Eight twenty five.
When I arrived on Maxwell Road, the holes in the street had been tarred over and it was okay to walk on them. The crew has the weekend off. It looks like they might be finished for a while, though frankly the work they did isn’t very pleasing to the eye. It only adds to the squalor that was there already, the utter run down poverty of the place. It’s an overcast morning and moderately chilly. Cathy is covering for Heather who’s been sick with a virus; she’s actually covering for two people this week. Cathy was quite gabby with me today, which I found pleasant. It was nice to see a few people of color in the little store this time. But sometimes my neighbors across the street are downright unfriendly to me for a reason I can’t fathom. Maybe it’s because, as a houseful of women, they are paranoid of guys. And yet their aloofness is getting worse instead of better with time. Conservative neighborhoods are every man for himself; just a lot of selfishness and hoarding and apathy for people. I wonder who’s to blame for these attitudes. Was it Ayn Rand? Who is John Galt? Who is Ayn Rand?
Nine twenty five.
I get my hair cut at ten o’clock today. From there I’ll go to the market as I do every day. I have second thoughts about my church, so we’ll just see what happens with that. There’s a big difference between religion and philosophy. One is humble while the other is proud. Sartre even substitutes human beings for God, putting freedom in our own hands. It’s kind of a scary idea.
Ten thirty five. It cleared my mind to get out of the house and see Karen and then Cathy. I bought Aesop’s milk bones and two cookies and some things for me. It’s really quite nice out today, though cloudy and cold. I got a dose of the reality principle by going out and interacting with people I know fairly well. Heady ideas can grow tiresome when you are cloistered with them in your home. Karen told me more about the road work situation. Before they put in a crosswalk, they have to move the natural gas line under the streets. It’ll be a convenience for people with disabilities, but the students have needed a safe crosswalk for many years. I don’t know how long the project will take to complete… Karen asked me if I’d looked for another music opportunity, and though I replied no, I think now it might be fun to try it again. I miss the guys I jammed with last year, and we could practice in my own neighborhood. I get tired of stewing and stagnating, ruminating the same stuff. Sobriety is a catch 22 for musicians, but does it really have to be that way?
The sparrows are playing their mating game again outside my glass door. Getting to the store this morning was a bit trickier but everything happened all right. They put steel plates over the holes in the street, kind of scary to go across. My imagination conjures a pit monster hiding underneath. The weather is simply cloudy and just above freezing. To my surprise, I got two emails from my pen pal today, which was rather nice. Since yesterday, I’ve had a psychological insight to my preoccupation with “freedom.” It really has to do with romantic love, so it’s not just an abstraction; it’s a practical thing, but then existentialism agrees with this will to action… I haven’t heard from my sister in more than a week, so maybe I’ll try to call her later today. Something could have happened to my family. I’m not telepathic and I’m sure that no one else is either. It’s all a lot of quackery, though some people take it seriously. I just don’t buy it. And the birds keep flitting around my backyard this last morning of January. I feel pretty good.
My ride is coming for me in a half hour or so, and I’m feeling nervous about that. I’m doing a good thing for myself but I feel guilty for it. It might be because of my dog and his moods, as silly as that sounds. But I never do anything for me anymore. Just this once I’m splurging and spoiling myself with a trip to the bookstore. I feel as if some catastrophe could happen to me today just because I’m being selfish for a change. Funny how that works. It’s like belief in karma or something. But it doesn’t make any sense.
Here I am at the bookstore, sitting down in the cafe. I feel like an outsider and almost unwelcome, maybe because I never come here. I bought one book from the philosophy section by William Barrett. Now I’m just people watching and trying to relax. Very strange to just hang out by myself at a table, an old guy who never goes out or does anything for fun. Everyone is a total stranger. But I’m stuck here until one o’clock, when my return ride comes for me. A lot of these people are well dressed and professional.
The ride home was fun; I shared it with another passenger, and the driver was very nice. When we approached my house, the sun was shining right on the yellow side of it, as if on a pot of gold. By the way, the title of my book purchase is Irrational Man, and it’s a study of existentialism. But I probably picked it for its symbolic significance, and the absurdity of just hanging out at Barnes & Noble for an hour. Still, it was worth it for the stimulation from the people I saw.
Quarter of nine o’clock.
Today I’m kind of glad for the bland weather. We’re actually getting a real winter this year, whatever they may say about climate change. I believe I’m nearly over the virus I had for a week; I feel much stronger and healthier now than last weekend. And my mood is good today. Aesop gets bacon strips, the kind processed by Purina in the yellow pouch. Yesterday afternoon I received the new Ulysses book from Amazon. It is so beautiful that I hesitate to desecrate it with my touch. I know a bookshop owner whose brother can read a book and leave it still looking immaculate. He barely opens it up when he’s reading, to protect the spine. Tsunami is a neat little shop in the south of town on Willamette. I haven’t been there in years but I still think of it. Scott is a good man and very fair in business. When I didn’t have any money I used to bring him books to sell. The very same books had been rejected by shops in North Eugene; they couldn’t use classics, which had no value to them. They were after Louis L’Amour and Danielle Steele… What is it with me and books? But I’m not alone in bibliomania, this worship of totems.
My dog just had his breakfast of canned food. The air outside is as still as death. A while ago I saw a fox squirrel through the window, but there’s no sound of birds at all, not even crows. I wonder what happened to them? When I was younger I used to listen to a local radio station that played elevator music, but it was really quite good. Often they put on George Benson’s “Gimme the Night” and “Follow the Sun” by The Beatles; also “Do You Want to Know a Secret.” It was good for me when I felt anxious or depressed, in the days before my illness. Above all, I’m very thankful that my virus is gone.
Quarter of eight.
We’ve got rain showers today. This is better than the lifeless weather of the last few days. I have to go to the pharmacy for my prescription tomorrow or Friday. Also I should go to the bank soon. For some reason I’ve had ideas that are more spiritual than realistic lately, but I want to shake them. I don’t know what drove me to read a few things out of my ordinary. Yesterday I thought about Dostoevsky all over again: Karamazov to me is the battleground for religion and materialism. It’s possible that I’m not doing so well with the schizophrenia. A lot of people exist in a half world between imagination and reality, not knowing their empirical science, hence the difference between fiction and fact. Today I just want to go out and direct my senses outward, appreciating the support of ordinary objects and natural things. In other words, be an anti poet for just a day. Ever since Christmas Eve my dreams have gone out of control. Part of me says why not let fantasy run amok, but I know it’s really not healthy to allow it to overgrow my logic… Yesterday I took a risk on the potato salad and it turned out great. The time before, the salad was inedible so I had to toss it out. Nobody will consider this of vast importance…
Life’s little rewards:
There is nothing
A glass of water
In the winter
Cold from the tap
Barely above freezing
A delicious nap
To put your mood
On the moon.
Nine o’clock in the morning.
It was only 30 degrees out, so I had to watch for spots of ice on the pavements as I walked along. The sun flamed low in the east, a great orange glare. I found a new letter for me in my box at the curb. Passing Kat’s house, I saw her black cat wedged in the blinds, observing everything from the window. Karen’s salon was deserted for the holiday. When I reached the bushes outside the store, I disturbed a few small perching birds that took off suddenly, to my surprise. Heather had very little to say this morning except that she felt tired. She went to bed early, missing the fireworks at midnight. I said that I’d stayed up in order to comfort my dog during the noise. Business seemed rather slow; I saw only one other customer, a white haired woman behind me at the counter. Back on my street again, another pedestrian overtook me, apparently out of nowhere, and I watched him stride sure-footed to the north. I also encountered a masked woman with her dog in front of Dell’s house. All through my trip I didn’t think much, but concentrated on my footing to keep from slipping. The ice in some places was made of little star crystals that you could see while the sun kept rising forgotten in the blue east. Aesop gets breakfast in ten minutes, the most important thing.
Quarter of eleven.
Right now it’s very quiet in the house. I got a late start going to the store due to an appointment with Rebecca. It’s rather warm outdoors. Everyone I met on my way was friendly and fairly cheerful. Pumpkin pie ice cream is available for the season already, and some house fronts are decked out for Halloween: headstones, skeletons, ghosts, Jack o lanterns, and spiderwebs are common themes. Something made me remember the tales of E.T.A. Hoffmann, this German guy who wrote his stuff in a tavern, which helped to fire his imagination. I often resolve to read more of him but somehow it doesn’t get done. Maybe that was a phase I went through… There’s nothing else in my schedule for the rest of the week, so I guess I could make a trip to the bookstore and snag that bargain hardcover of Oz novels. Something to pitch me over the rainbow without drinking beer in a time when escape is desirable. But this wouldn’t be much different from reading Hoffmann. The point is to get out of the house and see some people.
Noon hour. The sun has come out but simultaneously it’s windy. My dog is growing more “food motivated” all the time, and also pickier about what he eats… I’ve thought about the kind of language I use when I compose posts, and about speech in general. I feel that I should get with the present time and place instead of being an anachronism or a throwback to things nobody remembers. Even the language itself changes, dropping some words as archaic and all but obsolete. Fifty cent words are worth nothing to people who don’t know their definition, and people don’t bother to look them up. Let’s see if I can keep this resolution and keep the words simple.
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.