Just for Today

Quarter of eight AM.

The morning is clear and bitter cold at 24 degrees. I won’t go out in it for a couple of hours. Meanwhile I’m getting more stable on the medication. A few times this month I flashed back to being twenty again, though it serves no purpose to do so. I didn’t know any more then than I know now. I just had my youthful vitality; the rest was folly and stupidity. But still, life had more of beauty when I was younger. As I age, the appearance or the illusion of beauty tends to fade away. I keep expecting a resurrection of youth and beauty that never comes. So, I revive old memories of pleasant times and try to be happy with those… The best myths are the most beautiful ones, the ones that give pleasure, yet it was long ago that I studied Wallace Stevens. Most Christians believe that Jesus is coming back. I’m not sure I want to be judged and then either saved or dumped in the Pit. I don’t know if the New Jerusalem would be so great. “No hell below us / And above us only sky.” Maybe living for today is all right. 


Joy Is Joy

Ten AM.

I don’t feel very intelligent this morning, though it’s getting better with a shot of Snapple tea. At the market I ran into Craig, the guy whose car I hit with my truck in the parking lot six years ago. He asked me if I was keeping warm, and I said that was a good question. It was about 30 degrees when I made my daily pilgrimage for groceries. I put on a navy blue beanie in addition to my old blue parka and went out to brave the frost.

I used the word “pilgrimage” above. This might be a loose connection with my thoughts on Chaucer and the Wife of Bath earlier this morning. I was thinking that masochism is not for me, but different people have different feelings about it. It seems strange to me to derive pleasure from pain, and yet I remember some odd things from my early childhood: weird instincts that I later weeded out as logic took over consciousness. Freud treats masochism as a matter of course, but more recent psychologists often differ with him. I’d prefer to think that pleasure is pleasure, pain is pain, and the enjoyment of suffering is something kind of weird. Dostoevsky deals with this in Notes from Underground, I recall from a lecture… Joy is very distinct from pain and suffering, and we know when joy happens to us. It’s a pure and direct thing rather than convoluted and complicated. I think maybe my Freudian days are over.

A Sublunar Stroll

Seven AM.

The moon shone right over my head when I hit the street in front of my house, a little larger than a crescent. The stars were still out, and I thought of a Moody Blues couplet: “Take a look out there / Planets everywhere.” This kind of correspondence of mind and nature is like Wordsworth in The Prelude, and yet it complicates the scheme unnecessarily to use allusions. I trod the black street gingerly in the low visibility. It was a crisp 27 degrees but with the clear weather I needn’t worry about ice. At the Maxwell intersection I could look to my left and see the dark blue atmosphere tinged rose on the rim of the earth. Finally I reached the store. Lisa wore a black and white knitted beanie with big snowflakes and said with an expletive that it was cold outside. The radio behind her played old alternative rock, probably Pearl Jam. A lot of those bands sounded alike to me because I was already thirty during that decade, and involved in a totally different genre of music. If I’d had my way, I would have tried for jazz fusion, but the demand for electric bass had declined in jazz at the time. My favorite listening music was actually classical, the Modern period starting with Erik Satie. The guy who helped the old man at the Musique Gourmet, named Scott, gave me quite a little education in Modern music, though his occupation was film critic. I long for those days in the Nineties, and especially I miss my dad…


Who is my neighbor?

It sounds like a cliché, but I ask anyway, where’s the love? My neighbors around here ignore my presence as insignificantly as if I were a crow or squirrel; something beneath contempt. Two or three times I have stood in my driveway, in plain sight of everybody, when Victoria came out for her afternoon jog and very deliberately avoided looking at me or saying anything to me. I just get the idea that I’m in the wrong place. But I might get the same treatment everywhere I go. I don’t know; is it just me or does everyone feel so invisible with other people? What on earth is wrong with everybody? 

What’s Toxic?

Sometimes it feels like life is nothing achieving. I mean, life in our society today. I read an article on NPR about the problems men are having, according to this guy and his book. Though I agree with it, he is such a minority voice, really on the margin of culture as it is right now. Oh well. But still it leaves me feeling frustrated for being a guy and having very little to say about it. I think it really sucks. It raises the question of how free are individuals in society. It seems to me again like my life has gotten out of my control. Above all I feel emasculated.

The author of this book observed about people in psychology fields. In the Eighties, 40 percent of psychologists were male, whereas now it’s one in ten. He said that often men need a male therapist, but the field is dominated by female therapists. From my own experience, I know I miss my psychiatrist and kind of regret that I left him.

I even forget that I’m a guy sometimes.

I wonder where it’s all coming from, this demonization of masculinity. I have some ideas on this, but probably they’re not very pc or acceptable by most people.

How can it be a white overcast and be so dark outside? It hasn’t been raining today, though the sky is a solid sheet of cloud. I haven’t done much all day. I restrung my new bass but unfortunately the strings expose the limitations of the instrument. Maybe I’m just having a bad day.


If I can’t change the world…

I’ve been very tempted to drink because my life feels like a no win situation, and I would get wasted to blot it out. I can’t change society by myself, and alcoholism is suicide, so the only alternative is to escape with my memories and my books.

All I can say about how our culture is messed up is that it’s no place for men and masculinity. And in case you didn’t notice, I happen to be a guy.

So I won’t drink. Instead, I’ll maintain faith in the power of the written word and hope for the best. 

A Local Prankster

Two fifty PM.

The sun came out to make it a partly cloudy afternoon, though it’s still the cold of November. I sat here thinking of what might be a nice treat, and my mind settled on ice cream: so I made a little trip around the bend to buy some. Also the line from Wallace Stevens played in my brain: “The only emperor is the emperor of ice cream.” Perhaps only the details are consequential to human life? When I got to the market I saw that they were quite busy. One tattooed guy with a truculent face walked up to the checkout line carrying a sixer of a regional Hefeweizen that I used to drink on special occasions. But off to my left at the cashier I recognized the same loopy blonde girl from a couple of years ago. She was very pretty, but dressed in outrageous overalls and sneakers over the ankle. The guy behind the counter was new and the girl threw him a curveball with her id so he needed Lisa’s help. Meanwhile the line was lengthening and Lisa shouted for Winston to take over her till. He came from the back room where they count bottles and cans with his usual scowl and helped the person in front of me. All this silliness because of the Pippi Longstocking blonde, up to her usual clowning, but you have to smile about it. Elsewhere, Karen’s salon was closed with a note on the door containing one or two misspelled words; they’d be back on the 17th. And I reflected that I hadn’t seen Kim in a very long time, and how was she doing? 


Quarter of nine.

The hoopla over the election must be finished because no one is talking about it. Just another event that came and went. Again today it’s pretty cold out, and the moon was framed in white clouds on its descent. The east is striped blue and white, the deciduous trees all turned yellow or red, with a littering of leaves around at the curbs. One squirrel occasionally peeks in the back door. I get a feeling of indifference from people in the community; there’s not an abundance of love, as they mind their business of making money to survive. The last time I was in church was like it is everywhere else: every mind on the matter, and success measured in dollar figures. You don’t see anyone pausing to smell the roses. My mother raised me differently, I guess. Even now, I believe money is only good for the happiness it can buy— if it even does this. Everyday life today is quite dreary, everybody a Scrooge. And as always, Americans treat their dogs better than they do people. We need a great pop culture phenomenon to come along. The next Beatles or the next Star Wars to rejuvenate the human spirit. The genius of humankind is not dead yet.

Every generation throws a hero up the pop charts…

Cup of Hot Tea


Thursday came and went. I’m trying to relearn how to relax and enjoy my life; to eliminate worry and guilt and take off the pressure I usually apply to myself. The dawn came on peachy, for a day that would be sunny but cold, with clouds moving in around two o’clock. I spent the day lazily, writing observations in my Peter Pauper journal, on desultory stuff, mostly personal insights regarding my past addiction. I still think it’s often a trade off when you stay sober: you’re either healthy and alone or addicted with friends. Something about it is like Zarathustra living in his cave, or like Merlin retreating to the crystal cave of his teacher Galapas, having his prophetic visions of the future King of Britain. I think I like Zarathustra better… My book by the Free Press arrived in the afternoon, a survey of 18th Century philosophy, which means the Age of the Enlightenment, mostly. It seems that any philosopher is a materialist or an idealist, or some combination of both. Idealism is hard to prove, yet many people accept it without question or examination. We don’t wonder how a spiritual dimension is possible, but make a logical jump to faith in its existence: or rather it’s very illogical and absurd. We arrive at it by feeling or intuition, more like Merlin than Zarathustra, and much less like Socrates and a whole tradition of his kind.

Quarter after one AM.

I wasn’t going for anything exciting or sensational above. Philosophy can be pretty dry and uninteresting. But I’m doing it more for myself than for others. It’s my domain after all.

On a Box Chain

Nine ten AM.

The low temperature last night was 28 degrees and it still is below freezing. The Oregon race for governor has not been decided yet. It seemed like a big deal yesterday but today, nobody appears concerned about it. The sun is out in a mostly cloudy sky. Yesterday I did some thinking about the job I used to do, about meaningless work versus something worthwhile to do. I didn’t like being a data slave, with all those indifferent numbers and letters I had to index for future retrieval. Every day I’d wear a box chain like a collar around my neck with a sterling tag engraved with Reason to remind me of my industrial commitment. Everyone probably knows the feeling of being a robot in a worthless job, but I felt I had more poetry and beauty in me to share with the world. I didn’t want to waste my life away as a work turtle. Again I’m singing to the choir of a billion people who feel just the same way I do. I guess my point is, if you have other options, then you probably ought to take them and run the risk of rejection. It’s better to do this than let your life be controlled by feelings of guilt or shame, so you end up stuck in a bad situation while time passes you by. That’s been my experience. You can ask yourself if it’s better to be assigned a job like street sweeper and live with the burden, or instead strive for what you were born to be. The ideal place is one where everybody can be what they want to be, but it’s probably a long time coming. But I don’t think the answer is like Robert Pirsig in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The nature of our work really does matter, not just the quality with which we do the job. After a while, something snaps and it’s necessary to throw off the slave collar.