Social Animals

Ten thirty. I would feel lonely this weekend if I didn’t go to church tomorrow. Every friend counts, no matter what they believe. I’ve gotten out of the habit of church attendance, and it’s really different anyway with the COVID restrictions. If the weather is fine this afternoon, I can go back and get a bucket of ice cream for fun. My favorite flavor is Espresso Madness, but I have a hard time with the caffeine. I might buy it anyway… or not, since I remember my reaction to those white chocolate pretzels for Christmas: I was laid out for a couple of hours in bed. The buzz and the mood swing were too much for me… I do get lonely and sad when there’s nothing going on in my life. Mostly I yearn for the company of very intelligent people, but it’s very strange how everyone is scared of the virus, as if they had no backbone at all.

Eleven forty. Forget it. I’m going to read my Nietzsche for a while…

Quarter after one. I realize that reading Nietzsche has been infectious for me. The material has incubated in my mind and hatched out a miniature clone of the German philosopher himself… for better or worse. My memory reels back to December 1987, when my mother and I made a trip to the Literary Lion on the Downtown Mall. She had special ordered a book by a local author titled A Letter Home. It was about the Oregon pioneers. I just remember how soon the afternoon grew dark for the wintertime, and somehow that bookstore makes me think of Nietzsche. It must have been a selection among their classics. I really loved my mom, and I miss her today. She never wanted to stop drinking, but she didn’t overindulge it like I did. My drinking was suicidal up to the point where it was a choice of living or dying. I picked life, sacrificing even the dearest things, treating it as an adventure. Now I don’t know what to do about my situation with the church, but the door stands open for me to come and go… A neighbor nearby mows her lawn. There’s sunshine outside, with some colossal clouds of white and gray. On days like this I used to kill time by drinking beer; I was lonely like today: maybe I should make a visit to Deb at the market? 


Quarter of nine. I canceled the procedure, so that’s a worry off my mind. The rain is steady but light. I see a scrub jay and hear a couple of crows. I’ll go to the store after I feed the dog…

The potato salad yesterday was ace, so I bought another pound of it this morning. I had a guilty conscience while out and about, thinking I didn’t deserve anything nice. The crows on the power lines agreed, croaking their disapproval down on me… Somebody sprayed black graffiti on the white wall outside Karen’s salon. I don’t suppose she’ll be very happy about that. Why does she attract so much bad luck? And it makes me wonder if misfortune happens as a result of people having a tragic flaw of character. Where we have a weakness is where we’ll get hit.

Ten o’clock. I think the word “consequences” simply means the events that follow from the actions people choose. It doesn’t necessarily mean the death knell of moral judgment. No one will throw rocks at you when you make a mistake, or at least hopefully not… Walking in the rain was kind of good for me today. Circumstances like the weather don’t always go my way, so I have to work around them— with a jacket and an umbrella and the wits nature gave me. Sometimes our virtues prove to be a vice, and the converse. The same qualities that redeem us can also wreck us, depending on the situation. Nor do necessities grow on trees.

Quarter after eleven. Mike just canceled rehearsal for this weekend. I took the opportunity to say that we need to hold a powwow regarding the last two practices. This might get me in hot water, but I’m a grownup and not afraid of anybody. 

Clair de Soleil

Six o’clock.

Less than an hour till the dawn. At two o’clock this afternoon I have a phone appointment with Heidi, the most important item today. I kept dreaming that I was supposed to go to class this morning and turn in my assignment. In reality, there’s a bit of paperwork I need to get done. I can do that today and mail it off as soon as possible. 

I’ll probably call Polly this morning, after her son goes to work. I don’t feel very intellectual right now. A song by Steve Miller Band popped into my head, very redneck sounding, so I thought of my brother drinking beer and singing karaoke. He made a competition out of it. I’m glad I wasn’t there to hear it.

Seven o’clock. I need large envelopes and a postage stamp.

Nine ten. I’ve been to the store already. In the western blue I spotted the thumbprint of the waning moon, cool and aloof as I marched mechanically along Maxwell Road. It’s a sunny morning like tangerine peel. I got ahold of my sister and we gabbed for an hour in rambling fashion, but pleasantly enough. I’m thankful that being sober facilitates our relationship. Later today I might be in the mood for a bag of Doritos and some Pace chunky salsa. The sunshine invites such diversions. Maybe I’ll see Deb and Cathy again. Yesterday the atmosphere was lemon and muggy without the humidity; odd for Oregon, and a sign of constant change… I have nothing to deny or to rationalize. My mind is clear as a bell and free as a bird. But I do tend to put things off, to delay and postpone the inevitable. 


Quarter of ten in the evening.

This afternoon went rather difficult for me in that I felt a bit tempted to drink beer again. It was one o’clock and warm outside, so I made a run over to the market for Aesop’s Milk-bones. I saw Kat doing some gardening in her front yard and I stopped to hail her. Thinking now, I didn’t know what I was doing. Human behavior is never without a motive, but I was oblivious to mine today when I left the house. In a desultory way I continued on to the store. Dreamily I heard Deb ask me if I wanted to buy a used electric guitar for $150. I declined, saying I already had a guitar. Then another guy spoke up and expressed an interest in it. Under his arm he had six pints of a cheap ice beer, plus he sounded inebriated. Again I ponder why I was at Community Market at one in the afternoon. The warmth of the day inspired a languid and nebulous longing for something I couldn’t name. I came home then and wrestled with myself for the rest of the afternoon. Maybe nobody would’ve cared if I had bought a six pack of a tasty beer today. Then again, perhaps I was the only one sleepwalking through the sultry winter day. 

The Sunny Day

One thirty. I took advantage of the powerful sunshine to make another run for soft drinks. Bought a Snapple and a SoBe strawberry daiquiri. But even with the ideal weather, I saw almost nobody outside. Only one other pedestrian passed me on Maxwell Road. Hank cashiered at the store, shooting the bull with his buddies who frequently visit him on the job. I was hoping to see Deb this afternoon, but no luck. I hovered in front of the cooler for sodas and light beverages a few minutes, trying to make up my mind. One drink seemed as good as another; it didn’t really matter. Then I realized that I could just as well have stayed home. I came to the market merely to prove that I could. I wondered what I was doing there. Certainly not to see Hank. I guess I’d bargained for a better adventure than the one I got. As it happened, there was nothing to see except the glorious sun in the blue sky. 

Back on my own street, I paused to look up at the azure: the same heaven that Mallarme gazed on a century and a half ago, when the Absolute was still taken seriously by mainstream thinkers who employed poetic language to expose it and adore it. So maybe this was the reason I went outside. 

Life and Music

Quarter after five.

“Never let the music die,” said the drunken guy I encountered on the road to Mike’s place yesterday afternoon. In one hand I carried a bass, and the other an umbrella. The man weaved in the lane ahead of me, holding a white plastic bag in his left hand and mumbling to himself. I believed he was homeless until I saw him head for a certain house around the curve, where he stopped and waited for me to catch up. He was barely articulate, but I understood his speech about being a musician at Lucky’s tavern prior to the pandemic. He said how unfortunate it was that people can’t get together and play. It made me reflect on the reasons people have for picking up an instrument and banging out their feelings. Also I wondered at the illegality of the local music community: why are so many musicians in trouble with the law? Are we just not very smart?

Our band had a few tense moments, but I still enjoyed playing “The Mincer,” just a slow jam in A7. The original version was quite atonal and noisy. Our rendition cleans it up a bit, saving the Wetton bass line and building up from there. We made no recordings this time; Mike thought it was a distraction, and also the mic is not set up yet. I got a good tone from my kit bass through the Fender amp. It made a difference to set the amplifier on the floor.

Now it’s after six o’clock and the little market might be open, though because it’s Sunday the hours could be different. I’m just sitting here awaiting the dawn of day, anticipating my Snapple raspberry tea. Aesop needs wet food again, so that’s the first thing on my list. 

Weekend Warrior

Eight twenty.

It’s comfortable in the house. Heavy gray overcast; it’s supposed to rain again, but I beat it when I went to the store. The customer ahead of me at the cashier was Hispanic, but everyone else was White. He bought a lot of stuff and put it in his backpack. Melissa was friendly to him. I saw him head up N. Park after my turn was done. It’s hard to describe the feeling I get from being inside the revamped market. Something is ineffably missing about it, something lost in the translation; it seems to lack a soul in a way. The staff is still very personable and friendly, but in some sense dishonest or constrained. It’s much different from the old establishment where it was okay to be human. You walk in the front door and get an impression of grayness, like a kind of ambiguity and apathy. This ambiance hangs like a shadow over the place. The same charcoal outside is reflected in the store’s interior. Basically it’s become dehumanized. Yesterday afternoon I observed that the deli was open for service, though they had to keep it outdoors. A few guys were having a beer just outside the building and visiting together. I was trudging by with my bass guitar on my way to see Mike and Ron for practice… Aesop is whining for his breakfast, so I will feed him right now.

Nine ten. The band did a good version of “Mincer” yesterday. It was recorded, but the levels were too high, resulting in digital distortion. Maybe we can invest in a better microphone or app for making music recordings. On my arrival I told Mike I was feeling rather mental, but everything worked out okay. I played a lot of notes yesterday, perhaps too many. It sounded a little too busy to be tasteful, yet I had fun doing it… Church is going to start soon, and again I’ve stayed home. Someday this time will pass and I won’t take note of it anymore. Today is a good day to relax. 

Deeds in the Rain

Three o’clock. Outside, the rain is heavy and constant. Aesop likes his ribeye steak treats; I bought more of them this morning, and battled with the cold and wet on my walk there and back again. The raspberry tea I brought home tasted great, but the caffeine and sugar made me feel woozy. I noodled about on my homemade bass for a while, satisfied with the lowest frequencies through my old GK amp head… I didn’t see much as I marched to the store. One car passed me on Fremont, cruising around the corner of N. Park. No other pedestrians. The neighborhood is a ghost town. And it was just another gray morning for a recovering alcoholic in the middle of the pandemic. Perhaps late this spring we’ll all be vaccinated and the music venues can open again. But nobody really knows what’s what. How effective are face coverings and vaccines against Covid? It’s the blind leading the blind… Something made me think of Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days. I have a nice omnibus volume of his novels. I left off in the middle of Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Wee hours.

I’ll probably skip church again Sunday and gradually let them go. Pastor is leading them in a direction I don’t agree with. While they wait around for the Resurrection, I’m going to live my life more like a bohemian in quest of happiness. I was always a lousy Christian, having no faith in the possibility of a demigod or even a virgin birth. Mythology is full of immaculate conceptions, but these don’t make a pretense to reality. I gave Pastor that book of William Blake a while back because my own belief was very shaky. He didn’t seem to like it much. He told me he read the introduction by Harold Bloom, which was probably not Christian but rather secular humanist. But Blake is about as close to faith as I’ll ever get. So this was sort of my last offering before saying goodbye to the Lutherans. It couldn’t have happened any differently. In the blackness outside, the rain comes down with benign apathy to human affairs. 

Lots to Think About

Eight thirty five.

Heidi is going to call me today at two o’clock, so I’m really jazzed about that. In concert with my mood, the sun has come out. At the store I bought Aesop a pouch of ribeye steak treats just because. Michelle wore a Peanuts gang sweatshirt under her work apron while “Honky Tonk Woman” played on the radio. She said she prefers The Beatles, and I agreed with her. The Stones were too garage band for me. When I got home I scheduled a ride to my appointment for a lab Thursday morning; no sweat. Earlier I was thinking that Aesop is more than just a dog: he is a pure intelligence with the appearance of a canine. He gets breakfast very soon. If not for his aggression towards other people, I would recommend blue heeler as a breed. They are very smart and very devoted… Now his breakfast is done. With the band and the church, I have a lot to think about. It’s probably not as cut and dried as I’ve been making it, and I don’t necessarily share my sister’s opinion on rock music. Her views are as hard as adamant, but couldn’t constitute the absolute truth. I know she’s worried about me. However, I believe my sobriety is strong enough to endure environmental stress.

Nine thirty. My new stainless steel strings should come in today’s mail. I’ll put them on my J Bass as soon as I can. I miss seeing my old friend Todd, another bass player who left town about ten years ago. They said he had an opportunity in sales he couldn’t refuse. He taught me how to adjust the intonation on my own bass guitars, and in general had very good taste and knowledge of bass gear. People you know tend to come and go. My sister observed of the music community that the A&D condition is unlikely to change, and I realize that she’s right. Thus I have to judge whether I want to deal with people who drink and use. I’m at a kind of crossroads in my life, so I hope I choose wisely. 

Lap of Luxury

Six fifty.

I’m just up from having dreams about Faust. So far the play is about living life to the fullest, particularly regarding romantic love and the things that make us happy. It seems to me that people are more often persecuted for their joys and pleasures. Obviously there’s something wrong with this. People are never free in a world where they are condemned. We’re never free anyway. When am I going to finally break with the church? All I get from it is oppression and grief. Too many people will tell you what you can and can’t do, say, and even think. Even more absurd when we pay them for their opinion. I will absentee myself from church this Sunday because there’s no percentage for me anymore.

Nine fifty. I was treated very well at the store and when I stopped at the salon. Even DHS showed kindness by bumping up my food stamps. Melissa said a lot of people experience the same thing. It appears to me that many of us are just scraping by to eke out an existence, so it’s really a Charles Dickens kind of world. I wish I liked his writing better, else I would read it. Goethe is relatively highbrow stuff, quite aristocratic and not very relevant to the lives of most of us… We might have freezing rain by tomorrow morning, what everyone dreads. I just hope our power stays on in this event. I learned yesterday that my sister is feeling better, luckily. I am second thinking on church this Sunday. Attendance could pay off later on. I think it’s good to participate in the community as we can.

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”