Auld Lang Syne

The snow is almost all gone. Now there’s a new weather notification: lots of rain and high winds, and there’s a concern about flooding of the rivers. There are two major rivers in this area, the Willamette and the McKenzie. I ought to know more about them but I don’t really. The Willamette runs through Eugene, while the McKenzie is in Springfield and goes on out to the east into the woods. I remember that there is a river you cross going into Harrisburg: probably the Willamette. Junction City and Harrisburg are about 15 miles north of Eugene. I knew a good friend who was raised in the latter town. I haven’t been up there in quite a while. It’s a tiny little place with just a high school, and probably a small elementary school and middle school. The main drag is just a little street with a silo on one side, a gas station, a Dari Mart, and a local store called EZ Stop. There is suburban housing across the railroad tracks and to the left. My friend lived on Gaileen Way with his wife, her two boys, and their daughter. For a long time he had a black ‘78 Camaro with a broken speedometer. Years later he got a black Dodge Ram he was never really satisfied with. But what jarred my memory was thinking of the bridge across the river that takes you into Harrisburg. Anyway, we’ve been warned about flooding after this Sunday, possibly. And it’s very odd how I know nothing about the geology around here, like the rivers especially. I guess I never took much of an interest in my environment. I grew up in the city and was an introvert. But I had a sixth sense for where the bookstores were, even in a foreign city.

Should old acquaintance be forgot?

This reminds me: Project Gutenberg has a saying that goes, “Out with the new, in with the old.”

Happy New Year!

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Throwbacks

Eight fifty.

It’s a fact that stress makes the experience of psychosis worse. This afternoon I resorted to taking a gabapentin for my anxiety and it worked very well. I didn’t get around to reading the next story of Paul Bowles. When I look at his writing, it pulls up memories of being a client in Serenity Lane, whose approach to recovery was not a rational one but rather psychological like the old school, drawing on Freud and Jung mostly, and throwing in mega doses of the Bible, justifying it all with the Pragmatism of William James. My attraction to Bowles’ stuff harmonized with the other ideas I was exposed to over fifteen years ago, but that irrationalism just felt kind of wrong for me. It was everywhere at the time in my hometown and across the nation as well, and Alcoholics Anonymous enjoyed huge popularity.

So anyway, about a week ago I was browsing the Library of America website and found this Paul Bowles book sale priced and I couldn’t resist the temptation. I had really forgotten what his writing was about. I guess I’m still figuring that out, along with all the ideas I learned up to twenty years ago. Funny but many people I knew back then are either dead or changed beyond recognition. I wonder if I might be one of them? A face among a lot of ghosts in an old photograph no one ever saw… which is dug up, restored, and presented to the daylight of the post millennial public? 

John Knowles

Wee hours before Friday.

With a little love from somebody, what might I not be? With an unconditional blessing for who I am, what might I do with my life? Yesterday I got myself a two liter of Coca-Cola and between then and now, drank the whole thing. The experience was rather rejuvenating, and now a few memories detach themselves from the background. I was with a friend on the Downtown Mall during the Christmas season 34 years ago, and I looked for a gift for my mother. One empty building had been converted to a book fair, so we examined some of the titles on display, ranged about on tables. Empty handed, we moved on to the locally owned Book Mark, where I found a modest hardcover of the paintings of Claude Monet and picked it up.

Somewhere that same day I bought the paperback edition of A Separate Peace by John Knowles and began to reread it. The story was about the envy of an intellectual nerd in prep school for his friend who was athletic and charismatic; about the unaccountable irrational in everyday life and how it intrudes on our awareness. Thinking back, were you supposed to like Gene the intellectual or not? At the time, I sympathized with his character, even though he was guilty of a strange crime, while Finny was his innocent victim. I don’t remember the ending very well, except I know that the truth of the incident between them is found out in a mock trial. Envy and jealousy are odd emotions, often destructive. I’ve known a few people consumed by these feelings. They don’t lead to anything good. 

Saved from Science

Quarter after six.

Six hours ago I listened to another CD by Herb Alpert, and really loved “You Are My Life.” It is so late Sixties, with the big string orchestra, the old Fender bass with flat wounds, and the full chamber ambiance. Alpert’s voice was pretty good, though he was a better trumpet player than a singer. They also do a version of a Bossa Nova called “Anna” that people might recognize, and a sweet song titled “Good Morning, Mr Sunshine,” a quick paced little waltz. It’s always a pleasure to hear real musicians on real instruments as opposed to the synthetic crap we’re stuck with today. I guess I’m just an antiquarian, maybe an old fogy or a sentimentalist some of the time. The progress of technology usually has pitfalls for our ecological wellbeing. It seems desirable to regress to a more primitive state in order to save ourselves from science… I have to take out the trash this morning, then go to the store. I’ve got a meeting with Rebecca at nine o’clock. I just deleted the email with the news from my inbox without reading it. The clouds outside are tinged with magenta as the sun slowly comes up. Aesop gives me the eye and settles down again. 

Sunrise

Six thirty.

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. 

Transitions

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. 

Angel Wings

Ten thirty.

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? 

Erased

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. 

“We Acknowledge One Baptism”

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. 

Cues

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.