Ten o five.
The wind is really whipping; it just missed me by a half hour. Aesop was very excited because I bought him some doggie chicken strips this morning. He’d been picky about his breakfast and ate it only as an afterthought. I’ve still got the drippy Herb Alpert music in my brain, but to be honest I actually like it. I believe it helps me process some difficult emotions, and what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Right now it’s “The Sea Is My Soil,” with an acoustic guitar that’s slightly out of tune. Besides the sound of the wind it is silent in the house; an occasional car goes roaring on the highway to the north.
Another note on A Connecticut Yankee: no nature means that people are not only free but also they are equal. Jung has said that “nature is aristocratic,” and inequality begins there. But Twain said that if you remove the clothes from everyone, distinctions of social class will disappear and people are all the same. He was probably an early behaviorist, a believer in learning theory. And there’s nothing to prove that either perspective is right or wrong. If everyone started out with the same advantages, then maybe the view of Mark Twain would be correct. Unfortunately, for ethical reasons no one can run that experiment.
Aesop is going to pout now until he gets another treat of chicken strips. Pavlov’s Dog is salivating.
I totally botched the lyric to the Dolby song, plus it refers to something historical that I have no familiarity with. Of course a British person would recognize it in a heartbeat. Even worse, a British person will know American history better than we do over here. The song I tried to cite was “Cloudburst at Shingle Street,” the lyric to which is available on the internet.
I told Aesop I’d feed him at nine fifteen, but I might hold off just a little bit longer. He’s getting a drink of water right now. Echoes of last night’s service rise to my mind, specifically the “hold us in love” part of the Holden Evening Prayer. I think there’s a food pantry this morning, but going to church tomorrow should be enough for me. I made a point of attending the memorial for Katie because she was my friend. I’ve been to the little store and seen Heather. Didn’t get rained on, though the air looks kind of blue. I put on a pair of very lightweight slip on shoes that feel comfortable to me because it’s about utility and not so much fashion. Aesop is waiting patiently for his breakfast. Some idiot is mowing his lawn when he’ll probably get wet. It’s not what I would choose to do. The greens outside are really green from the gray day, but it’s getting quite dark suddenly. Maybe he’ll say, “Retreat!” and quit his project.
Ten o’clock. The dog is fed now while the darkness out there grows and a cloudburst looks inevitable. “Into the cloudburst naked / I wanna get my face wet / It’s been buried in the sun for years.” I wonder what Thomas Dolby thinks of the pandemic? I’d really love to know. His lyrics dealing with history are so spot on; depressing but very good, very deep. Now the rain is coming down and the sound of the lawnmower has ceased. Welcome to Oregon weather.
Four fifty. I’m going to Katie’s memorial service tonight. Tim is picking me up at six forty. I’ve had a rough afternoon because I listened to the CD this morning, opening up an emotional can of worms. Then I wallowed in pathos for a few hours, thinking of my mother, to whom I was very close. I guess I can snap out of it when it’s time to go to the church. Until then I’m just killing time, waiting for the sun to go down. I really can’t put my parents down for being hedonists. The church has me in a tight spot, and I tend to sympathize still with my parents and not with my sister. I’m not going to manage to be very rational today. Sometimes that’s okay. But it’s not my usual mental state to be soppy and maudlin. If I could just make the music stop.
Six o’clock. It won’t be long now.
I awoke at four o’clock and knew I was done sleeping for the night, so I got up and listened to Herb Alpert. I noticed that the bass, an old Fender with flat wound strings, sounded close to an acoustic upright bass, but then I heard the frets. The tone was incredible and the player was very good. He was very loud in the mix for the first three tracks, which I liked. The album is called Warm, and the Tijuana Brass recorded it after they re banded around 1970. All of the instruments are real, nothing is synthetic, and that means the musicians had to work much harder. Alpert actually sings on two songs: “Without Her” and “To Wait for Love.” Usually he plays trumpet, feeling every beat, every note that goes by…
I must be a weirdo, having music playing in my head all the time like a human tape recorder. People ask me if the music I hear is at least good and not annoying, and I don’t have a good answer for them. It’s something I’ve had to live with all my life. And sometimes, wouldn’t it be nice if we really could show our “nerves in patterns on a screen” to know exactly how each other feels and thinks, to share our interior experience with the world? Maybe someday we’ll possess the technology to do that, if anyone cares to know.
I’ve ordered two new CDs of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, I’m not sure why. There’s probably a reason I’m doing this at this particular time, and a little insight might reveal it to me. What happens in October? How many past Octobers can I recall, like the concentric rings of a tree trunk or layers of ivory in a whale’s tooth? Thirty years ago I was diagnosed with schizophrenia, at the end of the initial psychotic episode. At some point during that time I reviewed the music of my childhood, and Alpert was a big part of that. I don’t remember what the purpose of the regression was; I think I wanted to reach the bedrock of my soul, in order to know who I truly was. But instead, the revelations deteriorated to bizarre delusions about religion and mythology, as if I was living a waking dream or a fairytale. Ultimately I believed that I was Jesus Christ on a quest for his mother, the Virgin Mary… My psychiatrist at the time later asked me if he could have said anything to make the delusions go away; was it possible to talk me out of them? And I told him that I doubted it. Only by taking the medication could this be done. The most absurd thing is the idea of two schizophrenic people meeting each other, both claiming to be Jesus Christ. At the same time, why is Christ the most archetypal hero a person can imagine, existing at such a profound level of the psyche, and how real is this image? Also, the same for the Virgin Mary as the ultimate mother. Where do these ideas come from? I wasn’t even raised religious.
Quarter of five.
I slept all I could, and now it’s going to be an early day. I was thinking last night about Henry James, kind of, and how he influenced me when I made friends with a Scotswoman on the internet. It was not just an escape for me, even though I drank like a fish; it was a necessity when my illness was so bad and a spiritualized America drove me insane. People had no evidence for the things they believed, and this loss of contact with reality exasperated the crap out of me. Everywhere I heard people saying “Jesus loves you” and other unverifiable claims that stood no chance of being true. So I needed a good dose of common sense in a world that had lost its mind… Yesterday I was absent from church for the fifth consecutive week. Finally I’m getting so I can use my brain again with satisfactory results. I was very tired of imagination run amok. I’ve rounded up a little regimen of books for reading about Enlightenment attitudes. It’s a start.
Six o’clock. This is when the store opens. I won’t forget the dog food this time. It won’t be light out for over an hour more, but I’ll go ahead anyway. I’m reminded of a bass solo by Jaco Pastorius titled “Portrait of Tracy.” I haven’t heard the studio version in many years, but the memory brings tears.
Ten ten at night.
Before sunset this evening the mail carrier brought my new bass pickup. It’s the Di Marzio Model P, a ceramic hum bucker I plan to install in my Mexican Fender. This should be a lot of fun, maybe when I feel better again. At the same time, I feel almost too old to rock and roll any longer: 55 years old in January. Then again, what do people 55 years old do in our culture? I won’t be running any marathons. Until now I never pictured myself as an old man; it’s an image I didn’t think about in connection with me. I know of some people who sort of retired from their lives in their fifties, and then just marked time until they died. But that can’t be what society expects of us who are under 60. I also know people in their sixties who deny their age and try to act 21 years old. It leads me to think, what is this thing called age, and what is appropriate to it? Some say that you’re only as old as you feel. The riddle of the Sphinx: what walks on three legs in the evening? The evening of life does befall people, so then we ought to feel thankful that we even made it this far and didn’t get picked off by some natural predator along the way. Kind of like the race of baby green sea turtles towards the surf in the Galapagos I saw in a National Geographic tv show as a child.
I figured out that my life is in a kind of limbo since I left the rock band two months ago. I need a new music project to keep me sane. Also my feelings are in a tangle concerning the church. Pastor’s ideas, especially on personal happiness and freedom, to me seem unnatural and smack of Christian stoicism. Again I remember the cousin of Jane Eyre in the book by Charlotte Bronte, whose stoicism is cerebral and whose love is entirely impersonal and dispassionate. Jane finds it odious and tells St. John she scorns his love. I think Pastor’s understanding of eudaemonia, or a collective happiness, is a mere feat of intellectual gymnastics bordering on inhumanity. Nobody with a heart will be satisfied with a “happiness” so located in the head. In this connection I also think of Dubliners by James Joyce, a collection of stories about the decline of passion in people’s lives. It’s a book that Pastor has not read… Before Christmas this year I want to be done with the church and doing something else, hopefully a new rock band project. I’d love to play my bass with somebody again, make people feel good.
I’ve been to the store, but still am having a hard time waking up. Also I feel anxious and worried about a few things. I think I’ll cancel the physical therapy appointment for tomorrow. I know I’m not up for it.
Quarter after ten. My mind is more on the present moment today. A car whizzed by with the stereo playing “Highway to Hell.” I’ve heard that a lot recently. Seems like a popular choice on the radio right now. All of us together on the road to perdition, like the motley and representative crew of the Pequod in the Herman Melville book. It’s also like the Company of the Ring, nine assorted people to go up against the evil Sauron in Mordor… Here come the garbage trucks, recycling first. Michelle told me of her troubles earlier this morning, and afterwards I wondered why some people have such bad luck. Theodicy: why do bad things happen to good people? How do we account for evil in the world? Maybe it’s easier to say things just happen without discriminating good and bad. Still, it’s tempting to ask why is this happening to me. I used to entertain the belief in karma, but this drove me nearly crazy with paranoia. Ultimately it’s not a rational perspective on life’s events. So much of theology is like that, complicating things unnecessarily. And AC/DC should know what to do with their stupid song.
Eleven o five. It looks like the sun might break through the morning overcast: the voice of reason roaring like a lion. I get sick of the primordial slime of superstition and Dark Age thinking. But I know I’ll always be a minority.