad to get out of there at three o’clock. 

Scott picked me up for the return ride in only a few minutes, and he drove us back to Coburg Road by taking a left on Centennial: this runs east and west and connects Springfield and Eugene. It was cool to see Autzen Stadium again on the south side of the street, a huge imposing place under the brooding clouds. Eventually we cruised through the Whitaker neighborhood, observing the number of businesses related to weed and alcohol. Scott took the Cornwall exit off the Northwest Expressway and showed me his own neighborhood along the way to my house… At last, I sat down at home and finished the ice cream. When it was four o’clock I crashed out until after night fell. I had a weird dream about someone from church; something about the elusiveness of the truth. 

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. 

The Yellow Signal

Nine fifty five.

I had a nap for about four hours with some strange dreams, quite nonsensical and random… In real life, it tires me to watch people conform to trends like herd animals. After a while it makes us look impersonal and mechanical, as if no one had a heart or a thinking brain, nothing they could call human. Or maybe superhuman. Green means go, red means stop, but what about yellow intersections where there’s some ambiguity and the call is up to you? And there’s a lot more yellow than we admit to ourselves. Everybody wants an almanac to give them cut and dried answers because they prefer to place authority outside of themselves, which is really a recipe for unhappiness. I still don’t have much respect for sociology as a field of study when instead we can opt for ethics. The almanac you seek is your own heart. Don’t read the book. Be the book. 

Zeno and Epicurus

Eight thirty five.

I feel tired and irritated due to the heatwave. I don’t have air conditioning, so Aesop and I will just bake. I went to the market. A couple of Mexican guys ordered biscuits and gravy. Their lime green shirts advertised the business they worked for. Michelle helped me at the other register… I spoke with Kat on the way home. She has air conditioning, and invited me over if I feel like I’m getting heatstroke. When I approached her house, she was in the garage, walking on a treadmill. She wore a yellow T-shirt that said, “Volunteer.” …At ten o’clock I’m taking the taxi to Laurel Hill for another appointment. I haven’t heard anything from the guys about band practice this weekend. Some things won’t get done in the near future because of the crazy weather.

Nine thirty five. I hope the taxi service is Oregon Taxi today. I just saw someone towing their boat up the street, probably destined for the marina. I might just take up Kat on her offer…

Quarter of one. I had a nice visit with Todd and also with Darcy this morning. Things were fairly relaxed, though I got a feeling of emptiness from hanging around the agency. I’m not sure why. Life today is much different from when I had a job there. A certain presence is missing now: my brother, maybe? And perhaps my old psychiatrist. These guys were super smart about how to live life to the fullest. I guess I joined a church just out of desperation four years ago when I saw no other way to stop drinking. Now I’m torn between my old hedonism and my sobriety. It’s similar to the classical dilemma of the pursuit of pleasure versus stoicism, plus the middle ground of skepticism: not knowing which way is right… As the taxi was taking me around the corner by Kat’s house, I saw her in her yard, digging the dirt with a shovel. I felt a little regret that I couldn’t stop and say hello again. She also makes me think of the stoic impulse, while I might be just a worthless epicurean. And really, which lifestyle is better in the final analysis? 

High Fidelity

Midnight hour.

I must be going through a depression this year, especially since last month, around the time I bought my G&L bass and felt so divided and at war with myself. To be totally honest, I would have preferred to spend my stimulus payment on the American made G&L bass because I felt I really deserved it. If I get another chance at it then I’ll spring for it, and to hell with the other guys in the band. The take-home message is always the same: you ought to do what is right for yourself rather than trying to please other people. And this is the same old jam I used to find myself in when my life was more functional. The truth is that it’s impossible to make everyone else happy by your actions, and the only person you can really please is yourself. For this very reason, we should never do anything self harming to gain approval from others. Nobody’s worth it, no matter how they try to shame you.

One ten. I’m beginning to think I’m in a bad situation with this rock band. All we have in common is the music. None of our other values are the same. A friend once told me that I’d do better in a jazz fusion band, if such a thing can be found in this area. At least those musicians would be totally serious about making music. 

Fidelity to Yourself or Compromise?

Quarter of eight. Now the sun is coming out. Heather at the store seems very nice. I used my food stamps plus my debit card at checkout and she had no trouble with it. Her last job was at Dari Mart on River Road. I haven’t been there in many years; when I did go there, it was an alternative place for buying beer, usually late at night… I made a connection of my past alcoholism with something that happened with my psychiatrist a long time ago. Once I attempted suicide when he put a lot of pressure on me to finish my degree. How was that different from the drinking I did up until the time I fired him? All of this reminds me of the importance of being authentic in what you say and do. If you mean to say no, then don’t say yes. Do what is right for you, not for others.

Three thirty. Church went just fine, and Sheryl gave me a lift home. Pastor worked hard on today’s service, doing the lion’s share of everything. I asked our musician, Eduardo, if he would someday do “Jumbo’s Lullaby” by Debussy for a prelude or postlude to worship, and he said he would look into it. Once he told me about a website with a lot of free classical sheet music that you can download, including stuff by Erik Satie; anything public domain where the copyright is expired. The thought of this makes me drool a little, even though I don’t do much sight reading…

Quarter of five. The band did a lot of improv yesterday, and some of it sounded good to us, though I don’t know how an audience would appreciate it. Self indulgent music doesn’t usually go over very well with a crowd. Generally people want to hear songs they know from the radio or other media, stuff they’ve heard before and can recognize. Once I was doing a gig in a Cottage Grove tavern and we warmed up with some self indulgent noise. A man who was shooting pool shouted, “Quit f—-ing around and play some music!” So we started our set with “Can’t Get Enough.” But sometimes if the crowd is wasted you can get away with jamming onstage. It all depends on variables. 

Gray May Basket

Seven thirty.

It rained during the night. The forecast says no rain today, but the clouds look quite gray. I got a good sleep for a change. I got up in the small hours and read to the end of Symposium. I feel like I’m getting another chance to do what I’d always wanted to do, which is to make music with my buddies. The only thing that could thwart this is substance abuse. Life for an active alcoholic tends to crumble to ruin, as I’ve seen firsthand. It’s kind of ironic how Oregon has legalized marijuana, since this can be a drug of demise like alcohol.

Quarter of nine. My mood was rather weird on my outing to the store, as I turned over thoughts about criminal activity and declining morals. I saw a number tattooed to the back of the cashier’s neck and began to wonder. And then I almost inadvertently stole a bottle of pain medication that was in the bottom of my shopping bag. It is strange how our thinking modifies our perception from moment to moment, as Wordsworth describes in The Prelude. As if events in the world were fitted to the workings of the human mind, or perhaps reality is completely projected by the latter. It started to rain lightly when I was coming home, so my rain jacket was a good call. On my own street, maybe five cars were parked in front of Betty’s old house, and again I felt suspicious. The blinds were all closed in everyone’s front window, and I observed that my front lawn is in need of a mowing. Presiding over the whole scene was this sense of gray ambiguity from the cloud cover and also from my own vision. An odd sort of May Day morning. 

Anticipation

Quarter of eight.

I think band practice is going to happen tomorrow, at four o’clock. Mike suggested having an easy jam oriented get together, and I added that we might record ourselves. My sister said she would call me this morning, so I’m kind of waiting for that. The weather is partly sunny and rather nice. I’ve been to the store and bought a green salad and two Snapples. I grunted somewhat under the cold and just old age as I ambled along the street. I observed my neighbor Steve getting in his car, but he didn’t see me… I had a series of dreams earlier about a possible moral decline from family values to selfish hedonism. But whatever happens, I’m involved in the American scene. It may be a ship of fools that’s out of control; or maybe just the contrary: every individual contributes to the direction humanity takes. It starts with one person going against the flow, like Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the grandfather of Romanticism… When I was a student, I didn’t do well in history courses. It would be wonderful if I had another opportunity at it. There is so much to know.

Quarter of nine. I also dreamed about my mother this morning: we were sharing this house together and not getting along. I don’t know if I’ll ever shake my memories of her. At least I know I’m doing music for myself and not to please someone else.

Ten thirty. Mostly I’m anticipating having a jam tomorrow. It isn’t much fun to live alone with no escapes, but I suppose I could read a good book later today for stimulation. The sunshine comes and goes. I reserved a dose of flea medication for Aesop, so I can pick it up tomorrow morning or maybe even this afternoon. My heart aches for happier times when I had a friend in Scotland and international borders were open. I hope it won’t be too long before communication is back to normal.