Then and Now

Noon hour. The pizza Hot Pocket tasted great. I realize now that I’m lonely here at home. I need real social stimulation to keep me going. The internet is not the same as a real physical presence, which is why I often think of D.H. Lawrence and his message of love and anti industrialism… I feel very tired and unmotivated. I don’t see where life is leading me and I don’t feel close to anybody anymore. I have this sense of what am I doing here and now, besides sitting on a loveseat and writing to myself. Everyone seems so distanced from me and from each other, yet no one complains about it like I do… I can conjure memories of good times with old friends when I was young. I drank more than my share of beer, but the liquor and the music and camaraderie were all worth doing at the time. Now I think I’m over the hill. Still I hope the band I’m in goes somewhere. I missed having a rehearsal yesterday— one of the real activities I get to do each week.

One thirty. Forget it.

Quarter after three. I just read two stories by Paul Bowles. Very good. His characters are often neurotic, while his own narrative voice is indifferent to them, even blackly humorous at times. The sky is a solid sheet of gray although the rain ceased hours ago. I feel like going to the store for a treat, but what do I want? Frequently I forget that past mental states have little or no bearing on the present. Life is forever in flux and this reality hits me when I fail to repeat history. It is a river, not a rock. The trick is to accept the here and now. I disagree with Freudian determinism: personality is not fixed from age four or five. The self is just as malleable as its surroundings. If this were not the case, then my sobriety would have ended already. In his own way, Emerson was a wiser thinker than certain other mental giants. I love how his prose flows like air or water, never dogmatic like stone. And never really conclusive… 

People

Three ten in the morning.

I got out of bed and shuffled into the family room. Looking for a book by Wittgenstein, I rifled through the contents of a box and found A Prayer for Owen Meany instead, which I took as rather a sign of returning to psychology from philosophy. My motive for all of this digression is simply remembering people in my life years ago, people I miss and wish I still could talk to. Now, if I were to read John Irving, the real person on my mind would be my old psychiatrist. I guess I have some accepting to do to dissolve my confusion. It’s like bargaining with loss to reopen old cans of worms. And the driving force behind it is the new administration in Washington, or how I respond to this development. It takes me a while to adapt to big changes. I doubt if I’m really a fan of John Irving, or even of analytic philosophy. In truth, I don’t even know what I’m interested in right now. I feel like an empty vessel. Everything depends on the people in my life at a given time. 

An Old Friend

Midnight. I feel really good right now. It’s one of those moods when you believe no one can tell you that you’re doing wrong. The same Little River Band song runs in my brain, still mysteriously. It probably signals that my mind is on a memory of playing in the disco band long ago. 

I’m intensely curious about what happened to my old friend Chris. We had music in common, but our personalities were quite opposite to each other. While he was driven to be popular, I was more content to be just myself, take it or leave it. I was not much of a showman, and couldn’t pretend to be something I wasn’t. I cared only about the music, and not the way I looked onstage. I thought Chris and the band were mostly pretty shallow. One telltale sign was that neither he nor his wife could look me directly in the eye. If I was a candid person, then he was protean and slippery. In retrospect, I was involved with the wrong bunch, but music brings together people from all walks of life, and never permanently. It’s a very Emersonian phenomenon, in which Nature uses people as it sees fit for her own ends. As if this entity called Nature were intelligent and purposeful and could handpick a hero for a project for a limited time. When she’s done with you, she moves on to somebody else, inspiring individuals almost randomly and then chucking them aside. Satin Love Orchestra was like that for me and the others Nature threw together for a wild and chaotic ride… 

I’ve run into Chris’s dad a few times at Bi Mart. He had amnesia pretty bad and couldn’t find the words to express himself. But he still recognized me from the old days. Perhaps those times should remain in the past. Today I can’t conceive of bombarding my liver with so much alcohol. Did God intervene in my disease, or maybe I was fated to stop drinking from the beginning of time? Whatever, I have no desire to go back to it. 

Sweet Mysteries

Five o’clock 🕔. Last night I went to the front door and found the new book of Montaigne that I had ordered from Amazon. I opened the box, revealing a beautiful fat hardcover, denim blue with a cloth binding and creamy new paper, complete with a nice dust jacket. I opened it to a random page to see the typeface, and likewise it was gorgeous, though perhaps a bit small. I think I can manage it, however, with my dollar store readers.

I hope that Tori, Eduardo’s wife, doesn’t have Covid. Last night she had a fever and we had to postpone recording the service. She’s being tested for the virus in the meantime, and then we’ll know what to do.

The music in my mind is from a recording I made around Halloween in 1985. It was entirely synthetic, using both analog and digital keyboards along with a drum machine. I had a lot of creative energy when I was young. It seemed to be endless because life was still a mystery with a long prospect ahead of me. In fact, I hadn’t even begun to analyze the truth of human existence, but rather took life for granted as a springboard for creativity. Only later did I learn to dig deep into the substance of life’s very being. This analysis has been inexhaustible for all these years, but also it removed the mystery from creative activity. I began to figure it out after my first love affair over a year later. The motivation behind my music composition was Freudian libido. When I told my girlfriend about this, she understood what I meant…

Nine o’clock. Except, the word I used was “love.” Freud uses it too, but in the sense of desire. It’s not the same thing as Christian love… Again I don’t know why 1989 keeps recurring to my mind. It must be relevant somehow, but as yet I don’t see the connection to today. I suppose it’s something I just have to work through. Right now the sky is gray and overcast, the street a little wet.

Quarter of eleven. Karen insisted on giving me a chocolate donut to take home. At the store I ran into Patty, for the first time in months. She was bundled up in a dark blue parka with a hood, anxious that it might rain. I wasn’t bundled up, but I had my umbrella with me. I got the benefit of the doubt on a pricing discrepancy and saved about a dollar and a half on my burrito. Michelle is always very fair in such matters. I feel good right now, even though haunted by ghosts of the past… Tori just tested negative for the coronavirus. I had a feeling that we were overreacting to her fever… 

Search for a Cause

One forty. The quote I ascribed to Montaigne was really Erasmus, found in Google Books, a biography of Martin Luther. It must have been a source I used for my term paper in fall 1989. Kind of amazing how I remembered the passage all this time. It isn’t clear that Erasmus actually said that; there were no quotation marks around the sentence. I would guess that Rousseau was the first to seriously proclaim the wisdom of children, and later Wordsworth took up the torch and elaborated on it. So I guess Google does know everything…

Two forty. The year 1989 is significant for me somehow. That was the last period when I fully possessed my faculties before the onset of the illness. My Vraylar has restored me to my old sanity at age 22. So my life now begins again from that point, it seems to me. I hear more songs by Pat Metheny. My parents sold their manufactured home in Florence in the summer of the same year because Mom couldn’t afford two houses. I feel sick about that. My brother helped them sell the property to a Californian who had the lot next door. It was such a defeat for poor Mom, who had wanted to retire in luxury. I recall the day when they brought home their purchase of a motor home. Unfortunately it turned out to be a lemon. Something was wrong with the battery. So, their retirement plans came to nothing, and they got rid of the lemon as well. What happened to my mental health after that I don’t know. I fell into a depression at first, and then I partially lost my ability to concentrate on schoolwork. Eventually I didn’t register for fall term 1991, and continued seeing a psychologist. Finally in November I began to have bizarre delusions, culminating in a full blown episode and the diagnosis in December. But the question is why, and was there a situational reason for the breakdown? 

20/20 (My Own Two Shoes)

Eleven o’clock. The rain has spent itself for the next three days. There’s a splash of sunshine on the ground. An old Mark Egan song, “Third World Wave,” dances in my head. I first heard it on local radio, so then I went out and bought the disc, probably at CD World here in town. It was located on 11th and Seneca, and finally closed forever in the spring of last year. I remember that the day after my mother passed away, I sat in my rocking chair and listened to Egan’s Mosaic. It was a compulsion for me to rock my chair while listening to music, a behavior that went away eventually, just as alcoholism did. I don’t know how it got started, but I was about two years old, jouncing to music on a rocking horse on springs. I suppose it kept me out of my parents’ hair. My dad obviously didn’t care for children, and Mom had too many problems of her own. Before I was born, their life together had overindulged in alcohol and lust. After I came along, they were stuck with responsibility they hadn’t planned on. Hindsight is 20/20. My birth and everything that followed it could’ve been avoided. But as it turned out, my existence forced them into some semblance of honor and respect, if not genuine love. Over time, we simply grew comfortable with each other. Meanwhile, my rocking compulsion persisted all the time my parents were alive. Finally it seems to be okay to have my own outlook on life; to be an individual in my own right. To walk in my own two shoes. 

Wildfires

Two thirty. I wonder if I should fire up my P Bass and rock out for a little while?

Three fifty five. I kicked out the jams on my white bass. Sounded pretty cool. This is something I couldn’t have done four years ago, when I was drunk all the time and had no time and no money for my hobby. I’d like to buy some Rotosound stainless steel strings for my other P Bass and just rock the house. Someday I’d like to run into my old friend Dave and tell him what he can do. He was so ungrateful to me after I helped him on his way. Or perhaps I just felt ashamed of my own alcoholism as it took over my life. I couldn’t stop drinking yet I didn’t know why. I believed that I was defying someone, but really I was only destroying myself. Alcohol gave me a false sense of power, a feeling that I could do anything. It made me feel evil, but also I felt safe and comfortable. Actually, I think I was in a lot of emotional pain from losing my mother. I had no other way to cope. It took me at least ten years to get over her death. But Mom was not a well adjusted person. She had huge problems and never sought help with them. As I look back, maybe my college years weren’t so happy after all. I received a thoroughly secular education that makes little sense to me now. Was there any truth to what I learned at the university? And by now, the old canon has collapsed anyway. 

Mentally, I seem to be having a bad day. The squirrels skitter across my rooftop and gather acorns in the backyard. Aesop is resting on the floor at my feet. And I am doing just one thing: staying sober. Sometimes that’s all I can manage to do, get through the day without drinking. My mind can do whatever it wants, but the point is not to drink, no matter what. I guess Polly won’t be calling me today. Maybe tomorrow. The smoke outside is still bad, and firefighters are still working night and day to control the wildfires. In a similar way, I work to put out the wildfires of my mind. But it’s really just a matter of waiting and watching as the thoughts pass by like clouds of smoke. And they do pass. 

Le Dimanche Matin

Eight fifty.

We are currently socked in with a thick fog outside. I can hardly see the houses across the street. About three hours ago I ordered myself a birthday present of a sci-fi novel anthology. I just wanted something to commemorate this three year mark. Yesterday I thought about my work experience and how my boss was an alcoholic. I had a good streak of sobriety going before I started my job. After working for eight months, I lost what I had. I really hated working for that guy, but I was stuck with him. I didn’t realize what my options were until years later. Shame held me back from doing what would have benefited me. Today, people can criticize me all they want, but it won’t make me drink again. And I’m very wary of toxic people.

Ten ten. Vicki wasn’t pleasant at the store, but I’ve never liked her very much. I just got a text from someone from church to congratulate me on three years. I bought a cranberry ginger ale and something to eat. The fog makes things appear surreal. The little perching birds seem to be confused; they think this is mating season. I see a lot of fox squirrels in my backyard and in the neighborhood, scrounging food for the winter. Fall and winter will surely come. I don’t feel so doom and gloom today. Last Monday was very odd, yet we got through it. I guess the pessimism was only me after all. My sister attributes the bizarrerie to this particular year, 2020. If that’s all it is, then I really hope next year will be more normal. It’s kind of a wonder that I stayed sober through this year, given everything we underwent. But it’s a consolation to know that we’re all in this together.

Quarter after eleven. The fog is lifting a bit, but there’s still some wildfire smoke. It’s nice to have cooler weather. Aesop has been very good over the past week. He let me brush him last night. I don’t know what happened to Damien a week ago, and I haven’t heard from him since. I feel a little lonely, and alone with my memories. Pastor said that in person church services will resume on 18 October. I don’t know how to feel about that, or whether I will attend. It’s an emotional thing. Meanwhile, my reason says the Jesus stuff is absurd. The people in church have been wonderful to me, of course. They’re like no other human beings I ever knew. If my mind were to mirror my heart, I’d have no problem with attending worship. There’s something compelling about a mass of people who are all doing the same thing. I reckon we’ll see how it all shakes down when the time comes. 

Victoria

Three thirty five. I’m not going to church tonight. I let Pastor know in an email this morning, and then I texted Roxanne. I wonder what the upshot of these times will be to posterity. We who are living through it sit around and scratch our heads. Nothing in our knowledge seems to add up. Our venerable traditions are unequal to the situation we face. I find the apocalypse prophecies especially inadequate, because at bottom, nobody wants to pretend there are righteous and wicked people. The objections I felt to the Last Judgment still stand. This is the real reason why I’m an absentee tonight. If one person goes to heaven, then everybody should go to heaven. But IMO it’s better to dispense with religion entirely and work together to save our natural lives. I like to envision a future of joie de vivre, as in the Picasso painting done after WW2. 

Meanwhile, Rush’s “Madrigal” floats back to me, reminding me of a trip my parents took with me up to Victoria, BC. One evening, from the hotel we walked up the street to a restaurant with a glass enclosure where you could watch the chef grilling your steak on a big cauldron. I also remember buying a hotdog on the ferry and having a look around outside the cabin. The ferry was called the Coho, and it was black with red trim. On our second trip to Canada, we left the car in Port Angeles and just walked around Victoria. We may have taken cabs; I don’t recall. We shopped at Eaton’s, and Mom bought a teapot in the gift shop of the hotel. We enjoyed ourselves immensely. Who needed heaven when Victoria was just across the water from Washington? I prefer to think that my parents went to Victoria when they passed away… 

Sense and Sound

Eleven thirty. My mind is devoid of abstractions. I have nothing interesting to say. I suppose I could ask Todd about lowering the dose of my medication. Before I know it I’ll be on no drugs at all. Will I have recovered from schizophrenia? Stranger things have happened. Maybe that’s why I’m concerned about having a job or not. The lowest dosage of Vraylar is 3 mg, I think. Currently I take 4.5 mg.

Noon hour. I’m juggling the idea of putting on the new strings, yet I’m so uninspired to play my bass. I just remembered how happy my mother used to be whenever her cousin Bub showed up here in the fall. No other relative gave her such pure pleasure to see again. They would sit together in the family room and talk about old times and laugh their brains out. It was a kind of humor that only they understood. It was couched in the family dialect, so it wasn’t conventional or logical. Today, even I would have trouble trying to see what was so funny. My sister still speaks that language. I guess the only oddball is me. The sense of the words matters more to me than the sound. Maybe it’s important to try to remember the old language and preserve it somehow… Bub always stayed for dinner and then chatted with my mother and my dad too. He always had a new car to show off. He was a collector. The last time I saw him was probably in the fall of 1994. Mom was not doing well. She was growing more and more reclusive. No; he was here in August or September of 1996. I had a project to do that summer, so I might have been busy. A couple of years later, he was gone after a battle with cancer… I should call my sister once a week and keep in touch. It wouldn’t be right to allow the language to vanish.