Cold Coffee

Four in the afternoon.

I made a little run around the corner for something to drink and give to my dog. On N Park I passed a guy on his bicycle balancing a big half case of Pub Beer. He coasted by with a look of satisfaction on his bearded face, mixed with determination. But it was kind of cool on a Friday afternoon in September to see the varieties of freedom people opted for. I felt happy enough to try a cold coffee and get a rawhide chew for Aesop. Deb sold me three items and I also dropped in on Karen, who was busy cutting a guy’s hair. At one point I glanced up and down Maxwell Road and saw no cars at all. The general mood of the day is insouciance.

Hearts

Ten o’clock.

We went to breakfast at Carl’s Jr. again, but my heart isn’t really into this morning. It is cloudy and very cool and my thoughts are trying to adapt to the change. As I write, the vacuum cleaner is very noisy and bothersome and I want this to be over with. The streets were moist when we drove on Armstrong Street to the east. Some people believe in paranormal phenomena but it’s hard for me to swallow, except for a few times when flukey events took place. It’s more of a feeling than an actual occurrence, in my opinion.

Five ten in the morning.

Finally I took down The Golden Bough and picked up where I left off many years ago. It’s the best written refutation of superstition available, with countless examples of primitive magic practices from around the world. So I read a little of the discussion of rainmaking by primitive societies. For me, The Golden Bough is like Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, a product of Enlightenment thought, but it addresses mythology rather than history.

I hate limbo times like now. It’s pitch black outside and no one is awake except me— and it’ll be like this for another hour or more. In my journal I said that making friends is difficult in our age, perhaps any age. But friendship is something I value more than money and pragmatic things, while some people are the opposite. I had a girlfriend like that. We had a lot of fun, but we each looked for something different. Hopefully she got what her heart desired when we broke up. On my side, I’m still looking. 

Wealth or Wisdom?

Nine o’clock.

Now the sun gleams through the cloud cover. I guess I’ll call Polly in another hour. I feel kind of punchy from the heat; it never cooled down much last night.

Eleven o’clock.

I changed my mind about calling Polly. If she wants to call me, then fine. They say it’s raining now but I don’t hear it, though the clouds look like they could. My mind is a collage of memories from schooldays and from when I had a clerical job 18 years in the past. Minimum wage back then was about $8.50 an hour. There was little difference between doing that job and doing nothing at all. The tasks were just a distraction from my thoughts, but then I learned how to think and work simultaneously. A coworker told me I needed a harder job so I couldn’t think; but of course this would never do for me. On paydays I would stop by the bank to cash my check which ran about $285. If it was a Friday afternoon, then my next stop was the little store to get a half rack of Foster’s or Henry’s beer and something to eat. I had fallen into the rut of working and drinking that happens to many people. But the lamentable thing for me was the lack of free time to read and think. As it happened, I got hooked on alcohol and could do nothing but drink… I like to believe that I did the best I could with my options. I value freedom more than wealth, and material gain is nothing next to wisdom. “Love of learning is the guide of life.”

Ecstasy

Five o’clock.

What do you do when satisfaction is a long time coming? I guess you settle for less than what you really want. And maybe life has a project for you, as in an Emerson essay: we don’t use nature, nature uses us. Perhaps in hindsight it all makes sense to the individual. There was a plan all along, and your ego didn’t form it. I tend to forget this perspective. “But if all this should have a reason / We would be the last to know.” It’s a more religious way of looking at the puzzle. High school taught us to go out and conquer happiness, but it seldom works that way, and I think it’s backwards. Once I was assigned to lead class discussion on “Barter,” a poem by Sara Teasdale, but I had no clue how to interpret it. Many years later, it seemed like a big joke at my expense. What did I know of ecstasy? I was very shy, quiet, and withdrawn. I was more cut out to be a priest than a Don Juan… If Robert Burns is right about the best laid schemes, I try to remember that the real Schemer is not you or me.

Pioneers: A Letter

Since I met with Cassidy at the Black Rock this afternoon I started thinking about my behavior towards people, especially those like Grant, Cassidy, and even Damien. In response to people I feel irritation and impatience, when I should try to be kind to them. I wrote down in my little diary that times are tough for everyone, and though I feel the pressure, my grace is scarce. Weeks ago I made a post with the egg in a vise, an image I borrowed from an old Rush album called Grace under Pressure. But anyway, probably these tough times are no excuse to act like a jerk. I’ll try to be mindful of this when I deal with everyone from now on. I wonder why it’s so easy to forget it? We forget that we’re all in the same big boat together, or at least I do.
The big full moon is just now rising in the east out of my window. I’d also be making an excuse if I said that the moon is responsible for human madness. I think the truth is that all people are ultimately responsible for themselves, and yet we’re all trying to promote happiness for each other as well. This is utilitarian thinking, the greatest happiness principle. I don’t know what it’s called when people violate this ethical code except it’s a form of injustice. A few lines from Sting with The Police:
It’s a subject we rarely mention
But why do we have this little invention?
By pretending they’re a different world from me
I show my responsibility
and
Lines are drawn upon the world
Before we get our flags unfurled
But whichever one we pick
Is just a self deluding trick
One world is enough for all of us…
I’m not sure if I’m seeing the man in the moon as I gaze upon it right now. I heard a neighbor say he believes the earth is flat and the moon is made of cheese. And though I disagree with him, the fact remains that he is my neighbor. People are all in this together, however we may chafe against it. I guess the main dissident is myself. Does one individual ever possess the right to influence the world? To change it according to her own vision?
Now I do see a face in the moon…

Cheers!

Eleven o’clock.

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.

Save the Liberal Arts!

Six forty.

They expect rain at seven o’clock this morning. I feel pretty miserable with this cold in my head, but I try to work around it.

I went to the market as I usually do in the morning and saw nothing extraordinary. No rain came down, though I prepared for it with an umbrella. I returned to my accustomed raspberry Snapple tea this time after two days of orange juice, and it has rejuvenated me a bit. I was pondering something last night: just because you can grasp an abstract idea, does that qualify it as valid? Does an aptitude for metaphors mean that reality actually is a shadow of the spirit world? Why do we have intuition— or is this merely a word and not a faculty? And then another part of me tells me to shut up, as these questions are useless child’s play. It is childlike to ask questions to infinity. So what is philosophy for, if it raises more questions than it solves?

Seven fifty. Then again, life without inquiring spirits would be pretty dull. It would hardly be life at all when all opinions were readymade for you to adopt for your own. Unfortunately, this is the future we face unless we turn it around. I believe that we’re better than mindless automatons in this country. Don’t defer your logic to spiritual leaders and politicians who are no more informed than you are. I visualize a world that is one big peripatetic school, a place of free and original thinkers living full lives, happy as only human beings can be.

Narcotic Rain

Midnight.

It wasn’t a good day. My sister on the phone talked to me until my arm began to ache. Everything went south from there today. Now I believe that masochism is a reality in our daily behavior, as Freud pointed out a century ago, so the trick is to catch it and correct it. The enjoyment of pain is twisted and impure. A true reward is the experience of pleasure as pleasure, the real thing. Good is good, and negative is negative, but to a masochist the two are difficult to ferret apart from each other. Maybe none of this would have happened if I had never stopped drinking; if I still gave myself a foretaste of heaven. And yet that experience is a delusion of paradise, an artificial thing. Perhaps the question of happiness is a fairly involved philosophical problem that begins by asking yourself what is true happiness? It is especially hard to identify when nobody seems to give a damn about anything anymore. Everyone is numb as if we’d all sampled the same narcotic… 

I keep meaning to revisit Mallarme to see about his idea of a spiritual universe that replaces God with himself. Though my French is not the best, I’m quite sure of what he was saying on that score. And who would I be to say that Mallarme was presumptuous? I would be more presumptuous than he was. 

Pleasure

Quarter of eight.

Gloria is coming today at nine, but lately I’ve been feeling tired every day, so I’m not really looking forward to this. I don’t know of anyone who is actually clicking their heels these days. It’d be nice to believe in astrology, particularly the coming around of Jupiter to bring jollity. I wonder if it’s possible to conquer happiness as Bertrand Russell suggests? But it seems to be more like sunrise, sunset day after day. In this case we ought to appreciate the minutiae while they are still available to us. Dust off the Thornton Wilder book… The trip to market was pretty boring today. It’s Saturday, so the espresso shack wasn’t doing very well this morning. Lisa is always nice to me. My sense of things being larger than life is dwindling down to ordinariness. I realize that I’ll probably never be a rockstar, especially at my age. Even the local rockstars made it big one time, then spent all their money and faded back to relative obscurity. How do you get to be an icon in our culture? You have to be in the right place at the right time. It is best to set realistic goals, if you must have goals at all. And dust off the Thornton Wilder book.

Noon.

I feel tired and dizzy, probably from the Lipitor I take for cholesterol. My dog was amazingly good while Gloria was here. I was just thinking about the place of pleasure in human life, and whether it is the highest good, or if instead some people have it backwards. The work ethic is strong in some people. Others may be indolent epicureans, maybe alcoholics, and maybe they’d be smart to enjoy life. I always wonder what I am to do in the wake of addiction. Only time can sort this out. Nothing is very clear in the meantime. We just do the best that we can. 

Melodies

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.