Eight twenty five.
I hit Community Market just during a rush. Lots of people came and went, mostly guys, and they were customers and distributors. It’s another nosebleed cold morning. I have to leave the house at ten fifteen, when the taxi picks me up to go to the agency for my appointment… Over a week ago I posted an ad to Craigslist looking for musicians to jam with. To my surprise, three people have already replied, and maybe the third one will turn out good… For some reason, the song in my head is “Point of Know Return,” an old classic by Kansas.
Was it you that said
How long to the point of know return?
I love the sound of Dave Hope’s P Bass in the mid seventies, and he and Phil Ehart made a fine rhythm section. Arguably, Kansas was the best American prog band, though some prefer Frank Zappa. In my opinion, Kansas belongs more to the genre of art rock, similar to Yes and Genesis in the UK.
Quarter after nine.
I ran into Salon Lisa at the market this morning. We arrived at the same time and I held the door for her to enter like an empress. She merely said, “Hi Robert. How are you? Nice and cold today, isn’t it?” Her tall form glided regally toward the counter, picking up two energy drinks while I scrabbled with the canister for the doggie jerky, feeling clownish and stupid. Lisa was out of there in a minute, and then I did the rest of my shopping: two Snapples, potato salad, and a frozen entree for dinner. Another woman, tall and pale, spoke to Clerk Lisa in a soft soprano, and the latter addressed her as “Sweetheart.” The former sounded like she could’ve been a foreigner from Europe or someplace… So I got home and tried to get my name on the energy assistance waiting list, but it was full after only four minutes of opening. I guess there’s always next month. It’s the time of year when I usually start to think about the writings of Paul Bowles, though it may not be relevant this year. I like the idea of a nature that takes no interest in human affairs, and indifferently allows things to happen to us. Today, however, I feel more like a Charlie Brown. Maybe it’s the same thing?
Two fifty PM.
The sun came out to make it a partly cloudy afternoon, though it’s still the cold of November. I sat here thinking of what might be a nice treat, and my mind settled on ice cream: so I made a little trip around the bend to buy some. Also the line from Wallace Stevens played in my brain: “The only emperor is the emperor of ice cream.” Perhaps only the details are consequential to human life? When I got to the market I saw that they were quite busy. One tattooed guy with a truculent face walked up to the checkout line carrying a sixer of a regional Hefeweizen that I used to drink on special occasions. But off to my left at the cashier I recognized the same loopy blonde girl from a couple of years ago. She was very pretty, but dressed in outrageous overalls and sneakers over the ankle. The guy behind the counter was new and the girl threw him a curveball with her id so he needed Lisa’s help. Meanwhile the line was lengthening and Lisa shouted for Winston to take over her till. He came from the back room where they count bottles and cans with his usual scowl and helped the person in front of me. All this silliness because of the Pippi Longstocking blonde, up to her usual clowning, but you have to smile about it. Elsewhere, Karen’s salon was closed with a note on the door containing one or two misspelled words; they’d be back on the 17th. And I reflected that I hadn’t seen Kim in a very long time, and how was she doing?
Seven forty AM.
I just canceled with the veterinarian for Aesop. The receptionist was a little bitchy about it but I did what I needed to do. And now the day is more or less free, though I have Gloria at ten o’clock. It’s a foggy morning and I’ve been to the market already. I was only half awake when I made the trip. Lisa told me that Jeremiah had quit. I hadn’t met him, but apparently he worked the night shifts. The staff consists of maybe five people now. I wonder why keeping employees is difficult these days? But I might as well ask why I didn’t take Aesop to the vet today. Who is John Galt? What motivates the world? Maybe it isn’t capitalistic greed after all. If people are apathetic, there must be something else going on. We’ve gone off the rails since Covid came. I used to go to church before the pandemic and everyone seemed happy. Whereas nobody is ecstatic today. We take our material playthings and mess around, but we don’t have fun anymore.
“I was a lonely teenage broncing buck
With a pink carnation and a pickup truck
But I knew that I was out of luck
The day the music died”
I think happiness itself makes the world go round, so somebody has to break the spell and spread a little joy. Without music and fun, it’s all for nothing.
A vapor trail in the east is pinked by the light of the rising sun. The moon is high in the west, an oblong smudge of white chalk. Crows on the wing to my right. Lisa has a story for us about her arrival at the store this morning. She says a homeless man by the storefront lit a fire in the can for cigarette butts and warned her not to come near. Fearing that the market would burn down, Lisa pulled out a taser and a phone and told him to put it out or she would call 911. This was the crazy start to her day. For me, it was only a matter of shopping for things to eat and drink today. It was colder, about 43 degrees, so I put on my old blue parka, a relic from student years.
The same parka saw the time when I learned about Indian religions and basic biology in old buildings along 13th Street. The geology building’s name was changed to Columbia Hall by that time, and class was held rather late in the afternoon because I remember it would get quite dark before we were done. The religion class happened in Chapman Hall in a smaller room on the second floor, across from the department office. Dr Kim really avalanched us with reading work so that I came away thinking social sciences were the hardest courses you could take. I fell way behind on my homework. Thankfully the final exam was objective and I bluffed through it. But the term paper took a lot of work. I wrote it on Jaina philosophy, though I was criticized for evading the religious practice element of the topic. He was a hard grader, like the professors of the old school.
Quarter of seven at night.
I’ve had a great day, with two fun packages for me in the mail.
Quarter after eleven.
I’m very happy with both gifts I got myself. The little Squier Jazz Bass looks, sounds, and plays great. The body is Daphne blue and the neck has pearloid inlays. I had fun unboxing it and plugging it in the first time, setting the tone for my day. Later, as night was just falling, the mail carrier brought my book of four Jules Verne novels, another delight. The pages are gilt edged, the cover probably leather, and the sewn binding includes a ribbon marker… This morning I skipped church as a kind of objection to something I don’t believe in anymore. My journal is full of nostalgia for a band I played in 24 years ago, an alternative groove band called The Owls. It was far more mature than the butt rock band I joined two years on its heels. My dad’s death threw off everything else in my life; sometimes I miss him more than my mother. He gave legitimacy, decency, and taste to the activities I chose to pursue in the Nineties. Even if it was only rock and roll, it could be respectable as well as fun, with a good moral message to listeners as opposed to sheer gaudiness with no substance. Thus I’ll probably think again about returning to church— just for the ethics element if not for the supernatural fluff.
Quarter of six.
My dog Aesop went back down the hallway to jump in bed again. He didn’t use to be so independent, so this is a new habit for him. His birthday was earlier this month: ten years old now. I was done sleeping at three o’clock, after dreaming about my dad, and then I wrote a description and analysis of it in my journal. Dad’s birthday would be this Thursday if he had lived. I think it’s good that I have his genetics to put strength into my recovery. The Japanese have been known to worship their ancestors, so I think maybe my dad is something like a Higher Power to me. My first recovery, twenty years ago, involved him to some extent as well. Yet I don’t know exactly what pushed me to relapse, unless it was simply trying to work a job with the stress that attends it. I found myself in a situation where my choices were inauthentic and it seemed I had no way out, so the only escape was to drink great quantities of beer. Several people bullied and shamed me to do things I really didn’t want to do. And again, it shouldn’t matter what anyone else thinks because it’s down to just you and your life alone. My family can judge away if they disapprove of me: it won’t make any difference because after all I am sober and taking care of myself the best I can. I used to be a people pleaser but I don’t play that game anymore; it’s not worth the grief.
Rain is expected at eight o’clock this morning. Even now it looks pretty dark outdoors. I wore my rain jacket with a hood when I made my trip to market. I got Aesop some chicken strips, reasoning that he deserves a little pleasure from life, like everybody. In fact, I’ve denied myself fun and pleasure for a very long time. Meanwhile, the church is losing its grip on people, possibly for the same reason I just mentioned. In my journal I suggested that maybe the Bible is a work of epic poetry and written for the aesthetic pleasure of it. This would be the most skeptical thing I ever said of scripture. As a religion, it has lost its force for many people. Now the forecast says cloudy, so the rain either came and went or it never happened. Pastor’s daily email was very short today. I wonder what’s up with that.
In the years after Star Wars came out, the cable company here didn’t offer much to choose from. However, we got channels from Portland and also one from San Francisco: KTVU, Channel 2. This last one was a lot of fun for kids in the afternoon. At three thirty or so they had the TV Pow game in between Tom and Jerry cartoons, hosted by Pat McCormick, who also did Dialing for Dollars with a movie every weekday. And then at five o’clock it was Captain Cosmic, who would show old Flash Gordon serials and also talk about Star Wars miscellany for avid fans of George Lucas.
I don’t know when I quit watching Channel 2; maybe after I got to seventh grade and started reading regular books for fun. Also I couldn’t watch tv during the afternoon anymore because I had homework to do every day. And my mother usually helped me with that. In all fairness, I think it was my mother who taught me how to write decent prose, and that was when I was in junior high school. It’s kind of amazing to recognize that now. I learned a great deal in seventh grade from Mom and from my reading teacher, Cathy Cheleen. The latter taught us not to use run-on sentences, and Mom said to make them short and punchy. She told me to use synonyms for the same things for variety; and I still heed her advice even today.
It’s probably the Coke that made me write to you again. Sometimes it makes me feel really good. When that happens, I try to seize the day and take advantage of the good mood.
I feel really good today, despite that the temperature is supposed to reach 93 degrees. The sunshine is very cheerful and I can’t complain about my life. I’ve got beautiful music in my head from Dave Brubeck, a piece called “Strange Meadowlark.” The music takes me back to happy times in the nineties when my parents were still here. And who’s going to judge me for enjoying a little reverie of the past when things were better? Music used to be so much better 30 years ago than today; I think we need a revival of good stuff for our souls. Another song comes up, by Donald Fagen titled “New Frontier,” all about having a big party in a fallout shelter, equipped with the best of everything including Brubeck. If I were still a drinker, then I’d get myself a six pack of Widmer Brothers Hefeweizen and have a little party for one— and invite everybody. It wouldn’t be a sad situation like the poem by E.A. Robinson about Mr Flood. I believe everyone feels a bit like Mr Flood, so we might as well party together. Whatever gets you through the day is fair game, and nothing’s gonna change my world.
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!