Quarter after ten.
Ugh. I just got off the phone with my sister. She loves to talk family stuff but it leaves me cold. Why is family never there when you need it? My identity doesn’t depend on my family… The rain started again an hour ago. Aesop wasn’t happy that I used the phone. Neither was I. The broken harmonium ought to stay that way and I’ll go on my own path. Ancestry sucks. My other relatives hated my mother but I didn’t. It’s all a royal mess but I won’t budge on the subject of my mother. Again it sounds like Roger Zelazny’s Amber chronicles, in which none of the brothers and sisters trusts each other and they plot against each other with a view to ruling Amber themselves. It’s a fantasy series, but this detail about family is realistic. The thought of it takes me back to my high school sophomore year, long ago. The year I became an insomniac and when I caught mono during a trip to California. Now the rainy weather drags on for another long day. My neighbor’s yard service is making noise next door to me. If I had a magic wand, or a genie in a lamp to grant me a wish: if magic worked— I don’t even know what I’d ask for. Just to feel better for a day. Just for mercy.
I’m at the agency, in the lobby right now. The sun has come out from a mostly cloudy sky. The ride here was smooth and without incident and people are pretty nice. I just saw Cassidy walk in the door with his laptop and head towards administration deeper in the building. Mostly I’m just sitting and minding my own business. Often I have flashbacks to the times when I had a job here and denied that I was one of the clients myself. I was in far better shape than the other people, of course…
Three twenty five.
When I came out of my appointment I noticed T— sitting alone parallel to the front desk. She was afraid she had missed her ride home, so I let her use my phone to call the service. But just then, her taxi arrived: I went outside and the driver shouted who he was looking for, so I asked him to wait. My own ride came a half hour later. Our path took us through Skinner Butte Park, eventually to First Avenue. We passed a fancy liquor store and a bunch of weed dispensaries in the Whiteaker Neighborhood before arriving at the bridge where River Road meets Chambers Street. Continuing on to the Northwest Expressway, out of my left window I observed distant shafts of pale sunlight on the hills beyond the railroad tracks. Above another bank of clouds, the sun was implied in the reflection on a silver cloud like a flash in a pan. I said at the end of the drive that the gps’s were getting better all the time. The cabbie was a nice old guy with gray hair who put on glasses from time to time. And he agreed with me.
It’s the beginning of the month, so there’s a lot of juggling of business this week, but luckily enough time to get everything done. I was thinking about Thanksgiving a while ago and what my plans will be for it. Holidays are family times, but I’ve had bitter experiences with my own family, so probably I’ll treat Thanksgiving like an ordinary day. At my age, I permit myself a little license with such traditions. I need to do some research: did the First Thanksgiving really take place, and who wrote it down for posterity? When I think of white relations with Native Americans, I think of trails of tears and so many broken treaties; of passengers on trains shooting buffaloes that Natives depended on; or perhaps of that silly song by Iron Maiden, likely inaccurate, and a mockery of history. The truth is the conquest of the Americas by Columbus and Cortez, forcing the Natives into slave labor and always demanding to see the gold.
Speaking of Natives, it was long ago that I read Island of the Blue Dolphins, a ya book by Scott O’Dell. Like Robinson Crusoe, it’s a story of survival alone, but about a young girl named Karana. Of all the ya writing I was exposed to in school, I liked this the best. The style is simple and realistic, nothing superstitious or fantastic. A very sober read, though often frightening and exciting… I get so tired of the chimerical nonsense of religion, the smoke and mirrors and the man behind the curtain. Real sobriety is quite different from ideas of the supernatural or substituting one high for another. I think I’ve had it with idealism and dumb notions of heaven. I’d rather negotiate the world the way it is.
Quarter of seven.
If as they say there’s fog outside, it is neither low nor dense. I put on a light jacket with a knitted purple beanie and braved the darkness of six o’clock. On my own street I began thinking that external reality may be the emanation of human minds. I got to the little store without adventure and of course it was quite deserted. I saw one car in the lot besides Lisa’s. Yesterday she had told me she had gout in her foot from her kidney disease. Today she was a bit better… At nine thirty this morning I plan to help the volunteers get ready for the food pantry happening Saturday. I’ll leave the house at nine and hoof it to the church; it should take me fifteen minutes. Now the sun is up behind the overcast but I see no fog. The late afternoon yesterday was nice with mostly sunshine… When I was five years old, I would play by myself in the front yard. There was a pretty girl who lived up the street from me, a high school student named Denise, and she brought me candy or bubble gum from her trips to the convenience store— but she made me spell her name every time. I doubt that my parents knew it was going on. Once she even took me home to meet her family. I very eagerly would have traded my family for hers, but the paradise was only temporary.
Aesop held a grudge against me ever since yesterday morning for using the phone a few times. He hates nothing more than that. It’s his worst bete noir and pet peeve of all. It took me a long time to figure out what was wrong with him, but now I know.
I made a post this morning that was simply realistic, just reporting on what I observed when I hiked to the store. The interesting thing about realism is its complexity and refusal to conform to our expectations based on systems of belief or whatever else we use to simplify experience. A faithful adherence to facts reveals lots of irony and contradiction, something like paradox. A paradox is a contradiction that only seems to be that way. Deeper analysis shows it to be the truth. Sometimes when I write, I can really nail this style, so it’d be great to refine it to a craft. Maybe this fall I’ll be able to concentrate more on being a better writer, perhaps getting away from the philosophical stuff. I might invest some time in reading Josep Pla’s Gray Notebook. I need an influence that complements the style I’m going for. It seems like I was pretty good at it a couple of years ago.
Today isn’t very remarkable otherwise. The sky is still smoky white, casting a brown light on the ground below. I’d consider a trip to the market but it’s rather gross outside. It can wait till tomorrow morning. I don’t know which title I might buy from loa yet. Something with good descriptive writing. Maybe Steinbeck?
Quarter of seven.
I’m up earlier than usual today. The market was open at six, so I went ahead with my trip. On the lip of the entrance to the lot, I paused to let a car go in front of me. The man parked, got out, and then held the front door wide open for me to enter. He was extremely tall and of mixed ancestry. I said, “Courtesy for courtesy?” He replied, “Curtsy, curtsy!” and went in behind me. It was interesting because my mind had been occupied with visions of a civil war or something over politics. I imagined my nephew polishing his guns and rooting for his wish to come true. But the reality was just this guy at the store preparing to go to work for the day… Outside, the sun still hasn’t gone above the tree line, nor does nature care about human affairs. If it did, then life would be a romantic thing, like a Victor Hugo novel, and equally pompous. As it is, life is very ordinary and pretty blah. No drama. This also means a poverty of faith in religion and whatever gives you a boost. The business of our lives goes on while God sleeps forgotten somewhere out of sight. When it’s convenient for us, we’ll wake him up again. Meanwhile, my dog has been uptight since yesterday. I don’t know why.
Ten twenty five.
I’m having a good morning so far. We went to Bi Mart to get a bunch of things. After that we stopped at Carl’s Jr. for a loaded burrito. Aesop isn’t very happy to be pent down the hallway… My neighbor told me that his car had been broken into, and that’s why the hazard lights were flashing the other morning… Maybe it’s not such a great day. It’s a mixed bag of stuff. I was glad to see some familiar faces at Bi Mart.
Those are things I see very few of anymore. The agency is entirely changed from what it used to be when I was an employee. But when I step into Bi Mart it’s a time capsule, a place where change doesn’t exist so much. I feel sentimental thinking about it. I remember so many people who’ve gone in and out of Bi Mart over two decades. Sometimes I’d bring bottle returns to the customer service desk. Once I ran into Mark, the guy who played the bass with Don at the Electric Station restaurant. I didn’t get to hear him play, but he taught me a few lessons at his house. He was a good teacher… Just today I saw Bill, my neighbor on N Park, at the same place. We talked about the tree service recently. It’s sort of like a Beatles song: “And the people that come and go / Stop and say hello.” The old store is a community hub where you see a lot of the same faces every day. It’s a sour note to think of the car burglary in my neighbor’s driveway or the drug house a few streets down from mine. This gives The Beatles a grungy twist they didn’t intend. That’s honesty for you.
Seven fifty five.
The next day it rained. And it’s more than a light drizzle; just a steady medium rain to make everything green. My umbrella got drenched en route to market, and wouldn’t stop dripping after I shook it out. A wonderful old Herb Alpert tune plays in my ear, probably from the album SRO back in the mid sixties. Often my mind doesn’t discriminate today from decades ago, so all of time is allowed to coexist at once. It’s sort of like the character Benjy in the Faulkner novel, where his memories are indistinguishable from what goes on right now… I was able to buy a nice potato salad this morning, and since the Snapple teas were gone, I got myself a Coke. The place was quite busy with customers even for a little after seven o’clock, and everyone was kind and considerate to each other. There’s something rather mystical about rainy days, taking me back to my early childhood in Astoria and Salem, though it was over fifty years in the past. At some businesses I qualify for a senior discount, which I find drily humorous. As I was going out the door I ran into Lisa from Karen’s salon at one time. She was there to grab something before heading out to work. Now as I finish this, the rain keeps coming down like so many mental events today or yet to come.
I witnessed some good spirits at the market just a bit ago. A pair of women shot the bull with Lisa and apparently they had jobs in healthcare. They made jokes about paranoia and so on. I noticed that they were buying Mike’s Harder Mango at a very early hour. As I approached the parking lot from the sidewalk I saw a sign at my feet that read “For Rent.” Somebody must’ve dropped it there for a joke. The apartments across the way off of Maxwell Road go for $1400 a month. I think of how fortunate I am to own my home, and there’s something to be said for staying in one place for a long time. Inside the store, another customer examined the greeting cards on the revolving tree. The atmosphere was laid back and even pretty jovial. When I was going out I ran into a young Black man and said hi for no particular reason and held the door for him… The sky at dawn was gunmetal blue this morning. Yesterday it rained most of the day with occasional snow. Right now the sun wants to come out to the greeting of the birds. My dog gets breakfast in just a few minutes.
Eight twenty. I just heard from my friend in Texas. She’s been through extreme weather that damaged her house last night. She is without power and more bad weather is still coming. I hope someone comes to help her very soon. Why do bad things happen to good people?
While I was at the store I heard three old tunes on the radio that Cathy had on for background noise: the bands were the Chili Peppers, John Cougar, and Journey. Cathy wore a sloppy green sweater that looked good on her today. She is very adept with the price scanner, hitting the barcodes of the items in your hand unerringly, like something uncanny. It must be a right brain thing for her, but she didn’t remember very well about the Journey song, which happened to be “Separate Ways,” from the album Frontiers, released in 1983. My memory for the dates of events and things is probably a left brain kind of faculty. I hovered in front of the pet snacks for a minute, trying to decide among the different sizes of milk bones. They were also priced differently, which made no sense at all. You can slice a pizza into eight pieces or twelve, but it’s the same amount of food either way. Or you can scrap the whole thing and make applesauce. There are some birds cheeping outside my front window, and it’s cloudy right now, a gray and ordinary morning. I’ve always liked Cathy, though we don’t know each other beyond seeing each other at her workplace. She’s certainly catty with the barcode scanner.