The Backwards Traveler

Back in the nineties, there was a commercial for Target on tv that used “Daydream” for the music, and the video showed the Grim Reaper doing good deeds on his day off. He rode a huge bicycle through the fields, carrying his scythe etc, but he did things like putting the fallen bird back in its nest. I thought it was hilarious. I also liked the commercials for Foster Farms chickens, which you had to see to believe. I betcha that YouTube would have those videos if you go searching.
Some days are more difficult than others regarding losing my parents. I think it’d be neat to have a retro movement to the nineties, when people were in much better spirits than today. I feel kind of sorry for the kids born around the millennium, the ones called the millennials. They don’t remember the previous century. It’s as if a great dividing line existed between then and now, but it’s a false situation, totally contrived by the numbers and our superstition about the new century: the predictions of Nostradamus in his series of verse prophecies called The Centuries. Whatever. The method he used, I think, was astrology. Different editions of his stuff were sold everywhere in bookstores and even in grocery stores during a ten year period from 91 to 01. I bought four of them out of a weakness for crazy ideas, but never read them through. No one would have to, because those ideas were spread by word of mouth. Similarly, the world would see a lot of things from Carl Jung, William James, and maybe T.S. Eliot, and yet not know where it was coming from. Advocates of Intelligent Design theory additionally used Aristotle to support their belief in teleology.
I don’t know. I think the world needs to get back to basics and put away ideology for a while. Give it a rest and just live a little. Chill out and listen to good music. Like Supertramp on the radio that I heard this morning: “Give a Little Bit.” When I hear “The Long Way Home” I remember the cafeteria at my junior high school, sitting at a table with Tim Wood and some other guys, just trying to survive the system of education away from home. We were in seventh grade with a long way to go.
Sometimes my sack lunch would have a meatloaf sandwich with ketchup. Leftovers from the night before. Boy those were good!

Free and Single

Eight twenty five.

I was just at the store, where Cathy held down the fort. It was a slow Sunday morning, so I took the opportunity to ask her if she was married. The answer was no, but she said she’s enjoying her freedom as a single person. She also said she’s had a few boyfriends, and she has quite a few friends in Eugene. Then I asked her if she lives in North Eugene, to which she replied that her place is about a mile away from the market. And she knows I live around the corner somewhere. Thus, I wasn’t a hard sell about hitting on her, and her response was not a total rejection either. Maybe I can ask her to a friendly cup of coffee sometime, as long as she feels comfortable. Now, in hindsight I can’t believe my audacity with her, and yet we were pretty rational together.

Nine o’clock. There’s just a light rain this morning. The birds sing in the rain and everything feels quite natural for an April day with its sweet showers. Sometimes Oregon seems like a transplanted England in climate, though the people are nothing alike. The only comparison is life up on the campus. 


Noon hour.

Gloria’s workday for me is done now. I’m feeling a lot better than I did over the weekend. Last night I dreamed about M— for several hours, though I don’t know why or what my motive was. The dream was certainly not a bad one. The Prokofiev music I listened to recently floats back to my ear: very pleasant. I especially like when his spirit is playful and fun, sometimes uptempo. Often he will resolve a phrase with such a good feel to it, as if to say that everything is right and good. The second movement of Symphony No. 5 is my favorite, particularly a little melody in D major on clarinets, joined by a low string counterpoint, that concludes very pleasingly… Like a lot of days lately, the sun shines from a cloudy sky. My masochistic treatment of myself seems to be over with. I hope it doesn’t happen again soon. I had a great turkey and cheddar sandwich on a croissant for lunch: delicious. It’s worth it to reward yourself whenever you can, for this life depends on your perception alone. 

Colin Kelly

Eleven twenty at night.

I dreamed I was playing the bass line to an old tune by The Knack that got airplay when I was a seventh grader, which would be 42 years ago. The place where I went to junior high school still stands over on Howard Avenue. I got a good look at it from the backseat of a taxi last Thursday at noon: a creme colored building with red brick, and fixed to the outdoor wall, the propeller to the plane flown by the school’s namesake, a local war hero no one seems to remember. We were known as the Kelly Bombers and our colors were green and white, as I recall from a book bag I bought at the school store. My high school experience wasn’t as good as the time I spent at Kelly. In Stage Band we did a song called “The Sponge” that was fun for me on drums, yet the trumpet players hated it for its difficulty, and our bass player also had a hard time with it. Some other titles we played were “Hurt So Bad” and the theme for Masterpiece Theater, as well as “Fame” and “Staying Alive.” I don’t remember what make of bass guitar our band had; it might have been a sunburst Yamaha. It was entrusted to Brian to play, and I recall how Mr Kuryluk would help him with his parts before class started. But I loved the green sparkle Ludwig drum kit we had, with a Paiste crash/ride cymbal that just rocked. Mr Diller joined us on his saxophone when he wasn’t too busy directing us, and Kuryluk worked the electric piano. A horn player named Dax used to call me “Animal” every day of class, after the drummer on The Muppet Show. Those days are gone but not forgotten by a few people. There are some memories that nothing can really erase; they are a part of you, just like an arm or a leg, and just as vital to your humanity. 


Ten thirty.

My ride is coming for me in a half hour or so, and I’m feeling nervous about that. I’m doing a good thing for myself but I feel guilty for it. It might be because of my dog and his moods, as silly as that sounds. But I never do anything for me anymore. Just this once I’m splurging and spoiling myself with a trip to the bookstore. I feel as if some catastrophe could happen to me today just because I’m being selfish for a change. Funny how that works. It’s like belief in karma or something. But it doesn’t make any sense.

Noon hour.

Here I am at the bookstore, sitting down in the cafe. I feel like an outsider and almost unwelcome, maybe because I never come here. I bought one book from the philosophy section by William Barrett. Now I’m just people watching and trying to relax. Very strange to just hang out by myself at a table, an old guy who never goes out or does anything for fun. Everyone is a total stranger. But I’m stuck here until one o’clock, when my return ride comes for me. A lot of these people are well dressed and professional.

Two o’clock.

The ride home was fun; I shared it with another passenger, and the driver was very nice. When we approached my house, the sun was shining right on the yellow side of it, as if on a pot of gold. By the way, the title of my book purchase is Irrational Man, and it’s a study of existentialism. But I probably picked it for its symbolic significance, and the absurdity of just hanging out at Barnes & Noble for an hour. Still, it was worth it for the stimulation from the people I saw. 

A Little Plan

Ten thirty.

I feel much better now than I did before four o’clock today. I knew I felt well enough to play my G&L bass, so I did that for an hour or more, and then I sat down and analyzed my feelings in writing, concluding that therapy is not for me. It was like throwing a millstone off my shoulders, and immediately I felt better. I think I’m capable of navigating my own ship. Sometime this month I want to take my other bass guitar to a technician for modification. I have the part I want to install already: a Di Marzio Model P hum bucking pickup with ceramic magnets. I love these pickups for their milky tone and high output. I hope the weather cooperates next week so I can walk over to the bank to cash my check. This will be my transportation money. I think everything will work out just fine.

Until now I’d forgotten how I love January, and you know, it doesn’t matter if I get mystical with the zodiac; I might take a peek at my new astrology book, indulge my curiosity and contemplate the thing called fate, even like Thomas Hardy, once my favorite novelist.

Good Things… Small Packages

Two o’clock.

I jammed on my G&L bass for a while. The snow was so bright that I didn’t have to turn the light on in the room. Out the window I could see Victoria sweeping her car of snow. A lot more people are coming out today to drive or walk around. They talk together in raised voices as if excited. When I was out on the sidewalk I heard this lyric: “The moments seemed lost in all the noise / A snowstorm, a stimulating voice / And rest for the day / With cold in the way.” During the time I played my bass, I moved the switch to the center to tap all the pole pieces, giving me a full range of tone. Sounds great, but I need someone else to play with. I expect two packages today and tomorrow, but the one coming by mail might be delayed… I can’t believe it’s only two thirty. But our daylight will be spent in another two hours. I don’t know if my little Rumble 25 is reparable or not. I may have to get a new amp for church, which doesn’t break my heart at all. There are some really nice combo amps for bass for a bit more money. Although, I don’t want to leave it in the sacristy all the time to be disused.

Nine forty.

Some very old music rises to my consciousness by the Ray Brown Orchestra. He was an amazing bass player, and hardly anyone realizes that he could play electric bass as well as acoustic upright. The tone of his Fender Precision would melt in your mouth and he was all over it with his huge hands… Amazon had one more copy of the music I wanted in stock— so I snagged it. It arrives on my birthday. 


Seven o’clock.

I was out very early this morning. I caught the sickle moon waxing in the east through a chink in the rosy clouds; would have taken a picture, but I knew it wouldn’t have turned out good. A neighbor on Fremont Avenue flies a blue flag saying “Let’s go Brandon,” and today I finally looked up the meaning of this. But I could have predicted it pretty much. Inside the store, an old Toto song was playing on the radio, so I asked Michelle if she liked them. She didn’t sound very enthused about the band. I commented that they were extremely tight as a group, sort of like Michael Jackson in his heyday. Her interest waned even further… Last night I got an email back from Pastor regarding my resignation; he said he’d been kind of expecting it. But we’re on friendly terms at least, and we may have a meetup to discuss it. Yesterday overall was a bizarre day, with human connections being quite difficult for me. Things just weren’t syncing up very well. Right now the daylight is growing, showing the sky gray out my eastern window. Aesop’s moods seem mostly rather bored. He’s only interested in snack foods and he balks at eating his breakfast. When I get up the nerve I’ll try walking him around the block a few times to spark his zest for life again. It appears that everyone around the world needs a jumpstart in their lives today. They need something more than the holiday shopping frenzy and other hoopla. They need the next Beatlemania. 

No Doomsday

Quarter of six.

Like a stroke of luck, about a week ago my Wittgenstein book showed up in a box of other books, lying face down on top. The event was so providential that I blurted thank God, then corrected myself when I realized my contradiction. So far I haven’t dared to attempt reading it, though I made it through the introduction by Bertrand Russell. I’ve wanted to find the Tractatus ever since sampling from another book of logical positivism, where it is said that the movement was inspired by Wittgenstein… Also I found the motivation to finally install the Badass bass bridge on my white Fender. Now it sounds quite prodigious. And I’ve resolved to pursue music again and to enjoy my life, hoping that other people will follow my example rather than living in fear of sickness and death. Lately during bass guitar practice I play a song by the Chili Peppers called “Savior,” from their 1999 CD. It’s fun to pick out Flea bass lines from the older stuff. I’ve decided that life is all about having fun whenever possible, or it’s all for nothing: another reason I’m leaving the church. I don’t subscribe to the idea of kingdom come; I cannot accept that kind of pessimism about earthly life: and that’s my final answer. 

Sermon to the Living

Quarter of ten.

I’ve gotten back some of my confidence and motivation since yesterday. It only took actually doing something: working up my nerve and getting out of the house to do something different. I’d been stuck in a bad cycle, never doing anything for me, and beating myself up. It’s okay to have some fun and forget about the pandemic. Without pleasure and happiness, life is for nothing. Be selfish for a change and spread a little happiness around you. I disregard what St Paul said about self regard; Plato’s position on this is more useful. It’s important to respect yourself, for if you don’t, then it’s a recipe for depression and ill health. So, yesterday I indulged in a little fun, and the sky didn’t fall. It’s a mistake to think that our duty is to feel depressed. The very opposite is true to keep us sane and healthy… It’s a beautiful sunny morning in October. The leaves on the trees are changing, and today I’m living in the here and now, with some anticipation of the future. However, the past is not a bucket of ashes, because our past achievements give us confidence to achieve even more good things. It’s a series of ups and downs with no finish line.

Ten thirty five. It is possible to be selfish and generous simultaneously. Being selfish doesn’t necessarily mean hoarding or thieving, coveting, or whatever. It means being prudent and using your own judgment. You take care of your own needs first, and then help others to their particular happiness. Trying to be selfless is really to be soulless, and a soulless person is no use to anybody. And everyone’s happiness is something different and peculiar to them. So, a collective eudaemonia makes no sense. “One law for the lion and ox is oppression.”