Narcotic Rain

Midnight.

It wasn’t a good day. My sister on the phone talked to me until my arm began to ache. Everything went south from there today. Now I believe that masochism is a reality in our daily behavior, as Freud pointed out a century ago, so the trick is to catch it and correct it. The enjoyment of pain is twisted and impure. A true reward is the experience of pleasure as pleasure, the real thing. Good is good, and negative is negative, but to a masochist the two are difficult to ferret apart from each other. Maybe none of this would have happened if I had never stopped drinking; if I still gave myself a foretaste of heaven. And yet that experience is a delusion of paradise, an artificial thing. Perhaps the question of happiness is a fairly involved philosophical problem that begins by asking yourself what is true happiness? It is especially hard to identify when nobody seems to give a damn about anything anymore. Everyone is numb as if we’d all sampled the same narcotic… 

I keep meaning to revisit Mallarme to see about his idea of a spiritual universe that replaces God with himself. Though my French is not the best, I’m quite sure of what he was saying on that score. And who would I be to say that Mallarme was presumptuous? I would be more presumptuous than he was. 

Pleasure

Quarter of eight.

Gloria is coming today at nine, but lately I’ve been feeling tired every day, so I’m not really looking forward to this. I don’t know of anyone who is actually clicking their heels these days. It’d be nice to believe in astrology, particularly the coming around of Jupiter to bring jollity. I wonder if it’s possible to conquer happiness as Bertrand Russell suggests? But it seems to be more like sunrise, sunset day after day. In this case we ought to appreciate the minutiae while they are still available to us. Dust off the Thornton Wilder book… The trip to market was pretty boring today. It’s Saturday, so the espresso shack wasn’t doing very well this morning. Lisa is always nice to me. My sense of things being larger than life is dwindling down to ordinariness. I realize that I’ll probably never be a rockstar, especially at my age. Even the local rockstars made it big one time, then spent all their money and faded back to relative obscurity. How do you get to be an icon in our culture? You have to be in the right place at the right time. It is best to set realistic goals, if you must have goals at all. And dust off the Thornton Wilder book.

Noon.

I feel tired and dizzy, probably from the Lipitor I take for cholesterol. My dog was amazingly good while Gloria was here. I was just thinking about the place of pleasure in human life, and whether it is the highest good, or if instead some people have it backwards. The work ethic is strong in some people. Others may be indolent epicureans, maybe alcoholics, and maybe they’d be smart to enjoy life. I always wonder what I am to do in the wake of addiction. Only time can sort this out. Nothing is very clear in the meantime. We just do the best that we can. 

Melodies

Noon hour.

Gloria’s workday for me is done now. I’m feeling a lot better than I did over the weekend. Last night I dreamed about M— for several hours, though I don’t know why or what my motive was. The dream was certainly not a bad one. The Prokofiev music I listened to recently floats back to my ear: very pleasant. I especially like when his spirit is playful and fun, sometimes uptempo. Often he will resolve a phrase with such a good feel to it, as if to say that everything is right and good. The second movement of Symphony No. 5 is my favorite, particularly a little melody in D major on clarinets, joined by a low string counterpoint, that concludes very pleasingly… Like a lot of days lately, the sun shines from a cloudy sky. My masochistic treatment of myself seems to be over with. I hope it doesn’t happen again soon. I had a great turkey and cheddar sandwich on a croissant for lunch: delicious. It’s worth it to reward yourself whenever you can, for this life depends on your perception alone. 

Life’s Winter

Ten o’clock at night.

I wonder if everyone goes through burnout when they reach 55 years old. Only ten years ago I could still experience exquisite pleasure, but now my sensuality has withered up and blown away like a fragile plant in the winter freeze. All that remains of me is purely mental and logical, like a person from planet Vulcan, devoid of heart and soul. Or perhaps this is sobriety at any age in a person’s life? I can say with certainty that it isn’t much fun without the elixir… though the drink is like Mother Kali, giving life with one hand and butchering it with the other. A philosophical temperament gets old and wearisome, but still it goes on and on like a plodding old tortoise alone in his shell. His method may win the race after all, while the rabbit’s lazy complacency never finishes. And he may dally with his pleasures on the way, become stranded with the Lotus Eaters and not know up from down… A coworker long ago told me that persistence pays off, and the historical Aesop would probably agree with him. And Aristotle lectured something about the lone philosopher, as I observe my knuckles growing knottier and knottier with knowledge and logic. I guess that after all, it’s not the sensitive plant that endures, but rather the adamant of the mind, sturdy and stolid as the mountain crags. 

Gusto

Quarter of eight.

While I was lying in bed having bad dreams, I remembered that these are begotten by masochism. This is when you take perverse pleasure in pain you inflict on yourself. I once had a therapist who believed that masochism was right, so I criticized her for it on the spot. I still think she was dead wrong. Pleasure is much better when it is pure and genuine. Rewarding yourself is good for the soul, and it’s closer to our natural state to be happy. Why punish ourselves when we can build ourselves a living paradise rather than a hell on earth? 

Prodigal

Quarter after nine.

Some people have all the bad luck, and then it’s so hard to know what to tell them. Christmas is ten days away, yet I see crap happening to my friend. Is it because she doesn’t use good judgment or something? Her life is a kind of trap with her husband and son who saddle her with all the responsibility for their survival. There’s nothing I can do to help her…

Ten fifty. My sister just called and we talked a long time. Now I only want to think ahead to tonight’s church activities. Maybe do a little speculation in the meantime. It’s been a while since I enjoyed listening to classical music from the turn of the twentieth century. More than a luxury, it ought to be a staple of civilized living. I’d really love to hear Night on Bald Mountain again, or The Golden Cockerel, and let the harmonies hit me in a good spot. I don’t get enough pleasure out of life each day, whether people call this selfish or something else. Most people’s lives are full of compromise and not very much fun, which to my mind is a shame. I could be wrongheaded, just a prodigal person, but I think that life without fun is a mistake. Perhaps I’ve listened to other people too much and not to my own heart, that says follow your bliss. My conscience accuses me of selfishness, but originally that voice came from a real person, probably my sister or the pastor of the church. I’ve heard plenty of sermons in my life, and frankly I’m fed up with them. Another possibility is the influence on me of the agency. It all gets to be too much when I only want to be free. 

A Letter: Alcohol and Caffeine

Now I know more about what’s been bugging me lately. I don’t know why I started doing so much caffeine recently, but it’s having an impact on the way I think and feel and remember. I believe that everything we do boils down to brain chemistry, and ultimately everything is physical and material; it’s all constructed of atoms, basically. I could be wrong about that, but it’s my particular belief system. Nothing spiritual is necessary to explain natural events. Now the question is what made me buy the Coca-Cola in the first place. Today I got myself two Snapples, still too much caffeine, so tomorrow I’ll either skip it or just get one of them.

I guess I’m going to church this Sunday, though my feelings about it are mixed. I think I’d prefer not to sit through a sermon and take communion and all that stuff again. Maybe I’ll wait and see at the last minute whether I want to go.

Yesterday I flipped my blank book over and started writing going in the other direction on the left hand pages. Meanwhile I kind of wonder what interested me in Paul Bowles again; or even why I used to like his writing originally. I’ve changed since I first read him in February 98. And at the end of the same year I finished Moby Dick, the mood of which was very similar to the Bowles book: it was quite nihilistic and maybe sort of wicked like Macbeth. I don’t know how I feel about the unconscious from a Freudian point of view anymore, something dark with basic drives, but you can see it illustrated in the tales of Edgar Allan Poe, like in “The Cask of Amontillado” and many others. And that reminds me: have you decided on your next purchase from Amazon yet?

It’s been drizzling here since about noon today, but it’s supposed to stop pretty soon, only to redouble itself for another week or so. Rain, rain, rain! But I have no complaints about it, and I actually like it. It promotes a state of mind for thinking and reflecting about abstract things.

Aesop has been in a sympathetic mood yesterday and today, probably sensing that I was feeling rather crappy since Monday afternoon. He is a very smart dog, and I think I care more about him than the dog I had before him, a little pug named Henry. The pug was more gregarious than Aesop, and everybody loved him. Henry was very sweet and cute as could be, and sometimes I miss having him around. But like a lot of things and people I used to know, he belongs to a past that can’t be revived. I may regret it all I want but in the end I will accept that the past is buried and irrecoverable.
But once in a while something happens to remind me…

At some level I wish I could get drunk and enjoy my life like I used to years ago. I thought I had my whole life ahead of me when I’d get a mile high. The future consequences don’t occur to you when you get wasted on alcohol or other drugs. And then you get a wake up call and realize that life is very short and you are not immortal. And you know then that alcoholism really is fatal.

Closer to Freud

Ten thirty at night.

I am absolutely sick of spiritualization in this country, the way it eclipses everything else, especially sexuality. We spay and neuter more than just our pets anymore. It’s time that someone with balls stood up and spoke out against this dehumanizing trend. We need to shift the balance from Jung back to Freud and the pleasure principle. Even if no one else does this, I will be the first to boycott the church and strike out on my own… I remember when people were still allowed to feel horny. It was about 18 years ago, before the holy wars engulfed our imaginations. But since then we’ve all been anesthetized to sensations below the neck, and for no good reason that I can see. Somewhere along the line we were steered towards a grand delusion, and we deferred all happiness to this mirage beyond the horizon. Some of us are wide awake but dare not speak our minds. At the risk of being unpopular, I’ve decided that the buck stops here. 

Double Edge

Quarter after nine.

My neighbor Lenore went away and left her dog overnight. The dog isn’t happy about it, barking her displeasure with being deserted. I feel quite dysphoric this morning, just the general bad sensation of aging. I asked for ibuprofen at the store, but they only had acetaminophen, or naproxen for ten bucks. Much of life is balancing pleasures and pains, hopefully minimizing the latter. There’s no question of maximizing pleasure anymore except on rare days. Last night I thought of someone who used to be a clerk at the market maybe ten years ago or more, a redhead named Pam. I only remember that she liked ZZ Top and chili dogs with ketchup, but she was very nice to me. I was such a lush back then, but she never judged or criticized. I think the summertime is playing weird tricks on my mind, bringing old feelings to light. I was never really a saint, notwithstanding the years in the church. I just want to enjoy my life again, so perhaps the rock and roll has superseded my religious identity. Time will tell. There is plenty to be said for liberty, for simply being a natural human. Or is this just crazy?

Quarter after ten. Right now there’s no breeze outside; the air is as still as death. The neighbors are noisy, shouting and banging car doors. I think of my brother from many decades ago, driving a red Volkswagen van he named Barney. Nothing impeded him from taking a road tour across the United States and Canada, living life to the hilt. But he also often said, “Live by the sword, die by the sword,” which might serve as a warning to me today. 

Candy

Quarter of eight.

The song in my head: “Message of Love” by The Pretenders. The turn of the eighties makes me think of cherry Bubble Yum and Pop Rocks and Lemon Pepsi. Trashy Edgar Rice Burroughs books. The occasional rendezvouses with my nephews where they lived on Morningside Drive, with the church right next door. We played Space Invaders and Pac-Man and frisbee golf. I always bought a book when I had any money. It was such a pleasure to find The Warlord of Mars at the Waldenbooks in the Valley River Center. At the same time, these memories bring me pain.

Quarter after nine. At the end of my street I met with a crow in a treetop of Colin’s house. “Quoth the raven, ‘Nevermore!’” Then on N. Park a young man was walking his pointer dog, heading south. I followed behind him past Randy’s lot of ruined cars. I didn’t notice much of anything else, feeling a nebulous ache in my body and mind. Maybe I don’t want to go to church tonight. The thought flits across my awareness here and there. Out of a black sky beams a ray of sunshine, outwardly and inwardly. Except for my music, my life is going nowhere. Where would somewhere be? A life of satisfaction and pleasure, along the lines of my parents. I suppose I’m feeling like a dry drunk, a person irritable without his alcohol. And again I remember the consolation of freedom and responsibility, of philosophy in general. It is good just knowing that I am empowered in word and deed. Certain social ties I wish I could cut, and I believe I’m free to do that, but also responsible for the outcome. I could brush up my French and reread Les Jeux Sont Faits. There’s a lot of things I could do with my time, with the end purpose of a little pleasure. Any task is like eating a Tootsie Pop: you lick the sucker to get to the chocolate center. Everything is candy.