Karen did something very nice for me today. She gave me her green salad and some ranch dressing to take home, telling me she would have chili. She had observed that I’d lost weight because of the meager fare at the market and acted accordingly. Karen said that Kim’s divorce will probably go through okay despite her husband contesting it. He hasn’t been behaving well, not doing what he’s supposed to do. They’d been married for 16 years. I think she was being merciful to him… The sky appears like the mercury in a thermometer, silvery with great puffy clouds. Aesop has been very good ever since Gloria started working with me on housekeeping and personal care. Now the sun comes out a little. Yesterday evening I ordered a book of Adler, generally about his individual psychology, which may go well with what I know of Freud, though I’m not a fan of Jung anymore. Eugene is a big Jungian town everywhere you go, so they tend to shove it down your throat. Forcible indoctrination is never a good way to get along with people, but rather it’s a kind of violence. The more the pressure, the more others will rebel. Jung may be a mental giant and an institution, but then so is Shakespeare if I want something Romantic to read and talk about… Across the street, Roger potters and tinkers with a mad scientist project, not at all interested in such things.
Quarter of two.
I left a voicemail for Todd regarding getting me on an antidepressant, and a little later I had another Snapple tea and played my Kiloton Bass, which sounds great when I feel good. I did a few Duran Duran songs for the fun of it, and during “Sound of Thunder” the sun came out temporarily as if in answer to the music. I think my brain chemistry is quite touchy these days, so the antidepressant is a good idea if I have any say so about it. I also don’t know if talk therapy does me much good. I kind of dread every Monday morning for that reason. I’m being pushed into situations and maybe I don’t want to be. There’s something wrong with that. I should be able to command my own ship and guide it to any waters I like.
I just went across the street to ask Roger for help with installing a bass pickup, and he smiled and said he’d do it, and to just let him know when. His answer kind of surprised me; I thought he might say no. This favor from him will save me about $100 in labor and cab fare to have a technician do the job. And by the way, the sun has come out in a mostly clear sky.
A lot of thoughts crowd together in my brain. I rummaged through a box of books and picked out The Essential Browning. I can remember where I got it: I was with my dad at the Gateway Mall, and I believe it was the winter of 1995. I miss my parents sometimes.
One fifty five. I was feeling sick as a dog, so I crashed into bed for two hours. I’m not going to play the bass today… The events of my life before 1997 are a confused blur, perhaps because I didn’t write things down regularly. It shocked me to realize that Robert Browning had total faith in the afterlife. Gradually I learned that a lot of people do. I don’t know whether this belief is simple or complex. At the beginning of March 2020 I went with Karen to Darlene’s funeral and observed the service like an outsider. The daughter gave me a hug but never looked in my eyes or spoke to me. Our paths had diverged since grade school. I feel partly guilty for the track I was on, yet it was out of my hands while we were run through the chute. But today I’m aware that I should have been kinder and friendlier to her rather than awkward and embarrassed when we met each other in her workplaces. As it happened, life took a huge crap on me, which might suggest a kind of retribution for being socially insensitive. Maybe by the same token we can hope to be rewarded for our kindnesses.
The morning is still benighted for two more hours, but even so, I might go to the store at opening time: six o’clock, and see Michelle. What makes a nice person nice and a mean person not nice? Michelle is made of sugar and spice, in accord with the old nursery rhyme. In colloquial French, the word for “nice” is sympathique; and “mean” is mechante. And the person who wears a frown is malheureuse. The rain is forecast to start again at noon today. It’s warm enough outside to go without a jacket. I think Aesop would probably like to get more chicken strips, so I’ll oblige him if they still have those. Pretty soon I will leave the house and just pretend there’s an invisible sun in the sky.
Six fifty five. I heard about Michelle’s weekend while I was at the store. More out of control stuff; her life seems quite unmanageable, so I hope she gets some help. Perhaps she’s been a little too nice and not assertive enough with the people who push her buttons. People generally talk about their “spiritual leader” nowadays, but I’m very skeptical of this, of course. No supernatural power is going to take control over your life and make everything better. It’s all up to you to take the wheel and drive your life like a car, with as many passengers as you wish. Even God can take a back seat if you must have one. I won’t go to hell for saying so, either… Now the sun pushes over the rim across the street from me, illuminating gray clouds. The gibbous moon was directly overhead when I went out an hour ago, accompanied by a few stars through an opening in the cloud canopy. Nature is enough.
Quarter after eight.
I totally forgot to buy dog food this morning. Shame on me! So I’ll give Aesop part of my own lunch today. The ground is wet from the overnight rain. Kat waved to me from her living room as I walked past her house. Last night, for some reason I remembered things that happened three years ago, when I was a client at P—. Everybody was such a robot who worked there, or a puppet on strings. In the lobby downstairs I would wait for my taxi when I was done, with a view of the breezeway to the hospital. Some days were better than others, though I often felt judged by the therapists. The nicest person I met there was a guy named D— who had an idea for how to clarify the language. Basically he would purge everything poetic and make it plain and literal, sort of like logical positivism. He was very kind and humorous but troubled. I liked him… I let Aesop know what his breakfast will be today, and now we’re counting down the minutes.
Nine ten. I don’t make a contest of things like I used to. There’s no sense in competition with others. My brother even made a Darwinian thing out of singing karaoke at a local bar, which missed the point completely. I think the best feeling you can have is freedom from guilt and shame that usually result from condemnation by other humans. If you can be remorseless consistently then your life will be carefree… or maybe not. At least we can try to create an earthly paradise for each other, so that heaven is other people.
I suppose I’ll be in limbo for a long time, in the cracks between nothingness and being. I’m not sure of the motive for my intellectual quest, especially when the old canon of classics has been dismantled, dropped entirely, leaving nothing to replace it. In my head I hear archaic music from the forties, the era of big swing bands. One time thirty years ago, as I was passing by Gerlinger Hall on the sidewalk up on Campus in the evening, I heard the sounds of swing music through the windows of the second floor, and I knew that people were dancing to visions of the past. I felt half inclined to go inside and check it out, but I was very shy in my early twenties and continued on my way home. The University was such a cool place to be, yet ever since the illness I’ve felt exiled from what was so dear to me. I was seeing a psychologist who assumed I was “normal” but at the end of that year I passed into the hands of psychiatry, after which nothing was the same. My deepest resentments went to the English department for the terrible snobbery of faculty and staff, an attitude that alienated me from school forever. And now my reality is the psychiatric rehabilitation place and the church, these refuges for freaks and geeks. I found my way there by instinct since I fired my shrink, whose insults I wouldn’t tolerate anymore. The world can be a mean place. And really there’s no excuse for people to act that way, except to say that it is done, it is precedent from time out of mind. Thus it’s no wonder that I shrank from Mean Street and sought a softer way of treating each other. When life sucks, it really sucks, so it’s such a gift sometimes to go where Dickens is still observed.
I found a little surprise in my mailbox a bit ago: a holiday greeting card from my neighbor across the street, Victoria. She is the sister of Bonnie Rose, the youngest of three daughters. The note inside says thank you for always being so kind to me, and thinking of you. So then I headed for the store with a lighter step. I saw on N. Park not one or two, but three squirrels chasing each other in the spirit of fun. The sun had just barely risen behind the clouds. Michelle told me a little of what was going on with the deli next to the store. And the latter will be open for Christmas, as it is every year. When I saw Bonnie Rose approaching in her big black truck, I stepped to the left to let her pass and waved. Once inside again, I put Victoria’s card on top of the bookcase as a reminder that life is really pretty good.
Quarter of nine.
Thanksgiving Day has started out quite nicely. I bought Aesop a special treat of T bone snacks. The peppermint candy ice cream tempted me but I passed today. In the home stretch of my walk, I met with Bonnie Rose in her big black pickup truck. She rolled down the window and wished me a Happy Thanksgiving. I wanted to ask her if she was the one who kept setting up my lawn sign, but there wasn’t time. It was a little like Beauty and the Beast as I trudged up the street in my sapphire hoodie with a full shopping bag. Or maybe Lady and the Tramp. I can remember when she was a young girl and my mother had just passed away, nineteen years ago. Her older sister played the piano and her younger sister shot hoops with their dad in the driveway. The parents divorced a few years back, and now the family of women keep more or less to themselves.
Quarter of ten. The other morning I spun the disc of Rush’s Power Windows and was impressed with their mid eighties sound. Hearing Geddy Lee play his Wal bass made me wish I had another bass with active electronics. Perhaps someday. I wish even more for opportunities to play with other musicians… What I’m thankful for today is my sobriety and the positive effects this has had on my relationships with people. My pen pal thanked me this morning for my kindness, and it’s nice to be perceived that way. I still believe that alcohol is the root of all evil, though I know madness can stem from other factors. It does seem that avoiding alcohol has a magical impact on my fortunes, the year 2020 with its strangeness notwithstanding. It’s miraculous alone that I stayed sober through the trials of this year. I think fleetingly of my parents: they could never have maintained sobriety for three years. Whatever helps me today, my parents had nothing to do with it.
Quarter of noon. The girls were very nice to me this morning, both at the store and the salon. At the red checkout counter, I paused a minute to just be there in the present. There were four of us in line, and Vicki called Cathy away from her unpacking tasks to man the other register. To me, it felt a little like old times, with the difference that I don’t drink anymore. In some ways, I’m still the same old guy as ever. I have more recall available to me as well. My entire life coalesces into coherent sense. At the salon, Angela said they love to have me drop in. Karen was on the phone making someone an appointment. The rain was rather light, thus I could manage the trip without using an umbrella. Just now, the rain is coming down more seriously; I timed my excursion about right. But who cares about getting caught in a little rain? My mother used to think it was a major disaster. I’m glad I’m not a child any longer.
The breakfast burrito was pretty good. Meanwhile the rain keeps coming down. I thought of human kindness, and how it’s universal. You can find it everywhere that there are people. My dog has changed. He enjoys affection from me now and loves to be petted. We didn’t use to have such a bond. It’s something new… As on every Tuesday, the Sanipac garbage truck is making the rounds. We are cozy inside the house and can’t ask for more.
Quarter after ten.
The possum under the house made a big racket early this morning. I missed some sleep because of it. At dawn, I slept in until nine thirty and then fed the dog. My walk to the store was rather difficult. I just felt tired and defeatist. What was the use? So I bought a two liter of Coke to pick myself up. I feel a little bit better now. Sometime between noon and four o’clock today, Damien is coming, so that’s something to look forward to. I wonder now if the key to human happiness might consist in generous acts. I should visit the salon more often than I do. Even if I feel awkward when I go there, still I ought to do it just because it gives someone pleasure. The Vraylar tends to put my thinking in Enlightenment mode, but as Wallace Stevens says, “It is not the reason that makes us happy or unhappy.” Perhaps all the knowledge in the world wouldn’t conduce to joy. Think of Odin, who possessed perfect wisdom, but for whom this was a woeful burden. The Father of the Gods was melancholy because he foresaw their own demise… Yet a little generosity and kindness can go a long way. And it takes my mind off of myself. Let us all share a Coke and a smile, on me.