Social Animals

Ten thirty. I would feel lonely this weekend if I didn’t go to church tomorrow. Every friend counts, no matter what they believe. I’ve gotten out of the habit of church attendance, and it’s really different anyway with the COVID restrictions. If the weather is fine this afternoon, I can go back and get a bucket of ice cream for fun. My favorite flavor is Espresso Madness, but I have a hard time with the caffeine. I might buy it anyway… or not, since I remember my reaction to those white chocolate pretzels for Christmas: I was laid out for a couple of hours in bed. The buzz and the mood swing were too much for me… I do get lonely and sad when there’s nothing going on in my life. Mostly I yearn for the company of very intelligent people, but it’s very strange how everyone is scared of the virus, as if they had no backbone at all.

Eleven forty. Forget it. I’m going to read my Nietzsche for a while…

Quarter after one. I realize that reading Nietzsche has been infectious for me. The material has incubated in my mind and hatched out a miniature clone of the German philosopher himself… for better or worse. My memory reels back to December 1987, when my mother and I made a trip to the Literary Lion on the Downtown Mall. She had special ordered a book by a local author titled A Letter Home. It was about the Oregon pioneers. I just remember how soon the afternoon grew dark for the wintertime, and somehow that bookstore makes me think of Nietzsche. It must have been a selection among their classics. I really loved my mom, and I miss her today. She never wanted to stop drinking, but she didn’t overindulge it like I did. My drinking was suicidal up to the point where it was a choice of living or dying. I picked life, sacrificing even the dearest things, treating it as an adventure. Now I don’t know what to do about my situation with the church, but the door stands open for me to come and go… A neighbor nearby mows her lawn. There’s sunshine outside, with some colossal clouds of white and gray. On days like this I used to kill time by drinking beer; I was lonely like today: maybe I should make a visit to Deb at the market? 


Quarter of nine. I canceled the procedure, so that’s a worry off my mind. The rain is steady but light. I see a scrub jay and hear a couple of crows. I’ll go to the store after I feed the dog…

The potato salad yesterday was ace, so I bought another pound of it this morning. I had a guilty conscience while out and about, thinking I didn’t deserve anything nice. The crows on the power lines agreed, croaking their disapproval down on me… Somebody sprayed black graffiti on the white wall outside Karen’s salon. I don’t suppose she’ll be very happy about that. Why does she attract so much bad luck? And it makes me wonder if misfortune happens as a result of people having a tragic flaw of character. Where we have a weakness is where we’ll get hit.

Ten o’clock. I think the word “consequences” simply means the events that follow from the actions people choose. It doesn’t necessarily mean the death knell of moral judgment. No one will throw rocks at you when you make a mistake, or at least hopefully not… Walking in the rain was kind of good for me today. Circumstances like the weather don’t always go my way, so I have to work around them— with a jacket and an umbrella and the wits nature gave me. Sometimes our virtues prove to be a vice, and the converse. The same qualities that redeem us can also wreck us, depending on the situation. Nor do necessities grow on trees.

Quarter after eleven. Mike just canceled rehearsal for this weekend. I took the opportunity to say that we need to hold a powwow regarding the last two practices. This might get me in hot water, but I’m a grownup and not afraid of anybody. 

In Dreamland

Eight forty.

The sunshine makes everything seem like brand new, though temporarily. I recall the wildfire smoke from last September, how it resembled nuclear winter and the beginning of the end. I think it actually altered the climate from blazing summer to more temperate fall. Then in October it finally rained. My imagination conjured ways for the human race to go on, by colonizing Mars or maybe Venus, although I knew that wasn’t feasible. Now my mind scrolls ahead to this summer with some apprehension. But for today, the keel is fairly even… Aesop just had lamb and gravy dog food. When I stepped out on the porch, I had two packages waiting. One of them contains Aesop’s marrow snacks. Then I shuffled off to the store. The moon appeared in the west again, like just another cloud in the sky. If Hans Pfaal could get to the moon by balloon travel, then surely we can terraform it to live on? Maybe only in our dreams. If we could but colonize Dreamland… I bought two Snapples and a pound of potato salad. I didn’t notice much this morning, but I was alert enough to score some new products. The forecast said it’ll be another warm day, probably around 60 degrees. I keep hoping that this year will be better than the last one. Perhaps in certain ways it is already.

Nine forty. Life doesn’t seem to conform to anyone’s theoretical paradigms, yet we use them to try to pigeonhole our senseless existence. Every perspective is a piece in a patchwork quilt. I imagine the assembled limbs and body parts of Frankenstein’s monster, rudely sewn together and reanimated by a secret process. This is science, the state of our knowledge… In my mind I hear snatches of the band’s last practice. We didn’t sound too bad here and there. We only need a little discipline plus a bit of inspiration. We’re at our best during a free jam, when things are pure and fresh, and slower and groovier. This Saturday will be interesting. 

Above the Fog Cover

Five o’clock.

The same old Pink Floyd song keeps coming up: “Wish You Were Here.” I don’t know why. Pastor returned my phone call yesterday evening with some information about AA groups that meet at our church. And then I’ll probably go back to church service this Sunday just to be around healthy influences. The phone visit with Heidi was very nice, and it will be a regular thing on Tuesdays from now on… I didn’t sleep well. There’s this bit of unfinished business I have to take care of. Also I have to make a decision on the band: to stay or to go. Polly said that their habits were not going to change, and I agreed with her.

Six o’clock. At the first light of day I’m going to the store. I need help with the photocopier, I think. Aesop is begging me for a treat. The sun will come up in a half hour, but it’s cloudy outside.

Quarter after nine. I’ve put my letter in the mailbox for the carrier to pick up. I was having paranoid dreams about getting it done. Finally I think I can relax again. It’s very foggy out this morning, and it’s supposed to clear up this afternoon and be another beautiful day. I believe I understand better what Impressionism was partly about. It’s a kind of missing link between Romanticism and the decline of the Absolute in the 20th Century. Probably many of us would like to return to the 19th Century for its beauty and optimism about spiritual things. And I suppose no one denies us the right to embrace the beautiful and true, however much technology conquers nature. My copy of Mallarme traveled all the way here from France, taking a month for delivery. The language of another country far away was brought to my door, something like a brush with the sublime, and rekindling some old knowledge that had lain dormant a long time in my brain. And some new ideas clicked for me that I hadn’t known before. Do you believe in eternity? Is there a fourth dimension behind the veil of the natural world? Maybe it’s an issue of wanting to believe it, because all the speculation in the world cannot unveil the truth. Maybe again I’d have nothing to write about without this problem of knowledge… Aesop has been fed his breakfast and the house is nice and warm. When the fog and the clouds lift, it should be a warm and sunny afternoon like yesterday. 

Clair de Soleil

Six o’clock.

Less than an hour till the dawn. At two o’clock this afternoon I have a phone appointment with Heidi, the most important item today. I kept dreaming that I was supposed to go to class this morning and turn in my assignment. In reality, there’s a bit of paperwork I need to get done. I can do that today and mail it off as soon as possible. 

I’ll probably call Polly this morning, after her son goes to work. I don’t feel very intellectual right now. A song by Steve Miller Band popped into my head, very redneck sounding, so I thought of my brother drinking beer and singing karaoke. He made a competition out of it. I’m glad I wasn’t there to hear it.

Seven o’clock. I need large envelopes and a postage stamp.

Nine ten. I’ve been to the store already. In the western blue I spotted the thumbprint of the waning moon, cool and aloof as I marched mechanically along Maxwell Road. It’s a sunny morning like tangerine peel. I got ahold of my sister and we gabbed for an hour in rambling fashion, but pleasantly enough. I’m thankful that being sober facilitates our relationship. Later today I might be in the mood for a bag of Doritos and some Pace chunky salsa. The sunshine invites such diversions. Maybe I’ll see Deb and Cathy again. Yesterday the atmosphere was lemon and muggy without the humidity; odd for Oregon, and a sign of constant change… I have nothing to deny or to rationalize. My mind is clear as a bell and free as a bird. But I do tend to put things off, to delay and postpone the inevitable. 


Quarter of ten in the evening.

This afternoon went rather difficult for me in that I felt a bit tempted to drink beer again. It was one o’clock and warm outside, so I made a run over to the market for Aesop’s Milk-bones. I saw Kat doing some gardening in her front yard and I stopped to hail her. Thinking now, I didn’t know what I was doing. Human behavior is never without a motive, but I was oblivious to mine today when I left the house. In a desultory way I continued on to the store. Dreamily I heard Deb ask me if I wanted to buy a used electric guitar for $150. I declined, saying I already had a guitar. Then another guy spoke up and expressed an interest in it. Under his arm he had six pints of a cheap ice beer, plus he sounded inebriated. Again I ponder why I was at Community Market at one in the afternoon. The warmth of the day inspired a languid and nebulous longing for something I couldn’t name. I came home then and wrestled with myself for the rest of the afternoon. Maybe nobody would’ve cared if I had bought a six pack of a tasty beer today. Then again, perhaps I was the only one sleepwalking through the sultry winter day. 

Weekend Warrior

Eight twenty.

It’s comfortable in the house. Heavy gray overcast; it’s supposed to rain again, but I beat it when I went to the store. The customer ahead of me at the cashier was Hispanic, but everyone else was White. He bought a lot of stuff and put it in his backpack. Melissa was friendly to him. I saw him head up N. Park after my turn was done. It’s hard to describe the feeling I get from being inside the revamped market. Something is ineffably missing about it, something lost in the translation; it seems to lack a soul in a way. The staff is still very personable and friendly, but in some sense dishonest or constrained. It’s much different from the old establishment where it was okay to be human. You walk in the front door and get an impression of grayness, like a kind of ambiguity and apathy. This ambiance hangs like a shadow over the place. The same charcoal outside is reflected in the store’s interior. Basically it’s become dehumanized. Yesterday afternoon I observed that the deli was open for service, though they had to keep it outdoors. A few guys were having a beer just outside the building and visiting together. I was trudging by with my bass guitar on my way to see Mike and Ron for practice… Aesop is whining for his breakfast, so I will feed him right now.

Nine ten. The band did a good version of “Mincer” yesterday. It was recorded, but the levels were too high, resulting in digital distortion. Maybe we can invest in a better microphone or app for making music recordings. On my arrival I told Mike I was feeling rather mental, but everything worked out okay. I played a lot of notes yesterday, perhaps too many. It sounded a little too busy to be tasteful, yet I had fun doing it… Church is going to start soon, and again I’ve stayed home. Someday this time will pass and I won’t take note of it anymore. Today is a good day to relax. 

Deeds in the Rain

Three o’clock. Outside, the rain is heavy and constant. Aesop likes his ribeye steak treats; I bought more of them this morning, and battled with the cold and wet on my walk there and back again. The raspberry tea I brought home tasted great, but the caffeine and sugar made me feel woozy. I noodled about on my homemade bass for a while, satisfied with the lowest frequencies through my old GK amp head… I didn’t see much as I marched to the store. One car passed me on Fremont, cruising around the corner of N. Park. No other pedestrians. The neighborhood is a ghost town. And it was just another gray morning for a recovering alcoholic in the middle of the pandemic. Perhaps late this spring we’ll all be vaccinated and the music venues can open again. But nobody really knows what’s what. How effective are face coverings and vaccines against Covid? It’s the blind leading the blind… Something made me think of Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days. I have a nice omnibus volume of his novels. I left off in the middle of Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Wee hours.

I’ll probably skip church again Sunday and gradually let them go. Pastor is leading them in a direction I don’t agree with. While they wait around for the Resurrection, I’m going to live my life more like a bohemian in quest of happiness. I was always a lousy Christian, having no faith in the possibility of a demigod or even a virgin birth. Mythology is full of immaculate conceptions, but these don’t make a pretense to reality. I gave Pastor that book of William Blake a while back because my own belief was very shaky. He didn’t seem to like it much. He told me he read the introduction by Harold Bloom, which was probably not Christian but rather secular humanist. But Blake is about as close to faith as I’ll ever get. So this was sort of my last offering before saying goodbye to the Lutherans. It couldn’t have happened any differently. In the blackness outside, the rain comes down with benign apathy to human affairs. 

Lots to Think About

Eight thirty five.

Heidi is going to call me today at two o’clock, so I’m really jazzed about that. In concert with my mood, the sun has come out. At the store I bought Aesop a pouch of ribeye steak treats just because. Michelle wore a Peanuts gang sweatshirt under her work apron while “Honky Tonk Woman” played on the radio. She said she prefers The Beatles, and I agreed with her. The Stones were too garage band for me. When I got home I scheduled a ride to my appointment for a lab Thursday morning; no sweat. Earlier I was thinking that Aesop is more than just a dog: he is a pure intelligence with the appearance of a canine. He gets breakfast very soon. If not for his aggression towards other people, I would recommend blue heeler as a breed. They are very smart and very devoted… Now his breakfast is done. With the band and the church, I have a lot to think about. It’s probably not as cut and dried as I’ve been making it, and I don’t necessarily share my sister’s opinion on rock music. Her views are as hard as adamant, but couldn’t constitute the absolute truth. I know she’s worried about me. However, I believe my sobriety is strong enough to endure environmental stress.

Nine thirty. My new stainless steel strings should come in today’s mail. I’ll put them on my J Bass as soon as I can. I miss seeing my old friend Todd, another bass player who left town about ten years ago. They said he had an opportunity in sales he couldn’t refuse. He taught me how to adjust the intonation on my own bass guitars, and in general had very good taste and knowledge of bass gear. People you know tend to come and go. My sister observed of the music community that the A&D condition is unlikely to change, and I realize that she’s right. Thus I have to judge whether I want to deal with people who drink and use. I’m at a kind of crossroads in my life, so I hope I choose wisely. 

Lap of Luxury

Six fifty.

I’m just up from having dreams about Faust. So far the play is about living life to the fullest, particularly regarding romantic love and the things that make us happy. It seems to me that people are more often persecuted for their joys and pleasures. Obviously there’s something wrong with this. People are never free in a world where they are condemned. We’re never free anyway. When am I going to finally break with the church? All I get from it is oppression and grief. Too many people will tell you what you can and can’t do, say, and even think. Even more absurd when we pay them for their opinion. I will absentee myself from church this Sunday because there’s no percentage for me anymore.

Nine fifty. I was treated very well at the store and when I stopped at the salon. Even DHS showed kindness by bumping up my food stamps. Melissa said a lot of people experience the same thing. It appears to me that many of us are just scraping by to eke out an existence, so it’s really a Charles Dickens kind of world. I wish I liked his writing better, else I would read it. Goethe is relatively highbrow stuff, quite aristocratic and not very relevant to the lives of most of us… We might have freezing rain by tomorrow morning, what everyone dreads. I just hope our power stays on in this event. I learned yesterday that my sister is feeling better, luckily. I am second thinking on church this Sunday. Attendance could pay off later on. I think it’s good to participate in the community as we can.

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”