“If I Had a Hammer”

I’ll be getting physical therapy twice a week from this Monday till the 9th of December. The receptionist called me this morning and we scheduled all these appointments in advance. I plan on walking to each appointment, weather permitting, since it’s only 1.3 miles away from home. And it may be rather a pleasant walk in the afternoon down Silver Lane to River Road and beyond Division Avenue. The leaves on the trees will be turning and dropping all this autumn, and hopefully the sights will restore my confidence that all is well with Nature. By the way, I looked up a weather prediction for 2021 in Oregon: typical La Niña, and we may get an early winter, and wetter than usual, which is okay since the drought we suffered this summer and into the fall. Another good reason to walk to physical therapy is because it discourages pollution from fuel emissions. Pedestrian power doesn’t contribute to climate change. The weather today was really beautiful in the afternoon, though I didn’t go outside and take advantage of it. The color of the sunlight was a deep and mellow orange, the sky cerulean as it ought to be. I know that the wildfires continue to burn, but they seem to be more under control by now.

I keep saying this, but being sober in 2020 is a very strange experience. I think most of my family has deserted me, and Polly is just testing the waters with me until further notice. I don’t really care, just on principle, because she and her whole family are terribly racist and show no signs of wanting to change. On Columbus Day, a citizen vandalized a public statue of Christopher Columbus and Polly didn’t understand why— being ignorant of the facts regarding him and Cortes, the way they treated the Natives, and how the way history is taught today is vastly different from what she learned in the 1950s. The truth about Columbus is that he and his crew wiped out six million Arawak Indians by bringing Caucasian diseases, plus he forced them into slave labor and often mutilated them as punishment for disobedience— all for the sake of discovering the gold that he was sure existed in the Americas. This is the truth! Cortes and Columbus were no kind of heroes at all. Only from a white supremacy perspective did they pave the way for civilization. But the new perspective on history is very difficult for older people to grasp, just because old dogs can’t learn new tricks as a general rule. I feel sorry for Polly, but her son who is my age has no excuse for his ridiculous bigotry. In their family, people who graduated from college are seen as the enemy. Their suspicion of new ideas is very conservative, but the genesis of conservative politics is, in my opinion, ignorance and fear of the unknown. I think Edmund Burke might make a fascinating study for me. He was a renowned conservative Englishman who reacted against the French Revolution, seeing the bloody and inevitable consequences and concluding that ideas are dangerous. Does that seem relevant to our time? I wonder if it makes me a political radical, along with all the other protesters for the sake of people of color… Whatever, I don’t have much sympathy for bigots. If I must defect from Polly’s clan, then so be it. I can’t reverse the knowledge that I have, nor can I teach those who don’t want to learn. To them, like to Burke, ideas really are dangerous, so maybe they are better off left alone.

Sorry this turned into a little rant on racism. It’s a hard pill to swallow for a lot of people. I hope you weren’t offended by it. But it’s something I feel very strongly about, and damn the torpedoes if people can’t handle it. Many truths are inconvenient and untimely, but on the contrary, they arise when the need is the greatest.

Thursday Thoughts

Nine o’clock. Today is starting out rather blah. I read that 2020 was the hottest September ever on record, and a clear sign of rapid global warming. I don’t know what to add to this.

Quarter of eleven. My next appointment for physical therapy is Monday at five o’clock. It’s only 1.3 miles away, so I’m thinking I might hoof it rather than take a taxi. According to the maps, it’s exactly a mile to Bi Mart from my house. At 9am it was 44 degrees outside, which was colder than I expected. But I still went to the store without a coat. The sun wants to come out. I’ve been thinking about the cultural differences between Europe and America, and how I decided to plug into my own nationality over three years ago. Was it a choice or was it necessity? I can’t figure out which place is more of an island, the United States or the one across the pond. However, I tend to agree with them that we’ve lost our minds over here. My America is in the grip of a sickness, sort of like what happened to Thomas Mann’s Europe a hundred years ago. We are all in an Alpine sanatorium, trying to get well from our disease— of racism and other injustices. Some people refuse to see it as it is. Even my sister is a white supremacist. It’s a disease that will consume us and spell our doom unless we get wise very suddenly.

Noon hour. I found some little black ants on the kitchen counter, so I did what I could to deter them. They hate white vinegar, and will usually go away if you sprinkle some around where they hang out. The partly cloudy sky is cerulean as it’s supposed to be, though I know the wildfires are still not totally extinguished. Karen’s friend Jean is very unwell with shingles. She showed me two pictures of her face, taken when she came to the salon. Dunno; the news today is a mixed bag of good and bad. I wish I could make the bad go away by drowning it with beer, but then life is supposed to be a problem, a series of hurdles to jump. I can’t imagine being a prehistoric man, fighting tooth and nail for his survival every day from dawn to dusk. We still have our struggles, but they have just gotten more complex, possibly more sublimated and psychological. I wonder how a thing like money was invented. Capitalism is simply a sublimation of the primitive fight to stay alive. Our imagination hasn’t progressed all that much; life is still a competition for food, clothing, and shelter. And then there is the Western religious tradition, which seeks to reverse the primitivism through loving and giving. This impulse to altruism marks humanity apart from the natural Darwinian world… I wonder when the next food pantry takes place? 

Saturday Morning

Eight twenty five.

I paid my utility bill this morning. It was very low again due to the summertime. It amazes me that fall is almost here. I’m thankful that people treat me with respect these days, and actually care what I have to say. My relationship with my family is changing for the better. But I still prefer WordPress to Facebook; it seems a more intelligent platform because you have to be able to write… Today I’m trying not to put pressure on myself to be perfect. A song comes to me, “Walking on Air” by King Crimson. It makes me want to learn to play my Stratocaster better. But there’s that pressure again. Maybe I’ll just listen to the CD and admire Adrian Belew. If I do pick up my Strat today, I’ll be languid about it. I won’t expect too much of myself. I want to enjoy the experience and not be frustrated.

Quarter of eleven. I bought some mint ice cream and shared two dollops with Aesop. The conversation at the salon turned political again, accusing the other side of being political and hateful. It was typical redneck philosophy. I didn’t stay very long because I didn’t agree, and it was awkward for me. Under my conservative clothes I’m still an educated person. People can bray their ignorant opinions and I won’t say anything to their face, but as long as this is my domain, I will write about it. The same people are the ones who hate Mexican immigrants and refuse to learn Spanish to accommodate them. It was always an atrocious attitude. We treat nonwhites very shabbily, and at some point justice must be carried. I’m tired of seeing red everywhere I go, and I’m not the only one… Now I want to play my guitar for a while. 

Tuesday Morning

Nine o’clock.

I’m in the process of scheduling an appointment with my hematologist. Barbara tried to call me yesterday and I missed it. It seems like forever since I’ve been to see him. Was it in February? Prior to the lockdown… Okay, it’s all set for this Friday morning. I have to be ready to go at six thirty. I’ll be seeing his PA, Wendy. Hopefully no phlebotomy will be necessary.

Quarter after ten. I feel tongue tied today. There’s simply nothing to say anymore. It could be from the medication. I have no imagination. I just left a voicemail for my sister. People believe all kinds of nonsense. Maybe it doesn’t matter anymore, or is that defeatist? I only know that I’m on a powerful antipsychotic that might interfere with self expression. I’ve stopped the gabapentin. My mind is as motionless as the air outside. I dreamed that my brother called me and we had a decent conversation. Only the fulfillment of a wish. I wonder if I could go down on the dosage of Vraylar? Then my imagination may return a little. My head feels like a brick or a block of concrete, solid and impermeable. No activity at all. No access. I think I’m just depressed. This Friday I have two excursions lined up, but until then nothing. I might be avoiding the salon because of an opinion I heard there that I couldn’t agree with. It concerned Black Lives Matter. So now it’s rather awkward to have to dance around the truth, and no, I don’t think she has a valid point.

Quarter after eleven. At last my brain is volunteering to play Billy the Kid. I’ll listen to it again today and reinforce it. What I hear is bombastic and slow. And great.

The Next Day Was Cloudy

Eight thirty.

The experience of writing has become painful because it has no choice but to tell the truth. The truth isn’t always beautiful. I feel compelled to write it anyway. Music: Debussy’s Images. I went to the market to buy a cranberry ginger ale, but I didn’t say anything to Vicki about tomorrow. Didn’t want to make her think of it. Walking out the door, I noticed that there’s an American flag on their wall. I’m not sure why it caught my eye. “Ain’t that America, home of the free? / Little pink houses for you and me.” Maybe that was it: the way she’s worked for over thirty years, more or less thanklessly, at a convenience store. She needs to know that she is appreciated. Hopefully she’ll be back again Sunday morning… The sky is overcast today. I just thought of running into my tenth grade algebra teacher at Laurel Hill in my working years. His son had schizophrenia. I don’t remember our conversation very well. It was brief and I had to get back to work. I felt so imprisoned in the workplace, so I don’t like to recall it now. Mr Leslie was a very nice man, however. I recognized him right away in the agency meeting.

Nine thirty. Truth to tell, I absolutely hated my job at the optical office. Entering data was not for me. All the time I just wanted to express my original thoughts and feelings. So I eventually found a way to do that. Now I don’t feel quite so gagged with regard to freedom of speech. I still remember the issues that set me at odds with my family, and they were political. What you could or couldn’t bloody well say on social media. My neighborhood is divided into conservative and liberal, and I talk to both, though it’s getting more difficult with the former. There’s no excuse for racism, no matter what your background.


Ten twenty. I think I’ll play my guitar today, or maybe my bass. Earlier this morning I ordered a new copy of Elizabeth Bishop since I was thinking about her method of writing narrative poems. I want to revisit “In the Waiting Room” and expand on this knowledge. Maybe it can help with post writing. The sun appears through a hole in the clouds. With that, I remember the past decade and make a contrast to today. Life is so much better now. I’ve seen and experienced the damage that alcoholism can do. A lot of people have helped me after I decided to stop drinking. K— is one of them. But it disappoints me that she is anti diversity. I could’ve predicted this, yet still I had to hear her say it. She’s a product of her time and place. Last week I avoided the salon perhaps intentionally due to the recent protests. Her narrowness makes me think of the brutal Stanley in A Streetcar Named Desire, jabbering about the Napoleonic Code. It is sheer idiocy, but unfortunately it has a loud voice from greater numbers. I had a dream of my sister last night which I can’t remember. She was spouting opinions as usual. Stupid stuff, bordering on craziness, yet people agreed with her.

Eleven thirty. The clouds are clearing off. Blue skies. The same sky as when I was a toddler in Salem. At this time of day, Mom would watch Perry Mason on the tv. On certain days she would go to the bank and the grocery store. All banks have that sour smell of money inside. I don’t know how long my dad lasted in his job at the State Capitol. Less than a year, then he got fired for aggravating people. He had a knack for saying the wrong things and annoying people. It was deliberate: he wanted to hurt your feelings… Aesop is getting anxious about me playing my bass. He dreads it so much.

I played it for a half hour while Aesop waited outside. I was inspired this time and everything sounded great. Something was different today; I think it was hearing the news that Ron just bought a nice new keyboard. He wants to jam as much as I do.

Black Lives (in My Notebook)

Wee hours. Of course Black lives matter! And so do all the other colors. It should be self evident that racism is wrong. When I was a seventh grader, we had Mickey Mouse social studies class with Mr Schultz. Much of the material dealt with racist attitudes toward Black Americans and other ethnicities such as Polish people. While the teacher was lecturing, I drew pictures in my notebook, beautiful doodles of whales and the heroes of Edgar Rice Burroughs novels I loved to read. At quiz time, I always passed with A grades while many students struggled. One time, a girl named Teri raised her hand and tattled on me for drawing pictures in my notebook. Mr Schultz said very evenly that if Robbie wanted to draw pictures in his notebook, that was okay. The same year, we had one Black student, a big guy named Martel. He was in my Beginning Band class. I didn’t know anything about playing drum kit, but we all got a turn before class started. When it was my turn, Martel always sat in a chair behind me and cheered me on. I loved that old green sparkle Ludwig kit. It sounded so great…

Exit the Old…

Nine thirty.

Bitterly, I just thought of my stupid sister and her monstrous son, and how they will probably vote this fall. The best I can do is avoid talking with them. I can’t believe how stubborn they are, how entrenched in old fashioned beliefs. I’m simply not responsible for what they do. If I ever get around to making a will, they are entirely excluded. Closed minds don’t deserve a piece of me. Now Polly is trying to say that beliefs don’t matter. Baloney! Of course they matter! What you believe is what you are. My family is a bunch of Skinheads. There are a lot more of them who go to Serenity Lane, the so-called treatment program for chemical addiction. All they do is brainwash you with Republican ideas, referring to them as your “culture.” It’s just an excuse for ethnocentrism.

Ten forty. I stopped by and said hi to Karen. Sort of sorry I did. She was spouting some pro racist stuff that I couldn’t agree with. So I didn’t stay very long. Everybody has an opinion. Even ignorant people do. I think it’s a symptom of Oregon life, all the racism and bigotry. Old people here go on and on about what a hero Theodore Roosevelt was. Ugh. Henry James called him a jingo, and it was probably true. I’m very tired of these old sticks in the mud who resist progress. Why do they want to conserve old politics that never worked very well in the first place? The young ought to have the strongest voice, particularly on issues of equality and justice. The old need to move aside and make way for the young… Victoria passed me on the street as I was coming home. She was jogging. So young, she makes me feel old, yet inspired with confidence that the future is in good hands.

Ten Years

I think I’ll call it my Dodo bass. That’s how it is in the USA, but it may be different abroad. I think I’ll start using it with other musicians, see how it goes over. Roman hated it ten years ago because it wasn’t a Fender. And ten years feels like ten years…

A long time— from my family fishing at Crane Prairie, and the division that was beginning. It’s weird, but you know, the item of education doesn’t account for all of it. Maybe Polly’s family just doesn’t have the raw iq to understand why racism is wrong. Those people are entrenched in old fashioned beliefs that just don’t go away. Are they really stupid, or are they afraid of something? People fear what they don’t understand, so I imagine they are just dumb. But it isn’t my fault that they lack intelligence. It seems possible that my brother is self destructing out of feelings of guilt for being intelligent. But it’s up to him to stop his suicide. I think it’s probably too late now. His brain is a pickle, again no fault of mine. They all feel very far from me now. I saved myself, refused to be a martyr for a family that wasn’t worth it.

Now whenever I play my Aria, it triggers memories of 2010, albeit distantly.

Statement of a Brother and Uncle

Nine thirty.

Nighttime is when I have some breathing room. Families are a drag. Mine bears a resemblance to the crazy characters in William Faulkner fiction. The members each have some degree of neurosis, myself being the hardest hit. I had lunch with the leader, the sort of elder of the clan, which gradually I’m coming to accept as such. It appears we are on good terms at this point. But you know, the family system is dissolving and decaying fast. It manages to propagate itself for the generations, but as an individual, I still feel inclined to defect from its traditions. These are so old fashioned as to be maladaptive for the changing times. I could be wrong, yet my feelings are what they are. In particular I can’t countenance the racism and bigotry that pervade the family’s structure. As a man of principle, I reject these things. The family needs to examine itself and reevaluate its core beliefs before I will consider being a member. Until then, I deem myself a conscientious objector to family policy and practice.