We had a really good practice this afternoon and got quite a bit done. I took my blue Fender bass and felt very comfortable playing it, which makes a big difference to the way rehearsal goes. This bass also cranks out a great tone. I think I’ll use it all the time after this. The other guys played better than usual, too, and Mike and I smiled and winked at each other while Ron would take a very long solo or something silly. We were basically indulging him and being gently deprecating, or saying, Well you know how Ron is. We have two or three really strong numbers that we can use for playing in a gig, and we’ve got plenty of time to work up the others.
Yes, instinctively human versus a consumerist society. I was just thinking of how it’s difficult to be free and human in a culture that has us so utterly pegged. It’s the sentiment of Pink Floyd in “Welcome to the Machine,” by now a lugubrious and kind of stale song, but it gets my point across. Everything you can dream of has been already thought of by the monster of society, so, before you can express your feelings on this or that, you’re in a certain category of people in the eyes of the government and whatever shapes our destinies. My observation is not an original one. It should have been obvious to me long ago. I suppose it’s a cynical view, and perhaps rather defeatist to see human life as a mass production run, like being on the assembly line or shot through the chute. When our lives are set up this way, at the mercy of a culture we can’t control, is it even possible for us to express something new and independent, original and real?
And how has the band changed me… and do I like it. Mostly it’s just the fact that we’re a trio of guys, more or less the same age. I feel that I’ve been bonding with them, for better or worse, but I think our project could lead to something good in terms of a career for me, and I love doing music anyway. It started out as just having fun on weekends, but I believe it may grow into something more serious and disciplined.
Right now, I don’t feel that the band has been a bad influence on my mentality. I might’ve gravitated away from the church even without playing with Mike and Ron, just as a function of time. And by the way, my sobriety feels very secure, though I should never be complacent.
Overall I feel pretty good at this writing.
Some days my shots miss the target wide by a mile, and yet my misses are part of the overall journey of discovery. I believe the dartboard is movable depending on public opinion, so really it’s of no consequence to me… Owing to loneliness, I had a rather crap day. Is it a case of self pity when you admit how lousy you feel? But I was never a stoic kind of person. Band practice was canceled as I anticipated, so that means I’ll spend the weekend by myself unless I go to church Sunday. I guess I’ll write a check to God and make an appearance with the assembly. It just seems like pounding money down a rathole, because I think I’m basically an atheist— but for the human spirit, the human community. Only in my earliest memories do I feel any connection with the Jungian God, an evocation difficult to reproduce today with all my factual clutter. The connection Wordsworth had with Nature was simplistic; he had to clear his mind totally to feel the presence of the divine from the countryside. So, is it really possible to commune with a God in a cityscape of harsh angles, ugly power and telephone lines crisscrossing the sky, whizzing motorcars sending up pollution to the moon, and amid the loud hum of everything electrical? I think it was Thoreau in Walden who wrote a grotesque description of the railroad with the black beastly locomotive intruding on the natural scene. And some people argue that nature and artifice are a false dichotomy! I wonder how they can maintain that point of view after reading a book like Walden?… And so I’ll go to church on Sunday, walking the backstreets to unromantic Maxwell Road, where I might find the graffiti of the prophets written on the sidewalk.
The rain still continues. I just got the trash out in time for pickup and now I have to go to the store. Taking a breather first. I texted Rebecca about resuming the process of hiring a PCA… The magnolia has at least three new blooms: beautiful white flowers.
Ten o’clock. Now the rain has slackened and everything is very quiet. I’ve been to the store and seen Michelle. She was busy making bags of ice and didn’t know I was waiting alone at the counter until I grabbed her attention. Michelle doesn’t like making ice. Probably no one else does either… It occurs to me to think about beauty, or rather the absence of it from my life recently. Yesterday, I suppose you could say the band created some beauty, and this had a healing effect on me. Yet it wasn’t the same beauty as opening a book of poetry by Wallace Stevens. Our band has a rather rough industrial edge. I don’t know what I contribute to the overall sound, but it seems to blend in okay and keep time rolling along. After all, we play rock and roll, not so much the refinement of jazz fusion…
Eleven o’clock. Before long I’ll hear the noise of garbage trucks barreling up and down my street. Sure enough, here comes the first one. If it’s true that a mythology reflects its region, then is it right to say that a soundtrack does the same? Then we might call our band the Maxwell Road Prophets. The intelligence of our soil… while the trucks boom and clank throughout the neighborhood collecting trash.
Recently I’ve been doing more writing in my blank book and getting away from electronica. I said somewhere that I don’t care if I never type on another PC keyboard, because it reminds me of the office job I had 15 years ago. It was data entry and very bad for the soul. I got addicted to alcohol and also to typing, and became a kind of machine hooked to a machine. And I externalized the contents of my mind to my computer in order to preserve them, like a sort of cloning process. In essence, the activity was quite sick and unnatural, the type of thing D.H. Lawrence would despise. It was like a mental blood transfusion, a vampiric exchange from me to the computer. It sucked the soul right out of me. So I’ve been trying to get away from that old habit to be able to live naturally and happily… Speaking of Lawrence, I still haven’t read his stuff in a long time. It doesn’t mean I don’t think about it. He had a healthy horror of industry that I could resonate with. I regret to see his work going neglected nowadays. He could inspire us all to be more human and alive… The sun is beginning to clear the roofline across the street from me. Yesterday it was beautiful all day. Today there’s Heidi at two o’clock. I guess I’d better get over to the store to buy my food and Snapples.
Quarter of nine. I just got back. The sky is cloudless and azure. Michelle wasn’t working today, but I didn’t ask any questions. Cathy checked out my purchases. No one in the store was particularly smiley this morning. A big shipment of food had been delivered in gray plastic crates, so Suk and Cathy were sort of preoccupied with inventory and getting ready to unpack. Then I ran into Derek on the way back home. Wade had hired him for his HVAC company. I tend to judge those guys for their politics. Wade used to fly a big MAGA flag at the top of his pole in the front yard. It’s just a rather sad situation with the neighbors. Way out east on Maxwell Road, my church makes an oasis in this political desert. The demographics are very interesting, the way people are zoned to different places. When it isn’t interesting, it can be a little disturbing.
Seven fifty five.
The clouds appear like molten iron in the east. History never repeats itself. Or not intentionally, like a sleeping Sphinx. The inside of my house is a wreck from negligence. Sometimes it bugs me, other times I can excuse it by some mental trick. The supervisor at my job accused me of doing only what I wanted to do. I resented him for saying that because he was a hypocrite moralist. Probably the one who judges me is myself. Occasionally I run into people who criticize… And sometimes history repeats itself.
Quarter after nine. Michelle said it was good to see me this morning. At eight forty, the store was quite busy with customers. I waited in line for a minute to check out. During that time I looked at myself on the surveillance screen above the sandwich display, wryly noting my male pattern baldness. It’s Monday and people were on break. A small part of me misses the job I had fifteen years in the past, but there was nothing beautiful about labor. Only when Supertramp came on the radio was I pleased, and then I regretted that I hadn’t the time to make music myself.
Today I ought to have plenty of time to soak up some nice French poetry and meditate on the Ideal. Out of the industrial litter of ashes, butts, gravel, and fast food debris rises the full moon, enormous and red, close enough to touch. It’s hard to see the moon when you’re on a hamster wheel, reliving the same day, day after day. Once in the springtime years ago I saw a young student on the campus smelling the flowers. At the time, I sort of judged him for a weirdo. Now I think he was brilliant.
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.
It’s comfortable in the house. Heavy gray overcast; it’s supposed to rain again, but I beat it when I went to the store. The customer ahead of me at the cashier was Hispanic, but everyone else was White. He bought a lot of stuff and put it in his backpack. Melissa was friendly to him. I saw him head up N. Park after my turn was done. It’s hard to describe the feeling I get from being inside the revamped market. Something is ineffably missing about it, something lost in the translation; it seems to lack a soul in a way. The staff is still very personable and friendly, but in some sense dishonest or constrained. It’s much different from the old establishment where it was okay to be human. You walk in the front door and get an impression of grayness, like a kind of ambiguity and apathy. This ambiance hangs like a shadow over the place. The same charcoal outside is reflected in the store’s interior. Basically it’s become dehumanized. Yesterday afternoon I observed that the deli was open for service, though they had to keep it outdoors. A few guys were having a beer just outside the building and visiting together. I was trudging by with my bass guitar on my way to see Mike and Ron for practice… Aesop is whining for his breakfast, so I will feed him right now.
Nine ten. The band did a good version of “Mincer” yesterday. It was recorded, but the levels were too high, resulting in digital distortion. Maybe we can invest in a better microphone or app for making music recordings. On my arrival I told Mike I was feeling rather mental, but everything worked out okay. I played a lot of notes yesterday, perhaps too many. It sounded a little too busy to be tasteful, yet I had fun doing it… Church is going to start soon, and again I’ve stayed home. Someday this time will pass and I won’t take note of it anymore. Today is a good day to relax.
Four thirty. There’s just a light rain or drizzle right now. I’m not having a great day, but it’s not bad either. It’s better when I have people to see; being alone sucks. I get tired of the Internet and social media; it isn’t quite real. You’re only being intimate with your computer or device if you look at it a certain way. Except for going to the store every morning, each entire day is spent alone. My pen pal is a person I’ve never met and likely never will. What kind of life is this, subsistence in cyberspace? It’s totally unnatural, but we do it because it’s easier than dealing with each other in the flesh. The world is already so depersonalized from the one I grew up with, back when people answered their phones, and phones were rotary dial. For a long time I didn’t trust where technology was taking us; I’d read a lot of Lawrence and taken his warning seriously. Evidently most people missed his novels and stories. Now his voice is lost in the crowd of voices, like a whisper in a hurricane, ineffectual and tragic. But this doesn’t change the fact that he was probably right about our future; indeed we’ve fulfilled his prophecy and continue to do so. Someday nothing will be left of our humanity or of the natural world— and least of all the unheeded words of D.H. Lawrence.
It is just now sunrise. Another four days have gone by, which means I have to buy dog food again. At eight o’clock I’ll head out. As I said before, I no longer need a disguise. I’m a decent bass player but I’m not a rockstar; just a guy who has a skill. For our next practice I’ll use my kit bass, the one I built myself.
Eight forty. It’s super cold outside. A few other customers were ahead of me in line at checkout. I thought a little ruefully about the past, before the market became more sophisticated and mass production. It seems less personal this way, with computerized registers and the surveillance system, and the staff having to watch what they say. Less personal and less romantic. More regimented, like an assembly line or part of a vast factory, industrial and soulless. But I cleaned my mental slate, thinking on the adventure of the present and future. I began my sobriety with the attitude that “the past is a bucket of ashes,” and accordingly a kind of indeterminism that refutes Freud. This got my recovery underway. On Sunday morning we’re having church again, at a capacity for 26 people. In spite of everything, we must plow our way ahead with what is important to us. Nothing is more important to me than sobriety. On this, everything else stands or falls.
Nine forty. Each new day wears a different aspect, and no two days are alike. When you erase the past, anything in the future is possible, and determinism collapses like a house of cards. That is the meaning of freedom and positive change.
Quarter after nine.
Another nice day is underway. I won’t go to the store until FedEx has delivered my laptop. Aesop shows that he might have a health problem, so I will monitor him today and see how it goes. My music day went very well yesterday. I slept okay, but my dreams were unpleasant. Something about the end of our sex lives, along the lines of D.H. Lawrence. I read a lot of his stuff when I was younger, and he was prophetic in many ways. He abhorred technology and industry because they rob us of our humanity. People should have taken a warning from his writing, but of course we were too stupid to pay attention. As a consequence, we’re looking at the sterilization of the human race and general ill health. If the body is the soul, as Lawrence stated, then our soul is withering away while the machine head takes control. Probably there’s no going back now because we still refuse to listen to good sense. Just be hopeful that the machines have a heart… It’s Friday, the day of filming the church service. If my package comes early enough, then I’ll likely go participate. I’ve let them know the situation in advance. I wish I’d stocked some food yesterday for today but all’s well that ends well… I think I’ll restring my bass today and play it this afternoon. Where there is music there is hope.