Fission

Eleven twenty. I wonder why I view things so differently from my sister’s family? I still remember when, as grade school kids, our families were quite close. But maybe it was only alcoholism that united us and gave us something in common. Our parents used to get blasted and play pinochle until the hour was late. The boys and I played children’s games with GI Joe dolls, hide and seek, Chinese checkers, and even Atari home video games. We had transistor radios that picked up AM stations, so we could hear Steve Miller Band, Paul McCartney, and everything Top 40 from the mid seventies. We could toss the frisbee and bounce Super Balls. We could ride dirt bikes in Central Oregon. We hadn’t learned how or what to think yet, and probably we lacked consciousness altogether. I only knew that I loved dinosaurs and whales, and comic books of sword and sorcery heroes. I grew up in a quiet home environment that over the years promoted time for reflection. I was raised like an only child; no need to compete for attention. There were many factors that ultimately divided our families. So I guess it would be silly for me to blame myself for the outcome of the split. In fact, the fission of my family is similar to the Big Bang, with the particles being driven farther and farther apart… or so it seems sometimes. The copy of The Doobie Brothers I got by mail order I still haven’t listened to. The memories linked to it would be too painful to experience again. 

Monday Heat

Seven ten.

It is definitely a two Snapple day. The temperature inside the house got up to 80 degrees last night, and consequently my wits are quite scrambled. I have a Zoom appointment with Rebecca this morning about two hours away. I think I’ll just take it easy until then. If this isn’t the first day of summer, then it’s near to it. My dog’s coat doesn’t look good; he needs a bath or at least a brushing. It just seems impossible that today is a normal business day with the intense heat that puts you to sleep, yet Monday must go on. The sunshine on the back fence appears as the orange of tangerine, and the air is motionless. It was a long night. 

A song by U2 from War comes to mind, a tune barely remembered. I was a college freshman when I heard the entire album. After spring term ended, I took a plane trip back to Michigan to see my brother and his wife. But this morning I reflected that he’d been a complete jerk to me in more recent years, not worth my devotion to him. We don’t have that much in common, anyway. It’s as if we weren’t even related to each other— although I remember how I used to feel about him. We haven’t spoken in two and a half years, but usually I don’t think of it anymore. It was necessary to overcome our relationship for me to move on with my life of sobriety and independence. 

Eldorado

Six twenty.

Cloudy morning again, and the sprinklers were just on. Music: “Teen Town.” Since yesterday afternoon I’ve been in a Jaco state of mind. I played his lines from Hejira by Joni Mitchell yesterday on the jazz bass I put together from a kit. That was fun, while outside my window the wind whipped the rhododendrons and the maple tree, as though nature had an answer to the thunder I was making.

Quarter of eight. I only spent about ten bucks on my food today. I didn’t encounter much on my trip. I could hear some bird twitters but saw nothing: no birds, squirrels, or cats anywhere. The world seems to be sleeping in, and it’s an early Saturday. The temperature is very warm: 57 degrees outside. I feel inclined to dig out my Wallace Stevens and study “The Man with the Blue Guitar.” I first read it when I was a junior in college, and barely grasped the concepts. Winter term that year was like a dream to me, gazing out the window on the third floor of Gilbert Hall, observing the rain on the pavements and the people who appeared like mindless automatons. I had no idea where life was taking me, so I sat back and enjoyed this Eldorado known as college… On the Maxwell sidewalk I reflected that my second grade teacher mocked me for swinging my arms when I walked. And then it struck me that the old Silver Lea school is now a heap of dust. Nothing remains of it except in my memory.

Quarter of nine. Aesop just had his beef vegetable stew and now we’re sort of in limbo for a while. Roger’s garage door is open while he tinkers with a project. In my head I hear “Singing All Day” by Jethro Tull, a very old song collected on Living in the Past. But sometimes the old songs are the very best ones. 

Gray ole Day

Quarter after nine.

I get a haircut today at eleven o’clock with Karen. It’s cloudy, but the clouds are kind of pretty. The daylight continues bright every day. I’m a very sensitive soul, so little things can stimulate reactions in my mind that will snowball into depression or anxiety. I have a memory that goes back a long way, in spite of the drinking I did. I find myself doing certain behaviors that are motivated by the past, though unconsciously. Yet I wouldn’t want to dispense with my memories if I could.

Long ago it must be

I have a photograph

Preserve your memories

They’re all that’s left you

I still miss my parents and wish we could be together… Aesop is telling me he needs water, so I say five minutes… I can put on a lot of bravado about existentialism and so forth, but sometimes I feel more tender and vulnerable. The color and the tone of my new bass remind me of another one I got in the fall of 1990. I probably had it for 19 years, and I sold it only because it gave me delusions of hell and the devil. That was no fun. And of course no one else understood my mental pain, not even my psychiatrist, who could only observe that I drank too much.

Eleven forty. There’s some sunshine out of the gray sky. It was good to get out among people for an hour. I don’t know what to think of the times today; they just seem rather insipid and kind of loveless and lifeless. Is it only me? Who knows but maybe love is the answer? Michelle’s husband had a terrible accident a few weeks ago, so extreme that it was unbelievable. And Kim from the salon likewise has a husband with many issues. If people could slow down their breakneck pace each day and smell the roses and hear the music of the spheres, life might have more meaning. I feel like I want to do something to help, but sometimes all I can do is be a good listener. I see people get married for reasons of mercy and pity, but often it just results in compounded problems for both partners. Maybe I’ll never get involved in a relationship, and maybe this is the wise choice for me… It’s always odd to hear people mouth off their politics and be expected to agree. I come away from it quite confused and a bit resentful. Most people merely parrot the opinions they’ve heard from others without thinking them through. I don’t know much today. My mood is as gray and vapid as the sky above. I am a microcosm of the Absurd. 

Wednesday Moods

Quarter after eight. Michelle was cute this morning, with a cobalt blue T-shirt that said, “Well bless your heart!” We talked about the products of a regional food company: potato salad, summer sausage, dips, and so on are all good from this place. Aesop needed his canned food, so I looked for that and my usual stuff. The music by Chick Corea I heard the other night was very pretty, particularly the four slow songs I have in mind. Sometimes I really enjoy good jazz fusion. Unfortunately it’s a dying art, just not popular anymore as our culture grows increasingly primitive and selfish. No one has any time for beautiful things, time to unwind and be fully human. It’s kind of an Ayn Rand existence for us: always technical with no space for feelings and sensibility, as if we were slave to our own machine heads. In this regard I am very old school. The technocracy is running our legs off and will be the end of us. And to compensate for this state of affairs we defer all happiness to an afterlife that probably doesn’t exist. The job of a musician is to make people happy here and now, today. You get loose with a little wine and groove on the sound of music and maybe reflect a bit on the lyrics. What are we here for anyway if not for happiness? “It is not the reason that makes us happy or unhappy.” Still, we keep getting it backwards and make ourselves miserable, and life is pointless except for the desert oasis known as music.

Nine twenty five. The psychiatrist I left behind often quoted Freud on the two primary functions of humankind: to work and to love. But what music does sort of combines the two modes… My bass guitar will arrive this afternoon, between the noon hour and five o’clock. I feel excited but also a little nervous about the uncertainty when it comes: what might go wrong? I just hope the instrument isn’t damaged in shipping, and my dog is going to act berserk, barking his head off… The weather is still sunny and bright, though this Saturday it’s supposed to start raining. Tomorrow I have a follow up appointment with my primary care provider, which means a long taxi ride to Springfield again. But it’s okay; I sort of like Springfield sometimes. I miss my psychiatrist when I don’t think about it. I have to remind myself of my reasons for terminating with him four years ago. I feel as if I’d rebelled against a father figure, and done like Zeus to his father Cronus in classical mythology. Not only does he murder him, but he liberates his siblings who had been swallowed up before him. It is a powerful story of rebellion and independence, and the defeat of tyranny… 

Memories for Sale

Seven thirty.

I was thinking all kinds of ridiculous thoughts yesterday. Essentially I bought the new bass because I wanted it. Now it’s done. Move on to other things. There’s practice tomorrow. And today I’m meeting with Tim from church for a chat. I hope to recover my wits somewhat during the day today. Maybe read a book. Give it some thought. The weather will again be sunny and warm all day, with a high of 79 degrees. In spite of myself I’m feeling quite depressed and unmotivated. I don’t know why. I’ve fallen into a slump this week. Maybe my Aria bass makes me feel lousy when I play it? It reminds me of times when I drank and had no real friends. I guess I could sell it to somebody who is interested. The instrument is a total misfit and a rare thing— kind of like me. I’ll take it to practice tomorrow and mess with it. The guys might like the sound of it. Then I’ll just leave it at the studio. Or maybe not. It’s probably worth $400. That’s what I’ll ask for it if I decide to sell it.

Nine forty. In my mind I contrasted the past with the present regarding the little market and felt a bit of a shock. I remember when the checkout counter was in the middle of the floor and Vicki and JR worked every morning. It went on that way for a long time. Belinda sold the business almost two years ago. It’s very different now. What should we do with our memories? They seem to be such a burden, a weight on our shoulders. Every time I play the Aria bass I’m taking out the photo album and reminiscing on times that weren’t so pleasant…

Ten thirty five. Today is a whole different ballpark. So it’s probably for the best to dump the dark times in the past. Even better to rewrite the past and say it was my responsibility all along.

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…