Sweet Grapes


The song I hear is still “Duchess” by Genesis, because of some friends I first met in June after my ninth grade school year. They were a young couple who played guitar and bass and were looking for a drummer for a summer project doing Rush covers. Eventually they planned to be a Top 40 band to play for parties and such. But the thing that impressed me at the time was how talented they were. They were one phenomenon in a few million from around here and the outlying towns like Pleasant Hill. I guess the thing called “talent” is a reality. I knew another person like that at my own school, whose destiny was to become a Grammy winning Nashville producer. The other friends I just mentioned still play in Eugene’s biggest act (arguably) which started as a disco band. At one time, all of us came together in the same band and played some important gigs. It’s funny how a thing like conscience can be a rain on the parade. Some people prefer not to stop and think about what they’re doing in the light of ethics and morality: to prioritize humanity from the business of life. I think having principles of honesty and self reflection is essential to any lifetime, and “the unexamined life is not worth living.” You may end up the lone philosopher, or you may meet a person to be your likeminded friend. There is life and then there’s the meta life of speculation that some people consider a waste of time. It depends on what you value and whether you’re willing to forego what most people call success. 


Pure Gold

One AM.

The music I hear mentally is “Duchess” from an old Genesis album. The introduction to it is exquisite, in E flat I believe, with a lot of keyboard by Tony Banks… I’ve been reflecting on what my job in life must be; it seems to me that it’s to remind people of the importance of a holiday: to be happy and to spread the happiness around. The school of Epicureanism goes back to Greek antiquity, one of the Hellenistic philosophies that succeeded the golden age of Aristotle. I just think that everyone deserves some joy. My PCA Gloria started out quite Republican, though now she looks forward to a break with a Snapple tea while we have a little chat. I suppose that Stoicism has its place in daily life as well as the other school, yet I think that Epicureanism is oddly underrepresented today. People work their fannies off, taking little time to simply breathe and appreciate being alive and human. We are extremely fortunate to be born human beings, as a professor of Japanese religions told the class a long time ago. It’s always good to pause and be contemplative and enjoy the fruits of human thought. It was actually Aristotle who said the highest aim of ethics is pure reflection: it’s something that modern people wouldn’t consider on a bet. I wonder why this is. Why are we so different from the ideals of the Greeks? Can nothing that is golden ever stay?

We always leave El Dorado for fool’s gold in the outside world… 

True Minds

Nine o’clock.

Like a typical Sunday, it’s quiet and rather lifeless, especially outdoors. Suddenly Roger throws open his garage door across the street, getting ready to tinker with his truck project. Aesop, my dog, is in a good mood today so far, which makes a difference to us both. I’ve got music in my brain from Genesis a long time ago, an album titled Duke. I miss sharing music with my old friend ten years ago; she was very literate and intelligent with it, and her brother was a big fan of Genesis and Steve Hackett. But now I just have to muddle along until a new friend comes into my life with the same brilliance. I believe that appearance is not reality in many cases and you can’t judge a book by its cover. I’ve learned how to be platonic and to love rationally as Boethius prescribes, as well as Chaucer and Shakespeare (the marriage of true minds). And even so, it seems that nothing lasts forever and most relationships fall apart when circumstances change. We had a cool transatlantic friendship for six years. Maybe it was coincidence that the complexion of American politics changed when I lost contact with her. It still feels pretty messed up, with two visions of what America should be grappling for supremacy. Life hasn’t been very fun for a long time. Any message in a bottle on the stormy sea is a godsend.

Deceived that I Am Deceived

Quarter of three AM.

Years ago, in a weak moment, I sold my box set of The Great Deceiver, a collection of live recordings by King Crimson. I remember how carefully the clerk at CD World examined each of the four discs to determine condition and value. In fact, they were immaculate. She finally offered me $30 for them, or maybe $35. Originally I had paid twice that for the new box set, and at the time, I didn’t have internet, so my friend Roger ordered it for me from the DGM website. My mother had just passed away. But I resorted to selling it around 2010 to support my alcoholism.

The longer I live and experience life, the more I doubt that a delusion is really a delusion. When I was younger, I had lots of bizarre superstitions, yet they were no stranger than the beliefs I see in other people; and such thoughts exist in our language and culture. I think the difference is that to a psychotic person, delusions are reality, and are felt as palpably as the literal objects and things around him. Other people can refer to religious ideas and laugh at them, and scoff and make fun because the words are not real to them. These ideas have mere subsistence in the language we use. Yet in a schizophrenic’s mind, the unreal assumes a reality like the experience of a waking dream or nightmare. The only remedies are medication and the passing of time. To persist and to endure. 

Rockstar from a Street Sweeper


I’m up again in the dead of night. I don’t remember my dreams just a moment ago.

I’ve got a short little span of attention

And, whoa, my nights are so long

This reminds me of a neat little record shack on the corner of 13th and Kincaid, next to Taylor’s pub on the university campus, called Face the Music. But that was the late 80s and early 90s, and when I was a student I didn’t really know anything. Maybe the same is true today. My parents controlled my life with an iron hand as long as they were alive, so now I ponder the purpose of their tyranny. My guess is they wanted their alcoholism kept secret from the world; also my mother was a bit like Rochester’s first wife, shut up in the attic for her madness. How strange to remember that now with more perspective. Mom needed an evaluation by a psychiatrist, but of course she refused the responsibility for her stuff, and the whole family suffered as a consequence. I don’t know what to think now of her quixotic dreams for me as I was growing up. How does anyone get to be a rockstar in this life?

If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.

So maybe my old psychiatrist had the right idea when he had me read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance so many years ago.

No rockstar chooses his career; the career chooses him, if you believe what Emerson used to say. And maybe people are giving up their old romantic notions.

Could John Watson turn a garbage man into a lawyer? Was Twain right about the Man Factory?

Sometimes it’s just hard to be a human being. And by the way, it was an astrology report that told me I could write.

Empty and Aching

Let us be lovers

We’ll marry our fortunes together

I’ve got some real estate here in my bag

So we bought a pack of cigarettes

And Mrs Wagner’s pies

And walked off to look for America…

It was a great Simon & Garfunkel song, but made even greater when Yes covered it in 1972. And then the band in large part came to the United States to learn what it was all about.

Counting the cars on the New Jersey turnpike

They’ve all come to look for America…

And I believe that not only Americans but the world is still looking for America. 


Six thirty AM.

I thought of how my brother taught me to draw a star when I was five years old: it was actually a pentagram, so I was drawing pentagrams all over the place. Then I started hearing the old song by David Crosby:

Guinevere drew pentagrams

Like yours, milady, like yours

Late at night

When she thought no one was watching at all

On the wall

It’s a beautiful song on the first album by CSN, way back in the late Sixties.

Outside, the cloud cover is thin and they say it’ll be sunny today. I haven’t been to the store yet, but I kind of look forward to seeing Lisa, and Aesop will want his treats. Gloria won’t be here for work today, but her book arrived yesterday evening and she’ll get it from me on Saturday. I felt rather disappointed when she canceled for today yet I know it’s nothing personal and I was being childish.

I thought of drawing stars because in my journal I use an asterisk to mark off paragraphs sometimes. But also, my brother’s been on my mind a lot lately… 


It’s another day peppered with stress and some anxiety since I talked with Polly this morning. The conversation went okay but I’m glad it’s done for the week. Feeling tense, I finally picked up my Jazz Bass and banged on that for maybe 90 minutes. It sounded pretty good to me and it was a good release for a while. It felt good. Meanwhile, Aesop is mad at me because I lectured him about his behavior when I’m on the phone, and he’ll hold a grudge probably until late tonight or even tomorrow sometime. If I say, Oh well, it’s an expression a lot of us resonate with nowadays. Because, so much of life is out of our hands and beyond our power. The balance between the people and the government keeps sliding more toward the latter and everyone is a peon, pawn, and a pauper. I really used to believe in the power of words, but today, those with money rather brutally prove a different reality. And the ones without money do everything they can to make money. No one cares about being a good person. They don’t even care about feeling happy. And maybe power and money don’t promote happiness anyway, so what’s the point? I operate from the assumption that happiness is the highest good, along with freedom. I think people ought to make time to humanize themselves.
A cute song on an album by Stewart Copeland has it like this.
…I could not refuse, you gave me money
But now you eat your money and be fool
Anyway, today I go back to liberte…
The songwriter was a Congolese guy, I think, who collaborated with Copeland, and the latter played most of the instruments. But I’d have to research it to be sure.


Quarter of six AM.

I hear a bird singing even though the sun won’t rise for another half hour and the backyard is still plunged in darkness. My mind wants to make meaning out of this song. It is to be a poet rather than a prosaic thinker, yet I remind myself of Un Coup de Des, a piece of poetic chaos whose beauty is its randomness… Like the bird, I can’t wait until sunrise to express myself in notes, though in a different sense of notes. A tiny blue twilight glows in the east. If time were but a fiction, then nothing would ever age and die. I’m not sure why my brother said that time was a human invention: I wish I could ask him now… The sound of music in my brain is “Sometimes in Winter.” It’s a song that came out not long after my birth and seems to guide my destiny. What wonderful computers our brains are. I’ve had a phonographic memory ever since I can remember being alive… The birdsong has ceased, but I know it’ll be back to give the day its film score, while daylight increases through a gap in my Venetian blinds. 

Transcending Words

I think I was up at a quarter till five this morning. A very long haul. I must be getting a little punchy from fatigue. As I was writing a while ago, old dreams came back to me, particularly one that has repeated many times. It’s about a friend I knew when we were young and had music in common with. He lived in an old white house with his family on the corner of H—Lane and F— Lane. In my dreams, the house had a very bright interior and I’d be calling him on the phone to arrange a jam that same night. His mom was sort of the gatekeeper who answered the phone and gave the official nod to Chris that it would happen.
But thinking on it now, he and I were very different types. His family was quite religious and exclusive, while I came from a secular household, and I was a rather naive, honest babe in the woods. But we both shared an innate ability for music that could transcend our differences of ideology and culture, at least for a while. Today, we don’t have much in common anymore. Now he’s a music producer living in Nashville, with values totally different from mine, so that we’re alien planets to each other, using languages neither of us can understand.
Still, I wonder about the universality of music as a language. If we used music to break down barriers before, is it possible to do so again?