“Agnostic”

Nine fifty five.

A rainy Saturday morning. I got off to a late start today. The store was very busy, or maybe everyone came in at the same time. I saw one woman with a pink hippo backpack and a lot of guys behind me in line. The rules of face masking seem quite lax at the market. Sometimes I consider going to a different store, especially on weekends; someplace a bit more professional and conscientious. I get tired of the Maxwell community, just a hole in the wall compared to the larger River Road vicinity. The whole of River Road is not particularly affluent, which has always been depressing, plus its paucity of imagination. The Whitaker neighborhood is also poor, but the politics there are more liberal and intelligent. In that place you’re more likely to find a good rock band jamming in somebody’s house. But of course I’m generalizing from a few examples that I’ve seen. About the coolest thing we have on River Road is the Black Rock Coffee Bar, in the same parking lot as Cal’s Donuts.

Ten fifty. I guess I’m feeling kind of down this morning. Yesterday at noon I played the bass really hard, doing some lines from the Chili Peppers. I was frustrated with my situation with music, and it affects a lot of other people too. In other areas, I get mad at people and programs that overemphasize the God stuff. I keep calling to mind my high school junior year, when I learned the word agnostic from our vocabulary book and made it mine. During the spring that year I read Twain’s Connecticut Yankee, and though his style doesn’t appeal to me, I might take another look at it. 

The Best Thing

Quarter of eight.

Ahead of me in line at the store dilly dallied a young blond girl in a red hoodie, tight jeans, and sneakers with a US flag kerchief to cover her face, although she kept letting it down. She bought biscuits and gravy and acted like a loopy clown. And then, when she was finished at the counter, she did the most remarkable thing: she looked at me and said humbly, “Thank you for being patient with me.” A little astonished, I said sure. And who was I to feel nettled with this young person with honest blue eyes and an all American bandanna?… It is clear and a bit chilly outside this morning. I should just surrender and be passive to the change of season, seize and enjoy the day, not worry about anything. I might let myself off the hook the same way I did the blond girl. I sent an email to my musical friend Mark last night. Maybe I made a fool of myself trying to persuade him to do a project with me, yet I can put aside feelings of guilt and shame. The worst that can happen is he says no. What’s the best thing that could happen? I hadn’t thought of that… As I walked west on Maxwell sidewalk I looked around for the moon out of curiosity, but I wasn’t rewarded today. There were sublunary things and events more interesting to see. Michelle told me that she’d been selling a lot of biscuits and gravy this morning. The white shirted dairy distributor guys were waiting in the wings to do inventory when the customers were gone. I was the last in line. 

Old as You Feel

Nine ten.

I was probably wise to never get married in my life. No one ever blessed me with a Midas touch, nor cursed me with the same thing. Solitude, like everything else, has pros and cons. My life has ended up being like the conclusion to Aristotle’s Ethics: that of the lone philosopher. Insight tends to be keener this way, though most people couldn’t stand it. Some lessons I’ve learned by observation, others firsthand. Addiction is a thing you have to go through yourself; no amount of warning is effective, because we never think it can happen to us. An alcoholic death only happens to other people until the Grim Reaper pops up right in our face… While I was outdoors I didn’t study the color of the sky. Looking at it now, the atmosphere is still very smoky, the sky a dirty white, and the reflection of the sun burnt orange. The transition to my new medication has had rough days mixed with better ones. My dog Aesop is really good about rolling with the changes. When I don’t feel good, he doesn’t complain. I doubt if anything will make me feel like a thirty year old again, so I just accept what is. The older I get, the more I try to avoid pain, but forget the pursuit of pleasure. Fun is for younger people. I also feel amazed and thankful to have made it this far… I’m always polite and courteous when I go anywhere. It was later this morning when I went to see Michelle and buy a few things. A pretty young lady smiled at me with her blue eyes when I held the door for her and her boyfriend. Otherwise it was just another trip to the store.

Quarter after ten. I have nothing planned for today. It’d be nice to see the blue sky a little later. Maybe I can brush up on my French; take a look at Baudelaire, cross the rainbow bridge to a different language. They say that the languages we learn are stored in different “buckets” of the brain. French may be my ticket to the Fountain of Youth. It’s worth a try. 

Oxymorons

Eleven o’clock.

Well now I’m getting lonely for someone to talk to. I had my lunch already because I was ravenous as a side effect of my medication. I’m also kind of dopey from the same thing. Maybe I’ll make another trip to the store just to see some people today. “One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do…” There’s nothing on my slate really until church on Sunday. Some people charge their battery by spending time alone, but I’m just the opposite. It might be okay to read a book, however. Goethe sounds good right now. Maybe it will inspire me with a new idea.

Four fifty. I went to see Karen about getting a haircut tomorrow morning. She caught me up on what has been going on in her world. It sounds like some of her former employees have stabbed her in the back and been dishonest with her. I don’t want to be involved in any cat fights among these people; I only wanted to get a haircut. The stories I’m hearing are all very irrational and even crazy, and they would be avoidable if those people used more sense… I guess that’s why I usually stay away from the salon these days. I really don’t like insanity. Perhaps this makes me a walking oxymoron, to be a schizophrenic person with a great deal of reason and sense. It is a paradox. But it’s sad to see others who are less fortunate struggling to keep afloat on tides of lunacy and heartbreak, clinging to a spiritual life preserver that is not watertight, repeating the same mistakes and bad decisions time and again.

Six thirty. At the store, the radio was playing “One,” the same song I quoted earlier today, as by a fluke of meaningful coincidence; but which was it, fluky or meaningful? Maybe it depends on what you pay attention to. Human experience is full of maybes, but also little miracles if you are watchful for them. Someday this house of cards may collapse to expose the City of God that dwells in and behind it, of which we’d only caught glimpses in the cracks before. 

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. 

Karma

Eight o’clock.

When I got to the store, I found that Heather hadn’t made it yet this morning. She slept through her alarm again for the second time. Other customers were also there, trying the door and looking puzzled. I saw it all from the sidewalk and just turned and headed home. I have to go to Bi Mart again today anyway. I can stop by Grocery Outlet for some food. I wonder if Heather is just apathetic about her job? I might avoid that place on weekends after this. It seems that every promise is contingent on circumstances in the future, things we cannot predict. Maybe we should try to override the conditions and keep our agreements anyway. I told Pastor I couldn’t make it to volunteer today because of my medications. Dunno. It’s possible to spiritualize any social situation, or instead just look at physical causes and effects. Which perspective is wiser? I think I’ll just show up at the church and surprise everybody. 

Realism

Five forty.

It was beautiful and mild yesterday before noon, with white cloud puffs in the blue sky. I took a taxi to Bi Mart, where I picked out a new pair of Rustler blue jeans and paid at the pharmacy checkout. Sherri helped me with the purchase. My tappable rewards card worked like a charm, and it seems like a perk of being sober to have fewer financial problems. I feel pretty lucky for that. When I got back out of the door, I decided spontaneously to walk home as the day was so pleasant. My path took me past Grocery Outlet and the Hawaiian restaurant on the left, a strip mall across on the right, and then the old high school. I went by the construction site of the new high school also, where they’ve put up one enormous room like a gymnasium so far. An extension is being built onto that. I noticed how incredibly high the crane was, off in the distance to the south of the site. But other than for this observation my head was quite vacant all the way home. Vaguely I was thankful for the cooler weather for the summer and hopeful for no repetition of what happened last year. We could still use a good rain around here… Right now, the little store is open, though it’s before the dawn and the sky is still gray. I’m in no hurry to go out this morning, and I feel like reading a few pages of my Plotinus. I wonder if The One can be interpreted as being the same as God? Probably the terms don’t matter too much. As it grows more light outdoors, the sky is still gray anyway due to overcast. And what is there back of the sky? Is it just a gray flat surface hiding another round dimension?

Six fifty. My dreams last night were quite realistic, in the sense of poverty and adversity. Vicki made an appearance, and also Deb, from the same old convenience store as ever. I just remembered about the food pantry at the church; maybe I can volunteer there again soon? Life goes on, and so does hunger… 

Literary Faith

Six fifty.

Today is Thursday. There’s Rebecca on my plate at nine o’clock, and then I’ll be free until Tuesday. Mike is probably coming to buy my Zoom recorder this weekend. I’m going to try to start accepting my age rather than pretending that I’m in my thirties still.

I just went to the market for some foodstuffs. A black Camaro with skull and crossbones plates passed me on the way: no number on the plates. People seem to think it’s cool to get away with that. The person went inside the store. He had a long ponytail and he was white. It was all guys again this morning. I saw quite a few cars out and about, people who were in a mad rush to get somewhere. And I thought about how we’re all responsible for climate change. I think I’m living in the wrong part of town, but I’ve always known that. The South Hills are much nicer for liberal attitudes than River Road, but it’s a very rich sector of the city, unfortunately… It feels like the wheels are coming off of everything, but at least I can relax a few days. I’m very tired and so is everyone else.

Eight twenty. I got Aesop’s breakfast out of the way. Later today I’ll take another look at my Plotinus book. Also I might look through my volume of Robert Frost for his theory of the metaphor. I can’t entirely rule out the spiritual world yet; something keeps dragging me back to the idea. I am not a mathematician, so I have to use the abilities I’ve got. What are metaphors for if they don’t have any meaning? Why do we have mythology if it is a waste of energy?… The weather continues mild and the sky has a steely glow to it. The humanities are not full of crap.

Details

Nine ten.

From everything I’ve read, it looks like the approach to transcendence is the same for the drug addict as it is for the poet or the priest. Getting high either way involves inebriation of a sort, a disengagement of the intellect in order to experience something beyond the known world. I’ve been stuck on the problem of reality and illusion for a long time, and still can’t come to a conclusion. My realism might be naive, yet most people can agree on what’s real. Just when I think I’m sick of Romanticism, something pulls me back to it like the undertow of the surf… 

The hike to the store was kind of nice today. There were two Mexican guys ahead of me in line, masked with bandannas. But again I observed that no women were in the market except for Michelle. The credit card reader beeped extremely loudly because the mute under it was removed. A customer had spilled a full 44 ounce Pepsi all over the countertop, drenching everything. There was a fresh supply of peanut butter treats for dogs, so I grabbed a couple. The sun through the front door blared right in Michelle’s eyes so she had to visor her face. I notice that I’m overdue for a haircut. And either today or tomorrow I have to run to Bi Mart to pick up my prescription. While I’m there I might as well buy a new pair of jeans. I have a hole in the heel of my right sock. If any of these details should prove to be significant, I’ll be the last person to know. But sometimes it’s better to leave the particulars alone, without induction. This being said, I needn’t have said it. 

Mirage

Three thirty.

I made an accidental discovery today: when I skip the Vraylar, my back pain improves; therefore the pain is a side effect of the medication. I saw no reason why I couldn’t pick up some of the Snapple bottles from the floor, so I did four bags full of them. Also I emailed my prescriber regarding the Vraylar, and meanwhile I won’t take more of it… I may go to church tomorrow morning if I feel good enough. But it might be rather stressful for me, and I don’t really agree with religious belief. I leave the decision until tomorrow. I think I’m quite tired of repressing my humanity for a superstitious illusion. I shouldn’t have to wear a hair shirt or anything else to mortify the flesh, etc etc. I’d rather be alive from the neck down as well as the neck up. The body needs to breathe… The sun is out but the air outside is still smoky.

Seven thirty five. I rested in bed without going to sleep. My back pain is still better than usual, though it could be due to the heat. So I don’t know whether to stop the Vraylar or not. Maybe tomorrow I’ll get some reading done in John Keats, enough to be well versed. Occasional acorns hit the roof of the house and patio cover, eliciting a growl from Aesop until I explain it to him. This morning I paid my utility bill: under a hundred dollars, and I’d been running the air conditioner a lot. It seems that to simply live is to pollute the environment; how many chlorofluorocarbons does my ac release into the atmosphere? And the pollution creates a feedback loop, for the hotter it gets, the more you need the air conditioner. Some genius will figure it out… In general, life is imperfect, with the mirage of heaven being a very long distance away, only to move again when you get there. Already with the nightingale, tender is the night; but do we share that space with the bird by the power of its song?