Up to Me

Quarter after nine.

I finally got my benefits squared away with DHS this morning, so that’s a worry off my mind. The weather is only a little above freezing. There’s an advisory for snow possible this afternoon. I’m okay with that as long as we still have electricity. Some hours ago I canceled my order of those books by Clark Ashton Smith. I felt uncomfortable concerning my sobriety, thinking that his writing might trigger cravings. If I want to read something horrific I can pick up Paul Bowles, but even that seems pointless. I’ve got a nice big anthology of Bertrand Russell I could thumb through. Probably it’s above my head, but it wouldn’t hurt to take a peek. My brother has been on my mind a couple of days. I doubt if he thinks of me, however. Write him off as a toxic person. It concerns me somewhat that I’m the only sober person in my rock band. The music itself is not a problem. It’s the state of mind each of us is in when we play together. I guess don’t borrow trouble at this juncture and let events play out as they will. But I may be the one who has to bail out… The trip to the market was nondescript and uneventful. Just another day.

Ten thirty five. I remind myself that I’m the one in charge of my life, and every decision I make is up to me. Sobriety is my Number One priority. It makes a big difference in my relationships with people, even just three guys playing music in a room. Perhaps in that situation this difference glares the most. Time will tell. And again it’s up to me. 

Saturday Night Jam

Midnight hour.

When I was walking past the salon in the afternoon sunshine, Karen came out and flagged me down to tell me that Kim’s shoulder surgery didn’t go very well, and to keep her in my prayers. I understand that she’s in quite a bit of pain and sleeps most of the time. I was on my way to band practice with bass guitar in hand. 

Ron was already there when I arrived at Mike’s studio and knocked on the door. Mike said I could walk right in, joking that only cops ever knock. Our practice went pretty well, but the energy was less intense than the jam the week before. After two hours and twenty minutes Ron said he was tired, so we called it a night. A few times I had doubts about my involvement in music during the time we played. It seemed like an activity done better under the influence of alcohol. And generally, I realized that alcohol enhances pleasure I take in everything else in life. It’s like seasoning for a meal. In its absence, the meal is more of a chore to eat. It doesn’t taste as good but I suppose you still have to eat it… The tone of my bass through the new amp was pretty massive and powerful. I liked it. Low G on the E string hit me in the right spot. I think I had the most fun playing “Burning Coal” last night, a riff in G7 that goes on infinitely, no bridge or anything.

All in all, it was a good practice. Maybe we can add a new song to our repertoire before next time. Mike made a good point in passing, and this was that we need organization. I think this is true in general, so maybe we can open a discussion about it. 

Time for Lunch

Five before eight.

I heard Roger’s truck leave when I was still in bed. There’s a fairly dense fog on the trees across the street. By nine o’clock I have to get both kinds of food for Aesop. Later this morning I should call DHS and renew my health plan. Part of me wants to accuse me of being a terrible person, but really it’s life today that is just awful. I will buy a couple of Snapples and drown my sorrows. I’m very tired of the people who say there’s going to be a civil war. They are the ones who actually wish for it to happen.

Ten thirty. Polly called me back and we chatted for an hour. That was kind of nice. Right now the sun is shining from a mostly clear sky. My spirits brighten a bit. After noon today I’ll probably play my Jazz Bass copy again. It doesn’t look like much, but it sounds great. A work in progress, a diamond in the rough. It’s good for knocking about. A piece of wood with strings on it and basic electronics to produce a signal: that’s all a bass guitar is, and the rest is what the musician brings to the instrument. I already look forward to our next practice this Saturday. I used to wax mystical on the subject of whence a musician gets his inspiration during a gig. Does it arise from some inner reservoir of the psyche, or is the explanation easier than that? I don’t know if I believe Carl Jung anymore, but I’m tempted to read Goethe. Music is more than the sum of the technology that creates it. The experience of it is ineffable in words, and this sublimity is its essence.

Quarter of noon. But it’s difficult to maintain a point of view of mysticism. This is what the conflict is partly about. Is the supernatural real or just a chimera? I only know that it’s time for lunch… 

And the Word Is…

Six o’clock.

I didn’t sleep very well. I had nightmares and in general just couldn’t relax. Also I felt like I couldn’t get enough oxygen. I’m probably overtired from Saturday evening. Music: “Show Me” by The Pretenders. I remember listening to them the term I took my Chaucer class in spring 1990. What a great guitar band they were. Simple but also tasty in their choice of chords, the same way as The Police. Chrissie Hynde had a lot of heart. “Brass in Pocket” reminds me of going to the grocery store with my mother when I was in junior high school. She would go off to shop while I perused the books on the stands. Thinking now, I can’t believe the trash I read at that age, yet it served to build my vocabulary. Some of the reissued pulp fiction from the thirties was pretty good, especially the original Conan tales.

Ten twenty. Karen has hired someone new at the salon, starting tomorrow. She says that Angela has lost her enthusiasm for work, her whole attention absorbed by homeschooling her kids. And Kim has other problems. I suggested something vague about Karen being too much of a Good Samaritan. She hires people with issues, and farther down the line it hurts her business. But it’s up to her how she does things. Everything that’s going on lately is a little too much for my poor brain to process. It makes me glad that I’m only a musician. I’ll try giving Polly a call in a bit. I feel sort of weepy and sad, and pulled in different directions simultaneously. Everyone is so different and does things for different reasons. I can’t sort it all out. Maybe no one asked me to. Maybe it’s me putting pressure on myself. I wonder if I’m alone in feeling this way?

Show me the meaning of the word…” 

Rock and Roll

Three twenty five. I played my FretWire bass for a long time and got it to sound pretty awesome. There’s nothing wrong with my old amplifier; it just needed some experimentation to give it some masculine muscle. Also I tweaked the truss rod on the bass and fine tuned the bridge— and the rest was up to me. I played a King Crimson song, plus UK and Rush. I felt inspired. Everything sounded great. And now I reflect on the role of rock and roll in our society: it certainly isn’t a bad thing. It’s just a cathartic release for people who need to escape from daily life, the old grind of the workweek and every other duty and responsibility. We need a break from having to be a machine as part of a bigger machine every workday. It’s no fun being stuck in this condition all the time. We made the counterculture for a good reason, and that is entertainment and relaxation. Everybody needs that. It’s impossible to exist like a computer one hundred percent of the time, so we created rock and roll as a relief from the industrial revolution… I think I’ll give two of my instruments away to my band mates. I have plenty of bass guitars for one person. I’ve gotten pretty good at being a bass tech for myself. With the right hardware and setup you can make a cheap instrument sound fabulous. The key is knowledge and experience— and a little self confidence. 

Before and after Band

Two thirty. Hard to believe that Vicki got fired last November. I was so used to seeing her every day, though I can’t say I really liked her much. She became an anachronism in the little market, a fish out of water. Everything else changed, but she didn’t. I feel bad for her. And it’s true how much the store has changed since May 2019, when Belinda sold the business and the run of history would be altered forever. No going back.

It’ll be time to go to practice pretty soon. Stay calm. It should go well. A lot of life is free will and making good choices. And that is a matter of wisdom.

Wee hours.

Practice went great again. While we were playing, I noticed a transformation beginning within myself, a revival of my creative spirit. This is related to my philosophical beliefs about determinism versus free will, and I think creativity depends on a libertarian perspective. Also while playing music, I was able to arrest intrusive thoughts and just concentrate on my business. We jammed for nearly three hours yesterday evening. Messed around with “The Mincer” at one point. Ron told me that he’d gone back and listened to Starless and Bible Black, saying he’d forgotten how good it was. During the solo section of one of our songs, I found myself playing the bass line to “Fire” by Jimi Hendrix. The tone of my Fender bass sounded great. I need to figure out how to manipulate the pre gain and post gain controls on the new amplifier, and maybe cut the high frequencies a bit. The sound I was getting was very bright. 

Another Tuesday

Four forty.

The sun is getting ready to go down on another Tuesday. I haven’t done anything out of the ordinary today, except to treat myself a bit more kindly. I’m still the same old pleasure seeker as always. Played some Queen songs on my green Dean bass, including what I could remember of “A Kind of Magic.” 

Something made me think of my mother again; it began with my dreams last night, flashing back to January twenty years ago. Life wasn’t too bad back then, although I didn’t feel as free as I do now. Poor Mom never had any friends, and the family from her generation had all passed away. I guess it’s fair to say that she was very difficult to get along with. I wouldn’t want to do it again. Her subjective opinions were so absolute to her as to be irrational. There was no discussing anything with her. She was as hardheaded as adamant. So it was rather odd to have a dream that was indirectly about her. I wonder if it’s because of her memory that I still do rock and roll music? I had another friend whose perfectionism was instilled in him by his bipolar father. He carried his dad around with him in his mind, and it made him depressed and suicidal. Possibly I’m a little bit like him, with the difference of some insight into myself. My mother expected nothing short of rock stardom from me, but maybe this isn’t the lifestyle I want. I think I’m happy enough as a writer of blog posts for right now. But nobody ever said I can’t be both a writer and a musician— again, like Paul Bowles. I reckon some things are just spelled out in the stars… 

On the Rails

Quarter of eleven.

It was about eight thirty when I made my trip to the store today. I don’t remember seeing much of anything; things were just sort of blah. Michelle was busy putting bags of ice in the freezer. Right now I’m trying to relax and breathe and be okay with myself. Before the dawn I read a bit of Les Miserables. Hugo’s narrative voice is pompous, but that’s what I love about it. Brash, heroic, overstated, and larger than life. It’s just the opposite of a poet like Carlos Williams, whose maxim is to be inconspicuous… I feel as if there were something missing from my life. The garbage man just came by and took my trash in the blue, gray, and yellow truck. My mind flashes back to band practice on Saturday, when we figured out the chords to the Nirvana song. It sounds cool on Ron’s keyboard. We’ve had three sessions since Covid, and the third one was the best. I believe that this project can really go somewhere when the venues reopen around here… There’s a mourning dove cooing nearby, and a touch of sunlight temporarily. Supposed to rain again this evening and into the next couple of days.

Noon hour. Once in a while I feel the compulsion to drink and enjoy myself thoughtlessly, but then I would lose my grip on reality and nothing would get done. My music is more important to me than getting wasted on alcohol. I am the engineer of this train, and I won’t let it be derailed again. I’ve drunk away the majority of my life. Because of this, I missed some great opportunities to be successful and happy. In my experience, alcohol has been an evil thing. Even when the news is tragic on television, it’s still better to be aware of the world and take responsibility for my part in it. I no longer have a need to drink myself to oblivion. Sobriety is to be empowered, and on this point I disagree with AA. Powerlessness over alcohol is no answer. 

Mike and Ron and Me / Windows

Eleven thirty. Band practice with Mike and Ron went really great. Once we got warmed up, we fell into a groove pocket together and made some progress. Being in that zone is what music is all about. We incorporated influences from King Crimson and Led Zeppelin, and worked on a Nirvana song. Ron played a three keyboard setup this time for a larger palette of sounds. Mike added a tambourine to his drum kit. The bass I used was very simple and traditional, a Fender Precision, but with extra punch from the Omega bridge. I enjoyed messing around with “The Mincer” by King Crimson… We jammed for two and a half hours. The weather was good for my pilgrimage over to Mike’s house; mostly sunny and nearly fifty degrees. Right now there’s a light rain on the back patio cover. Pastor wrote me a thoughtful reply to my email from last night, and said I should probably apologize to my friend for a disagreement on politics. I’ll have to turn it over in my mind a little before I decide. No truth is ever very cut and dried, especially the deeper you think about it. Only ten days remain until the inauguration of Joe Biden. Rather than a rerun of history, I hope for general advancement in the future. The future may seem like a blind wall, but really it’s a window. 

Farewell?

Six o’clock.

I can sleep no longer this morning, yet it’s still pitch dark outside. Recording the church service went well. It also went quite briefly; I got home before eight o’clock. Kenneth, the Jamaican guy, gave me a lift, so I didn’t have to walk. Only two people showed up to be singers, Sandi and myself. Everyone is getting very tired of the Covid lockdown. Hopefully in about a month we’ll be live-streaming worship on Sunday mornings… This afternoon we’re having band practice again, Mike and Ron and me. I get to use my new amp at Mike’s place. It’s kind of a nice change to have some male friends to do things with. This element had been missing from my life.

Seven twenty five. First light of dawn is showing. Within a half hour I will head to the store for my Snapples and something to eat.

Quarter of nine. At the store I saw three guys in camouflage uniform. I have no idea what they were up to or where they were going. I felt a bit intimidated, but I was on my way out the door… Aesop has been fed his breakfast. Goodness, but everything is topsy turvy, and 2021 is off to a rocky start. Well no, the only oddball thing is Trump. We’re just counting the days until the inauguration.

Ten o’clock. I don’t know what my nearest neighbors are thinking, but they’ve certainly been quiet for the past two months. The gaudy banality of blogging is getting me down; I think I’ll have to give it up. I’ve contemplated it since November. I get enough support for my sobriety from Our Redeemer, which is local and mostly real and live. This community needs me and I need it. Of course I will keep writing, just not on WordPress anymore. This may be farewell.