On Labor Day

Near seven o’clock.

I had a nightmare last night about being discovered a homosexual by a few mean doctors or scientists; but maybe I was thinking of a time when I went to the emergency room on Labor Day four years ago, where I was given a “rectal exam” by the sadistic woman doctor. She stuck her whole fist up my butthole and felt around. I screamed with the pain, although you know, soon afterwards I quit drinking and I haven’t done it again since. Was it aversion therapy?

Cathy manned the store this morning when I got there and bought the usual stuff for Aesop and me. I saw only two other customers, both of them guys. The first one was tall and wore cowboy boots. He carried a knife at his side, which I wondered at. I guess it’s like packing a handgun anywhere you want to go. The second guy’s face was brown with dirt and he brought in a bunch of empty cans and bottles for redemption. I thought about hanging around until he was gone for Cathy’s benefit, but then the guy would have been suspicious of me. So I simply left and came home. It is Labor Day weekend, so not much is going on. I guzzled down my Snapple tea to pick myself up. Aesop gets his breakfast at eight thirty. Overall, it doesn’t feel like God’s in his heaven and all’s right with the world, even though there is church at ten o’clock today. Outside there’s not a breath of air, and it hasn’t rained since June. I can hear the sound of crows in the neighborhood. But mentally I feel pretty good: no delusions or hallucinations that I can notice. Why is it that the world is on the downswing while I’m doing better? It just feels like a sort of irony. 


Nine ten.

From everything I’ve read, it looks like the approach to transcendence is the same for the drug addict as it is for the poet or the priest. Getting high either way involves inebriation of a sort, a disengagement of the intellect in order to experience something beyond the known world. I’ve been stuck on the problem of reality and illusion for a long time, and still can’t come to a conclusion. My realism might be naive, yet most people can agree on what’s real. Just when I think I’m sick of Romanticism, something pulls me back to it like the undertow of the surf… 

The hike to the store was kind of nice today. There were two Mexican guys ahead of me in line, masked with bandannas. But again I observed that no women were in the market except for Michelle. The credit card reader beeped extremely loudly because the mute under it was removed. A customer had spilled a full 44 ounce Pepsi all over the countertop, drenching everything. There was a fresh supply of peanut butter treats for dogs, so I grabbed a couple. The sun through the front door blared right in Michelle’s eyes so she had to visor her face. I notice that I’m overdue for a haircut. And either today or tomorrow I have to run to Bi Mart to pick up my prescription. While I’m there I might as well buy a new pair of jeans. I have a hole in the heel of my right sock. If any of these details should prove to be significant, I’ll be the last person to know. But sometimes it’s better to leave the particulars alone, without induction. This being said, I needn’t have said it. 

Soft Pedal

Quarter of nine.

My friend wrote a kind of free verse mantra she addressed to me rather than posting it to her blog, which I thought was really very nice of her. I’m reminded that a good part of creativity is generosity and sharing. Again today the sunlight is burnt orange from atmospheric smoke. My pace on my way to the store was deliberately slower this time. I caught myself imagining negative scenarios and willfully screened them out as the cars on Maxwell Road whizzed past. I saw a guy on a motorized bicycle signaling for a right turn with his left hand. A motorcycle also went by me to my left. When I entered the market, Michelle was jolting herself with a Mexican Coca-Cola: real sugar instead of corn syrup and bottled in a glass bottle. By the soft drink cooler I hovered and hesitated, choosing from three different Snapple teas, finally settling on peach in honor of my Texas friend. Going out again, I held the door for a young guy who hurried to catch up, so I didn’t really do him a favor. This day so far has a different feel to it; it’s more relaxed and peaceful for whatever reason. Maybe it’s the overcast of dirty lemon clouds? Things are muted as if by a damper or the soft pedal on a piano. If I were the type to pray, then I’d pray for these clouds to rain… 

The Slope

Eight o’clock.

Michelle told me she left her other job. Evidently the place was quite mismanaged and there was inadequate communication with her supervisor. When I first got up and looked out the window, the sun was a great copper cannonball in the east. I let the dog out and took out the trash. I skipped my medications last night and so far I feel better for it. The weather people keep telling us the air quality is good, yet the colors outside don’t look right. Next door to me, Lenore is having her house painted a medium gray with white trim by a local budget service. It doesn’t look so great, especially next to my bright yellow house. Lenore also never offered to pay me a portion of the cost of the fence that Damien built last year. I have crap neighbors, and nothing I can do about it. No one seems to have a conscience anymore, while the big brazen sun keeps making its daily circuit: sunrise, sunset… 

Aesop just ate his breakfast. Every morning I give him a peanut butter bone from the store, so now he expects it as a matter of course. I love to see him enjoy it while I quaff down a Snapple tea; it’s a high point of the day. When the world is sloping downhill, it’s good to have a creature comfort or two. Yesterday I thought of my brother, whose immaturity belies his 68 years of age. And I think of how he has no excuse for being a jerk to me, his younger brother. But life is very strange to a person in recovery, far stranger than any fiction. 


Eleven thirty 🕦. It’s been a good couple of days for me, very eye opening and illuminating. It feels so strange when the face of nature changes in accordance with the political scene, kind of like the sympathy of nature in a Shakespeare play, for instance Julius Caesar or King Lear. Human eyes project new meaning onto the world, and the result of this interplay of mind and matter is an effect we know as reality; so that perception is what Wordsworth described to us in The Prelude about two centuries ago. It’s funny, though; I feel rather lazy, as if I could go on sabbatical from my writing for a while and still feel like a worthwhile person. Today’s social climate seems to me like that of the 1990’s. It’s tempting not to take individual responsibility and rather say that every person is a passive mirror of the day— when the truth may be that human beings collectively create the spirit of the age from our own souls. The mysterious thing is whence these ideas of ours spring; so I suppose that Jungian theory has some applicability… but even Jung got the idea from his Romantic predecessors… Thus I look out on a June day in Oregon, making out the shapes and colors of the cloudy sky from the backseat of a taxi or through my bedroom window. The lemon lime filters into the kitchen and family room, yet the process is an operation of my own mind, which in turn participates in a greater reservoir of the human nous. So, it’s rather problematic whether what I see is external nature or a projection of my mind. But perception is likely not entirely passive as in Aristotle’s model of naive realism. Then again, realism can be a comfort, like the ordinary loveseat I’m sitting on. Does it make sense to call this a projection of my mind? And here I arrive at an impasse in my meditation, because I always have liked the simplicity of the immanent, the mundane and ordinary stuff that surrounds us. Are we such stuff that dreams are made on, or is it preferable to keep things simple? 

The Good Life

Eight ten.

Feeling hopeful about my sobriety right now, and I think my life has a lot of potential. I’ll probably skip the caffeine this morning. It’s not something I have to have; I’m not addicted to it. What I like about Snapple tea is really the social trip to the store every morning, but today I have an appointment at the bank. At nine thirty I’ll head out to River Road, anticipating good things. The sun is out again. The high temperature will be 88 degrees. My mind is not so much on music lately, but rather just the process of living— even the good life. Ethics, or moral philosophy, is a very powerful branch of Western philosophy, and the evolution of it can be quite fascinating… Suddenly my consciousness feels like a garage sale, a menagerie of odds and ends, or flotsam caught up in a tornado. But there’s no storm in here. It is sepulchral quiet in the house. I feel tired from the heat yesterday. My eyelids are heavy and droopy with fatigue.

Eleven ten. The appointment at the bank went just okay. The rep had me fill out an application for a new credit card that would give me two percent cash back on every purchase I made. He was very young and sharp witted, or maybe he’d had too much coffee this morning… And then I stopped at Grocery Outlet for a few items. I felt vaguely triggered to drink when I smelled the different scents in the air of the store; the smell of fresh food… Construction of the new high school goes on at the site on Silver Lane. I couldn’t make out what they were doing; it looked like they’d put in a lot of fresh gravel where the foundation is going to be. The traffic director as I passed her told me she was hot from standing in the sun. Closer to home, I said hi to the FedEx driver. But all in all it was kind of an anticlimactic trip to River Road, no big deal really. I was more excited yesterday when the mail brought me two new blank books for scribbling my ideas. The best journey is the one taken inside. 

Sublunar Tuesday

Quarter of eight.

A few hours ago I was able to watch the full moon through a gap in the wispy clouds. Since then it started raining again. I often forget that the moon is always there whether it’s visible or not. Some cultures associate the moon with reason because it reflects the sunlight, but to me it symbolizes imagination and madness, hence the word “lunacy.” It should be a fairly easy jaunt over to the store this morning, though some days I don’t feel very motivated. And it’s very odd to realize how long my parents have been gone. In December it will be twenty years for my mother, yet here I still am. I believe the last word of Moby Dick is “orphan.” Perhaps many of us feel that way, orphaned by the universe that doesn’t care. The rain comes and goes with variable force, and soon I have to go out in it. Gray days really bring out the green of the flora. Life thrives on the rain and sun. We could use even more rainfall this year in Oregon…

Nine o’clock. The rain was light. I didn’t take my umbrella, and just wore a black raincoat with the hood up. I waited as a huge school bus crossed my path on Fremont. When I got to the market, the customer ahead of me had her card declined twice and finally succeeded on the third try. Other than that I didn’t notice much. The big Tuesday shipment of food was sitting by the freezer, waiting to be unpacked. Probably Cathy and Suk will take care of that later this morning. I saw a little snail on the sidewalk and thought of picking it up just for fun. But people would’ve believed I was crazy or stupid, so I left the snail to struggle on the concrete. 


Eleven twenty five.

I got a lot done this morning. Now Aesop has his flea medication; all I have to do is give it to him. It was overcast a while ago, but just now the sun is coming out and the sky is mostly clear. Nice to see the blue sky. In the old days I would drink it up and savor its beauty. Sometimes I wonder what Thomas Hardy would do with a problem like recovery. He was such a fatalist, but presented the idea brilliantly. I especially liked his writing because he challenged my position on free will so convincingly. It made me want to prove him wrong. I don’t know if that’s what I did or not. Recovery itself could be fated from a first cause, so Hardy would still be right. The Mayor of Casterbridge is one of the best books I ever read… It’s almost like magic how sobriety increases your fortunes. It used to be that I never had any money. My checking account was often overdrawn due to my alcoholism.

Three ten in the morning.

There isn’t much to say right now, but I happen to be up. I took my daily medications, thinking about my separation from the church. It seems to me that Pastor’s sermons messed with my mental health, and this went on for a long time. Finally I think I can just be myself. No ideologies are really needed to live by. I used to believe that Freud was my belief system, but now it’s not even that. I was right about Pastor being excessively political and sociological. This complicates the experience of life unnecessarily. I think I’m just a realist at this point. It’s like what happened to philosophy after the 19th Century: the decline and fall of the Absolute and the rise of the age of analysis. But even this is too cerebral. In the case of schizophrenia, all that is required is to take the medication. The rest is simply getting on with your life, and for me, music is all I want to do. 


Ten o’clock.

I think all of my morning business is out of the way. Sometimes I long to feel tipsy and euphoric from a good brand of beer, but I realize that alcohol is not the true vehicle to bliss. Still, the mile high buzz is a hard sacrifice, especially when the weather gets better like today and triggers flashbacks to that artificial heaven. I guess that’s where morality kicks in, reminding me of my responsibilities to other people and of course to my dog. I consider a Hoffmann tale like “The Golden Flowerpot:” the protagonist had a choice between a fantasy lover and a lover in reality— and picked the fantasy. Did he do the right thing? Did he have any regrets for getting lost in a pipe dream? What about the girl he jilted: wasn’t that unfortunate?

Two big white trucks drove by my front window. Wright Tree Service. Now I hear the workers sawing away, probably trimming the limbs back from the power lines. Their presence takes me back ten years, to my friendship with Kate, which likewise was rather illusory; just a stream of words batted over the Atlantic, with some pictures and a lot of music. Was it much different from the Hoffmann story?

Eleven o’clock. For wisdom there’s no substitute. I went to church yesterday morning because I felt lonely and impoverished for stimulation. I had a good time. It’s always good to meet with friends, whether old or new. Right now there’s a patch of sunlight on the backyard, the clouds opening somewhat. The garbage trucks are coming. Sometimes reality takes precedence over dreams. I suppose there’s an appropriate time for everything, all in its proper place. There’s also a time for macaroni salad… 

Common Sense

Ten thirty.

For the time being, the rain has stopped. I feel more relaxed this morning, more self possessed and confident. It makes little sense to ask where I see myself in five years or ten years. I doubt if anybody is that prescient of their own life… Yesterday I didn’t practice my bass individually, but instead scribbled a lot of drivel in my blank book. It was basic mind reading of people I know, which never works because there’s no such thing as telepathy. It is a truism that we can never know what another person is thinking unless we ask them what’s on their mind. Often the chasm is wide between what we imagine and the real truth. I may ask for a break from Friday service this week just to collect myself. I want to get back to evidence based thinking, as opposed to faith based. Empiricism is looking better to me all the time. The certainty of the chair I’m sitting on is more reassuring than the idea of salvation for my sins. Everyone can save themselves. Let the guilt roll off your back and enjoy your life.

Eleven thirty. The appeal of Romanticism is wearing off for me. It should feel rather liberating to look into logical positivism again, and the wholesale rejection of metaphysics and other slippery things that people dispute over. A rock band sang, “So we are told this is the Golden Age / And gold is the reason for the wars we wage.” I think this is debatable. At least for now, the world of sense experience seems inviting after a long detour into the indemonstrable.