I don’t know what to do with my book of Jack Kerouac. Perhaps I’ll just place it in the book share on Fremont Avenue; it’ll be a great score for somebody, a beautiful new volume still wrapped in plastic. But no; if I see Ron again, I’ll give it to him… The summer sunshine repeats itself outside.
Quarter after nine. I talked with my sister for an hour. She said her son is on the mend from the virus. It wasn’t one of our better conversations, however. Now I’ve got the rest of the day unspoken for. Very quiet in the house, and the day is still young. It might be a good time to go out someplace, except the weather will be very hot and uncomfortable. The thought of drinking beer crosses my mind, but I’m not serious about that. I can play my bass guitar this afternoon, but by myself is not the same as with other people. So it makes me wonder if sobriety is really worth it when you end up all alone. Life is always difficult for one reason or another. A song by The Motels occurs to me: “Only the Lonely.” It reminds me of my mother’s solitude when I went to high school, and how I made a pact with myself to be her friend in that time. I never knew my own identity because of my sacrifice, yet I still think it was the right thing to do. Today I can relate to her loneliness; she was just a little too smart for her own good.
Quarter after ten. Something bugs me now. I still feel like getting loose with a beer buzz or whatever. I remember the trips I used to take to the coast with my brother, sitting on the balcony of our room, looking at the ocean and drinking beer after beer in the sun. This was my brother’s reality, and I participated in it with him like a kind of religion… until my addiction nearly killed me and I had to stop… Roger fired up his collectible truck and drove away to Highway 99. Life goes on even without alcohol. How would it be to reread A Separate Peace by John Knowles? A classic novel about envy; about the irrational, and the unaccountability of human behavior. Sometimes it’s not all lollipops and lemon drops.
I just played my Kiloton bass for a while with the switching in split mode and tuned down to D for doing “People” by King Crimson. Sounds really great. My mother used to spoil me by getting me professional music gear when I was a kid, so I got kind of used to that. Then after the moneybag was gone I felt lost and quite stuck up a creek without a paddle. I’d been so dependent on her and suddenly I was screwed. I don’t think I could reason out my situation very well at first. All I could think of to do was drink a lot of beer, because this made me feel comfortable somehow. Otherwise I was too scared to navigate my course, to make my own decisions and do what was right for myself. Recently I’ve realized that there aren’t that many options for me, unless I rule out some of them automatically. Everybody appears to be stuck with limited choices while the pandemic lasts, though I wonder what a brave person like Sartre would do, if this circumstance is anything like the Nazi occupation of France about 80 years ago. Some people don’t believe the virus is real or that anyone is getting sick, and we’re all just pawns in a government game. Now I have reason not to be as skeptical about Covid, having heard of a case in my own family. I know my sister wouldn’t lie about that.
Two thirty. The sky is a hot white color outside my window, not very pretty. Will this summer ever end? It’s dry as a desert in Oregon. Everything just seems unnatural and out of whack. On the prompt of Environment Oregon I sent a prewritten email to our two Senators this morning. It dealt with climate change from burning fossil fuels, and a plan to change our sources of energy. It was worth a shot… There is Heidi again this Wednesday morning, and Rebecca on Friday. Misty never called me back to reschedule…
I fed Aesop early today. I’m beginning to stress about leaving him here while I go to my band practice, if we decide to do that today. The dog was in such a bad mood yesterday from my absences on Wednesday and Thursday. Very pouty, and he even snarled at me last night… Well now it’s a date set in stone: rehearsal at one o’clock. Maybe Aesop will forgive me. The high temperature might be 95 degrees. I’m getting rather sick of blue sky every day and no sign of any precipitation. You start to wonder if it’ll ever rain again, and will autumn ever come. I hear sparrows and falling acorns out back. Tried calling my sister again with no answer. My guess is her son is probably home. He and I don’t get along together very well; but the whole family thing is stupid and really out of my hands. I wrote them off when I quit drinking almost four years ago. I have no control over family nor the power to change the situation. But at least they also have no power over me. It’s not like they made a little voodoo doll of me for sticking pins in; we don’t cast spells on each other back and forth like two teams of wizards. Right now, as I write, there’s no one in the room with me but for Aesop. The rest is my imagination.
Nine thirty five. I’ve been through a lot of things since 2017 and seen so many faces, heard many stories. I guess none of it was wasted time as it’s part of the same learning experience. Still there are some things I wouldn’t want to repeat. Even now, there are circumstances I’d rather get out of and risk going it on my own…
I just observed a pair of sparrows on the grass, copulating like crazy. It appears that all of nature is in a state of confusion, unless mating season is supposed to be yearlong for these birds. I dunno, but I suspect foul play.
I slept okay but I think I’m done now. Unbidden, the old song by The Beatles comes to me, written by John for Brian Epstein: “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away.” It’s more an attack on culture than on his friend, so the title is actually ironic. It raises the question why… Yesterday I had doubts about my participation in rock music. But right now, on the contrary, I’d be stupid to do anything else. Speaking of The Beatles, my mother was a fan, though in the closet with it. Her own mother found the band disgraceful, and her daughter fell in with her opinion. Why was my mother the family pariah? In my estimation, she was far more intelligent than my sister, and probably for this reason she had a difficult time making friends. I wonder why it is that the very best of us get derailed into a self destructive pattern? But she pinned all her hopes on me when I was growing up, perhaps a bit too much pressure for me to handle. Still, I don’t want to let her down, even twenty years after her death… Therefore, it’s rock and roll till I die— or until rock and roll itself is dead, which is a real possibility given these circumstances. Yet like the Ark of the Covenant or the Olympic flame, someone keeps the dream alive and safe.
Five thirty. The sky is bloodless over the treetops across the street. A cadaverous gray. The store doesn’t open until seven on weekends. Not really looking forward to hearing from my sister; maybe we can skip it this week. A mournful train horn sounds in the distance to the southwest alongside Northwest Expressway. I used to know a guy who stowed away on a freight car and rode it all the way from Portland to Eugene. I wish I were so adventuresome. But this guy’s dad was a rich timber consultant, so his poverty had a silver spoon tucked in it… The crows wake up east of me. Squirrel prances on the roof of my house. And now I just await my friend’s email…
Outside my window, the City of Eugene street sweeper just howled past. It might be okay to get something sweet from the store— and I’m aware that I don’t feel very free lately. I feel encircled by government agencies moving in for the hostile takeover of my life. Is this paranoia on my part, or does the suspicion serve a purpose?
I had a nap from four thirty to eight thirty, and when I got up, my mind was somewhat clearer. Aesop, my dog, is in a good mood tonight. It occurs to me now what dictators my parents were when I was young; I could never do anything or go anywhere without rousing their suspicion that I might blow their cover. My dad was especially paranoid if I did anything different from usual. What kind of judgment did he fear? He and Mom were moderate alcoholics, but this didn’t warrant the world’s disapproval. His life was secure when he could watch tv, smoke cigarettes, and drink bourbon during the happy hour every day. My parents were godless people with no real friends of their own. Mostly they were terrified of being condemned, but it’s hard to know what for. What was their unpardonable sin?
I, for one, absolve them everything.
Five o’clock. Although it’s only Monday, I already look forward to jamming with my band mates this weekend. I feel that I’ve fenced myself in with the circumstances I’ve got today, or sort of painted myself into a corner and now I have to jump out of the room. But I feel very fortunate to have a house my parents left me which is entirely paid for, my little fort of freedom. Part of me craves oblivion again, the forgetfulness of being drunk, and I wish I were as carefree as a child with no responsibilities at all… I really miss my mother and my brother for their great intelligence and big hearts. I always got from them the sense that they were passionate, like heroes from a story by Joyce or an epic by Byron; people who weren’t afraid to live, even if they had to bend the rules a little. I feel like a leopard trying to change his spots, when the spots go down into the skin. The brainwashing I received from my church experience has washed out so now I’m free to choose my path. I think I’ve picked it already, and the rest is just seeing where it leads me to.
Quarter after six. It hasn’t been a good day for me. Just the same old stuff I do every day. But the truth is that I have control over this situation to some degree. How nice if we could all make our dreams come true, live the life we want to live; if the fabric of reality yielded to our dearest desires just by the use of language, like magic spells and love potions. This reminds me that I ought to finish the second part of Faust, a very profound and dreamlike drama. Sometimes beauty can win the day and abolish pain and care— especially when it is shared. The trick is to take two dimensions and blow them up to three in technicolor, like a lucid dream, and preserve them in some way…
Seven fifty five.
In my driveway I paused to examine the sky: light blue with white swirls. Right now the sun is partly covered. I’ve just received a package in the mail, left on the doorstep. Aesop will have a fit when I go out and get it. I actually ran into the mail carrier at the store a little while ago. She was not exceedingly friendly; rather businesslike and maybe a bit shy. While I was there, Michelle worried to me aloud again, which is pretty normal each day. It’s weird to observe how people in society are functionaries, robots operating in the big machine, everyone’s job linked to all the others, with very little free time to be fully human. This is why writers like Henry James are important, or the makers of popular music. The world needs some beauty, or else we’d go bonkers as servants to the neon god… It promises to be a fine day, probably not too hot. I was wise to invest in an air conditioner. I saw a headline reporting that the Northwest is in for another heatwave.
Nine o’clock. There’s a lot of cardboard recycling I should do; boxes from Amazon and other places. What’s the difference between being unmotivated and laziness? The second is a moral imputation, but essentially they amount to the same thing. Anyhow, I brought in the package and cut it open. The seat cushion I ordered works great; I’ll use it when I play the bass guitar or listen to CDs in my hard chairs. I never did buy any furniture after the house fire two years ago. The inside of my home is an obstacle course of boxes and Snapple bottles because I just don’t have the gumption to pick them up and get myself organized. I’ve also developed a bad back since the disaster. But the PCA ought to be able to help me with all that… A very old ballad by Duke Ellington plays in my mind: “Sultry Sunset.” I was three years old when my parents gave me the compilation record from the era of the big bands. My dad was always grumpy on weekends, and my mother was rather indifferent to me— although she did take me to a child psychologist that year. Apparently I would run across the room and bash my head against the wall, probably to make the music stop. Now I know that it won’t stop until my last heartbeat…
Polly called me up and we chatted for an hour and a quarter. I was able to remember a lot of things that happened back in the ‘70’s when we were young boys. How interesting it would be if our family could somehow come together again in the near future. But it takes a strong desire on all sides to make this a reality. Also, a lot of things I’ve learned on my own will have to be suppressed if we are going to get along. Maybe it’s not worth doing. Yesterday afternoon I read the first 30 pages of a Henry James novel, which is about the furthest thing from my family background. I don’t know: when a person has the intelligence to aspire to something a little better than his kin, should he go for it or should he let it stagnate? It is a real ethical dilemma, yet I’m more inclined to concur with my first psychologist who advised the use of my brain rather than letting it rot. My brother, in my opinion, has made some bad decisions regarding his health and mental well-being. So again I assert that it’s better to be true to yourself, however selfish that appears… Today is a nice 80 degree day with no clouds. I don’t feel like allowing anything to prune my life of the mind. Let it flower like the blooms on my magnolia tree, large and white soft petals to the sun…
Eleven twenty. I wonder why I view things so differently from my sister’s family? I still remember when, as grade school kids, our families were quite close. But maybe it was only alcoholism that united us and gave us something in common. Our parents used to get blasted and play pinochle until the hour was late. The boys and I played children’s games with GI Joe dolls, hide and seek, Chinese checkers, and even Atari home video games. We had transistor radios that picked up AM stations, so we could hear Steve Miller Band, Paul McCartney, and everything Top 40 from the mid seventies. We could toss the frisbee and bounce Super Balls. We could ride dirt bikes in Central Oregon. We hadn’t learned how or what to think yet, and probably we lacked consciousness altogether. I only knew that I loved dinosaurs and whales, and comic books of sword and sorcery heroes. I grew up in a quiet home environment that over the years promoted time for reflection. I was raised like an only child; no need to compete for attention. There were many factors that ultimately divided our families. So I guess it would be silly for me to blame myself for the outcome of the split. In fact, the fission of my family is similar to the Big Bang, with the particles being driven farther and farther apart… or so it seems sometimes. The copy of The Doobie Brothers I got by mail order I still haven’t listened to. The memories linked to it would be too painful to experience again.
I guess I was feeling kind of festive, because I bought a big bag of Doritos and some chunky salsa for a treat, plus two Snapple teas and a peanut butter bone for my dog. The same music by Prokofiev still dances in my mind, making me feel pretty happy. My band is probably going to rehearse tomorrow early in the afternoon; looking forward to that. The morning haze is going away while the sun comes out. It’s supposed to be warmer today, but still under 90 degrees… Family dynamics are strange things, particularly the language shared by the members, in which their beliefs are couched. I feel a bit uncertain about avoiding my relatives, yet otherwise I’d never be free and happy. In fact, I’d be miserable if I had to think the way my family thinks. So I suppose I’ll quit kicking myself about it and try to enjoy my life… Although I’m not wealthy by any stretch, my financial situation is fairly secure. I have enough to live comfortably, and that’s all I need.
Eight thirty. A little while ago, someone dropped off a package of snacks for Aesop. Just now I brought it in from the doorstep while my dog went bananas, barking his head off… Is individual freedom just an illusion? Sometimes it feels like we’re all in this together, everybody tied to everybody else with strings. You can do something unique, but you still jerk the strings attached to your neighbors. Beyond the family of blood relations sprawls the much bigger family of humanity. There’s a passage in Absalom, Absalom! I should look up that addresses this condition of bondage to family.
Nine thirty. On the other hand, an individual knows what he knows and there’s no reversing knowledge. It’s hard to say what is the right policy to adopt with relatives. Maybe I’m no more than a windbag. Another observation: it might be better not to intellectualize my feelings and life situations, but rather respond to them from the gut. Thus, a book by William Faulkner has nothing to do with me, and every circumstance is unique to the person experiencing it. Therefore, I should listen to my instincts and act accordingly.