Social Animals

Ten thirty. I would feel lonely this weekend if I didn’t go to church tomorrow. Every friend counts, no matter what they believe. I’ve gotten out of the habit of church attendance, and it’s really different anyway with the COVID restrictions. If the weather is fine this afternoon, I can go back and get a bucket of ice cream for fun. My favorite flavor is Espresso Madness, but I have a hard time with the caffeine. I might buy it anyway… or not, since I remember my reaction to those white chocolate pretzels for Christmas: I was laid out for a couple of hours in bed. The buzz and the mood swing were too much for me… I do get lonely and sad when there’s nothing going on in my life. Mostly I yearn for the company of very intelligent people, but it’s very strange how everyone is scared of the virus, as if they had no backbone at all.

Eleven forty. Forget it. I’m going to read my Nietzsche for a while…

Quarter after one. I realize that reading Nietzsche has been infectious for me. The material has incubated in my mind and hatched out a miniature clone of the German philosopher himself… for better or worse. My memory reels back to December 1987, when my mother and I made a trip to the Literary Lion on the Downtown Mall. She had special ordered a book by a local author titled A Letter Home. It was about the Oregon pioneers. I just remember how soon the afternoon grew dark for the wintertime, and somehow that bookstore makes me think of Nietzsche. It must have been a selection among their classics. I really loved my mom, and I miss her today. She never wanted to stop drinking, but she didn’t overindulge it like I did. My drinking was suicidal up to the point where it was a choice of living or dying. I picked life, sacrificing even the dearest things, treating it as an adventure. Now I don’t know what to do about my situation with the church, but the door stands open for me to come and go… A neighbor nearby mows her lawn. There’s sunshine outside, with some colossal clouds of white and gray. On days like this I used to kill time by drinking beer; I was lonely like today: maybe I should make a visit to Deb at the market? 

Lion Spirit

Seven thirty five.

I spent a nervous night for some reason. But you know, the approval of other people matters not a jot, especially if you’re familiar with a little Nietzsche. The church is putting pressure on the members to get vaccinated: just another example of this junior high school mentality…

The streets were black with damp, but the sun was out among small cirrus clouds. I was glad to see Melissa again and hear her deep melodic voice. On my way to the store, my mind revolved old lectures I attended in college on the topic of Nietzsche, particularly how individuals change from their original nature for the sake of approval. He suggested that the desirable thing was to reconnect with one’s natural state. So I thought about these stupid masks we wear and how we all jump through flaming hoops just because other people are doing it. How important are belongingness needs, when it comes right down to it?

Eight thirty five. I bought a chef salad because I wanted it, and cottage cheese and two Snapples. My dog, Aesop, is the best. I can actually communicate with him like a rational animal. Here comes a blast of sun, alternating with shadows, typical of March in these parts. I’m enjoying this moment, listening to raucous crows off to the east. 

Consequences

Quarter of nine. I canceled the procedure, so that’s a worry off my mind. The rain is steady but light. I see a scrub jay and hear a couple of crows. I’ll go to the store after I feed the dog…

The potato salad yesterday was ace, so I bought another pound of it this morning. I had a guilty conscience while out and about, thinking I didn’t deserve anything nice. The crows on the power lines agreed, croaking their disapproval down on me… Somebody sprayed black graffiti on the white wall outside Karen’s salon. I don’t suppose she’ll be very happy about that. Why does she attract so much bad luck? And it makes me wonder if misfortune happens as a result of people having a tragic flaw of character. Where we have a weakness is where we’ll get hit.

Ten o’clock. I think the word “consequences” simply means the events that follow from the actions people choose. It doesn’t necessarily mean the death knell of moral judgment. No one will throw rocks at you when you make a mistake, or at least hopefully not… Walking in the rain was kind of good for me today. Circumstances like the weather don’t always go my way, so I have to work around them— with a jacket and an umbrella and the wits nature gave me. Sometimes our virtues prove to be a vice, and the converse. The same qualities that redeem us can also wreck us, depending on the situation. Nor do necessities grow on trees.

Quarter after eleven. Mike just canceled rehearsal for this weekend. I took the opportunity to say that we need to hold a powwow regarding the last two practices. This might get me in hot water, but I’m a grownup and not afraid of anybody. 

Dans la Lune

Quarter of noon. I ate the potato salad like a glutton and opened the mango Snapple. I’m in a weird mood today. I know I’m dreading my procedure a month away, and I wonder how I can weasel out of it. My healthcare insurance people have sent me another package. I imagine it’s a cancer detection kit. I won’t open it for a while… Part of me wishes I could drink beer and really enjoy my life again, but drinking enough is drinking too much. When I start to drink, there’s no way I can stop. Probably I’m just looking for a means of escape from the unpleasant situation. It feels rather cold in here. At the same time, the sun is coming out. I don’t feel as if my life were under my control, but I’m going to do something about that.

Quarter of two. I gave my white Fender bass a good workout, thinking of my old friend JP, a very talented musician who had chronic depression. We met on a beautiful Labor Day in 2003 at his place in the Whitaker neighborhood. His friend Dave was also there and played guitar… I feel very different today. The weather is like spring, a time of rebirth and renewal, but it’s also calling up thoughts and images in my memory. And I ponder why my worldview can’t be Romantic like it was 18 years back. The moon was always a beautiful sight, and the idea of it inspired me with dreams and poetry— and madness. The moon compelled tides of alcoholism the same as the ocean. Eventually I forgot that it exists in the sky or in my mind. I linked the essence of it with my mother somehow. Now it’s merely a stone in the heavens, devoid of personal meaning. Maybe there’s something wrong with that? When I behold the moon above, I’m surprised that it isn’t cracked in two pieces. It has withstood a lot of therapy, but not its copy within my soul. What would it take to restore it to wholeness and light? 

In Dreamland

Eight forty.

The sunshine makes everything seem like brand new, though temporarily. I recall the wildfire smoke from last September, how it resembled nuclear winter and the beginning of the end. I think it actually altered the climate from blazing summer to more temperate fall. Then in October it finally rained. My imagination conjured ways for the human race to go on, by colonizing Mars or maybe Venus, although I knew that wasn’t feasible. Now my mind scrolls ahead to this summer with some apprehension. But for today, the keel is fairly even… Aesop just had lamb and gravy dog food. When I stepped out on the porch, I had two packages waiting. One of them contains Aesop’s marrow snacks. Then I shuffled off to the store. The moon appeared in the west again, like just another cloud in the sky. If Hans Pfaal could get to the moon by balloon travel, then surely we can terraform it to live on? Maybe only in our dreams. If we could but colonize Dreamland… I bought two Snapples and a pound of potato salad. I didn’t notice much this morning, but I was alert enough to score some new products. The forecast said it’ll be another warm day, probably around 60 degrees. I keep hoping that this year will be better than the last one. Perhaps in certain ways it is already.

Nine forty. Life doesn’t seem to conform to anyone’s theoretical paradigms, yet we use them to try to pigeonhole our senseless existence. Every perspective is a piece in a patchwork quilt. I imagine the assembled limbs and body parts of Frankenstein’s monster, rudely sewn together and reanimated by a secret process. This is science, the state of our knowledge… In my mind I hear snatches of the band’s last practice. We didn’t sound too bad here and there. We only need a little discipline plus a bit of inspiration. We’re at our best during a free jam, when things are pure and fresh, and slower and groovier. This Saturday will be interesting. 

Above the Fog Cover

Five o’clock.

The same old Pink Floyd song keeps coming up: “Wish You Were Here.” I don’t know why. Pastor returned my phone call yesterday evening with some information about AA groups that meet at our church. And then I’ll probably go back to church service this Sunday just to be around healthy influences. The phone visit with Heidi was very nice, and it will be a regular thing on Tuesdays from now on… I didn’t sleep well. There’s this bit of unfinished business I have to take care of. Also I have to make a decision on the band: to stay or to go. Polly said that their habits were not going to change, and I agreed with her.

Six o’clock. At the first light of day I’m going to the store. I need help with the photocopier, I think. Aesop is begging me for a treat. The sun will come up in a half hour, but it’s cloudy outside.

Quarter after nine. I’ve put my letter in the mailbox for the carrier to pick up. I was having paranoid dreams about getting it done. Finally I think I can relax again. It’s very foggy out this morning, and it’s supposed to clear up this afternoon and be another beautiful day. I believe I understand better what Impressionism was partly about. It’s a kind of missing link between Romanticism and the decline of the Absolute in the 20th Century. Probably many of us would like to return to the 19th Century for its beauty and optimism about spiritual things. And I suppose no one denies us the right to embrace the beautiful and true, however much technology conquers nature. My copy of Mallarme traveled all the way here from France, taking a month for delivery. The language of another country far away was brought to my door, something like a brush with the sublime, and rekindling some old knowledge that had lain dormant a long time in my brain. And some new ideas clicked for me that I hadn’t known before. Do you believe in eternity? Is there a fourth dimension behind the veil of the natural world? Maybe it’s an issue of wanting to believe it, because all the speculation in the world cannot unveil the truth. Maybe again I’d have nothing to write about without this problem of knowledge… Aesop has been fed his breakfast and the house is nice and warm. When the fog and the clouds lift, it should be a warm and sunny afternoon like yesterday. 

Clair de Soleil

Six o’clock.

Less than an hour till the dawn. At two o’clock this afternoon I have a phone appointment with Heidi, the most important item today. I kept dreaming that I was supposed to go to class this morning and turn in my assignment. In reality, there’s a bit of paperwork I need to get done. I can do that today and mail it off as soon as possible. 

I’ll probably call Polly this morning, after her son goes to work. I don’t feel very intellectual right now. A song by Steve Miller Band popped into my head, very redneck sounding, so I thought of my brother drinking beer and singing karaoke. He made a competition out of it. I’m glad I wasn’t there to hear it.

Seven o’clock. I need large envelopes and a postage stamp.

Nine ten. I’ve been to the store already. In the western blue I spotted the thumbprint of the waning moon, cool and aloof as I marched mechanically along Maxwell Road. It’s a sunny morning like tangerine peel. I got ahold of my sister and we gabbed for an hour in rambling fashion, but pleasantly enough. I’m thankful that being sober facilitates our relationship. Later today I might be in the mood for a bag of Doritos and some Pace chunky salsa. The sunshine invites such diversions. Maybe I’ll see Deb and Cathy again. Yesterday the atmosphere was lemon and muggy without the humidity; odd for Oregon, and a sign of constant change… I have nothing to deny or to rationalize. My mind is clear as a bell and free as a bird. But I do tend to put things off, to delay and postpone the inevitable. 

Desultory

Quarter of ten in the evening.

This afternoon went rather difficult for me in that I felt a bit tempted to drink beer again. It was one o’clock and warm outside, so I made a run over to the market for Aesop’s Milk-bones. I saw Kat doing some gardening in her front yard and I stopped to hail her. Thinking now, I didn’t know what I was doing. Human behavior is never without a motive, but I was oblivious to mine today when I left the house. In a desultory way I continued on to the store. Dreamily I heard Deb ask me if I wanted to buy a used electric guitar for $150. I declined, saying I already had a guitar. Then another guy spoke up and expressed an interest in it. Under his arm he had six pints of a cheap ice beer, plus he sounded inebriated. Again I ponder why I was at Community Market at one in the afternoon. The warmth of the day inspired a languid and nebulous longing for something I couldn’t name. I came home then and wrestled with myself for the rest of the afternoon. Maybe nobody would’ve cared if I had bought a six pack of a tasty beer today. Then again, perhaps I was the only one sleepwalking through the sultry winter day. 

Flowers

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. 

The Sunny Day

One thirty. I took advantage of the powerful sunshine to make another run for soft drinks. Bought a Snapple and a SoBe strawberry daiquiri. But even with the ideal weather, I saw almost nobody outside. Only one other pedestrian passed me on Maxwell Road. Hank cashiered at the store, shooting the bull with his buddies who frequently visit him on the job. I was hoping to see Deb this afternoon, but no luck. I hovered in front of the cooler for sodas and light beverages a few minutes, trying to make up my mind. One drink seemed as good as another; it didn’t really matter. Then I realized that I could just as well have stayed home. I came to the market merely to prove that I could. I wondered what I was doing there. Certainly not to see Hank. I guess I’d bargained for a better adventure than the one I got. As it happened, there was nothing to see except the glorious sun in the blue sky. 

Back on my own street, I paused to look up at the azure: the same heaven that Mallarme gazed on a century and a half ago, when the Absolute was still taken seriously by mainstream thinkers who employed poetic language to expose it and adore it. So maybe this was the reason I went outside.