Menagerie

Eight thirty.

I guess I’ve been borrowing trouble. I know that my sister will be gone someday, but it’s nothing to worry about right now. And I don’t want to do things just to please her either. I am nobody’s disciple. It’s always something, isn’t it? One worry after another. My dad never worried about anything, and he slept great every night.

I’ve gone to the store and bought necessities for the day. I was barely awake and didn’t notice my surroundings very much. It’s cloudy and gray and feels like fall. I saw a woman at the market wearing just her pink nightie with an overcoat thrown on. The guys I ran into were very polite to me, even though I didn’t look like much, to my knowledge. It’s usually a strange mélange of people who walk into the convenience store but they have something in common, if it’s only their humanity and a partnership with the earth and the universe. The unity and diversity of life is the truth every day, a fact of natural science and the intuition of human philosophies… There’s a lot of activity buzzing around my street and in the community. Good morning, good morning! People come and go, and they come and go from our lives. The only constant thing is yourself to perceive and process what you see. But I’m still not very awake today.

Quarter after ten.

An appointment I was dreading turned out to be a pleasant experience, which shows that you never really know. I put Aesop in a room down the hall so I could have my video meeting with the nurse practitioner. Everything went fine. I might do a little reading today for fun while things are fairly calm and my time is free.

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Tale of Two Lisas

Quarter of noon.

Though I feel exhausted today, everything has gone pretty well anyway. Gloria and I drove to the Bottle Drop in Springfield— and I ran into Lisa from Community Market as we came out of the doors. “What are you doing here?” I said, knowing it was a stupid question. She held up her plastic bag and said, “Same thing you just did. Gas money for the Jeep!” This time I collected $12.20 in redemption value for 5 bags of bottles and cans. While it was clear and sunny here, in Springfield there was smoke in the air from the regional wildfires. Now, at one o’clock, I get my hair cut with Karen just around the corner from home. She’ll set the trimmers for 3 and buzz off the little hair that I have on the sides and in back. Since my twenties I’ve had my dad’s pattern baldness but it never has bugged me. Afterwards I’ll go to the store again and treat myself and Aesop: I could use another Snapple tea.

I think I’ll skip church this Sunday after the lousy sermon I heard last time. Only if I was desperate for company would I go back. And meanwhile I can read some good poetry for illumination, though it may bring me pain. Great writing comes to us at a cost of anguish to the writer and also the reader. I question whether all the rules of the Bible are really for me when my only offense was being an alcoholic. Why bind myself to unnecessary rules if I don’t have to? I think the secular laws are enough to keep things safe and orderly. It must be remembered that a dual diagnosis is not a sin, and disease is not a moral issue, to disagree with the thinking of a hundred years ago. But old traditions die hard even if they are dysfunctional. People don’t test the things they believe in. And I don’t take anything on secondhand report, which is the meaning of “faith.”

Quarter of two.

Karen was busy with two other clients when I arrived for my appointment. There isn’t much to write about it. Very early this morning I bumped into another Lisa at the market. She has a job at the nationwide beauty chain in the Gateway Mall. She told me she was tired. Lisa is tall and very pretty, with black hair, dark eyes, and a few freckles on her face that add to her loveliness. It’s an inspiration to see her when our paths cross on some mornings.

Let There Be Commerce

Quarter after four.

I couldn’t resist an outdoor excursion when the weather is so nice and blue skied, again like my dad’s last days. The sun is murderously hot out in the open, especially where it’s asphalt and cement with no shade of trees. I got myself a Coke and a beef treat for my dog. I’d just been writing to my friend a little about Whitman’s poems, particularly regarding the image of the leaves of grass that suggests immortality in a couple of ways… A tall young blonde girl standing behind me by the checkout counter asked Deb, “Do you take ApplePay?” And Deb smiled indulgently and said yes, so the girl went onto the floor to shop. A number of kids raided the store with the release of school for the day. I could see them crossing the big parking lot adjacent to N Park on the south side of Maxwell Road, making a diagonal for the market beyond Karen’s salon. It’s 87 degrees outside, so I’ve turned on the air conditioner for now. But you know, it’s odd how few of my neighbors I’ve formally met. It seems like a good time for introductions… 

Sunday Ups and Downs

Two o’clock.

I was under the weather when I went to church today, so I skipped the potluck after service. Grant the musician gave me a ride to the market where we both went inside for some stuff, and from there I walked home. Grant was surprised at how big the “little” store was. It’s partly cloudy. Today is Sandi’s birthday, so we sang the song to her. The sermon was kind of a downer; not one of his better speeches. The theme was people who are “invisible,” and he used Lazarus as an archetype of that, waiting at the rich man’s gate.

Five thirty.

In fact, the sermon was really bad, or I just took it the wrong way. It’s not the first time that his sermon left a bad taste in my mouth. Sometimes Pastor is sort of clueless about people, as if he lived in the Fifties or something. Bleh 🤢! I won’t want to go back next time.

Seven o’clock at night.

I’ve got a few things on my mind. The first thing is the question of why I should put myself through worship services at all. Why sit still and be preached to when I am equally capable of judging life and reality for myself? But that’s nothing new for me. The truth is, everyone has the right to make their own observations and draw conclusions from what they see and hear. What do we need spiritual leaders for? I guess that was my main thought.

As time goes by, I feel less appalled by what I heard this morning. The sun has gone down and the twilight is nearly extinguished. I don’t feel under pressure anymore with the close of the day. And tomorrow is tomorrow’s concern. This is my own free time. 

Cold Coffee

Four in the afternoon.

I made a little run around the corner for something to drink and give to my dog. On N Park I passed a guy on his bicycle balancing a big half case of Pub Beer. He coasted by with a look of satisfaction on his bearded face, mixed with determination. But it was kind of cool on a Friday afternoon in September to see the varieties of freedom people opted for. I felt happy enough to try a cold coffee and get a rawhide chew for Aesop. Deb sold me three items and I also dropped in on Karen, who was busy cutting a guy’s hair. At one point I glanced up and down Maxwell Road and saw no cars at all. The general mood of the day is insouciance.

Parallels

Quarter of seven.

If as they say there’s fog outside, it is neither low nor dense. I put on a light jacket with a knitted purple beanie and braved the darkness of six o’clock. On my own street I began thinking that external reality may be the emanation of human minds. I got to the little store without adventure and of course it was quite deserted. I saw one car in the lot besides Lisa’s. Yesterday she had told me she had gout in her foot from her kidney disease. Today she was a bit better… At nine thirty this morning I plan to help the volunteers get ready for the food pantry happening Saturday. I’ll leave the house at nine and hoof it to the church; it should take me fifteen minutes. Now the sun is up behind the overcast but I see no fog. The late afternoon yesterday was nice with mostly sunshine… When I was five years old, I would play by myself in the front yard. There was a pretty girl who lived up the street from me, a high school student named Denise, and she brought me candy or bubble gum from her trips to the convenience store— but she made me spell her name every time. I doubt that my parents knew it was going on. Once she even took me home to meet her family. I very eagerly would have traded my family for hers, but the paradise was only temporary.

Schoolchildren

Quarter of nine.

It was a little later before I got up this morning and fed the dog. I read my emails, then finally got my jacket on and out the door on my way to the little market around the corner. The neighbor lady herded her two kids into the van to get them to Howard School at the same time that Diana and Victoria came out of their house. On Fremont, a blonde woman also came out of her house with the intention of going somewhere. I saw a lone woman walking by on N Park and two young girls on the sidewalk of Maxwell Road, probably headed for the immersion school where Kelly Junior High used to be. At the store I ran into a few more kids; one of them I let go ahead of me at the Snapple cooler, a boy of about eleven years, stout with light brown hair. The other two rode bikes on the sidewalk right past me as I went home. Aesop gets chicken jerky for a snack today: I bought 5 for 30 cents apiece and put them in a small brown bag. The first thought I had when I left the house was, I hope it doesn’t rain on me; that would suck. The sky is full of puffy leaden clouds and it’s agreeably cool out. I used to think of my own school experience when I’d go over to Maxwell Road on days like this; sort of dwell in nostalgia. But today all that is behind me, I guess. Do eleven year olds read comic books anymore? 

Streets

Seven thirty.

Overnight it rained, and now the streets are wet while the sky is still gray. The autumnal feel is very nice when I’m not swamped with old memories and ideas. I can easily imagine that it’s two decades ago by some hocus-pocus of my mind, or perhaps it’s a conspiracy of my mind with the spirit of nature as in Wordsworth. But do I really believe this? The hour is only seven, yet a lot of cars pass my front window. It’s just a residential street in a suburb, so why is there such traffic here? I still toy with ideas I had 19 years in the past, when the presence of God pervaded everywhere, like reading essays by Emerson. But today is a far cry from old mysticism unless we turn it around and take God off of life support to restore him to his proper place. Maybe it’s only me who feels so skeptical these days; but I think the trend now is very materialistic and greedy as well as apathetic, like the joyless mood of The Sheltering Sky. But here I go preaching.

Eight o’clock.

In 15 minutes Aesop gets breakfast. The colors outside are predominantly gray and green and I still hear lots of activity from the neighbors. It suggests to me that someone is selling drugs on my street.

Mundanity

Quarter of eight.

As I neared N Park from Fremont Avenue I could hear a mourning dove somewhere close to me. When I looked for him, his cooing stopped. Usually on my walks in the morning I’ll see a passenger jet above me, glittering in the sun, either taking off or about to land. Today there was a crow perched on the power line on the approach to the store, cawing loudly. The sky is a gray overcast. Lisa was giving free psychological advice to a young guy in a Roto Rooter shirt about his drinking. He appeared to be receptive, but a lot of times, an alcoholic will pay lip service and then do something the opposite. I used to do that when my psychiatrist gave me advice. He would observe that my actions didn’t match my words. I bought Aesop a big rib bone, but they didn’t have the Snapple teas I wanted; I had to settle for sugarless, and one of them is for Gloria. The dove must have followed me home, since I still hear him beyond my window. It’s considerably cooler today than two days ago. A squirrel in my backyard posed under the oak, nibbling an acorn before I let the dog out. Breakfast is done.

Eight thirty five.

This is kind of a so-what post. Nothing extraordinary is going on, but uneventful can be good. It beats pandemonium and things being out of control. I think I like it okay.

Dormant

Quarter of seven.

I’m up earlier than usual today. The market was open at six, so I went ahead with my trip. On the lip of the entrance to the lot, I paused to let a car go in front of me. The man parked, got out, and then held the front door wide open for me to enter. He was extremely tall and of mixed ancestry. I said, “Courtesy for courtesy?” He replied, “Curtsy, curtsy!” and went in behind me. It was interesting because my mind had been occupied with visions of a civil war or something over politics. I imagined my nephew polishing his guns and rooting for his wish to come true. But the reality was just this guy at the store preparing to go to work for the day… Outside, the sun still hasn’t gone above the tree line, nor does nature care about human affairs. If it did, then life would be a romantic thing, like a Victor Hugo novel, and equally pompous. As it is, life is very ordinary and pretty blah. No drama. This also means a poverty of faith in religion and whatever gives you a boost. The business of our lives goes on while God sleeps forgotten somewhere out of sight. When it’s convenient for us, we’ll wake him up again. Meanwhile, my dog has been uptight since yesterday. I don’t know why.