64 Degrees

Eight twenty five.

An hour ago at the store I asked Heather if she thought rock and roll was dead, and she answered no. I said why not. She replied that the stuff young people listen to is just crap. She was raised by her grandmother and is kind of old school. Yesterday, I spotted some 3 pound bags of chicken jerky for dogs that I would have bought if they had been in the system at Community Market. The weather today is quite warm for this time of year, with a little bit of sun through the covering of clouds. I will decide at the last minute whether to go to church this morning. But I’m not really in the mood for hearing a dull abstract sermon about things that likely don’t exist. I feel more like seizing the day, maybe taking Aesop for a little walk later today, and celebrating being alive. Life has as much potential as we give it, and futurity is a friend just waiting for us to grab our opportunities to change and grow. Time never quits, but keeps moving on with or without you. And the only eternity is here on earth… Aesop barks at a car that just drove by the house. I’m thinking that I’ll resign from Our Redeemer so I can be free and independent to live life my own way, not dictated by a “spiritual leader.” I think I’m smart enough to navigate existence on my own. Hopefully my worst mistakes are all behind me. Already I have a plan for my day today. Plans can go wrong, yet with some flexibility, all shall be well… Well maybe I’ll go to worship one more time.

Quarter of noon.

I made it there and back on foot and heard the sermon: in some ways, Pastor said the same thing I’ve been saying about here and now. The difference is that he expects Christ to come again at any time… Is there anything wrong with judging an opinion for yourself? Does it indicate excessive pride if you do so? Some people believe that critical thinking is a recipe for unhappiness; but then, recall Socrates: the unexamined life is not worth living. Plato thought original thinking was indispensable, and everything is subject to scrutiny. But sometimes I feel like I don’t know much, and today is one of those times; except I know it’s too warm for November. 

A Cafe Sketcher

Three o’clock in the morning.

I agreed to go to church at ten o’clock today, but maybe I didn’t get my point across to my friend over coffee at Black Rock. He still operates on the assumption that heaven exists, while I tend to reject metaphysics wholesale. He asked me who was my favorite philosopher, and I said John Stuart Mill, the developer of utilitarianism, the Greatest Happiness Principle. As if to demonstrate my assertion, a man down the table from us was busy making color drawings of flowers and hummingbirds. He told us that he would ask people for a thousand dollars or a smile, and got the smile every time. He opened up his sketchbook to show us the flags of various countries of people he’d met, plus drawings by children of things like dinosaur tracks. The key to what he was doing was the very simplicity of it, sort of like Mill’s ethics, and it made excellent sense. So then, Tim and I left the cafe to walk over to the Dollar Tree in search of American flags. We wandered the store from end to end, not finding them, nor did we encounter any employees on the floor to help with directions. The magic of the coffee bar didn’t follow us to Dollar Tree.

Four o’clock. Next, we drove across River Road to the veterinarian so I could pick up a prescription for my dog. It was good to see Debbie again at the reception desk, though I missed Wendy. The place made me think of my old pug, Henry, who lived 14 years before I had to euthanize him 9 years ago. I also thought of the way things used to be in general, and the people I knew. But it seemed like a time for new beginnings as well, and the daylight coming in the windows was the light of future joy. 

“Josh Halliwick”

Quarter after ten at night.

I don’t know why I’ve been reading Mark Twain lately, except for how his message of freedom inspires me to inspire others. This afternoon I drank in thirty pages of Connecticut Yankee as if it were the first time for me. Then I consider my derailment at such a young age and wonder why this illness ever happens to people… I suddenly remembered a little book of another schizophrenic’s struggles, titled Josh Halliwick’s Madness, coauthored by the cousin of my friend who played guitar. This book was published seven years before I ever started my own blog. I can recommend it for its accurate descriptions of psychotic episodes and the ruin that they can make of a person’s life. Since I’m on a medication that works pretty well, I often forget what the “positive symptoms” of schizophrenia were really like. Only 11 years ago I still had crippling delusions of hell and the devil and could hardly play music with my friends. My mind on Vraylar is a far cry from when I was a drunken madman. I say this with compassion for myself and for everyone who has ever suffered from schizophrenia. Unfortunately, religious people don’t understand the difference between psychosis and faith, and Christianity is a big thing nowadays. The fact remains that schizophrenia is a disease, not a spiritual state or anything like that. The delusions are bizarre and absurd and mustn’t be taken for a revelation. It’s a very unlucky situation when people mistake lunacy for legitimate belief. 

The Light

Quarter of ten.

I had to brave the elements to get to the store a while ago. Just rain, but it came down steadily and I needed my umbrella. I can’t think of anything really interesting to write about, so it’s probably time to read a book again. I feel haunted by some memories from four years ago, when my sobriety first began. It could be a good thing because it makes me reevaluate the church and my involvement in it. Sometimes the idea of God feels romantic to me; we’d all like to be loved and understood perfectly, and forgiven for our misdeeds and faults. We want to feel provided for. I only need a fresh perspective on the same stuff. It was nice to sit in the pew behind Sandi yesterday and gab with her a bit. Everything is in a state of upheaval while we try to figure out the tone of the times, and eventually it’ll happen. Someone will be brave and lead us back to something like normalcy, and I’m just along for the ride with everyone else. A lot of us are sick of the cowardice we observe all the time, when we know that only strength and courage can save the day, given a ray of hope… The rule for some people is “misery loves company.” If they can’t be happy, they will ensure that no one else is happy either. This policy is toxic, and when it comes along, you have to cut it out of your life. Another hero like Martin Luther needs to appear and reform our little church on Maxwell Road, or else I won’t be interested in going there anymore. Maybe there’s something I can do to help bring about a change for the better for Our Redeemer? I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Quarter of eleven. The rain continues and there’s not much light outdoors; and yet I feel that there is hope like a phantom sunbeam running through the world. Follow this light and all shall be well. And the light is known to us by the name of Christ. 

All Honor and Glory

Quarter of nine.

A very gray and rainy morning. It’s definitely an umbrella kind of day. Motivating myself to go out to the market was difficult, but I managed it all right. The huge mud puddle at the intersection with Fremont Avenue is back, so that I had to tread on Kat’s grass to get to the narrowest crossing. I saw middle school kids with umbrellas running across Maxwell Road, taking big risks with the traffic, depending on the mercy of certain drivers. At the store, the dairy guy was kind of flirty with Michelle. I don’t blame him for liking her, and he’s a nice enough sort of person. He is an honorable, hardworking type, the kind that seems to be getting harder to find these days. By contrast, there I was with my EBT card and tappable credit card, a slacker just floating along the current.

Nine thirty. Aesop wasn’t so skeptical of his breakfast this morning; maybe he was just hungrier than usual. There’s a weird knocking on my patio cover. Doubtless it’s some sort of bird or a squirrel. As long as it’s not human I’m not worried. I don’t believe in spooks at all. I’m not sure if I’ll go to church this Sunday, the day of Halloween. Pastor Dave is subbing for Pastor Dan that day, so the perspective on things will be different. Also I like to hear him sing; he’s really pretty good. I have today and tomorrow to think about it. The rain is expected to continue until about one o’clock, but there’ll be more over the weekend and beyond. 

Earth to a Martian

I have to piece together my day today now. When I got home from my appointment with Misty I went right to bed and napped for a few hours, feeling as I did tired. I was thinking of how my hometown feels so alien to me these days, especially from the back of a taxi, cruising the streets with so many strangers. The cabbie for the return ride was listening to some weird music: old psychedelic jam band stuff that I didn’t care for very much. The agency closed at five o’clock and left me waiting at their doorstep for my taxi. It came before too long, and he took me onto I-105 briefly and then hopped on Sixth Street, which was pretty jungly with people and traffic. For some reason it seemed quite sordid and unfamiliar to me, the sole survivor of the family with my parents twenty years after their demise, riding ingloriously in the back of a cab; perhaps like Jesus riding in on a donkey, but hearing this bizarre psychedelic music. We hung a right on Chambers Street and drove north to the exit for the Expressway. It rained lightly for the whole trip. My thoughts all the way were diffuse and scattered, so I just held on and focused on getting back home. Even then I felt like a stranger in a strange land. I heated up a Hot Pocket and shared the last bite with Aesop, after which I noticed my fatigue and headed right for bed.

The rest of the day is sort of lost and forgotten. I know I wrote just a little in my journal in the morning, but the content has left me. Suddenly I remember an event that happened in September maybe five years ago, when I had just been trying to stay sober, but unsuccessfully. The mail came to my front porch, a huge Chambers Dictionary, a gift from my friend Kate, which had traveled here all the way from Sweden. It’s supposed to be the dictionary for word lovers, and is peculiarly British. At the time, I even believed I would’ve liked to work as a lexicographer, a writer of dictionary entries complete with etymological information for each word. It’s a beautiful book, and it survived the house fire two years ago. But it was sort of the last word I would ever hear from Europe, sadly. I wish there could be more commerce with the Old World.


Ten o’clock.

I’ve been out of the house and seen several people this morning. It was late enough that Cathy was just starting her shift today and helped me at checkout. One of the card sliders had a problem, so I used the one that worked. For Aesop I bought a couple of dollars’ worth of chicken strips. I had to have my Snapple tea and something to eat for today. Coming back home, I stopped and said hi to Karen and Jessica at the salon. Karen announced that Jessica would be leaving in three weeks to go live with her family in a small Oregon town. Now it’ll just be Karen and Kim every week, and Kim works only part time. Home again, I read my mail: my primary care provider has left the practice “for personal reasons.” I had him for only one year and now I have to pick a new physician. People in autumn are often on the move, plus with Covid, they seem to leave their jobs at the drop of a hat. Also, Bi Mart is closing its pharmacy the first week in November, moving most customers to Walgreens up the road in Santa Clara. The only thing that stays the same is change itself. It is wet outside; the rain will probably start again at around eleven o’clock. I used to have a memory that operated in cycles, but with my Vraylar, the present time is what it is without the undertones of the past. Still, I can abstract a few general ideas of events that are happening right now, and it seems that people pass through turnstiles, connecting with each other only temporarily. But one thing that doesn’t go away is the persistence of mental illness. And hunger never goes out of style. 

Sugar and Spice

Five thirty.

The morning is still benighted for two more hours, but even so, I might go to the store at opening time: six o’clock, and see Michelle. What makes a nice person nice and a mean person not nice? Michelle is made of sugar and spice, in accord with the old nursery rhyme. In colloquial French, the word for “nice” is sympathique; and “mean” is mechante. And the person who wears a frown is malheureuse. The rain is forecast to start again at noon today. It’s warm enough outside to go without a jacket. I think Aesop would probably like to get more chicken strips, so I’ll oblige him if they still have those. Pretty soon I will leave the house and just pretend there’s an invisible sun in the sky.

Six fifty five. I heard about Michelle’s weekend while I was at the store. More out of control stuff; her life seems quite unmanageable, so I hope she gets some help. Perhaps she’s been a little too nice and not assertive enough with the people who push her buttons. People generally talk about their “spiritual leader” nowadays, but I’m very skeptical of this, of course. No supernatural power is going to take control over your life and make everything better. It’s all up to you to take the wheel and drive your life like a car, with as many passengers as you wish. Even God can take a back seat if you must have one. I won’t go to hell for saying so, either… Now the sun pushes over the rim across the street from me, illuminating gray clouds. The gibbous moon was directly overhead when I went out an hour ago, accompanied by a few stars through an opening in the cloud canopy. Nature is enough. 

Cloudburst on My Street

Nine ten.

I told Aesop I’d feed him at nine fifteen, but I might hold off just a little bit longer. He’s getting a drink of water right now. Echoes of last night’s service rise to my mind, specifically the “hold us in love” part of the Holden Evening Prayer. I think there’s a food pantry this morning, but going to church tomorrow should be enough for me. I made a point of attending the memorial for Katie because she was my friend. I’ve been to the little store and seen Heather. Didn’t get rained on, though the air looks kind of blue. I put on a pair of very lightweight slip on shoes that feel comfortable to me because it’s about utility and not so much fashion. Aesop is waiting patiently for his breakfast. Some idiot is mowing his lawn when he’ll probably get wet. It’s not what I would choose to do. The greens outside are really green from the gray day, but it’s getting quite dark suddenly. Maybe he’ll say, “Retreat!” and quit his project.

Ten o’clock. The dog is fed now while the darkness out there grows and a cloudburst looks inevitable. “Into the cloudburst naked / I wanna get my face wet / It’s been buried in the sun for years.” I wonder what Thomas Dolby thinks of the pandemic? I’d really love to know. His lyrics dealing with history are so spot on; depressing but very good, very deep. Now the rain is coming down and the sound of the lawnmower has ceased. Welcome to Oregon weather. 


Four fifty. I’m going to Katie’s memorial service tonight. Tim is picking me up at six forty. I’ve had a rough afternoon because I listened to the CD this morning, opening up an emotional can of worms. Then I wallowed in pathos for a few hours, thinking of my mother, to whom I was very close. I guess I can snap out of it when it’s time to go to the church. Until then I’m just killing time, waiting for the sun to go down. I really can’t put my parents down for being hedonists. The church has me in a tight spot, and I tend to sympathize still with my parents and not with my sister. I’m not going to manage to be very rational today. Sometimes that’s okay. But it’s not my usual mental state to be soppy and maudlin. If I could just make the music stop.

Six o’clock. It won’t be long now.