Thursday Thoughts

Quarter of seven.

At midnight last night I spun the disc of Rubber Soul and really enjoyed it. The vocal harmony on “Nowhere Man” sounds awesome remastered. I love the following lines:

Nowhere Man, don’t worry

Take your time, don’t hurry

Leave it all till somebody else lends you a hand

The pastor of the Lutheran church is a huge Beatles fan. I wonder if I should go see him this Sunday morning? But you know, my life keeps changing, and I don’t feel very religious anymore. Today I have DDA group again, and this program is hardly religious at all. They must’ve figured out that homeopathy doesn’t work for schizophrenia. If you have religious delusions, why fight them with more religion? I remember when psychiatric rehabilitation was a very uncomfortable thing… The sun is coming out, and pretty soon I’ll take off to the store. One of my core beliefs, from the time I was in junior high school, is free will, due to the song by Rush. Thomas Hardy held just the opposite opinion, which is fatalism, but this depends on the universe being designed by an intelligence. I think it’s desirable to believe in your own responsibility and be an active agent. Passivity doesn’t conduce to personal happiness. We have to legislate the world ourselves by what we do… and this is what democracy is all about. 

Simplicity

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. 

Exile

Seven twenty five. Today ought to be lighter duty than yesterday. Only my phone appointment with Heidi this afternoon. I want my Snapples, so I’ll get to the market pretty soon. I rescheduled with Rebecca yesterday because I just wasn’t feeling up for talking about hiring a helper. Late last night I texted with Mike for an hour. Today I just want to be myself, and with Heidi I can do exactly that.

Eight twenty. It was quite early, so I met with very few people out of the house. It’s sunny now, contrary to the weather forecast. I’m already looking forward to music this Saturday. I really like to play, to jam, to lock with the drummer and make a groove pocket. It’s nice when the barrier of language is overcome and the music takes over. I hope I feel up to it after my vaccination on Thursday… Michelle wore her pink Tom and Jerry shirt today, and the distributors were just arriving. There was nothing out of the ordinary this morning. I felt the urge to pretend that the past was similar to today, to sort of dwell in nostalgia, but I resisted this and walked in the door. The past has certainty to recommend it, whereas the present is still in the making— and I’m part of the creative process of history. Everyone is. It’s a scary responsibility… The forecast missed the mark, for it’s still clear blue sky. Nobody knows what the future holds.

Nine twenty five. Most people want to repeat pleasant experiences. When we get burned, we avoid the hot stove. Alcoholism is a pleasure dome, a Xanadu away from reality. And when you leave Eldorado, there’s no way back to the same bliss. The Golden Age is far behind us. We were expelled from Eden. All of these names refer to the same utopia. 

Ruby Slippers

Six fifty five.

I guess I’m done sleeping for this morning. I’d be too tired to go to church, but the store opens in just a few minutes, so I can go get food for Aesop and me, and the obligatory Snapple tea.

Eight twenty five. I got some bad news in the mail. Someone used my identity to file income taxes this year. I’ll have to straighten it out tomorrow morning… The rain just missed me again today, and even at that, there isn’t much. I’ve been reading Sense and Sensibility since yesterday afternoon. Jane Austen’s writing calls to my mind my old friend Kate. In September of 2012 I reread Pride and Prejudice and discussed it with her. That was before I had Aesop, and my pug had just been euthanized in the summer. The alcohol addiction still controlled my life. As long as I had money, I spent it on beer. Evidently I had a reason to drink, or else I wouldn’t have done it. Does it make sense to say the addiction controlled me, or instead did I always have the freedom to quit drinking? Sort of like Dorothy’s ruby slippers: she always had the power to return home from Oz, from technicolor to black and white. She just didn’t know how to use the magic…

Nine twenty. The desire to stop drinking comes from within, and it must be strong. You must want sobriety more than anything else, and be willing to sacrifice some things for it. Perhaps what you give up returns to you later, and without the addiction… It gives me pleasure to read Jane Austen and be reminded of the qualities that go into mental wellness. The character Elinor, the rational one, is very evidence based. She doesn’t assume anything or jump to conclusions. She is realistic, the very opposite of fanciful and impulsive. In many ways she is the cognitive therapist’s ideal… I just noticed how quiet it is around here. I guess that’s why I don’t care much for Sundays. 

Arrivals

Noon hour. My bass came UPS a little before eleven o’clock and then I opened it up and played it for 45 minutes or so. It has a three way selector switch for different pickup modes. It sounds the best in series, I think. And the bucking pickup happens to be very loud and boomy. They put wimpy strings on the bass, but I change them anyway. Overall it sounds pretty cool! I like the finish color: Irish Ale, just a clear dark red over swamp ash.

It’s still perfect weather, sunny and not too warm. I already had my lunch, and I’m still hungry. This day with this weather reminds me of something I can’t put my finger on. Somehow it’s like the 1990’s again, and I feel quite content this way. Of course I miss my parents and my old friends, but it’s enough to think of them. Finally it looks like life is settling down and it’s safer for people to go out and socialize. We’re in much better hands than we were for the last four years. I feel like a Pepsi or something. I could go get a liter of soda for the joy of it.

Four o’clock. So I went out and got a Pepsi and saw Michelle, Cathy, and on the way back, Karen. This last made me an appointment for a haircut on Monday morning. When I got home I had about half of my Pepsi two liter and then played my Kiloton bass again: it definitely sounds awesome in series mode. I noodled around and picked out the Hungarian Rhapsody, plus a song by Chick Corea from Light Years. This bass is the best one I’ve got now, so it’ll be my main axe for a while.

The color of the sunshine in the late afternoon seems rather mellow, and more summery than springlike. It’s 75 degrees out. It just doesn’t feel like April to me. But I didn’t use to be sober years ago during the spring, so I have no point of reference for comparison. Beginning at three o’clock, I would start drinking like a fish and put on The Beatles; have a big bacchanalian party for one person and his dog. It was really no way to live because I didn’t know what was going on in the world, or I was numb to what was happening. My mind was ruled by crazy rationales and paranoia, even delusions of telepathy or thought broadcasting. I was miserable and out of touch with reality. But today, it feels so much better to be free from more than one kind of oppression and injustice in my life. I am my own ship’s master and commander, steering myself toward what’s right for me. 

World in Recovery

Seven thirty.

I just dreamed about Vicki from the little store on Maxwell Road, except she doesn’t work there anymore. Now she’s a Covid sanitizer for the school district. She is a cog in the machine like everyone else, going where the money is. She used to believe she could express anything she wanted on the job… until her job changed. I guess money speaks louder than words. Could there be exceptions? What kind of chaos would a cashless society be?… Up to two o’clock this morning I listened to Moving Pictures, followed by certain tracks from Light Years by Chick Corea Elektric Band. The second CD called to mind my working stint around 2005 in the summertime.

Ten o five. It’s kind of inexplicable how alcoholism ruins lives, like a form of kryptonite to any would be superhero. The opposite process, recovery, is equally mysterious, but it seems to be a matter of time and letting nature do its job. I’ve been doing recovery for three years and seven months, and right now it feels like a spurt of health has been granted. Today the weather is beautiful yet again. I had a good conversation with my sister from eight until nine o’clock, then gave Aesop breakfast. I was pleased to see Michelle back to work this morning. She was wearing an orange sweatshirt with a black apron, which happen to be the colors for Oregon State University. I also saw a Black man in the store, and even an Asian guy looking at the newspapers. Meanwhile, Roger still drives the old Ford truck with Trump stuck to the rear window. My own BLM yard sign still stands as well. The neighbors on my street are peculiarly paranoid and unfriendly with each other; very selfish, stingy conservatives with hearts the size of the Grinch. I really deplore their attitude, but I own this house and am quite stuck with living here. But Mike’s house is only a stone’s throw away from me. Every Saturday I am privileged to make my little pilgrimage to our studio where the world doesn’t intrude too much; where the world is more like a stage. 

Thirty Years / Necessity

Nine o’clock.

Still another clear and beautiful day. I bought Aesop’s wet dog food an hour ago, ground beef and chicken. I got myself an extra Snapple tea to take to practice this afternoon. It should fit in my gig bag with my bass. Sort of by accident, I was wearing both a Duck T-shirt and a Duck mask to the store, but then Melissa also wore a Duck sweatshirt. As I was reading a few pages of Symposium last night, I realized how alcoholic the university lifestyle was, a tradition that started with the Greeks. First they would have dinner and then would proceed to get wasted on wine while they talked philosophy. It seems such an artificial mode of existence to depend on alcohol for any kind of feeling and profound thinking. And when you become addicted to it, your life goes down the tubes and you lose everything you had. On the flip side, if you stop drinking in time, your life will be restored to you. Despite Plato, I still love philosophy, especially the modern tradition begun by Descartes in the 17th Century. College was a lot of fun, and yet I got there rather unintentionally. At 18 years of age, I couldn’t make my own decisions on what I wanted to be. But I don’t think I would change my past even if I could. The real derailment was my illness at 24 years old. And I just realized that it was 30 years ago when I became sick. I stuck with the same psychiatrist for 26 years and never seemed to get anywhere. I took a medication that didn’t work very well. But now, on the new one, and minus the alcohol, I feel as though I had rejoined with who I was in 1991 or maybe a little earlier.

Every day when the sun shines, it appears brighter to me than ever before, which suggests how I am healing from the illness. As far as the idea of free will, sometimes adversities hit us that are out of our control. With me it’s been a very long waiting game for this new drug called Vraylar; though I wonder if the change in my fortunes can be entirely attributed to the medication. My big decision to quit drinking happened a year before I actually did that. Maybe there’s simply a time for everything, nor could it be otherwise; like a kind of necessity, another word for fate. In two parallel worlds, fate and free will both hold true at the same time. Whatever the truth is, the process of living is fascinating to observe in action. 

No Surprise

Nine forty.

I just looked at the forecast for next week: sunny every day. Aesop is nosing through his dry food, playing with it. He wants water, so I tell him 18 minutes and he understands me. Today is cloudy but it isn’t dark like the wintertime. I’ve bought my two Snapples and things to eat for the day. I had some trouble keeping my bandanna on my face; the knot in back kept coming undone and I feared the whole thing would hit the ground. I stood in the parking lot farting with it until it was safe. The store offered two kinds of potato salad, one from the deli next door and the other one packaged by a larger company. I went with the latter because I knew it had sweet pickles and pimento. Melissa said she was looking forward to a nap after work. 

As I approached the parking lot from the sidewalk I thought of my old Scottish friend, a person with excellent common sense with whom I shared an interest in cognitive therapy ten years ago. During that time I ordered a book from a local shop called Tsunami on Willamette in the south part of town; the book was Cognitive Therapy of Schizophrenia. The same day I went to pick it up I realized that my heat pump had quit working. The outdoor unit crashed and I was without air conditioning after that. I was always penniless due to my alcoholism and couldn’t afford the repairs. So today, when I ran my card in the slider at checkout, it was no surprise that I had money. I think good things happen to people who don’t abuse substances, for whatever reason. It could be magical or maybe it’s simply natural, but either way it’s good. 

Poverty Sucks: a Letter

My appointment with Heidi didn’t happen today; she called in sick this morning. So then I had the afternoon to myself and I wrote more in my blank book. I came close to a minor discovery regarding the way my mother brought me up to be the person I have become. Above all, she demanded honesty from me. Also I was raised to despise money and the moiling and grubbing people do to acquire it— which may have been unfortunate because I learned that money is valueless. I guess sometime this morning I’ll be getting my stimulus payment. I should hold onto it to put towards some new gear for the band, perhaps better recording equipment or a PA system, etc. I have all the bass guitars I need. This morning I set up my old white SX bass with a view to giving it away to the guys in the band if they’re interested. It’s an old knockabout axe I bought myself ten years ago for only one hundred dollars. Today, the same product new goes for three hundred dollars. Maybe I’ll just take it to practice next time and then leave it at Mike’s house when we’re done.

Again today the weather was very beautiful. Another thought I had deals with my recovery from alcoholism: whether or not it happened by the grace of a higher power, such as a God or maybe even Jesus Christ. Perhaps it wouldn’t be ludicrous to think so. I also look at the face of nature in these days since the election of Biden and regret that it has lost its divine luster. Maybe it’s just my imagination? What do you think of that? I’m looking forward to going back to church this weekend to see all my old friends. My new shoes arrived this noon hour: extremely lightweight and possibly rather flimsy, but very comfortable. I doubt if they’ll last very long…

Still another idea of mine regards my life of dire poverty. Usually I don’t consider it very much. How did Baudelaire put it? The old paupers nourishing their vermin? There’s also a poem by Yeats where a beggar scratches for a flea. But as I always say, there are better ways of being wealthy than with money. I look around me and the other guys in the band don’t have a lot of money either. Mike plays a drum kit he bought in 1988. And two of Ron’s keyboards came from thrift stores, also his amplifiers. Our studio is a glorified toolshed, though comfortable enough. It seems to me that some of the best artists have been poor, like James Joyce, Edgar Allan Poe, and Baudelaire was rather indigent as well. Wealthy people such as my brother look down on us with contempt and call us names. But in the end, the truth is that you can’t take your money with you. This reminds me of the Grimm’s fairytale in which a rich man is admitted into heaven, and what a celebration there is in his honor! I’m pretty sure my brother never read that one. It is very difficult for the wealthy to go to heaven from the point of view of a peasant. I guess the truth is relative after all.

Serenity: from a Letter

The little market was rather busy this morning, but the line was all gone by the time I was ready to check out. I saw one regular customer, a heavyset girl in her thirties, walking out with a half case of beer at nine thirty. My mission was primarily to buy dog food today. In line at the espresso closet I saw a deputy’s pickup truck. The salon looked open for business but I didn’t see Karen or her car outside. I know, it’s an awkward situation I have with her. I guess it is what it is, to use the empty cliche. From about eleven thirty to one thirty I read fifteen pages of Les Miserables; difficult going with all the names of people and places I’d never heard of. The setting has changed to the lives of Parisian street urchins called gamins. Eventually Hugo will get around to a character named Marius. His writing is always circumlocutory, beating around the bush and baffling his readers, but also what he says is usually pretty fascinating and quite ingenious. His breadth of knowledge is really stunning. So anyway I read up to page six hundred and have another eight hundred and fifty left.

At two o’clock Heidi called me to reschedule our appointment because she wasn’t feeling well today. And then with the beautiful sunshine I began to crave alcohol due to euphoric recall. For an alcoholic, there’s no greater pleasure than intoxication, though I know it’s hard to explain to people who are not alcoholic. The release of endorphins from drinking beer is comparable only to heavenly bliss. So then I emailed Mark, my friend who plays the drums and lives in the Friendly Street community in the south of town. And next, to divert myself, I played one of my bass guitars for an hour. Finally I had a can of dinner and, at four thirty, took a long nap with Aesop.

Now I’m awake again and don’t have the cravings for alcohol. But you know, life can be pretty difficult for me, when the sun comes out in springtime and I want to feel the best I can. One idea that helps me is that of accepting everything that happens without judgment, to just let events flow into futurity without comparison to other times in the past, without trying to idealize them. Does that make sense to you? In other words, I have to let go the past and let the future work itself out as it will regardless of my wishes. It’s possible that my musical projects will never pan out— and what then? Just take things as they come and don’t drink, no matter what happens. This experience of life is quite like reading an Emerson essay, following its flow like a river, never knowing the destination, and really, not having one. It’s also like the process of writing, unintentionally and with no clear goal in mind, and arriving simply where you do. And wherever you do is okay with us. Kind of like the quote by Ursula K. Le Guin about the journey being logically prior to the destination.

So anyway I got through the day without drinking.