Quarter of three. On a whim, I looked up the consensus on the most popular Star Wars movie ever, and I would have guessed right: it was The Empire Strikes Back… I’m in a retro mood today, and maybe that’s okay for me. I found my copy of the Star Wars Trilogy and put it in a safe place. How many times did I get wasted and watch Empire? I had a job at the time, but I was very unhappy with my dead end life. I was coasting or treading water throughout that period. I didn’t realize what potential I had, but then again, I was on a different medication that didn’t work as well. Everywhere I looked I saw religion, no thanks to some of the healthcare professionals who shoved it down our throats. The system is just set up that way. It used to be a lot worse than today. By the time 2009 arrived, I was overdue to escape from it. I was a delusional wreck. I’d been surrounded by terribly racist right wing people who didn’t know the difference.
Quarter of five. I guess I would drink beer if I could get away with it. And yet I know I won’t do it. There are too many things in my life that drinking would screw up. Today has been kind of strange and solitary. I feel bad for the salon girls and I wonder why Karen is so grumpy lately. Perhaps business is not so good right now. Also her candidate for president lost the election. Maybe things aren’t going her way in general, but she’s taking it out on her friends, and she might regret that later. Overall it was a topsy turvy week. Some people aren’t very happy with current events. Derek had a sheepish look on his face when I walked by his house. His little girls seemed aloof to my presence. And in spite of everything, somebody keeps setting up my political lawn sign when it blows over. I don’t have to lift a finger. Attribute it to the winds of change…
The world holds its breath while the votes are counted. I doubt if I can get any more sleep this morning. So much hinges on the election, for me and for everybody. All I can do is eat ice cream and try to think about something else.
Nine twenty. Rich autumnal colors outside, beautiful to walk through. Aesop needed food, so I took off a little early. I thought a bit about independence, and using your own judgment, especially in matters that concern you personally. As a rock star said, “Watch out for that advice.” Everyone with sense has the right to be eclectic and make their own decisions. All of us are free, but some of us are not aware of the fact. People can tell you that you’re screwed. People can tell you anything, but the judge is ultimately you. This is your life, live it your way. My annual review for Laurel Hill happens this afternoon. She will probably ask me why I’m not seeing a therapist, but I’m prepared with an answer. If I’d wanted my life to be wrecked, I would’ve taken the advice of the first therapist. But I used my own wits instead… I hope I can pick up my Vraylar today. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow. Let it come down.
Eleven thirty. My sister called, and we had a nice conversation. We agree on a lot more now than we used to, and that’s very encouraging. I think the real demon is alcohol. It destroys lives, but it also obscures the truth… We talked, among other things, about Jack London stories. She saw the new release of The Call of the Wild and said it was great. I described to her the short story of “Batard.” We were on the topic of cruelty to animals, so this story came to my mind… It’s almost time for lunch. I feel good right now, so I won’t question it. Just roll with it through the rest of the day.
Quarter after eleven. I had a superstitious dream of writing about my fourth sober Halloween. An evil spirit caused the content to disappear, as if being sober were not the reality. Now, consciously I recall those old Nightmare on Elm Street movies. Freddy Krueger the slasher could only kill you in dreams, so you dared not fall asleep. The films were played on cable television all the time, so right now I wonder if they might’ve been toxic to the viewer. I hadn’t thought of Freddy in years, maybe since the last one I saw, in fall of 1989. Wes Craven movies were such a juvenile thing, but I watched them like everybody else. You were not cool unless you did so. In turn, I think of my old friends from around that time, who all had secular beliefs and values. A lot of them drank like fishes. I’ve lost contact with all of them since my decision to stop drinking; they vanished as if by a magic trick. As if they’d been erased by Freddy from the screenplay of the life we once shared… When I told M— the guitarist I had stopped drinking and joined a church, he replied that I was a “good American,” and after that I never heard from him again. His friend on drums was a mutual friend of some other friends I’d known, hence word must’ve spread through the grapevine. Closed social systems are very strange things. Alcohol and cannabis had run rampant in my old scene. Towards the end of my drinking career, marijuana was everywhere I looked. I was getting deeper and deeper into a bad bunch. Each new rock band was a step lower into hell. But today, the “good American” sticks out to the old scene like a sore thumb and the effect is like magic: everybody from that loop disappears.
I found my copy of The Carpetbaggers by Harold Robbins, a cheesy old bestseller that both of my parents read when I was a toddler. Maybe I wasn’t born yet. It is quite decadent, dealing with money and sex mostly. I wonder why my parents fed their minds on such immoral stuff. Were the sixties and seventies so very different from the present? This book could be said to be the bible of my parents’ marriage. A constitution of sorts. A handbook, an owner’s manual of conjugal ties…
I suppose The Carpetbaggers expresses a moral creed in a way: aestheticism, or maybe Epicureanism. Indulgence in pleasant sensations is the highest good. Living with my mother after Dad passed away was odd. I spent that time trying to pigeonhole her belief system, which was fairly easy. I purchased my own copies of Harold Robbins and the verse of Kipling. Did some thinking about Poe. Then I reread Lord of the Flies and part of Thomas Hobbes. I finally joined a butt rock band— and Mom had a heart attack and died. The combination of smoking and drinking caused her demise. I was left behind still trying to solve the mystery of her life. I knew what she believed, but I didn’t understand the why of it. “I am lost now in this half world / It hardly seems to matter now.”
My sister perceived Mom’s life as something naughty and taboo, as well as prideful. I beg to come to her defense. Mom might have been misdirected when she lived in Glendale California and brushed with movie actors at her high school. She graduated at age 17, which would have been 1945, the year the war ended. She never gave me a good timeline of her life as a teenager, but she described a little what high school was like during WW2. Instead of an honor roll posted on the wall, there was a roster of senior boys killed in action. Mom had a classmate who was a Hollywood actress, and who asked Mom to do her homework for her. I think my mother was immersed in a culture quite alien to what Polly and Jeff grew up with in Oregon. My parents both were raised on the movies, on Marilyn Monroe and John Wayne. Dad wanted to be a war hero and enlisted as soon as he could. He was discharged from the Navy because he caught rheumatic fever, while in France his twin brother was killed in action in the Army.
Times were a lot different for my parents, and the silver screen gave not only escape but also a representation of their lives. It would be difficult to judge my parents and the dreams they were raised on. To judge them is to judge a whole generation.
Quarter of ten. No email from Suzanne yet. Every day is a little different from the last. No signs of life on my street. I took my gabapentin at nine. The sun is out. I no longer believe in God just because other people do. Herd morality doesn’t make superstition okay. I rely on my own experience to tell me what is what. And I guess that’s all there is to it… The sun is even brighter now, though there’s a convoy of thick clouds to the east. I wonder what makes me so fiercely independent? I never had any freedom growing up. My parents were authoritarian. I never had a voice. Maybe my rejection of God is a parallel to rejecting my parents. I don’t like to remember them, yet I often dream about them. In October 2016 I made a resolution to throw away the past and be more free. It happened as I was watching a movie called I Am the Cheese. Nobody remembers it now, but I first saw it in high school. Seeing it again, I identified strongly with Adam Farmer, who had lost his parents and was in the hands of a malignant psychiatrist… Thinking again, perhaps I jumped to a conclusion that October night four years ago. But my visceral reaction was so strong— through a haze of drunkenness. It was the moment when I decided I would quit drinking, although it took me another year to actually stop. It’s been a thing of defiance and a little perversity, but I still manage to avoid alcohol. And the motive started when I recollected this silly movie and watched it again. Maybe it wasn’t so silly? Now the rain comes down.
I just had a strange memory from eighth grade: I used to have my own black and white tv set down in my bedroom, with no cable connection. I could get two channels, ABC and NBC. I watched a lot of sitcoms by myself, my favorite of which was probably Taxi. This makes me emotional to think of. I wonder why I never think about what I saw on tv anymore? It wasn’t all trash, or was it?
Four thirty. Even as late as 1999, I still watched some television. Except where they were misinformed about mental illness especially, network tv shows were generally good and humanizing. Yet I can see why I got turned off of the media. My siblings were addicted to the movies, and believed everything they saw concerning mental illness on the big screen. My friend Kate hated the movie Rain Man for its misconception about autism. Specifically, there’s no such thing as an autistic savant. But my sister still takes the Hollywood version of autism for the truth, even after I tried to explain to her the fallacy. And then there are the movies about schizophrenia, which do more harm than good. The Soloist was a lousy film, but again, my siblings believed it before they would try to understand me, the real thing. And whenever a case of violence done by mentally ill people got splashed over the media, my brother was reinforced in believing that all of us are violent. The upshot of all this was that I unplugged myself from everything having to do with television. But of course my family is still hooked on the lies they are fed. All I can do is keep writing what I know.
What was the last movie I saw? St Vincent, last fall. It was okay. Otherwise I’ve been isolated from pop culture, what everyone else is doing. I’ve been like the vampire in Anne Rice, hibernating underground and listening to life above for a few centuries. Will I ever watch tv again? See a movie in the theater? How contrary do I want to be? My assumption is that I am wiser than pop culture. Current political trends can dig up stuff from old philosophers and I won’t be snowed. It sounds terribly vain of me, considering myself a know it all. But it may be okay to be an antiquarian, for my memory is very good. My attitude is like Ecclesiastes: there is no new thing under the sun. Show me any new thing and I’ll show you a precedent. Still, part of me feels that I’m being pretentious, especially when I earned my degree twenty five years ago. The last new book I read was The Sun and Her Flowers. I disliked it because the woman was too self sufficient… which on second thought reminds me of my own self sufficiency. Maybe there really is something wrong with that attitude? A woman recently asked me if I could bear children. I said not by myself. She admitted that she couldn’t either. But the current thinking tends toward introversion, for lack of a better term. I see the potential for that to be taken to an extreme. The feeling I got from Kaur’s book was a freezing cold shoulder. Is it only women who are going this way? But that book was two years ago already. Time flies.