I got off to a late start today, but so did Gloria, and she’s coming to work at ten. It rained here overnight after a long wait. Colin told me it might thunder and lightning for the football game this afternoon: the Ducks and the Bruins play in Eugene. I have music in my head by Steve Khan, very pretty jazz fusion, like they don’t make anymore. We have all this technology for creating wonderful things but the inspiration isn’t there. We serve the machines rather than the reverse. I read the devotions email from Pastor a while ago and got the sense that he feels isolated with his beliefs on God and religion. Everything is kind of falling apart like the moral paralysis in Joyce’s Dubliners. Maybe it will thunder down on the Duck game today as a sign from the gods that we have alienated ourselves from nature, strayed too far away from the heart of things. We have also subordinated ourselves to a big machine that neither thinks nor feels in anything like human fashion. The thought of the gods recalls Shinto kami and the worship of nature, a thing we don’t understand anymore with our focus on cell phones and devices. I feel bad for Pastor, alone with his Christian God in a time that has forgotten what’s important. And the Steve Khan goes on playing…
I practiced my bass guitar alone for a while. At first I played a bunch of meandering notes without much meaning, until I felt inspired to do some lines by Pino Palladino, a Welsh session player whose work was popular during the Eighties. So I tuned down a step and picked out “Come Back and Stay” and “Wherever I Lay My Hat.” The last song I played was one by Go West called “Innocence.”
The switch to this cool early fall weather has me confused about how to feel. I almost wanted to cry once today. It’s just weird, and I’ve also got the lonelies this afternoon. I recall that twenty years ago in August I was going to volunteer at the UO Knight Library. But the job was so computer intensive and the tasks so numerous that I was overwhelmed and had to abort my plan. I took the bus home and on the way, I remember watching the driver shift gears like a machine servant to a machine: a Lawrentian horror.
In October of the same year I placed an ad in the paper seeking other musicians to jam with, and got a call from a guitarist who was friends with some local celebrities. So we got together at the lot on W 11th and I auditioned with Marc and Tim. It worked out pretty well, so we kept doing that, and did a gig somewhere downtown and made some recordings. My family meanwhile was skeptical of my activities and my mom had been gone for a year. On the sidewalk beyond the lot of woodsheds was a hotdog cart dubbed Dawgs on the Run. When the days were abominably dark and rainy with the autumn I would go buy a Coney Island before rehearsal. But I often got the nagging feeling that I was in the wrong place, hanging with the wrong people. And my mother wasn’t around to justify what I was doing. For a while I was screwed.
Seven o five.
Maybe it’s time to give blogging a break. I want to be more in touch with people in the flesh here locally rather than intimate with gadgets. I have a Luddite’s dislike of machines that I learned from reading Lawrence half my life ago… I don’t see any fog through my front window, but strips of lavender and pink cloud. It’s a beautiful sunrise like grenadine progressing to salmon with purple smudges. Today promises to be better than my crap day yesterday.
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.