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Eight twenty five.

The next day it rained. I had planned to do some soul searching today, but now I think I’ll just have a day in the life. My dreams this morning concerned issues of control and why I read so many Tarzan novels in my youth. Maybe it doesn’t matter what I fed my mind with when I was young. The last therapist I saw seemed to think that being a control person was a problem. I’m not even sure what she meant, and what would be the alternative to being in control? I asked her that and she had no answer. She was full of buzzwords and cliches and hadn’t really thought anything through. I don’t think she was capable of original thought but instead sponged her ideas from current trends. A lot of people do that. The result is that people go around prattling nonsense they know nothing about. They were never taught critical thinking skills in school, or how to think rather than what to think. It seems that society doesn’t encourage freethinking anymore. We’ve done away with philosophy classes in some schools or made them an elective to the point where students don’t bother with them. But without philosophy, people have no compass to steer their lives by. They just shoot the chutes of mass production and become model citizens with little self knowledge.

Quarter of ten. I observed something strange on my way to the store this morning. Two guys were working on the roof of a shed where Derek lives. Parked at the curb was their truck, a big white pickup with “Redneck” on the windshield and a Confederate flag for license plates, no number anywhere. Only a block away from them, Chico was still doing yard work for a neighbor on my street. I just hope that Aesop and I are safe here at home. It’s been raining all morning, so I took my umbrella to the market. People were fairly civil to each other inside the store, patiently waiting in line like they’re supposed to. I just wish I could do something to moderate the extremes I see in my neighborhood. What has the world come to? And how can we repair the damage? The situation is enough to make anybody paranoid. 

Just Ideas

Wee hours.

The only improvement on Ulysses I can think of is to make Poldy Bloom a Black man rather than a Jew; and yet Jews have had to live in ghettos in history as well as Blacks and Hispanics. I’m thinking aloud about the crucial problems facing the United States today. There’s a great deal of resentment by the uneducated for the educated, which could be solved by making university tuition free for everyone who wants to go. I don’t know how to implement this plan, but Scotland has already done it. We could take a clue from their example, if we were willing to convert to a benign socialist system and give up our broken capitalist American Dream. Some dreams need to be awakened from, and last Wednesday was our wake up call. Instead of the American Dream, we need to dream globally for the sake of our future. The time has come to take idealism seriously rather than cling to economic survival and the delusion of a prosperity that doesn’t exist. People need to become more philosophical and curious about more than their percentage. If we can overcome greed, we can learn to get along with each other through free education in a free and equal society.

Reveries on a Rainy Monday

Eleven o’clock.

Pastor broadcast my birthday in the Daily Devotions email this morning, and Nancy emailed me her birthday wishes. It is super dark and wet today. At the Fremont end of the street the gutter has backed up and made a miniature pond that was difficult to cross. I chatted with my sister for more than an hour and then fed the dog before my trip. I saw almost no one, and I got the store all to myself when I bought a Snapple and some easy food. I considered an outing to Bi Mart, but the weather isn’t favorable for it. I might put it off until Wednesday afternoon. I received a Stimulus payment this morning, as a lot of people will have. Tomorrow my new bass amp is scheduled to arrive. I’m stressed about that in a good way. And yesterday I ordered a little selection of the poetry of Carl Sandburg to replace the one I gave to a neighbor three years ago. What I remember about it mostly is the panoramic sweeps he made, in a style reminiscent of Whitman. His descriptions of Chicago and the prairie, and of the people traveling back and forth between them, were very interesting… For the moment it has stopped raining, so maybe now is a good opportunity to go to the pharmacy. Regardless of the weather, I’m taking a taxi. Then again I might just stay home today.

Noon hour. Lately I’ve been playing the bass line to “Circumstances” by Rush, a song often overlooked in their repertoire. I love the lyric to it, about Neil’s youth in England before he came back to Canada to join Rush, bringing with him a lot of prog rock influences. The other lyric I always enjoy is “The Camera Eye,” which compares city life in New York and London. Sometimes I wish I lived in a bigger city than this rather backward one, a town of hippies and rednecks with not much else to choose from… And then there are the Lutherans. I think I’ll go to church this Friday night and help with the service. It’s nice that Pastor remembered my birthday today, something I didn’t expect… I had an erotic dream this morning. A young woman across the street from me tried to seduce me, wearing only jeans and a bra. She was a beautiful brunette with luscious curves, and I felt tempted. Suddenly my dad appeared and asked what was going on, and the girl, seeing this, dropped her pursuit of me. Then I woke up with regret that my dream self destructed— or maybe that’s just my personality. 

Sunday

Eight fifty.

There was a pause in the rain, and the temperature was above 45 degrees, so I went out without a jacket. A baseball cap covered my head, bearing the inscription, “Frodo failed: Bush has the Ring,” a relic from the Kerry campaign. I forded the puddle at Fremont without much trouble. In the parking lot I saw Melissa’s little blue car. I couldn’t expect to meet anybody on a Sunday at a quarter after eight. I lingered in front of the beverage cooler, undecided on the Coca-Cola. Finally I rejected it for being too sweet and bubbly. I bagged two Snapple teas and French bread pizzas, then ambled up to the register. Melissa was pleasant, but we didn’t really talk. I had noticed a front page headline concerning Covid casualties here locally. The Register Guard paper hasn’t been the same since a big syndicate bought it out. Returning home, I stopped on the sidewalk and took a look at the vista to the south. Behind the old Oregon Foods building, about six or seven green gray apartment complexes have sprung up, completely finished and tenanted now. Everything has gone mass production and rather ugly. Somewhere out of sight, an overgrown brain calculates the next move. 

“Empty as a Pocket…”

Eight twenty.

I imagine it’ll be Melissa at the market this morning. I will take my time. I still have to open the blinds in the living room. There’s $169 in food stamps available to me. My utility bill was a killer, so I’m keeping the room temperature lower than before. Funny how I remember old friends, when I’m quite certain they don’t think about me at all. Dave introduced me to the stories of Borges, even lent me his copy of Labyrinths, 17 years ago. I never got past the first two tales, but I liked them. I always resented Dave for his self righteous attitude regarding AA. For recovery, there weren’t many options in the last decade. He would have scorned me for taking a route that cost money, but in my case, CBT was the best choice. I also felt kind of bad for Dave, not having much and martyring himself for it. His younger brother was the spoiled one who got the advantages. My family situation was just the opposite of his. Maybe that’s why we didn’t get along.

Quarter of ten. A rare thing: I caught a mistake at the checkout counter and had to correct it. One of my burritos got scanned twice, just an accident. Usually I don’t consider money very much. I almost never carry cash and I don’t bother with arithmetic since I quit drinking. Numbers I associate with buying beer… I took note of the cloud formations on my pilgrimage to Maxwell Road: large white cumulus ones, and partly sunny. A neighbor on Fremont used to fly a gray blue MAGA flag in his front yard. Now it’s been replaced with the green State of Oregon. More than one house sports a flagpole out front. The remainder of the fallen leaves at the end of my street have been pulverized to a yellow purée, a bit perfidious to walk on. I feel a little silly as a pedestrian around the community, but I know the limits of my income. I could not afford to maintain a car. Besides, I don’t want the inconvenience… I saw Angela on my way back. She was setting up the ramp over the steps for the benefit of people with walkers and wheelchairs. Karen hadn’t arrived yet, so I just said hi and continued on home. Aesop sniffed my shopping bag, but this time there was nothing in it for him. 

Our Way: a Letter

Sometimes I wish I’d taken Ancient Greek at the university, but that might have been over the top. As it was, I got to take Aristotle in the philosophy department with a good old Jewish professor. One of my favorite terms in school was winter 1989. I was 22 years old and taking, besides Aristotle, Literature of the Renaissance and a psychology survey course. The English class was great, although I skipped a lot of the reading assignments. We studied Sir Philip Sidney, and I still want to sit down with The Old Arcadia and absorb the whole thing. I wrote papers on Thomas More’s Utopia and Sidney’s Astrophil and Stella. Also we read John Lyly and Mary Wroth, and of course Shakespeare’s sonnet series.

The same winter we had a great dumping of snow in Eugene, but classes still were not canceled. My dad and I rode the bus up to the Campus on a day or two (he was the fiscal officer of the psychology department for twenty years) and on a Friday morning I remember being on the bus with other students. One of them was a music major girl who was busy sight reading a composition from a book. Her name was Dunia, and she’d been the girlfriend of a drummer I’d known. She didn’t recognize me. The afternoon of that day Dad and I waited at the bus stop a long time. My writing assignment was due Monday, on Thomas More, so I was rather preoccupied. On the bus again, we picked up two guys I remembered from grade school, Ron and David. They’d been playing in the snow together and asked each other if they were cold. I felt awkward because David probably knew me, but we said nothing. My education had divided us into different social classes, and even though we went to the same high school, I’d never seen them around. It happened with my nephews as well: we attended North Eugene together, but due to the differences in our coursework, our paths never crossed. I loosely belonged to the academic elite that took AP classes and tended to disregard those in a lower stratum of the school.

Thinking about that now, it was an awful circumstance to undergo for all of us. My nephews really resented me, and our families divided even more deeply as it was clear that I would go to college while they were stuck with manual labor. There’s a lesson in here somewhere, perhaps an epiphany for me: pride leads to a fall. And yet the school system is set up that way. I remember the insane amount of pressure that was applied to us students who supposedly had a promising future. I also recall a few students who objected to the whole situation, renouncing the opportunity to take AP English, and then sort of coasting out the year with less stress, but retaining their humanity and their sanity. And for that reason, I have to respect their decision. After all, look at what happened to me under all that pressure and stress. Was it really worth it even to graduate from college? And what is the quality that gives people dignity when all is said and done? Maybe with Sinatra we can sing that we did it our way.

Monkey Do Again

Six thirty.

Feeling angry and frustrated with blogging, so maybe I’ll leave it for a while. If I don’t, then I won’t expect to get many likes. I’ve always been a nonconformist, so why try to change now? Somewhere in the world there must be satisfaction. All around me I see compliance to social norms, and never a risk taken. People do things just because everybody else is doing it, or because they saw it in the movies.

Nine twenty five. A change is overcoming me. It has something to do with belongingness and togetherness, yet still I don’t know if it’s a good thing. I just heard a conversation at the store about police practices in Michigan. It sounded quite Orwellian and oppressive. For a long time now I’ve been concerned with public versus private life, and which deserves more weight. I think social media is overrated at this point. Having a good friend to correspond with is great, but I dislike the feeling of being compromised by a majority. Perhaps blogging has outworn its usefulness. Maybe it’s the end of the road for me… The sun peeks through for a moment, but we’re supposed to get a lot more rain this week. I’ll probably help with church Friday night. Meanwhile, I’ve found my copy of The Myth of Sisyphus and will spend time with that. 

Sunshine in November

Noon hour. I’m at physical therapy now, way early. The cabbie was very nice. Polly was difficult, but families are like that. I see that Suzanne liked my post this morning. I don’t know. I’m leaning toward science right now. WordPress is up in the air since Biden won.

Two fifty five. Home again. Erin had made a note of how Christina made me feel judged for my posture. The latter read it and asked me about it, so I answered her honestly. Christina worked a bit harder to be nice after that. I saw Erin on her way in to start her shift and she asked me how it went. I said pretty good. The sun was out, and it still is right now. I don’t usually associate sunshine with November. It seems like something new in my experience. It feels beautiful and cheerful. The most unprecedented thing today is that I’m sober. Yesterday, Misty told me that three years is a significant chunk of time. And looking around me, I sense so many things that feel new, things I’d never noticed before at this time of year, in these conditions. The return cabbie was good looking in a rock and roll sort of way. I liked her. I’m just a square type of guy myself. It was a bizarre fluke that I ever got involved in rock music. Plus the alcohol and the diagnosis that stuck me in an illicit category. But life has a way of equalizing everyone in the long run. The Buddha taught that life is suffering. We all go through it, more or less in the same degree… The westering sun projects soft tangerine beams over the tree line. I’ve had a good afternoon. 

Is It Just Me?

Six o’clock.

I’ll be glad to get done reading The Farthest Shore. What I can’t understand is what magic has to do with the natural order of life and death. Very strange outlook. I should think that magic springs from an immortal place. But Le Guin denounces those who fear death and crave eternal life. In this case, what is the point in having magic at all? Maybe the book will explain this… I paid my utility bill just a moment ago: it was under two hundred dollars. I might be able to help my church out with another donation this month, but we still have a few weeks to go. Erin made me think about how useless my musical instruments are, assuming that things will never be the same again after the pandemic. But her opinions tend to look on the bleak side of everything. I’m getting quite tired of this perspective. It all reminds me of a rock band I played in over twenty years ago. The singer songwriter premised his whole philosophy on the fact that everyone is going to die. He concluded from this that we ought to let go the ego. I always thought that his ideas lacked common sense. I guess I’m just a Christian thinker at the heart of the matter… I’m going to try to call my sister at eight o’clock this morning. I notice how dark and depressed my mood is already today. Is it only me, or is it everywhere around me? 

Still and Soundless

Quarter after nine. This morning is exceptionally beautiful, all decked out in autumn colors over a backdrop of clear blue sky. Fallen leaves litter the streets everywhere, soggy from recent rain. Vicki was in a good mood, and I was the only customer there at eight thirty. I had the whole neighborhood to myself. A couple of times I stopped and looked around me. The world may take a while to get its bearings after yesterday. Things will shift and change with the transfer of power. The blogging community will be different. The transition is comparable to the face that nature puts on, shifting colors and shapes like Proteus. The landscape feels like a vast place, illimitable even by the blue sky, the dust before black space takes over. Through it all, the silence roars. No one dares break the spell. I stood alone in the parking lot and took the measure of the universe. It was very still and soundless, waiting for something while I watched. And yet all is right with the world, today and every day henceforth… I spent over $13 on foodstuffs for Aesop and me. I bought two Snapple teas, against my better judgment. I know the caffeine interferes with my sleep, yet I crave it for some reason. My dog scarfed down his breakfast, even though it was nothing special. He was hungry. I should call Bi Mart about getting a night light for my outdoor walks… I just have the sensation of being able to breathe again, and soon the world will breathe with me. If it doesn’t, then maybe I’m in the wrong blogging place. It won’t be doomsday. Life is mutability. Everything passes like clouds across the moon, including ourselves, and the changes are unpredictable. This is the beautiful part of it. When we can accept it, we become true adepts at the process of living.