A City in the Air

Eleven thirty.

I let Aesop out of his little prison down the hall after my zoom meeting was done and he barked at me to tell me he wanted his milk bones. The white light of day makes the room appear green, a greenness that reminds me of the cover to a book of Robert Frost I once had when I was a student. If it weren’t so cold out, I’d say it was kind of like the springtime with all the blooms and bird activity, and it stays lighter now for longer. The greens also are souvenirs of a serotonin buzz many years ago from taking Prozac. The drug made me feel impulsive and sociable, but also sleepless and finally suicidal, so I had to stop it. 1991 was very long ago and I can sense how much I’ve aged. It isn’t like Goethe anymore, a creed of seize the day. Rather, it’s a time for quiet reflection and study. Still, the green outdoors is a distraction from cerebral things. It is entirely possible to get too comfortable; security can be a trap that keeps you from pursuing happiness.

And then you ponder the difference between green pastures and ash gray pavements littered with cigarette butts. Where do we go from here?

Quarter of one.

It’s doable to be young at heart. Not to spit in the wind and give up your dream of paradise. They say poverty sucks, but poetry will never desert the pauper. It is there if you look for it, like the kingdom of God. It dwells within you.

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Wine into Water

Nine thirty five.

I’ve been to the store and back in the rain. The wind made it hard to use my umbrella, so I ended up putting up my hood and just shivering through it. Didn’t see much of anything new for the trip around the bend. A book I ordered of Paul Verlaine is delayed a couple of days, no explanation why. The deeper I go into Western literature, the farther I have to go to find my way out. I feel like pulling the plug on all of it and following nature, the world of ordinary things. The thing that puzzles me about Baudelaire is his jump to metaphysics from everyday reality, spontaneously addressing prayers to the devil and so forth, just assuming the existence of such beings. It seems naive to me not to know the difference between material and spiritual, and yet he uses the term “ideal” freely. Maybe I’m the one who’s naive? And maybe the natural world I seek doesn’t exist… The rain keeps coming down. On a good day I’d say it was a shower of fine wine from heaven. Today is rather blah; the rain is merely water, the sky a vapid gray.

Ten thirty.

The City of Eugene finally sent out a team to pick up the leaves at our curbs. This is just ordinary stuff. Lord or Lucifer had nothing to do with it.

11

Eleven twenty five.

I want to do something for pleasure… but I’m feeling stuck. If I just ride out this hour, the mood may pass. Always at eleven o’clock I get this sense of limbo. It’s a time when nothing happens, and the restlessness drives me crazy. I feel deserted by my old muse and my imagination has flown away. Casualties of staying sober. Though it’s 72 degrees in here I still feel cold. There’s only me and stark reality. Two poets suggest themselves to my mind: Cummings and Wordsworth. A mourning dove has landed to peck the ground for seeds. Even the most realistic people can doubt their skepticism of a Platonic heaven. Their doubts have doubts. Ravel’s little piece for harp tinkles in my memory, teasing me like sinking Avalon: a shimmering illusion there and not there again. I hear a raucous flock of crows. Can we trust our senses? They give you the appearance but maybe not the reality. Perception itself becomes a problem. To get rid of philosophy, you have to will to forget it.

“Reality”

Seven o’clock morning.

Lisa’s birthday is this Sunday, she just told me. I took my chances and walked to market in the black darkness, feeling my way, stepping carefully on the glistening street. These winter birthdays remind me of a line from Thomas Dolby, maybe irrelevantly. “The winter boys, drinking heavy water from a stone…” My imagination can do lots of things with Capricorn. The sure footed climber with a fishtail in the sea. Ruled by Saturn and Father Time. Concerned with old age. Bones, teeth, and skeleton. Alas poor Yorik… The day may be long because I got up at four thirty. No daylight until nearly eight. I didn’t see much on my little pilgrimage— literally, due to the dark. Just now there’s a growing light that reveals thick fog on the trees across the way east. I tell Aesop to look out the window and he gives a small bark and a growl. There’s no threat, I say; no menace. He puts his head down and pouts for his breakfast, fortunately not far away.

Eight ten.

Already I feel tired and somewhat sad and lonely. It’d be nice if I had control over my thoughts and feelings. Aristotle’s approach is passivity. The other is creative and subjective, like Sartre’s model of perception. When I was in college, the faculty was divided into the Freudian team against the New School of modern theory. I was caught right in the middle of it. For the first half of my schooling I was more Continental and for the rest of it, psychodynamic. I guess now I can pick the identity I like better. It’s also doable to choose neither one.

If my life depended on it, I’d trust Aristotle to be accurate on reality.

Ten twenty.

The rain has begun…

Tango

Nine thirty AM.

I’m beginning to see some social friction growing for two places up and down Maxwell Road. For some reason, the customers that come to the little market in the morning have become rather rough. A different bunch is attracted to the business, and I’m liking it less and less when I have to go there for my daily groceries. Meanwhile, attitudes at my church are divided among the parish while the pastor keeps going his own way and screw the feedback. A lot can happen during a hiatus of three months. Irrelevantly, the song in my head is “Tango” by Igor Stravinsky. Or maybe not so off the wall, in that social life is like a dance; but it’s an apple cart that can be upset. I just called my sister but she was eating breakfast, so I suggested calling back in twenty minutes. For my walk this morning it rained, though it wasn’t heavy. I carried my umbrella without using it. I feel like I can negotiate almost anything, especially by the use of language to communicate with others. And yet, words can do as much harm as good, depending on time and place. It might be a weird kind of day today.

Noon thirty.

I’m now off the phone with my sister. It was a two hour rambling marathon, with her doing all the talking, going off on tangents infinitely, and I just saying uh huh a lot. In the meantime it’s begun to rain in heavy earnest. Thankfully I don’t have to go anywhere else today. At least for the rest of the day I have some free time; maybe from today until Sunday. Let it rain… 

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… 

Recovery

Quarter of nine at night.

There’s still twilight outside that I can see from my position. This afternoon I caught myself doing too much second guessing of other people’s thoughts on everything. The fact is that no one is clairvoyant enough to do that: telepathy doesn’t exist in real human experience. So I began to ponder what ever happened to cognitive therapy, since it was pretty big four years ago and very effective because it was realistic and based on evidence. People are less depressed when they are disabused of their distorted thinking. And, mind reading is an example of a cognitive distortion. First you catch yourself doing it, then you counter the distorted thought with a more rational one, one that is more realistic.

I hate to see a good method abandoned in favor of much older and less effective ones; yet this is the debate of reason versus romance that has gone on for more than three centuries. I’ve never seen a homeopathic remedy be very useful, especially against a disorder like schizophrenia: it makes no sense to fight delusions with more delusions. I guess it depends on the place of imagination, its meaning and its utility. I struggle when I pick up an author like Samuel Taylor Coleridge: I get vertigo from being lost in a misty fantasy of unnecessary abstraction, so I’m better off to avoid this stuff. The romance tends to sneak its way into even what we call science. It keeps us human and organic to use our imaginations, so probably the solution is a state of balance.

Schizophrenia is an extreme wherein imagination exceeds the boundaries of reality. But I don’t see much of that around me anymore. I remember when the streets at night were like rivers in hell, shrouded in fog that stank of brimstone. With age and with drug therapy, those things have sort of vanished in thin air. I’ve also grown callous to them over time.

Vision

Nine twenty five.

The cold I caught a week ago is nearly gone, though I still have mental fog and floaters in my vision. Gloria brought back my book on Australian aborigines, having read the whole thing. I sit here, convalescent, while she vacuums the carpets and hardwood floor.

Noon.

She’s gone again till Tuesday, and on my end, I feel very weak and still sick. But my thinker isn’t busted, at least not yet. The rain began in earnest about an hour ago, so now the scene has a silvery sheen mixed with the verdant flora; it’s a blur of green and gray. A while back I thought of the understated style of Paul Bowles as it relates to the indifference of nature and the cosmos. The gray ambiguity is everywhere with us, but it’s also up to people to define our existence and form it above the shapeless chaos. The microcosm, man, has decayed because the universe no longer makes sense. But it’s really the other way around: we have to exalt what is beautiful in ourselves and paint the Void with it. I’ve dreamed something like this before. The idea is nothing new since the time Faulkner started writing almost a century ago… The rain has ceased falling temporarily, but the meaning of it depends on my imagination. And a collective imagination can make the difference between the Pit and a life worth living… I frequently feel tempted to bend my steps back to church. But this means subordination to the pastor’s vision, and he is only a mortal like everybody. It’s so hard to know what to do. Just keep writing…

Money

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?

Ubiquity

Ten thirty at night.

It must be raining harder now because I can hear it in the darkness outside. When I was three years old I assumed that rain in one place meant it was raining everyplace. One day I said this to my mother. She chuckled and explained to me the truth of the weather, and that was my first step away from egocentrism. Every child goes through this stage, and if they don’t, then there’s something wrong. It is similar to the attitude that “the world is my picture book” that you find in Schopenhauer and in Poe’s Eureka. Objects exist as long as I am looking at them. But the fact is that they exist even without your perception of them. No individual is the center of the universe. It’s a short trip from Jung’s synchronicity to psychotic delusions of reference in which everything pertains to you alone. It’s a kind of radical subjectivism. I guess some people can live that way, and some do indeed. They exist in a condition of make believe where anything is possible, from flying reindeer to the resurrection of the body even after cremation. I wonder how they perceive the rain; is it ubiquitous to them, as to a three year old?