Quarter of noon. I ate the potato salad like a glutton and opened the mango Snapple. I’m in a weird mood today. I know I’m dreading my procedure a month away, and I wonder how I can weasel out of it. My healthcare insurance people have sent me another package. I imagine it’s a cancer detection kit. I won’t open it for a while… Part of me wishes I could drink beer and really enjoy my life again, but drinking enough is drinking too much. When I start to drink, there’s no way I can stop. Probably I’m just looking for a means of escape from the unpleasant situation. It feels rather cold in here. At the same time, the sun is coming out. I don’t feel as if my life were under my control, but I’m going to do something about that.
Quarter of two. I gave my white Fender bass a good workout, thinking of my old friend JP, a very talented musician who had chronic depression. We met on a beautiful Labor Day in 2003 at his place in the Whitaker neighborhood. His friend Dave was also there and played guitar… I feel very different today. The weather is like spring, a time of rebirth and renewal, but it’s also calling up thoughts and images in my memory. And I ponder why my worldview can’t be Romantic like it was 18 years back. The moon was always a beautiful sight, and the idea of it inspired me with dreams and poetry— and madness. The moon compelled tides of alcoholism the same as the ocean. Eventually I forgot that it exists in the sky or in my mind. I linked the essence of it with my mother somehow. Now it’s merely a stone in the heavens, devoid of personal meaning. Maybe there’s something wrong with that? When I behold the moon above, I’m surprised that it isn’t cracked in two pieces. It has withstood a lot of therapy, but not its copy within my soul. What would it take to restore it to wholeness and light?
Quarter of one. I recognize now that I was very delusional Sunday and yesterday. The devil has nothing to do with everyday life, so it was only my illness flaring up. Dealing with religious fanatics doesn’t help the situation at all.
Here I am at the cancer institute, waiting on the second floor. I don’t know how I feel right now; kind of washed out and not very awake. Definitely lonely for a friend. But I’m hopeful for the future. This year has only just started. I miss my old friends from four years ago.
Three forty. I was treated impersonally for my appointment. I waited in the exam room for 25 minutes, then the doctor spent only 2 minutes with me, and was obviously in a hurry to get out of there. Next, the scheduling desk person kept me waiting for five minutes while she jabbered on the phone. When my turn came, she didn’t want to bother the doctor for the approval on my next visit— so I stood there and forced her to do it. The squeaky wheel gets the oil. Finally, in the breezeway of the building, I asked the attendant if Joann the oncology nurse still worked there. Her eyes got big and she shook her head slowly. Simultaneously my taxi showed up and it was time to go home.
Passing the marsh by the Delta Highway I saw out the window some large waterfowl, including a white crane with an S curve neck and some darker birds with huge wings. Also we drove alongside the old gravel quarry before you get to the Fred Meyer to the right of the Beltline. Observing these familiar sights, I thought of my parents and felt like the last man living on earth, and for a purpose I couldn’t fathom.
Three thirty five. The afternoon is already deepening to dusk. There’s an irrational thought process at work. If I get drunk, then Kate will return as my friend. It’s a form of sympathetic magic such as primitives use. This reminds me that I should read The Golden Bough, a great expose on superstition. Anyway, nothing, not even magic, can bring back my lost friend. It doesn’t work! The transfer of power to the Democrats is meaningless to this end as well. Accept that Kate won’t be coming back and forget about it.
Four thirty five. I searched through some boxes of books and found my copy of Frazer. It’s kind of a dangerous book to someone like Pastor, who had no answer when I compared prayer to magic spells. This was the beginning of my loss of faith two summers ago. Well, I can’t help that. You know what you know, and it can’t be reversed. Probably every summer is going to be a period of skepticism and doubt for me due to that first time in 2019… As for my imitative magic regarding Kate, I caught it and I can dispose of it. Changing my mental state doesn’t alter the objective reality. I can try all kinds of conjuror’s tricks, to no avail except as a delusion. The past remains in the past, and the present is today. It happens to be November and we happened to elect a Democratic president, yet history will not repeat. The fact is that I wish very strongly for Kate to come back, and wishes drive every kind of dream and attempt at magic, every sacrifice, and every prayer. Every delusion! But we learn to negotiate the world as it really is, ultimately getting over the pain of loss.
Four fifty. I traveled back to December 1991 with Genesis doing We Can’t Dance. It was a CD that I had overlooked years ago, but today it sounds beautiful to me. That was the month I was diagnosed with this life changing illness, this twist in the road which threw me off course forever. And yet the event has its own kind of didactic beauty and grace. It isn’t so painful now to review it and remember the people who were good to me: my parents. They gave me everything they had. I can see them in my mind’s eye, lazing in their rocker recliners, the very portrait of comfort and security, as they would have it. They valued comfort above all else. I can’t blame them for that, except I hope that they were happy with their lives. Home with my parents was a little like the Lotus Eaters, forgetful of the cares of the world. The front drapes were always closed. Recently, my neighbor Cherie remarked that she really loves the new color of my house. She remembers how reclusive my mother was. The neighbors never saw my mother’s face outside the house. And a cloud of doom and gloom clung about her perpetually. For me, the worst of the pain is past and life can go on. Now I can listen to Genesis music and allow myself to feel something while the showers come and go and the sun illuminates the yellow of my new home.
Quarter after five. I was being silly. The past is past. What happened 17 years ago can’t be repeated. And the vintage basses I owned are long lost. So hold on to what I have now.
Six o’clock. I ordered some 9V batteries from Amazon for my Aria bass. Then I was curious about these boxes of my stuff that I never opened. I found a couple of mouses and a pair of headphones, plus a lot of junk that belonged to my mom. Poor Mom. She was not happy, yet she didn’t try to reach out to anybody. She could never let go of the past. Couldn’t get over the loss of her parents and others in her family. Couldn’t accept that now is now, and life goes on. She refused to move on. Who knows what she thought about inside of her head? She bought herself this Baldwin spinet piano made in the 1930s to play and remember her mother— then realized she couldn’t stand the pain. Why didn’t she just release herself from the past if it brought her pain? Or journal it out of her system? She was so lonely, yet she devoted her mind to the dead. Henry James wrote a great story about that, called “The Altar of the Dead.” It’s very ironic. The man and the woman meet and grieve their losses together, never seizing the opportunity to build on their relationship. The two of them are, after all, alive… The temperature inside got up to 74 degrees, so I opened the back door and the bathroom window. Aesop is here and now, so I’m glad for that.
More sunshine this morning. I still haven’t run my errand to my old junior high school. It can wait. Forty years ago is a long time. Everything will have changed. The only real time machine I know of is alcohol. With sobriety, time moves forward exclusively. I feel kind of tired. I want to be filled with something, probably beer. I think of all my books with a sense of futility. There’s no way I’m going to read them all. Aesop needs wet food, and I want a Coke.
Nine thirty. Karen flagged me down to say that Darlene passed away last night. The funeral is Tuesday, and we are going to it together. I only have to show up at the salon Tuesday at ten o’clock, then we’ll hit the road to Springfield. After the service, Karen and I will have lunch someplace… She thought it was merciful that Darlene won’t have to suffer through another six months. It’s true that her quality of life would have been not so good. I don’t know what else to say about it.
I ran into Melissa at the market. She now works as a personal caregiver, a much better job than making sandwiches at the deli. She told me she has a two year old boy. Life goes on. I felt rather bad earlier this morning for being a logical person, not someone emotionally driven. I’ve been a Vulcan for as long as I can remember. I joked to Cathy in the store that I had calculated the total of my purchases in advance to equal 15 dollars even. Maybe that’s why therapists don’t like me very much. If I resort to astrology, the fact of my rationalism makes sense, for I am a Capricorn. The house directly across from Capricorn is Cancer, and these two signs implicitly understand each other. Heidi is a Cancerian. So was my mother.
Eleven o’clock. It’s a beautiful day, and the birds are singing in response to the sunshine. Nature isn’t aware that Darlene passed away, or if so, it rejoices that she’s in a better place now. For me, it’s kind of a relief knowing that her struggle is over. The sunny day is a reassuring sign that all is well in spite of everything. Life goes on.
I’m trying to quit caffeine. I believe that was the cause of my irritability and dysphoria every morning; also the insomnia at night. I reread a few poems by Edgar Allan Poe, and I was right about his sense of the aesthetic. He loved beauty to the exclusion of sense and meaning, just like my mother. Did she learn this attitude from reading him? Or did she just happen to agree with it? I’ll never know. I’ve finished reading all of the tales in my volume. The rest are longer narratives… The sunshine is strident, bright and loud, the blue sky cold and light. I’m sitting here, waiting while the caffeine exits my system. I feel washed out, uninspired and dull. One thing about Poe that puzzles me is his careless allusion to angels and heaven: did he really believe in divine things? He dwelt so much on dark themes that it’s hard to tell. Perhaps to him, the angels were merely beautiful and convenient to evoking feelings of delight and pleasure. That is, the angels connoted nothing moral. So, his references to religious images were only aesthetic and not a statement of faith as such. But what’s wrong with that? What mean critic could smear Poe for being non religious? One might as well slander Michelangelo for painting the Sistine Chapel with such passion and beauty… When I was in second grade, Mom put a great effort into Christmas decorations. She made two angels out of Play Doh and baked them to hardness. She used pink and yellow in particular, and one angel played a flute. Grandma passed away that year, so it was the last Christmas Mom took very seriously, decorating the house in every way possible. After that year, Christmas slumped in our house, until eventually we didn’t decorate at all, and hardly celebrated the holiday. Or maybe it was I who stopped believing… after Mom died. Observing Christmas would be a painful reminder that she was really gone. How could life go on the same way without her? The celebration would be empty and insignificant without my mother… And so I remember Mom as being faithless, because it hurts me too much to keep the Christmas tradition going alone.
I used to be so full of lust, but now, where libido had been, there is only numbness. I don’t relate to women on the basis of desire anymore. Nothing looks good to me. Maybe it’s just as well. People go to the movies for an infusion of desire, but I dislike being told what to see. I defected from mind control long ago. I’d rather have my perception be clear and unbiased. It could be I’m just a fool. I even stopped following politics, having lost all faith in our leadership. I’m not sure what guides me today. There is no new thing under the sun, and all is vanity. Whose lead would I follow, if I had no choice? Are there any leaders anymore? In some capacity I must plug into the human spirit and play a role. My new Fender bass is coming tomorrow. Musician will be my job, but I don’t feel very romantic about it this morning. Maybe the book I’m reading is a downer. Sartre struggles with the idea of freedom in a world that’s gone to war. His characters have no control over political events, and each one responds to the inevitable differently. Why did I pick The Reprieve to read? The panoramic sweep of it is like James Joyce, sort of, but not as good. Doubtless it loses something in the translation. It’s a foggy morning, everything gray and desolate. I resolve to have a Coke and a smile. To go and spend some food stamps. It’s cold outside, but I’m working up my courage. Aesop is resting on the floor, unenthused by anything.
Ten twelve. I encountered nothing extraordinary at the store. However, a lyric occurred to me on the sidewalk: “Wistful and weathered, the pride still prevails alive in the streets of the city.” Emphasis on the word pride. The condition of pride is like gas in the car. It makes the car go. Pride gives a person hope for the future. Whatever happens now, one can always hope for something better. At the same time, the goals must be realistic. I aim to start playing gigs in the local music community. I will polish my technical ability to be the best I can be. But to be honest with myself, I’m a much different person without alcohol. Perhaps what drives me today is different from before. Rush has disbanded since Neil passed away, so those heroes are gone. It’s a time to reevaluate my life. There’s always so much uncertainty on any given day. The future stands like a blind implacable wall before us. Maybe it’s better to concentrate on the present moment. The grayness of the day gets me down. In two hours I have Heidi to see. If I had a crystal ball that gave me an objective look at myself, what would I see? And would I like it?
Quarter after seven. I dreamed that I found four Steinberger basses in the living room. They had just appeared overnight like magic. My parents were alive. I told Mom that I wanted to make music for her. Dad was willing to help repair and restore the basses to playability… It was nice to have a coherent dream for once. A very clear fulfillment of a wish. A statement of intention. I feel it is my duty to make music for my mother again before I kick the bucket myself. It doesn’t matter that my mom is gone; what matters is what she would’ve wished. For all I know, after I’m gone we will be reunited in the hereafter. It could be irrational superstition, but it is a deep emotional truth. My mother believed in me and my ability as a musician. For many years I was derailed by illness and addiction, but now my time has come. As for Edgar Allan Poe, my mother and Poe were the same person in my mind.
Aesop is my hero because his forgiveness is divine. It’s certainly not human. I still have to learn to forgive people their trespasses and the things about them I disagree with. To grow a thicker skin, it seems, and not personalize everything that appears to be a threat. I think my mother must have been quite messed up but I never thought to assess her or compare her to other moms. Love is blind. I’m frankly glad that the past is behind me, so maybe her ghost needn’t be appeased anymore. The holiday depression is over with. Mom used to tell me that music was all I was capable of since my illness, but I’ve already proved her wrong. That was a relationship fraught with great pain. Now my debt to the past is paid, I can move ahead. I wonder why this year’s holidays was particularly difficult? Someday when I’m stronger I will unburden myself of some of my old books and music… or maybe not?