My case manager is coming to see me tomorrow for an appointment. Since thinking about it, I’ve decided I’m going to request a different person for the job. What had been elusive to me is now quite clear: C— treats me like a moron. I may be psychotic but I’m not an idiot. There’s nothing wrong with my IQ, so why does he condescend to me like some kind of fool? My guess is that he doesn’t have his own mental health issues, so he’s kind of clueless on how to relate to clients. Unfortunately it comes across quite offensive to me, even insulting. There’s a phrase in Ulysses that I remember: “Hooray for the goddamned idiot!” It stuck with me and I said to my professor, “I’m not stupid.” He looked surprised and said, “I don’t think you’re stupid at all!” It was before my diagnosis with the illness, yet it’s still true that, with the right medication, my mind is very clear and sharp.
Quarter after nine.
I’ve bought a small package of cream cheese so I can hide Aesop’s pill inside a piece of it. I slept in today; guess I was tired since the long trek to Silver Lane yesterday afternoon. The air outside is a bit less polluted than lately but we still could use a good rain. At five I got up and read “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry.” It’s essentially about the commerce of the poet with posterity through his language, time not being a factor. I think Byron also wrote a poem or two on the same theme. Joyce likely read both the Whitman and Byron and used the idea in Portrait of the Artist. Maybe it’s not a matter of who had the idea first, but who could write it the best. It seems like forever ago that I studied Joyce. I wonder if he and Virginia Woolf might’ve made a good match? He claimed that he didn’t care for intellectual women… In a few months the centenary for Ulysses will be over with. Did anybody read it again or for the first time? The professor I knew said he considered it his public service to lead students through Ulysses. Probably the book will always be celebrated but unread due to its difficulty and reputation for the same.
Ten thirty. The pill in the cream cheese went down like a charm. I’ll remember that for next time… At the market, Thomas told me he’s studying computer programming at the community college, just a two year degree. As he spoke I was distracted by a white object in his ear that looked like a coiled cigarette butt. I have no idea what it really was or the purpose of it. I also saw a dubious character, tall and slouching with long black hair, carrying two fishing rods and a tackle box, enter the store. I imagined that he had gone fishing in Kelly Pond, but you wouldn’t score anything very good to eat out of that hole. Times are strange, but even stranger when you hang out by the convenience store. I don’t know if I see an average cross section of people or if it’s a hive for weirdos. In the latter case, I’m one more of them.
I realized almost too late that today is Bloomsday! I haven’t done anything Irish to celebrate it, either, except to listen to U2 in the past two weeks. What are others going to do on this day that honors James Joyce?
Eleven twenty at night.
I don’t like to consider the money aspect of things like some guys do. Indeed, the cynicism about the oligarchy etc is very trendy today. We are not what we are by virtue of our bank accounts or our sources of income. It’s a fallacy to say money makes the world go round when what really does it is love. Somebody in a high place set a bad example for everyone by replacing the ❤️ with the💲. Every situation is slow to change, particularly public opinion, but I thought I’d help it along as I can. Try dusting off the old Beatles collection and play “Money Can’t Buy Me Love.” John Lennon said, paraphrased, “You in the cheap seats clap your hands, and you in the balcony just rattle your jewelry…” Maybe that’s a bit cynical too, though his intentions were good. There’s an episode in Ulysses that refers to the “foot and mouth disease,” which infects most people from time to time. More important is the recurring theme of “metempsychosis” that brings everybody together, regardless even of race or ethnicity.
“He proves by algebra that Hamlet’s grandson is Shakespeare’s grandfather and that he himself is the ghost of his own father.”
While it sounds like nonsense, Joyce pulls off something like this with his book. The question is whether we really treat each other like family.
Nine twenty five.
I walked through the foggy morning to the market where it surprised me to see Doug behind the counter. I have no idea what the situation is, and maybe it’s none of my business. I got in and out of there and didn’t say much to anyone. Again I observe how the store has become less personal and human than when Belinda owned it. Now it’s an economic enterprise, a game of numbers and quantities above all else. The customers themselves are numbers as well… On my way there and back along Maxwell Road and N. Park I went very carefully, keeping my eyes open to the traffic. I dunno anymore. Everything seems so desolate and lifeless— dead, like the Ireland of the James Joyce story. We need an infusion of humanity in our lives, but we stubbornly persist in error. We’ve made a desert of the places where we live, refusing to love each other, rendering ourselves robotic and heartless. I’ll be looking forward to Groundhog Day, which happens to be Joyce’s birthday, and the anniversary of the publication of Ulysses a hundred years ago. They say the pen is mightier than the sword. Perhaps the centennial is a test of this proverb.
Another dreary winter morning with a touch of fog. Cold: 37 degrees out. Frankly I’m depressed lately, so it was an effort to drag my feet to market today. Heather had on her Ghost of Gatsby T-shirt, an advertisement for a local rock band. I understand that they’re pretty good, though I imagine they are much younger than I am. I’m a dinosaur of rock, pretty much. I like most things that are done intelligently and with quality. Accordingly, this morning I bought myself a new hardcover copy of Ulysses, and I realized then that this year is the centennial of its publication in 1922 in France. Its theme of universal love makes me self conscious of the way I proceed about my life: am I a hypocrite? I’m just an old bachelor, irresponsible and free as a bird, instinctively pulling away from entanglement with women. I don’t want to compromise in any way for any reason; and the price of this is the loneliness I often feel. Can I honestly say “I love everybody” when everyone is a stranger to me, or is this a kind of intellectual stunt, a delusion by dint of mental gymnastics? It’s the sort of objection that Sartre would raise. Maybe it’s easier to feel universal love with a bellyful of beer or wine? Aesop is hungry for breakfast, so I won’t put it off any longer…
Ten o’clock. I’m trying to think of a counter argument to support Joyce. The world would be a better place if everyone held the same love in their hearts and shared it with everybody. It is good to read Ulysses because we all could use a dose of humanization. We all need to be churched in James Joyce.
Quarter of nine.
I wasn’t feeling so great when I stepped out the front door and set out for the market. Just one of those things. It’s another gray morning like yesterday, a chill 41 degrees, so I put up my hood outdoors and strolled along quite slowly. As I was getting out of bed I thought of maybe giving Ulysses another read to see the things I’d missed the first time. The book is more than just an encyclopedia of random details. But if I do that, then I might as well give Carl Jung a second chance also, for both he and Joyce were collective thinkers. And you know, after all, collectivism may not be for me, or perhaps it depends on my mood on any particular day. How important is this vision of the unity of humankind? There’s an element of Christianity in this: love your neighbor as yourself, suggesting the identity of self and other. Yet this wasn’t what I was thinking on my way to the store today. I bought a Coca-Cola this time— and missed the polar bears on the red label. Just now, my dog Aesop rejected his breakfast again. So many little things can throw off the harmony and peace if we let them. It’s hard to keep ourselves together when everybody has a will and interest of their own. Still, there is something good to say about the thing called fellow feeling. It’d be nice if someone sort of translated Ulysses into plain English for everyone to understand it. The very obscurity of it contributes to the confusion we all experience.
Quarter after nine. I think I might schedule a ride to take me to the bookstore for tomorrow. I don’t know; everyone is so apathetic these days, it doesn’t matter what I do. Yesterday I got pretty excited thinking about my birthday next month. I’ll be 55 years old, and it happens that 5 is my soul number in numerology. Five means things like sex and rock and roll and other extraordinary pleasures. I might get my heart’s desire or then again maybe not. Nothing happens unless you put some effort into the endeavor. As of now, nothing is happening anyway. There isn’t even a breath of air outdoors to disturb the trees. It’s cloudy and cold, gray and lifeless as a cadaver. But Aesop ate his dog food and gives some signs of life. There’s something alive. I just heard a mail truck over on N. Park to break the spell of silence. “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls / And tenement halls.” Hello darkness, my old friend… I’d kind of like to buy a nicer edition of Dubliners. This gives me an excuse to go to the bookstore tomorrow. I see so much of people missing opportunities to enjoy life, and religious asceticism makes the situation worse. You won’t go to hell for having a good time today. And yet I feel I’m whistling in a hurricane. “It is better to have loved and lost / Than never to have loved at all.”
People just aren’t getting it. The Covid pandemic is nothing. What’s killing us is an epidemic of lovelessness. I know people who have never been in love their whole life, whose heart is inside their head. The world could really benefit from reading Dubliners by James Joyce, but since no one is doing this, I offer a post about passion. No one is alive whose life energy is entirely from the neck up. D.H. Lawrence said the body is the soul. Still, no one listens. I knew a former pastor who, symbolically, was paralyzed from the neck down. He stated that the job of human beings was to “subdue the earth,” whatever that means, but I think he referred to his own body. In my experience, spiritualization is sterilization, and it’s everywhere. People are a bunch of severed heads running around, feeling absolutely nothing. When will we realize that our heart is in our chest and not in our skull? We are a species of the undead, merely animated corpses, and again, to quote James Baldwin, “Funerals are for the living.” The shadow of the Cathedral twists us completely out of shape. And the New York City subway tunnels and rumbles its way through the dead of night, threatening to irrupt into broad daylight.
Seven thirty five.
The sun is just coming up, and there’s frost on Roger’s rooftop. I got a better sleep last night but my dreams were not lucid. At midnight I finished up another blank book, commenting on the faces I saw at Bi Mart yesterday afternoon. They were all unfamiliar to me, so how can I love them all universally? It is Christian doctrine to love your neighbor as yourself, but when everyone is a stranger it can be quite difficult. I think this is why Joyce is important to remember, pointing out the relatedness of all humanity, like a big family. But for me, family is a problem, and has been ever since I fell ill thirty years ago. A lot of bad feeling between our homes, a Hatfield and McCoy feud. Or more like a Cold War. So that my family appears to me as those strange faces in the Bi Mart parking lot yesterday… Aesop doesn’t feel well right now, so I’m going to watch him for a little while.
Quarter after eight. I know that my mother never would’ve wanted for her family to be so divided. Perhaps it ought to be a family unified in Christ, and the same church for all of us. It’s only resentment in me that gives me the defiant independent spirit. Or maybe these ideas are just learning from books, not from experience? I get a bellyful of ideology and would like to level everything down to what you can see and hear, taste and smell and touch. Now the sun blasts into the front window. A few leaves have turned on my maple and oak. I’m ready for a little adventure, but I fear that my dog is unwell this morning.
Nine twenty five. The people at the store looked rather shabby, including me, and spirits were pretty low. I ran into Melissa and her boy at checkout and said hi. Cathy arrived at nine o’clock and finished my transaction at the register. When I was going home I thought of Melissa’s kid, asking myself if I’d ever be mature enough to be a father. I’m probably too egoistic to consider such a thing. And I thought what is it all for when you bring a child into the world.