The Deep Shallows

Quarter of one.

I dug out my volume of John Dos Passos and decided I would read more of The Big Money. But right now I’m waiting for my taxi, expected here between one and one thirty…

Nine o’clock.

The cab came and got me at about ten minutes past the hour and dropped me off at G Street at one thirty seven. The driver’s route took us onto the Beltway, the Delta Highway, and I-105 to the Mohawk exit; then through Springfield and a lot of businesses to left and right, finally passing McKenzie-Willamette Hospital on the left side of the boulevard and taking the turn lane left to the clinic. The heavy clouds were big and gray and seemed to promise a little rain that never materialized. We crossed the river before the Delta intersection, which was very low from the drought. 

I got in to see the doctor finally at two twenty five. His nurse Brittany was very nice and genuine, but the med student he brought in with him, a tall blond bombshell in a red satin blouse and black slacks with dress shoes, immediately struck me as rather shallow. I was disappointed in the doctor for more than one reason. Somehow I sniffed something wrong with this arrangement, and also he didn’t remember my case very well. I was very glad to get out of there at three o’clock. 

Scott picked me up for the return ride in only a few minutes, and he drove us back to Coburg Road by taking a left on Centennial: this runs east and west and connects Springfield and Eugene. It was cool to see Autzen Stadium again on the south side of the street, a huge imposing place under the brooding clouds. Eventually we cruised through the Whitaker neighborhood, observing the number of businesses related to weed and alcohol. Scott took the Cornwall exit off the Northwest Expressway and showed me his own neighborhood along the way to my house… At last, I sat down at home and finished the ice cream. When it was four o’clock I crashed out until after night fell. I had a weird dream about someone from church; something about the elusiveness of the truth. 

Springfield / La Maison Verte

Nine twenty five.

I’m waiting in the lobby for my appointment with the doctor. Not very happy about it but it’ll be over soon. The music on the PA is crappy: too sentimental and soppy. Springfield is an antiquated place, though some people like it better than Eugene. Maybe it’s more humane and personal than the sister city. I’ve been in rock bands that played regularly in Springfield, so it’s like home to me in a way. I miss the old days when Blueface used to play the Hollywood Taxi on Main Street…

Ten thirty. My appointment went great. Jeff, my primary care physician, said I’m a good guy and he appreciates my honesty with him. He will refer me to physical therapy again for my back issues. He happens to be a musician, so we had that to talk about. Now I’m waiting for my ride home. The dispatcher is very nice as well.

Noon hour. The ride home was fun, but I’m kind of glad to relax again with Aesop. A couple of hours later I’ll walk over to Bi Mart to pick up my meds. I wonder why yesterday was not a good day for me? I guess it isn’t very pleasant to go to the agency and serve up my heart on a silver platter. To hell with it. I can manage my life very well myself, and if I don’t want to go to church or to Twelve Step meetings, then I think I’m so entitled.

Two ten. I’m just back from the pharmacy, a little winded but okay. The walk home on Kourt Drive was quite beautiful in the sunshine and shade. The road itself was a frying pan, but away from it the houses lay in cool shadow, and I saw again my favorite mint green house on the north side. It’s like a time capsule to the 1940s, and kept up so nicely that it brings 80 years up to date: a tesseract or stitch in time under the blue sky. I forgot to take my phone with me, or else I’d have snapped a picture of the house. I guess it’s enough that I know where to find it again, and to mention it here. 

Plants and Prayers

Eight thirty.

I’m a little alarmed because I can’t get ahold of my sister this morning. I fear she may be in the hospital or something due to the heat. I’ve just had a Snapple tea and feel fairly okay. Sleeping last night was pretty impossible. It’s hard to believe that I walked over to the store; like somnambulism.

Ten o’clock. My sister called back: she’s doing fine. She told me about a movie she’d seen on the life of George Gershwin. So I asked her if she’d heard of Aaron Copland, another American composer. And then my mind began to play Fanfare for the Common Man. At nine thirty I fed my dog, panicking a bit when I realized the food cans had no pull tabs for opening. Sometimes my can opener makes a mess of things. But this time I had no trouble at all, and Aesop had his chicken and barley breakfast. My magnolia is blooming like crazy; it seems to thrive in this heat, though I don’t know much about gardening. I always thought plants were rather boring because they can’t move. They merely sit still and look pretty. And yet there are times when I consider the trees and bushes my mother planted that have survived her. As living things, they carry on her legacy and serve as souvenirs. They almost give her immortality in a way. Planting a tree is an investment in the future, like having children or like writing to be famous. The aim is not to be forgotten, to be eternally true. Plato and Shakespeare both said something in this vein.

Eleven o’clock. It’s heating up and the air is deathly motionless. Please say a little prayer for us in the American Northwest. 

Close Shave / Bi Mart

One o’clock. I went to Bi Mart for my prescription and to get some socks and underwear, but on the way, on the Silver Lane sidewalk I almost got hit by a reckless pickup driver. He ran off the road right next to me, up onto the sidewalk, and eventually drove to the turn lane to get on River Road. Three other witnesses were there, and two of them asked me if I was all right. It was just one of those crazy things. And just as swiftly as it had occurred it was forgotten and I continued to the Bi Mart. 

The pickings from the men’s clothes were quite slim, so I grabbed whatever they had in my size and checked out at the pharmacy counter. The cashier was an old sourpuss who always works on Saturdays. It’s interesting, but when I was a drunkard I thought Bi Mart was a very cool place to go shopping. Today I see through its shortcomings, which even the employees readily admit. Bi Mart is not Walmart or even Jerry’s Home Improvement. It has a small selection of a little of everything you need to survive. They have a good variety of beers and wines, sometimes on sale for cheap. But I don’t go there for booze anymore, so it isn’t very exciting these days. I think of how many ghosts from the past I’ve more or less exorcised since quitting the alcohol. I’ve accepted the losses and let them go.

Then I took my things in a brown paper bag and walked home the same way I arrived, reasoning that another accident like before was improbable. I got home without further incident. 

Local Life

Quarter of seven. This afternoon I think I’ll swap bridges on my Mexican Fender bass. I heard from Mark the drummer last night. Maybe I could email Mike as well regarding next month. I feel tired; I need my Snapple teas to wake up. Just waiting for sunrise before I hike to the store. I might even buy a Coke… First gray glimmer of daylight is here.

Quarter of eight. Fifty percent chance of rain after eight o’clock. I’ll hazard it without an umbrella.

Eight fifty five. The market has a new surveillance system with a monitor screen toward the front door. You can look up and see yourself in it, though there’s a delay time. The management gets increasingly sophisticated and professional, but to achieve this required money. The interior looks quite Christmassy, with a couple of Santas and a festoon of evergreen. You get a warm and fuzzy feeling from the earth tone wall paneling behind the counter. Three people were ahead of me in line and two in my wake, and it was only eight fifteen. Now I wonder if the example of this business might inspire others to grow up around it and rejuvenate the Maxwell community. For thirty years it’s been very run down, not pretty to look at. Back in the seventies and eighties it was quite respectable, with a nice grocery store and a gas station on the corner of N. Park. There was a cool little deli called Luigi’s that made incredible garbage grinders. But during the nineties, the community went downhill, I don’t know why. Hopefully the little store will do something to boost its surroundings. 

Sunday

Eight fifty.

There was a pause in the rain, and the temperature was above 45 degrees, so I went out without a jacket. A baseball cap covered my head, bearing the inscription, “Frodo failed: Bush has the Ring,” a relic from the Kerry campaign. I forded the puddle at Fremont without much trouble. In the parking lot I saw Melissa’s little blue car. I couldn’t expect to meet anybody on a Sunday at a quarter after eight. I lingered in front of the beverage cooler, undecided on the Coca-Cola. Finally I rejected it for being too sweet and bubbly. I bagged two Snapple teas and French bread pizzas, then ambled up to the register. Melissa was pleasant, but we didn’t really talk. I had noticed a front page headline concerning Covid casualties here locally. The Register Guard paper hasn’t been the same since a big syndicate bought it out. Returning home, I stopped on the sidewalk and took a look at the vista to the south. Behind the old Oregon Foods building, about six or seven green gray apartment complexes have sprung up, completely finished and tenanted now. Everything has gone mass production and rather ugly. Somewhere out of sight, an overgrown brain calculates the next move. 

Skinner Butte

Quarter of one. The thought of religious ideals reminds me of a true story that happened here in Eugene about twenty three years ago. At the top of Skinner Butte there used to be a gigantic concrete cross erected as a memorial to Vietnam veterans. Somehow it was decided that the public monument violated the Constitution, and it would be taken down. As I recall, a group of protesters rallied to the cross. Some climbed up it and camped out on the crossbar, defying the City to tear the thing down. But ultimately the government got its way and the cross was moved to the grounds of a local Bible college. I guess it was reading Victor Hugo that jarred my memory of the event. He describes a conflict of the Church with the State with great conviction. Obviously this opposition is nothing new, since Les Miserables was published in 1862. 

A Little Light

Four twenty five in the morning.

I pored over some of my old poetry from twenty years ago and grew rather weary of the old canon of literature that fed it. My friendship with someone overseas for six years broadened my experience a great deal. What we can learn from real people in our lives is far superior to mere books… Last night I walked to church. Darkness had fallen, and the leaves on the streets were wet and treacherous. Where there were no streetlights I could hardly see. A few cars passed me as I navigated Fremont. Down Hemlock, I saw a man who carried a little light with him. I thought, I need one of those things. As it was, I wore a black rain jacket and dark blue jeans. No light colors or reflectors. So I wonder if Bi Mart stocks anything for a pedestrian’s visibility at night. I should call them and find out. Once I gained Maxwell Road, obviously the lighting was better and I felt safer. To my right across the road loomed the dimly lit form of the Methodist church, a great big A frame enclosing a cross. This building is more modern than my own church, which was built in the mid 1950s, the decade before my house was made. It dawns on me as I write this that I have belongingness needs like everyone else. A place to call home, and a bunch of people to call family are indispensable. My hike through the gloomy night along perfidious streets was sort of like wandering in search of a doorstep on which to place myself. After Roxanne brought me home, I set about looking for my copy of City of God by Saint Augustine. As if guided by providence, I found the book in a box I’d had yet to open… 

Driving to Utopia

Two twenty. My taxi ride to the pharmacy went just fine, and I avoided the rain as it started on the way back. I got to see Shawn, who didn’t recognize me with the mask at first. Jeanine was at the register, but amazingly there was no copay for my Vraylar. The insurance company came through for me again, so the prescription that would cost $1400 out of pocket cost me $0. The parking lot for Bi Mart and Grocery Outlet was quite busy this afternoon. Todd, the cabbie, threaded his way meticulously through the traffic. The fare for the trip came to under $15. I might have looked like a spoiled brat riding in a taxi for the one mile to the pharmacy, but I simply put aside the feelings of guilt. People could eat their heart out. 

Another time, I may take a ride Downtown to the environs of Fifth Street and knock about. I’d like to visit Smith Family Bookstore again; it’s been probably three years since the last time I saw it. And there might be a new shop or two on Fifth Street, though I doubt it, based on the state of the economy and the number of homeless people living in tents beneath the bridge between First and Fifth Streets. Truly it’s a grim sight as you drive by the Washington Jefferson Street Park. My dad and I used to travel through the Whitaker neighborhood to get to Downtown all the time twenty five years ago. And when I was working, I drove home on First Avenue every day; but I never saw anything like the poverty so blatantly obvious nowadays. The so-called invisible people make themselves known, and I don’t blame them. Thus, it would be futile to go Downtown seeking to make the past materialize out of a memory; it’d be a delusion or a wish fulfilling dream… 

Innocence

Seven thirty.

I couldn’t rest very well due to my appointment Wednesday, when I was poked and prodded in the spine and made to do wall squats repeatedly. My posture was also criticized and the way I lock my knees when I stand. Was it really worth it? I’m losing sleep because of it… Meanwhile, I’m gaining objectivity of perspective. For a long time I was quite a narcissist… Going back to bed. I can’t think or write at this moment.

Ten o’clock. I had a pleasant little outing to the salon and store, except for the cold weather… or maybe because of it. On the wall behind the checkout counter they’ve put up grayish brown paneling. This looks totally different from before, and I don’t know what to think of it yet. It darkens the interior of the place, which I wouldn’t choose to do. Suddenly it seems that the upgrades are coming too rapidly, so that I hardly recognize the market now. It feels foreign to me, so completely unlike the days when Belinda was the owner. Business must be thriving, or perhaps the new owners invest more in their establishment to make it nice… In some form, they’re selling marijuana, but I’m not interested enough to know how that works. Also I saw on display what looked like capsules for sale, the kind you swallow. I’m very ignorant about these things, but I know that we legalized weed many years ago… In fact, the display of pills and capsules is very big and conspicuous, and a computer screen advertises weed constantly. I’ve just stumbled onto an observation that feels a bit uncomfortable. My dad would be rolling over in his grave.