I just played my Kiloton bass for a while with the switching in split mode and tuned down to D for doing “People” by King Crimson. Sounds really great. My mother used to spoil me by getting me professional music gear when I was a kid, so I got kind of used to that. Then after the moneybag was gone I felt lost and quite stuck up a creek without a paddle. I’d been so dependent on her and suddenly I was screwed. I don’t think I could reason out my situation very well at first. All I could think of to do was drink a lot of beer, because this made me feel comfortable somehow. Otherwise I was too scared to navigate my course, to make my own decisions and do what was right for myself. Recently I’ve realized that there aren’t that many options for me, unless I rule out some of them automatically. Everybody appears to be stuck with limited choices while the pandemic lasts, though I wonder what a brave person like Sartre would do, if this circumstance is anything like the Nazi occupation of France about 80 years ago. Some people don’t believe the virus is real or that anyone is getting sick, and we’re all just pawns in a government game. Now I have reason not to be as skeptical about Covid, having heard of a case in my own family. I know my sister wouldn’t lie about that.
Two thirty. The sky is a hot white color outside my window, not very pretty. Will this summer ever end? It’s dry as a desert in Oregon. Everything just seems unnatural and out of whack. On the prompt of Environment Oregon I sent a prewritten email to our two Senators this morning. It dealt with climate change from burning fossil fuels, and a plan to change our sources of energy. It was worth a shot… There is Heidi again this Wednesday morning, and Rebecca on Friday. Misty never called me back to reschedule…
I only heard about the Bootleg Fire in Southern Oregon this morning. Apparently it’s been going on for some time. That’s my reward for not watching television or going to church: I’m out of the information loop… It seems like I feel terrible every day now. My right foot pops when I put all my weight on it, as if it had a stress fracture. I need to make the pleasures of life outweigh the pains to feel happier, or else existence is a burden. Tough luck, I guess. There are things money can’t buy, including your health and wellness in some degree. The joy that keeps me going is my rock band, without which I’d have nothing. The summer drags on way too long with no sign of rain on the horizon. “When April with its sweet showers / The drought of March has pierced to the root…” But we didn’t get much rain in April. I’m just feeling depressed with the state of the world. It appears to be on the brink of collapse. Consequently, people need more parties, more fun while it’s still possible to have a good time.
Quarter after nine. Big white clouds roll in, darkening the sun and keeping it cooler. My raspberry tea was good, and Aesop liked his turkey and pea breakfast. Tomorrow I get to visit with Heidi in her office at the agency; for this reason my mood is lifting a little… I was just looking at the anatomy of the human foot: much more complex than I knew. My foot doesn’t hurt, but just pops under pressure. Well, I could complain about a score of little things that bother me, while there’s one thing that pleases me most, and that is making music. Is it an exaggeration to say that music may be our salvation?
We had a really good practice this afternoon and got quite a bit done. I took my blue Fender bass and felt very comfortable playing it, which makes a big difference to the way rehearsal goes. This bass also cranks out a great tone. I think I’ll use it all the time after this. The other guys played better than usual, too, and Mike and I smiled and winked at each other while Ron would take a very long solo or something silly. We were basically indulging him and being gently deprecating, or saying, Well you know how Ron is. We have two or three really strong numbers that we can use for playing in a gig, and we’ve got plenty of time to work up the others.
Yes, instinctively human versus a consumerist society. I was just thinking of how it’s difficult to be free and human in a culture that has us so utterly pegged. It’s the sentiment of Pink Floyd in “Welcome to the Machine,” by now a lugubrious and kind of stale song, but it gets my point across. Everything you can dream of has been already thought of by the monster of society, so, before you can express your feelings on this or that, you’re in a certain category of people in the eyes of the government and whatever shapes our destinies. My observation is not an original one. It should have been obvious to me long ago. I suppose it’s a cynical view, and perhaps rather defeatist to see human life as a mass production run, like being on the assembly line or shot through the chute. When our lives are set up this way, at the mercy of a culture we can’t control, is it even possible for us to express something new and independent, original and real?
And how has the band changed me… and do I like it. Mostly it’s just the fact that we’re a trio of guys, more or less the same age. I feel that I’ve been bonding with them, for better or worse, but I think our project could lead to something good in terms of a career for me, and I love doing music anyway. It started out as just having fun on weekends, but I believe it may grow into something more serious and disciplined.
Right now, I don’t feel that the band has been a bad influence on my mentality. I might’ve gravitated away from the church even without playing with Mike and Ron, just as a function of time. And by the way, my sobriety feels very secure, though I should never be complacent.
Overall I feel pretty good at this writing.
Quarter of eleven.
I must have a touch of ADD myself, for I feel like quite a scatterbrain; I can’t pick something to read and adhere to it. The most rewarding read might be the Goethe I’ve been putting off. I managed to listen to INXS this afternoon and really enjoyed it, even though music from that era all sounds quite homogeneous. The experience of listening got me thinking about rites of passage and initiations to society, and how I contrived to avoid ever getting married with children— or was I just unlucky in love? But I always held back and checked my impulses, remaining free for all these years. I knew a guy from college who, after graduation, surrendered totally to his Catholic faith, got married and started a family of eight kids, perhaps just to prove his manhood to a world that doesn’t care anyway. He is a perfect example of what the poem by W.H. Auden talks about: “The Unknown Citizen.” In fact, everybody is, however we may fight to feel like individuals. You name it, there’s a class or category for it all provided by the big machine. Is it just a waste of time to try for originality in your life? And then you begin to wonder, Who is John Galt, or some other imagined tycoon who pulls everyone’s puppet strings?…
I often wish I could talk to my brother again. He played the game with society a different way from me, though he was always aware of what he was doing. He worked his butt off up until retirement, and now I don’t hear much about him. My own strategy in the conduct of life was really no strategy at all; and I’m reminded of the chess matches my brother used to play with me when I was a kid. My game was entirely passive and defensive: avoidant as opposed to aggressive or assertive, so the best outcome I could hope for was a stalemate.
My brother thought my madness had a method, but you know, it really never did.
Four o’clock. I had a pleasant stroll over to the little store and back again, getting a good dose of people on the way. It was only 77 degrees outside: very clement, and the scene was blue and green and shady. I stopped in front of my house and talked with my neighbor Cherie for maybe fifteen minutes. Her parents bought a house on this street in 1961, when Silver Lea Elementary was a new school. She said she cried when it was torn down, and she snapped pictures before it could happen… At the market, Brandi cashiered for me. I bought just a Snapple tea and a treat for Aesop. I saw another customer purchase a truckload of beer, some microbrew with IPA hops in a green package. I think now that it’s no wonder I was always bankrupt when I used to drink: that stuff is ungodly expensive, and reserved for those who can afford it. I don’t think I’m really missing anything by not drinking these days… I said hi to Derek’s two girls on Fremont, Claire and Natalie, being watched by their grandmother. I can hear Cherie returning home from her dad’s house. He is 93 years old and a widower living with two cats, and by her report, doing very well. All of this to the tune of Prokofiev’s “Classical” Symphony, the second movement.
Four fifty five. As I was playing my bass guitar, I fell into doing some passages from “The Gates of Delirium” by Yes, one of the most impressive songs by a progressive rock band ever recorded… It put me in a sort of dreamy mood, reminiscing again on my high school years with so much great music. At my school, not many kids listened to art rock, but the old Yes albums of the seventies happened to get reissued on vinyl in the early eighties. So, like a person with good taste I bought every Yes record I could get my hands on, and my plastic brain memorized all the music like a tape recorder… But now I’m getting older and not as dynamic as I used to be. The good news is that I’m not so paranoid or delusional anymore, which frees me up to do more things with my life.
I left a voicemail for my sister today but she hasn’t returned my call yet. I thought of her just now because she is a pious Christian. My faith in a literal God, Jesus Christ, and all the other supernatural beings is total toast. I don’t see any way to recover my credence. It isn’t that I don’t believe in being kind to each other, or that love is the greatest thing a person can experience. It’s just the metaphysical nuts and bolts of religion that I can’t accept anymore. There’s no evidence at all for the superstitions that most people take for granted.
I wonder why Lord of the Flies was such a staple of the old literary canon? We students were brainwashed with this book at the age of fifteen, and the precept of it was that human beings are naturally evil, a contemporary version of Hobbesian philosophy. But why sow this seed of learning in young minds? Forever it would rule our fates as we graduated from school and sought our fortune in the secular world. A few kids rebelled against the curriculum; they were the smart ones, dropping out of advanced English and finding an alternative way. They were the ones who disappeared from my sight in the high school halls, while the rest of us took the full dose of the indoctrination and headed off for college— perhaps to end up many years later writing blog posts for a lucky few followers to puzzle their heads about.
Seven fifty five.
In my driveway I paused to examine the sky: light blue with white swirls. Right now the sun is partly covered. I’ve just received a package in the mail, left on the doorstep. Aesop will have a fit when I go out and get it. I actually ran into the mail carrier at the store a little while ago. She was not exceedingly friendly; rather businesslike and maybe a bit shy. While I was there, Michelle worried to me aloud again, which is pretty normal each day. It’s weird to observe how people in society are functionaries, robots operating in the big machine, everyone’s job linked to all the others, with very little free time to be fully human. This is why writers like Henry James are important, or the makers of popular music. The world needs some beauty, or else we’d go bonkers as servants to the neon god… It promises to be a fine day, probably not too hot. I was wise to invest in an air conditioner. I saw a headline reporting that the Northwest is in for another heatwave.
Nine o’clock. There’s a lot of cardboard recycling I should do; boxes from Amazon and other places. What’s the difference between being unmotivated and laziness? The second is a moral imputation, but essentially they amount to the same thing. Anyhow, I brought in the package and cut it open. The seat cushion I ordered works great; I’ll use it when I play the bass guitar or listen to CDs in my hard chairs. I never did buy any furniture after the house fire two years ago. The inside of my home is an obstacle course of boxes and Snapple bottles because I just don’t have the gumption to pick them up and get myself organized. I’ve also developed a bad back since the disaster. But the PCA ought to be able to help me with all that… A very old ballad by Duke Ellington plays in my mind: “Sultry Sunset.” I was three years old when my parents gave me the compilation record from the era of the big bands. My dad was always grumpy on weekends, and my mother was rather indifferent to me— although she did take me to a child psychologist that year. Apparently I would run across the room and bash my head against the wall, probably to make the music stop. Now I know that it won’t stop until my last heartbeat…
Quarter after one in the morning.
I see that I’ve had a few things on my mind over the past couple of weeks, and they involve attitudes toward elitism in an intellectual way. I’m also bedeviled by the idea of evil as I perceive it in the rock band with my friends. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do, or if these concerns are all related to each other in my mind. Ultimately it boils down to real people I have contact with, like my sister and my band mates and their ideas. And it leads me to ponder my own identity and destiny: that’s just it. This is my problem. And do I want to share the same fate as the others with whom I associate? I feel myself drowning in an element of society that I’m very unsure of. For a while, I thought things were pretty clear, but now they’re quite muddy. I don’t think I should dichotomize the church and the rock band like I started out doing; or maybe this is why I feel so confused today? Everything was black and white before, but now it’s a lump of gray clay, colorless and shapeless, as I get deeper into the scenario. Nothing is neatly classifiable anymore. Accordingly my identity sort of dissolves in this new element of amorphous uncertainty. My future is anybody’s guess. I feel like a deep-sea diver who gets the bends and can’t tell up from down, the surface from the abyss. Someday soon I want to break the waterline and bask in clear sunshine, but for a while I’m committed to this project of rock and roll.
Quarter after eleven. I feel rather tired and anxious about our practice today. I’ve had lunch already and turned on the air conditioner. I don’t know if I’m going to church tomorrow or not. If I do, then I really don’t want to be lector for the service. I guess I won’t go. I don’t like having to sing hymns anymore because my voice doesn’t sound good to me… Before long we’ll be having our rehearsal at Mike’s place. I’m going to walk over there, passing through the parking lot for the convenience store. I also have to go by the salon on my way… Funny but I don’t think like a Freudian these days, with his ideas about dreams and slips and so forth. I used to go far astray using his methods to understand human behavior. It was entirely inaccurate…
Quarter after noon. I’m leaving in a half hour. Aesop is not happy about it… I suspect that Freud was wrong about a lot of things, like the cause of schizophrenia. Was Jung any closer to being right? Psychotherapy just seems useless against severe mental illness, so I won’t worry about it anymore. I’ll be my own judge and live my life my way.
Another rehearsal came and went this afternoon. It was rather disappointing to me for a couple of reasons. I think we’ll have to scrap “Peter Gunn” because our performance of it is just not acceptable. Meanwhile, “Jersey,” an original by Ron, turned out pretty good except you couldn’t hear my bass in the mix unless it was my dissonant notes. But that’s okay; I only have to use a different instrument and also change my strategy a little bit to minimize blue tones and bring out the harmonic ones. I told Mike that if we could get airplay on KWVA, the university station, then I’d be impressed with our little band. Now I want to encourage Ron to write more songs to add to our repertoire, or maybe I could make a few of them too… I gave him my copy of The Dream Songs, and to Mike I gave up my cd of Discipline by King Crimson. I believe we need to get inspired and get the creativity flowing. Then a few hours ago I popped the plastic on the selection of poems by John Berryman I bought recently. It’s a beautiful little book with a nice representation from his corpus, though I don’t yet have a feel for where he’s coming from spiritually or otherwise. Also I’m not sure what Ron finds so appealing about his poetry unless it’s a matter of sheer style, of form more than content. I guess that in addition to learning about John Berryman, I’m trying to get a better sense of my band mates in terms of mentality and focus. Where have they been, and where are we going to? But I believe KWVA is a good and realistic goal for us.
I just got back from my daily run to the store and didn’t wear a mask this time. Michelle said her cat is angry at her for being spayed recently. I remembered to get Aesop’s dry food and my ibuprofen. It’s cool outside today with overcast skies. Damien brought my ac unit yesterday evening, so now I have some insurance against the next heatwave. I’m just thankful that I can think straight again. I’ve got a passage from Prokofiev playing in my head, used both in his Classical Symphony and in Romeo and Juliet. I first heard it when I was 24, just before I was diagnosed… This is Thursday and nothing planned for today, though I hope for a band rehearsal tomorrow or the next day. I’d like to play my G&L bass sometime today and soak up its beautiful tones. It sounds very close to the Music Man bass I owned during the ‘90’s, the one that made me a small fortune with disco. The band I’m in now is nothing like disco; it may be called indie music, I suppose… I hope the neck on my Aria bass didn’t warp while sitting in the studio through the heatwave…
I don’t recall what dreams I had last night. In my blank book yesterday I confessed that sobriety can be hell, and I asked myself why this is so. But this morning my mind has recovered its original shape, so I think the real hell was the extreme weather last weekend. And that was a trial for everyone in the Northwest, not just me. Nor was I like Jonah, or anybody else in the Old Testament. I don’t believe in telepathy of any kind, thus no God who knows the thoughts of my heart. No other being in the world will ever know my inmost thoughts and feelings by a direct link between minds. But the question is an interesting one. Perhaps I just don’t want to believe in telepathy, valuing my privacy instead, sort of like Virginia Woolf in Mrs Dalloway. The privacy and freedom of one’s mind is a sacred thing.