Wealth or Wisdom?

Nine o’clock.

Now the sun gleams through the cloud cover. I guess I’ll call Polly in another hour. I feel kind of punchy from the heat; it never cooled down much last night.

Eleven o’clock.

I changed my mind about calling Polly. If she wants to call me, then fine. They say it’s raining now but I don’t hear it, though the clouds look like they could. My mind is a collage of memories from schooldays and from when I had a clerical job 18 years in the past. Minimum wage back then was about $8.50 an hour. There was little difference between doing that job and doing nothing at all. The tasks were just a distraction from my thoughts, but then I learned how to think and work simultaneously. A coworker told me I needed a harder job so I couldn’t think; but of course this would never do for me. On paydays I would stop by the bank to cash my check which ran about $285. If it was a Friday afternoon, then my next stop was the little store to get a half rack of Foster’s or Henry’s beer and something to eat. I had fallen into the rut of working and drinking that happens to many people. But the lamentable thing for me was the lack of free time to read and think. As it happened, I got hooked on alcohol and could do nothing but drink… I like to believe that I did the best I could with my options. I value freedom more than wealth, and material gain is nothing next to wisdom. “Love of learning is the guide of life.”

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Ocular Proof

Quarter of eight.

I guess I’m just the eternal skeptic. The weather report said it was raining, but I saw no such thing. So I left the house without a jacket or umbrella, and my ocular proof was right. I got to the store and back without feeling a drop. Firsthand knowledge can’t be emphasized enough. Always judge for yourself when possible. Take nothing on faith. This is the lesson I’ve learned by experience. But I suppose it can be taken too far sometimes, like when I was warned that alcoholism would kill me. I didn’t believe it until I was inches from death.

The cloudy August morning brings back things from years ago, like seeing Vicki and Belinda at the little market on weekdays. Time stood still for that place for a handful of years. I remember a guy who worked there named Tyler who was very nice, and also a guy named Perry who wore glasses; kind of intellectual. I gave him my copy of Sartre’s Nausea which he read and gave to another person, starting a circulation of the book. He told me about a biography of Richard F. Burton that he’d read. And then I remember Cecil, the guy who played the drums, doing fast paradiddles on the countertop. He knew someone who bought a fretless Ken Smith bass brand new. He was afraid to even touch it, it was so precious… I saw a lot of people cycle through that place around the corner from my house. I recall once standing in the rain with an umbrella, chatting with Lacey about business at the deli. She said they sold lots of burgers and fewer sandwiches. She made jewelry and put it out for sale inside the deli. It all feels like a dream to me now, an impossible kaleidoscope of someone else’s memories. Yet the chalice for it all is just my own soul.

Notoriety

Quarter of eight AM.

I tend to generalize too much when I’m writing in my journal. Also my mental state has been kind of unstable since I had the virus, so it’s really hard to say anything with coherence and consistency. I’ve got an old tune by Chic bopping in my head, rather annoying but that’s the way it goes. Aesop has just eaten and my taxi doesn’t come until ten thirty or so. “Rhumba and tango / Latin hustle too / Yowza yowza yowza / I wanna boogie witch you / Bop bop bop bop bah…” I do love Bernard Edwards on the bass guitar. He was my favorite to listen to in disco, along with Louis Johnson. Edwards also backed up Sister Sledge on songs like “We Are Family.” It’s probably on my mind because in June 98 our band did the Loveapalooza gig at the Hilton here in Eugene. My last one with them, and our third Hilton gig. Sometimes I wonder if that ever had to end. But I wasn’t really on the same page with those guys. I don’t think my personality complemented disco or the other way around, so I guess no regrets. It doesn’t mean I never think about them.

The Backwards Traveler

Back in the nineties, there was a commercial for Target on tv that used “Daydream” for the music, and the video showed the Grim Reaper doing good deeds on his day off. He rode a huge bicycle through the fields, carrying his scythe etc, but he did things like putting the fallen bird back in its nest. I thought it was hilarious. I also liked the commercials for Foster Farms chickens, which you had to see to believe. I betcha that YouTube would have those videos if you go searching.
Some days are more difficult than others regarding losing my parents. I think it’d be neat to have a retro movement to the nineties, when people were in much better spirits than today. I feel kind of sorry for the kids born around the millennium, the ones called the millennials. They don’t remember the previous century. It’s as if a great dividing line existed between then and now, but it’s a false situation, totally contrived by the numbers and our superstition about the new century: the predictions of Nostradamus in his series of verse prophecies called The Centuries. Whatever. The method he used, I think, was astrology. Different editions of his stuff were sold everywhere in bookstores and even in grocery stores during a ten year period from 91 to 01. I bought four of them out of a weakness for crazy ideas, but never read them through. No one would have to, because those ideas were spread by word of mouth. Similarly, the world would see a lot of things from Carl Jung, William James, and maybe T.S. Eliot, and yet not know where it was coming from. Advocates of Intelligent Design theory additionally used Aristotle to support their belief in teleology.
I don’t know. I think the world needs to get back to basics and put away ideology for a while. Give it a rest and just live a little. Chill out and listen to good music. Like Supertramp on the radio that I heard this morning: “Give a Little Bit.” When I hear “The Long Way Home” I remember the cafeteria at my junior high school, sitting at a table with Tim Wood and some other guys, just trying to survive the system of education away from home. We were in seventh grade with a long way to go.
Sometimes my sack lunch would have a meatloaf sandwich with ketchup. Leftovers from the night before. Boy those were good!

Strong Dreams

Six o five in the morning.

Another gray day. Funny how emotional scars can carry on for many years and burrow down into your soul. The passing of time only makes the memories richer and more meaningful because of the perspective you gain. Through love comes learning. Everyone is so different and yet so much the same. The problem I still wrestle with is metaphysics and the God thing, feeling myself to be deficient if I am non religious. I guess I missed the critical period for accepting Jesus and the whole Bible, so I should just let it go. Christianity will always be a big item. Like Thomas Hardy, I can only wish it were so… Pretty soon I’ll make a run to the store like every morning. It’s all equal to me if I get rained on today. “It’s a big enough umbrella / but it’s always me that ends up getting wet.” Yesterday was graduation day at the university, which brought back a few things for me. For a gift, my mother gave me a copy of Bartlett’s, still lying around here somewhere. She also paid my dues for membership in Phi Beta Kappa and bought my key. I used to wear it on a chain all the time but now I carry nothing around my neck. No point in being pretentious, although Mom was very proud of my achievement. I suppose I still am a little bit, too.

Seven forty. The Covid virus I had a while ago has now gone away totally. I feel better every day. At the market I saw some Mexican guys who worked for Huey & Sons Roofing and I caught a word or two of their slang. Otherwise my trip was rather dull. The overcast was not complete. There were breaks showing blue sky, very pale and luminous. I hoped for a glimpse of the moon, in vain. But I almost dreamt I could see a ladder to heaven.

Love of Music

Quarter after ten at night.

I’m awake since having lots of dreams of the collapse of civilization tonight, and when I got up, my conscious thoughts ran to The Handmaid’s Tale, the dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood. Now I’m trying to clear my mind entirely and start over again… During the day I played my modified P Bass two different times. At once, the instrument is a war axe and a highly sophisticated piece of technology. In neither light is it quiet and subdued by any means. I did a great deal of shredding on it, eventually slowing down to pound out a few Rush tunes from the turn of the eighties. It makes me emotional to revisit old songs like “Cygnus X-1,” a throwback to happy times as a drummer jamming with friends my age for the summer of 1982. They were no older than 16 and ready to go pro in the L.A. music scene, but my parents protected me from such a future and ensured that I’d finish my education. My path with my friends crossed again in another 15 years for the disco gig. I’m not sure what I learned from that experience, or even how I feel about it. Music as expression and music as a business are different things. Robert Fripp advised young musicians to stay out of the industry if they really love music. From what I’ve seen, I’m inclined to think he’s right.

Spring Rains

Eight fifty.

I couldn’t contain the nightmares last night, so it was a miserable time. But this morning, everyone else is in a good mood. Cathy was very nice to me at the market and introduced me to her trainee named Thomas, who will cover weekends. He’s a young guy with a black beard. The day is wet out although the rain that comes down is very light and fine. The spring rains remind me of my philosophy class with an old Jewish professor at the university a long time ago. My route to the Education buildings took me past the Pioneer Cemetery on my left and in behind the Knight Library. I always carried my Duck umbrella and my book bag with me to class and I took notes using a spiral notebook, which I suppose was traveling lightly. Dr Zweig wore a suit the day he lectured on Wittgenstein, but other days his back bothered him and he could be a bit crabby. The talk he gave on William James inspired me, though his specialty was Immanuel Kant. He spoke convincingly about transcendental idealism and the virtues of the thing called reason, which could guide a person rightly and overcome any difficulty.

Ten o’clock.

Beyond the university campus it’s a dangerous world of small minds and attitudes. My whole family has pretty much disowned me for my mental health issues, so it’s really hard to forgive them their prejudice. What has been my crime? 

Airborne

Quarter after eight.

Tomorrow I have an appointment at the agency in the morning, so I’ll get to do a little sightseeing on the way by taxi. It is yet another overcast day here, making it about a fortnight since the last time it was sunny. I actually like it when you can see great rolling billows of gray and white clouds in the springtime, and the rain doesn’t bother us in Oregon. At dawn, the clouds often appear blue, even midnight blue, and on afternoons they can be purple. Occasionally it hails here with pea size stones or it will rain mixed with snow, though not usually in April. I find it interesting how the natural scene complements what is going on sociopolitically, like the weather in a Shakespeare tragedy when it sympathizes with human affairs. Sometimes I feel like a radio for frequencies borne on the air and traveling right through everybody, these long, slow waves bearing information of the world. In an astronomy class I learned something about the different kinds of rays. Gamma rays are very fast and cause cancer if you are exposed to them. But radio waves can go through you without doing any harm. Conceivably, everyone is a radio receiver of sorts, though we don’t think about it much. The desirable thing might be to wrap a colander in aluminum foil and wear it on your head in order to bounce off the airwaves. This was actually a joke I heard from a friend twenty years ago, maybe not so funny, and not my original invention. I also heard a paranoid guy say at a gig that he wasn’t wearing a wire, even though the doorkeepers believed he had one. At the time I wondered if he was off his meds, but the show went on anyway, and the bandleader took all the money and paid us nothing for the night’s work. Meanwhile our audience at Taylor’s had disappeared, everyone, to my shock, having found a lay for the weekend. 

Reverie

Quarter after eight.

I spotted the moon in the west as I ambled the sidewalk toward the little store. It was two thirds full and ghostly. Today is Heather’s last day working at the market, so we said our goodbyes. She was realistic when she said she’d probably never see me again… Last night I had a problem with my smoke detectors chirping. Unfortunately I think it’s an electrical issue with the house. In my depressed state I thought it was an act of god or something else superstitious. But I’m feeling better this morning and the sky is blue to the west. Tomorrow there will be no therapist to answer to: another positive thing. I feel kind of like surfing the web for new friends. Maybe find a philosophy club online.

Nine ten. I had a friend once who was a fan of Rudolf Carnap, and to a lesser extent, Bertrand Russell. She was a hard boiled realist most of the time, though when I first met her she admired Gerard Manley Hopkins. That was a decade ago, but I still remember our emails to each other. I recall struggling to read “The Wreck of the Deutschland” to impress her, and indeed it was very difficult to decipher. I read it through, but didn’t really understand it… I guess I’m in a reverie of friends gone and friends still here. I’m not a stoic or a believer in mindfulness. To think about the past is human. 

Fantasy

Eleven twenty at night.

I got out of bed hearing an old song by The Pretenders, a ballad called “Brass in Pocket.” It takes me back to junior high school halls and the afternoons when I’d go to Safeway or Oregon Foods with my mother, perusing the paperback titles on the stands. Things were so different then, just the cultural attitudes and the protocols and rituals that people obeyed. I never had a girlfriend at that age or went to a dance at my school, probably because my mother dominated my life for her loneliness and her need for a friend. She needed to assert herself in a different way than by controlling me, but in hindsight I probably wouldn’t change a single day. The summer I read Tarzan of the Apes and A Princess of Mars and drew my own illustrations for them in the morning was the happiest time I ever spent. I would sit up in my twin bed and read on sunny mornings, hearing the soft breezes in the crabapple tree outside my window, filling my senses with romantic adventure by means of the written word. I could easily imagine a blue sky with not one moon, but two. Or any new combination of shapes and colors in flora and fauna, helped by some great illustrators like Michael Whelan… I learned to escape to worlds that my imagination could control, but someday my imagination came to control me. The ultimate goal is control over your life in the real world, which the use of language and imagination couldn’t hurt. But again, my mother should’ve asserted herself in her own life instead of dominating mine. Now maybe the fly knows the way out of the bottle of fantasy… but will he choose it?