Time Flies / No Complaints

Seven thirty five AM.

There’s a reprieve from the wind and rain of yesterday and last night. Outdoors I saw tree debris scattered all over the streets. Also I noticed for the first time that a lawn on Fremont Avenue had gone completely to seed. The grass was so tall that it was lying sideways with the blades tipped like little spears. I wonder what the situation is with that, though it’s not my business. The same house is where I observed the white truck with Confederate flag license plates in January a year ago. And on the street in front of the house someone had sprayed “gay” one time. Very strange. So I ambled up the sidewalk to market and went in. I encountered a young lady who had a pleasant face and like a klutz I blurted, “Hi!— how are you?” She smiled politely and returned the greeting. The delivery came through yesterday, so I grabbed two deli items; but the distributor didn’t say what happened to the missing driver… The little store has changed so much in three years. Sometimes I think of Michelle, now someplace in Wyoming. She’s only been gone since March: two months ago, but it seems like longer than that. Who knows a month from a year anymore? I entertained the idea of going to church this morning, but those people are too paranoid of Covid and I’m still throwing off a cold. Besides, I don’t feel like singing hymns today or any day. The church was there when I needed it, when it counted, and I’m grateful for that.

Quarter of nine. When he’s in the mood for it, Aesop likes me to pet him. I couldn’t have picked a better dog than him for intelligence and devotion. He is day and night different from the pug I owned ten years ago. He guards the fort and keeps me safe. I don’t even have to lock the front door when I leave the house. Blue heelers are an amazing breed. Aesop is one more reason why I can’t complain about my life.

Having, Having Not

Eight ten.

Heather just told me she had given her two weeks’ notice to the market for her resignation. She wants to dedicate more time to her salon, and also she can make more money that way. My own finances are very squeaky this winter, with hardly anything for extras. I don’t know how good of a job the current administration is doing for the disabled, particularly the mentally ill. I saw an article saying that the president has a blind spot for that. If writing is power, then I need all of the power I can get… The sun is already burning off the fog and it should be a sunny day. What I really want is the rhetorical muscularity of a Victor Hugo, a pompous Romantic voice to grab people’s attention. There’s a lot of us living in “misery” today, people with hardly a means to express their plight. It just feels like such a trap. But then I ought to feel thankful for my free time to do as I wish, poverty aside. Life is never perfect. For every gain there’s a loss somewhere. The law of conservation.

Perhaps you’re only as poor as you feel, and true wealth is wisdom. One’s situation can always be much worse. Content yourself with what you have. 

Another Thanksgiving

Quarter after six.

At some point today I want to pick up my Snapple empties and bag them. This is grunt work that I hate, but I’m lucky that my life is not drudgery like that of many people, including my family. They have an antipathy for books and everything intellectual, despising what they don’t understand. This Christmas Eve for me is like another Thanksgiving, and the thing I’m grateful for is being the smart person I am. There’s an old cliché that goes like this: Which would you rather be, dumb and happy or smart and sad? It’s the same as saying that ignorance is bliss. But I think I disagree. Intellectual work is a lot more pleasant than manual labor, and overall, the life of the mind is a wonderful thing. So today I’ll make a start on the Snapple bottles and bless every moment I get to spend using my brain. Another thing. As students in junior high school, my friends and I used to play chess in the library. Often, a bully would come along and knock all the pieces over from sheer incomprehension and resentment. It was a symbolic scene that still goes on in the present day at some level. What can we offer the bullies now except a little music to soothe their feelings? Meanwhile I move on to celebrate the beautiful things in my life. 

Seven Heroes

Eleven thirty at night.

The rain is as hectic as my day was today; it’s dumping down my duties outside. Wednesday has been a time to orchestrate the rest of the week, with five or six phone calls, a text message, and a visit from Damien to do yard work. Only now do I have some time to sit back and think a little about life. At least two people were very heroic in helping me out today. Darcy saved me from going without my medication for the next two weeks; I just need to go pick up the free samples. The dispatcher at Oregon Taxi was open to having Aesop ride with them to his appointment Friday morning. And finally, Damien came over and braved the rain and the nightfall to clear away the oak and maple leaves. That’s three people. The fourth person was a newbie at the call center for RideSource just learning her job. Also the UPS driver delivered my books to me in the pouring down rain after darkness fell. Sixth and seventh are Michelle at the little convenience store and my cattle dog Aesop, who provide a great service to me every day. Service like this makes the world go around, while the best I can do is to thankfully write about it. 

In the Evening

Ten ten at night.

Before sunset this evening the mail carrier brought my new bass pickup. It’s the Di Marzio Model P, a ceramic hum bucker I plan to install in my Mexican Fender. This should be a lot of fun, maybe when I feel better again. At the same time, I feel almost too old to rock and roll any longer: 55 years old in January. Then again, what do people 55 years old do in our culture? I won’t be running any marathons. Until now I never pictured myself as an old man; it’s an image I didn’t think about in connection with me. I know of some people who sort of retired from their lives in their fifties, and then just marked time until they died. But that can’t be what society expects of us who are under 60. I also know people in their sixties who deny their age and try to act 21 years old. It leads me to think, what is this thing called age, and what is appropriate to it? Some say that you’re only as old as you feel. The riddle of the Sphinx: what walks on three legs in the evening? The evening of life does befall people, so then we ought to feel thankful that we even made it this far and didn’t get picked off by some natural predator along the way. Kind of like the race of baby green sea turtles towards the surf in the Galapagos I saw in a National Geographic tv show as a child. 

Transitions

Quarter of eight.

Today is Sunday, and church is at ten o’clock. I’ve begun the new medication and I feel better so far, though it’s early to tell. The back pain is improved since stopping the old drug, thus I think I was probably right that it was a side effect. Outside it’s a chorus of a crow and a mourning dove. The air outdoors is smoky, browning the sun to a garish orange. Heather said she was very sick yesterday morning. Suk had to come down from Salem to work her shift, but it was nobody’s fault… The raspberry Snapple tea tasted great after the hiatus of one day. Aesop enjoyed his peanut butter snack, too. Before sunrise I listened to some tracks from Going Places by Herb Alpert. The sound is so mid 60’s, taking me back to my birth time 54 years ago. Probably unwittingly of my parents, Alpert was the ideal musician for a child to hear. My first experience of Blood, Sweat & Tears was quite abrasive due to the lead vocal. It was cool that my mother picked out stuff with strong horn sections. A lot of the music was instrumental. The version of Burt Bacharach she gave me was really ace: Make It Easy on Yourself.

Quarter of noon.

At a little after nine o’clock I headed out on foot for church, carrying with me a paperback edition of John Milton for Pastor to examine. I was pleased to see him take it under an arm out the door when church was through. The service this time was pretty good, and Eduardo had returned to play the piano. There was a lot of consciousness of the Louisiana hurricane today among us. Right now, the weather here is very pretty, the sunshine pale and mellow on the concrete. The next two days are expected to be in the 70’s, with a few clouds tomorrow. Children are playing in the street while Aesop my dog sprawls on his flank in the other room. I’m quite thankful to be where I am. 

The Little Things

Five thirty.

I was duped by an email scam yesterday. The person pretended to be a friend from church, so I didn’t suspect anything until the evening when I could think about it more clearly. Okay, so I’m an idiot. Should I blame myself for being gullible or these unscrupulous fraudsters? Anyway, that was yesterday. I look forward to a better day ahead. The predawn is gray over the treetops across the street from me. I was just dreaming about The Gray Notebook for some reason. Its contents are sort of a mystery to me. Being so objective and non psychological would be very difficult for a lot of people, an art that requires practice and discipline. Most of us are geared to self pity and the question of why me. We take ourselves too seriously, as if the world turned around us. And we focus on the big things rather than on the minutiae, the everyday. Is Thornton Wilder a little bit like Josep Pla? My cattle dog is getting a drink of water, perhaps wondering when I’ll go to the store; or maybe he’s not thinking anything at all.

Quarter after seven. Nothing was unusual on my daily trip. The Arizona teas had been moved to a higher shelf in the cooler. They go for only 99 cents apiece. I might try one of them someday. I felt kind of sad and fatigued on the sidewalk. My heart and my steps were heavy, my brain still sleepy and blunted. Usually I take note of the sky and my other surroundings, but this morning I didn’t know the color of the dawn. Stephen Crane: “None of them knew the color of the sky… and all of them knew the color of the sea.” I am indebted to my 11th grade English teacher for making us read “The Open Boat.” Mrs Taylor passed away some time ago, before I could look her up and make contact again. She always believed in me. 

To a Second Grade Teacher

Quarter after six.

Polly got her first shot of the Moderna vaccine recently. For a day, it made her whole body ache and her thyroid swell up. Dunno. That sounds pretty scary. And generally I feel that the whole pandemic has been a puppet show, and we’re the puppets. Some tycoon who lives out of sight jerks the strings. Call it a paranoid delusion if you will. I don’t care. Suddenly I remember being a second grader, and all the things we were forced to do together, like the Pledge of Allegiance and singing patriotic songs. I was just miserable, and I did poorly in school except for writing and drawing. I fell way behind on the reading assignments because the teacher was so mean to me. She reported to my mother that I was socially retarded or something like that and wanted me to repeat the school year. Thank goodness I was able to advance and get a better teacher.

Seven thirty. The nearly full moon looked brown as it rose in the east last night. I saw it pink in the west less than an hour ago, and the birds were calling before the sunrise. In some sense I feel that I’m a child of the moon, a person marked with imagination and music and madness, and with loneliness for these reasons. But I also know I’m not the only moon child in the world. There are many of us incorrigible ones under the sun. We are delivered from the womb having a different understanding of how life works. Rather than a curse, it is a gift, and a gift I wouldn’t renounce. This is what I would tell my second grade teacher today. 

Hallowed

Quarter of nine.

Feeling thankful for my sobriety this morning. I thought about how I never went to grad school, and how I couldn’t measure up to my brother’s accomplishments… and joined a church instead. But you know, I am sober while he is not. And it seems to me that my life couldn’t have been any different. I actually feel quite happy today. I have sufficient money in the bank, a lot of friends, and a great dog who gets more affectionate all the time. Perhaps sobriety came at a small cost of puffed up pride. Right now I’m okay with that… The mail carrier just brought a package, and it’s probably for Aesop: a canister of marrow snacks from Amazon. The weather is hazy now, or is it simply foggy? I have to go get canned food for the dog in a few minutes. There’s no one else I envy in the world today. Just now, it’s very good to be me.