Quarter of eight.
We’ve got rain showers today. This is better than the lifeless weather of the last few days. I have to go to the pharmacy for my prescription tomorrow or Friday. Also I should go to the bank soon. For some reason I’ve had ideas that are more spiritual than realistic lately, but I want to shake them. I don’t know what drove me to read a few things out of my ordinary. Yesterday I thought about Dostoevsky all over again: Karamazov to me is the battleground for religion and materialism. It’s possible that I’m not doing so well with the schizophrenia. A lot of people exist in a half world between imagination and reality, not knowing their empirical science, hence the difference between fiction and fact. Today I just want to go out and direct my senses outward, appreciating the support of ordinary objects and natural things. In other words, be an anti poet for just a day. Ever since Christmas Eve my dreams have gone out of control. Part of me says why not let fantasy run amok, but I know it’s really not healthy to allow it to overgrow my logic… Yesterday I took a risk on the potato salad and it turned out great. The time before, the salad was inedible so I had to toss it out. Nobody will consider this of vast importance…
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?
It’s only a little bit foggy, and I felt a few drops of moisture on my walk. The only thing like Halloween was the crows, but you can see them any time of year. I noticed a couple of cars that were electric by their hum and I half wished I could get one for myself. Inside the market was rather cosy and comfortable. I observe what a realist I’ve become in the last ten years; hardly any imagination, but I’d like to change back to how I used to be. Or maybe I’m okay as I am. I see squirrels everywhere on my street, and hear them even more, rustling in tree branches and drumming on the roof. I haven’t read Madame Bovary, though I understand it’s about a married woman’s fantasy life when she feels trapped by her circumstances. It may not be worth my time. I think it’s a desirable thing to cultivate consciousness and not stagnate with unconscious daydreams. It’s a puzzle for me to solve. Meanwhile Aesop is getting hungry, and mouths to feed will always be the reality.
Ten o’clock. It continues cloudy. I saw a bird with an elongated tail that I believe was a woodpecker fly across the street in front of me. Are we more entertained by a horse with wings or a man with the head of a bull?… Part of me wants to take Andersen’s fairytales off the shelf. The other side of me is curious about Thomas Paine’s writings. Somewhere at the rainbow’s end the two shall meet and mingle their wisdom like a great treasure.
Four o’clock in the morning.
I took a Vraylar pill tonight and feel pretty good, except I’m not sleepy now. I have to make up my mind about going to volunteer this morning. I’ll probably be doing well to get to church on Sunday, so don’t sweat it. I can be my own judge. Today, the store doesn’t open until seven o’clock. Also it takes longer for the daylight to dawn. For these reasons I might as well sleep in as long as I want. Suddenly it’s a flood of Debussy’s orchestral music, especially “Fetes” from the Nocturnes. I hear an arrangement of his Reverie as well, such a swelling, crushing little piece of music: and I remember being 25 years old again, with these sounds still fresh in my brain. I had a volunteer job with the American Cancer Society. I helped them move locations from Pearl Street to Oakmont Way, schlepping a lot of stuff in the late summer or early fall. The word “volunteer” must have called up this memory from long ago.
Although my conscience says I should go to the food pantry and help out, I still don’t feel very great this morning and want to rest and regroup.
I’ve been to the store and back. Feeling kind of tired, and I know that the church has expectations of me; but it’s not worth it to feel guilty. I’m always just inches from quitting the congregation anyway… There’s not much intelligent life in this sector of the city. How can people read a book like Moby Dick or Huckleberry Finn and still make it consistent with Christianity? I guess they place information in different buckets and don’t try to unify it to coherence. The contradictions are allowed to coexist in their minds; but that would drive me insane. I couldn’t be like Montaigne. All of the disconnected bits and fragments of ideas beg to be stitched together in a worldview, a system, and what is incompatible with it gets tossed out. I’m not sure where I learned to do this, except I know it was in school. It’s just the way I impose sense on reality; although you know, the ones who think like Montaigne may be onto something. The truth is that reality is full of contradictions and incoherence and downright illogic.
Quarter of nine. Some people can live like an encyclopedia, with the odds and ends of information scattered about their brain. They keep their religion in a lockbox separate from everything else and let the particulars dangle, disconnected, disunited. I don’t know if I could ever do that… The sky is silver like mercury with a little sun peeking through. I’ve decided to stay home today. Maybe I’ll peruse my volume of Michel de Montaigne to see what I’ve been missing.
I guess I don’t feel very good today, but I still will say what I mean to say, and disregard others who don’t like it. I don’t understand why there are so many Christians in the world currently. It’s like the only option for a belief system anymore, anywhere you go, and frankly it gets on my nerves… My last post at least rang true for a few people. It should do so especially for people without a dime, who are disadvantaged and dumped on by the all time winners in life. Suddenly I think of the novel Native Son, which I haven’t read yet but I probably should. Meanwhile I can read from the Harlem Renaissance books I have on hand and just try to be more open to what the so-called minorities experience.
Two twenty. I found those books on my shelf. Somebody needs to reach out and bridge the gap with people of color now, or else it may never happen again… The sky is smoky white from forest fires. I ought to take a break from the Internet for a little while and pick up a book.
I figure that, whatever happens, I’ll be okay with it. I’m too old to have a brilliant future ahead of me. Glory seeking isn’t important to me anyway. Pandemic be hanged, we have to get along with each other and try to do good. When you see something that is absolutely wrong, shouldn’t you do something to try to fix it? Divided we fall, like the systems of an organism. If one system fails, then the whole body dies, because of interdependence. This is a thing everyone should feel intuitively. Sometimes it takes a review, like going over our facts of math and science. The reality is often ugly, yet we know what is right and what needs to be done to make it more beautiful, closer to the Ideal. It’s the difference between descriptive and prescriptive: the facts just sit there, while the truth wants to make them better…
I got up at four o’clock this morning for a bit and was so sedated that my vision was double. Dunno how I feel right now, but at least I can focus my eyes. Maybe it was more than the sedation; maybe I was under a lot of stress from the salon people. But after this morning I can go back to being myself again… I just fed Aesop. The air outside looks smoky. Can we ever predict how a day will go? Some things we can infer from day to day, for instance that there will be a tomorrow. But really, nothing is a given, and nothing is promised. Sometimes the memories of my childhood are quite clear, but others they only tease the edge of my mind. When I was three years old, my parents used to take me to the Barbecue Pit in Salem for roast beef sandwiches and a side of spaghetti. Then one day during the summer of 1997, my dad and I took a trip up to Portland, stopping for lunch at the same place. It seemed that nothing had changed since 1970. I think Dad was feeding his nostalgia for a time when he had a big shot job at the State Capitol.
Nine twenty five. He was probably dreaming of what might have been had his job continued, or just regretting that it didn’t… “Gaze into your omphalos.” Dad seems like a stranger to me now, just another person who used to be in the world. Or maybe I’ve switched off my feelings towards him? I know there’s a reason why I think of him whenever September comes around. It’s also going to be Labor Day this weekend, which was once fatal for my sobriety. There are so many people from the past that I miss today. Chemistry is an odd thing, pushing and pulling us together and apart. Even the strongest ties can become frail and eventually break.
I got my haircut done. I didn’t hear any very interesting conversation; just cliches about So and So being selfish and unchristian, when the accusers hadn’t read the Bible at all nor understood the sermons in church. The only hint of selflessness by Jesus is his sacrifice of his own life to redeem all of humankind for our sins. He never said to be unselfish; he only commanded us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves… At the market I stood behind a Black guy who compulsively checked his card balance but then didn’t buy anything from Michelle. She told me later that he always does that. I fell in behind him on the sidewalk going home, and he was still obsessing about his card. He probably had OCD or something close to it. There are a million of us like that. And all the street can offer you is a lesson out of the New Testament, sprouting up the Word from the ashy gray landscape as a forlorn hope, not to say a promise.
Nine thirty five.
I took a nap from five until nine o’clock and had some complicated dreams that tended to irritate me. They were not the fairytale like dreams I had in my late twenties, but were realistic and a bit exasperating. Not even my dreams gratify my desires anymore, but seek solutions to puzzles small or great. If Tim will drive me tomorrow, then I’m going to church to be with friends. The strange thing is how you can go to church and not necessarily agree with the ideas. Maybe it just depends on the particular church you attend. I think the truth is that people don’t think for themselves at all, or if they do, then they don’t speak up. No one seems to care what the truth is— and I find this quite alarming for America’s intellectual future. I just remembered the content of one of my dreams. It started with playing a song with others called “And the Angels Sing,” familiar to me from the Herb Alpert version. I began playing the drum part, followed by the others I’d just met. Then it became a situation of moving stuff between houses across the street from each other. My dad was annoyed by our schlepping and tried to interfere. But I believe the music went on anyway. Everything took place at night, and the night had a mystic feel to it, full of the romance of the stars in the sky, like something intelligent and spectrally alive. And I’m reminded of a French word Mallarme uses for “stars,” related to the symbol we use called an “asterisk” or more commonly a “star:” the word is the original Greek aster, and it has always signified star, and maybe always will.
Quarter of nine.
It would be so nice to roll back time ten years, to when I had a great European friend. I was very privileged to be with the enlightened people. But you know, all during that time I couldn’t stop drinking, even though it was killing me. My will was to maximize pleasure for myself, and also it was like being in heaven. I thought, Why not give myself what I want? The authenticity of this was all the rationale I needed to drink to oblivion and bliss. Now, I don’t know what keeps me sober; I just do it. Perhaps there’s a satisfaction in meeting the challenge of life with a clear head. Or maybe I’ve wanted to be sane for the whole time. Today I’ve come into my own while the world goes down the tubes, like the events of “A Descent into the Maelstrom.”
Quarter of ten. Sole survivor of a shipwreck… Well the weather is quite beautiful this morning, clemently cool. It is only human beings that can mess it up, but I won’t let them get me down. Aesop’s mood is pretty good today. Someone just fired up a lawn mower on my street. If my body doesn’t cooperate with me, then I might have to give up playing the bass guitar… So many snafus in everyday life; we wish for escape to an ideal place on the prismatic wings of a dream. What keeps us from flying there? Maybe it’s the call of duty, a responsibility to the world as it is. Strapped to the chair, we watch the series of images on a big screen. Or like Odysseus, we are bound to the mast so we can listen to the Sirens’ song. Contemporary life is crazy.
Quarter of eleven. Is it worth it to throw those magic beans out the window and see the colossal beanstalk sprout up to the sky? What will Jack find above the clouds: a palace with rich giants living inside? And a hen that lays eggs of gold…
One o’clock. Suddenly I remember how I used to be my mother’s hero. I could do no wrong, and she spoiled me with professional quality music gear. Times were more prosperous than now for everybody. I miss my old friends in the music trade. I also miss seeing my brother for our notorious trips to the Oregon Coast, where we guzzled beer and watched the breakers roll in. I miss the old Safeway store next to the Bi Mart on River Road… But it couldn’t endure forever, because even our time in heaven is a lease that expires. What goes up must come down… unless it’s a bird to fly away.
Quarter after seven.
I stopped and chatted with Kat for about ten minutes on my way to the store. I asked her about the for sale sign I had seen in her yard. It was not a hallucination: they plan to sell the house, and meanwhile they are building their own home that will be ready in December or January. Then I suppose the “ghost truck” with Confederate flag plates next to Derek’s house had been real as well— and the times are as crazy as I am… I have an appointment for a lab today at the hematologist.
Somehow, my brain started playing “Josie” by Steely Dan. I was thinking of the lines ending in “live wire” and “eyes on fire,” and then I heard the bass line by Chuck Rainey: so utterly cool with Becker’s rhythm guitar, like something untouchable and perfect. I guess there’s nothing more I can add to that…
I made an accidental discovery today: when I skip the Vraylar, my back pain improves; therefore the pain is a side effect of the medication. I saw no reason why I couldn’t pick up some of the Snapple bottles from the floor, so I did four bags full of them. Also I emailed my prescriber regarding the Vraylar, and meanwhile I won’t take more of it… I may go to church tomorrow morning if I feel good enough. But it might be rather stressful for me, and I don’t really agree with religious belief. I leave the decision until tomorrow. I think I’m quite tired of repressing my humanity for a superstitious illusion. I shouldn’t have to wear a hair shirt or anything else to mortify the flesh, etc etc. I’d rather be alive from the neck down as well as the neck up. The body needs to breathe… The sun is out but the air outside is still smoky.
Seven thirty five. I rested in bed without going to sleep. My back pain is still better than usual, though it could be due to the heat. So I don’t know whether to stop the Vraylar or not. Maybe tomorrow I’ll get some reading done in John Keats, enough to be well versed. Occasional acorns hit the roof of the house and patio cover, eliciting a growl from Aesop until I explain it to him. This morning I paid my utility bill: under a hundred dollars, and I’d been running the air conditioner a lot. It seems that to simply live is to pollute the environment; how many chlorofluorocarbons does my ac release into the atmosphere? And the pollution creates a feedback loop, for the hotter it gets, the more you need the air conditioner. Some genius will figure it out… In general, life is imperfect, with the mirage of heaven being a very long distance away, only to move again when you get there. Already with the nightingale, tender is the night; but do we share that space with the bird by the power of its song?