Seven thirty five.
I spent a nervous night for some reason. But you know, the approval of other people matters not a jot, especially if you’re familiar with a little Nietzsche. The church is putting pressure on the members to get vaccinated: just another example of this junior high school mentality…
The streets were black with damp, but the sun was out among small cirrus clouds. I was glad to see Melissa again and hear her deep melodic voice. On my way to the store, my mind revolved old lectures I attended in college on the topic of Nietzsche, particularly how individuals change from their original nature for the sake of approval. He suggested that the desirable thing was to reconnect with one’s natural state. So I thought about these stupid masks we wear and how we all jump through flaming hoops just because other people are doing it. How important are belongingness needs, when it comes right down to it?
Eight thirty five. I bought a chef salad because I wanted it, and cottage cheese and two Snapples. My dog, Aesop, is the best. I can actually communicate with him like a rational animal. Here comes a blast of sun, alternating with shadows, typical of March in these parts. I’m enjoying this moment, listening to raucous crows off to the east.
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.
Two o’clock in the morning.
Due to drug issues, practice with the band was mostly a disaster yesterday. However, I’ve decided to forgive my friends and give them another chance. We did manage to do a little Led Zeppelin, namely “Four Sticks.” I just sort of played by instinct, covering both the bass line and the synth part in a kind of musical Impressionism, hoping someone would follow. The original of the song is so beautiful, with John Paul Jones on bass and synthesizer, so elegantly gliding along. We also played around with “The Mincer” again, an old King Crimson classic… It’s good to play a Jazz style bass again after a long time with Precision Basses. But they all sound majestic… When I have doubts about my involvement in music, I sometimes take recourse to the zodiac for support of my self image. The real events of my life don’t make much coherent sense. I’m aware of how my sister thinks about rock and roll: it’s just impertinent rebellion against God and mainstream culture. She and my mother disagreed on this point, and it always puts me in a difficult position.
Quarter after six. So I resolve the conflict by appealing to my horoscope, according to which my ruling planet is Saturn, another name for Cronus, the father of Zeus in Greek mythology. I don’t know how music got to be related to Saturn, nor literature, but it’s true… A half hour ago I listened to “Four Sticks” on YouTube. It was just as I remembered it, except I’d never paid attention to the words before. The cumulative effect is quite breathtaking, music and lyric. Like a Keats poem or something. It transports you to another dimension.
Seven o’clock. Dawn breaks outside. I want to stay home from church today and read my Goethe; maybe listen to some music and play my bass. I feel rather rejuvenated, knowing that I’m sober and how this really benefits me. My life feels purposeful: I am an instrument of the planets, not just a biological organism.
Quarter of nine.
During the late night I finished reading the first part of Faust. After being seduced by him, Gretchen’s life and reputation fall to pieces. Three murders are associated with her, and she ends up in prison. Faust meanwhile gets away with his crime and goes off with Mephistopheles. I’m not certain what to make of the plot. While Faust indulges himself and gets a little enjoyment from life, he ruins the life of his sweetheart. He’s even responsible for killing her brother in a duel. Faust’s pleasure is had at a huge cost, which I guess is the devilry of the story.
Michelle has come back from vacation. She went to Tulsa to visit her son. She said she had lived in Oklahoma for thirty years. Between eight and eight thirty, the store was quite busy with customers and one of the distributors. I sometimes wish for a time machine to take me back ten years. I really believe I was happier when I drank, though I wasn’t as healthy or as empowered. The difficulty of sobriety is having to face reality without the fog of intoxication, and indeed life is painful and hard; it is suffering, as the Buddha knew— but I don’t think nirvana is the answer. People should magnify the things that make them happy and spread happiness around… Tomorrow I’ll be doing band practice again at Mike’s place. At around noon today I’ll play the bass a bit and make sure my technical ability is there. I used to believe that I was the best musician in the area, but now I’m more realistic of my potential, more humble about it. I enjoy doing music as a group effort now, with less ego and more cooperation. I hope the music venues reopen before too long so we can go out and rock the house. Attitudes toward the virus vary from person to person and business to business. The news about the pandemic is very grim every day, yet we have to hold our heads up and persevere. Giving up is not an option for us.
I guess I’m satisfied with the authenticity of my choices over the past few years. It isn’t like I made decisions for no reason. The bottom line is always sobriety and whatever promotes this condition. I was just poring over some editions of Mallarme on Amazon, considering a purchase, but then I remembered that he was probably not sober, and this would affect his poetry. Until now, with the rock band, I never worried about another person’s drinking behavior influencing me. It puts me in a difficult position.
Nine thirty. I feel so much better now. The day has a good vibe to it. Last night, Sandi said that the Wetlands Brew Pub on Garfield was packed with people who wanted to get out and socialize. Melissa just told me that Rick is going to try to open the deli today. What a relief this will be. I treated myself to a raspberry tea this morning because it felt right. Pastor’s sermon was rather gloomy, but I think people are getting tired of that stuff. I encouraged my pen pal to check out the books of John Muir and John James Audubon online. Also I offered to get Ron a new keyboard if he wanted. And Aesop seems pretty happy with his life today. All is better with the world. On second thought, I might have another look at the book of Mallarme’s poetry.
For the time being, the rain has stopped. I feel more relaxed this morning, more self possessed and confident. It makes little sense to ask where I see myself in five years or ten years. I doubt if anybody is that prescient of their own life… Yesterday I didn’t practice my bass individually, but instead scribbled a lot of drivel in my blank book. It was basic mind reading of people I know, which never works because there’s no such thing as telepathy. It is a truism that we can never know what another person is thinking unless we ask them what’s on their mind. Often the chasm is wide between what we imagine and the real truth. I may ask for a break from Friday service this week just to collect myself. I want to get back to evidence based thinking, as opposed to faith based. Empiricism is looking better to me all the time. The certainty of the chair I’m sitting on is more reassuring than the idea of salvation for my sins. Everyone can save themselves. Let the guilt roll off your back and enjoy your life.
Eleven thirty. The appeal of Romanticism is wearing off for me. It should feel rather liberating to look into logical positivism again, and the wholesale rejection of metaphysics and other slippery things that people dispute over. A rock band sang, “So we are told this is the Golden Age / And gold is the reason for the wars we wage.” I think this is debatable. At least for now, the world of sense experience seems inviting after a long detour into the indemonstrable.
Quarter of eight.
The song in my head: “Message of Love” by The Pretenders. The turn of the eighties makes me think of cherry Bubble Yum and Pop Rocks and Lemon Pepsi. Trashy Edgar Rice Burroughs books. The occasional rendezvouses with my nephews where they lived on Morningside Drive, with the church right next door. We played Space Invaders and Pac-Man and frisbee golf. I always bought a book when I had any money. It was such a pleasure to find The Warlord of Mars at the Waldenbooks in the Valley River Center. At the same time, these memories bring me pain.
Quarter after nine. At the end of my street I met with a crow in a treetop of Colin’s house. “Quoth the raven, ‘Nevermore!’” Then on N. Park a young man was walking his pointer dog, heading south. I followed behind him past Randy’s lot of ruined cars. I didn’t notice much of anything else, feeling a nebulous ache in my body and mind. Maybe I don’t want to go to church tonight. The thought flits across my awareness here and there. Out of a black sky beams a ray of sunshine, outwardly and inwardly. Except for my music, my life is going nowhere. Where would somewhere be? A life of satisfaction and pleasure, along the lines of my parents. I suppose I’m feeling like a dry drunk, a person irritable without his alcohol. And again I remember the consolation of freedom and responsibility, of philosophy in general. It is good just knowing that I am empowered in word and deed. Certain social ties I wish I could cut, and I believe I’m free to do that, but also responsible for the outcome. I could brush up my French and reread Les Jeux Sont Faits. There’s a lot of things I could do with my time, with the end purpose of a little pleasure. Any task is like eating a Tootsie Pop: you lick the sucker to get to the chocolate center. Everything is candy.
We’re getting a break from the rain this morning, but only temporarily. As I walked on the Maxwell sidewalk toward the store, I saw the half moon in the western sky. The moon always looks surreal by daylight, like an image out of a painting. I vaguely thought of my actions being compelled by the moon’s gravitational pull, but didn’t take it very seriously. I went inside the store and bought food for Aesop and me, plus a Snapple tea. There were a few older guys shopping this morning, a Sunday. One of them bought a Dr Pepper. Now, Aesop is letting me know that he’s hungry.
Another thought I had was that the past ought to stay in the past. Carl Sandburg: “The past is a bucket of ashes.” Also I wondered if I would ever buy a car for transportation again. How long can I live like a pedestrian, some wandering hobo carrying a US flag shopping bag every day to the market? It makes me think of the Bird Lady in Mary Poppins: “Feed the birds, tuppence a bag.” Or the old woman eating prunes from a paper bag in the poem by Carlos Williams, receiving solace from the sweet taste. Long ago, I saw a poster in a frat house showing a man in rider’s breeks with a martini perched on the hood of a Rolls Royce. Caption: “Poverty sucks.” Even so, I wouldn’t trade my freedom for self made riches any day. There are better ways to be wealthy than with money. The cold winter sky is beginning to cloud up, and the promise of rain will be fulfilled.
Quarter of six.
Church and Pastor’s mob mentality have been destructive for me for a long time. I will be absentee this morning for the recording of the service. It’s time for me to be a little selfish and do what is good for me, not for the herd. The brainwashing is quite enough at this point; I can’t take any more. I couldn’t sit still for one more sermon. You know, I feel like Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn, like a restless boy longing to be free. I’m not a big fan of Mark Twain, but I think I’ll give him a flap sometime soon… There’s nothing to do when the sun hasn’t yet risen and the world is still asleep. I feel tired and impatient with time moving at a snail’s pace. Again I think that my beliefs are diametrically opposed to those of Pastor. I’m an individualist, as I was taught in school a long while back, and I still agree with those teachings.
Eight thirty. I’ve decided to have a good day. My band practice is today at around four thirty, after the Duck football game. I can hardly wait to play with my buddies. It’s kind of like old times, except no alcohol for me. The last time we jammed, I had no religious delusions from the music, no spiritual thoughts at all. It was like junior high school again, when music was a lot of fun. The weather right now is a light rain, and the sky is very dark, yet it doesn’t get me down. I should dig out Moving Pictures and give it a spin to put me in the mood to rock and roll. Aesop is ready to eat any time now. I’m doing just what I want to do, and it feels right.
I found a little surprise in my mailbox a bit ago: a holiday greeting card from my neighbor across the street, Victoria. She is the sister of Bonnie Rose, the youngest of three daughters. The note inside says thank you for always being so kind to me, and thinking of you. So then I headed for the store with a lighter step. I saw on N. Park not one or two, but three squirrels chasing each other in the spirit of fun. The sun had just barely risen behind the clouds. Michelle told me a little of what was going on with the deli next to the store. And the latter will be open for Christmas, as it is every year. When I saw Bonnie Rose approaching in her big black truck, I stepped to the left to let her pass and waved. Once inside again, I put Victoria’s card on top of the bookcase as a reminder that life is really pretty good.