Eight thirty five.
Though I spend it alone, today could be a good day. Hours ago I ordered my favorite bass strings on Amazon. They ought to sound great on my Jazz Bass copy, at once bright and deep… Aesop just had his chicken dog food for breakfast, plus some dry kibbles. He likes Purina stuff better than anything else. He’s a very intelligent dog, the same way poodles are smart.
Nine thirty five. Church will be underway, and I’m not there to see it. It’s so quiet in the house right now. My mind dwells on events from nine years ago, when Kate was my girlfriend in a remote way and my pug dog was 14 years old. But now I wonder how I ever could rationalize the exorbitant drinking I did every other day. It seems like such a feat of mental gymnastics. Part of it was being close to my brother, another alcoholic. But I finally realized that he didn’t care about me at all; booze was number one to him, and all human relationships secondary. It’s a heck of a way to live. I understood that I was no different to him than his wife who was number two to his alcohol. So then I prepared myself to sacrifice what I believed in for the purpose of recovery. Yet I don’t embrace my sister’s beliefs either. Gradually I’m coming into my own as an individual. My mother was right about the importance of beauty in our lives.
Ten thirty five. By now, church is done. I’m glad I didn’t go. I wasn’t interested in hearing another gloomy sermon. “Hey you, don’t help them to bury the live / Don’t give in without a fight.” And how can the church call us Pharisees and Sadducees when the ones who are lifeless are themselves? The shadow of the church disfigures people to inhumanity, turning all colors black and white. For some of us, the veneer of indoctrination was thin enough to shed. It’s like reading the early Margaret Atwood: waiting until the fur grows…
I came awake thinking about Orpheus and Eurydice, the most powerful and personal of classical myths for me. He loves her so tenaciously that he seeks out the underworld and confronts Pluto to bring her back from death. This is granted on the condition that he not look back at her as they are leaving hades. Orpheus fails in this and loses Eurydice forever. Then he is left alone to mourn with his lyre. Another great story is that of Pygmalion, the talented sculptor who falls in love with the statue he molds of the perfect woman. Venus takes pity on him and endows the statue with life. The new woman is named Galatea, and the lovers are happy ever after.
I decided that I’m going to band practice no matter what happens, even though with the music project I’m beating a dead horse. I know I’ve been over the hill and I feel like a husk of my former self. But I’m stubborn and won’t admit defeat. “Life goes on long after the thrill of living is gone.” Then again I was always a saturnine introvert, disinterested in the passions that enthrall most people. I wished to remain free and that’s how it turned out to be… I feel like Jimmy Page in his fantasy of himself in The Song Remains the Same. He climbs the hill to meet the wrinkled old man with the lantern— who it turns out is himself many years hence.
The last time I read the poetry of E.E. Cummings, his nihilism disturbed me. He was saying that there’s no difference between love and death, being and non being. But in my experience, there is a phenomenon that cements people together no matter what their opinions are. It’s a force that transcends friendship and loyalty. It is a four letter word, not a curse, but a blessing… The events of Saturday evening really impressed me. Karen stopped me as I passed by her salon to tell me about Kim. What drove her to do that, in the midst of so much strife over what we believe? And then I met up with my band to make music in spite of everything that has happened in the world. What motivates musicians to do this? On another day, Michelle at the store gave a homeless panhandler a cup of coffee because it was cold outside. Why did she care about a complete stranger? Because we sympathize with each other, yet the idea is even simpler, and the word a monosyllable.
I didn’t sleep very well. I had nightmares and in general just couldn’t relax. Also I felt like I couldn’t get enough oxygen. I’m probably overtired from Saturday evening. Music: “Show Me” by The Pretenders. I remember listening to them the term I took my Chaucer class in spring 1990. What a great guitar band they were. Simple but also tasty in their choice of chords, the same way as The Police. Chrissie Hynde had a lot of heart. “Brass in Pocket” reminds me of going to the grocery store with my mother when I was in junior high school. She would go off to shop while I perused the books on the stands. Thinking now, I can’t believe the trash I read at that age, yet it served to build my vocabulary. Some of the reissued pulp fiction from the thirties was pretty good, especially the original Conan tales.
Ten twenty. Karen has hired someone new at the salon, starting tomorrow. She says that Angela has lost her enthusiasm for work, her whole attention absorbed by homeschooling her kids. And Kim has other problems. I suggested something vague about Karen being too much of a Good Samaritan. She hires people with issues, and farther down the line it hurts her business. But it’s up to her how she does things. Everything that’s going on lately is a little too much for my poor brain to process. It makes me glad that I’m only a musician. I’ll try giving Polly a call in a bit. I feel sort of weepy and sad, and pulled in different directions simultaneously. Everyone is so different and does things for different reasons. I can’t sort it all out. Maybe no one asked me to. Maybe it’s me putting pressure on myself. I wonder if I’m alone in feeling this way?
“Show me the meaning of the word…”
Aesop, my dog, stayed in bed while I got up to make a few notes. An email from Library of America tells me that the book of Sandburg has shipped. By waiting a few more days, I saved myself a couple of bucks. Patience is a virtue. I’ve never seen such hard times as those confronting us today. What is it about? Is it about “saving” a capitalist system that doesn’t work for us anyway? Is it about the White working class? Why is it preferable to some people for us to isolate ourselves from the rest of the world? I used to believe that my sister agreed with the right wing. I imagined all kinds of things about her beliefs that panned out to be only partly true. I think that what it comes down to is the fact that human beings live together on this planet, therefore we should learn to get along with each other. Why is this so hard for us to do?… It started to rain a few hours ago. The sound lulled me into a dreamless sleep. James Joyce conceived of the human species as a big family, one of the themes of Ulysses. We may not treat each other like family, yet this fact of biology remains true. If only we could feel the truth of this condition…
Quarter after five.
It’s a thin line between Christ and Freud, rational love and erotic love, as life shows me from time to time. I believe Karen is crazy about me, though usually I am blind to her feelings. I’ve seen it in the smirk on her face when she cuts my hair. Also in her boundless generosity to me that exceeds reason or common sense. Her salon is filled with messages of love, little proverbs pinned to the walls. Everyone needs love, even a tough minded guy like me. Amor vincit omnia. Love conquers all. Karen always offers me a donut when I walk in, never counting the cost. And yesterday after lunch she sent me home with a boxful of food to last me a few days. Whence springs this inexhaustible flow of loving and giving? It is a thing not to be known, but rather to be experienced. To love is to live.
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 ten.
It was odd to encounter no one on my daily walk except for Karen in her Chevy SUV. Even so, we didn’t speak to each other. She was just arriving at the salon an hour early to get some work done. The sky was very dark gray, yet luminous. Out of curiosity I threw a glance at the coffee shack: business seemed to be pretty good. I saw four cars in the drive thru. I know that Bonnie Rose goes there early every morning. I haven’t seen Derek or his daughters in a long time. They live in the maroon house on the corner where it’s a blind intersection. Across the street from him is Randy’s used car lot, with the cars being possibly stolen. It’s a part of the neighborhood fallen into disrepair and disrepute. Next to Derek is an olive duplex where I’ve heard some choice profanities occasionally… The phone rings and it’s Karen inviting me to lunch on Christmas Eve. Chinese food. I feel like a character out of Les Miserables. Quite disowned and dispossessed, like so many other people with mental illness… The phone rings again: Eileen from my health insurance is concerned about any falls I might’ve taken. Do I have a cane or walking stick? Yes, there’s one in my garage… And it occurs to me that a family needn’t be biological to be real and true. A light rain begins to fall from a solid white sky, and the sound reassures me.
Ten thirty five. Some days make me wonder about the meaning of it all. After doing my daily shopping, I stopped by the salon and spoke with Angela, who was alone for a few minutes. I asked her how the homeschooling was going, and she said her fifth grader can’t read. Two of her kids have a learning disability. Also, Angela doesn’t understand the new method for teaching math. Then I asked her if anyone was helping her, but everyone she knows is too busy working. I felt like volunteering myself to help teach them to read, except children don’t take me seriously as a disciplinarian. They see me as just a playmate, and they can get away with murder. And then Karen arrived. The retirement home can’t let her in to do hair styling due to the coronavirus… This episode at the salon plus the phone conversation with my sister started me pondering the real utility of my cerebral life of books and music. There are very real practical problems that could use my help. The need is everywhere for help with survival skills such as reading and arithmetic. Meanwhile, I loaf around eating the lotus of philosophy and poetry. Is there something wrong with this picture?
Three thirty five. The afternoon is already deepening to dusk. There’s an irrational thought process at work. If I get drunk, then Kate will return as my friend. It’s a form of sympathetic magic such as primitives use. This reminds me that I should read The Golden Bough, a great expose on superstition. Anyway, nothing, not even magic, can bring back my lost friend. It doesn’t work! The transfer of power to the Democrats is meaningless to this end as well. Accept that Kate won’t be coming back and forget about it.
Four thirty five. I searched through some boxes of books and found my copy of Frazer. It’s kind of a dangerous book to someone like Pastor, who had no answer when I compared prayer to magic spells. This was the beginning of my loss of faith two summers ago. Well, I can’t help that. You know what you know, and it can’t be reversed. Probably every summer is going to be a period of skepticism and doubt for me due to that first time in 2019… As for my imitative magic regarding Kate, I caught it and I can dispose of it. Changing my mental state doesn’t alter the objective reality. I can try all kinds of conjuror’s tricks, to no avail except as a delusion. The past remains in the past, and the present is today. It happens to be November and we happened to elect a Democratic president, yet history will not repeat. The fact is that I wish very strongly for Kate to come back, and wishes drive every kind of dream and attempt at magic, every sacrifice, and every prayer. Every delusion! But we learn to negotiate the world as it really is, ultimately getting over the pain of loss.