I was more productive with my bass practice today than usual. All along it’s been me and not my music gear, of course. I used my Jazz Bass and covered some Thomas Dolby songs, from The Flat Earth especially. It sounded pretty great to me this time. Most of the time I can’t make anything happen with my music. There’s nothing wrong with my bass guitars, just me. In this case, it can be tempting to use a substance for better productivity or for inspiration. The honest truth is that sobriety took away my creativity. Or perhaps my poor brain is just going downhill as I age.
It might help my ability to just throw myself into a situation with other musicians. But without a car for transportation, it’s a lot harder to make this happen.
It seems like the government ought to do more to help citizens adapt to everything that’s going on in the world right now. It’s just unbelievable, the bs and the problems facing everyone these days. And it’ll probably get worse. Lisa at the store told me that the emergency food stamp boost will end in February— next month. This means I’ll get only $83 in food stamps per month, so I’ll have to spend more out of pocket to eat. Thus, how are seniors and people with disabilities, who depend on a fixed income, supposed to live?
For reading matter, Theodore Sturgeon is looking pretty good.
I say we elect Superman President!
Amid this crowd of Clark Kents there’s gotta be somebody who can do a quick change of clothes in a phone booth and save the world.
Just take a weekend and do it.
I figured out that I feel quite stuck in my economic situation, with no car and a debt that’s growing. There’s a thing called house rich, cash poor that describes me pretty well. I don’t know how many people are in the same boat with me. But I reflected that it’s very difficult to be “free” when you live in dire poverty. It can be a double bind as well. Getting yourself out of poverty requires freedom, but being free takes some money to start with… I began to notice that this was a problem when I could no longer tithe to the church. And having no car precludes any shot at playing music in a band. It also means no transportation to a worksite if I had a job. It’s beginning to look like the nursery rhyme of the want of a horseshoe nail. The kingdom is lost ultimately because of this lack. There are even more complications in addition, like the fact that we’re moving to electric cars that nobody can afford, so it makes no sense to invest in a gas powered car now.
I suppose it’s kind of a joke to say I could live by my writing, and convert words to cash. Writers like Faulkner can attest that writing for money is not freedom of expression.
If prayers had power, I could use a miracle. I bet that we all could.
Quarter of nine.
The hoopla over the election must be finished because no one is talking about it. Just another event that came and went. Again today it’s pretty cold out, and the moon was framed in white clouds on its descent. The east is striped blue and white, the deciduous trees all turned yellow or red, with a littering of leaves around at the curbs. One squirrel occasionally peeks in the back door. I get a feeling of indifference from people in the community; there’s not an abundance of love, as they mind their business of making money to survive. The last time I was in church was like it is everywhere else: every mind on the matter, and success measured in dollar figures. You don’t see anyone pausing to smell the roses. My mother raised me differently, I guess. Even now, I believe money is only good for the happiness it can buy— if it even does this. Everyday life today is quite dreary, everybody a Scrooge. And as always, Americans treat their dogs better than they do people. We need a great pop culture phenomenon to come along. The next Beatles or the next Star Wars to rejuvenate the human spirit. The genius of humankind is not dead yet.
“Every generation throws a hero up the pop charts…”
I dreamed I was driving at night up to the Campus. But as I was crossing the Ferry Street Bridge it occurred to me that I had no coins for a parking meter, so how could I stop and get out of the car? I rounded onto Franklin Blvd and pulled into a small lot for a gas station, stopped, and got out. Then I looked in my backseat and found a few quarters at first; yet tipping the seat forward, there was a ton of silver coins: quarters and even silver dollars. I muttered to myself that I had a lot more money than I’d known. And then the dream sort of dissolved or morphed into something else. Now I can ask what the dream means, and is the money literal money or a spiritual kind of currency. Either way, it’s about the resources available to me, like an unconscious treasure, as when Hansel and Gretel find the witch’s hoard of gold and precious gems in her house in the deep dark woods. It’s also like the second part of Faust, where Mephistopheles enriches the land and people can take gold like money growing on trees. I think the silver coins in my dream are an intellectual kind of wealth because my destination was the University.
Now the sun gleams through the cloud cover. I guess I’ll call Polly in another hour. I feel kind of punchy from the heat; it never cooled down much last night.
I changed my mind about calling Polly. If she wants to call me, then fine. They say it’s raining now but I don’t hear it, though the clouds look like they could. My mind is a collage of memories from schooldays and from when I had a clerical job 18 years in the past. Minimum wage back then was about $8.50 an hour. There was little difference between doing that job and doing nothing at all. The tasks were just a distraction from my thoughts, but then I learned how to think and work simultaneously. A coworker told me I needed a harder job so I couldn’t think; but of course this would never do for me. On paydays I would stop by the bank to cash my check which ran about $285. If it was a Friday afternoon, then my next stop was the little store to get a half rack of Foster’s or Henry’s beer and something to eat. I had fallen into the rut of working and drinking that happens to many people. But the lamentable thing for me was the lack of free time to read and think. As it happened, I got hooked on alcohol and could do nothing but drink… I like to believe that I did the best I could with my options. I value freedom more than wealth, and material gain is nothing next to wisdom. “Love of learning is the guide of life.”
Quarter of six.
I spent a restless night. I slept a little here and there and had a bad dream about my parents: they wanted me to sell my basses to compensate for some other expenses. Perhaps they wanted me to go to school. It was a bad dream because I was subordinate to them again, riding in the backseat of their car and being told what to do. But without autonomy, a person never knows who he is; thus independence is vital to your growth and wellbeing. I’d rather be my authentic self and make dumb mistakes than a servant to anyone else and be perfect. And who’s the judge of whether you do right or wrong? If grownups save their children from error, then who will save the grownups from the same thing? It’s silly to be an overprotective parent. Eventually we all have to stand on our own two feet, for good or bad. Just now, a police car siren goes off, but I only shrug and mind my own business. So my dream was a bad one; the return of my parents was like prison for me. People deserve to live with dignity, freedom, and power over their own future.
Quarter after seven.
I hardly ever go to Bi Mart anymore, even less on foot. I used to walk a mile anywhere I wanted to go. A few times I went as far as Santa Clara Square for physical therapy on foot. What’s up with the difference today? I don’t want to spend more money than I have to; but there’s something more. Dunno. Maybe money is mobility and poverty is staying put. Still, selling my guitars is out of the question. You got it, keep it.
Quarter of seven.
Yesterday morning I walked past a roadkill squirrel on N Park and felt a pang of remorse. Squirrels are such happy creatures when you see them frolic around the neighborhood, chasing each other in twos and threes, taunting and scolding the dogs that try to catch them, and sometimes frying themselves on a power transformer… Later in the day I caught sight of a banner on the fence outside Randy’s car lot:
COMING SOON: WILL’S AUTO REPAIR… ON MAXWELL
I don’t know how I feel about that yet, though it seems like a weird time for someone to start a business anywhere, let alone on Maxwell Road. This place has always been poor and rather on the squalid side. The only business that gives it any respectability is Community Market— to say nothing bad about the salon. Everyone around here has had to struggle to stay alive financially, and it’s been the same way for forty years. Why doesn’t some rich person buy the community and spruce it up to make it prosperous again? But then it wouldn’t have the touch of personality and humanity that gives it the Maxwell vibe. According to Karen, Kelly Middle School will inherit the old North Eugene High School building on Silver Lane, and the Japanese immersion school gets the entire place on Howard Avenue. While everything changes, the general spirit of the neighborhood remains pretty much the same: kind of old fashioned, the way I remember it for all these years. Some kids are destined to fly this place and never come back. Others will stay and describe its history and speculate on its future.
Today I’m skipping the caffeine completely. It was turning into a problem with my sleep. There’s just a light rain this morning, but we get more rain than sun this June for whatever ecological reason. At one time, all I worried about was staying alive, but now I worry about more complex things. Frankly I’m tired of the stress. It’s tempting to just opt out of life one way or another. But then I’m probably not alone with the bigger picture. I’ve gone from poor to virtually penniless due to inflation. It doesn’t help when people say that the ultra rich will alone survive in the long run. Something must be done for the little guys, the paupers with nothing but the clothes on their back. My bank makes it more difficult for me. Maybe I should switch to a credit union or something. But not until I’ve paid off my credit cards, a long way away. I really need to talk to somebody at my bank, but they don’t answer the phone. I feel I’m up a creek without a paddle, but again, perhaps not alone.
Quarter of seven.
To be at peace on one side is being at war on the other. You can’t please everybody, so it’s best to just please yourself. On my own behalf, I have no complaints. The system works for me well enough. We need to take care of our disabled people and not throw them to the lions or out on the streets. Many people feel resentful if someone isn’t pulling himself up by his own bootstraps, being a bum and a slacker. Even my family feels this way, especially the guys. Maybe my position is indefensible, but I’m not alone in it. My medication out of pocket would cost me about $1450 a month, and there’s no way I can afford that without my benefits. The alternative is to refuse medication or take a less expensive one that doesn’t work as well. Unmedicated people with schizophrenia often use alcohol or other illicit drugs and end up homeless. I just do the best I can with my circumstances, so people can take it or leave it… I had a dream last night that symbolized society with a veterinary hospital. The vet gave me hell for being a poor dog owner, so I told her what she could do. I still question whether sociology is a legitimate science. Is society a measurable, palpable thing, or just a meaningless abstraction? But if I can dream about it then it must have subsistence that I can feel, if not define.
Quarter of nine.
The little market opened an hour later today for the holiday. The radio played the Beastie Boys, rather incongruous for Easter morning. For the past few days I’ve felt lousy from a certain prescription drug, so now I’m stopping it. I gave Aesop some Gravy Train after his breakfast, which he didn’t like, but it was all they had at the store. After a while I guess I’ll read my Henry James again, although his attitude kind of annoys me. Everyone would probably love to live in the lap of luxury, but it’s an elusive thing even when you have it, and it so easily melts from your grasp. I feel more like Pip in Great Expectations than like a character in James. It was just a happy accident that I ever went to college, and the benefactor was my mother… My mother despised money and raised me to be oblivious to the fact of it. She sheltered me from the grimy reality of hard knocks, and as a consequence I’ve ended up on the sidewalk, but luckily with a place to live. I still dislike the sight of cash; it makes me think of alcohol… Yesterday morning I was in the car with Gloria coming back from the thrift store. As we passed under the highway we saw the camp of some homeless people: a few shopping carts and a string of junk that they considered worthy belongings. An hour later I’d be sitting reading a book of drawing room manners, never putting two and two together until now.