Mnemonics

Quarter after seven. It’s weird to think of friends I had three decades ago and the context we shared. They were profane in word, but their deeds belied this. I was simply my honest self with them, which I didn’t realize was kind of risky. Burke compared me with another one of his nerdy friends, and that was fair enough, except I was smarter than Duane. Btw I ran into the latter at the Fairgrounds in August 1997. He was doing the sound for our gig. Afterward he told me my Stingray Bass “sounded like God.” That’s all I remember. I’ve pretty much lost contact with that network of friends. I last heard from Chris in the summer of 2012. I was in lousy shape and couldn’t get together with him. My subsequent decision to quit drinking sort of dissolved those old friendships, just as it severed me from the family. How long did I contemplate this recovery? Maybe longer than I thought. I knew what I would be sacrificing to be sober. But also what I could gain by it.

Quarter of nine. I’m waiting a little while to go to the store because I want to say hi to Karen and the girls. The salon doesn’t open until ten o’clock, and since Tuesday I’ve been making my trip earlier. Today is the solstice and the first day of summer. I haven’t heard anything from Mike or Ron regarding a practice this weekend, so I doubt that it will happen. The morning is cloudy, again reminiscent of Junes I remember in my youth. They seem like yesterday, and yet there’s no one else in the room. It’s a bit like reading Marcel Proust, invoking old memories as though they were the present. Often they invoke themselves. Bubble Yum and Pepsi and a Conan book. The interesting part is how these memories can dictate overt behavior subconsciously. The less conscious you are, the more you are a victim to old patterns. But there’s hope if you stop and think, and look before you leap.

Sensitivity

Quarter of five. It’s very warm in the house, making it hard to breathe and concentrate on anything, and yet I read a bit more of The Catcher in the Rye. My reading investigations are a mode of self analysis. I’m trying to solve a problem and satisfy my curiosity about what went wrong with my life after my sophomore year in college. Losing my virginity was extremely traumatic at age 20, an event I never did recover from. While I was in love, she used me like a weekend liaison, treated it so casually. I learned that I cannot live that way. The second experience I had with a woman was a mistake because I didn’t love her at all, didn’t allow myself to. I should have let well enough alone. A bug in my ear said it was important to have a relationship. Many years later I read in a self help book that it’s okay to live without romance. I think I hung out with too many guys who made a macho thing out of dating. As if you weren’t a man if you didn’t prove it to everyone. I always thought it was silly, and mostly I avoided entanglements. Some people get married before they ever go to bed together. Maybe this is better, except for legal complications if the marriage doesn’t work out. I don’t feel very sexy anymore, fortunately. After I quit drinking it all went away— except for the mess-up with Sheryl. Finally I’m getting over that trauma as well. I probably will never like therapists again since my bad experience. So I undertake my own psychoanalysis to try to heal myself. The Salinger book was influential for me the year I was hurt in love. Funny how Holden criticizes the world as being phony, as I once did when I was in high school and young and sensitive. I wonder if there’s truth in that perception? How much of human life is purely artificial and fictive, just a matter of conformity to social constructs and conventions? Conversely, how much of life is authentic and genuine? When we are young, perhaps the artifice is easier to spot. As adults, seeing the truth is reserved for the sensitive people who remember, especially writers, musicians, and other artists.

Salinger

Nine twenty five.

It’s a beautiful partly cloudy June morning. Roger is out painting car parts candy apple red for his ‘73 Dodge. If the weather continues fine I might go to Bi Mart today and buy some clothes. I saw nothing unusual at the store. Coming back, I asked a neighbor why the sign said he was selling his house. But he wasn’t; the sign points in the direction of another house farther down the street. We agreed that it was misleading. Out of curiosity I’ve begun rereading The Catcher in the Rye. I wonder what my 20 year old mind found interesting about it. I think it was mostly the theme of taking a ride on the carousel, and having to prostitute yourself in the process. It’s a little difficult to put myself in my adolescent mentality again. It may be instructive to do so, and then again it could be a wild goose chase. But I think I’ll read the whole thing and think about it. How impressionable age 20 was. How I wish the illness had never happened. Yet all that exists is what did happen… An old song by Crowded House. Bruce Hornsby. The first two times I got sick drunk. Staring over the side of my brother’s sailboat into the murk of Hamlin Lake for an answer, hearing Rush do “Turn the Page.” My new white Fender’s sound brings it all back. The pain of losing love. Maybe it never goes away, but just tunnels underground…

Autre Reverie

Eight forty.

Vicki is going through a rough time, yet she shows up for work every day like a stoic. I’m reminded of events in my life from eight to nine years ago, when I still had a pug dog named Henry. I knew his days were numbered. He was the last living remains of my parents’ legacy, so losing him was the climax of my grief, or maybe the resolution. So many friends are now in the past, whether dead or still living. I can hear Khachaturian in my head, from Spartacus. What I miss about 2012 are not only the people and the dog; not even the alcohol. I miss another version of myself and another way of life. Some big cotton ball clouds have obstructed the sun. The magnolia will be in full bloom sometime soon, and this testimony to eternity is important to keep in mind. Funny: Polly predicted to me that the magnolia would die. That was 18 years ago. She often stated her wishes like facts. Saying it aloud would help it to come true. She was disappointed when my insurance premium didn’t go up after I’d had an accident. And how come I could get an Earned Income Credit while she could not? My sister wasn’t really on my side. That’s okay with me now, though I suppose there’s a little regret. What is, simply is. “Courage to change the things I can. Wisdom to know the difference.”

The Afternoon

Quarter after one. I gathered up three trash bags full of bottles and stored them in the garage. The weather continues whimsical with sporadic showers. I had a dream this morning suggesting that the south end of my house doesn’t get much use, hence I’m trying to fix this situation. After all, the whole thing is my house… I feel disinclined to play the bass today. Uninspired. It isn’t the instrument, it’s me— and the situation of social distancing.

One observation I can make: psychoanalysis has always seemed counterintuitive precisely because it isn’t true. We can trust the face value of people and circumstances, and the unconscious is only a theory. When I feel depressed, I rub my eyeballs and mutter what an idiot my first therapist was. The background she was coming from was wrong for my interests. What indeed is intuitively obvious? The River Road Community tends toward conservative values, and this is where I grew up. It is said that individual personality and society are inseparable…

…But rock and roll was always alive and well where I went to school, a culture unto itself. I had friends in junior high school who lived for Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne. I could enjoy this a little, but I always preferred Rush and the other prog bands. Genesis was great around 1981. I caught them live on The King Biscuit Flower Hour on the radio when I was 15. Made an 8 track tape of most of it, then listened to it every morning that summer. They did “Duchess” absolutely beautifully, and opened with “Behind the Lines” with two drummers. Phil Collins on drums was sick good. Genesis was better live than in the studio, took more risks. Music was mysterious and magical when I was just a young drummer. It often gave me goosebumps when the chords were just right. How would it be to put the bass aside and go back to playing drums again? Back to my roots, and they say once a drummer, always a drummer.

Dimanche

I miss Kate this morning, and the way things used to be when I could drink beer. Maybe only because I was a little younger. But life was a bit on edge too, as long as I drank. I didn’t believe that alcohol would kill me. I rationalized it with what other people did, and eventually by saying it was what I wanted. The year 2016 was awful for me, with more than three hospital stays from gastritis. I don’t know why I kept drinking, unless it was because of my other illness. I should be thankful for my comparative stability today, but for some reason it leaves something to be desired. I saw Craig at the store, and observed that his head was beet red, presumably from alcoholism. I crashed into his car in November of 2016. I can’t believe that was me. My insurance company paid for the repairs…

I don’t feel very well today. I should talk about things other than war stories. An instrumental by Pat Metheny called “Country Poem” comes to my mind. Summer of 1990, when I felt so alone and depressed. It was before schizophrenia. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. No one did. I just knew that I was very lonely and sad. Sessions with the psychologist didn’t help much. He said I was coming along nicely, but I still felt all alone. I felt I had no future after college. I guess I didn’t want to sell my soul for some meaningless job that had nothing to do with me. I mattered more than corporate America. I had thoughts and feelings to express, seemingly without end. Perhaps everyone feels this way? If so, then there’s no better time than now for blogging.

Reminiscing

Quarter of eleven.

I heard thunder early this morning. Right now, it’s looking like typical cloudy weather for late spring in the Valley. Reminds me of 1980 especially, the year of Mt St Helens. Jeff and Denise came to visit us and I had a wonderful time. They were so much more active than my parents, which appealed to me as a youth. I barely had a grasp on ethics and politics at 13, but what I did have was funny to my brother. I could parody Richard Nixon and crack him up. He and Denise took me to see The Empire Strikes Back that June. We buzzed over to the Downtown Mall, where I grabbed the second Conan book to my pure delight. For lunch we had Bob’s hamburgers with the super thin patties. Jeff still had the old red Volkswagen van modified with a Porsche engine. He and Denise really lived life to the fullest, cramming in so much sense experience.

Noon hour. Damien is later than I thought he’d be. I bought him a big bottle of cranberry juice. Maybe I’ll end up drinking it myself. It just thundered again. I feel strangely alone and a little tired. Aesop is pouting. I will play my bass if Damien is a no show. It doesn’t look promising. Where is everybody?

Two o’clock. It’s raining and no Damien either, but I don’t blame him. The cranberry juice is really good!… The domesticity here in the early 80s was very cozy and comfortable. I was quite happy at home. My parents disliked extremes and could draw the line at certain things and events. It was a household of common sense, except when they drank too much and quarreled over stupid stuff. Now I can remember what Mom looked like in her fifties. Before, the pain would have been too much, but I can endure it today.

Three o’clock. I can also imagine why I loved my mother. We had many good times before I finished junior high school. And the summer after ninth grade was absolutely blissful because I met some musicians my age to play with. They were also the same talent level as myself. I had the inflated sense that I loved everybody, I was so happy. Putting it in perspective, though, the elitism of this thing called “talent” got to be cutthroat as I grew older. Much more egalitarian was verbal intelligence, which I’ve come to prefer. Throw away that One Ring of Power! It only causes trouble.

Memories of June

Ten twenty five. I rested for a little longer, and now Aesop’s been fed his breakfast. I recollect when I bought Going for the One by Yes. It was in June 1983 at the Lloyd Center in Portland. My parents and I had lunch at the Hippopotamus and afterwards I found the record store. The sleeve for the album blew me away: the nude man in the foreground awed by leaning skyscrapers in the gleaming sun.

Vicki was wearing a mask today for the first time. I bought Aesop three peanut butter bones and a Coke for me. I need to wake up a bit more. There’s a book in my mail today, a collection of Conan by the original creator Robert E Howard. The 1930s pulps were generally very good. My favorite is Lovecraft, I think. When I was growing up, the bookstores offered very little poetry, and what was available even in grocery stores was sci-fi and fantasy. In the late 70s and early 80s, a lot of older writing was reissued with fantastic cover art. Edgar Rice Burroughs was a forerunner to the pulps, starting his career in 1912. It was actually DC Comics that introduced me to Rice in June 1976. Also the publication of Burne Hogarth’s Jungle Tales of Tarzan the same year. What was so great about Rice’s writing I don’t remember at this time, but it might have been the idea of primitivism, of barbarism, but in a good way. It was emotionally refreshing to me to feel closer to nature. In some sense it was Jungian. And imaginatively, Rice and the ensuing pulp writers just seemed more sophisticated than the new fantasy of the 60s and 70s. Perhaps I had an antiquarian streak even as a child.

Noon hour. While my parents picked out spy thrillers and historical romances from the bookstalls, I was drawn to heroic fantasy from the pulp era. We were at the mercy of the material that was available in local stores. The occasional trips to the bookstore were heaven for me, and I snapped up all the Conan books I could find. The cover art was beautiful, with contributors like Frank Frazetta and Boris Vallejo.

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I got ahold of Conan of Cimmeria in June 1980 at B Dalton downtown. As June approaches, these layered memories of my childhood surface. They are even specific to the very month.

Past Is Present

One thirty. Aesop was able to swipe off the basket muzzle, as I had expected. My next idea is to play with him in the backyard. Elsewhere this afternoon, I jammed on the white Fender bass and decided I like it. It emits treble frequencies that my other basses don’t, which is good for cutting through the mix. I’ll use it in my next practice with Ron and Mike. Eventually I will put a high mass bridge on it. Harmonics played on it ring out very clear. I found myself sliding harmonics not only up but down. Ron wrote a song called “Jersey” in E minor that really lends itself to improv and dynamics. I should send a text to my band mates regarding practicing again. I’ve got the urge to play very keenly… In a couple of days Damien will begin work on the fence, a disruption of two more days…

Eighteen years ago I had a gig with Blueface at a club called the Foxfire. It really was quite a nice place. Stan, the bassist of Mr Wizard, came to hear us. So did Mike, the bass man with a job at Guitar Center. The band’s guitar players were pretty bad, so Richie and I as a rhythm section carried it off. Our singer had perfect pitch and was good at mimicking people’s voices. He just had a good ear. The lead guitar did not, but his energy was magnetic. The other guitar happened to be wealthy. A long story. Now, both Blueface and the Foxfire are extinct. The singer went from construction work to driving a city bus. The weather today, so vernal and suggestive of summer, brings back the past.

Do It Yourself

I’m glad I made the phone call to the middle school this morning. I anticipate the fall, when I can go visit the scene of a lot of memories. I don’t know why I waited so long to plan this. I’ll be doing it not for fun but from fascination. Why did I read so many books by Edgar Rice Burroughs? I don’t remember a single sentence that he put together. Something about giving vent to the victory cry of the bull ape. Or Lin Carter? “Night hung like a black curtain over Stygia.” The thought processes of my teenage mind were very different or maybe nonexistent.

Midnight hour. My heart recalls a girl named Kathleen, however. All the boys in my class remember her. It was the kind of crush that made me nervous and anxious beyond all reason. If only I had declared my feelings to her, I’m sure she would have been kind. Instead I froze like a deer in the headlights, went catatonic in her presence. Absurdly, I came to resent this girl who could inspire such emotions and daydreams. Kathleen simply existed; the emotional turmoil was my doing. It was easy to get that confused. I dared talk to no one about my crush, so I just ate my heart out. She was destined for great things while my road has been a lot rockier. Maybe I had some foresight in this regard, and for that reason, hung fire. The take home lesson is that no one else can do your love suit for you. One must be proactive.