Writing through Rock

Quarter after eleven.

Gloria and I spent a quiet and easy day this time. She dusted the furniture and then we took a long break and talked about random stuff… I might have problems with my blood sugar or maybe blood pressure, or maybe it’s just the change in the barometer; but I feel very lightheaded and absentminded. 

For some reason I went looking for a few books in a series by David Drake, a fantasy epic that isn’t great. Drake was a friend of Karl Edward Wagner and Wagner really was a great writer. I bought Drake’s Mistress of the Catacombs at the airport gift shop in February 2002 while I waited for my brother’s flight to arrive. From there we were headed to the coast for a holiday. The purpose of the whole thing, I guess, was to drink beer and have a good time. But what happens when you remove the element of the alcohol from the party? Now it’s more of a dilemma, a problem of ethics, and there’s no clear answer one way or the other. I thought of the David Drake fantasies because my brother was on my mind and the time we spent together at the oceanside getting hammered… He’ll be 70 years old next month; kind of blows me away, and he’s still up to the same old pranks as ever. I quit only because it would have killed me at 50. Choosing to live is the most serious decision.

I try to see the human mind as a unified whole and not bipartite or tripartite, with an ego and an unconscious at odds with each other. If I did subscribe to Freud’s topography, then I’d probably go back to drinking because it appears that my “unconscious” desires alcohol. It’s better to write the unconscious out of existence than to make it more real. The self is a flat piece of paper with words scribbled on it: that is all. And the one writing and editing the words is me.

Another book I want to look into is an omnibus of Jules Verne. 

Six twenty five PM.

Another long day’s journey into night. It might be easier if I didn’t have to do it alone but this frog has no wings except the viewless wings of poesy. My dog’s fleas drive him crazy; he’s crunching his kibbles without complaining. I only know that a day like today is the lowest point in my life I’ve ever experienced. The only consolation left to me is my ability to write my way through it to the other side. It’s like blasting a black tunnel in the heart of a coast range mountain: and I think that reading the Jules Verne might be helpful.

The other way is to be Jules Verne… 

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Keeping the Dice

Eleven thirty five at night.

It was a day of autumnal mildness and gentle breezes, the sky clear and a deep azure, while people in their cars came and went to visit friends in houses in my neighborhood. Also it was a time when I was visited by old memories of college, particularly 1989, the year I studied Joyce with an expert professor. What I remembered especially was the humor in Ulysses. And later, in the springtime, I had Chaucer with a hilarious teacher and we all laughed our brains out at the bawdy jokes in The Canterbury Tales. The following summer, I flew back to Michigan to see my brother and his pregnant wife, and he and I would watch the standup comics on HBO and likewise have hysterics. I was 23 and hadn’t been hit by real adversity yet; this would come in another year and a half. After that, it became harder to laugh at myself or at the absurdities of everyday life, thinking that a lot of humor is denial of what gives us pain. The boss of my job said, “If we weren’t laughing we’d be crying,” but I solved the problem by getting out of that situation. 

I chose a life for myself that allowed me to go slower and easier, like the old song by CSN titled “You Don’t Have to Cry.” I went from a Type A personality to Type B, doing things at my own pace because there was no other way I could live. “You are living a reality / I left years ago / It quite nearly killed me… In the long run / It will make you cry / Make you crazy and old before your time.” The main thing I had to learn was how to manage the guilt and shame feelings, and basically tell my family to go to hell. The other thing was to teach myself a new language that liberated me from my family’s dynamics. Today they have no power over me whatsoever. What I did with my life was absolutely necessary to my sanity and relative happiness. And now I’m in the process of scraping the church off my shoe.

Everyone has options, more options than they acknowledge to themselves. It’s like when Michelle left her dead life in Eugene to take a job in Wyoming: a clean slate. She gave up the victim mentality and took control of the dice herself. The jaws of uncertainty lurked ahead of her, but she moved fearlessly forward.

I wonder what I’ll do after the church fiasco is blown over. 

No Human Power

Six thirty at night.

I got on Amazon and ordered a CBT workbook to help myself with anxiety. The biggest problem I’ve been having is with mind reading, trying to second guess situations and people. But the only way to know the thoughts of others is to ask them to their face. It’s pretty stupid to weave a web of fantasy around people you know, or to dramatize your own life, maybe glorify it to heroic proportions. I may be divided on this perspective because I like existential philosophy so much. But it comes down to what is realistic, and really, life for most humans is quite ordinary and modest, not over the top with hubris and superhuman powers. Sometimes the need to empower yourself is so strong that life feels like a tremendous dare, a heroic struggle against overwhelming odds. So we produce brainchildren as Richard Wright produced Bigger Thomas, a larger than life martyr for racial and social justice. I suppose my blog has been something like this, but for mental health. And for this fact I feel a bit penitent and apologetic.

Maybe true strength consists in vulnerability, though I’m not yet persuaded of that. Does something take over when you surrender control? I think of Gandalf saying that even Gollum had a role to fulfill in the War of the Ring. It was a purpose bigger than Gollum himself, one that included all of them… Perhaps everyone is a pawn in a sociological game the horizon of which is past our understanding.

For a Rainy Day

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.

Pioneers: A Letter

Since I met with Cassidy at the Black Rock this afternoon I started thinking about my behavior towards people, especially those like Grant, Cassidy, and even Damien. In response to people I feel irritation and impatience, when I should try to be kind to them. I wrote down in my little diary that times are tough for everyone, and though I feel the pressure, my grace is scarce. Weeks ago I made a post with the egg in a vise, an image I borrowed from an old Rush album called Grace under Pressure. But anyway, probably these tough times are no excuse to act like a jerk. I’ll try to be mindful of this when I deal with everyone from now on. I wonder why it’s so easy to forget it? We forget that we’re all in the same big boat together, or at least I do.
The big full moon is just now rising in the east out of my window. I’d also be making an excuse if I said that the moon is responsible for human madness. I think the truth is that all people are ultimately responsible for themselves, and yet we’re all trying to promote happiness for each other as well. This is utilitarian thinking, the greatest happiness principle. I don’t know what it’s called when people violate this ethical code except it’s a form of injustice. A few lines from Sting with The Police:
It’s a subject we rarely mention
But why do we have this little invention?
By pretending they’re a different world from me
I show my responsibility
and
Lines are drawn upon the world
Before we get our flags unfurled
But whichever one we pick
Is just a self deluding trick
One world is enough for all of us…
I’m not sure if I’m seeing the man in the moon as I gaze upon it right now. I heard a neighbor say he believes the earth is flat and the moon is made of cheese. And though I disagree with him, the fact remains that he is my neighbor. People are all in this together, however we may chafe against it. I guess the main dissident is myself. Does one individual ever possess the right to influence the world? To change it according to her own vision?
Now I do see a face in the moon…

Equity

Nine fifty PM.

I just got done watching the official video for “Pride” by U2. I guess there’s something to be said for icons after all, but I feel that there must be a reason for my de emphasis on pomp and grandeur. Now I think of the former president with a shudder of dread for his egomania, but it’s really a symptom of an American disease. We always want things larger than life to feel entertained and satisfied. But why aren’t we happy with the little things? The media amplifies everything out of proportion without a thought to its impact on the public. We need to be more responsible for what we say.

My dog Aesop is so intelligent that his feelings can be hurt if I say the wrong thing. I told him that he was overweight yesterday, and today he pouted for most of the day and refused the carrot sticks I offered him as snacks. He’s self conscious about his weight! It makes me wonder about his interior monologues: what does he think in his canine tongue? Sometimes I wish I was Dr Doolittle so we could understand each other. Or, like Sigurd in Viking mythology, I could drink the dragon’s blood and be given comprehension of animal speech.

Every living creature deserves to be heard.

Having, Having Not

Eight ten.

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. 

Poverty and Woe

Eight twenty.

I can see already that it’s very foggy outside. Likewise, my mind is rather befogged and useless right now. Music has little meaning for me anymore unless it’s classical. I haven’t been sleeping well lately. Is anybody out there having any fun these days?

Quarter of ten. Sad news from the store this morning: Michelle’s daughter died of Covid last Friday. There’s a jar for donations towards the funeral expense. I’ll put something in there when I have some cash. Coming back on Maxwell Road I stopped and talked with Karen for about ten minutes. She was super nice. I made an appointment to get a haircut on February 1. My finances are tight, but I’ve never been a miser, and I’ll give money away when I can. My copy of Les Miserables looks good to me now. Hugo has an attitude that Dickens seems to lack. He has spirit. He has gall. His voice is bombastic, grandiloquent. His intelligence is formidable and broadly versed. And Hugo is a Romantic writer. Altogether he is brilliant.

Ten thirty five. I was told that Michelle will be back next week. She gets more than her share of woes, and there seems to be no explanation for this. I only wish more power to her. 

Fantasy

Eleven twenty at night.

I got out of bed hearing an old song by The Pretenders, a ballad called “Brass in Pocket.” It takes me back to junior high school halls and the afternoons when I’d go to Safeway or Oregon Foods with my mother, perusing the paperback titles on the stands. Things were so different then, just the cultural attitudes and the protocols and rituals that people obeyed. I never had a girlfriend at that age or went to a dance at my school, probably because my mother dominated my life for her loneliness and her need for a friend. She needed to assert herself in a different way than by controlling me, but in hindsight I probably wouldn’t change a single day. The summer I read Tarzan of the Apes and A Princess of Mars and drew my own illustrations for them in the morning was the happiest time I ever spent. I would sit up in my twin bed and read on sunny mornings, hearing the soft breezes in the crabapple tree outside my window, filling my senses with romantic adventure by means of the written word. I could easily imagine a blue sky with not one moon, but two. Or any new combination of shapes and colors in flora and fauna, helped by some great illustrators like Michael Whelan… I learned to escape to worlds that my imagination could control, but someday my imagination came to control me. The ultimate goal is control over your life in the real world, which the use of language and imagination couldn’t hurt. But again, my mother should’ve asserted herself in her own life instead of dominating mine. Now maybe the fly knows the way out of the bottle of fantasy… but will he choose it? 

Power

Quarter of ten at night.

During this afternoon I practiced the bass guitar as I gazed out my gray window, while my blue dog waited for me out in the hall. I got a good tone from my white Fender. I’ve decided I prefer the feel of flat wound strings, plus I like their peculiar thunking attack. Very percussive and deep sounding. Now I just need a drummer to jam with, and this might be in the works. And something to stimulate my musical imagination. All creativity begins with mimesis, the imitation of something else, until you discover a voice of your own… The future is an odd thing, and “deep inside, the day’s controlling you and me.” If I can just accept this theme of sociology and let it bear me along towards the unknown, then my life might go more smoothly. Being a creative person is important to me, and all poets and musicians are really prophets. I can’t let myself be subordinate to a church pastor’s vision after this. He’s just another man. A mere mortal like everybody else…

Eleven o’clock. Every relationship seems like a struggle for power by one person over the other or a whole group. The world is full of little Hitlers. The trick is not to become one yourself.