Arrivals

Noon hour. My bass came UPS a little before eleven o’clock and then I opened it up and played it for 45 minutes or so. It has a three way selector switch for different pickup modes. It sounds the best in series, I think. And the bucking pickup happens to be very loud and boomy. They put wimpy strings on the bass, but I change them anyway. Overall it sounds pretty cool! I like the finish color: Irish Ale, just a clear dark red over swamp ash.

It’s still perfect weather, sunny and not too warm. I already had my lunch, and I’m still hungry. This day with this weather reminds me of something I can’t put my finger on. Somehow it’s like the 1990’s again, and I feel quite content this way. Of course I miss my parents and my old friends, but it’s enough to think of them. Finally it looks like life is settling down and it’s safer for people to go out and socialize. We’re in much better hands than we were for the last four years. I feel like a Pepsi or something. I could go get a liter of soda for the joy of it.

Four o’clock. So I went out and got a Pepsi and saw Michelle, Cathy, and on the way back, Karen. This last made me an appointment for a haircut on Monday morning. When I got home I had about half of my Pepsi two liter and then played my Kiloton bass again: it definitely sounds awesome in series mode. I noodled around and picked out the Hungarian Rhapsody, plus a song by Chick Corea from Light Years. This bass is the best one I’ve got now, so it’ll be my main axe for a while.

The color of the sunshine in the late afternoon seems rather mellow, and more summery than springlike. It’s 75 degrees out. It just doesn’t feel like April to me. But I didn’t use to be sober years ago during the spring, so I have no point of reference for comparison. Beginning at three o’clock, I would start drinking like a fish and put on The Beatles; have a big bacchanalian party for one person and his dog. It was really no way to live because I didn’t know what was going on in the world, or I was numb to what was happening. My mind was ruled by crazy rationales and paranoia, even delusions of telepathy or thought broadcasting. I was miserable and out of touch with reality. But today, it feels so much better to be free from more than one kind of oppression and injustice in my life. I am my own ship’s master and commander, steering myself toward what’s right for me. 

Auspicious

Eight o’clock.

The day is getting off to a good start. It is true that you are what you eat, and I’ve done a lot of potato salad lately after a steady diet of burritos and cottage cheese. At the store I just bought a Caesar salad, more potato salad, and two Snapples. I found out at the checkout counter that I have another two hundred dollars in food stamps. Michelle joked that I could buy a lot more salads and laughed. She also said the store was very busy this morning because people were getting their tax refunds. The weather is overcast right now, but I don’t know the forecast for later today… My brain is playing music by Erik Satie. In the old days when I worked in an office I would get tipsy on Friday evenings and listen to piano music by Debussy or Satie, wishing I could be free of my job. Early this morning I thought of a play by Eugene O’Neill called Dynamo, about some dehumanizing line of work. I don’t think I ever read it. My volumes of his plays are out in the garage.

Nine twenty five. Mike has canceled practice for the second weekend in a row. I can still play the bass on my own, or even give my guitar a try. I love beautiful things. I like pleasure and fun, and feeling good. I don’t believe rock and roll is really about Satanism, if it is done with intelligence and taste. But the local music scene doesn’t offer much in that regard. It tends to be mired down in traditional blues and other thoughtless stuff that doesn’t interest me… The sun is free to shine in spurts. For a long time I was depressed every day, and now events seem to be more auspicious. I heard music and voices of people across the fence from my backyard late last night. They didn’t stop until one thirty in the morning. The good times are starting to roll. 

Life and Books

Eight twenty.

Early this afternoon I’m going back to the hematologist to follow up my Thursday labs. I’ve been feeling like too much of a Faust lately, cloistered with my books, looking for the truth that likely doesn’t exist. It’ll be good to get out of the house and see a little of the town. Going out to the mailbox, I could remember how it used to feel to walk off to church a few years ago. It was more fun before the pandemic hit us. Pastor’s attitude and demeanor have changed since these dark times began. My idea is that we should go out with a bang rather than a whimper, have a big party and celebrate being alive… I just realized that I should call my sister this morning, but for some reason it feels like a chore. I don’t think we agree on rock and roll and the importance of having fun. It is nothing evil or wicked to let your hair down… Too many times in the past she has scorned my interests as mere playthings and children’s games. Whatever, I don’t feel like giving her a call.

Nine twenty. As time goes by, things will get easier for me as far as my mental health. If church were about having a good time, then I’d be interested in attending. Instead, we get preached at concerning the end of the world and who is going to be saved. 

My backyard right now is busy with various birds and fox squirrels. My Mallarme book came yesterday afternoon. Having pondered it somewhat, I notice that I’m better at philosophy than prosody, so my curiosity for the poet deals more with his themes than with the arrangement of sounds. Where does the poetry take you with regard to metaphysics? How did it affect Mallarme? Did he in effect write himself to nothingness, being so absorbed in his language? It is similar to the artist’s power in Poe’s “The Oval Portrait.” The demands of the craft suck the life out of the subject and into itself. It’s a counterintuitive observation, making language larger than nature. I’m not sure I buy it; the birds and squirrels outside don’t know their names, yet they know enough to survive. 

Back to Myself

Quarter after ten. I’ve been gutted by church indoctrination. Somehow I need to throw off the brainwashing and just be human again… The radio at the little market was playing “Rock with You,” an old tune by Michael Jackson. Michelle said she was in sixth or seventh grade when the song was popular. Me too. It dates back to about 1979. That was when I started reading the novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs for sheer fun. The sun shone a lot brighter then, and the taste of a nectarine was unbeatable. Outside my bedroom window stood a crabapple tree I could hear swishing in the summer breezes. The sky was powder blue and mellow. We had a Carrier air conditioning unit in the family room that really saved us from the heat. Life was simple and literal, uncomplicated by doctrines or dogmas. Even ethics was intuitive; the Golden Rule sufficed. My mother loved beauty in any form, especially the human body, or maybe that was me? I drew countless figures from my reading, including John Carter of Mars and his friends. I was never happier than during that year. When school started, I made an awesome Tarzan for the girl who sat behind me in English: just No 2 pencil on Manila divider paper. I inscribed it to her and she took it home.

Eleven thirty. There should be band practice tomorrow afternoon. Hopefully it goes better than the last time. It doesn’t really matter which instrument I take with me, so I’ll use the white Fender bass for its sweet tone. The rain has started again.

Two o’clock. Lately it stays light out till after six o’clock. It’s just another overcast day, gray and dismal. This morning I was definitely unwell. When I take leave of common sense and blither about religion, I’m not doing so great. Some people with schizophrenia can’t read Dostoevsky or Kafka because of paranoia. I’d be better off not reading them either. For a long time I’ve felt borderline delusional, but now without church I don’t have to read heavy stuff. Jules Verne might be fun for a while. I’m free to read what interests me, no shadow of the church to engulf me. 

Fun!

Seven thirty.

Sade in the late 1980s did an instrumental with a Spanish name that means “There Is Always Hope.” My tendency to be disorganized is not my fault, so I won’t let myself be beat up when Misty calls me this afternoon. Aesop went back to bed while I decided to stay up and scribble some notes. Now I can’t find my copy of The Inner Reaches of Outer Space, but no matter. I think Joseph Campbell was a fraud, his writing a bunch of hooey disguised as social science. He was just one person with an opinion on mythology, religion, and philosophy. If he was right, then wouldn’t more people arrive at his conclusions independently?… Attempts to psychologize mental illness are mostly doomed to fail, especially severe cases. The way I feel today, “all I wanna do is have some fun until the sun comes up over Santa Monica Boulevard.” I wonder what the new stuff is on the radio these days? So much music is retro, the same old thing we’ve all heard before. I’d love to hear the latest trend in popular music— as long as it uses real instruments and musicians. I get tired of people who don’t want to have fun. We’ve forgotten what it’s like to let our hair down and enjoy each other’s company. We go cuckoo without socialization!… Aesop has joined me now and wants his breakfast. After I feed him I’m going to the market; maybe they’ll have some of those salads and sandwiches for sale. And I want a couple of Snapples.

Advice or Abuse?

Wee hours.

Band practice yesterday afternoon went very well. Mike bought us an ambient microphone for smartphone so now we can record our sessions. It works great. Listening again to our opening jam in D minor, I thought to myself that the bass alone wouldn’t sound like much, but in the context of the drums and keyboards it makes sense… At three thirty I left the house with my kit bass in my grip. It was 48 degrees outside so I didn’t wear a jacket. I tried to clear my mental windscreen and just go and play music with the fellas. I encountered a few neighbors on the street, but kept on walking. When I got to B— Lane, Mike passed me in his truck and offered me a lift, but it was only a few minutes to his house so I declined…

Most of the clutter in my mind stems from guilt received from my case manager at Laurel Hill. It does me a lot more harm than good to feel so burdened by health professionals who do nothing but criticize me. It takes all the joy out of life to be browbeaten. I think I’ll start looking for an alternative to the agency because quite frankly I despise it. I only need someone to prescribe my medication— that’s all. They can keep their stupid advice.

Night and Day

Six o’clock.

I guess I’m satisfied with the authenticity of my choices over the past few years. It isn’t like I made decisions for no reason. The bottom line is always sobriety and whatever promotes this condition. I was just poring over some editions of Mallarme on Amazon, considering a purchase, but then I remembered that he was probably not sober, and this would affect his poetry. Until now, with the rock band, I never worried about another person’s drinking behavior influencing me. It puts me in a difficult position.

Nine thirty. I feel so much better now. The day has a good vibe to it. Last night, Sandi said that the Wetlands Brew Pub on Garfield was packed with people who wanted to get out and socialize. Melissa just told me that Rick is going to try to open the deli today. What a relief this will be. I treated myself to a raspberry tea this morning because it felt right. Pastor’s sermon was rather gloomy, but I think people are getting tired of that stuff. I encouraged my pen pal to check out the books of John Muir and John James Audubon online. Also I offered to get Ron a new keyboard if he wanted. And Aesop seems pretty happy with his life today. All is better with the world. On second thought, I might have another look at the book of Mallarme’s poetry. 

Saturday Night Jam

Midnight hour.

When I was walking past the salon in the afternoon sunshine, Karen came out and flagged me down to tell me that Kim’s shoulder surgery didn’t go very well, and to keep her in my prayers. I understand that she’s in quite a bit of pain and sleeps most of the time. I was on my way to band practice with bass guitar in hand. 

Ron was already there when I arrived at Mike’s studio and knocked on the door. Mike said I could walk right in, joking that only cops ever knock. Our practice went pretty well, but the energy was less intense than the jam the week before. After two hours and twenty minutes Ron said he was tired, so we called it a night. A few times I had doubts about my involvement in music during the time we played. It seemed like an activity done better under the influence of alcohol. And generally, I realized that alcohol enhances pleasure I take in everything else in life. It’s like seasoning for a meal. In its absence, the meal is more of a chore to eat. It doesn’t taste as good but I suppose you still have to eat it… The tone of my bass through the new amp was pretty massive and powerful. I liked it. Low G on the E string hit me in the right spot. I think I had the most fun playing “Burning Coal” last night, a riff in G7 that goes on infinitely, no bridge or anything.

All in all, it was a good practice. Maybe we can add a new song to our repertoire before next time. Mike made a good point in passing, and this was that we need organization. I think this is true in general, so maybe we can open a discussion about it. 

Rock and Roll

Three twenty five. I played my FretWire bass for a long time and got it to sound pretty awesome. There’s nothing wrong with my old amplifier; it just needed some experimentation to give it some masculine muscle. Also I tweaked the truss rod on the bass and fine tuned the bridge— and the rest was up to me. I played a King Crimson song, plus UK and Rush. I felt inspired. Everything sounded great. And now I reflect on the role of rock and roll in our society: it certainly isn’t a bad thing. It’s just a cathartic release for people who need to escape from daily life, the old grind of the workweek and every other duty and responsibility. We need a break from having to be a machine as part of a bigger machine every workday. It’s no fun being stuck in this condition all the time. We made the counterculture for a good reason, and that is entertainment and relaxation. Everybody needs that. It’s impossible to exist like a computer one hundred percent of the time, so we created rock and roll as a relief from the industrial revolution… I think I’ll give two of my instruments away to my band mates. I have plenty of bass guitars for one person. I’ve gotten pretty good at being a bass tech for myself. With the right hardware and setup you can make a cheap instrument sound fabulous. The key is knowledge and experience— and a little self confidence.