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…
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?
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
Nine thirty 🕤.
I think I can write off Chuck the drummer. I just called him and he hung up on me, so that must mean that he changed his mind. Human behavior can be strange sometimes. Or perhaps it only appears that way until the reason for it is revealed. Is all behavior ultimately rational? Causes and effects make sense when we can figure them out. Even my first therapist had a motive for what she did to me two years ago. She was losing control of the sessions and she was a control person. Her wish was to make me submissive because she didn’t feel comfortable with me for whatever reason. She hadn’t expected a person diagnosed with schizophrenia to be intelligent. The reality was that she was merely a social worker and not the Sigmund Freud she wanted to be. Anyhow I’m glad to be free of that situation… So, Chuck was another lead gone by the wayside. I’ve had four so far. Now that we’re a third of the way into August, I’m having August flashbacks. Identifying them gives me a little control over them. Life is better now than it was in 2018, at least, and I am still sober. Last night I slept hardly a wink because of the liter of Coke I had yesterday afternoon. This morning I figured that the pleasure of a Coke was not worth losing my sleep for. I bought a ginger ale instead. The weather is sunny again, but it’s going to be 94 degrees.
Ten thirty 🕥. During the wee hours I listened to Copland again, then read the booklet. His compositions for ballet came quite late, 1930s and 40s. And Appalachian Spring had nothing to do with either the mountain range or the springtime. He wrote the music with a certain dancer specifically in mind. The title simply sounded good to her. Copland was awarded a Pulitzer for the ballet. While his stuff is very good, I could only wish there was more of it… This is going to be another long, lonely day. I’m caught up on my monthly bills, and now there’s nothing to do. Honestly I feel really disappointed that my music lead didn’t pan out. I wish I knew why the guy blew me off. Apex just came and picked up my garbage. I watched the mechanical arm of the truck grab the can and dump it in the back. Tomorrow, Aesop has a package of bones coming. I bought him a lot of food this morning. He always enjoys the beef bones filled with peanut butter. Maybe I’ll read a book today. Something to stoke my vocabulary for a while and give me some ideas. It is good to have no financial worries, but it’s a drag having a limited social outlet. I could go around the corner and visit Karen tomorrow, and I think I will.
Two o’clock. I really like my American Fender bass with the flatwounds and the hi mass bridge. When I drop D it sounds incredibly warm and deep. I bought a one liter of Coke late this morning, almost gone now. Vicki was working but I didn’t get a chance to talk with her. It’s none of my business anyway. I received more food credit today and started using it. I can daydream that it’s twenty five years ago all I want but it doesn’t change the fact that now is now. We’re all in the pandemic together. Still, it can be pleasant to reminisce a little. Change of seasons always triggers memories for me. Garbage day is tomorrow, so I have to put it out today eventually.
Three ten. Maybe late tonight I’ll listen to my new Aaron Copland CD again. And afterwards, read the booklet that was included. I enjoy learning facts about my favorite composers. If I’m lucky I’ll retain the information and be able to discuss it later. Copland, as I recall, made a lot of Hollywood film scores and composed his own stuff on the side. The Hollywood job was for survival. It was kind of like what William Faulkner did with his writing: do a few for money and then one for himself… I liked Billy the Kid very much. It had more movement to it than Rodeo, overall. Appalachian Spring is very sweet, but just for feeling good I still like El Salon Mexico the best.
The high temperature is supposed to be 92 tomorrow. I’m quite thankful not to have a therapist anymore. The first one was abusive and mean. The second one was very nice, but her organization put pressure on her to stick to the program. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but it was bureaucratic red tape. Her office got moved and maybe her job description changed. Very strange. Out of the blue last summer she sent me my certificate of completion of the program. It was six months after I’d finished, like an afterthought. And then I decided I was done with therapists.
Five o five.
For what seemed hours I dreamed about an artificial paradise, probably one induced by alcohol or drugs. The most tangible part of the dream was holding a brown medicine bottle in my hands and removing the adhesive label. It contained some kind of elixir, but I didn’t want my parents to find out. I hid it in the medicine cabinet of the half bath. Throughout the dream I was thinking of “The Domain of Arnheim” by Poe and the “Artificial Paradises” of Mallarme. The setting was nocturnal and urban. Right now I hear “The Perfumes of the Night” by Debussy.
Nine o’clock. This is my oldest nephew’s birthday, but I won’t call him up. I’ve heard a lot of negative things reported of him by my brother. I also had a firsthand conflict with him three years ago over politics and this thing called net neutrality. That was the time I blew up at my sister on the phone… It isn’t very warm this morning. The furnace has been turning on to keep it 70 degrees. This fall I think it would be nice to be able to use my living room. So I’ll make it a project to get those boxes out of there and create some space. Do it little by little. The books I don’t use can go in the garage. I keep forgetting that this is my house, every square foot of it. I could even start my project today. I never did buy the beanbag chairs I wanted…
Quarter of noon. I participated in the Zoom meeting and during this I got another bite on my Craigslist ad. So I called the guy and left a message. This could be fun. Today feels to me like autumn, or rather a foretaste of fall. It’s beautiful out, hinting of the potential for something good. I’m reminded of Labor Day 2003, when I met JP and Dave the first time and we jammed in the Whitaker neighborhood. All of us were sober. I haven’t abandoned hope for music. It’s just a matter of the right time and place, and the kindness of the gods.