An Old Gideon

Eleven twenty five. My friend’s favorite dog passed away last night, and this changed my mind about social media. Coming home from the market, I stopped by the salon and Karen gave me a double chocolate donut, kind of like old times. Jessica doesn’t work on Monday. Karen was going to make a house call to do a haircut today. Her work is pretty much her life, and she tries to help people out. She hires people with problems who need a break. Her activity is very principled, even religious. She keeps plodding on with her life regardless of the world. And this brings me to think on duty and how people feel about it. Where does the sense of duty come from? Kant believed that it comes from the faculty of reason, which participates in the divine. But this highbrow philosophy doesn’t really explain how people behave. Most people get a moral education from Sunday school, and this is the doctrine of flesh and bone, of the real world of poverty and hard knocks. They don’t teach Kant at the Eugene Mission; they preach the gospel. 

One autumn day, up on the campus, a kind old man stood on the corner by the student union handing out Gideons pocket New Testaments from a box. I accepted one because it was reading material, then continued on to my class in Renaissance Thought in Fenton Hall. But I didn’t ponder it much after that. I didn’t suspect that in the blink of an eye, your whole world can be inverted, leaving you dispossessed and friendless. So today I do sort of wonder about that old Gideon on the street corner. 

Monday Morning

Eight twenty five.

The sky is cloudy and gray to match my mood. I think the world is still trying to understand itself, but while it’s doing that, I’m going to live my life. Relationships with people are often difficult. They go more easily when we know what we’re responsible for. Sometimes I have to stop and analyze the thoughts that cause my distress. It doesn’t pay to own other people’s feelings, or to be an emotional caretaker. And yet it’s hard to keep up boundaries with others. One has to be quite self contained, and maybe a little bit cold, to remain intact and not enmeshed with friends. I’ve never done anything like this in my sobriety, so I’m just learning.

I feed Aesop at nine o’clock. He gets Hill’s Science Diet chicken and vegetable for senior dogs. The package arrived in the mail Saturday afternoon, just as I was stepping out the front door on my way to practice. Today, after Aesop’s breakfast, I’ll go get foodstuffs at the market like I do every day. My mind begins to play “Jumbo’s Lullaby” by Debussy, a little piano piece from Children’s Corner. It’s about a circus elephant falling asleep and having an animal dream. It is my favorite work by this composer, and it always makes me emotional… Now Aesop has been fed, so I guess it’s time for my trip to the store. 

Quiet

Six forty.

I feel like being an introvert today. Or not so much that as wanting to keep my life local and off of cyberspace. Last night I saved myself over a hundred dollars by canceling the McAfee on the old computer I never use anymore. I recognized their email as legitimate— something I can do when I’m sober. There are so many scammers claiming to be Norton or McAfee to phish for your information… Is rock and roll really dead, as some people say? I guess we’ll see about that. I might as well go to the store for the daily stuff. I think I need my Snapple tea…

Eight o’clock. I bought a peach tea and drank it up. Feeling a little better. I should have an appointment with Rebecca in an hour. But you know, all the business and red tape is making me kind of crazy and I just want to be organic for a day or two. I could restring my Aria bass and jam on that today. Tweak the eq on my amp to dial in the tone. Enjoy myself. I’ve had that bass for eleven years and never done a gig with it… Something on my mind is messing with my mood. Maybe it’s a little of everything. But I need a break from the digital world for a few days before I lose my mind. It’s a sunny day, so everything ought to be peachy with me, but instead I’m so worried over nothing. If I see another computer I’ll probably shit on the spot.

Ten fifty five. I had my appointment with Rebecca, and it went okay. We agreed that my IRS letter is legitimate. It could be a long time before I get through to someone on the phone. Oh well. It’s time for lunch.

Quarter after three. Aesop’s diet doesn’t agree with his system, so I’ll have to feed him something different. He will be nine years old in September. We’re just kind of keeping quiet this afternoon. I was feeling very out of sorts this morning; some thought or other on my mind, but I think it was my dog’s health bothering me. It took a day for me to accept it… I just left a message for Dr Yamada on behalf of Aesop. She might call back this evening… The neighborhood is super quiet this afternoon. It is overcast with white clouds. Sometimes my nocturnal dreams surface to me out of nowhere at odd times of the day. One dream I have recurrently is of me going to an auto repair shop to meet with someone, but I have no idea why. If there’s dialogue to the dream then it is censored out. It seems that I arrive first at the shop and wait a few minutes for my friend to show up. Sounds like the story of my life. And sometimes they never do show up… 

Anticipation

Quarter of eight.

I think band practice is going to happen tomorrow, at four o’clock. Mike suggested having an easy jam oriented get together, and I added that we might record ourselves. My sister said she would call me this morning, so I’m kind of waiting for that. The weather is partly sunny and rather nice. I’ve been to the store and bought a green salad and two Snapples. I grunted somewhat under the cold and just old age as I ambled along the street. I observed my neighbor Steve getting in his car, but he didn’t see me… I had a series of dreams earlier about a possible moral decline from family values to selfish hedonism. But whatever happens, I’m involved in the American scene. It may be a ship of fools that’s out of control; or maybe just the contrary: every individual contributes to the direction humanity takes. It starts with one person going against the flow, like Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the grandfather of Romanticism… When I was a student, I didn’t do well in history courses. It would be wonderful if I had another opportunity at it. There is so much to know.

Quarter of nine. I also dreamed about my mother this morning: we were sharing this house together and not getting along. I don’t know if I’ll ever shake my memories of her. At least I know I’m doing music for myself and not to please someone else.

Ten thirty. Mostly I’m anticipating having a jam tomorrow. It isn’t much fun to live alone with no escapes, but I suppose I could read a good book later today for stimulation. The sunshine comes and goes. I reserved a dose of flea medication for Aesop, so I can pick it up tomorrow morning or maybe even this afternoon. My heart aches for happier times when I had a friend in Scotland and international borders were open. I hope it won’t be too long before communication is back to normal. 

Thursday

Quarter of noon. I walked to and from my appointment for the vaccine. A very sweet girl administered the shot, and then I was kept there for 15 minutes to make sure I was okay. I ran into Carol and Helen from church while I was there at Bi Mart and said hello. It’s really a beautiful day today, good for going out and seeing people. A lot of senior citizens shop at Bi Mart, which endears the place to me because of my parents. It’s like backwards time travel to step inside this store… So many of the faces are familiar to me at Bi Mart; the same employees have worked there for ages. As I was going home on Silver Lane I started hearing “Lovely Rita” in my head, just the chorus looping, and I thought of how John Lennon found beauty in ordinary life, the things no one would consider poetic, for instance a meter maid doing her job. Meanwhile I looked at the bulldozers working on the site for the new North Eugene High School; the layout seems quite massive. Maybe voting for this action was a good thing to do, so no regrets. And when I got home, I opened the package of Aesop’s marrow snacks and gave him four of them. 

In Transition

Eight twenty five.

I see myself moving away from the talk therapy perspective on schizophrenia. Psychology and morality have nothing to do with the illness, so the church is useless to me anymore. The only useful therapy is cognitive therapy, which is not a moral or spiritual thing. I’m totally burned out on religion… The clouds have moved in, making it partly sunny this morning. I slept in for a while, with bad dreams of my vaccination tomorrow. Aesop has fleas, so I should get him some medication for that.

My favorite writer when I was younger was probably Herman Melville. The first book I finished reading after my mother died was Typee. I was aware as I read that this was very different from my sister’s family, with its working class Christianity and general narrowness. And this was my heritage, the values my mother left me: basically epicurean, a life of pleasure. It was either very shallow or very smart, depending on what the truth is. I suppose my mother wagered that God didn’t exist, and lived accordingly. No punishment, no wasted piety.

Nine fifty. Heidi is going to call me at ten o’clock. I can tell her about my confusion over politics and life today.

Quarter of noon. I’m at my best in the morning. After twelve o’clock it’s all downhill, possibly because I crave beer or something to kill time. I was late getting to the store this time, but it was rather nice. I saw a small group of Mexican youngsters who probably lived in those new apartment complexes towards Northwest Expressway. They were very clean and handsome people, polite and courteous. JR was working today, as he does every Wednesday. From the street I saw Derek in front of his garage, and little Natalie chimed out something like hi Robbie and waved to me. That was pretty neat… I told Heidi that my beliefs were in flux, and she said this was okay and pretty healthy. Better than being an extremist or other stick in the mud. We had a good talk for an hour. Hearing from her makes me feel less alone in the world. 

Gray ole Day

Quarter after nine.

I get a haircut today at eleven o’clock with Karen. It’s cloudy, but the clouds are kind of pretty. The daylight continues bright every day. I’m a very sensitive soul, so little things can stimulate reactions in my mind that will snowball into depression or anxiety. I have a memory that goes back a long way, in spite of the drinking I did. I find myself doing certain behaviors that are motivated by the past, though unconsciously. Yet I wouldn’t want to dispense with my memories if I could.

Long ago it must be

I have a photograph

Preserve your memories

They’re all that’s left you

I still miss my parents and wish we could be together… Aesop is telling me he needs water, so I say five minutes… I can put on a lot of bravado about existentialism and so forth, but sometimes I feel more tender and vulnerable. The color and the tone of my new bass remind me of another one I got in the fall of 1990. I probably had it for 19 years, and I sold it only because it gave me delusions of hell and the devil. That was no fun. And of course no one else understood my mental pain, not even my psychiatrist, who could only observe that I drank too much.

Eleven forty. There’s some sunshine out of the gray sky. It was good to get out among people for an hour. I don’t know what to think of the times today; they just seem rather insipid and kind of loveless and lifeless. Is it only me? Who knows but maybe love is the answer? Michelle’s husband had a terrible accident a few weeks ago, so extreme that it was unbelievable. And Kim from the salon likewise has a husband with many issues. If people could slow down their breakneck pace each day and smell the roses and hear the music of the spheres, life might have more meaning. I feel like I want to do something to help, but sometimes all I can do is be a good listener. I see people get married for reasons of mercy and pity, but often it just results in compounded problems for both partners. Maybe I’ll never get involved in a relationship, and maybe this is the wise choice for me… It’s always odd to hear people mouth off their politics and be expected to agree. I come away from it quite confused and a bit resentful. Most people merely parrot the opinions they’ve heard from others without thinking them through. I don’t know much today. My mood is as gray and vapid as the sky above. I am a microcosm of the Absurd. 

The Misfit Fish

I was so tired at around seven o’clock, an hour before the sun went down. My head touched the pillow and immediately I went to sleep… It was nice to see Karen on my excursion yesterday afternoon, but the image that stayed with me was Cathy coming up the storefront to begin her shift. I think I’m kind of crazy about her… I never did like Bush and his legacy of holy wars and other nonsense. It always struck me as ethnocentric and divisive, and if you were an agnostic or skeptic, it was like the Spanish Inquisition. My mental health dissolved to nutty superstitions when he was president. I had another friend who made decisions by flipping a coin because she was so depressed… Sociology is such a strange study, yet it has its usefulness. Observing people in groups can be interesting. No one wants to be caught out alone like a misfit, like a school of fish darting together this way and that. I don’t know. It isn’t my favorite field of interest.

Eight twenty five. On second thought, what really is wrong with being the courageous misfit who gets caught out alone? Recall the ugly duckling story by Hans Christian Andersen: he grows into a most majestic swan. 

Arrivals

Noon hour. My bass came UPS a little before eleven o’clock and then I opened it up and played it for 45 minutes or so. It has a three way selector switch for different pickup modes. It sounds the best in series, I think. And the bucking pickup happens to be very loud and boomy. They put wimpy strings on the bass, but I change them anyway. Overall it sounds pretty cool! I like the finish color: Irish Ale, just a clear dark red over swamp ash.

It’s still perfect weather, sunny and not too warm. I already had my lunch, and I’m still hungry. This day with this weather reminds me of something I can’t put my finger on. Somehow it’s like the 1990’s again, and I feel quite content this way. Of course I miss my parents and my old friends, but it’s enough to think of them. Finally it looks like life is settling down and it’s safer for people to go out and socialize. We’re in much better hands than we were for the last four years. I feel like a Pepsi or something. I could go get a liter of soda for the joy of it.

Four o’clock. So I went out and got a Pepsi and saw Michelle, Cathy, and on the way back, Karen. This last made me an appointment for a haircut on Monday morning. When I got home I had about half of my Pepsi two liter and then played my Kiloton bass again: it definitely sounds awesome in series mode. I noodled around and picked out the Hungarian Rhapsody, plus a song by Chick Corea from Light Years. This bass is the best one I’ve got now, so it’ll be my main axe for a while.

The color of the sunshine in the late afternoon seems rather mellow, and more summery than springlike. It’s 75 degrees out. It just doesn’t feel like April to me. But I didn’t use to be sober years ago during the spring, so I have no point of reference for comparison. Beginning at three o’clock, I would start drinking like a fish and put on The Beatles; have a big bacchanalian party for one person and his dog. It was really no way to live because I didn’t know what was going on in the world, or I was numb to what was happening. My mind was ruled by crazy rationales and paranoia, even delusions of telepathy or thought broadcasting. I was miserable and out of touch with reality. But today, it feels so much better to be free from more than one kind of oppression and injustice in my life. I am my own ship’s master and commander, steering myself toward what’s right for me. 

Wednesday Moods

Quarter after eight. Michelle was cute this morning, with a cobalt blue T-shirt that said, “Well bless your heart!” We talked about the products of a regional food company: potato salad, summer sausage, dips, and so on are all good from this place. Aesop needed his canned food, so I looked for that and my usual stuff. The music by Chick Corea I heard the other night was very pretty, particularly the four slow songs I have in mind. Sometimes I really enjoy good jazz fusion. Unfortunately it’s a dying art, just not popular anymore as our culture grows increasingly primitive and selfish. No one has any time for beautiful things, time to unwind and be fully human. It’s kind of an Ayn Rand existence for us: always technical with no space for feelings and sensibility, as if we were slave to our own machine heads. In this regard I am very old school. The technocracy is running our legs off and will be the end of us. And to compensate for this state of affairs we defer all happiness to an afterlife that probably doesn’t exist. The job of a musician is to make people happy here and now, today. You get loose with a little wine and groove on the sound of music and maybe reflect a bit on the lyrics. What are we here for anyway if not for happiness? “It is not the reason that makes us happy or unhappy.” Still, we keep getting it backwards and make ourselves miserable, and life is pointless except for the desert oasis known as music.

Nine twenty five. The psychiatrist I left behind often quoted Freud on the two primary functions of humankind: to work and to love. But what music does sort of combines the two modes… My bass guitar will arrive this afternoon, between the noon hour and five o’clock. I feel excited but also a little nervous about the uncertainty when it comes: what might go wrong? I just hope the instrument isn’t damaged in shipping, and my dog is going to act berserk, barking his head off… The weather is still sunny and bright, though this Saturday it’s supposed to start raining. Tomorrow I have a follow up appointment with my primary care provider, which means a long taxi ride to Springfield again. But it’s okay; I sort of like Springfield sometimes. I miss my psychiatrist when I don’t think about it. I have to remind myself of my reasons for terminating with him four years ago. I feel as if I’d rebelled against a father figure, and done like Zeus to his father Cronus in classical mythology. Not only does he murder him, but he liberates his siblings who had been swallowed up before him. It is a powerful story of rebellion and independence, and the defeat of tyranny…