There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody’s expense but his own. However, nothing dispirits, and nothing seems worth while disputing. He bolts down all events, all creeds, and beliefs, and persuasions, all hard things visible and invisible, never mind how knobby; as an ostrich of potent digestion gobbles down bullets and gun flints. And as for small difficulties and worryings, prospects of sudden disaster, peril of life and limb; all these, and death itself, seem to him only sly, good-natured hits, and jolly punches in the side bestowed by the unseen and unaccountable old joker. That odd sort of wayward mood I am speaking of, comes over a man only in some time of extreme tribulation; it comes in the very midst of his earnestness, so that what just before might have seemed to him a thing most momentous, now seems but a part of the general joke. There is nothing like the perils of whaling to breed this free and easy sort of genial, desperado philosophy; and with it I now regarded this whole voyage of the Pequod, and the great White Whale its object.


Herman Melville, from Moby Dick, Ch 49, “The Hyena”




And so Memorial Day winds down to a close. I never left the house all day today except to take out the trash and to pick up a package delivered today to my doorstep. It’s an incredible book of Salvador Dali’s art complete with critical text. I don’t know much about art but I take the liberty to dabble in it here and there. Most people can recognize quality in something like art and music. There’s something psychological running through it all, and if you know your psychology then you can feel at home with the greatest of artists, composers, or writers. It’s only if your soul is a wilderness to yourself that you may feel alienated from creative people and their works.

Also today I plugged in my Kiloton Bass and noodled around with it a while, thinking on how rock and roll seemed to be dying. In fact, I see everything spiritual in decline lately, so I wonder if it’s a good thing or bad. Perhaps someday the religious people will feel persecuted and denied their freedom of belief, like the story of The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene. We’ll see how it shakes down, I guess. No one likes to lose their freedom of self expression, whichever side they take on theology or simply their spiritual release. It’s a human thing.

I feel kind of sad and low as I write this tonight, again like the emptiness and aching feeling described in the song by Simon & Garfunkel back in the Sixties. America still goes through growing pains, though I don’t think racism is ever the answer to anything. Some groups are anti everything. It’s a sad state of affairs when people rally around hate and use this as a source of unity and common purpose. There’s something very Antichrist about that; you only need to review WW2 for proof.

I just hang on from day to day, writing my stupid notes like some future historian… 

Lost Time

Quarter of eight.

There are so many books I want to read or finish reading, and one of them is Sense and Sensibility because I really like the character Elinor. But it’s as if the Jane Austen fad of two decades ago was suited to that time and by now has run its course, the same way that cognitive therapy has lost its popularity. We really needed a remedy for the mass psychosis that gripped most Americans and some people worldwide. Today it appears that the only ideology is greed. But despite all this, I might still read my Austen and go living in the past, like the old song by Jethro Tull.

A neighbor is pressure washing his house as I write. The air is motionless and it’s partly cloudy. The sunshine you can see is a deep mellow orange on earthly objects. It’s still very early. It is forecast to be in the lower 80s later today: probably why this person is getting his business out of the way. I can remember a lot of things that took place in May or June in years past. But do the same things make the same sense to a sober mind as to a pickled one? It’s like having another person’s memories. It’s a wonder that I remember them at all. There is still one year that defies my recollection: 2015 is almost a total blackout… 

Where Angels Fear…

Five o’clock.

Maybe the time is right. But in Oregon, the time is never right. I consider myself fair minded regarding the rights of gay people. It may even be my reason for quitting the church and Christianity in general. The pastor will retire next month and the church wants to know who will keep coming and why or why not. But the hate toward gay people is scriptural: it’s written down in black and white in Genesis and Leviticus, so how can religion ignore that and pretend everything is okay?

I slam into a brick wall every time I write about this; and yet I know I’m not alone with my opinions. With more time and patience, I’d do some reading in Proust, particularly in The Cities of the Plain. He was gay and it looks like he was fully aware of the biblical ramifications of his lifestyle. The question is a very thorny one. Politically, it could be a long time for people to accept it and try to make progress towards a new kind of day.

And again, maybe in Oregon the time will never be right… 


Five thirty.

The light of day will come in 45 minutes. I need another Snapple tea for stimulation. I guess begin with how I feel: kind of lonely and blue. The other morning, I ran into my neighbors Colin and Willie with their dogs on the street; it might’ve been yesterday. I was coming back from the little market, a dog treat in each hand. Then I felt awkward because they were for my dog, and should Aesop share with Lolo and Rosie? I knew the neighborly thing to do, but curiously I kept the treats for Aesop and continued on home after a brief exchange of words. Now I wonder why I acted as I did. It wasn’t the Fred Rogers solution by any means, much less like James Joyce. Are people losing their sense of community and family in the world today? And what is the glue that should hold people together? Again I know the answer but I turn the other way. Social life nowadays is like the “Game of Chess” in T.S. Eliot’s Waste Land. People generally are polarized and pulling away from each other, but does this help anything? I ought to ponder this for a while.

Two Schools (in the Rain)

Two o’clock in the morning.

Outside you can hear the sound of the spring rain in the darkness. A train horn two miles off blows a chord and the voice carries like a whale’s under water. The rainy night has a suppressant effect on everything here below: even kind of narcotic and dreamy, though I see nothing out my window. Without relevance, a few lines from Four Quartets come up:

Garlic and sapphires in the mud

Clot the bedded axle-tree.

The trilling wire in the blood…

Yet I catch myself trying to be an encyclopedia. Sometimes reason and knowledge seem overrated, where it might be better to create from original experience. There are close to eight billion opinions in the world today. Somehow, all these appearances eclipse the thing in itself, or the objective essence, so that there is no truth beyond our conception of it. If there were, then we still couldn’t grasp it.

The secret sits in the middle and knows.

Amid the pouring rain, I hear my gutter overflowing on the front porch, reminding me that it needs cleaning.

When April, with its sweet showers,

Has pierced the drought of March to the root…

Mentally I can almost see the office of Prof B— in Prince Lucien Campbell Hall, some 33 years ago. On his door he had tacked a political cartoon that made fun of Marxist criticism by applying it to breakfast cereals, such as Postmodern Toasties and Foucault Flakes. He was quite outspoken about it. His physical aspect bore a resemblance to Geoffrey Chaucer himself, though he probably worked to cultivate this appearance.

In only two years at the university I went from New School “modern theory” to the Old School of Freud and common sense realism, and I graduated on the “old major” in English.

It kind of put the kibosh on the philosophy I started out with, so now I admit it’s very confusing. Things changed after I quit taking French classes…

Now Here This

Six ten evening.

My circadian clock is off kilter today for some reason. Before the sun went down, I made a last minute run to the market for iced tea and a doggie treat. Now the twilight sets in. I checked my mailbox coming back and was surprised to find that my package arrived in one day from Genoa pharmacy. Those people are the best. Whatever else is going wrong with my life, this is not one of them. If I’m too old to rock and roll, then there’s something else I can do. This morning, the gals at Carl’s Jr were genuinely excited to see Gloria when we walked in the door. But I think it was otherwise a low energy day for her, or maybe for me… Later on, at home I managed six pages of Strange Interlude by Eugene O’Neill. But the classics are getting old to me, and they tend to bleed into one thing. The title, A Moon for the Misbegotten, still has a charming ring to it however. Is there such a thing as human nature? And if so, does it change with time? Whatever the truth is, it is good to roll with the times and accept reality for the thing it is.

Victorian Dream

One fifty in the morning.

I’m up after a nap of about five and a half hours, during which I dreamed a long sequence that was like a modern Henry James fiction. A woman owned a bookshop and she spent an inordinate time helping a younger woman to some purchases. I saw both of their faces blush a little at their interaction together. Meanwhile, the lineup of waiting customers grew longer and longer. And mixed with this plot, my mother was telling me about college football, and it was a Saturday in autumn. The prelude for this dream was where I went to the same bookseller and couldn’t find my wallet or my credit cards or anything, so she agreed to hold my item for two days.

The dream was so tame and quite peaceful like a drama of manners; rather Victorian and slow moving, and interesting for its pure humanness. People today don’t read James anymore, though when I was in school, he was more important than Mark Twain for his contributions to Modernism. So now, his legacy is something a person like me only dreams about. 


Quarter of ten.

By the time I left the house, the rush hour was over and things were pretty calm. The wet streets were more or less deserted and the store wasn’t busy. Lemon clouds admit just a little sunlight and the sparrows have come out. I put on a purple beanie I bought at the Dollar Tree five years ago prior to my trip. Lisa was outside with a guy on his bicycle on her break, shooting the bull. Her leg gave her trouble but she hadn’t been to the doctor, probably due to the expense. It reminds me that I’m very lucky in my position. I made a few food purchases, plus a little stuffed animal I thought I’d give to Gloria the next time I see her.

I’ve got a biography of James Joyce I’d like to examine again, or maybe just reread Dubliners and think about old times. It isn’t like I’m searching for lost time; I was very present for my youth. But somehow it seems that youth is wasted on the young. I guess you can’t have youth and wisdom all in one. It’s also true that making it to old age is a victory. If I had a dollar for every mistake I made; yet wisdom is its own wealth.

Love of Learning

Quarter after ten.

There’s some work being done in my neck of the woods. I saw that Dell is reroofing his house, and across the street from him, the new neighbor is having his house painted dark blue on the outside. I noticed that they’re doing it the hard way, with brushes and rollers rather than a power spray as they did to my house a few years ago… Then on N Park, the Wright tree service was parked at Randy’s car lot, with three guys sitting in the cab waiting to do something. Also, the cleaning lady was working at Karen’s salon because it’s Monday and that’s her schedule. But business was pretty slow at the store after nine o’clock. When I went inside, I had a vague impression of the old days at Community Market, with Vicki and JR and often Belinda in the morning. There’s a lot that I miss about those old times, yet too much of a good thing can be fatal, and if it seems too good to be true… My house sparrows are going nuts just outside my door. I see a bunch of adult males, likely competing for a female, though it seems like an odd time to mate. But it’s also odd for people to reroof and repaint in the middle of winter. Confusion reigns supreme.

Next day.

I am visited by Beatles music again in my head. If Christianity is the great code for Western literature, then The Beatles are the Rosetta Stone for rock and roll from their time onwards. Except for Walt Whitman, I’m finding literature to be quite onerous nowadays due to my involvement with the church for five years. I see religion everywhere I look. And even if contemporary poetry in the mainstream has moved on, in the public sphere it’s still the same old stuff. I notice that the church mostly ignores literature done after WW2, adhering to the 19th Century. It’s almost as though the last century never happened for them. Never heard of Oppenheimer or the Holocaust. We skipped from one Victorian Age to the next… The church has stunted my growth lately. It’s time for me to do something new. Take a class or something— anything to get me out of this rut. Learning doesn’t have to stop at a certain point, and history didn’t end with the 20th Century.