An Easter Thought

Quarter of nine.

The little market opened an hour later today for the holiday. The radio played the Beastie Boys, rather incongruous for Easter morning. For the past few days I’ve felt lousy from a certain prescription drug, so now I’m stopping it. I gave Aesop some Gravy Train after his breakfast, which he didn’t like, but it was all they had at the store. After a while I guess I’ll read my Henry James again, although his attitude kind of annoys me. Everyone would probably love to live in the lap of luxury, but it’s an elusive thing even when you have it, and it so easily melts from your grasp. I feel more like Pip in Great Expectations than like a character in James. It was just a happy accident that I ever went to college, and the benefactor was my mother… My mother despised money and raised me to be oblivious to the fact of it. She sheltered me from the grimy reality of hard knocks, and as a consequence I’ve ended up on the sidewalk, but luckily with a place to live. I still dislike the sight of cash; it makes me think of alcohol… Yesterday morning I was in the car with Gloria coming back from the thrift store. As we passed under the highway we saw the camp of some homeless people: a few shopping carts and a string of junk that they considered worthy belongings. An hour later I’d be sitting reading a book of drawing room manners, never putting two and two together until now. 

Reveille!

Five twenty five.

Since my visit with Misty yesterday morning, my brain finally made a connection and I did a little research on the homeless mentally ill. I realized also that my sister and her park ranger son were ignorant about the situation. Their attitudes are moralistic and damning of the homeless, not bothering to try to understand how and why people end up that way. They ascribe evil motives to their behavior as if they were “responsible” for their fates, but really, things just happen to people. It’s not a human problem, but rather a clinical problem, and religion has nothing to do with it. At least 25 percent of homeless people are severely mentally ill, and as many as 45 percent have any kind of mental illness… Now I recall my church’s incomprehension of mental illness when Katie passed away and we had her memorial service last fall: it was so embarrassing. And I was another schizophrenic person looking on, a witness to the whole thing. And then Pastor with his sermons on demonic possession and other crap! Americans need a wake up call to reality, and reality is certainly nothing spiritual. We need a revival of science in our culture before Dark Age America seals its own doom. 

Harmony

Quarter after eleven at night.

“Light one candle to watch for Messiah / Let the light banish darkness…” My mind is a jumble even though the night is quiet and golden. The world has far to go to be anything like perfect. If only it were as easy as buying the world a Coke and teaching it to sing in harmony. Around here, I still don’t see very many people of color. I wonder if they are happy with the current social climate. I’d like to get a chance to talk with some of them about their feelings. Years ago a young Mexican guy told me about a rock band in Mexico called Los Tiranos del Norte, and he said they were very good. I imagine they were indeed, with a name like that. I was working as seasonal help at a music store in the Gateway Mall, where I met a variety of different people in public. Once I ran into a mother and her young son who were Greek, with a swarthy complexion that could be mistaken for something else, but now I know better about Mediterranean people.

I don’t know; everything just feels so incomplete and out of joint, especially for so-called minorities and those who don’t have anything. And all we can offer them are a flag to wave and a cross to bear. I get tired of listening to my sister’s conservative opinions, especially when she spouts about the homeless, as if they were to blame for their plight. Worse, as if they chose to live that way. I find her attitude very uncharitable and unkind. A perfect world is one where people can be what they want to be, where they can use their natural gifts to share with everyone. I fear that perfection will be a long time coming, though I hope for the Golden Age to be restored and all of humankind fulfilled. 

The New Renaissance

Six forty.

Gloaming of early morning outside my window. I feel rather good. Yesterday afternoon was a success for me, in that I got my point across to the other guys. I played my bass quite well, too. It probably sounded better to them than it did to me. The solo I took on “Bubble House” sucked. It was in G7, which is harder for me to solo over. But I really burned on “The Mincer,” in A7. If anything, I played too many notes… Aesop needs wet food again, and the store has just opened. At around eight o’clock I’ll go run my errand… I remember nearly crying (for the right reasons) when “Tom Sawyer” came on the PA in a certain waiting room. Rush did their songs with so much more intelligence than garden variety bands; with quality and taste, finesse and beauty. The other guys in my band aren’t very familiar with Rush, so I think I’ll make converts of them.

Seven thirty. I hear a birdsong outside my back door. The weather yesterday was insanely beautiful. Everybody got out of the house to do various activities.

Eight thirty. Melissa had a cold, but she sounds better today than yesterday morning. Camped across Maxwell Road from the store I saw a homeless man who kept himself company by talking to himself. It really annoys me when people say that homeless people choose to live that way, out of laziness or whatever. It’s the system that failed them, not the other way around. My park ranger nephew has some backward opinions, but luckily I don’t have to be around him… Some people are born without an aptitude that fits neatly into the job market. I’m one of them. There are no gainful jobs that allow for creativity and self expression in music or writing. People like me have to figure out another way or else fall through the cracks. Ayn Rand believed that the capitalist system could be manipulated to serve anyone who worked hard enough. I have serious doubts about that. Robert Pirsig said it doesn’t matter what work you do as long as you do it with quality. Again, I beg to disagree. And once again, in a perfect world… I envision a New Renaissance, a time when people can be what they want to be. Why is it that so many of us have a similar dream, yet the dream gets trampled by those with no imagination? 

Driving to Utopia

Two twenty. My taxi ride to the pharmacy went just fine, and I avoided the rain as it started on the way back. I got to see Shawn, who didn’t recognize me with the mask at first. Jeanine was at the register, but amazingly there was no copay for my Vraylar. The insurance company came through for me again, so the prescription that would cost $1400 out of pocket cost me $0. The parking lot for Bi Mart and Grocery Outlet was quite busy this afternoon. Todd, the cabbie, threaded his way meticulously through the traffic. The fare for the trip came to under $15. I might have looked like a spoiled brat riding in a taxi for the one mile to the pharmacy, but I simply put aside the feelings of guilt. People could eat their heart out. 

Another time, I may take a ride Downtown to the environs of Fifth Street and knock about. I’d like to visit Smith Family Bookstore again; it’s been probably three years since the last time I saw it. And there might be a new shop or two on Fifth Street, though I doubt it, based on the state of the economy and the number of homeless people living in tents beneath the bridge between First and Fifth Streets. Truly it’s a grim sight as you drive by the Washington Jefferson Street Park. My dad and I used to travel through the Whitaker neighborhood to get to Downtown all the time twenty five years ago. And when I was working, I drove home on First Avenue every day; but I never saw anything like the poverty so blatantly obvious nowadays. The so-called invisible people make themselves known, and I don’t blame them. Thus, it would be futile to go Downtown seeking to make the past materialize out of a memory; it’d be a delusion or a wish fulfilling dream… 

Colorful Rocks

Seven thirty.

My sleep was troubled and fitful, perhaps due to what I’d been reading. I’m very sensitive to stories, whether in print or in movies… Now I wonder why so many musicians are fans of King Crimson. I find some of their lyrics dreadful, dealing with mental illness without much sympathy. What’s their point? I don’t listen to much music these days; I’m not sure why. I’m half inclined to go back to bed, because I still feel drowsy. Sometimes I think of those clowns who worked on my house a year ago, and how slipshod they were. Ultimately it was the Portland contractor who was blameworthy for the shoddy job they did. It can be depressing to think about now… I guess I’ll go to the store and see if they have any new inventory.

Nine o’clock. I went to the market and bought a Reuben, cottage cheese, and two Snapples. Vicki’s eyes were on the front door, where she could see a pair of homeless people just outside. I passed them on my way out. Some people believe the homeless choose to live that way, and they could get jobs if they tried. I’m not one of those people. When conditions are bad and times are tough, the incidence of homelessness goes up. This doesn’t substantiate the claims of narrow minded conservatives. Hard luck befalls a lot of people. I’ve been lucky, probably more lucky than clever… Some people care more about “numbers” than human beings. I’m certainly not one of them. All is not gold that glitters. Think of the worthless “rocks” in Voltaire’s El Dorado. Precious gemstones are scattered everywhere on the streets, but in a perfect world they have no value. For reasons of greed, Candide and his friends lose Paradise, packing off a bunch of colorful rocks to the real world. Call it idealism to make this observation. It remains true. 

Letter to a Friend

Hello —-,

Just an update to my first email.

Every activity held at Our Redeemer has been cancelled until Good Friday, so this means no church tomorrow. But Pastor still plans to have a Zoom meeting with us at ten o’clock Sunday morning.

And while I was away at the food pantry, Polly tried to call me. It was about five o’clock when I saw the missed call, so I returned it right away. She just wanted to know how I was doing. Toward the end of the conversation, her politics began to annoy me. Specifically, she has certain ideas about homeless people I don’t agree with. You’ve probably heard the opinion, “Oh, they could get a job if they wanted to.” She and her son Ed, who works as a park ranger, are convinced that the majority of the homeless choose their fate and take designer drugs like Fentanyl. I would like to have more firsthand information before making a judgment on any of these claims, but I can bet that Polly’s right wing politics colors her perception of the whole thing. It just pisses me off royally, to be honest. In her mind, the mere fact of having a home versus not having one makes all the difference between a good person and bad. Don’t you think that’s quite stupid? Where do people with attitudes like that come from? It is terribly insensitive and unkind, and a product of feeble intelligence. But this is what I have to deal with every time Polly talks to me. If I had the proper counter evidence, I would argue with her and show her how absurd and mean spirited her ideas are. I had next door neighbors with the same ignorant opinions who moved away in 2015, to my great relief. When James and Brenna looked at the house before buying, they found not a single book on the premises.

Well you know, there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. I can bitch and complain all I want, but morons like my sister and nephew will always exist —- and persist in their wrongheaded views. Still, I don’t have to listen to their BS. And the less often I hear from my family, the better. My brother is a major capitalist, so in that sense he is just as Republican as Polly. Out of my whole family, I am the only Democrat in the true sense of caring about people over caring about money.

Well anyway, now you know where I stand. Luckily, Pastor Dan and a few in the assembly share my politics. I do Food for Lane County from an authentic feeling of duty. Who would be cold and hard hearted enough to withhold a handout to the people who need food, clothing, shelter, and a lot of other things? I don’t see Polly doing anything like volunteering, nor my brother or for that matter anybody in my whole family.

To hell with it.

Talk to you later Gator,

Your Rob

 

A Letter

Hi there,

So far my day is uneventful except for the homeless man I found in my backyard. There’s not much to tell about it. The deputy came, and so on… I’m not worried about it, but I wouldn’t want that to happen all the time. Our homeless population has grown considerably and their tactics are more and more brazen and defiant. On trash pickup day they come around in a car and collect all they can. It seems that they’ve organized themselves in order to panhandle, etc more efficiently. Where did they get the car? Stolen I suppose. But who can really blame the homeless for their plight? It’s just a big problem, when dumb people claim that the economy is booming. T— from church actually said that, and now I think he must be stupid. The homeless situation is epidemic. Portland ships theirs here, and from here there’s no place else to send them. You can see them camping out everywhere around town. It was bad two years ago, especially downtown, but now they’ve infiltrated the suburbs where I live. It isn’t their fault either. Occasionally a new shelter goes up, but the need is still great. This is what a Republican government does to society, though I don’t know how it happens. Nobody cares about people enough to do anything. Everyone wants to make money, and that’s the example Trump sets for the nation…

I have to go for now; Charlie is on his way over. But anyway, I know you have an opinion about what’s happening to the have-nots in our country. I wonder what more I can do to help it? What is the best program I can volunteer for? There’s Habitat for Humanity, but I have no carpentry skills. My sister swears by the Eugene Mission, but I don’t know about that. I guess I’ll ask Pastor what I can do.

Take care,
Your Rob

Intruder

Quarter of eleven. I just saw a homeless man in my backyard and reported him to the police. I was told that they would patrol the area. This is the second time I’ve had to call the police in two months. But this guy appeared harmless. He just wasn’t supposed to be in my backyard… The deputy was just here to check it out: the homeless man has left. Now he’s out searching for him. It’s simply one of those things. It could be a symptom of a bigger problem, but I can’t be sure. Portland deports their homeless people down to Eugene, then we’re stuck with them. Who knows what to do? Though, it ought to be dealt with compassionately. Maybe I could’ve handled it differently? Helped the poor guy somehow. Yet the police know what they’re doing. I gave an honest report of what happened to the deputy, and that was probably good enough.

Untimely Reminder

Ten o’clock. Vraylar tunes out the static and amplifies the human signal from out of a confusion of nonsense voices. Every person with schizophrenia has a human voice that wants to make a connection with other humans. The fortunate ones find a way to do this, while there are many unfortunates who don’t. They end up working in janitorial if they work at all, and hang out where they find a safe place. Some patients have nowhere to go. Their families turn them out on the streets and they have to survive alone. They are at high risk for substance abuse and addiction… A lot of this sounds like my own life, but I was always lucky enough to have a home, thanks to my parents. In the mental healthcare world I’ve met some professionals who were good, but also others who were frankly clueless and unhelpful. The very worst ones tried to incorporate quackery into their practice. The woo woo stuff is positively aggravating to any person with psychosis and religious delusions. Treatment must be kept in the immanent, the ordinary and everyday. I feel embarrassed for one or two providers who didn’t have their own feet on the ground… So, this holiday season, may we keep in mind the less fortunate mentally ill who have no family and nowhere to go for Christmas Eve dinner. There’s probably no other group of people more in need of advocacy and empowerment.