Fixed Stars for Crooked Houses

Nine twenty AM.

Now I’m back from the dentist and from the store. I have to sort through my feelings about all of it. The medical center was where I also first saw a psychologist at twenty years old, so of course I thought of old times with my mother. You can be a grownup and still feel like an orphan upon losing your parents. I think now that the most careful plans we can ever devise will often backfire, and the future is never foreseeable. It was weird going back to the place where it all started, like revisiting your old school or something. The people may be gone but the places usually stay. My mind digresses to an attraction at the Enchanted Forest in Oregon: the House of the Crooked Man. What distinguishes it is an anomaly in magnetism, a natural phenomenon that just happened to occur in Oregon. I guess it’s called the Oregon Vortex. I thought of it because it’s an example of an unstable place. My second grade class took a field trip there and then I forgot about it until today. Probably the Crooked House and the Oregon Vortex are separate things… Anyway, my new dentist is very nice. It’ll be good to get myself back on track with my oral hygiene.

Ten thirty. Aesop and I just shared some baby carrots from a ziplock bag I bought at the market this morning… Again I think, things gone and things still here, just like the title of a story collection by Paul Bowles. And when every compass and landmark fails me I fall back on the zodiac and steer by the stars.

For a Green Salad

Ten ten.

Karen did something very nice for me today. She gave me her green salad and some ranch dressing to take home, telling me she would have chili. She had observed that I’d lost weight because of the meager fare at the market and acted accordingly. Karen said that Kim’s divorce will probably go through okay despite her husband contesting it. He hasn’t been behaving well, not doing what he’s supposed to do. They’d been married for 16 years. I think she was being merciful to him… The sky appears like the mercury in a thermometer, silvery with great puffy clouds. Aesop has been very good ever since Gloria started working with me on housekeeping and personal care. Now the sun comes out a little. Yesterday evening I ordered a book of Adler, generally about his individual psychology, which may go well with what I know of Freud, though I’m not a fan of Jung anymore. Eugene is a big Jungian town everywhere you go, so they tend to shove it down your throat. Forcible indoctrination is never a good way to get along with people, but rather it’s a kind of violence. The more the pressure, the more others will rebel. Jung may be a mental giant and an institution, but then so is Shakespeare if I want something Romantic to read and talk about… Across the street, Roger potters and tinkers with a mad scientist project, not at all interested in such things. 

Water on the Smoke

Quarter after one.

I played some Jaco and Mark Egan parts on my white Fender bass and it worked out pretty well, so I guess I’ll hang onto that axe rather than sell it. As I write this, the sun appears from behind the clouds and splashes the ground with pale yellow light. Two of the songs I played were from American Garage by Pat Metheny Group, way back in 1979. I never heard that music until ten years later, when I was a student at the university, reading a lot of British literature of the Renaissance and the twentieth century. But my taste in music was for American jazz at the time. I imitated Jaco on the electric bass and made quite a few home recordings, but I had no jazz musicians to play with while I was working on my degree. I guess there was no money in jazz for local players, or maybe my attitude was rather cocky, especially for a bass player. I wanted to play lots of notes like my heroes on the instrument, but Eugene was a Blues town and very slow and conservative. Also very hippie, like a throwback to the late sixties with some people. It’s weird to stand back and take a look around at the culture of Eugene: a friend of mine described it as a place of mostly rednecks and hippies. Almost all of the bands I played in used weed every day, as if it were their religion or something. The dividing line between hippie and conservative is often the drug of choice on each side… The more I think about it, the more I believe I should probably hang up the music ambition and just forget the whole thing. The music community in Eugene will never change, nor do I have the right to try to change it myself. 

Right as Rain

Quarter of five in the morning.

All day yesterday it rained quite steadily, a purifying kind of thing and very normal Oregon weather. As I agreed to do, I’ve been going with the flow a little better and it seems that good things are coming to me. I played my J Bass in the afternoon and it sounds incredible to my ears, especially considering the low cost for the kit. The only deviation from the stock hardware is the Omega bridge I put on it. Outfitted with stainless steel strings it sounds totally killer… I had a phone conversation with my sister yesterday that went very well. And on Monday morning I’ll be meeting with Tim for coffee at the Black Rock over on River Road. My new PCA starts her job Tuesday morning for five hours, and I believe that will be quite fun. Today I just have a few phone calls to make, plus my daily trip to the little market around the corner from my house. It sounds like the rain has stopped for the moment, or it may be coming down very lightly. I’m okay with either way. Nothing can ruffle me anymore. 

The Homeless for Mayor

Noon hour.

I’m sitting down by the fountain in Fifth Street Public Market. I’m alone, but it’s still nice and the weather is clear and sunny. Actually, there are other people around, shopping and just hanging out. I mind my own business just watching people and chilling out (quite literally; it’s rather chilly outside). I feel comfortable enough. At Smith Family I bought an old copy of Kierkegaard in hardcover for $20. The truth is that anything is better than staying home, being housebound all day. Some philosophers cloistered themselves in an attic and never saw anybody. Not that I’m a real philosopher. A wise person ought to be experienced in social stuff, and that’s not really me… It’s beginning to get too cold in this spot, so I’ll get up and wander around a little more. Life is very strange and alienating for a few people.

Quarter of two. Home again. On the ride back, we stopped at the big hospital to drop off two passengers. This meant a detour to Springfield before I could go home, but for $7 you can’t ask much more. What really struck me on my outing was how cold and impersonal most people were. At the bookstore, the women clerks were nicer than the guys, one of whom was almost rude to me. I browsed the shelves of the “modern classics” when a woman came in, boasting that she would be Mayor in a short time, and asked the manager for a donation. She also said she’d been homeless recently. And you know, that’s just how it is. Everybody’s invisible and fighting to be seen and heard; just to be acknowledged by others as human and alive and worthy of love. All of this goes on in broad daylight on a sunny day in Eugene Oregon. The sun, 93 million miles away from us, is friendlier than people are to each other. This is what I’ve seen. 

Country Mouse

Noon hour.

My therapist is concerned that I’ve been too withdrawn lately, so I think I’ll plan another trip to the bookstore, although I wouldn’t know what I was doing there. I could go to Smith Family for the sake of nostalgia, to remember my dad when we liked to knock about town in the mid nineties. I could go to Tsunami on Willamette to visit with Scott, if he even remembers me now. I used to sell him my books when I didn’t have any money. In those days I was more mobile than today, having my own vehicle and a different situation in life. It makes me feel nervous to consider going there because I’m a Highlander and Tsunami is in the rich south part of town where my psychiatrist still has his practice. I’m completely out of the habit of visiting the south hills of Eugene; it’s an intimidating prospect to me, plus it might trigger me to drink beer. The difference is like the Country Mouse and the City Mouse; like a person from Drain Oregon going to New York City and being totally outclassed and mortified by the culture shock. I’d be tempted to stay in North Eugene and embrace the place, even though it’s homely and plain, with values of meat and potatoes: basically, survivalism. But it’s where I live, judge it how you may. If Tsunami is a little too swanky then the happy medium is probably Smith Family on Fifth and Willamette, where Downtown Eugene starts. 

Death, Taxes, and Rain

 

Quarter of six.

High winds and it’s raining cats and dogs in the darkness before the dawn. My main anxiety is the puddle at the end of the street, where I know I’ll get my feet wet again when I go to the little store around the corner. Once bitten twice shy. Behaviorism in action. But is the dampness in the puddle or in my feet? Mind over matter. Something about rainy days promotes abstruse thinking because you tend to stay indoors; it’s a kind of solipsism, being cut off from the outside world and shut up in your head. It’s rather strange to go out and encounter the rain with no covering but for an umbrella, hoping the wind won’t turn it wrong side out. And then what happens? You get wet; but the damp is in your mind, as George Berkeley argued three centuries ago. Life is but a dream within the dream of Vishnu, for the Hindus had the same idea long before Berkeley. All the while, the rain pelts against the house, determined to get inside. I just sit here waiting for daylight to come. I infer from past experience that the sun will rise today, though nothing is a given— except the inevitability of the rain.

Auld Lang Syne

The snow is almost all gone. Now there’s a new weather notification: lots of rain and high winds, and there’s a concern about flooding of the rivers. There are two major rivers in this area, the Willamette and the McKenzie. I ought to know more about them but I don’t really. The Willamette runs through Eugene, while the McKenzie is in Springfield and goes on out to the east into the woods. I remember that there is a river you cross going into Harrisburg: probably the Willamette. Junction City and Harrisburg are about 15 miles north of Eugene. I knew a good friend who was raised in the latter town. I haven’t been up there in quite a while. It’s a tiny little place with just a high school, and probably a small elementary school and middle school. The main drag is just a little street with a silo on one side, a gas station, a Dari Mart, and a local store called EZ Stop. There is suburban housing across the railroad tracks and to the left. My friend lived on Gaileen Way with his wife, her two boys, and their daughter. For a long time he had a black ‘78 Camaro with a broken speedometer. Years later he got a black Dodge Ram he was never really satisfied with. But what jarred my memory was thinking of the bridge across the river that takes you into Harrisburg. Anyway, we’ve been warned about flooding after this Sunday, possibly. And it’s very odd how I know nothing about the geology around here, like the rivers especially. I guess I never took much of an interest in my environment. I grew up in the city and was an introvert. But I had a sixth sense for where the bookstores were, even in a foreign city.

Should old acquaintance be forgot?

This reminds me: Project Gutenberg has a saying that goes, “Out with the new, in with the old.”

Happy New Year!

Snowbound

Six ten.

They’re saying that it’s snowing here right now but I can’t see anything for the darkness. Minutes ago I was dreaming about the fourth Led Zeppelin album, a rock and roll bible I haven’t listened to for a long time. I probably was thinking of “Misty Mountain Hop” because at the same time I dreamed about The Hobbit. And then I got up, being sick of myself and my mental events. Now I feel tired and want to go back to bed. There won’t be any daylight for an hour more, and even then I won’t be ready to go out to the store.

Quarter of ten.

The snow that was promised is finally here today. Pastor canceled church for this morning. I trudged through the blanket of white stuff to get to the store where I loaded up on sandwiches and cottage cheese. So far the snow on the ground hasn’t frozen. Oregonians in the Valley are not used to extreme winter weather. This is not Minnesota or Wisconsin, but a temperate place with a lot of timber and usually rain. At this point the snow is kind of fun, especially for the children to get out and play in… I can hear them right now having a ball. Spirits are high. 

Unknown Citizens

Quarter of eight.

There is Todd today at ten o’clock and I have to be ready to go at nine. The clouds are salmon and ice blue in the east. I’m putting off my trip to the market until after this appointment. I grow tired of being treated like a child by the agency and the church, but I think everyone gets their share of condescension from society. And yet I think we deserve better than what we get for choices. Life ought to be more than a coloring book with the shapes all provided. The pages should be blank so you can draw the shapes yourself. Though if you reflect on it, the book of your life is really of your making anyway and not determined like the old poem by W.H. Auden, “The Unknown Citizen.” A person may even opt out of Christmas and create her own savior story. Supposedly we are dictated all these different options to live by. As if no room for creativity still remained. You could invent your own language, and from there, your own universe, and truly this is what every individual does anyway, seen theoretically… I just told my dog that I have to leave the house in twenty five minutes. Now he’s staring at me with some resentment. A text from Oregon Taxi confirms my ride this morning. Now I feel a little like the Unknown Citizen.

Nine twenty. I’m waiting in the lobby of the agency right now, feeling not quite awake. I miss my morning Snapple tea. The receptionist is not wearing a mask. No one asks questions. I don’t want to be here, and maybe in a way I’m really not.

Quarter after eleven. Well I got back home okay and then went to the convenience store like I do every morning. I could hear Aesop howling as I reached the curb. Roger was standing by his garage and told me the dog stops doing that momentarily and it doesn’t bother him, so I thanked him and moved on. At the market, Michelle had already left and Cathy helped me at the checkout counter. A strange thing happened on my way back: a woman in a red car hailed me and asked for directions to a certain “Hatton Avenue” which was supposedly near “the school.” I told her there were two schools on Howard Avenue and guided her to them, but I think she was hopelessly lost, and had incomplete information for her rendezvous. I had never heard of a place called Hatton Avenue.