Pinball / New Ideas

Nine twenty five.

Feeling nervous about my coming trip to the agency at ten o’clock. Not very happy about it. Last night I realized how much I was craving alcohol at a subconscious level, betrayed by figurative language: rain and water imagery mean drinking alcohol to my mind… I feel lousy and low energy. I’m waiting in my driveway for the taxi to come get me. It feels like the world is falling apart, but I can’t do anything about it.

Quarter of one. That went pretty well, and Misty made me a new appointment for the end of August while I was there. The sun has come out, a better color than recently. They’re saying that some of the smoke has cleared around here. I’ve decided to give the Sturgeon novel another chance out of curiosity. Think I’ll spend an hour with it this afternoon and suspend judgment.

Quarter of eight.

At the end of my nap just now I dreamt about my nephew Ed. He was trapped within a giant lightbulb, the spinning filament of which grew more rapid and more lethal the longer he waited to get out of it. The suspense was like “The Pit and the Pendulum.” I woke up before the dream was resolved. My sister hasn’t returned my call from yesterday morning, so I’m a bit concerned for her family. I know it’s no good to try to guess what’s happening with them, though my mind will still weave dreams to fill the blanks until I have more information. I wonder what persuaded Ed to get a job as a park ranger? It has become one of those cliche occupations associated with very conservative people, sort of like flower arranging for women, which my sister used to do. It only shows how easy it is for us to be pigeonholed and subdivided by this machine called society. Very strange to watch it happen to people you know as they are shot out like balls in a pinball game, hitting this and that bumper for points until they disappear down a hole. It’s not an original metaphor, either, but one provided from a stock of images for anyone to buy.

Quarter after nine.

And now I suspect that being original is an exercise in futility when we live in a consumerist society with everything mapped out for you before you even exist. I should take a look at Auden’s poetry, particularly to reread “The Unknown Citizen.” Salinger nailed it very shrewdly with The Catcher in the Rye. Suddenly I realize that my feelings now are echoes of me from when I was twenty years old; but what I feel is no less genuine for being an adolescent’s feelings. Everyone takes a ride on the carousel, even if you choose not to do so. The rain falls on everybody’s head. Whether a player or a spectator, we’re all in the game. You can sit and watch the skaters on the rink, but someone’s also watching you. Sartre: we live only in the eyes of other people. Green means go, red means stop. But is it really hopeless to dream up a new idea? Maybe I’ll be the one to find this out. 

Soft Pedal

Quarter of nine.

My friend wrote a kind of free verse mantra she addressed to me rather than posting it to her blog, which I thought was really very nice of her. I’m reminded that a good part of creativity is generosity and sharing. Again today the sunlight is burnt orange from atmospheric smoke. My pace on my way to the store was deliberately slower this time. I caught myself imagining negative scenarios and willfully screened them out as the cars on Maxwell Road whizzed past. I saw a guy on a motorized bicycle signaling for a right turn with his left hand. A motorcycle also went by me to my left. When I entered the market, Michelle was jolting herself with a Mexican Coca-Cola: real sugar instead of corn syrup and bottled in a glass bottle. By the soft drink cooler I hovered and hesitated, choosing from three different Snapple teas, finally settling on peach in honor of my Texas friend. Going out again, I held the door for a young guy who hurried to catch up, so I didn’t really do him a favor. This day so far has a different feel to it; it’s more relaxed and peaceful for whatever reason. Maybe it’s the overcast of dirty lemon clouds? Things are muted as if by a damper or the soft pedal on a piano. If I were the type to pray, then I’d pray for these clouds to rain… 


Quarter after eight.

I had planned on going to church this morning, but I feel tired and probably won’t make it. From my house to the church is a mile trip and I just don’t have the energy to hoof it. I was at the store a half hour ago and spoke a little with Heather, and I also saw Kat and Corey as I passed their house and said hi. There was some activity in front of the dog rescue place beside Valley Restaurant Equipment. I don’t know what was going on. I observed to myself that Maxwell Road is sort of a slum compared to other places in town. For economic reasons, it has become run down and relatively unattractive. It hasn’t looked good since the early eighties, when I was in junior high school… But on second thought, Maxwell was always a little poor and ramshackle. I love it, though. It reminds me of my mother, when we’d have lunch at Luigi’s on spring and summer days. The hot garbage grinders were awesome, toasted in big ovens and packed with veggies, long before Subway came to Eugene. Ninth grade was a great year for me, being a big fish in a small pond. It was the last K12 school year I really enjoyed. We had a very tough vice principal, but I think he was basically a good man. He was the one who got things done, while the principal was rather a reclusive coward.

Nine twenty five. I must’ve read 17 Tarzan novels that year. I still have dreams of those beautiful paperback books occasionally, with the Neal Adams and Boris Vallejo covers. But by the time I was 16 years old, the innocence had worn away and Tarzan appeared corny to me. I was growing up. 


Quarter of four in the morning.

I got up for a few minutes, and maybe I’ll go the distance until sunrise. The idea of Panglossian optimism occurs to me, a kind of teleological absurdity that depends on the existence of a benevolent God. Everything works out for the best because he designed it that way. I haven’t read Voltaire in many years, but I can always remember the chapter about El Dorado. And Candide asks questions out of his sheer innocence while he and his friends go from one predicament to the next.

Six o’clock. In another hour I can go to the store, unless Heather misses her alarm again. It looks like the sky is overcast this morning. Speaking of optimism, mine is restored a bit after the events of yesterday. Now I’m more liberated than I used to be. A burden has rolled off. I got a decent sleep last night as a result. I realize that I take things earnestly and hard— probably too hard; I was always very grave and serious about everything. It’s not my nature to be light and satirical, but rather honest and literal like Candide, who, by the way, is quite the opposite of the author who created his character… The sprinklers have turned off and a prop plane drones overhead. The first birds are cheeping outdoors, as free as their nature. Today should be good, as Aesop my dog stares me down with a question on his face. 


Four o’clock. I had a pleasant stroll over to the little store and back again, getting a good dose of people on the way. It was only 77 degrees outside: very clement, and the scene was blue and green and shady. I stopped in front of my house and talked with my neighbor Cherie for maybe fifteen minutes. Her parents bought a house on this street in 1961, when Silver Lea Elementary was a new school. She said she cried when it was torn down, and she snapped pictures before it could happen… At the market, Brandi cashiered for me. I bought just a Snapple tea and a treat for Aesop. I saw another customer purchase a truckload of beer, some microbrew with IPA hops in a green package. I think now that it’s no wonder I was always bankrupt when I used to drink: that stuff is ungodly expensive, and reserved for those who can afford it. I don’t think I’m really missing anything by not drinking these days… I said hi to Derek’s two girls on Fremont, Claire and Natalie, being watched by their grandmother. I can hear Cherie returning home from her dad’s house. He is 93 years old and a widower living with two cats, and by her report, doing very well. All of this to the tune of Prokofiev’s “Classical” Symphony, the second movement. 

Hellbent for Ibuprofen

Quarter of noon.

The decade of ideology is over with. It’s really weird to remember when I had a job and to try to piece together what beliefs I espoused. But by the time I quit working, the delusions were ridiculously bad, and I blamed them on the crazy workplace.

One o’clock. It feels like everything is falling apart, body and mind alike.

Two forty. I knew I needed something for my pain, so I just walked to Bi Mart under the blazing sun and bought a bottle of ibuprofen. It must be 85 degrees out. Construction on the new high school has moved along since I last saw the site. There’s part of a building up now, the first story of probably two, and you can see the girders at the corners. When I finally got to Bi Mart, the store was nice and cool inside. Masks were not required except to do business with the pharmacy. I wasn’t concerned because ibuprofen is over the counter; I also bought a tube of toothpaste. At checkout, the cashier looked young enough to be my granddaughter— and then back into the brutal sun. A neighbor on Grove Avenue has a sign up that complains about threats to his Second Amendment rights, and my response to him is kiss mine. I could have sworn that I saw Jan from church pass by me in her silver car as I was trudging up the same street. And I saw Jeff and his wife in the Bi Mart parking lot just getting in their orange Boss Mustang. I guess I was feeling rather crabby because after all I was in pain and in a hurry to fix it. All along the way there and back I appreciated the shade of the few trees I encountered, most of them on Grove Avenue. Home again, my face in the mirror was red and exhausted, but I lost no time in taking the pain reliever. At last it was good to sit down and feel the cool of the air conditioner. 

Fly Me to the Moon

Nine o’clock.

On my doorstep I found a new package: the selection of John Berryman had arrived, and it’s in time before our next band practice. So I opened the box but left the book wrapped in the plastic for delivery to Ron this weekend. Now I have to think of something for Mike; maybe a music CD, but which one?… I walked off to the store to get a few things. The sky is mostly cloudy and it’s cooler than yesterday. When I came home from church the other day I saw a big white prop plane low in the blue sky. I thought that I’d rather observe it from the ground than be a passenger on it. The same day, I stopped and said hello to Johnny in the green house on Fremont. He told me he hadn’t built the book share himself. It was someone who lives three blocks away from him. Then he wished me a happy Father’s Day, whether I was a dad or not… I think I’m going to opt out of DDA group. There’s one person who lords it over the rest of us at every meeting and I can’t tolerate it anymore… The Tuesday garbage trucks are making the rounds and it feels like an ordinary business day in the neighborhood. I have a renewed sense of individual freedom today.

Ten o’clock. Colin and Roger were just talking to each other in the street; I wonder what they have in common? Generally I don’t like a lot of my neighbors. North Eugene is sort of a purple zone, leaning towards the red in many places. Roger said he would like to move to a red state like Montana. He tunes the radio in his garage to conservative political talk and eats his heart out. What a waste of energy, so full of resentment and pure hate. He told me that education was excessive but for reading, writing, and arithmetic. No wonder he’s an ignoramus… I used to work in an office with a bunch of turkeys who mostly had a phobia of books and learning. The only way I could keep going to work was by pretending my education ended at eighth grade. But as with all self delusions, this situation couldn’t last. The truth comes out. So now I’ve changed my mind about that big twin engine plane: I’d prefer to fly the friendly skies. 

Orpheus II: a Letter

I didn’t go to church this morning but the band practice today went very well, probably because we came at it fresh after a hiatus of three weeks. We played for two hours: hard on my fingers, so Mike let me borrow a guitar pick for the last half hour or so. This worked out great. Also we made three recordings that ought to turn out pretty good. The bass I used was the same old beater that only cost me one hundred dollars plus the cost of a replacement pickup and a bridge. But it sounds really great. When we were done, I just left it with Mike again. Boy, the weather was very wet today, and I had to walk in it over to the studio. My trouser legs got soaked. I put on a rain jacket 🧥  and carried an umbrella 🌂 for the 15 minute journey on foot 🦶. It was also very warm outside, making it feel quite muggy and kind of gross, but I didn’t have to bring an instrument with me this time. As I was traveling through the parking lot of the convenience store 🏪 I missed seeing Deb’s black pickup truck, but maybe she doesn’t start her shift until three; but just now I remember that today is Sunday and not Saturday. And of course Karen’s salon was closed for Sunday.

I think I’m a little better at cooperating with other people in musical situations than I used to be, as long as my recovery feels secure. However, I also can really feel my age in my poor old body. My back still hurts every day and sometimes my whole body just feels lousy, especially when I get up or sit down. Probably I could use some more physical therapy if my insurance will cover the cost 💲. All I have to do is ask my doctor for a referral.

Anyway I think this band might go somewhere when the venues reopen this summer or fall. Meanwhile, blogging may go a bit more on the back burner; I’m just not very inspired to write new ideas— and by the way, that’s really cool about your discovery of your Goethe book. I think it’s well worth reading and pondering when you have the time.

Okay, that’s my report on my day today. I’m quite exhausted now and pretty sore; glad I didn’t go to church this morning or else the damage would be somewhat worse. See you in the morning and take care of yourself.

Sunday Driver

Nine twenty.

Aesop and I slept in for a while this morning. I think a good day is on the way. It is cloudy and cool right now and my mind is a blank. Music: an old James Taylor song about feeling great and blameless. And finally an idea comes to me. This is the one of immediacy of the senses, like the Paterson slogan: no ideas but in things. Sometimes it’s really nice to feel literal and realistic, to feel the earth under your feet, and leave imagination alone…

Eleven thirty. It sounds like Bill across the fence is mowing his lawn. His dog and mine occasionally get into scuffles through the fence, but they don’t last very long… It occurs to me to wonder how long it’s been since I had a burrito from Burrito Boy to take home. It’s been years, because the last time was when I still owned a vehicle. I used to drive to the restaurant, following N. Park around the bend to another street where I’d hang a right. A short jog, then a left turn on Hilliard Street and from there out to River Road. The cool thing about this little community is how the trees flourish, like being in a shaded miniature wood, and the houses are mostly very old, built probably in the forties. The drive was pleasant because I didn’t have to go very fast. There is a hook on N. Park to the left where the Northwest Expressway is visible just on the right, with the railroad tracks also in view… I don’t remember the last time I went to River Road Park, but it might be kind of fun to check it out. On the other hand I think I’d rather take a trip downtown to the vicinity of Fifth Street and visit the shops. 

Letting Go / On the Town

Eleven ten. I’ve had two quarts of Snapple tea and I really don’t know how to characterize my day today. This whole week has been rather strange. The silences and the blind futurities are intense, sort of like a story by Hemingway I read long ago. At noon my taxi is coming to pick me up and whisk me away to Laurel Hill for a DDA meeting. Part of me would rather stay home and make the world go away somehow. But every exchange with people is an opportunity to assert myself and prove my courage. It is a way to validate my being, to affirm it and feel good about myself. The worst that could happen is I walk out on Laurel Hill; and actually, that could turn out to be the best thing I ever did… The sparrows have made a nest in an old dilapidated birdhouse on my back patio, so I see and hear them all the time. I think to myself that I’d love to go home, wherever that is, but possibly there is no home for a person who stays sober; no comfort zone, no sense of security. I read in an Iris Murdoch novel that no one is ever secure, which at the time I couldn’t accept. But today I’m closer to acknowledging this truism as being true indeed.

Two forty. My cab driver was quite late to pick me up from home, and I feared I would be very tardy for the meeting. So I got in the backseat feeling rushed and impatient with the cabbie’s lackadaisical attitude, until I presently relaxed and accepted what would happen. As it developed, I arrived right on time and Misty was late. 

Now, in writing this, I suddenly remember the cabbie from another taxi ride I took a few years ago. She was totally lost up on the campus and I had to guide her to the drugstore on 18th Street and from there to Chambers and onward to my home. It was a dark rainy night in December, her second day on the job, and she had no working gps to steer by. To start with, she didn’t know how to get from the hospital to Hiron’s, and somehow we wound up on Franklin Boulevard heading east. So I told her to make a right turn on Agate Street and pursue it to 18th. The funny thing was that we were in the middle of the university campus and had to wait for a great number of students to cross at a few intersections, especially at 13th and Agate. There were three of us in the taxi including the driver. I don’t recall how long it took me to get home that night, but it was a memorable experience. And I really felt sorry for the poor cabbie; glad to see she’s doing better now.