The sky lights up green and orange to the east as the sun begins its ascent. I skipped the statin drug last night, so I expect to feel better today. The taxi will come get me after twelve o’clock today, for I’m going to DDA and then seeing Misty this afternoon.
Quarter of eight. The sun, low on the horizon, was right in my face on the return walk: big orange fireball. Reminiscent of some passages I read from a Harlem Renaissance novel, usually set at dusk under a full moon. The morning felt a little chill but I neglected to wear a hat this time. My mind is filled with the memory of blackberries and mint fields in the late summer north in Harrisburg. This area was smaller back then and everybody seemed to get along with each other better, whether you were from the city or out in the sticks. I hear colors in my head, a synesthesia of beauty and intoxication when I was young and didn’t know I was happy… I could be crossing a mental bridge to an illimitable space I used to know. But Aesop is letting me know that he is hungry, bringing me down to earth long enough to feed him.
Eight forty. I once had a friend who thought schizophrenia was a sabbatical, a subsidized opportunity to compose a lot of music. He just couldn’t understand how I had changed after the illness. I still feel bad about that. At the same time, he was changing too; becoming more conservative and like his parents, reading the newspaper every day from cover to cover, wearing glasses, and playing golf. His birthday would’ve been this month, a Libra. I don’t keep in touch with his family; they are all quite unlike my unique friend.
Quarter of eight.
Today is Sunday, and church is at ten o’clock. I’ve begun the new medication and I feel better so far, though it’s early to tell. The back pain is improved since stopping the old drug, thus I think I was probably right that it was a side effect. Outside it’s a chorus of a crow and a mourning dove. The air outdoors is smoky, browning the sun to a garish orange. Heather said she was very sick yesterday morning. Suk had to come down from Salem to work her shift, but it was nobody’s fault… The raspberry Snapple tea tasted great after the hiatus of one day. Aesop enjoyed his peanut butter snack, too. Before sunrise I listened to some tracks from Going Places by Herb Alpert. The sound is so mid 60’s, taking me back to my birth time 54 years ago. Probably unwittingly of my parents, Alpert was the ideal musician for a child to hear. My first experience of Blood, Sweat & Tears was quite abrasive due to the lead vocal. It was cool that my mother picked out stuff with strong horn sections. A lot of the music was instrumental. The version of Burt Bacharach she gave me was really ace: Make It Easy on Yourself.
Quarter of noon.
At a little after nine o’clock I headed out on foot for church, carrying with me a paperback edition of John Milton for Pastor to examine. I was pleased to see him take it under an arm out the door when church was through. The service this time was pretty good, and Eduardo had returned to play the piano. There was a lot of consciousness of the Louisiana hurricane today among us. Right now, the weather here is very pretty, the sunshine pale and mellow on the concrete. The next two days are expected to be in the 70’s, with a few clouds tomorrow. Children are playing in the street while Aesop my dog sprawls on his flank in the other room. I’m quite thankful to be where I am.
My trip to Country Club Road went pretty painlessly and it’s a beautiful morning, sunny and cool. After eleven today I want to play my turquoise Fender bass. I’ve left it bagged up ever since the crappy practice I had with the band last month…
Noon hour. Now I don’t have a reason to write about poetic transcendence of the kind in Keats’s work. What do I really believe, then? I think I’m just a realist. Even psychology turns me off sometimes for being implausible and unscientific. I don’t need anything for getting my landing gear off the ground and I don’t want to live in a dream. Maybe I should quit blogging, or change my focus to something different. My options are wide open for new things and ideas.
I remember something from the fall of 2013. My life was going downhill. In September my furnace crashed and I started using space heaters for warmth. I got energy assistance through my local utility company in October and took a few quizzes for additional credit to my bills. I attended two classes in energy efficiency, held in a church downtown. The instructor didn’t like me because I was an alcoholic and a bit of a jerk at the time. But throughout that autumn I only wanted to drink beer and listen to the Herb Alpert CD I’d ripped to my computer; plus I wanted to keep emailing with my friend in Scotland every night. I think the fall of 2013 was when the wheels began to drop off my apple cart. Funny I should remember that now; so maybe I actually do need a little boost from poetry and spiritual stuff? To be lifted on angels’ wings from the prosaic?
Quarter after five.
Aesop is going nuts because the opossum under the house is making noise. Outside the front room window it is gray twilight before the dawn. Maybe I’ll go back to bed, as it’s still very early.
Eight fifty. I was feeling nostalgic about my sophomore year in high school, particularly for the New Wave music I experienced on MTV when it was good. So I went on Amazon and bought a cd by INXS with a song called “The One Thing.” Memories from my boyhood are getting harder to retrieve for some reason, yet still I think they’re important. This is especially true because my old high school building might not exist someday soon… I researched the fate of the old building: it won’t be torn down, but will accommodate the middle school and Japanese immersion school. These big changes make me feel like a real dinosaur, a species that ought to be extinct, but even so, like an odd paradox my life keeps going on. People propose rewriting the history books, but what does that mean for those like me who remember what really happened, or the language that was used to describe it? It’s a strange process to be able to watch, being between ages, so to speak, and having memories that will be written away as null and void by popular demand. Though we exist as bodies in space, we’ll be told that our recollections do not. I hear a lot of seniors talk about the same thing. I am not quite a senior yet. I can identify with both generations of people, the older and the younger, and of course the younger ones will inherit the earth. But without a truthful history, the young people are doomed to repeat the mistakes already made by their elders. Maybe there’s no way to prevent this from happening.
Ten twenty five. I’ve paid my monthly bills. My utility costs were much lower than I expected. And, the ibuprofen I got yesterday is doing the trick, so I feel better now.
Quarter of four in the morning.
My life has been like going from the monastery to the world at large since the Covid crisis hit the United States. I suppose that’s just as well, yet still I fear for my sobriety every day. Does it make any difference that I’ve been baptized with the Lutherans?
I can remember the October morning of that event nearly four years ago, a day of torrential and constant rain when I felt barely awake. The deluge had formed huge gutter ponds at a couple of intersections. I got my feet wet in at least one of them as I gripped my green and yellow Duck umbrella against the elemental onslaught. The color of the sky was charcoal gray, but in retrospect, not unfriendly to mortals. Amazing to realize that I hadn’t yet started my antipsychotic medication: consciousness felt like a weird dream. During the ceremony, I recall how I was called upon to renounce the ways of the devil— which forever set up this dichotomy of church and the fallen world outside the sanctuary. Very strange and archaic, a ritual reaching back half a millennium. And I was a part of it! My mother had never done such a thing as this. When the pastor asked me afterwards if I felt different, I thought it was a trick question.
Five o’clock. Now I see the predawn twilight outside my window, a powder gray foreshadowing. Still I don’t know if I’m going to church this morning; today is not four years in the past, it is inalterably here and now. It’s very important to trust myself as the sun comes up on another summer’s day.
Quarter after eleven. I was feeling hungry, so I had my lunch. So many things are gone and so many things remain. Here comes the sun again. Sometimes I have bad dreams about falling off the wagon, but whether I do this is up to my ego to decide. Much of psychology is still pretty Freudian, like when we say that the beer jumps in your hand: it happens without a conscious will, and in fact comes from a bigger unconscious will. It’s like Schopenhauer’s vision of reality two hundred years ago, possibly still valid today. The sky is now mottled blue and white, while it’s yet cool outside… I guess it’s feasible to overthrow the paradigm of Freud and the thinkers who inspired him, and cognitive therapy is one way of doing this. Do people really operate on the pleasure principle, or is that just a myth?… The phone just rang and my dog went cuckoo. It was my insurance agent: my life insurance policy is all set… I can’t find a subject worth writing on right now. What is spirituality to me? I don’t believe it’s real.
I miss the summers when my apple trees produced so much fruit and my sister would come over and help herself. Particularly I remember August 2012. In the afternoon I would drink Rolling Rock from a plastic cup and go out in the backyard for a few apples to munch on. My pug had been put to sleep in July and I was without a dog for a few months. I kept myself company by writing my journal and emailing my friend across the Atlantic. Otherwise I felt like I didn’t exist in my solitude. And I suppose that in a sense I really didn’t exist without the validation of other people. Something about the atmosphere today is a cue for memories from years ago. Perhaps the quality of the light is just right. And just maybe in an alternate universe, the past is still present, and what I recall is still reality.
Quarter after ten. I’ve been gutted by church indoctrination. Somehow I need to throw off the brainwashing and just be human again… The radio at the little market was playing “Rock with You,” an old tune by Michael Jackson. Michelle said she was in sixth or seventh grade when the song was popular. Me too. It dates back to about 1979. That was when I started reading the novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs for sheer fun. The sun shone a lot brighter then, and the taste of a nectarine was unbeatable. Outside my bedroom window stood a crabapple tree I could hear swishing in the summer breezes. The sky was powder blue and mellow. We had a Carrier air conditioning unit in the family room that really saved us from the heat. Life was simple and literal, uncomplicated by doctrines or dogmas. Even ethics was intuitive; the Golden Rule sufficed. My mother loved beauty in any form, especially the human body, or maybe that was me? I drew countless figures from my reading, including John Carter of Mars and his friends. I was never happier than during that year. When school started, I made an awesome Tarzan for the girl who sat behind me in English: just No 2 pencil on Manila divider paper. I inscribed it to her and she took it home.
Eleven thirty. There should be band practice tomorrow afternoon. Hopefully it goes better than the last time. It doesn’t really matter which instrument I take with me, so I’ll use the white Fender bass for its sweet tone. The rain has started again.
Two o’clock. Lately it stays light out till after six o’clock. It’s just another overcast day, gray and dismal. This morning I was definitely unwell. When I take leave of common sense and blither about religion, I’m not doing so great. Some people with schizophrenia can’t read Dostoevsky or Kafka because of paranoia. I’d be better off not reading them either. For a long time I’ve felt borderline delusional, but now without church I don’t have to read heavy stuff. Jules Verne might be fun for a while. I’m free to read what interests me, no shadow of the church to engulf me.
Eight thirty five.
I feel better this morning, even though my sleep was filled with nightmares. Generally they were about the clash of poetry and empiricism, and where do I stand, and what am I supposed to do? If we don’t take science seriously, then we will pollute ourselves to extinction. Poetry is good entertainment, but it won’t reverse things like climate change or develop a cure for schizophrenia. At some point people have to be responsible for the future and pull their heads out of the sand, or else suffer the same fate as the dinosaur and the dodo. Someday the trail of cheeseburgers and fries will come to an end. Human beings are mostly selfish and vain, thinking the world revolves around them. Does the sun go round the earth or the other way around? Is the moon made of cheese? If it doesn’t profit humans somehow, we’re not interested in it. What’s the Amazon Rain Forest to us if we can’t cut it down? Who cares how many African elephants are left when their ivory is so valuable? We perceive everything with dollar signs in our eyes. All the time I hear conservatives argue that there should be a “balance” between ecology and economics, but this is only a way of excluding the environment.
Nine thirty. Something made me think of a CD by Sonic Youth: Bad Moon Rising. I borrowed it from a friend long ago and listened to it only once. For me, the experience of hearing it was terrifying, even though in a way it was well done. The music went to dark spiritual places that triggered my psychosis. A quality of this morning, perhaps the fog and the cold, suggested to me autumn many years back. Bonnie Rose smiled and waved from her black truck as she was returning from the coffee shack. Suk, covering for Michelle, was very nice. I kind of enjoy this nostalgia for old friends and music, even Sonic Youth. The feeling of October in February gives me the urge to read “Sleepy Hollow” again and creep myself out a little. And by the way, I located the Joseph Campbell book I feared was lost.
It’s another sunny morning, and the high temperature is supposed to be 93 degrees. When I work up the courage, I may try uploading more music tracks of my own to SoundCloud using my laptop. But I don’t know if it’s worth the time and grief. Earlier this morning I dreamed about home recording, and it was very exciting to hear new music from myself. Much easier dreamed than done, unfortunately. The new digital technologies are very difficult for me to master. I loved the old days of four track cassette recorders and intuitively obvious drum machines. Those were the days when the technology was still dumber than human beings. Today, all these gadgets are a cryptogram for old school musicians. So, once in a while I have a dream about recording, but it might not be realistic… Tomorrow morning I have an appointment in Springfield for a blood draw. My clinic has its own lab unaffiliated with Q— Diagnostics. This makes things a little easier. Last winter, my healthcare service dropped my insurance company and left many people scrambling to find new providers. I had a couple of options, but I stayed with the same insurance and eliminated P—Health. I made this decision based on the experiences I’d had with both organizations.
Eleven forty. Now I’m curious about hooking up my external hard drive to my laptop and delving into some old files. The project could be rather painful emotionally, but there may be some little gems worth preserving.
One thirty. Most of the old poems I looked at were quite smutty, like Henry Miller attempting to write poetry. Not so good. Some of them weren’t even very clever. The mood was definitely rebellious and frustrated with a culture I perceived as repressed. But probably my overindulgence in alcohol increased the desire for love, and moreover, I’d had such lousy role models in my parents. I don’t know. It also seems that I blew my chance to fulfill my secular dreams with Kate. Maybe the secularism wasn’t working for me, or at least I couldn’t stop drinking and ruining my health until I tried something different. While I was surfing my old files, I listened to “Clockwork Angels” by Rush. This pitched me into remorse about losing my opportunity with Kate. However, thinking about it, if I had continued with the same “secular” friends and lifestyle, very likely I would be dead by now. Vicki told me about an acquaintance who had recently died of alcoholism at 52 years of age. The thing about Kate that really makes me kick myself is how smart she was, how worldly wise and a little bit defiant and daring. But no, I couldn’t keep it up. It wasn’t so much that I “blew it.” Rather, I wanted to live beyond my fifties.
Nine twenty five. Aesop gets his breakfast in a few minutes. I exercise my freedom wherever I can. It’s a beautiful day, with the high temperature predicted to be 90 degrees. I just paid my insurance bill. I’m glad August is over. September is the month when school starts in my city.
I can remember the feeling of returning to school in Stride Rite shoes, either waffle stompers or wallabies, periwinkle cords, and a homemade shirt. I smell my lunch thermos. Scooby Doo or Speed Buggy was the theme. I see the old playground. Monkey bars and structures for climbing on, swings, and a slide. The fierce sun made the asphalt stink like tar. Some of the girls wore Bluebird or Brownie uniforms on certain days. We sang patriotic songs without really knowing what they meant. I was fascinated with dinosaurs, so I started a collection of books, posters, and stickers about them. Mom didn’t approve of this, but she went along with it. It’s strange, I can feel what it was like to be seven years old. The teacher hated me, but some of the other kids were nice. I began piano lessons the same year. I rode my bike to get my weekly lesson early in the morning, then went directly to school.
Mrs Weight lived in the green house at the end of Fremont. Her son had a dachshund named Sergeant Pepper. They called him Sarge. Every Christmas she held a recital of all her students. These were nerve wracking, and I don’t recall them very well. I studied with her for six years, then finally quit and dedicated myself to drum lessons with Ken. Mrs Weight was upset because she didn’t approve of rock and roll… Speaking of which, I ordered the 40th Anniversary edition of A Farewell to Kings by Rush. It should be kind of emotional for me, reminding me of past joys and disappointments. “Madrigal” ought to be particularly sweet.