Phoenix

Quarter of ten at night.

Again I’ll observe that you are what you read: a lot of life is a matter of learning, like behaviorism. Maybe even instinct doesn’t exist, so that John Locke’s tabula rasa was always right. As a consequence, individuals must take responsibility for programming themselves like a delicate computer. What goes in determines what comes out. If we have instincts and impulses, they can be modified by experience.

In my early thirties, I read mostly Melville, Emerson, Henry James, and Paul Bowles, and had very little acquaintance with Christianity. I told a friend in 1999 that I couldn’t be a Christian. But only two years later my parents were both gone and then the world undertook to convert me. I didn’t really read much for a long time while I worked and afterwards battled with addiction. I joined a church finally five years ago because I’d been told that spirituality was the only way to overcome it. I don’t know if that’s true or not: I’m still an agnostic. And maybe that’s how I’ll stay.

Just when my world is crashing down around me, I can expect some kind of rejuvenation like the myth of the phoenix that rises from the ashes of the old. I don’t listen to music much anymore. Instead, my life has become music.

“Under My Thumb”

Seven thirty.

The streets are dark with wet but I didn’t get rained on for my little pilgrimage to buy groceries. When I was reading from Walt Whitman I began to think of my baptism five years ago on a rainy October Sunday. Specifically I wondered why I converted to religion; and probably I considered the benefit to me and not to others. Or more likely I didn’t think anything at all and my feet got in front of my head. Now I ask myself, If I could undo the baptism, would I do it? As it is, I’m just a lapsed Lutheran caught in a tug of war between the church and my independence. An old song by the Stones has been playing in my mind: “Under My Thumb,” the one with the little marimba melody. Whitman suggests that books (and traditions) are not men. I believe he’s saying that nature is logically prior to the fictions people create, including religion. But it’s easy to get this backwards and subordinate nature to the Bible.

I can’t tell if it’s raining right now. Aesop is patient about getting his breakfast. I feel better today than yesterday: maybe I should kick the gabapentin habit to avoid the crashes in my mood. Through it all runs the music in my brain. 

Downer Post

Four twenty five.

I’m eating my heart out to the tune of “Knowing When to Leave” by Burt Bacharach. The music destroys me, particularly the interlude following the main theme, where the strings are deep and rich and the women’s voices have replaced the trumpet… My self analyses have been hit and miss lately, but as autumn deepens, so does my perception of the truth… She didn’t want to be around longer when my dog died ten years ago and she cried for two days. But she hung on as a friend in spite of herself several more years… Why did it have to be so complicated? And yet, in 2013 when I was abandoned by my family, she was the only friend I had other than the booze. She must’ve seen this quite clearly. I was probably never lower than in January 2016, when I began to realize what was really going on. She was doing all of this against her inclination. I had been utterly deserted. And then the booze turned against me.

Westward Pioneer

Quarter after eleven at night.

I’ve decided to jump ship to a different church and check out the music potential elsewhere than Our Redeemer Lutheran. There’s a Catholic church west of the store, beyond Bushnell and the Maxwell Connector but before you get to the bridge. It’s a place I’ve never been to before: all the more reason to go there. I’ve been stuck at a dead end for a very long time, so it’s time to change something, anything. Sometimes the way to progress is blocked by a single person, someone with some clout, for instance a spiritual leader. Then, the only recourse you have is to leave the situation and look for something more favorable. I think I deserve a better situation than the current one.

Pullman and Moscow

Quarter of eleven.

I plugged my P Bass in and made some noise on it: sounds awesome with just the Fender Hi Mass bridge and even more so with the Model P pickup. I love the sound of the P Bass; it brings back memories of the late seventies and early eighties. This means things like Bubble Yum and Pop Rocks in junior high school; and Lemon Pepsi and Nacho Cheese Doritos for when we had company, especially my brother and his wife. And we played Uno, the old card game, or Mille Bournes. Monopoly, and occasionally chess. My brother was way too good. He could even beat me at games of pure luck and then he laughed his brains out. But once when we went out to play miniature golf in Moscow Idaho, I got two hole in ones, which really aggravated my dad, while Jeff laughed like crazy. At the same time, my mother stayed in the car with a case of nerves, really suffering. Nobody else seemed to care how she felt. She also hated pizza, and we had gone to Karl Marx pizza parlor for dinner. Everyone was drinking except for me and Jeff’s wife. She might have had a glass of wine. I wasn’t conscious that the alcohol was a problem until I was sixteen and the drinking I saw was embarrassing. But two years later I tried it myself and found out what the hoopla was all about… So now I thrash on my P Bass a little angrily, though the memories are subconscious, and the indignation occurs to me only later.

Dauntless

Eight thirty in the morning.

Two intellectuals have said that literature is always moral; they were Ralph Waldo Emerson and D.H. Lawrence. I would extend this to any written description of human affairs, like a sketch or even a blog post, though we don’t usually consider them literature. Perhaps the definition of literature is any writing that expresses a moral of some kind… Aesop hears a dog barking far away and feels upset; but I tell him that he doesn’t even know what the other dog is barking at. The sympathy of the canine world is like human society. Roger’s garage door just opened with a squeal, so I know he’s starting a project for today. Last night I thought of how my life was before the Vraylar kicked in and also I had a year of therapy. I was abused by superstition from 12 Step programs and my own religious delusions. In April four years ago I finally did something big for myself with the help of my neighbor next door… Today I can say with conviction that schizophrenia and Christianity do not mix.

Wee hours.

It was eight o’clock at night when I made the late decision to swap bridges on my blue Fender bass. The idea was to go for a more natural sound from the instrument, less grungy than the zinc piece of hardware I’d been using. So, undaunted, I went ahead and did that, but I can’t test the tone through the amplifier until a decent hour of the day. In the meantime, the bass is settling overnight. After I got the strings back on it, I tuned it up and played it a few minutes. I discovered a new chord with harmonics that sounds like Rush in “One Little Victory.” Basically it’s a clash of major and minor thirds, for a sound like instability. I like it.

Bare Tile

Four twenty five.

When the disco band, a long time ago, played at the Doubletree Hotel in the late fall, our leader said during a song, “I’m seeing a lot of bare tile on the floor.” And truly, nobody was dancing to the music. So, Chris broke the ice and people got out on the dance floor. Otherwise we would’ve looked pretty stupid.

Sundry / Shackled

Quarter after seven.

Lisa of the little market is sad because her cat had to be euthanized earlier this week. I sometimes forget that the store’s location is not convenient for everybody; the people who work there come from sundry distances to their shift. Deb lives in Veneta, about an 11 mile drive from here. Lisa is on Green Acres Road. Only Cathy that I know of lives very close to the market. Occasionally I think back to jamming with my friends on Bushnell Lane over a year ago. This was pretty cool, and I often question if I did right by leaving the band. But everything is in a state of flux today, topsy turvy with the future unforeseen. My sleep last night was disturbed by guilty dreams of church attendance, or rather truancy. It isn’t just negligence on my part; I really don’t want to go to worship anymore. It’d be a nice auspicious thing if everything in the community together made coherent sense, but it doesn’t seem to. You’ve got three churches up and down Maxwell Road, and then the watering hole before the bridge, and a place to get your hair cut: but there’s not much consistency in the way people think. Maybe that’s just as well.

Eight ten.

With the band, I played an interesting version of “The Mincer” by King Crimson, though it kind of decayed to prog rock on quaaludes. The other guys usually wanted to get stoned before doing that song. I wish we could have been more productive and done more Crimson stuff. But the imagination of this community is quite limited, so I couldn’t expect very much. Some people can travel many miles in physical geography but be mentally shackled. It’s sad but that’s what it’s like.

Mesmerized

Wee hours.

The person who put the brakes on my music was only me, but it’s for a good reason. I’m about three weeks away from my five year sober birthday. Making music is often a slippery activity for someone in recovery. In this case, we just do the best we can… I have the strangest memories of my eighth grade in the fall season. My parents had the television on constantly. I can still remember the music from some of the commercials, like for Sizzler Steakhouse: steak and langostino shrimp, where the music was Polymoog synth and a Fender P Bass, very pretty, like lounge music. Today I don’t even own a tv. I know some people are addicted to it. If I had one, it still wouldn’t be the same as when I was a kid. After my mother died I began to see television for what it was: a brainwashing tool, like having the Central Scrutinizer in your own home. Or like a scene out of Fahrenheit 451. Totally dystopian. I think I’d rather be liberated from all that. Then again, a person could argue that social media is just another form of hypnosis along with tv and everything else…

City Life

Quarter after seven.

The city installed a cable on N Park to monitor the speed of drivers nearby Randy’s lot. They ought to do that on Maxwell Road, where the limit is 35mph and people actually go 50mph or faster. I didn’t see the moon this morning, though I did the last two days. “Wake up in the morning with a good face / Stare at the moon all day / Lonely as a whisper on a star chase / Does anyone care anyway?” An old Queen song by Brian May. The world needs more beauty instead of the industrial ugliness I see around me every day. To witness something pretty, I have to raise my eyes to the blue and wish upon the moon or the morning star. But this is the curse of the suburbs. The psalm goes that the Lord is my shepherd and I shall not want. I ought to be content with my daily bread. And yet so much is still desired. When the reality isn’t very attractive, this is the time to make poetry and pull humanity out of the gutter. “…Some of us are looking at the stars.” Remember that you shall not live by bread alone, but the gospel we need is beauty.

“Look in thy heart and write.”