Quarter of six.
I spent a restless night. I slept a little here and there and had a bad dream about my parents: they wanted me to sell my basses to compensate for some other expenses. Perhaps they wanted me to go to school. It was a bad dream because I was subordinate to them again, riding in the backseat of their car and being told what to do. But without autonomy, a person never knows who he is; thus independence is vital to your growth and wellbeing. I’d rather be my authentic self and make dumb mistakes than a servant to anyone else and be perfect. And who’s the judge of whether you do right or wrong? If grownups save their children from error, then who will save the grownups from the same thing? It’s silly to be an overprotective parent. Eventually we all have to stand on our own two feet, for good or bad. Just now, a police car siren goes off, but I only shrug and mind my own business. So my dream was a bad one; the return of my parents was like prison for me. People deserve to live with dignity, freedom, and power over their own future.
Quarter after seven.
I hardly ever go to Bi Mart anymore, even less on foot. I used to walk a mile anywhere I wanted to go. A few times I went as far as Santa Clara Square for physical therapy on foot. What’s up with the difference today? I don’t want to spend more money than I have to; but there’s something more. Dunno. Maybe money is mobility and poverty is staying put. Still, selling my guitars is out of the question. You got it, keep it.
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:
COMING SOON: WILL’S AUTO REPAIR… ON MAXWELL
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.
Today I’m skipping the caffeine completely. It was turning into a problem with my sleep. There’s just a light rain this morning, but we get more rain than sun this June for whatever ecological reason. At one time, all I worried about was staying alive, but now I worry about more complex things. Frankly I’m tired of the stress. It’s tempting to just opt out of life one way or another. But then I’m probably not alone with the bigger picture. I’ve gone from poor to virtually penniless due to inflation. It doesn’t help when people say that the ultra rich will alone survive in the long run. Something must be done for the little guys, the paupers with nothing but the clothes on their back. My bank makes it more difficult for me. Maybe I should switch to a credit union or something. But not until I’ve paid off my credit cards, a long way away. I really need to talk to somebody at my bank, but they don’t answer the phone. I feel I’m up a creek without a paddle, but again, perhaps not alone.
Quarter of nine.
The little market opened an hour later today for the holiday. The radio played the Beastie Boys, rather incongruous for Easter morning. For the past few days I’ve felt lousy from a certain prescription drug, so now I’m stopping it. I gave Aesop some Gravy Train after his breakfast, which he didn’t like, but it was all they had at the store. After a while I guess I’ll read my Henry James again, although his attitude kind of annoys me. Everyone would probably love to live in the lap of luxury, but it’s an elusive thing even when you have it, and it so easily melts from your grasp. I feel more like Pip in Great Expectations than like a character in James. It was just a happy accident that I ever went to college, and the benefactor was my mother… My mother despised money and raised me to be oblivious to the fact of it. She sheltered me from the grimy reality of hard knocks, and as a consequence I’ve ended up on the sidewalk, but luckily with a place to live. I still dislike the sight of cash; it makes me think of alcohol… Yesterday morning I was in the car with Gloria coming back from the thrift store. As we passed under the highway we saw the camp of some homeless people: a few shopping carts and a string of junk that they considered worthy belongings. An hour later I’d be sitting reading a book of drawing room manners, never putting two and two together until now.
Gloria was here this morning and she vacuumed the family room but with a very inconvenient tool, a Compact machine from back in the sixties with a section of the hose missing, forcing her to stoop over the whole time. She told me it hurt her back. I felt bad about that, so I guess I have to think about buying a new vacuum cleaner. But on the bright side, the work she did on the green carpet looks fantastic, and after a shampooing it’ll be divine. I do have a Eureka upright vacuum cleaner missing the dirtbag; I could look on Amazon for a replacement bag before I invest in something totally new. And then we made another trip to the thrift store to drop off more stuff I don’t need anymore. The weather grew rather inclement at that point; it rained and hailed on us, though by the time we got back home there was blue sky in the west. Springtime is sometimes a blustery mixed bag here in Oregon. I kind of like it when I’m feeling okay.
Before I took a nap I read two more chapters in my Henry James novel. Somehow the story reminds me a little of Jane Austen and her concerns with marriage, especially among the wealthy classes in America (now I mean Henry James) and in Europe. This makes me think very regretfully of my college education and the unfairness of social class in this country and everywhere. In a heartbeat a person in a privileged position can slip through the cracks and be a pauper with nothing to his name. So that I think Henry James is rather shallow in ignoring such realities as poverty and woe, because intelligent people exist at every level of society. Now I think writers like Twain and Melville were much more aware of the truth of money and the people who have it and the ones who don’t. I even have to give credit to Charles Dickens for having open eyes and ears to people at every stratum of our social structure. Just imagine not having a car! And yet this is my situation here today: a pedestrian in the direst of poverty. What would James say to the homeless population here in America? Would he turn a blind eye and go on sipping his English tea in the afternoon, on the green lawn with the Thames River meandering down the hill apace, and his back to an old Tudor mansion?
Heather just told me she had given her two weeks’ notice to the market for her resignation. She wants to dedicate more time to her salon, and also she can make more money that way. My own finances are very squeaky this winter, with hardly anything for extras. I don’t know how good of a job the current administration is doing for the disabled, particularly the mentally ill. I saw an article saying that the president has a blind spot for that. If writing is power, then I need all of the power I can get… The sun is already burning off the fog and it should be a sunny day. What I really want is the rhetorical muscularity of a Victor Hugo, a pompous Romantic voice to grab people’s attention. There’s a lot of us living in “misery” today, people with hardly a means to express their plight. It just feels like such a trap. But then I ought to feel thankful for my free time to do as I wish, poverty aside. Life is never perfect. For every gain there’s a loss somewhere. The law of conservation.
Perhaps you’re only as poor as you feel, and true wealth is wisdom. One’s situation can always be much worse. Content yourself with what you have.
It was good to get out of bed because my dream thoughts were nihilistic and hopeless. Everything seemed so futile to me, even my favorite things, like philosophy and books. Now I’m waiting for the sun to rise on a new day… Funny but “new day” calls to mind New Day lawn care, the business owned by a Mexican friend I used to know before Trump came along, and the ICE scared illegal immigrants to death. I remember the smell of fresh mown grass years ago when Juan would come and do the job. I was younger and more alive then: everything seemed like that, and I still had my Nissan truck for getting around. I think I miss having a car. Last night I dreamed about a conversation with my brother about transportation. He couldn’t imagine not having a vehicle to go places. And I suppose my dream was trying to tell me something about the situation. The smell of grass might really be the smell of gasoline in my mind: but do I really miss that in my life?
My therapist is concerned that I’ve been too withdrawn lately, so I think I’ll plan another trip to the bookstore, although I wouldn’t know what I was doing there. I could go to Smith Family for the sake of nostalgia, to remember my dad when we liked to knock about town in the mid nineties. I could go to Tsunami on Willamette to visit with Scott, if he even remembers me now. I used to sell him my books when I didn’t have any money. In those days I was more mobile than today, having my own vehicle and a different situation in life. It makes me feel nervous to consider going there because I’m a Highlander and Tsunami is in the rich south part of town where my psychiatrist still has his practice. I’m completely out of the habit of visiting the south hills of Eugene; it’s an intimidating prospect to me, plus it might trigger me to drink beer. The difference is like the Country Mouse and the City Mouse; like a person from Drain Oregon going to New York City and being totally outclassed and mortified by the culture shock. I’d be tempted to stay in North Eugene and embrace the place, even though it’s homely and plain, with values of meat and potatoes: basically, survivalism. But it’s where I live, judge it how you may. If Tsunami is a little too swanky then the happy medium is probably Smith Family on Fifth and Willamette, where Downtown Eugene starts.
It is literally freezing outside and they say there’s black ice on the roads, so I’m waiting a bit before going to the store. The term “black ice” reminds me of a kind of beer I used to buy when I didn’t have much money. It tasted terrible but it was cheap and got the job done. The sun on the rooftops hits the ice and makes a vapor that mists away on the air. Aesop ate his breakfast without a complaint. If I didn’t have a couple of credit cards, then I wouldn’t be able to live currently on my income. So it’s really a story of being in the poorhouse right now even though I don’t drink and I don’t have a car for expense. Thank goodness my bank is gracious and works with me.
Ten twenty five. I managed to avoid the slippery spots on the streets on my trip. The sky is mostly clear and blue. I came across my neighbor Jeff walking a dog he was sitting, and he warned me about the ice. He has an outrageous white beard that looks like a gnome’s and long white hair. Cathy at the market was just unpacking the sandwiches for the fresh food display, so I asked her for a poor boy hoagie out of the crate… Twenty years ago today my mother passed. I think of some of the good friends I’ve made since then, and others I said goodbye to. No relationship is permanent except yours with yourself, yet I still remember old friends and things I learned from them. Music in my head: an adaptation of Bach by Jethro Tull, recorded in the sixties, and once included on Living in the Past. My brother handed me down his copy on vinyl a long time ago together with other treasures he no longer valued. I’m not too proud to be a scavenger sometimes.
Five twenty five.
I’ve got financial problems since last month, mostly due to transportation costs. Maybe it’s a little bit of everything. Poverty really does suck, like the old poster said on the wall of my friend’s frat house… It’s been so long since I played music with a drummer that my ability on the bass has atrophied. Or perhaps I should stop wasting time with my P/J bass and use a bass that sounds better. You don’t always get what you pay for. The little J bass I assembled from a kit for under $250 sounds better than the genuine Fender that cost 5 times that. I guess it’s the name that you pay for… In general it just feels like times are hard right now. I was never a Charles Dickens fan but maybe I should give my copy of David Copperfield a read. It’s in the garage with a lot of other books. Then again, I probably had a reason for putting it out there.
Ten thirty. There’s Rebecca at eleven o’clock. I just got home from the store, but Michelle wasn’t working when I got there. I hope she’s doing okay. I was cashiered by Brandi this time, while Cathy was busy doing something else. It wasn’t a very remarkable trip today, though I would have liked to see Michelle.