Fixed Stars for Crooked Houses

Nine twenty AM.

Now I’m back from the dentist and from the store. I have to sort through my feelings about all of it. The medical center was where I also first saw a psychologist at twenty years old, so of course I thought of old times with my mother. You can be a grownup and still feel like an orphan upon losing your parents. I think now that the most careful plans we can ever devise will often backfire, and the future is never foreseeable. It was weird going back to the place where it all started, like revisiting your old school or something. The people may be gone but the places usually stay. My mind digresses to an attraction at the Enchanted Forest in Oregon: the House of the Crooked Man. What distinguishes it is an anomaly in magnetism, a natural phenomenon that just happened to occur in Oregon. I guess it’s called the Oregon Vortex. I thought of it because it’s an example of an unstable place. My second grade class took a field trip there and then I forgot about it until today. Probably the Crooked House and the Oregon Vortex are separate things… Anyway, my new dentist is very nice. It’ll be good to get myself back on track with my oral hygiene.

Ten thirty. Aesop and I just shared some baby carrots from a ziplock bag I bought at the market this morning… Again I think, things gone and things still here, just like the title of a story collection by Paul Bowles. And when every compass and landmark fails me I fall back on the zodiac and steer by the stars.

My Brother

Quarter of eight AM.

Cloudy day after cloudy day, but it’s depressing to speculate on the reasons why. A little tune by Jethro Tull comes up: “Living in the Past.” I could use a retrospective for a shot in the arm, something to cheer me up. A revival of some really good music would rejuvenate spirits for most people, but nobody seems up to it. Aesop is borderline howling for his breakfast, and I’m kind of dreading work with Gloria this morning. Basically I’m very tired and don’t want to do anything. Tomorrow morning I have the dentist to see… There are pros and cons to being “in the system.” On one hand you are taken care of, but on the other, you’re less free to make your own decisions. If things were really going my way, then why am I still discontent? Life has become a gilded cage to me. But I guess we’re all just numbers in a big impersonal computer network. John Steinbeck calls society “the monster.” It has nothing to do with real individuals, real human beings. It has assumed an identity of its own, with its own intelligence.

My brother is a free spirit with a naturalist impulse. I can imagine him vanish in the remote woods with an Igloo full of beer and a fishing pole, perhaps to build himself a log cabin like Thoreau, incommunicado to the world. And maybe he has the right idea.

Scars

Two thirty morning.

Well, I finally took the bait and ordered the DNA kit from Ancestry dot com because I’m tired of guessing about my origins or the reasons for what I do. My father was adopted and never knew his birth parents, so the genetic test is the best I can hope for. There has to be an explanation for why I have difficulty with religious traditions, especially Christianity. I believe it’s because evangelism is often forcible.

Seven thirty. Another day of clouds. Today I’ll feed Aesop prior to going to the store. I got too much caffeine yesterday and overnight. The guy who called yesterday about the flea medication tripped over my dog’s name; kind of funny, though he felt embarrassed… The treatment program I underwent long ago did a lot of damage to me. I really wish I’d never gone there, and it’s just a reminder that assertiveness is critical to everyone’s well-being. It’s water under the bridge except I have such scars from the experience. Maybe it’s an issue of forgiving them and letting it go. Pop psychology perhaps, but it’s worth a try. After all, they knew not what they did.

Dream about Job

Quarter of seven AM.

I’ll probably go back to my reading of Henry James, whose name was big where I went to college long ago. The father of Modern fiction, we were taught. It’s also been a long time since I read Yeats, though his taste for spooks was never for me. The Golden Dawn group and all that. I don’t see much evidence for the paranormal, but once in a while I’ll have a deja vu, the feeling that I was there before. There’s a song by K.D. Lang dealing with this, and thinking of it calls my mother to mind, and the idea of making music in that final year we had. 

I owned a very nice Stingray Bass with a teal finish, and the color seemed to follow me everywhere and bring me good luck. I bought it with my earnings from the disco band at Musician’s Depot on Centennial Loop. But after my mother died, I did a lot of crazy things, so I no longer have the Stingray. Easy come, easy go. In fact, before she died I did crazy stuff. And yet it seems that life has a way of forgiving you and restoring to you what you have lost, if you play by the rules. It’s like what happened to Job, sort of. He got everything back. Lately I’ve been dreaming of the Book of Job, and it’s probably significant. God and the devil strike a bargain to test Job’s faith, like it’s all a big game. But what’s interesting is how evil is just an instructional tool, and all part of the same plan. I finally let the dream play out to its conclusion the other night, and that’s what I found. 

Pedigree

One twenty five in the morning.

“Consider yourself one of the family… it’s clear we’re going to get along…”

To use plainer English, I relate to the misfits in Shakespeare because I feel that an outsider cannot buy, beg, borrow, or steal his way into a religious organization, like me trying to find a place in the Lutheran church. A person must have a pedigree in order to fit into the big Christian universe, but I was brought into this world out of wedlock, fathered by a man who had been adopted after being abandoned by his biological parents… It is all well and fine for the human race to organize into Christendom or a Shakespearean aristocracy, yet my heart bleeds for others like myself, the outcast renegades and rebels with all odds against them. A small thing like alcoholism is a drop in the bucket next to the spiritual alienation that people like me experience. Surely the “redeemer” for the elect is different from that for the reprobate? I reckon time will tell. We may not have long to wait.

Midnight Mass

Midnight.

I woke from dreams of my garage just now, mingled with the image of my dad’s ghost. I felt violently towards him and I would’ve attacked him in reality. So much of what he did when I was a child was heinous that he deserved retribution. I grew to just hate him and didn’t make peace with him until after his retirement, which coincided with my dx of schizophrenia. Now I wonder why my mother had such a positive talent for picking losers to marry. My dad took the cake for all time assholes. But at his core he was a complete coward and weenie, like all bullies or men without balls. Incongruously, the music in my background is “Strike Up the Band,” an old disco tune by Chic. Whatever was happening with my life, or however dire it was, the music would keep playing obliviously, in benign indifference. It almost seems to say that life for the unconscious goes on no matter what the external circumstances. The soul has its own agenda and it operates in Dreamtime. Where this and reality intersect is something like a peak experience, perhaps a sublime deja vu. We have all been here before. Likely we’ll be there again.

Families

Seven thirty.

Nothing really eventful is going on right now. Aesop gets breakfast at eight o’clock. For his optimism, I bought a new edition of Shelley’s poetry and prose, arriving Tuesday. He believed in the perfectibility of human nature, a contrast to his friend Lord Byron. It’s easy to be a hopeless pessimist with current events as they are. It takes love to see a better way of handling things… There’s a mourning dove hooting very close by. As I walked to market, my ears were filled with birdsongs all around. A squirrel scrambled up a tree on Steve’s property, and I was thinking, “Do you see the same things every day?” So I tried for something new and different. What I found was that nobody really hates me, unless it’s my brother, who can hold a grudge as long as he lives. The oddity is that I never trespassed against him directly, so how am I guilty? Only family dynamics can treat you shabbily, while the bigger family of humanity has an open heart. This is the truth I take home from my experience of the past five years. It may feel shameful to break with family, but if it messes with you, then dispensing with it is okay. In time, they might come to respect your independence, though perhaps never accept you as one of them. This can be to your benefit, particularly if you need to fix a bad habit. Your life is more important than their approval.

Honor Your Father and Mother

Two o’clock in the afternoon.

I don’t really know what I’m writing for. Since I left the church, there’s been no one to argue with, so my own beliefs go unchallenged. Now at peace, and with the weather halfway decent, I could take a little walk over to the market to get something tasty and fun, like ice cream or a bag of Doritos and chunky salsa.

It feels odd to be wiped clean of everything philosophical or theological, leaving pure aesthetics. I have no more fight left in me, but also nothing to fight over.

Three o’clock. The clouds are gigantic over the little community. I suddenly think of how my parents used to read light fiction, stuff on the bestseller list that they didn’t have to ponder much. While they did that, I read heroic fantasies, but nothing headier than Mary Stewart’s Merlin Trilogy. My mother said we were living on the surface. I reckon there’s nothing wrong with that. Her hero was Michelangelo, along with Shakespeare and Poe: whoever she considered original. And yet she never read that kind of thing. Instead it was historical fiction and romances mostly, like John Jakes, James Michener, and their imitators. My parents both read Robert Ludlum, Ken Follett, and Lawrence Saunders.

If the unexamined life is not worth living, then still I won’t say my parents were unworthy people. They gave me everything they had, so how could I be ungrateful? This was a disagreement I had with the church. Who’s to condemn others for being thoughtless hedonists? It strikes me as a very profound problem, itself like something in a Camus book. Not to mention that it’s one of the Ten Commandments…

Togetherness

Quarter after three.

I’ve awoken in the dead of night to the sound of a heavy rain. I thought I would get up temporarily and scribble a note. However, I’m drawing a blank at the moment. For some reason I keep hearing music from the late seventies. A few hours ago it was two old hits by Al Stewart. Something’s bugging me. It has to do with family and belongingness, and yet I was never good at compromise, particularly from the age of nineteen. The greatest lesson in familial love for me came from reading Ulysses, but even then, my sobriety was impossible without my independence… The rain has ceased for now, as if to support what I just said.

Seven twenty five.

Life is pretty good today. I made Cathy laugh at the checkout counter with a silly joke about being in the doghouse. The sun comes and goes, and also the rain. Music: “Time Passages” by Al Stewart, so I’m thinking I’ll pull out the disc and listen to it. Some people would rather hear underground music for reasons of integrity, but I like the music polished, albeit packaged for mass consumption. You can drive yourself batty trying to avoid consumerism, so I usually go with the flow. I believe that The Beatles was a good phenomenon.

“Buy me a ticket on the last train home tonight…” 

Brass Tacks

Midnight.

I had a good day. The inside of my home is looking nicer and nicer the more Gloria works on it. A few minutes ago I ordered myself a beanbag chair because I wanted one. The neighbor kids had them when I was young, but my mother refused to buy me one of my own here at home. Gloria and I have dumped a lot of Mom’s clothes and stuff off at the thrift store on Division Avenue, thereby kind of exorcising her ghost from the house. I don’t really believe in ghosts or anything spiritual, and it’s very painful to entertain such beliefs after a loved one dies. There’s so much uncertainty surrounding the whole phenomenon of death and dying, because what happens over that threshold will always be a mystery. I sought to avoid the problem by drinking myself blind drunk for many years. Grieving is not for wimps; it takes a great deal of courage to face the problem head on and say with finality what you believe. The fact is that we cremate our dead, and we say the body feels nothing when it’s being burned. We also know that there’s an identity of consciousness with brain function. The conclusion from all this is that ghosts don’t exist. Therefore, Lucretius must have been right to advise us not to fear death.