As the Romans Do

Quarter of six.

The store will open shortly. I need my morning tea for a pick me up. I feel tired and sore from what I did yesterday. Think I’ll just go ahead and go now…

Quarter of seven. Michelle and the guy from the dairy were tallying items ordered against those received when I walked in. I headed straight for the dog treats, then got the usual stuff for me. Even as I write, Aesop has fallen back to sleep. It’s been an oddball week for us both, but on the other hand there’s no normal anymore. If we practice tomorrow, it’ll be earlier in the day due to the expected heat. The times today are very hard for everybody. Ron said a couple of times that he anticipates a revival of Roman decadence and hedonism to compensate for the pandemic. I wouldn’t mind that, actually. The world doesn’t get enough of the joy of living. Seize the day before the day seizes us. Somewhere, unpublished, a few people are probably doing audacious things, like having dangerous liaisons, staking everything and going for broke. According to smart writers like James Joyce, pursuing passion is the right thing to do. Right now, the world is in a state of paralysis little different from his Dublin a century ago… I think that people nowadays have spiritualized themselves out of living a fulfilling life in the here and now. What will it take to shake us awake?

Eight o’clock. So I hope Ron is right about the Roman revival. I didn’t read Edward Gibbon, but I know his thrust. Decadent morals brought about the collapse of the Roman Empire, therefore any civilization needs a measure of rational restraint to ensure its longevity. However, Shakespeare suggested that order is restored after people take a good holiday… 

Salvation

Eight ten.

I only heard about the Bootleg Fire in Southern Oregon this morning. Apparently it’s been going on for some time. That’s my reward for not watching television or going to church: I’m out of the information loop… It seems like I feel terrible every day now. My right foot pops when I put all my weight on it, as if it had a stress fracture. I need to make the pleasures of life outweigh the pains to feel happier, or else existence is a burden. Tough luck, I guess. There are things money can’t buy, including your health and wellness in some degree. The joy that keeps me going is my rock band, without which I’d have nothing. The summer drags on way too long with no sign of rain on the horizon. “When April with its sweet showers / The drought of March has pierced to the root…” But we didn’t get much rain in April. I’m just feeling depressed with the state of the world. It appears to be on the brink of collapse. Consequently, people need more parties, more fun while it’s still possible to have a good time.

Quarter after nine. Big white clouds roll in, darkening the sun and keeping it cooler. My raspberry tea was good, and Aesop liked his turkey and pea breakfast. Tomorrow I get to visit with Heidi in her office at the agency; for this reason my mood is lifting a little… I was just looking at the anatomy of the human foot: much more complex than I knew. My foot doesn’t hurt, but just pops under pressure. Well, I could complain about a score of little things that bother me, while there’s one thing that pleases me most, and that is making music. Is it an exaggeration to say that music may be our salvation? 

New Thrills

Eight o’clock.

Ever since Sunday I’ve been worried about Pastor’s reticence regarding my rock band. This silence tends to make me imagine all sorts of things that may be blown out of proportion to reality. In the first place, I can’t figure out why his opinion means so much to me. It’s as if his approval were the ultimate judgment on the quality of the music, especially its spiritual goodness or badness. So then I have to remind myself that Pastor is just a human being, not a god or even a saint. Maybe he’s just concerned that I might be tempted to use drugs with the other guys and mess up my life?… I didn’t notice much on my excursion to the store today. It’s cloudy right now. I bought Aesop two peanut butter bones for a special treat. I’m not so afraid now that I will lose my sobriety, so when I go into the market, the place feels rather dull and insignificant to me. It is simply where I get something to eat every day and chat a bit with Michelle. The old excitement associated with the store is gone. The only thing that gives me a thrill now is playing music in the band, and I anticipate it all week. Intellectual gymnastics don’t interest me as much as they used to. I still like good books, though perhaps something a little lighter than heavy old classics. Dunno; I’m just figuring myself out while the times keep changing and developing into new things. Now it’s time to feed my dog. 

Orpheus III

Seven forty.

I had a great time yesterday with Ron and Mike. We held practice at five o’clock and it was a sunny evening. My old Aria bass through the Fender amp ground out a beefy tone, kind of aggressive, but perfect for our music. I described our sound to a friend as unsubtle and often dissonant but with a beat that gets you moving. It is probably more rock than jazz because the keyboard is sometimes fuzzed and gritty. Ron said his influence is more Keith Emerson than Rick Wakeman, hence visceral and raw as opposed to refined. I think we do pretty well as a trio of keyboards, drums, and bass guitar. One of the songs we did yesterday was “Bubble House,” in which I have to take a solo on bass in G minor, not one of my better keys. But I hacked my way through it and came out sounding reasonably good. Before and after rehearsal I got a lift from the other guys. Now I owe Ron a book of John Berryman, so next time I’ll bring him The Dream Songs. The sunny weather continues this morning. At the market I bought a peach Snapple tea in honor of my friend who did the same thing yesterday. My cattle dog seems happy that I’ll be home all day today: no engagements at all. 

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.