Jackknife Barbers

Quarter of ten.

I was off to a late start this morning; I simply slept in a while. One thing I keep telling myself is the difference between fantasy and reality. And it’s the reality that counts for more. We’re having rain showers today, so I took my umbrella on my walk. The FedEx driver waved when we passed on my street. Just now a little tune by Jethro Tull appears out of nowhere, with exaggerated moralism: “And the jackknife barber drops her off at school…” I ran into Melissa, a former employee of the market, while I was there. She says that her four year old boy is a dinosaur expert and can inform you all about them, and correct you when you make a mistake. At the time I was shopping, I sneaked a peek at the price on my old poison of choice in the beer cooler: $10.49 before deposit. But I was only curious and not seriously tempted. “There’s no problem that a little alcohol can’t make worse,” said my next door neighbor five years ago… A few factors have conspired to make me think of Aqualung, the classic prog album. It gave alcoholics a bad reputation, perhaps, even with these lines: “Aqualung my friend / Don’t you start away uneasy / You poor old sot, you see it’s only me.” I guess I’m sensitive to criticism like this. It’s much easier to judge others than be in the hot seat yourself. Everyone needs a taste of their own medicine occasionally… The showers have ceased for now, and in a symbolic way also. My five year birthday will be sweet.

The Answer Is “Yes”

Quarter of one in the afternoon.

Yesterday I went across the street to ask Roger for his help with my bass guitar again, since we did a rather incomplete job the first time. He smiled and agreed to work with me tomorrow at ten o’clock. It’s sort of a symbolic truce to my mind. Though he’s a Republican and I’m a Democrat, still we are civil to each other and achieve something together in the name of music, which shouldn’t have an ideology… The unseasonable rainy weather keeps on day after day, with showers that come and go. I suspect that when the sun shines again it’ll be like summer already, so there’s no hurry on that. Gloria was here and we did some tidying up around the house. In passing, she expressed her hope that the former president doesn’t run for office again, saying how rude he was and how insane— and she’s a Republican. A few lines from a Yes song come up. “A simple peace just can’t be found / Waste another day blasting all the lives away / I heard the thunder underground / Tunneling away at the very soul of man.” And later: “There, in the heart of millions / Seen as a godsend to us / There stands our future / There can be no denying / Simple as A B C D / There stand our children’s lives…” Is this too optimistic, or too utopian for people to grasp? Have we lost our faith in the power of poetry and song? It is said that two wrongs don’t make a right. When love is no longer the solution to our problems, then humanity is in deeper dudu than ever before. This demands that we go back to the drawing board and search not just our minds but our hearts. “It takes a loving heart to see and show / This love for our own ecology.”

C.R.S.

Seven fifty five.

Later today it’s supposed to clear up and be sunny. If I looked into the little book by Wittgenstein it would either baffle me or maybe support what I’d already known about the structure of reality. Logic may be a great thing, but it doesn’t compass love… I wore my old blue parka out to the store this morning, the one that survived the fire and was preserved by the packers afterwards. I don’t remember the last time I put it on before today, but it’s a souvenir of schooldays long ago. Whatever else has changed, one or two things remain the same as I recall them. Or perhaps stasis is an illusion— but everybody is saying that these days. They say that memories of the past are a very bad thing, and so on ad nauseam. But I think this is because people generally can’t remember shit.

Long ago it must be

I have a photograph

Preserve your memories

They’re all that’s left you 

Reformation

Ten thirty five at night.

I woke up from my nap at nine o’clock with a desire to hear Burt Bacharach once again. So I found the CD in a stack of them and played it, thinking of my last love interest six years ago. What I really miss about her is not only her intelligence but the full range of her emotions, like a piano keyboard. She was not a severed head at all but could actually feel something. Since we separated, I’ve met many people who are impassive and cut off from their feelings, the things below the neck, that come from the heart and the gut. This stolidity might be the result of being too religious or maybe immersion in this age of electronics and cyberspace. People are becoming more mechanical than the machines they use, but the only ones who can change this condition are human beings themselves. “As long as we see / There’s only us / Who can change it / Only us to rearrange it / At the start of a new kind of day.” A few people lately have said what I’ve been saying for a long time: we need to get back to basics and experience life like biological beings again: emotional beings. Get ourselves back to the Garden, as it were. We are stardust and golden. It’s time to turn away from our apocalypse. 

Logic

Quarter of eleven at night.

The dreams during my nap were superstitious; some stuff about ghosts and spirits that can’t be explained logically, yet many people believe them anyway by a leap of absurd faith that is largely unconscious. I suppose it’s a childlike thing people never grow out of, though the immaturity of it annoys me. A song comes to me from the early seventies:

See the funny little man…

In his search for something to build

Perhaps a church on the side of a hill

And the Moody Blues:

Building castles in the air

Whistling to the wind

As Nature bows down her head

See what tomorrow brings

So Romantic! And maybe it’s just human for people to be spiritual like children, in the tradition of Wordsworth. The real bugbear then is the existence of logic itself. As Yes puts it:

Far away, in the depths of Hawking’s mind

To the animal, the primalistic grind

You bring me reason, a simple fact of life

You don’t say you’re sorry

There’s also a book whose arguments are so compelling that I can’t finish reading it: it’s The Essential Plotinus. For him, nothing can exist without The One, which is the same as God. This ontological discussion I’m still unable to refute, and it drives me crazy because I don’t want to be wrong in my atheism. So the person being illogical was myself all along. 

Good Things… Small Packages

Two o’clock.

I jammed on my G&L bass for a while. The snow was so bright that I didn’t have to turn the light on in the room. Out the window I could see Victoria sweeping her car of snow. A lot more people are coming out today to drive or walk around. They talk together in raised voices as if excited. When I was out on the sidewalk I heard this lyric: “The moments seemed lost in all the noise / A snowstorm, a stimulating voice / And rest for the day / With cold in the way.” During the time I played my bass, I moved the switch to the center to tap all the pole pieces, giving me a full range of tone. Sounds great, but I need someone else to play with. I expect two packages today and tomorrow, but the one coming by mail might be delayed… I can’t believe it’s only two thirty. But our daylight will be spent in another two hours. I don’t know if my little Rumble 25 is reparable or not. I may have to get a new amp for church, which doesn’t break my heart at all. There are some really nice combo amps for bass for a bit more money. Although, I don’t want to leave it in the sacristy all the time to be disused.

Nine forty.

Some very old music rises to my consciousness by the Ray Brown Orchestra. He was an amazing bass player, and hardly anyone realizes that he could play electric bass as well as acoustic upright. The tone of his Fender Precision would melt in your mouth and he was all over it with his huge hands… Amazon had one more copy of the music I wanted in stock— so I snagged it. It arrives on my birthday. 

Doorways

Quarter after eleven.

I just took my medication after a missed dose last night. This should make a difference in my thinking and judgment. I played my G&L bass this afternoon and it sounded pretty good, though I had doubts in my mind about ever using it with other musicians. I put my foot in my mouth with Mark in my last email to him, so now it’s dangling until after the holidays. There’s another musician I’d like to touch base with, though it’s been three years since I spoke with him. There’s such a diversity of people in the business, and I wish we could all be perfectly harmonious together. Or maybe I’m more discriminating than I’d like to admit. The last real public gig I played was with Doug and Marc at the Volcan in May 2003. This was just after I started treatment for addiction and before I got a job with the agency. I didn’t realize at the time how free I was to decide my own fate, and perhaps I made the wrong choice. In either case I would have battled with addiction until I hit my rock bottom. It’s always so hard to know what is the right thing to do. “Do you get what you’re hoping for / When you look behind you there’s no open doors / What are you hoping for / Do you know?” It’s really crucial to keep in mind that we are absolutely free to make our own choices. It is determinism that is the illusion. 

The Absolute

Quarter after nine.

If I don’t play the bass with the church for Christmas Eve then I have no other gift to give them, or nothing else as valuable. My situation is like that of the Little Drummer Boy: “I have no gift to bring / Pa rum pa pum pum.” Vaguely my mind ponders the idea of the Word made flesh, the nativity scene with the Lord as a newborn baby, and the whole mystery of Christ. Four years ago I went for Christmas Eve worship and the turnout was very big. A beautiful young Croatian lady with glittering dark eyes and two boys almost as big as she was sat down in the pew behind me. Pastor was really in his element that night, very confident and officious, but also enjoying the moment. At the time, it was a new experience for me, so I didn’t criticize it so harshly, and moreover it was before I started the Vraylar medication. 

If the desire to believe is strong enough, can a group of people “drag the dream into existence?” Will reality yield to human fiction and make our wildest dreams come true? And then I remember the poem by Robert Frost, “Love and a Question”: the bridegroom wishes he knew the absolutely right thing to do; and this is the revelation that everyone craves. Because, human beings are a moral species and we seek the truth like characters in a drama in search of an author. Perhaps religion is itself a science of morals, which would be the supreme knowledge of nature; we want to know, like the bridegroom, what we ought to do. So we turn to the night sky, where the “stars expound our conscience,” in the words of the old Yes song. 

“Time and a Word”

Eight o five.

It’s pretty cold out right now; only 36 degrees, but at least it isn’t raining. They had chicken jerky at the store so I bought some for Aesop. Other than making two phone calls, I have nothing important to do today. The radio played “Broken Wings” by Mister Mister, an old hit from 1986 or thereabouts; but yesterday the song was “El Paso” by Marty Robbins, which Michelle said she liked. I wondered to myself if there was anything racist about that tune, but it’s just a little song about interracial love. “Out in the south Texas town of El Paso / I met a beautiful Mexican girl.” Honestly, I don’t know the rest of the lyric, so I should probably look it up.

The mornings of me walking to the market are blending into a blur, and I can remember hardly anything after I get home. I struggle to say something new but the days are all alike. I guess it’s on me to change it. “In the morning when you rise / Do you open up your eyes / See what I see / Do you see the same things every day? / Do you look for a way / To start the day / Getting things in proportion? / Spread the news and help the world / Go round.” Some people have been saying that money makes the world go round; they are mostly younger people and don’t remember what old rock bands like Yes used to sing. The word is not money. The word is love and the time is now. 

Predawn Blues

Five twenty five.

The opossum under the house is making a big ruckus. He will quiet down after sunup. Aesop just jumped off the bed and came down the hall to be with me. “And the animals I’ve trapped have all become my pets / Something in the way…” I didn’t have any plans for today except my daily shopping trip. My sleeping cycle is erratic yet it’s been the same way for four years now. I’ll do four hours here and another four hours there, in windows of time. Maybe it was the word “windows” that reminded me of a painting by Winslow Homer used to illustrate Huckleberry Finn. This image just popped up to my mind. It shows two boys eating watermelon outdoors. I guess I’m still rather sleepy. Another thought is how judgmental my brother used to be of me; but people with problems tend to be the most zealous accusers of others. He must have a guilty conscience the size of a house from having lied and cheated his way through life.

I might go back to bed because it’s dark outside and nobody is awake right now, technically not even me. There are many kinds of self referential absurdity, pointed out to us by the Bible and by Shakespeare. The phrase, “the pot calling the kettle black” is from Don Quixote. My own conscience is cumbersome today, but the problems I have are not my fault. Maybe it’s possible to exculpate everyone with a mental health diagnosis. In that case, church ministers would be out of a job as well as some kinds of counselors. Why do we even have ethics in everyday life? In his state of melancholy, Hamlet says, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” And it’s still another hour until daylight…