Back to Myself

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. 

Quandary

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.

Time Capsule

Nine forty.

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. 

Back to School

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.

Sense and Sound

Eleven thirty. My mind is devoid of abstractions. I have nothing interesting to say. I suppose I could ask Todd about lowering the dose of my medication. Before I know it I’ll be on no drugs at all. Will I have recovered from schizophrenia? Stranger things have happened. Maybe that’s why I’m concerned about having a job or not. The lowest dosage of Vraylar is 3 mg, I think. Currently I take 4.5 mg.

Noon hour. I’m juggling the idea of putting on the new strings, yet I’m so uninspired to play my bass. I just remembered how happy my mother used to be whenever her cousin Bub showed up here in the fall. No other relative gave her such pure pleasure to see again. They would sit together in the family room and talk about old times and laugh their brains out. It was a kind of humor that only they understood. It was couched in the family dialect, so it wasn’t conventional or logical. Today, even I would have trouble trying to see what was so funny. My sister still speaks that language. I guess the only oddball is me. The sense of the words matters more to me than the sound. Maybe it’s important to try to remember the old language and preserve it somehow… Bub always stayed for dinner and then chatted with my mother and my dad too. He always had a new car to show off. He was a collector. The last time I saw him was probably in the fall of 1994. Mom was not doing well. She was growing more and more reclusive. No; he was here in August or September of 1996. I had a project to do that summer, so I might have been busy. A couple of years later, he was gone after a battle with cancer… I should call my sister once a week and keep in touch. It wouldn’t be right to allow the language to vanish.

Mandalay Moon

Eight ten.

I feel a little wiped out, but my mood is fairly cheerful. Early this morning the moon shone through my bedroom window, bright and full. Under its spell I thought of my mother in her last two years, after Dad had passed away. We drank a lot! And she made breakfast for dinner often, or else I would get takeout from Tio Pepe, the Mexican restaurant on River Road. I lived in sort of a dream then. My friends in music must have thought I was strange to be living with my mother. But I was comfortable. I had no worries financially. I bought a lot of books and read every day. And I learned more about my mother’s aesthetic mentality, although it was beginning to decay. She told me about a song her parents used to sing for their parties, “The Road to Mandalay,” with words by Rudyard Kipling. On one of my trips to the bookstore I bought a big book of Kipling’s verse that contained “Mandalay.” I brought it home and read it to Mom. I also purchased two novels by Harold Robbins in an effort to make sense of the thinking of my parents. I was very aware that it was different from most people I knew. Quite amoral, in fact, like the poetry of Edgar Poe. Maybe what I sought was the root of schizophrenia. There was such a schism between Mom’s beliefs and those of everyone else that madness could result. But that’s only a theory. Perhaps Mom was simply more intelligent than the average people I knew…

Soliloquy on a Coke

Seven o five.

I will go to the store a little earlier today. I might buy a Coke, as long as I’m stopping the gabapentin. The drug takes up to 48 hours to completely leave your system. Dunno, it still seems risky. I don’t remember when I started taking the gabapentin. I believe it was April or May. Okay, I’ll buy one liter of Coke and put it in the fridge.

Ten thirty. I offered to go with Vicki to her appointment scheduled for Thursday. She said her best friend is going with her, but she appreciated the thought. Well, I bought the Coke. It’s waiting for me in the refrigerator. I’m a little nervous about it. I think I’ll try it late this afternoon. The soft drink is like catnip to me; I just love it and can’t explain why… I have packages coming today, tomorrow, and Wednesday. Tomorrow morning I can go to the bank and deposit my windfall. The sunshine is nice and not too hot. Aesop had his breakfast. Yesterday, I got a text from the guitarist who was interested in jamming. Sounds like he’s making arrangements. I still don’t know his name… I kind of miss the times when I was working. My life felt like it had a momentum going— until I realized that there was no opportunity to move up the ladder. It was a dead end job, and the tasks were too easy. I merely entered data without being allowed to think. So maybe I don’t miss it after all.

Quarter of noon. It’s about time for lunch… Perhaps the aim of life is pleasure, as more than one philosopher has asserted. But if so, it seems like many people refute this idea. I’m far from ever being a self abnegating religious person. For some, even thinking is self indulgent. Why would anyone want to think? This was one of the attitudes that turned me off of AA.

Quarter of one. It was from Aristotle that I learned the hierarchy of ends, with happiness as the highest good. I should go and review the Nichomachean Ethics. Over time, I confused this with the summum bonum of John Stuart Mill, but these were obviously not the same… In the old Christian workplace, I was an oddball with essentially Greek notions. My education was geared that way, so I wondered how other college graduates could have missed it. Likewise, they wondered why I lacked Christian indoctrination. I guess my old job really wasn’t much fun. But I hope the Coca-Cola tastes good anyway!

Pasado y Presente

Quarter after six.

Sometimes I miss Kate profoundly, and regret how Europe has shrugged off the United States since the last election. It feels unfair because I had no control over that. I had trouble sleeping during the night. Aesop’s iq blows my mind. I give him a request and back it with a sound argument, and he complies if it makes sense to him. I can see him weighing my logic in his mind.

Nine o’clock. I bought Aesop three cans of Alpo for 30 cents off with my bottle returns. Weird how I can never have Coca-Cola again. The caffeine reacts badly with my medication. I’m starting to feel as if I were on a treadmill day after day, so I should mix things up a little. Suddenly I think, Who was my love interest in 2007? But I had no one then; no relationship except with alcohol. My date every Friday night was a 12 pack of Foster’s or Henry’s. Oh yeah, I had a love hate relationship with a certain coworker. I wonder what happened to my supervisor? I only know he doesn’t work there anymore. And the frenemy retired… Eight years ago around this time, I had to have Henry euthanized. A pug, he was smaller and cuter than Aesop, and far more sociable. Mom purchased him from Bobcat Pets in the Santa Clara Square, a strip mall north of me on River Road. Inside his glass prison, Henry sought to engage with everybody who looked in. His passing at 14 was a very hard thing. The veterinary hospital sent me a sympathy card signed by the entire staff. I kept it up until the fire happened.

Ten twenty. Aesop had his filet mignon and bacon, and now he’s waiting for a snack. We’re both enjoying the cooler weather today. Then tomorrow will have no mercy; high of 98 degrees. Ninety six on Monday… Memories of places flit through my mind, never materializing long enough for description. Some of those places don’t exist anymore; and if they do, they are changed. Only in memory are things permanent— and not even there.

Longest Day’s Night

Eleven thirty five. It’s been a rather productive day, while still being relaxed and low key. My dog, as smart as he is, learns to roll with my routines. He understands more than I know, and I’ve never had a dog with such a quantitative mind. He can measure the time in minutes and seconds, and is reassured when I give him a time table. It was cloudy all day, with a few spats of rain showers. It would be so nice if I could recover my heart again and stop overcompensating with excessive intellect. I left my heart behind me in 1987, wounded and bleeding and destitute of hope. On that July 4th weekend the girl dropped the bomb on me, a letter in purple ink breaking off the relationship that never had a future. My first reaction was denial, then anger mixed with shame for having failed in love. But that’s just the rub: for love is not a project that you undertake, not a quarry you hunt down, not a kingdom you conquer. It either comes to you or it doesn’t. Tennessee Williams ends Streetcar with a game of Seven Card Stud: does he mean that love is a game of luck? My interpretation is as good as any other… So I guess there’s no success or failure in the matter of love. It’s not a game of skill, but rather of blind fortune, and no blame or shame to be had if it doesn’t happen. “Please believe I implore you / Spirit flight will restore you / Only love can ignore you / Another fighting heart…”

Solstice Flower

0AD6AE81-163A-461A-ACB2-7D56189F6338Quarter after one. I brought out my guitar, sat down, and picked out the chords to “Don’t Dream It’s Over” by Crowded House. It made me feel good to master at least one rhythm guitar part, though my technique is poor, like the tyro I am. There’s a long way to go, a lot of progress to make, but learning is the fun part. Ultimately I might want to play rhythm guitar in a band, if the gods are kind.

Three o’clock. I skipped to the penultimate chapter of the Salinger novel, regarding the carrousel. Holden ends up simply watching it go round and round with his little sister riding it. Then he gets rained on. Will he ever take a ride on the carrousel? At the beginning of the book, he watched the football game from on top of the hill, far away from the action, and then didn’t stay for the whole game… I barely remember reading the book the first time, but I know I discussed it with my young lady friend. She borrowed a copy from the public library, and it had the carrousel pony cover illustration. I recall that the weekend she was at the house, during Spring Term, I had a Shakespeare exam to study for. It was scheduled for Monday, and I had only one day to prepare. I managed to pass it with a B+ grade. Funny, I still have my Riverside Shakespeare. In 1987 I had to tote this ponderous tome everywhere with me in my book bag. I began the school year hating the Bard, but by the spring I had come to like him much better. It was reading the opening to The Winter’s Tale that changed my mind, the benedictions of the two kingly friends to each other. It would probably be rather painful to open that old book again. For now, there’s this picture I took of a magnolia flower. Which one will open first?