Humbug

Wee hours.

I’ve put on my scarlet Champion hoodie and a pair of dark blue jeans. Then I took my meds for the night, but I’ll be up for a while longer. The red hoodie reminds me of H— a few years ago, with whom I’ve lost touch. She became very ill from overworking herself and sleeping little, running on caffeine and nerves… Sometimes I feel I want to make everything stop. With Easter just a day away, I had an odd meditation on the fiction of Thomas Mann, especially Doctor Faustus, which implicitly deals with Schoenberg’s atonal music, inspired supposedly by the devil. Mann happened to be a Lutheran with the opinions of a Christian. But is it really fair to accuse people of demonology, especially if they are Jewish? Likewise, is it right to say that people with schizophrenia are possessed? And this is what I want to see come to an end. Ignorant people are unaware of their own ignorance, or else why do they persist in error? It does terrible violence to the mentally ill to impute demonic possession, let alone to attempt a deliverance or exorcism. It’s all hogwash. The real sick people are the Christians. Easter may come, but I’m already gone. 

Presidents’ Day

Three o’clock.

Since I was feeling lonely, I headed back to the store to buy myself a treat of a Coca-Cola. When I arrived, I was the only customer in the place. Also, Karen’s salon was closed for Monday, I guess. The air outside felt cold to me this afternoon, very wintry, and my energy level seemed rather low. The overcast sky looked metallic, gray and silver. I saw the work crew doing their thing on the far side of Maxwell Road but it didn’t affect my business. As I passed Kat’s house I wondered why I never see her anymore. I know they haven’t moved away yet. And Derek’s red house on the corner looks empty every time I go by it. I waved at Harry, Cherie’s nonagenarian dad, but he didn’t have anything to say. My little neck of the neighborhood is a ghost town in the afternoon, missing only the tumbleweeds. Now the sun appears momentarily, with no one else to notice. Even Roger has packed up his project and gone indoors. I don’t know which is more dead, the landscape or its denizens. 

Awaiting the Sun

Seven thirty.

I feel nervous about a couple of things today, but everything passes and all shall be well. The sky is dark gray again, making it dubious that we’ll ever see the sun. January 17 is MLK Day, a good thing to be reminded of. I used to know someone who shared his birthday, and now I notice that King was another famous Capricorn…

Quarter of nine. Thanks to the holiday, the road workers had a day off so I could get to the store okay. I saw a driver taking a terrible chance crossing Maxwell Road. If he had misjudged by only a second then he would have been T boned in the middle of the intersection. I’m actually glad that I don’t drive a car anymore. It’s just too dangerous, and people in their cars are so impersonal with others; so selfish and competitive… It seems like forever since we’ve seen the sun in the sky. Cathy said it’s taking a break. I do see a band of peach on the east horizon. Does the human world assimilate to the landscape or the other way around? Shakespeare believed that nature is sympathetic to affairs in the social world; for instance the thunderstorm in King Lear the night Cordelia dies. The Renaissance was an amazing phenomenon. Even more amazing if we could revive it and be reborn as before. 

Towards 2022

Seven o’clock.

I have absolutely no plans for New Year’s except maybe to make a resolution… or not. The weather might be better today; I can’t tell until there’s daylight out. I could try to call my sister this morning. I don’t care much. The only doctrine I need is existentialism with a little cognitive therapy to manage my life.

Quarter of nine. Michelle told me all about her Christmas party when I was at the store. It was something she really didn’t want to do, so I suggested assertiveness training; maybe take a class or something to learn how to say no. I told her she was too nice. Meanwhile, the roads are much better now and it’s above freezing. I didn’t see any ice anywhere. At this moment I feel lonely and bored as there’s nowhere to go, no one to see. I suppose it’s a good day to do some more reading. Sometimes I lose track of my identity and need a recap to remind me of who I am. Or perhaps I should take my own advice and be more assertive about my goals. I don’t know what I want out of my life today; I don’t think fame is a realistic aim for me. I need to contemplate this for a while. What do writers really hope to achieve by their writing? Maybe it’s enough to take charge of your life and live it fully. It’s give and take with social trends: who’s controlling whom?

Quarter of ten. I believe my life is my project, and writing is a means to empowerment. It’s raining right now; my dog came in from the backyard all wet. It occurs to me to reread A Farewell to Arms or do something new to me by Hemingway. This can be my resolution for 2022. 

Snowbound

Six ten.

They’re saying that it’s snowing here right now but I can’t see anything for the darkness. Minutes ago I was dreaming about the fourth Led Zeppelin album, a rock and roll bible I haven’t listened to for a long time. I probably was thinking of “Misty Mountain Hop” because at the same time I dreamed about The Hobbit. And then I got up, being sick of myself and my mental events. Now I feel tired and want to go back to bed. There won’t be any daylight for an hour more, and even then I won’t be ready to go out to the store.

Quarter of ten.

The snow that was promised is finally here today. Pastor canceled church for this morning. I trudged through the blanket of white stuff to get to the store where I loaded up on sandwiches and cottage cheese. So far the snow on the ground hasn’t frozen. Oregonians in the Valley are not used to extreme winter weather. This is not Minnesota or Wisconsin, but a temperate place with a lot of timber and usually rain. At this point the snow is kind of fun, especially for the children to get out and play in… I can hear them right now having a ball. Spirits are high. 

Anticipation

Quarter of nine.

The atmosphere outside is very dark and rainy now. Michelle told me that business was slow, and I speculated that a lot of people have Christmas Eve off. She had prepared many breakfast items in the warmer but there were hardly any customers. Her gray eyes smiled when I wished her a Merry Christmas. The rain mostly missed me when I chose to go out. It was only 37 degrees, so I bundled up and wore my old blue knitted hat that might’ve been made by my grandmother. She passed away when I was a second grader in 1975. I doubt if we would’ve gotten along very well if she had lived longer. She was the prototype for my sister and brother while my mother was a totally different person…

Quarter of eleven. My sister called me on the phone first, and then drove over with some gifts for me. I actually got to see her today, after a long hiatus. She came in the same old Toyota van, a silver Previa that belonged to my parents. I told her that her hair looked great, very white with a little gray. Her face bore a pained expression; I couldn’t guess what she was thinking. Perhaps she felt a bit regretful for something. She didn’t stay very long. It wasn’t raining when she got here, but now it has started again. The gifts turned out to be winter clothes. I’m going to need them, since the winter may be a long one.

Noon hour.

Rain is likely tonight when we have church, so I’ll probably need a ride there.

Six o’clock at night.

Now it occurs to me that intellectual pride is not such a good thing… I wish I could take a nap for 90 minutes, or maybe bail out of the church gig tonight. But I’m committed to showing up. I feel very tired. Sometimes it isn’t about me after all, no matter what people are saying. I remember that pride inevitably leads to a downfall, and the bigger they are, the harder they fall. 

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. 

Easter Sunday

Quarter after eight. Sheryl from church texted me a while ago and said it would be nice to see me for the Easter service. So I replied with my reason for not coming to church as often anymore. Interesting; she said she misses my singing voice. And I do have some fond memories of singing with our choir a couple of years ago. The people were so nice and we had a lot of fun together. The only relationship that went kind of sour was the one with Pastor himself, and that’s a regrettable thing for me and the others… I am still very excited about my band. I thought our rehearsal yesterday was the best one ever so far. It seems to me that the three of us feel more comfortable with each other now; we’re becoming better friends, so the music flows a bit more easily than before… It’s another partly sunny morning. The sunlight splashes down and dapples the magnolia tree in my backyard. About two weeks ago I spotted a raccoon jumping into the same tree and settling there in the lower limbs. Even at the time, I thought maybe I was hallucinating; it was so surreal and bizarre to see. Since then I haven’t seen the raccoon again, thus maybe I really was deluded. “Cold hearted orb that rules the night / Removes the colors from our sight / Red is gray and yellow white / But we decide which is right / And which is an illusion?”

Sheryl just texted me back; she’d assumed that my absence was due to Covid. But no, it was the sermon on demonic possession that alienated me from church, at least temporarily. I’m going to stay home today except for my daily trip to the market on Maxwell Road. I had an exciting day yesterday and need a rest today.

Ten o’clock. As with most Easter Sundays, the neighborhood has fallen very silent, and the silence is rather disturbing to me. It is the silence of the tomb, of death, and maybe of intellectual poverty. It is the quiet of oppression, perhaps, when nobody dares to speak their mind. My closest neighbors behave very strangely, not very amiably with each other or with me, keeping to themselves and basically being quite self centered. I find this is true of many conservatives: they’re paranoid and care only about what is theirs. They scoff at people who don’t have a home or a job; people who are unfortunate. They figure that it’s tough luck for them; we got ours, so screw the people who have nothing. Such a selfish attitude, and essentially asocial. How can my neighbors be happy with such narrow views and feelings? They cloister themselves in their homes and watch tv all day… The book of Plato I ordered was probably delivered to the wrong address, but do you think the erroneous recipient will bring the package to me? No one practices common courtesy around here. Every house is an island on my street, and finders keepers, losers weepers… I jumped to a conclusion. The computerized Amazon chat assistant said the book probably hasn’t arrived yet. But this is another example of the dehumanization of society. “It’s so hard to stay together / Passing through revolving doors / We need someone to talk to / And someone to sweep the floors.” 

New Year’s Day

Eight thirty.

I think I’ll be glad when my birthday is over with. Nowadays another birthday is a step closer to the grave. The band practices tomorrow afternoon, so today I should do some playing on my own. Make sure that my chops are up to par. My sister asked me how I could learn Ron’s songs without charts or some kind of sheet music. I told her I play by instinct and by ear, and this impressed her. Some musicians are great at sight reading. Some have a great ear for music. And then, some of them have the whole package. I was never very good at sight reading unless it was snare drum music. But otherwise, I have a phonographic ability for music and anything to do with sound.

Nine thirty. It’s very dark out this morning. Putting off going to the store. I’ve been avoiding caffeine for a few days because of a bad reaction to it last Sunday. I wish I felt better, but the saying goes that it is what it is. The thought of reading Edgar Allan Poe again cheers me up. There’s also a lot of Paul Bowles I haven’t read yet… People are still acting really weird over the election. I don’t get this. A win is a win, a loss is a loss, so grow up and get over it. I’m watching the squirrel in my backyard. He doesn’t care who won the election. He doesn’t know that it’s a new year. His only worry is providing for the winter.