The Picture

Ten thirty five. Some days make me wonder about the meaning of it all. After doing my daily shopping, I stopped by the salon and spoke with Angela, who was alone for a few minutes. I asked her how the homeschooling was going, and she said her fifth grader can’t read. Two of her kids have a learning disability. Also, Angela doesn’t understand the new method for teaching math. Then I asked her if anyone was helping her, but everyone she knows is too busy working. I felt like volunteering myself to help teach them to read, except children don’t take me seriously as a disciplinarian. They see me as just a playmate, and they can get away with murder. And then Karen arrived. The retirement home can’t let her in to do hair styling due to the coronavirus… This episode at the salon plus the phone conversation with my sister started me pondering the real utility of my cerebral life of books and music. There are very real practical problems that could use my help. The need is everywhere for help with survival skills such as reading and arithmetic. Meanwhile, I loaf around eating the lotus of philosophy and poetry. Is there something wrong with this picture? 

Prudence

Eight o’clock.

No email from my friend yet. I don’t know what she is up to today. I don’t want to go to church tonight or on Sunday. I’m going to boycott Christmas and just take care of myself. I know how to do this better than anyone else. I think I’ll leave the church for good. Religion is usually a right wing thing.

Nine thirty five. It was lovely to see Michelle this morning. From her I bought a new orange bandanna and peppermint candy ice cream, plus ribeye chewy treats for Aesop. It was cold and a little foggy outside. A pretty girl on the sidewalk passed me and we said good morning. I saw Dell carrying some cardboard boxes out to his car. Michelle helped a customer with the propane tanks while I was walking into the store. Her temperament is a lot different from that of Vicki; kinder and friendlier, not so jaded and sassy. Her logic is not so clouded by personal hurts. She is always fair dealing with people, but when she is on the receiving end of injustice, she’ll defend herself. When she had more money, she used to go to the theater… My pen pal let me know that she’ll be late today… The changes are coming a bit more swiftly now. I sense a shift in attitude and mood around me generally. Christina on Wednesday was kind of fun. She even said it was fun working with me after we’d done some exercises in physical therapy… I am hopeful that musicians can play again when vaccines are available this winter. Just wait it out and see what happens… 

Out with the Old…

Five o’clock.

Now I wonder if Vicki will be working this morning. My imagination can summon all kinds of fates that could have happened to her. But the only fact I know is her absence yesterday. I also know the circumstances of her headache that never went away, the tumor on her brain, and the doctors who didn’t give her any straight answers… I don’t know how I feel about it, but I was used to seeing her every week morning for many years. Her quality of life probably wasn’t so great. She lived by herself and worked like a drone every weekday. She didn’t seem to enjoy it anymore; even stopped bantering with the guys who came in from the distributors. Her sense of humor had gone out of her life… What makes life worth living? Endless drudgery doesn’t seem to be the best thing. Rolling that boulder up the hill over and over again gets tiresome and boring to tears. The futility of it brings you down after a while. I lived that way for a short time until I learned that I couldn’t do it anymore. I had options available to me, and I chose wisely. My brother can call me names all he wants, but he isn’t happy with his life. He tends to blame others for his own unhappiness, but he needs to bring responsibility home to himself. He is free to choose for himself, regardless of what other people do with their lives. The truth is that everyone is responsible only for their own feelings, their own behavior. The ultimate arbiter is you.

Quarter of seven. I imagine that with the change to a Democratic administration, blogging will change accordingly, but I was prepared for this. I plan to keep writing on into the next year and see who shows up… I heard a shower of rain a few minutes ago. There should be daylight by seven twenty or so. When it comes, I will go to the store as I do every day. My heart is open to what the new year and the new government bring. It seems like anything can happen, but personally I’m very happy for the defeat of a tyrant who made us an embarrassment to the rest of the world. Aesop has finally gotten out of bed and wants a snack. I catch myself still avoiding the salon because I think Karen is very disgruntled over politics. Roger probably is too. I don’t see people openly jumping for joy, and yet my heart leaps quietly. Eventually it will be okay to talk about it. The rain has begun again, fortunately, though it’s still very dark outside. It’s going to be one of those days. 

Inalienable

Quarter of nine. Day has dawned, but it’s still pretty dark. Feeling tired and tempted to drink. This is because I’m lonely. Sometimes it might be nice to have a wife, somebody to live with and to love. And who is anyone to say no? My sister would be stupid to tell me what to do. She should have learned that by now… I guess I’ll go to the store and get something to drink. Never underrate freedom, which is inalienable by anyone else. You always have options. This is the endowment of nature, no matter what the system of government. Yet I do feel very tired and heavy hearted. For a treat I could buy a Coke…

Ten o’clock. I passed the salon and caught Karen chewing out Kim for something, so I didn’t stop. Michelle told me she got a new second job. The job as security officer she perceived as sexist, so she left it last month. Now she works in a small grocery store in a small town on the outskirts of Eugene. She is pretty good at taking care of herself. Michelle is always very nice to me, thus I look forward to seeing her on weekends. It was so cold outside that I flipped up my hood to keep my head warm. Just briefly I saw Derek with his two daughters in his driveway. All along on my walk I thought about society versus personal freedom. It makes me think I should check out the writings of Thomas Jefferson myself: just what did he mean by liberty and the pursuit of happiness? And what did the French people think of that? I wonder if Pastor ever read Henrik Ibsen. Somehow I doubt it, but A Doll’s House was such a cornerstone to my education. I am unlikely to ever forget 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. 

Dreamer

Ten o’clock.

The same thing happened with my Black Lives Matter lawn sign: a good fairy set it up again after it had been knocked over. The little market was doing a good business this morning. I actually saw a person buy a pack of cannabis capsules. The guys in line ahead of me were probably construction workers or something else blue collar. I had the sensation for a second that I wasn’t really there, that I didn’t exist or maybe it was a dream. As if I could close my eyes and be back in bed. It required more effort for me to walk to the store this time. When I stopped by the salon, Karen’s mood was foul because the girls had made a mess while she was gone. She tends to vent at whoever happens to be in the way. Yet she gave me a chocolate brownie anyway. By degrees she controlled her temper. I just stood there and waited for her to calm down. On my own street again, I said hi to Roger. He was bundled up in a khaki green jacket against the chill… 

I don’t have any real worries today, and no engagements until tomorrow night for church. Physical therapy with Christina yesterday afternoon went quite well. She is supportive of my writing and encourages me to switch to my laptop to do more serious stuff. It’s good to get a boost now and then. The clouds are huge and lined with gray, permitting a little sunshine through. On the edge of my memory I can feel what college life was like. It was a lot of fun to study Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz when I was still twenty one. I still have my course text, an Anchor paperback called The Rationalists. It was like living in a dream to sort of deny objective reality and turn inward to a priori experience. Very strange approach to knowledge. My head was in the clouds… 

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. 

Sunday Morning

Ten o’clock. Colin was out walking Lolo with his baby daughter Tessa strapped to his front when I returned from the store. He told me how pretty he’d thought my maple tree was before it dropped all its leaves. And it really was beautiful. Tessa made “stink faces” at me, but they didn’t mean anything. She also waved. Colin speculated on the future of the coronavirus, but neither of us knows anything. We agreed that a vaccine will be a great thing. Lolo sniffed my shopping bag, which was full of stuff.

The store was fairly busy. One customer bought biscuits and gravy. I saw another person head for the beer cooler. I got a couple of Snapple teas and easy food. I found out that I don’t tolerate soda very well anymore, perhaps because of the phosphoric acid, or the carbonation. I tried to do a two liter of Pepsi Friday and felt a little sick. Gradually I’m moving away from things that are unhealthy for me. To some extent, alcoholism is deliberate suicide by a slow means. I’m more hopeful now than I used to be, and a bit more defiant towards people who don’t understand me. My sister and brother used to bully me until I finally broke away and took my chances on my own. I found that most strangers were nicer to me than family, though that sounds counterintuitive. And it’s still a battle with them, especially my brother, who refuses to understand what my life is like.

The Stewart Copeland songs are still in my brain, so maybe I should listen to something else. People always ask me if I hear good music or bad, but it’s really a matter of what I’ve been listening to. Is it a hallucination or instead just having a phonographic memory? I’ve had it all my life and come to live with it… The rain has stopped this morning, but should resume tonight. It rained all night long. At least it’s a little brighter outside than the last few days. 

Sunshine in November

Noon hour. I’m at physical therapy now, way early. The cabbie was very nice. Polly was difficult, but families are like that. I see that Suzanne liked my post this morning. I don’t know. I’m leaning toward science right now. WordPress is up in the air since Biden won.

Two fifty five. Home again. Erin had made a note of how Christina made me feel judged for my posture. The latter read it and asked me about it, so I answered her honestly. Christina worked a bit harder to be nice after that. I saw Erin on her way in to start her shift and she asked me how it went. I said pretty good. The sun was out, and it still is right now. I don’t usually associate sunshine with November. It seems like something new in my experience. It feels beautiful and cheerful. The most unprecedented thing today is that I’m sober. Yesterday, Misty told me that three years is a significant chunk of time. And looking around me, I sense so many things that feel new, things I’d never noticed before at this time of year, in these conditions. The return cabbie was good looking in a rock and roll sort of way. I liked her. I’m just a square type of guy myself. It was a bizarre fluke that I ever got involved in rock music. Plus the alcohol and the diagnosis that stuck me in an illicit category. But life has a way of equalizing everyone in the long run. The Buddha taught that life is suffering. We all go through it, more or less in the same degree… The westering sun projects soft tangerine beams over the tree line. I’ve had a good afternoon. 

A Little Light

Four twenty five in the morning.

I pored over some of my old poetry from twenty years ago and grew rather weary of the old canon of literature that fed it. My friendship with someone overseas for six years broadened my experience a great deal. What we can learn from real people in our lives is far superior to mere books… Last night I walked to church. Darkness had fallen, and the leaves on the streets were wet and treacherous. Where there were no streetlights I could hardly see. A few cars passed me as I navigated Fremont. Down Hemlock, I saw a man who carried a little light with him. I thought, I need one of those things. As it was, I wore a black rain jacket and dark blue jeans. No light colors or reflectors. So I wonder if Bi Mart stocks anything for a pedestrian’s visibility at night. I should call them and find out. Once I gained Maxwell Road, obviously the lighting was better and I felt safer. To my right across the road loomed the dimly lit form of the Methodist church, a great big A frame enclosing a cross. This building is more modern than my own church, which was built in the mid 1950s, the decade before my house was made. It dawns on me as I write this that I have belongingness needs like everyone else. A place to call home, and a bunch of people to call family are indispensable. My hike through the gloomy night along perfidious streets was sort of like wandering in search of a doorstep on which to place myself. After Roxanne brought me home, I set about looking for my copy of City of God by Saint Augustine. As if guided by providence, I found the book in a box I’d had yet to open…