I’m back from going to the market, where I went around the big dairy truck by the storefront. Thomas was low key and lackadaisical as always, a young guy with few worries and his whole life ahead of him. The day is starting out cloudy and cool. Everything seems dull and gray, apathetic and not very pretty. Maybe it’s the industrial quality of the landscape that gets to me sometimes, with power lines crossing everywhere and oceans of asphalt and concrete: boxy little houses and planted trees, and the traffic of cars and trucks with dummy drivers. This is suburbia for you. Life in America. We get used to the geometry of it, the feeling of existing in a box and having around us sharp angles and lines, unlike the round rolling open country or miles of wooded hills outside the city’s perimeter. I thought of Joni Mitchell: “You just picked up a hitcher / A prisoner of the white lines on the freeway.” I never noticed the oxymoron before: she’s bound and yet the freeway is a free place. It’s a paradox. You may not learn something new every day, but still you do occasionally.
I got a contradictory letter from the food stamp people, so I have to get to the bottom of that. Meanwhile, Gloria fell when we were about to go to Bi Mart. Her knee buckled. So I’ll probably walk over there later today. It’s just one of those days. It happens to be my nephew’s birthday, but we don’t get along together very well.
We wound up going to Bi Mart anyway, where I went inside by myself to buy three simple items. On the way home we took a detour, making a circle through N Park and Horn Lane and back on River Road. Those serpentine streets remind me of my mother’s “back ways.” The houses are very old and everything is canopied by green trees, almost like being in a dark wood. You feel something like Hansel and Gretel, lost in the forest and chancing on a gingerbread house full of treasure. It’s a place I don’t visit very often, but only dream about sometimes. Now the sun makes an overture of shining, breaking the spell.
I’ve got Gloria at nine o’clock this morning, so while I was at the store I bought her a sugar free Snapple tea. They had forecast light rain soon but I was skeptical and left my umbrella at home. At one point on Maxwell Road I was totally alone: no cars or pedestrians anywhere; just me for that stretch between River Road over the bridge to Prairie Road, a panorama of silent grayness above and below the horizon. Inside, I met with one other customer, a man who wanted to buy two coffees and three bagels, then fumbled for his wallet… which he had forgotten at home. Lisa saved his things behind the counter while he went back to get his money. The same thing happened to me maybe twelve or thirteen years ago, at night when I wanted a bottle of wine. So I felt kind of bad for the guy. I bought my stuff, maxing out my food stamps for the month, and headed out the door. I was on the sidewalk when the prodigal customer returned in his pickup truck and crossed in front of me. A few seconds later the rain started coming down, not hard; so I put up my hood, reflecting a bit on situational irony. And just now the sun comes out.
I’m feeling kind of grumpy this morning. Outside it’s a cloudy twilight before the dawn. I half wish I could skip the store today because of the person who works on weekends. But we all have to get along with each other. I feel like a fish out of water, like Hotspur or like Rip Van Winkle, trying to survive in a world that has changed. The world doesn’t really speak my language. It’s similar to talking Middle English in the modern day: misunderstanding on both sides… Aesop just gazed questioningly at my shopping bag, looking for chicken strips. Meanwhile, the rain has stopped until again this afternoon, so I should be able to get to the market okay. The grumpy mood is improving as I anticipate a Snapple tea. It might clear my head somewhat.
Eight thirty. The forecasters made a mistake, for it’s raining right now and the backyard is gloomy dark. I’m sitting it out and then I’ll make my trip… The music I hear is “Kicker” from Chick Corea. At one point in my life I wanted to be like John Patitucci on bass guitar, but no one in Eugene seemed to be doing jazz fusion. I even got myself a beautiful Yamaha 5 string bass and was burning to play it with someone else. It didn’t pan out and two years later I sold it to a music student at the university. I heard that he used that bass all through his schooling.
Nine thirty. I only got rained on going one way, so my timing was pretty good. The raspberry tea tasted fab, and Aesop got a peanut butter cookie. If you can’t always get what you want, sometimes you get what you need, like pennies from heaven.
“Knowledgeability.” I opened Apple Notes and typed this word in for spelling accuracy. A funny kind of word: take “knowledge” plus “ability” and jam them together. It came up in my blank book because I was writing of how my former band mates paid me a compliment on my knowledge of music and other things: and yet I wasn’t sure how to spell this simple word. Was I supposed to omit the “e” in “knowledge” before adding “ability?” Sometimes the purest simplicity escapes me, like the color of a person’s eyes or even the shirt they are wearing. Call me obtuse. Call me absentminded.
The weather today will be much like yesterday, sunny and around 90 degrees… After seeing my friend’s total misinterpretation of a Joyce story, I feel compelled to comment on how sexless our society is nowadays. I believe it started with George Bush and his policy of abstinence being the best contraceptive. That was 15 years ago, but it seems we never recovered from his attitude. And then there was the general American obsession with dogs, as if they could be more important than human relationships. Not to mention the fact that we neuter and spay them without giving it a thought… I just gave Aesop his breakfast. It’s an odd thing to consider the sterilization of humanity over the last two decades. And it’s a wearisome uphill battle to try to remedy the situation. It makes me want to print a story like “Altar of the Dead” by Henry James a billion times over for everyone to see. People can probably look it up on Project Gutenberg anyway.
Hopefully you can read this story without missing the irony. If you decide to go ahead with it, know that you’re in good hands.
Quarter after one in the morning.
I got a little bit of sleep since nine o’clock tonight, and kept dreaming of a book by Erasmus called The Praise of Folly. I may never learn the significance of this book to me. It was part of the old literary canon, now all but obsolete, making me feel like an anachronism. In fact, the book somewhere describes the silliness of mistimed wisdom, which my life seems to epitomize. But even the existence of an anachronism must have some kind of a purpose, or else I could just stop writing, get a mindless job, dissipate my brain away, and perish into obscurity. Would any sort of God be pleased if I spit in my own face and just gave up my projects? I’ve got 583 followers on WordPress, acquired over four and a half years. Some bloggers have more than ten thousand followers. I don’t know how they do it. I’m only a tiny blip on the website’s radar, yet I still persist to chuck up nuggets of misplaced wisdom. It’s almost as if I were a mummy brought back to life to explain the ways of antiquity. Maybe that’s my task in life: to be an archivist of old stuff, bringing up the rear of the process of history, crystallizing life’s events to perfection for all posterity.
And to do it with beauty and style.