Peace; Absent Friends

Eight fifty.

I really don’t like King Crimson, the prog rock band, anymore, due to the element of demonism they trade on. It hasn’t been a healthy influence for me since I started following them in high school. What a strange shtick for a rock band. I don’t understand the point of it. But maybe I’m the weirdo? I remember feeling psychotic after my mother died and seeing the devil everywhere in rock and roll. Perhaps it’s just as well that rock music is dying or dead already. It’s definitely a thing of Western culture, based on something biblical, and the music makes it scarily real. Whatever people were thinking, the strategy worked and we bought it. Was there something more to it than marketing; something more than money? Why did we find it necessary to raise hell? Maybe now there can be peace on earth…

Eleven twenty five.

It’s a day when I realize how much I miss my parents. The October light is amber through the smoke, somehow conjuring up the ghosts of old friends but my parents most of all. And they were my friends as well as my kin. Probably there’s no bond stronger than friendship. It’s hard to write about. I will go and play my bass for catharsis even though Dad and Mom have been gone more than twenty years. I have to work my way through it every autumn and it doesn’t get any easier with time. 

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A Pilgrim Shadow

Eleven twenty.

We went to Bi Mart where I bought some things. The paper towels were free because Dona forgot to ring them up. I felt bad. Six dollars in my favor. But it’ll probably average out another time. Afterwards we had cheeseburgers as we usually do. Gloria bought mine this time, saying she had a windfall yesterday… Sometimes I think I should call up my old psychiatrist to see how he’s doing, though I know that bridge is pretty much burned. It’s just strange the way it goes. I feel sort of tired, with the aches and pains of growing older and the same mental pains as ever. If I could only be natural in my life instead of keeping my chin above the mire of dung. 

Noon.

It is good to rest now. My mind wanders to my mother. With her gone and without the alcohol, life is still kind of mysterious. I used to compose music to please her. In fact, my existence fairly orbited around Mom. And now it’s an empty vessel, though I can remember what went before. Losing her was to lose my soul, so I go around desultory and displaced, a specter of my old self. I’m like the traveling shade in the poem of “Eldorado,” experienced in the mountains of the moon and the valley of the shadow. Or maybe I am the knight yet to discover the place called Eldorado? 

Doppelgänger

Eight forty.

Today should also be calm and quiet. It’s a gray day with fog. Nothing extraordinary met my gaze for the trip to market. A guy with narrow set eyes staring straight ahead passed me on the sidewalk yesterday and today, no greeting. He looked stumped and baffled by some riddle of the Sphinx, as if life was too much for him to cope with. But here I’m using my imagination for knowledge that’s probably false. Nobody has all the answers anyway. Not even Aristotle could unravel it were he resurrected for that very purpose (to loosely quote Cervantes)… I heard some foul language at the store but nobody cares about that these days— or not at a small business at eight in the morning. But on second thought, how come I just mentioned it? Maybe it bugged me a little… My dad has been gone now for 23 years. Losing my mother was far more catastrophic, and it contributed to my drinking problem. Eventually I sort of forgot why I was drinking huge amounts. The absurd reasoning went, I ought to be dead with my mother. I could see no purpose in remaining behind after she was gone. I think this is called devotion.

Ten o’clock. Now I see that the guy with the glazed eyes on the sidewalk was actually me.

Dynamo 2

One o’clock.

I practiced my bass guitar alone for a while. At first I played a bunch of meandering notes without much meaning, until I felt inspired to do some lines by Pino Palladino, a Welsh session player whose work was popular during the Eighties. So I tuned down a step and picked out “Come Back and Stay” and “Wherever I Lay My Hat.” The last song I played was one by Go West called “Innocence.”

The switch to this cool early fall weather has me confused about how to feel. I almost wanted to cry once today. It’s just weird, and I’ve also got the lonelies this afternoon. I recall that twenty years ago in August I was going to volunteer at the UO Knight Library. But the job was so computer intensive and the tasks so numerous that I was overwhelmed and had to abort my plan. I took the bus home and on the way, I remember watching the driver shift gears like a machine servant to a machine: a Lawrentian horror.

In October of the same year I placed an ad in the paper seeking other musicians to jam with, and got a call from a guitarist who was friends with some local celebrities. So we got together at the lot on W 11th and I auditioned with Marc and Tim. It worked out pretty well, so we kept doing that, and did a gig somewhere downtown and made some recordings. My family meanwhile was skeptical of my activities and my mom had been gone for a year. On the sidewalk beyond the lot of woodsheds was a hotdog cart dubbed Dawgs on the Run. When the days were abominably dark and rainy with the autumn I would go buy a Coney Island before rehearsal. But I often got the nagging feeling that I was in the wrong place, hanging with the wrong people. And my mother wasn’t around to justify what I was doing. For a while I was screwed.

Henry

Six thirty five.

An hour ago I hacked my beard completely off for a clean shaven look. Aesop barely recognized me afterwards. On my way to the market, there was more asphalt put down on the sidewalk; they must’ve done that yesterday. A man speed walking passed me on the street and said good morning. Lisa noticed my face and said she liked it. I wore the blue sweater that Colleen gave me when I stayed at Residence Inn three years ago. I was distressed yesterday, but I still don’t understand exactly why. Going to Bi Mart seemed to trigger my alcoholism all over again, though Grocery Outlet would’ve been even worse for me. Ten years ago I had more innocence and naivety than I have today, unless I was guilty for drinking the whole time. It raises the question of what is innocence and what is sophistication. I’d say that my pug dog Henry was an innocent lamb, loved by everybody. I can’t boast the same for myself. I wish I could! Some people duck the issue of ethics with gray values. I used to do this, too. But I think in the end it was just self defense. Henry made it to 14 years before he had to be euthanized. Besides his cataracts and hearing loss, he had a heart murmur. The staff of the veterinary hospital sent me a sympathy card, signed by everyone who worked there. They also made a plaster paw print to remember him by, but I remember him anyway. Henry was my innocence.

A Cold Heart

Quarter after ten at night.

I kept having dream thoughts about the Tarzan series, particularly whether the short stories fit into the first or second book, but of course they belong with the first one. I can’t settle on what books to read. A student told me once that there are no new ideas, only new ways of expressing them. His focus was the form more than the content, while mine was mostly the reverse of that. For this reason I was better cut out for philosophy than literature.

I was curious to sample the writings of Eiseley yesterday, but I think as a scientist he’s not so good. I don’t know. Is the best science atheistic, excluding religious ideas, or is some overlap okay? I know my brother’s opinion on this. His universe is deterministic with no Deus ex machina. He’s a purist that way. Maybe I have no business talking about him. In his mind, we are no longer brothers. He denies our relatedness, so why should I care about him anymore? It just seems very cold and hardhearted of him. Maybe I’m the bigger man for respecting him?

Well what the heck, it’s only family, and what does my brother know?

Searching…

One fifty five.

I haven’t gone to the bookstore today, but I set up a little space in the living room to sit and do this. The way the movers left my stuff with me was overwhelming; there was no way I could handle it all myself. But it’s a beautiful day and I felt motivated to change a little something. Now I have a view out my front window of my maple tree and the neighbors’ house, and the blue sky. I wish I had a couch to recline on. I didn’t realize how unmotivated I was until today, but hopefully this will get better… I read part of the introduction to my Lucretius book: it’s such a gem. Epicurus, the inspiration for this long poem, said there were two main things people fear that interfere with their happiness: fear of the gods and fear of death. So he taught that the gods are powerless to hurt us and that the afterlife doesn’t exist. Christians found these ideas unpalatable. But after all, they are only ideas, and they have a good chance of being true. Epicurus advocated the simple life of austerity. The greatest pleasure was the absence of pain.

Quarter of midnight.

September has been a time of the convergence of a lot of things in my mind, almost too many to enumerate. Maybe this is just a schizophrenic trait, to remember everything in transparent layers, like gazing down into a well. The rain they promised has started now, as I could hear through the windows. Today it occurred to me how impractical I am, usually with my mind on imponderable things that only children wonder about. Science can explain much of it, but we also complicate it with a spiritual understanding of what is. Even Epicurus made his physics the support for his ethics, or his vision of the good life. So he laid out an atomistic plan of the universe in which the gods were separated from human lives, unable to intervene even if they had wanted to. There was no reason to fear them, nor death, for this was nothing to us. By eliminating these fears, people could be happy in the here and now. And the school of Epicurus was called The Garden… To imagine Greece in the Fourth Century BCE can be kind of mystifying… Also my dad is on my mind, this enigmatic guy who spoke little of his own life and thoughts, and whose parentage was unknown; so that I am left behind in the dark, trying to make some sense of his existence and mine as well. 

Survivors

Wee hours of Sunday.

I just ignore the voices produced by appliances, like the air conditioner or a fan. I got some sleep tonight, dreaming about musical activities. Music will always be a major part of my life because music is feeling, and the process of living itself, a sort of flux as when you read an Emerson essay… It’s a mile from home to the church, a distance that grows more difficult at the age of 54 years. I suppose it’s mind over matter, and the nerve impulses come from who knows where. When you begin anything, you put one foot in front of the other and just start walking. My back continues feeling stronger while my mind wants to dissociate perhaps a little. A gain here means a loss there, so again life is imperfect: you can’t have everything. It all comes at a cost somewhere. The problem with being up in the middle of the night is there’s nothing to look at: outside is just a black curtain.

Quarter after five. There’s a song in my head called “Black Market” by Weather Report. I haven’t listened to 8:30 in many years. It seems hardly worth it when my best friend from that time has been so long dead. Automobile accident. He died before my parents did, and neither he nor my dad saw the new century. So, the old music with Jaco is a sad souvenir of departed friends.

I see the first predawn glow out my east window. Midnight blue. It feels like a long wait until the store opens at seven o’clock. With relish I anticipate the next time it rains, if it ever does again. The summer is redundant, day after day of drought and sun and fires and smoke. I’m actually kind of glad that my old friends don’t have to be around to witness the world today. Kind of like the empty feeling I get from going to the agency and seeing only two old coworkers, two survivors named Jeannie and Joy, still plugging away in shipping and the stockroom after so many others have gone. 

Heaven’s Exile

Eight thirty.

The sun was already murderous when I dragged myself to the store this morning. The other thing I’m not happy about is the situation with hiring a PCA: I still don’t know what to do. I should just tell her the truth. Be assertive and spill my guts. There’s nothing wrong with the way I feel. What I really hate is not having control over my life. If you give others an inch, they take a mile and run you right into the ground. As long as I have the power to say yes or no, I will exercise this right. And yet I keep wimping out with the people in these organizations… Sometimes my antipsychotic doesn’t work as well as other times and I utter stuff that makes no sense. It used to be that alcohol was my medication, and it actually worked pretty well. Yesterday I wrote some gibberish to myself about the cities of the plain in Genesis: Sodom and Gomorrah. I think I was feeling paranoid about the heatwave in the Northwest. But no sane person would believe it was a divine curse on Oregon and Washington. I was just having a mental moment.

Nine thirty. The thought crosses my mind occasionally that I want to go home, but I’m not sure what this means. Perhaps it is to be reunited with my parents, having a few beers with my dad or strong brandies with my mom. Someday in the afterlife I may get my heart’s desire, but until then, earthly life is a kind of exile from heaven, even as Wordsworth describes in his Intimations Ode. Life is hard. 

To Fill a Void

Nine thirty five.

I’ve had a very busy week, so today gives me a bit of a respite. There’s one phone appointment this afternoon, but it should be briefer than the other visits this week. I called my sister at seven thirty for a chat that went for an hour. Then I fed Aesop and went to the store. Quite a few people were out and about, walking their dog, getting biscuits and gravy, talking together, and so on. Michelle was rather occupied at the checkout counter. The face clock on the wall said ten after nine, but to me it felt like a limbo place in eternity. Like passing into a dream, when the days melt together in a continuous blur. Something out of a Moody Blues album. The forecast calls for clear skies early this afternoon and on into the weekend. I’ve heard no word about band practice tomorrow. It wouldn’t break my heart if someone canceled it this time. I’d rather take a hike over to Bi Mart for a couple of things… My mind is a blank. I thought about reading Aristotle’s ethics, but neither he nor Plato was a nominalist, so now I consider David Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature. Or I could read Utilitarianism again… It was a little bit weird spending the afternoon at Laurel Hill yesterday. I used to have a job at the agency. Everywhere I went in the building, I sensed something missing from my life and my mind, but I couldn’t identify it. Now I think the difference of 15 years ago is that I used to carry around the memory of my mother, and today there’s just a big void where she had been…