Tiny Tim

Three o’clock in the morning.

I had dreams of intrigue: of kidnapping people and stealing cars. My nephew Ed came to the house and we did some paperwork together. It might’ve been application for Supplemental Security. In real life, my mother helped Ed with the forms, and he never seemed to appreciate it. His five year old son had leukemia and he couldn’t have afforded the medical bills without government assistance. In the dream, as he left he took a car I had stolen. In reality, Mom made me give him my old Roland synthesizer, which his family sold and used the money to buy a home organ. I always resented this injustice by my mother, and Ed didn’t deserve to take away my keyboard and convert it to an instrument for praising the Lord. Today, it’s hard to say what was right. If Ed’s family was Charles Dickens, mine was probably Scott Fitzgerald. Over time, life has a way of equalizing things. Or at least it makes you think about things with a new perspective. 

Vendredi Soir

Four twenty. I finished reading Macbeth. Now let it incubate for a while. Also, UPS delivered my Mark Egan music. The thunder has come back, and the sky has gone quite dark. I finally scheduled my ride to the X-ray place, for Tuesday morning at nine o’clock. Even now, my lower back gives me a hard time. The sky looks ominous of some heavy weather. But the rain will do much good for the air quality and any fires still burning. It seems like the longer I stay sober, the direr life gets for everyone. I haven’t heard from anyone from church, either. I suppose they will film the service without me, and that’s okay. It has started to rain now. Occasional crackles of thunder. Sky is a very dark gray. I remind myself that the same weather is happening to everyone locally. My paranoia tends to believe I’m being singled out, much like Jonah or Job in the Old Testament. It’s a feeling of delusional guilt for something. But how grandiose is it to think that the god of the weather has singled me out for punishment? It’s a delusion of reference. Psychotic people believe everything that happens is about them…

Six forty. The Mark Egan was pretty good, and would be better if I could listen to it in a comfortable chair with the lights low. It kind of inspires me to do something similar; find a hand percussionist and guitarist and lead the project with my bass. We could go for an ambient sound, perhaps trance; simple and slow, and slightly repetitive. But it’s a long way off with the coronavirus. I could still text Tony the hand drummer and see if he’s into it. The whole point is to be relaxed and serene, and to do it for the sheer pleasure of playing music together. And further, to share the good vibes with people who want to listen… 

More dark gray clouds are moving in, though no more rain is forecast until midnight. It was good to read some Shakespeare. I don’t think Macbeth is supposed to be a likable character, but maybe we’re moved to pity and fear for him anyway. He certainly carries a boulder of guilt for his awful crimes. Why was he so tempted by the prospect of power and glory to murder people for it? And to be emboldened by hearing the prophecies of the witches— only to be deceived by a trick of language. Would anybody do what Macbeth did in his situation? I think the germ of his ambition existed before his first encounter with the weird sisters. So that, spooks or no, Macbeth was always guilty in his heart. 

Vendredi Matin

Eight fifty.

It rained last night, thank goodness, so now you can see the sun and ordinary clouds. I walked to the store and bought a sausage biscuit with egg and cheese. These things lead me to inquire about nature and artifice, or nature and what is man made. During the Renaissance, people believed that nature is God’s art, and that human art imitates nature. Like Plato, they thought that our art was a process of making copies of nature, which in turn copied the spirit world. Some people believe the dichotomy of art and nature is a false one. I don’t know, but it’s very nice to see the natural sun and clouds again. I was also thinking of how the world is “too much with us” when we don’t drink or escape some other way. We are all bound together as current events unfold day by day. What impact does this have on human freedom? Are we like pilot whales who beach themselves following the leader? There’s a song in my head by The Police called “Truth Hits Everybody.” The nostalgia of forty years ago…

Nine fifty. Yesterday morning I began rereading Macbeth. Although the “instruments of darkness” are at work everywhere, Macbeth is still responsible for his ambition for the throne. A murder is just a murder, regardless of the activity of the devil. The prophecy of the weird sisters incites Macbeth to assassinate the King of Scotland, and the deception of the powers that be have set a trap for him— but still he should resist the temptation. Perhaps his will is weak. His decisions are easily swayed by external influences. I guess the bottom line is that Macbeth really wanted the throne for himself. He envisioned the dagger before him from his own wishes… What a gory play! But I think Macbeth was overall rather spineless. As for the element of the supernatural, I don’t really know. Some of it is purely his imagination, as when he sees the ghost of Banquo… I should be finishing the play today, and then I’ll do more thinking on it. 

Sophomore Thoughts

Four thirty. I’m having fun with my laptop now; no painful memories. The wildfires have been such a shock, and now my mind is settling down a bit. Times don’t seem so apocalyptic as on Monday. We’re planning on having the food pantry Saturday, so, conditions allowing, I’ll go help. Seeing Sue and Nancy should be fun. I played my white Precision for what must’ve been 90 minutes. The classic tone inspired me to pick out some Queen songs from the mid- to late-70s. I guess The Game was released in 1980. I haven’t listened to those albums in years. I’d like to hear News of the World and Jazz in their entirety again. John Deacon was a wonderful bass player… Wow, the smoke is still quite dense outside. Aesop is handling the situation okay… I remember, in the band Blueface, how I wanted to cover “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” But with our inept guitars, it wasn’t realistic. You can’t cop a Queen song with just a rhythm section and a lead vocal. I’ve wondered before why I chose bass over guitar; is it just because it’s an easier instrument? But no, I genuinely love the tone of electric bass. It sounds great to me. There’s nothing better than the sound of Chris Squire’s powerful bass on “The Gates of Delirium.” Suddenly, I feel like I did as a sophomore in high school. I bought every Yes record I could get my hands on. I also started listening to Led Zeppelin…

My taste in reading material changed from ERB to stuff with more magic in it: Michael Moorcock and Fritz Leiber, especially. Their writing just seemed more mature somehow. It dealt with essential problems of life, such as death, in a more realistic way. Perhaps it came across sadder and wiser than the adventurousness of ERB. The latter was like reading westerns, with clear-cut heroes and villains, and it was gratifying to see evil punished. But in the other two writers, victories often were pyrrhic. Emotions were more complex and confused, and the truth was ambiguous. It seemed that more serious thought went into their content, and feelings ran deeper. Sure, it was only sword-and-sorcery fiction, but it was comparatively well-done. I also enjoyed Roger Zelazny and Karl Edward Wagner. The second raised questions of the rectitude of selfishness. The antihero, Kane, was brutal and ruthlessly selfish, and even megalomaniacal in the scope of his projects. Basically, he wanted to rule the world himself. He was all about gratification. Where Conan had been power hungry, it was presented in a way that made you cheer for him. He was plainly the good guy fighting the bad guys. But Kane’s designs were not so clearly for the general good. And in the whole array of writers from ERB to Wagner, you witness a loss of innocence over time. The naïve romance of ERB beginning in 1912 gradually collapsed to the cynicism of the 1970s. Just as the wars grew more complicated in real life, so did the fiction that was written. Thus, you have the reluctance and remorse of Moorcock’s heroes, the slowness to answer the call to adventure. The adventures were no longer fun and exciting. Heroism was not so heroic anymore…

Friday Morning

Quarter after nine.

Another nice day is underway. I won’t go to the store until FedEx has delivered my laptop. Aesop shows that he might have a health problem, so I will monitor him today and see how it goes. My music day went very well yesterday. I slept okay, but my dreams were unpleasant. Something about the end of our sex lives, along the lines of D.H. Lawrence. I read a lot of his stuff when I was younger, and he was prophetic in many ways. He abhorred technology and industry because they rob us of our humanity. People should have taken a warning from his writing, but of course we were too stupid to pay attention. As a consequence, we’re looking at the sterilization of the human race and general ill health. If the body is the soul, as Lawrence stated, then our soul is withering away while the machine head takes control. Probably there’s no going back now because we still refuse to listen to good sense. Just be hopeful that the machines have a heart… It’s Friday, the day of filming the church service. If my package comes early enough, then I’ll likely go participate. I’ve let them know the situation in advance. I wish I’d stocked some food yesterday for today but all’s well that ends well… I think I’ll restring my bass today and play it this afternoon. Where there is music there is hope.

Living Room

I just remembered: I’m going to the salon tomorrow for Kim’s birthday. This will be a good thing to do. I could actually go to Bi Mart today and buy a few things. As long as I’m there, I could get Kim a birthday card…

Quarter after eleven. I chickened out and ordered from Amazon. The sun is blazing high in the sky right now. It’s just as well to stay home. I feel a little hungry, so I’ll have some cottage cheese presently.

Noon hour. I just began my project of making my living room habitable. I moved 11 boxes of books out to the garage. First I put Aesop in the backyard. Then I opened the side door to the garage and propped open the front screen door. Maybe this afternoon I’ll move some more. My desire is to get some comfortable furniture for the living room, if only a few beanbag chairs and a couple of lamps for reading light. I’m tired of having only two places to sit in the house… I think I’m done with placating my parents’ spirits. If rock music doesn’t appeal to me anymore, then I can make other changes as well. Stay sober and the rest follows. Everything is different from before, including myself. Mom and Dad are truly gone… I found my Oxford copy of Middlemarch and pulled it out. I know very little about George Eliot, except that she was an Englishwoman who accepted Darwin. It might be fun to gaze into it at some point today. I’m so lazy and slow to get anything done, but there’s no pressure on me. If I want something badly enough, then it will happen.

Rock and Water

Eight forty.

It’s a painful discovery to learn that innate gifts don’t necessarily translate into a career. Ayn Rand makes it sound like a possibility, or even something that ought to be. Maybe she was just a dreamer, not a realistic observer? I was spoiled by reading The Fountainhead in my youth. It gave me a lot of false hope and expectations for the future. It turns out to be just an American fairytale, not a statement of what is possible. I made the mistake of taking it literally. And then think of all the people who have not read the same book. Maybe it’s a beautiful book for a beautiful dream. But in the end it’s just an elaborate lie… This morning is overcast and cool. Already, though, I see a shaft of sunshine. Aesop is asking me when his breakfast is due, so I give him the countdown. It’s a thing he can depend on, getting his breakfast on time. What can human beings rely on from day to day? What can we safely infer about reality? We assume that the sun will come up tomorrow, but even this is not guaranteed. Future contingencies are unforeseen. Though it would be nice to have a rock to cling to, life offers us only wind and water instead. Existence is change. Even the truth changes, so there are no eternal verities. It feels good to hold a writer like Emerson in a book. It is good to fasten things down and analyze them. But the essence is still mutability, a river and not a stone.

A Bigger Design

I’m not feeling very intellectual today; no bright ideas. I’m frustrated for some reason. Loneliness, I reckon. Freedom is great, but in solitude it isn’t worth much. Except for the fridge noise, it’s very quiet in here. Add to that the looney music in my head and you get my interior theater… The theater suddenly reminds me of a scene out of Dawn Powell’s Dance Night, which I read in December three years ago. What a strange novel, improvised and out of the author’s control. I ought to finish Come Back to Sorrento and see what plot surprises come up. It’s interesting to observe an unstable writer doing an unstable book. Powell’s vision of reality will be rather eccentric and on the wild side.

Six o five. I just paid my CareCredit bill and now my balance is zero. It must have been 10 or 11 years ago when I opened an account with them. It was a lifesaver when I had no money for veterinary bills, and when Henry’s health was deteriorating with old age. And again I acknowledge that good things happen to those who stay sober. I feel much more in charge of my life since ceasing the alcohol. I don’t feel ashamed of my poverty at all; it’s still sufficient to live on comfortably. Nature has provided for me in ways I don’t always perceive. It takes perspective and a long glance backward to see what’s been done for me. The pattern behind my life suggests maybe that freedom is illusory, and there’s a bigger design at work than just my petty will. This bigger design is ever active and will provide for the future as well. Someday it’ll all be quite clear what nature intends. Hold on to the wave until then…

Heatwave

Eight o’clock.

Got my market run done early in anticipation of the heat. Summertime is rough for emotional reasons too. Again I remember the demise of my pug dog in the summer. It was summer also when I had such a hallucinatory episode. That was three years ago. It started on a Friday morning and endured all weekend. Even my language center failed me. I’d been trying to write, and then it decayed into strange cryptic marks in my notebook. Everything bakes when it’s hot outside, not least our brain… Today may be boring because people aren’t doing anything. We all cower down in the heat. I’ll take a gabapentin pretty soon.

Ten o’clock. Aesop has been fed. The sun is extremely bright and glaring, like a truth you can’t suppress, or like the judge come again. Usually the sun is a social thing, but I don’t hear many signs of life. Roger is out by his garage, some project. I think I like Nietzsche for his impact on psychotherapy, the disengagement from the clutter to reveal the individual’s bigger, better self. While at the store, I observed the display of Coors 18 packs and the price: with deposit, almost $21. A person could easily bury himself financially with a daily drinking habit. Six hundred dollars a month is three quarters of my income. Not to mention the strain put on my liver and stomach. And all for the purpose of blotting out reality for a day. I’d rather stand up to the challenge. For some reason I thought of Our Town by Thornton Wilder: the minutiae are what count. So much for Nietzsche, and yet they both say seize the day. And the signs of life outside are accumulating.

Reading

Quarter after one. I just finished reading North & South. I picked up on the element of the Second World War especially in “Sleeping Standing Up,” where Bishop suggests that the tanks are lost in the woods like Hansel and Gretel, with no way to find the “cottage.” The poem “Roosters” is packed with connotations of men and war and deserves another read. I really like “Seascape” for its dissension with orthodox religion, the character of heaven and hell. In “Monument,” she suggests that the wooden building of her self is “ecclesiastical,” perhaps more so than the conned words of the church. That’s what I glean from the first collection of poems. I think my favorite poem so far is “The Man-moth” because of the moth’s attraction to moonlight on one hand, and then the poem takes you to the subway. I’ll have to read it again…

For a moment it is silent as death in this room, as the air grows close and stifling, smothering. There’s nothing going on outside either. The silence is oppressive. Now, the refrigerator kicks on at last. There passes a car up my street. The market was nearly out of things for me to eat, but I bought chocolate chip mint ice cream for a treat. Soon it’ll be time to turn on the fan. Survival in the summer.