Untouchable

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… 

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Mirage

Three thirty.

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? 

The Fountain

Seven forty.

I saw the sun as I walked outside, a big crimson coin in the gray east. Masks are required again at the store as of yesterday. They posted two signs in the glass of the door. I got my new book of Keats in the mail today, making a stark contrast to the dirty reality of the neighborhood streets I am prisoner of. I’m considering going to Barnes & Noble someday soon to hang out for an hour and try to meet some people. A much more refreshing atmosphere than psychiatric rehab or church, replete with the scent of new books and new ideas. It would be an oasis in the intellectual desert everywhere else, at least I hope. All I can find around here are the butt ends and debris of Christianity, the dust of the sidewalk. The world is ready for something better than the old trash— or is everything recycled and repeated endlessly?… The air outside is amber or umber, a glowing orange like the atmosphere of Mars. People don’t notice it much, or they don’t say anything. And now it’s time to feed my dog.

Quarter of nine. I opened the mailer with the book inside: a little shopworn, from the printing of 2003. The book is not immaculate, but the verse it contains is. I don’t know; maybe I’m just a fool for trying to transcend a world of ashes and old Snapple bottles. Can the old be young again? What was it that Ponce de Leon was looking for? It seems to me that the whole world needs rebirth and renewal; a reveille… a Renaissance. 

Cheap Friday

Nine ten.

My mind always tends to dichotomize, I don’t know why. It could be schizophrenia or my college training. But I’m okay as long as I don’t think. I’ve just gone to the store, a bit later than normal. Michelle was worried about a customer who was wasted on some drug and loitering by the storefront. For a change I bought an Arizona tea, raspberry flavor. Only a dollar. Funny but I didn’t see any women customers in the market today. Aesop’s mood is better this morning than a few days ago. I partly regret that I left the band with Mike and Ron, yet I know my reasons were good. In fact I was dreaming about that this morning. Mike had said, very reasonably, that he did music to have fun. But it’s not very fun when the drugs get in the way of making music… The air outside is still very smoky and gross. The sun that comes through is amber colored. After a while I think I’ll dig out my hybrid SX bass and mess around with it. I bought it ten years ago from Rondo Music for dirt cheap. It reminds me of better times for the world… and for rock and roll.

Ten forty. And yet a lot of that was an illusion, facilitated by alcoholism. I remember a ride I took to see my psychiatrist in February 2014. There was snow on the ground, snow in the parking lot. Seems like a billion years ago. Visits with him were getting tense, and I dreaded going. Orchestrated versions of The Beatles in the waiting room. I stared out the windows, thinking of my parents who were gone and wondering what my doctor really expected of me. Was it realistic? Would he have accepted that I was doing the best I could?

On second thought, I might retire the old SX bass. 

Eternal Truth

Quarter after eleven.

The heat has an impact on me with or without air conditioning, but I’m very fortunate to be as comfortable as I am. The email scammer tried to get a response from me early this morning. I trashed his message without opening it. Skeptics of the virus think it’s cute not to wear a mask in public. They make jokes about getting away with it, as if the compliers were stupid. It’s an individual thing, though it would benefit us if everybody played by the same rules. Michelle the store clerk wears a mask because she has diabetes. I wear one because someone in my family was sick with Covid…

I was thinking again that people need more beauty in their lives. Are beauty and truth allied with each other or rather at odds? Reality is pretty ugly today, but reality and truth are different things. Truth is eternal, reality transitory. And if truth doesn’t exist then we’re screwed. My mind goes to the rock band Yes and their 1996 release Keys to Ascension. “How did heaven begin?” Evidently we created it in a manner like William Blake, by sheer mental fight and poetic language. In All Religions Are One he suggests that the True Man is the same as the Poetic Genius… But it’s hard to write about this when my Romantic faith is flimsy, my conviction shaky. Also it’s difficult to pull it off all alone. Is anybody else with me?

Noon hour. The air quality is bad today; they say it’s unhealthy to sensitive groups. Another intrusive fact… Now they’re saying it’s unhealthy for everyone… Obviously it’s from wildfire smoke. I just looked it up on the internet. I only hope it won’t be like the situation last September. 

Decisions & Dreams

Noon hour.

I wish I felt better than I do today. I’ve been reading a sci-fi short novel by Pohl and Kornbluth, full of wild action and adventure. It gives me interesting dreams at night sometimes of being kidnapped or shanghaied and left for dead by some enemies. Maybe I can finish it today or tomorrow. The novel is part of a set of volumes I bought last September for my sobriety birthday. The next birthday is just next month: four years clean and sober. I think I’m anticipating it… Mike is bringing my stuff back at one o’clock, and then the business is pretty much finished.

Four twenty five. I did a lot of reading in The Space Merchants. When I put the book down, it suddenly hit me: I quit the band! That’s a huge move for me, not without regrets. But then I remember that last practice that was such a disaster because of substance abuse. It wasn’t my fault; they sabotaged themselves and wasted my time a week ago.

Quarter of ten.

I slept or slumbered about four hours. It was an interesting kind of day today, and Sunday night is usually rather dead. One of the most memorable books I ever read was Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny when I was fifteen and a high school sophomore. My parents didn’t care what I read, and besides, I was old enough to choose my own reading material. It was weird how out of touch with reality my parents were; just thoughtlessly marking time with whiskey and cigarettes and apathetic about everything. I guess they weren’t very smart; but I can say one thing good for them. They bought this house and paid it off before dying so I wouldn’t have to worry about having shelter. And so I could go on dreaming little dreams and big dreams of faraway places and things like the perfect realm of Amber in the Zelazny book. And who’s to say who is out of touch with reality? We all need a good escape now and then: a dream to implement, which is the meaning of Blake’s Poetic Genius. Whatever proceeds from this is right. It builds Jerusalem on England’s green and pleasant land. It takes you on the long road trip with Corwin and Random to the forest where Julian hunts you down on the way to the palace of Amber. The perfect realm is a place inside your head. 

Gray May Basket

Seven thirty.

It rained during the night. The forecast says no rain today, but the clouds look quite gray. I got a good sleep for a change. I got up in the small hours and read to the end of Symposium. I feel like I’m getting another chance to do what I’d always wanted to do, which is to make music with my buddies. The only thing that could thwart this is substance abuse. Life for an active alcoholic tends to crumble to ruin, as I’ve seen firsthand. It’s kind of ironic how Oregon has legalized marijuana, since this can be a drug of demise like alcohol.

Quarter of nine. My mood was rather weird on my outing to the store, as I turned over thoughts about criminal activity and declining morals. I saw a number tattooed to the back of the cashier’s neck and began to wonder. And then I almost inadvertently stole a bottle of pain medication that was in the bottom of my shopping bag. It is strange how our thinking modifies our perception from moment to moment, as Wordsworth describes in The Prelude. As if events in the world were fitted to the workings of the human mind, or perhaps reality is completely projected by the latter. It started to rain lightly when I was coming home, so my rain jacket was a good call. On my own street, maybe five cars were parked in front of Betty’s old house, and again I felt suspicious. The blinds were all closed in everyone’s front window, and I observed that my front lawn is in need of a mowing. Presiding over the whole scene was this sense of gray ambiguity from the cloud cover and also from my own vision. An odd sort of May Day morning. 

Waking to Sleep

One fifty. I expect Heidi to call very soon. I was just writing in my blank book about the same old ontological problem of philosophy and whether people have free will or not. Not sure why it matters, yet I pursue the question anyway.

Near midnight. If I just start writing I should arrive somewhere eventually. Aesop is getting himself a drink of water and nudging his dry food. After a while I might give him a fresh bone from the pantry. How does reality relate to the process of writing— or perhaps writing creates reality, or sort of transfuses it as in “The Oval Portrait” by Edgar Allan Poe? Then everyone who creates has a vampiric relation with reality, sucking the lifeblood out of it and into language and human knowledge… Just an idea. What would Mallarme say about it? Or Borges? Human knowledge must be something different from things as they are, like in “The Man with the Blue Guitar.” But the real test is the undiscovered country over the threshold of life. Did we really create a hereafter for ourselves? “How did heaven begin?” The mind’s power to make new things out of the old is remarkable. The potential of a very strong wish is as yet immeasurable… but should we neglect the earth for our implausible dream of eternal life? We can invert the order of things all we want, but the hard fact is old mortality. 

No Alibi but Freedom

Eleven thirty five. Sometimes the sunshine gets me down. It makes me want to drink beer again and forget reality. Everyday life is never easy for me. I long for old friends and the few lovers I once had. And the future is a blank sheet of paper, a complete unknown that is actualized with each succeeding word. Time doesn’t make sense until you review the entire page, and sometimes the whole book. History wants to say something to us, to give us friendly advice to inform our decisions. Funny thing, but Tim is a high school history teacher. I must be anticipating our talk this afternoon. Often while I write I can see through to the subtext, a psychological process under the surface. The real issues drive the generalizations I make.

Noon thirty. I feel sort of tired, but really I’m feeling anxious and nervous… Outside, there’s no wind or breeze. I imagine it’s fairly warm. It’s been an uncomfortable week for me, ever since I skipped church last Sunday. I don’t want to do this anymore. Times have changed. The nation has a new leader and the general climate is very different now… I just want to make my music and be left alone by moral spiritual stuff. I make my own decisions and I don’t depend on anyone else to do my thinking. I’m sick of sermons and preaching… and tithing. What does the church want from me? It seems they want my very soul.

Quarter of two. I took an ibuprofen for my back pain. The sunshine continues to do something to me. It addles my wits and makes me irrational. I want an alibi from my life, from the inside of my head. I wonder how Heidi is doing this week? I crave a 12 pack of beer, something to rocket me to the moon temporarily. I counter that by pondering responsibility for my existence minute by minute. My choices created this position I’m in right now. To deny this truth is bad faith. And that’s the amazing thing about philosophy, how it takes precedence over ordinary reality. There’s no schema in your mind that can’t be questioned and replaced, again and again. If common sense has its roots in Aristotle, then can it as easily be challenged by a Platonic worldview? How many idealists are there running around today? 

This Dark Room…

Ten fifty. Deb checked out my purchases at the store. I asked her if she’d done any artwork since I last saw her. She said she hadn’t had time, due to housekeeping, gardening, and mowing the lawn. But she said she has a little granddaughter who does well in art at school, promising to be another artist in the family. I told her that my band had been practicing, though the music venues are mostly closed and we can’t gig yet. Funny that she encouraged me to do music but gives herself an alibi from her art. My attitude is to say where there’s a will there’s a way. If you want something badly enough you can attain it, because within certain parameters we’re all free and responsible. But I spared Deb this philosophy and said I just have screwed up priorities.

The weather is fantastic today. My maple tree is budding leaves while the oak is still bare. The sunshine makes me feel something I can’t put my finger on; probably a memory of a girlfriend ten years ago. I also miss my brother, but it’s very good that my sister and I have a rapport now. Talking with her makes me think, What do I know? Just a lot of intellectual bric a brac with no cornerstone to unify it all. On the other hand, does she know any better than I do? Perhaps we’re all completely in the dark. Even on the sunniest day, the truth still hides, and it’s a toss up between realism and idealism. If there’s a spiritual universe, we only see its shadow, and these appearances are just photo negatives of reality. The truth is unavailable to us, at least for today, so we enjoy the illusion until the photos are developed out of this dark room.