Quarter of seven.

It was six o’clock when I hiked to market, and my right foot stabbed me with pain a few times. I saw no one else outdoors although the birds were all very awake and raising a racket. Above me, the clouds were scalloped small and gray on blue sky and westward I heard crazy cars on the highway. If I focus hard enough I might recollect my thoughts. Anyway: yesterday I learned the names of the neighbors in Derek’s old house, and they told me he had a job in Oakridge and had bought a house there. Not that it matters much, because I think those neighbors are Skinheads, judging by the truck parked at the curb with Confederate plates. True, that was two years ago, but a leopard doesn’t change its spots overnight… The rest of my promenade was very ordinary, banal, and boring, and now the sunshine is going away. But at ten I’ve got Gloria and we had planned a trip to the bottle drop in Springfield today. I look forward to that, even though an excursion to Springfield is a voyage back in time thirty years. Maybe that’s why I like it. Aesop barks for his breakfast. Life today is a mixed up mess, especially in a place like Oregon. 


Routine Excursion

One forty.

I’m at the agency, in the lobby right now. The sun has come out from a mostly cloudy sky. The ride here was smooth and without incident and people are pretty nice. I just saw Cassidy walk in the door with his laptop and head towards administration deeper in the building. Mostly I’m just sitting and minding my own business. Often I have flashbacks to the times when I had a job here and denied that I was one of the clients myself. I was in far better shape than the other people, of course…

Three twenty five.

When I came out of my appointment I noticed T— sitting alone parallel to the front desk. She was afraid she had missed her ride home, so I let her use my phone to call the service. But just then, her taxi arrived: I went outside and the driver shouted who he was looking for, so I asked him to wait. My own ride came a half hour later. Our path took us through Skinner Butte Park, eventually to First Avenue. We passed a fancy liquor store and a bunch of weed dispensaries in the Whiteaker Neighborhood before arriving at the bridge where River Road meets Chambers Street. Continuing on to the Northwest Expressway, out of my left window I observed distant shafts of pale sunlight on the hills beyond the railroad tracks. Above another bank of clouds, the sun was implied in the reflection on a silver cloud like a flash in a pan. I said at the end of the drive that the gps’s were getting better all the time. The cabbie was a nice old guy with gray hair who put on glasses from time to time. And he agreed with me. 

Small Business

Ten o’clock.

I’m watching a house sparrow out of my glass door while hearing Tchaikovsky music inside my head. The convenience store was a desert again, owing to the Black Friday sales around town. It’s kind of nice to hang out home alone with my dog and my memories from when my parents were still alive. My favorite holiday year was 1993. The Musique Gourmet on Fifth and Pearl formed a big part of the experience. Today, Fifth Street looks a lot different. The Public Market is still there but the smaller businesses up and down the street are all gone, including MG and Cat’s Meow Jazz and Blues Corner, plus Escape Books, Perelandra Books and Music, and Monster Cookie Company. It’s like saying goodbye to a Renaissance or a Golden Age to remember them. 

Inside Perelandra they always burned incense, which was a bit irritating in more ways than one. Still, I bought a handful of books at that place. Their specialty was metaphysics. Once I purchased a book called Your Psychic Powers and How to Develop Them. It had a yellow cover and was a reprint of something very old. I guess I was susceptible in those days, and it probably seemed weird for a guy like me to walk into a shop like that. I notice now that my dad didn’t want to go in there, so I usually went on my own in my own car. He wasn’t interested in what he considered “far out” stuff. Also my psychiatrist told me I didn’t belong in the Western world. But it didn’t hurt my feelings… Much.

I still have that yellow book in a bookcase down the hallway. 


Eight thirty AM.

Perhaps it’s an error to try to systematize all the thoughts in my head. Sometimes the data of life refuse organization, so maybe it’s better to let everything be, without imposing order.

It’s another morning of sun and blistering cold. The sparrows seem confused, trying to have mating season in November. I lost track of Oregon football. The Civil War game would be this month, I think. Nobody mentions it. Maybe no one cares.

I’ve got a beautiful fat volume of the essays of Montaigne. I might go reread the introduction for inspiration, for a precedent. I have to learn to live with contradictions with myself and everywhere around me. The experience of life is motley.

The Ducks beat Utah yesterday, 20 to 17…

On the Town

Quarter after noon.

I needed that.

I took a ride to Laurel Hill to see Todd, my PNP, this morning, and I saw a lot of people, including Misty. She said she’d love to have me back for her DDA group so I took a calendar off the wall of the lobby. Also I saw Joy, who still works in the optical office of the agency. It was a nice break to get away from my own neighborhood for an hour. I made a point of observing whether the leaves were changing yet; it’s a bit early, though some greens were turned to gold. I told Todd that my thinking had been disorganized and the nostalgia of past autumns was overwhelming for me, and his answer was common sense: I need more social stimulation. Laurel Hill is located in a “blue” zone of town off of MLK Blvd, across the way from Alton Baker Park. Today they were giving away stuff like backpacks, notebooks and binders, etc for back to school. There had been a surplus of stock that wound up going to the agency. Every day there’s something new you can pick up for free. Cassidy asked me if I wanted another 40 pound bag of dog food which I declined because I hadn’t used up the last one… I feel as if I’d been housebound for a very long time, so it was excellent therapy to get out of my community today. Roger asked me about the person who’d been coming to my house, and guessed it was my sister. I explained that Gloria helps me with housework. The cabbies with Oregon Taxi were both really good; the first one talked with me about old music popular in the Eighties. He was a fan of Men at Work, the band from Australia way back when I was in high school. A lot of people wouldn’t remember those days.

Quack 🦆 Attack!

Eight ten.

A morning of thick fog, typical of Oregon October. I feel better for having missed my medication last night. The Ducks beat the Cougars last Saturday, I learned belatedly from Lisa just today. Washington State was the school where my brother got his doctorate, so I’m glad that my school won the game. Now Oregon has to play Stanford, but it’s a home game this time: home field advantage, and our fans are very obnoxious and rowdy. My sister always says something bad about the Ducks, no matter what they do. It’s because she blew her opportunity to go to college before I was ever born. Today she is totally sour grapes on higher education, especially universities, and she despises the word “intellectual.” But it’s entirely her own problem, and her fault and her bad judgment when she was young and hotheaded. I doubt if she remembers, and I wasn’t yet born. Still the feud over college football rages on. I hope the Beavers screw up royally and don’t get a bowl game. To my mind, the Ducks are always the underdog, and I root for the underdog.

A Sign of the Times

Quarter of two.

Roger vs the Hobo

I witnessed the most bizarre battle at ten this morning. A guy in an suv parked on my street and proceeded to steal stuff from our trash and recycle bins. When he got to Roger’s, Roger was on top of it and asked him not to take anything. I looked out the window and saw them tug of war with his green roll can. The hobo threatened to kick Roger’s ass but he let go his hold and went on his way, still stealing from other cans. Before this, however, he flipped the bird at Roger a couple of times.

People in general are acting very weird: they can be discourteous and even downright contemptuous, while the churches are dying: no sign of the Holy Spirit anywhere.

Epicurus Much Ado

Quarter after four.

It’s funny, the much ado about ethics; but it’s really only me who cares for the subject. There’s still some confusion and controversy regarding the figure and philosophy of Epicurus. But the reason why he was smeared by his posterity was due to his denial of the immortality of the soul. The main thrust of his ethics was certainly not wanton hedonism, as is popularly believed. In fact, his life and attitudes were quite ascetic. He wanted to help people minimize pain in their lives. Two major sources of pain, he thought, were fear of the gods and fear of punishment after death. He answered that the gods take no interest in human affairs; and, there is no afterlife for us to dread. Death is nothing to us, so this should be a great relief. He did say that happiness is the highest good, but it is achieved by the removal of pain and not so much by the pursuit of pleasure.

The English word indolence originally meant “painlessness.” Thomas Jefferson used the word with reference to Epicurean ethics.

For some reason I get an image of my grandmother’s apartment many years ago. She probably would’ve mistrusted the philosophy of a pagan, but I didn’t know her very well and she passed away when I was eight. She could surprise you sometimes. During the summer, she and a friend took the bus to the Oregon Country Fair in Veneta, and in the Seventies, some of the hippies went around nude. Mimi and her two sisters were very eccentric and talented people. But I don’t think I would’ve brought up Epicurus with them. To reject the afterlife is a strange thing to consider, and of such historical consequence.

An ice cream vendor in a little white van just drove by to the tune of “The Entertainer.” Aesop finally woke up and let him know he wasn’t welcome. It’s just the way he is.

On a Banner

Quarter of seven.

Yesterday morning I walked past a roadkill squirrel on N Park and felt a pang of remorse. Squirrels are such happy creatures when you see them frolic around the neighborhood, chasing each other in twos and threes, taunting and scolding the dogs that try to catch them, and sometimes frying themselves on a power transformer… Later in the day I caught sight of a banner on the fence outside Randy’s car lot:


I don’t know how I feel about that yet, though it seems like a weird time for someone to start a business anywhere, let alone on Maxwell Road. This place has always been poor and rather on the squalid side. The only business that gives it any respectability is Community Market— to say nothing bad about the salon. Everyone around here has had to struggle to stay alive financially, and it’s been the same way for forty years. Why doesn’t some rich person buy the community and spruce it up to make it prosperous again? But then it wouldn’t have the touch of personality and humanity that gives it the Maxwell vibe. According to Karen, Kelly Middle School will inherit the old North Eugene High School building on Silver Lane, and the Japanese immersion school gets the entire place on Howard Avenue. While everything changes, the general spirit of the neighborhood remains pretty much the same: kind of old fashioned, the way I remember it for all these years. Some kids are destined to fly this place and never come back. Others will stay and describe its history and speculate on its future.

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.