An event that happened 35 years ago still has me pondering the meaning of being human versus animal. According to ancient wisdom, humans have a rational faculty that allows them to participate in the divine and rise above animal instinct. But the distinction gets hazier when you move from philosophy to modern anthropology and consider evolution and the continuity of the whole animal kingdom. Then what happens to human specialness and the diviner part called reason? Can we still set ourselves apart? Here, my logic tends to break down.
Yesterday afternoon there was a hailstorm and this morning, the stones are still around to whiten rooftops and litter the lawns of the neighborhood. It’s cold. A while ago I remembered an album by Weather Report titled Night Passage. I bought the cassette as a special order from a small business named Face the Music on 13th Street, up on campus when I was a student. I also remember that the clerk was quite judgmental of Jaco for his chemical dependency, but I was undeterred and really enjoyed the tape. I wanted to play the bass in his style, like a lot of players did. Later on, I grabbed Word of Mouth from the same hole in the wall. I went through a phase of jazz fusion until the genre itself kind of fizzled. I wonder what happened to it?
I’m watching a house sparrow out of my glass door while hearing Tchaikovsky music inside my head. The convenience store was a desert again, owing to the Black Friday sales around town. It’s kind of nice to hang out home alone with my dog and my memories from when my parents were still alive. My favorite holiday year was 1993. The Musique Gourmet on Fifth and Pearl formed a big part of the experience. Today, Fifth Street looks a lot different. The Public Market is still there but the smaller businesses up and down the street are all gone, including MG and Cat’s Meow Jazz and Blues Corner, plus Escape Books, Perelandra Books and Music, and Monster Cookie Company. It’s like saying goodbye to a Renaissance or a Golden Age to remember them.
Inside Perelandra they always burned incense, which was a bit irritating in more ways than one. Still, I bought a handful of books at that place. Their specialty was metaphysics. Once I purchased a book called Your Psychic Powers and How to Develop Them. It had a yellow cover and was a reprint of something very old. I guess I was susceptible in those days, and it probably seemed weird for a guy like me to walk into a shop like that. I notice now that my dad didn’t want to go in there, so I usually went on my own in my own car. He wasn’t interested in what he considered “far out” stuff. Also my psychiatrist told me I didn’t belong in the Western world. But it didn’t hurt my feelings… Much.
I still have that yellow book in a bookcase down the hallway.
A vapor trail in the east is pinked by the light of the rising sun. The moon is high in the west, an oblong smudge of white chalk. Crows on the wing to my right. Lisa has a story for us about her arrival at the store this morning. She says a homeless man by the storefront lit a fire in the can for cigarette butts and warned her not to come near. Fearing that the market would burn down, Lisa pulled out a taser and a phone and told him to put it out or she would call 911. This was the crazy start to her day. For me, it was only a matter of shopping for things to eat and drink today. It was colder, about 43 degrees, so I put on my old blue parka, a relic from student years.
The same parka saw the time when I learned about Indian religions and basic biology in old buildings along 13th Street. The geology building’s name was changed to Columbia Hall by that time, and class was held rather late in the afternoon because I remember it would get quite dark before we were done. The religion class happened in Chapman Hall in a smaller room on the second floor, across from the department office. Dr Kim really avalanched us with reading work so that I came away thinking social sciences were the hardest courses you could take. I fell way behind on my homework. Thankfully the final exam was objective and I bluffed through it. But the term paper took a lot of work. I wrote it on Jaina philosophy, though I was criticized for evading the religious practice element of the topic. He was a hard grader, like the professors of the old school.
Quarter of seven.
If as they say there’s fog outside, it is neither low nor dense. I put on a light jacket with a knitted purple beanie and braved the darkness of six o’clock. On my own street I began thinking that external reality may be the emanation of human minds. I got to the little store without adventure and of course it was quite deserted. I saw one car in the lot besides Lisa’s. Yesterday she had told me she had gout in her foot from her kidney disease. Today she was a bit better… At nine thirty this morning I plan to help the volunteers get ready for the food pantry happening Saturday. I’ll leave the house at nine and hoof it to the church; it should take me fifteen minutes. Now the sun is up behind the overcast but I see no fog. The late afternoon yesterday was nice with mostly sunshine… When I was five years old, I would play by myself in the front yard. There was a pretty girl who lived up the street from me, a high school student named Denise, and she brought me candy or bubble gum from her trips to the convenience store— but she made me spell her name every time. I doubt that my parents knew it was going on. Once she even took me home to meet her family. I very eagerly would have traded my family for hers, but the paradise was only temporary.
Lose one, gain one. I looked for an old copy of Stephen Crane but could find it nowhere in the house, so I concluded that I gave it away to a friend and later forgot it. In the process of searching, I found an Ian Fleming book I thought was lost. From Russia with Love was a novel I read forty years ago in the summer, and then my mother decided to reread it as well. After that, she revisited the whole series of James Bond, leaving me in the dust. The last Fleming I finished was Diamonds Are Forever, just as I was starting high school.
How interesting if I could tap the psychology of myself when I was 15 years old. At the time I lacked the words to identify my feelings and thoughts, though I know I was growing more sensitive and perhaps a bit depressed moving into high school. I think I was ambivalent regarding music, because it was a huge relief to drop the school band program as a junior. Now I don’t remember how that came about or whose decision it was. I believe maybe it was mine, but my mother disapproved strongly. My health dictated something else. She cried when the doctor said I had mononucleosis. He kept me out of school for five weeks and put me on horse pills of erythromycin. Mom felt so badly that she made me oatmeal several times daily. I played a lot of Phoenix on my Atari setup, which messed with my vision. A girl from school called me on the phone a few times. I felt awkward and didn’t know what to say.
My phase of Edgar Rice Burroughs ended after tenth grade; I never finished Tarzan and the Madman, the 23rd in the series. I didn’t feel like a hero anymore. Life became more complicated than good guys and bad guys. The heroes themselves could show weakness and melancholy, or perhaps I was the one who changed. My reading changed to match my self concept. Eventually the hero thing dissolved totally.
Still it would be cool to have another peek at From Russia with Love. I had a wonderful time during the summer when I first read it. My friends and I played Rush tunes in Pleasant Hill, and we were really pretty good. For a time I felt I was on top of the world. I guess disappointment is inevitable but you have to get up again sooner or later. Sometimes it’s later.
Ten fifty PM.
My day of rest went okay, but at the same time I felt lonely, and the weather was gray and dismal all the time. I just noticed something about the word “dismal.” It seems to contain two French words meaning “I say” and “evil.” Over the past few days, a song by Rush keeps coming back to haunt me. It’s the title track to Clockwork Angels. Unfortunately I lost my copy of the CD in the fire three years ago. It was the last studio album Rush made, and my Scottish friend bought it for me… I just looked it up on Amazon and apparently it came out only ten years ago, whereas I thought it was during the fall of 2011. But that’s what happens when you drink too much: memories get either lost or jumbled up, if the past is important to you. Amnesia is a scary thing to have happen. IMO it’s abnormal to have no memory whatsoever, just living in the present, or even living the same day again day after day.
I’m searching my mind for a peak experience from the last six months, and what I recall is the big snow we had in December after Christmas Day. Michelle still worked at the little store back then, and I started reading Richard Wright when I was more or less snowbound. Also I made a post featuring an impressionist painting by Monet of a village snowscape. It was a time worth remembering.
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
Eleven twenty at night.
I dreamed I was playing the bass line to an old tune by The Knack that got airplay when I was a seventh grader, which would be 42 years ago. The place where I went to junior high school still stands over on Howard Avenue. I got a good look at it from the backseat of a taxi last Thursday at noon: a creme colored building with red brick, and fixed to the outdoor wall, the propeller to the plane flown by the school’s namesake, a local war hero no one seems to remember. We were known as the Kelly Bombers and our colors were green and white, as I recall from a book bag I bought at the school store. My high school experience wasn’t as good as the time I spent at Kelly. In Stage Band we did a song called “The Sponge” that was fun for me on drums, yet the trumpet players hated it for its difficulty, and our bass player also had a hard time with it. Some other titles we played were “Hurt So Bad” and the theme for Masterpiece Theater, as well as “Fame” and “Staying Alive.” I don’t remember what make of bass guitar our band had; it might have been a sunburst Yamaha. It was entrusted to Brian to play, and I recall how Mr Kuryluk would help him with his parts before class started. But I loved the green sparkle Ludwig drum kit we had, with a Paiste crash/ride cymbal that just rocked. Mr Diller joined us on his saxophone when he wasn’t too busy directing us, and Kuryluk worked the electric piano. A horn player named Dax used to call me “Animal” every day of class, after the drummer on The Muppet Show. Those days are gone but not forgotten by a few people. There are some memories that nothing can really erase; they are a part of you, just like an arm or a leg, and just as vital to your humanity.
Although I like the holistic psychology of Jung, I believe that it never helped me with life problems such as alcoholism. What actually did help me was existential freedom and responsibility, attributable mostly to Sartre… I just had a dream that I drove my old green Nissan truck into a parking lot— where it was impounded for a hundred days by a middle aged woman with a wily sense of business. I accused her of being like a spider, luring people into her trap for money… Human beings would still have dreams even if no Carl Jung had ever come along. While he was a fatalist, Sartre was just the opposite, a libertarian. For the latter, individuals create their own essence. The thought of his philosophy gives me a hazy memory of being at the old Eugene Public Library in the spring of ‘87 with a friend. She was into woo woo paranormal phenomena and I was just a kid with an honest curiosity, though rather skeptical of her stuff. I needed proof before I could believe, like any empiricist. Yet I was a total fool for her, and she used me for something temporary and then disposed of me. She got away with it because she was beautiful. And now I see a connection to my dream of the impounded car lot, of being trapped by a black widow.
Everyone has a tragic flaw. It comes out in relationships with other people, and then you either forgive them or say goodbye. Either way is painful. And pain is the birth of compassion.
It’s cloudy this morning, yet the clouds are light and colorful, not gray and dark. Michelle the store clerk wore a mask with an astronomy theme: very pretty. She said she has quite a collection of masks. The general vibe at the market was low key, relaxed and easy. I bought four pounds of Dog Chow for Aesop; it’s expensive but it’s his favorite. There were two other customers besides me, a woman and a guy, both in their thirties or forties. Occasionally it hits me with a shock that I’ll be 55 in January. Bad enough that I’m a half century old, but the clock is still running. Hopefully the hourglass isn’t nearly empty; do I get another turn of the glass? As Paul Bowles put it, How many more times will you see the moon again? I could reply to him, How many more times will I read The Sheltering Sky? This reminds me of my old workplace years ago, where people were not allowed to think for themselves. Once I brought in a copy of the Bowles novel and lent it to a coworker who read it, but she lost the book somewhere. I believe she liked it, though… Almost time to feed Aesop… Another coworker opined to me that Bowles led a decadent lifestyle— without having read any of his stuff. This guy wore starched shirts and suspenders and touted Mark Twain. I wore sloppy sweatshirts and jeans and did my job as well as anybody. Some of the more educated people at the agency liked me. And I still think there’s nothing wrong with my choice of reading material.
Ten thirty. My life is ruled by a different force than most people: it’s the old Titan Cronus, father of Zeus, old Father Time by association with the planet Saturn. I’m just a Capricorn goat, which I sometimes forget controls my fate. Hopefully on my deathbed everything comes out in the wash and I rest in peace like the majority of people… The cooler climate today puts me in an odd state of mind. I can recall many things at will, from when life wasn’t so rosy, and yet it had a lesson to teach. Right now it’s super quiet in the room, and no sound across the street where Roger is working on his hobby. Silence is golden, as it is said.