Around the World

Seven thirty five.

I had a couple of little revelations in the last half hour on my excursion to Community Market. Willie was walking Rosie up my street when I came out the front door. We stopped in passing and talked a little. I learned that he makes a living by selling goods from a booth at Saturday Market. Willie fashions shirts and other clothing, and he makes wooden hand drums. When I asked, he described himself as an “old hippie” with a smile. Next, I rounded the corner onto Fremont Avenue and, to my shock, a for sale sign hung like a gibbet in the front yard of Kat’s house. Her family has only been living there for a year and a half. I have no clue what changed their mind or what the circumstances are. And finally, it sounds like Heather is going through a breakup. Willie honked his horn at me on Maxwell Road as I was walking home. He was on his way to set up his booth, for after all this is Saturday. The sun is out this morning in a clear blue sky, but the air is windless. A prop plane hums over my house. My dog anticipates breakfast. Aesop has been rather agitated lately; he doesn’t sleep well and has nightmares when he does. Probably he feeds off my own disquiet about the world today. I’ll be relieved when summer is gone.

They say that endings are really new beginnings. Even so, bring on the autumn… 

Domains

Nine fifty.

I don’t feel very good today. I suspect the cholesterol medication makes me dizzy and unbalanced, plus I have back pain. Just the wages of getting older. I hope I can make it to church tomorrow morning… But mentally I’m doing pretty well. The raspberry tea must’ve helped me. It is definitely cloudy and overcast today, and I kind of like it. Maybe it won’t get so hot this time. My mind dwells on school during the fall of 1990 for some reason. It was the only time I ever went to a Halloween party— and felt like a complete social klutz. It was also a time when I had to choose between music and academics, ultimately picking school. A difficult decision. But I think I was in the wrong place with my musical friends, though I didn’t realize it right away. I dunno; it’s hard to be a divided person with diverse abilities.

Quarter after eleven. Feeling lonely again. Roger has some project going in his garage, something noisy. Since his retirement it’s been hard for him to keep busy. What is a retired cop supposed to do? His job was to bust the scumbags, as he called them. He didn’t care how the bad guys came to be that way. Didn’t think about criminal justice or whatever. If they broke the law, they broke the law: period. That was the training he received… Roger has been my neighbor for many years. He’s an old conservative like two other houses on this street. The most outrageous conservatives used to live next door to me. They laughed at homeless people and didn’t own a single book. I was actually sandwiched between two ultra conservative homes. Those people all moved away by June 2015, to my immense relief. They hated me and didn’t try to hide it. Those were very difficult years.

Noon hour. When you can’t find a niche where you fit in, you have to carve your own niche. That’s what having a domain is all about. 

Pumpkin Eaters

Seven o’clock.

I went to the store super early because I judged that I was free to do so. As I was on my way down my street I heard Aesop barking and crying for some reason; maybe he thought this was unusual for me. There is free will and then there are expectations from others. I saw one Black man inside the market and another guy in a motorcycle helmet. At the checkout counter nothing was extraordinary. I bought four pounds of Dog Chow and two Snapple teas. Michelle might’ve been a little paranoid. Coming home I passed an older couple who greeted me good morning very cordially. Kat was just opening her garage door when I was rounding the corner and said hello. Rather stupidly I showed her the dog food and she said you can’t do without that. I never know what to say to Kat. Her values are probably quite conservative, but you never know until you break the ice, and then you’re taking a risk. People are often not what they appear to be. I have another neighbor who keeps his wife in a pumpkin shell, to allude to the old nursery rhyme, and I always feel so sad for her. She could be having a lot more fun with her life, and meanwhile the decades fly away like sand off the desert dunes. Life can be an open and generous thing, like a bird on the wing, if we only seize opportunities as they are offered. Life also can be deceptive, a thing of duplicity, so again appearance may not be reality. 

Easter Sunday

Quarter after eight. Sheryl from church texted me a while ago and said it would be nice to see me for the Easter service. So I replied with my reason for not coming to church as often anymore. Interesting; she said she misses my singing voice. And I do have some fond memories of singing with our choir a couple of years ago. The people were so nice and we had a lot of fun together. The only relationship that went kind of sour was the one with Pastor himself, and that’s a regrettable thing for me and the others… I am still very excited about my band. I thought our rehearsal yesterday was the best one ever so far. It seems to me that the three of us feel more comfortable with each other now; we’re becoming better friends, so the music flows a bit more easily than before… It’s another partly sunny morning. The sunlight splashes down and dapples the magnolia tree in my backyard. About two weeks ago I spotted a raccoon jumping into the same tree and settling there in the lower limbs. Even at the time, I thought maybe I was hallucinating; it was so surreal and bizarre to see. Since then I haven’t seen the raccoon again, thus maybe I really was deluded. “Cold hearted orb that rules the night / Removes the colors from our sight / Red is gray and yellow white / But we decide which is right / And which is an illusion?”

Sheryl just texted me back; she’d assumed that my absence was due to Covid. But no, it was the sermon on demonic possession that alienated me from church, at least temporarily. I’m going to stay home today except for my daily trip to the market on Maxwell Road. I had an exciting day yesterday and need a rest today.

Ten o’clock. As with most Easter Sundays, the neighborhood has fallen very silent, and the silence is rather disturbing to me. It is the silence of the tomb, of death, and maybe of intellectual poverty. It is the quiet of oppression, perhaps, when nobody dares to speak their mind. My closest neighbors behave very strangely, not very amiably with each other or with me, keeping to themselves and basically being quite self centered. I find this is true of many conservatives: they’re paranoid and care only about what is theirs. They scoff at people who don’t have a home or a job; people who are unfortunate. They figure that it’s tough luck for them; we got ours, so screw the people who have nothing. Such a selfish attitude, and essentially asocial. How can my neighbors be happy with such narrow views and feelings? They cloister themselves in their homes and watch tv all day… The book of Plato I ordered was probably delivered to the wrong address, but do you think the erroneous recipient will bring the package to me? No one practices common courtesy around here. Every house is an island on my street, and finders keepers, losers weepers… I jumped to a conclusion. The computerized Amazon chat assistant said the book probably hasn’t arrived yet. But this is another example of the dehumanization of society. “It’s so hard to stay together / Passing through revolving doors / We need someone to talk to / And someone to sweep the floors.” 

Speak Up!

Six twenty five.

Total blackness outside my west window. There should be daylight at seven o’clock. Mentally I can hear the bass line to “Take Five.” I think the band is on for practice this Saturday. I’m concerned about my back pain, but I plan on gutting it out. I got as much sleep as I could, and then had to admit defeat. Is it a matter of inference that the sun will come up each day? I look to the east, and now I see the gray dawn. My immediate neighbors still behave very strangely. Roger makes no effort to be friendly with Lenore across the street from him. But what I find eerie is the silence around here; I never hear the sound of a human voice outside. It calls to my mind the book by Ken Kesey. Everyone in the hospital is quiet and obedient until the silence is broken by one new patient. When his life is sacrificed in the end, it inspires the big Native to crash out the wall and run to freedom in the sunrise. Or anyway, that’s the film version. The story seems allegorical to me, and applicable to our lives today.

A few purple clouds show in the east. Sky is powder blue… Heidi gave me homework to do before Tuesday: attend an AA meeting. But that might be very difficult for me. I don’t like Twelve Step programs or anything numbing to the intellect. I’m a maverick, I guess. Probably no one wholly agrees with readymade institutions, so they pretend to get along, and keep their thoughts private. Emerson said that a great man is one who speaks what other people merely think. This takes audacity.

Quarter of eight. Pretty soon I’ll make my daily pilgrimage to Community Market. I don’t expect anything unusual on my trip, but you never know. Everything is in perpetual flux and anything can happen. The trick is having resourceful wits, the ability to think spontaneously. 

Looks Can Deceive

Quarter after ten. On my promenade I spoke with three different people this morning, the longest with my neighbor Kat down the street from my house. I got out of bed feeling gloomy and disinclined to go to the store, though I’m glad I forced myself to do it. Jessica said the salon business is pretty good lately, and told me about the vandals who sprayed graffiti on the wall beside the building. Kat said she’d had a bike stolen from her garage recently. Both nocturnal crimes were caught on camera. And Michelle and I lamented how it seems like the end of the world; but I believe we each were thinking something different. On my end, I was considering our ecological suicide. She probably was thinking of something moral in a traditional way… Kat has a big chocolate dog who came up to me, offering me his polyester bone, so I took it and tossed it helicopter style towards the center of her yard. We never stopped talking… But it makes me reflect on appearance and reality, and how two people can use the same words and have entirely different ideas on their mind. Outwardly a person can look a certain way, but inside be just the opposite of what you expect. Maybe the conversation I had with Kat was deceptive, and she believes I’m something I’m not… A wind has picked up that I can see and hear outside. Where I had been gloomy at first, now I’m just speculative as the morning advances towards noon. 

Torn

Eight fifty.

It’s almost time to feed Aesop. He doesn’t care that Joe Biden is being sworn in this morning. And maybe it isn’t such a big deal after all. I got another scam call regarding the warranty on my car, when I don’t own one. In the mail last night I received the Sandburg book. I’m very pleased with it. I read twelve pages early this morning… Now I have to go to the store. Hopefully they’ll have some of those sandwiches.

Ten o five. I came upon my neighbor Willie and his small dog Rosie on the return trip from the store. He saw me coming down Fremont and stopped and waited up for me. Willie has long white hair and a goatee. He’s always pleasant to talk with. His street is the one parallel to mine to the east. Once when I was out walking in the summertime I took his picture with my Kodak PixPro. It was my new toy and I shot everything for a while. Right now it’s quiet and peaceful in the neighborhood. Things seem to be settling down and people can breathe again. Perhaps now we can move on with the new year. First thing this morning I found another good book of analytic philosophy in my stuff. It’s about time for unfounded metaphysics to be put in its place, at least for me. Church is all right with me if it’s just about the people, but I’m not into the supernatural. I think my dog believes in ghosts and things he can’t explain, but human beings ought to know better. I just remembered a passage from Blake. Newton blows the trumpet of doom and consequently the angels in heaven crash down to earth. This is to say that science kills the religious imagination. Possibly I should think on this a little more. It’s hard to know what’s right. 

On Positivism

One ten. The problem with Jungian psychology is that there’s no evidence for any of it, nothing objective and measurable. It’s more like faith: something you feel to be true rather than a truth you can demonstrate. Those ideas just hang there in the ether, incapable of being proven valid or invalid. Logical analysis cannot verify such claims. So what does this do to poetry? Do we rule out the importance of poetry in our lives?… I don’t feel very strong right now. Maybe I’ll pick up a book. Put everything aside and read for a while.

Three o’clock. So I started reading the introduction to the compilation called Logical Positivism by A.J. Ayer: very well done. Some of it was a bit over my head because it involved mathematics, but I could get the basic idea, and with repetition I should be able to master it. I was prompted to read this by my exasperation with metaphysical claims that have no factual basis, that refer to nothing in the world except for language itself. I guess the aim of positivism was to make philosophy closer to a science, a discipline that was absolutely true, though the word “absolutely” isn’t quite right. It was to be a fool proof method of determining truth. I found this reading very enjoyable, while outside it’s a beautiful sunny afternoon. I still haven’t played bass guitar today. Maybe I won’t until tomorrow. I saw Diana gabbing with a neighbor across the street, most likely about current events and politics. She refused to answer her door when I brought over some chocolate at Christmas time, so it’s hard not to take it personally. I suppose just chalk it up to stupidity and forget it. I dislike most of my immediate neighbors, particularly the longest standing ones with ultra conservative attitudes. Their hearts are made of stone and they are very stingy with their money, time, and hospitality. Basically they suck. Now I think I’ll do my bass practice, and to hell with the neighbors. 

A Human Mirror

Quarter after eight.

It was another red dawn today: “Red skies at morning, sailor take warning.” I hesitate to go out in the cold, would rather be comfortable indoors. Tomorrow there is church again at seven o’clock. I plan to go and participate. I hope Roxanne is feeling okay. During the wee hours a while ago I started reading The Gray Notebook by Josep Pla out of a nagging curiosity regarding the content and his attitudes in general. It had been a big mystery to me. Fifteen pages into the book, it appears to be simply a realistic diary of a person’s life, starting with his family background and the people he has known in his native Spain up to his 21st birthday in 1918. I think his project is to describe things with very little personal bias, being a human mirror of the life around him. This is sort of the contrary of Romanticism, full of ego and bombast. But I’m getting ahead of myself… It’s almost time to feed Aesop his breakfast. I count down the minutes to him while he gets increasingly excited and vocal.

Nine thirty. I bundled up and went over to the market. Saw nothing unusual. My neighbor Jeff passed by me in his burnt orange Mustang as I was coming home. I can never remember his wife’s name, but I think it’s Sara. He used to be a high school science teacher. He has a long white beard with a swarthy complexion and a little snub nose. Jeff doesn’t invite much conversation when I see him on the street. Outside of his house he flies a skull and crossbones pirate flag, and his mocha colored boat is called the Second Wind. Just across the street from him is Harry’s house, an old conservative guy who lost his wife over a year ago. He used to have two Doberman pinchers in his garage. His daughter Cherie lives on the cross street to the north. Occasionally I see her in his front yard, trimming rose bushes or whatever to help out… The clouds have burned off, showing the light blue winter sky. Yesterday at noon the sunshine was intense, or maybe I’d had too much caffeine. I hope for a serene day today, calm and quiet, except for the rock and roll noise from my bass guitar this afternoon. 

Briar Rose

Quarter of ten.

Conditions were pretty normal at the little market this morning. Michelle and the customer ahead of me were talking about the new tax on cigarettes. Because of this, the cost has gone up to ten dollars a pack. Michelle considers the tax to be punishing people with addictions, which isn’t fair. I can see the sense of that. Pricing people out of nicotine is effectively a form of prohibition. It’s a one sided way of looking at things; I don’t smoke, therefore you shouldn’t smoke either. Well, I voted against the tax, though the decision took some thought. 

I bought a sub sandwich, cottage cheese, and two Snapples. The mail carrier mistakenly gave me Diana’s letter, so I went across the street and wedged it in her door. Bonnie Rose passed me on her way back from the espresso shack and waved without smiling. It really puzzles me that I never see Colin outside his house anymore. We had a big windstorm last night, yet the political sign in my front lawn still stands. So does Roger’s black and blue striped police flag, in a strange and silent standoff between neighbors. Most of the time, people around here are peculiarly quiet, the silence rudely broken by my bass guitar nearly every afternoon. No one says anything, and no one has vandalized my sign or any of my property. The magic spell reminds me of a fairytale in the Brothers Grimm. I believe it was “Briar Rose,” or “Sleeping Beauty.” A woman pricks her finger on a spindle and everyone enclosed by the hedgerow falls into a deep sleep, or maybe a paralysis. They freeze as if catatonic. I forget what or who breaks the enchantment, but it was probably a prince happening by the scene…