After the Minotaur

Quarter of nine.

With church being over for me, I should find other people to see locally. Wait for the dust to settle, then look for a social activity; probably music. My new copy of Karamazov is coming today. Too little, too late. I’ve crossed that bridge, and now I’m unwelcome in church. It’s been a strange and hectic month. People say it is a time of division. I suppose there’s nothing magical about this during an election year. People in groups behave in specific ways, though I don’t understand the ways of sociology. There are predictable patterns of social behavior, as if the group were a conscious entity in its own right, a massive organism composed of individual humans.

Quarter of ten. I don’t know where I belong now, but I’m still along for the ride with everyone else. To be conscious is to be involved with the world. Maybe I’m just watching the wheels. A major part of me would love to go to Ireland or Scotland and have a few beers in a real British pub. This will never happen, but I can daydream about it. Careful about dreaming; it tends to leave you stranded… One needs to be his own guide through life. But sometimes it seems that there’s nowhere to go. No place for a new adventure. At the same time, there’s no turning back, so you’re stuck in limbo for a while. It’s important to be fearless with your thinking, to follow where it leads. Like being in a maze, you sometimes reach a dead end and have to start again. Life is one big maze, a labyrinth possibly with a Minotaur wandering through it. Alcohol was my Minotaur, but the labyrinth goes on and on. 

Thursday Morning

Nine o’clock.

Debris from the wind yesterday is everywhere on the street. Aside from that, fall is in the ambience outside, replete with memories of previous seasons. Mostly cloudy skies right now. I’ll probably stay home from the church event this morning. The squirrels are still busy in the backyard, making no attempt to be furtive. Aesop is bored with them. I’m trying to ignore the discomfort of my body today and get on with what makes me happy. I could do some music this afternoon, go for a bit of jazz on my bass. The healing properties of music might override the pain. I can’t believe that the tradition of social music is gone away forever. Not for a silly thing like the coronavirus.

The present I ordered for my birthday is coming tomorrow by UPS: two volumes of sci-fi writing from the Library of America. I don’t know much about the genre as such except for its classical roots in Edgar Poe and a little Jules Verne. Doubtless it came a long way from there.

Like yesterday, I bought two Snapples rather than a Coke and saved 75 cents. For some reason, soda doesn’t appeal to me lately. I’ve had quite a few bad experiences with Coke. I think the carbonation disagrees with me. And maybe I just got tired of pop. It’s a rather big step for me quitting the soda. In the parking lot outside the store I passed by two people smoking cigarettes. I asked myself why people do things like that, but then my addiction to alcohol was likewise inexplicable. I still think about it every day, but I believe I’m safe in the absence of toxic and slippery people. The person I worked for was like the devil on the subject of alcohol.

The sun is splashing down on my backyard, orange and mellow. The notion of freedom and control comes to mind. Possibly my willpower keeps me sober, but what’s wrong with that? I wouldn’t entrust my sobriety to the wheel of blind Fortune or the four winds. If I’m not in charge of staying sober, then nothing is. It’s nothing to be fatalistic about, but instead, free and responsible… I can remember deferring credit for my bass playing to the inspiration of the “muse.” It was my little romantic superstition, influenced by Homer and Plato, and by Emerson and Jung. I believed in it for a decade, from 1999 to around 2009. The problem with this belief was that my muse quickly assumed the form of a demon, if not the devil himself. This happened because of the Satanism of the local rock music scene— however ridiculous that sounds. Eugene is a rather backward community for rock and roll, and in the outlying boonies it’s even more unintelligent. Perhaps it wouldn’t break my heart to have to give up my music. Life is changing radically with each new year, and no one is immune from mutability.

Birthday!

Eight o’clock.

Here and there I have a bleed through of psychosis, saying that this is the end of the world, and by a freak of metaphysics, a god will emerge from the machine. Psychosis is radical emotionalism; if it feels true, then it must be true. It’s important to remain evidence based when I’m tempted to exaggerate the reality. My mind wonders why the crap all hits the fan in September. And more, what will future Septembers be like? It feels cold in here, and the smoke outside is still very dense. Linn County is getting ready to evacuate.

Nine o’clock. I just paid my garbage disposal bill online. For many years I paid over the phone, but now I’m all set up. It seems like an investment in the future. I don’t feel so pessimistic now about current events. Perhaps it’s just chance that everything has happened at once. I should remember all the distortions of cognitive therapy and apply them. Pastor wrote something in the Daily Devotions that I was inclined to take personally. But the truth may be that he wasn’t thinking of me at all. Consistently, time after time my assumptions have been proven wrong since Monday. When I catch myself in a thinking error, I feel a little silly afterwards. I wonder how many of us are making the same mistakes?… Aesop gets breakfast in a few minutes, and then I’ll get ready to go to the store. Or maybe I’ll delay it for a while. I can relax and have a burrito. It’s only 50 degrees outside. Wait until it warms up.

Ten forty. I saw Karen, Angela, and then Michelle. I made an appointment for a haircut next Tuesday at ten o’clock. Karen was happy about that. The countertop at the store is definitely red. Michelle was there by herself. It just feels different from the old glass counter in the middle of the floor. Less personal somehow, more official or conventional, like all other convenience stores. Almost more regimented. I like the way it frees up space on the floor, though. It’s just another sign that we’re saying goodbye to the past. A man walked into the store with 36 empty Rolling Rock cans as I was leaving. This reminds me that my “birthday” is tomorrow: three years sober. It’s been a roller coaster, and not only for me. The world was rather crazy this year, and last year my house caught fire. Regardless, I didn’t drink. I rolled along with the punches. Some days I feel absolutely terrible, and seldom do I feel really good. But always I am free to choose my mood. I can put on different music when I feel down. And it’s good to be a member of the human race. 

A Labor Day Letter

This holiday is a particular milestone for me every year, starting with 2003, when the musician named JP called me on the phone out of the blue. Months earlier, he had seen my newspaper ad for sober musicians and kept it. His friend Dave was already there at his house, so I packed up my 83 Fender bass and headed over to W Second Avenue off of Chambers Street. I remember that it was a beautiful day, and I was still an outpatient at Serenity Lane. I’d had nearly five months without alcohol… The next Labor Day weekend, 2004, I relapsed into active alcoholism while employed at Laurel Hill as a document scanner. Thirteen years later, I went to the emergency room on Labor Day and was given a brutal “rectal exam” by a Black woman doctor. And 2017 was also the year I finally decided that drinking wasn’t feasible. In five more days it’ll be three years. Now, it doesn’t sound like a significant amount of time, but I can remember when I couldn’t stay sober more than 11 days. I would always rationalize myself back to drinking again. The only person better at rationalization than myself is my brother. I truly wish that he could find life without alcohol worth living. Polly might forgive him if he quits drinking and lying. But maybe his destiny is different from mine. Mainly, I just hate to think of him living alone in misery.


To a great extent, my recovery has been a self evolution by means of language. I broke away from my family and the mother tongue and developed a language of my own with the help of blogging and journaling. I sort of wrote myself into existence. The language center of my brain has always been very articulate. Not even a severe episode of psychosis could wipe it out, which is atypical of people with schizophrenia. Many lower functioning schizophrenic people have difficulty with communication. I reckon that my verbal gifts are a blessing to me, because whatever happens, my logos doesn’t fail me. This reminds me of a character from Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain series for children, a big, furry, simian creature named Gurgi. Gurgi was forever hungry and begging people for “crunchings and munchings” all the time. At the end of the second book, a kind and powerful king rewards Gurgi with a magic food pouch that is inexhaustible. You can eat and eat and eat and the pouch never runs out. The food pouch came to be used by all the characters associated with Gurgi on their adventures. Anyhow, I remembered this because my word generator seems similarly endless.


That was a great series, btw, but I think geared more toward boys than girls. My favorite installment is the fourth book, Taran Wanderer, where the young hero goes out on his own to learn the truth about his parentage. Besides many other people, he meets a blacksmith who helps him forge his own sword. The end product is not particularly pretty to look at; it’s a bit misshapen and imperfect in a word. However, the steel is extremely strong, and it symbolizes the identity of Taran himself.

Chemical Stew

This is the Saturday of Labor Day weekend. I avoided my laptop all day yesterday. I wrote some decent posts using my iPad. Today, I hiked over to Bi-Mart and bought Vitamin E and a kit for removing earwax. I have taken one of the vitamins at 400 IU. Afterwards, I felt dizzy and drowsy. I just need to get used to it. Years ago, I took 800 IU daily on the advice of my psychiatrist. I think his reason was to prevent dyskinesia from the old antipsychotic. Secretly, he was also thinking of my heart… It is very strange to look at the blue sky today and see something ineluctably here and now, and to know that here and now is much different from any past I ever knew. The sky appears whitish with smoke or a sort of smog, but it is unlike any ceiling I have seen in the past. A typical summer sky in the NW looks azure, a deep, rich blue. Partly, it is because I am sober that I perceive the heavens as they really are today. Drunkenness could blot out reality and replace it with whatever I desired… In addition to the afternoon white skies, I have observed that the predawn light in the east is virtually greenish mixed with peach. It looks like a kind of chemical stew, improper for the dawn, and quite disturbing. This change in color and climate is what we have done to our habitat… Damien is coming tomorrow at noon to mow and to collect what I owe him. Otherwise, I have no plans for Sunday or Monday. On Tuesday I have my lab appointment at nine fifteen. I must be ready to leave an hour before. I cannot think of what else is going on next week. Wednesday is forecast to be 99 degrees. Tomorrow: 91, I think. Hopefully, my portable a/c will arrive soon. I paid for it a long time ago… I asked Aesop if he would like me to brush him tonight. He seemed a little uneasy about it, but I think he will put up with it… I dislike the Editor feature of this app. It doesn’t allow me to use contractions without it flagging them. If I took its suggestions, my idiomatic English would come out quite plain and sterile. I’d look goofy. Therefore, I’m going to use apostrophes anyway. From my experience so far, I think I prefer writing with my iPad. Okay, I’ve told it not to check for this issue.

Quarter after five. I’m gazing again at the dirty sky. It seems so unnatural, and for that reason, ugly. A good rain might help it… It’s about time for dinner. Just a burrito. Sometime thereafter I can take my other dose of Vitamin E. I don’t remember the last time I took a gabapentin. The good news is that I’m not chemically dependent on any drugs.

Domingo de Nuevo

Eight twenty.

The Coke was not an experience worth repeating, at least for a while. It gave me trouble sleeping and also mild hallucinations. Plus it altered my thinking for a while. The house cooled down considerably overnight. My third “birthday” is only a few weeks away. On that day I think I’ll celebrate Aesop’s birthday too. Officially, it is 12 September, but 911 is easier to remember. I will get up and go to the store pretty soon. Aesop needs dry food. Yesterday didn’t go as planned, so maybe I won’t plan for today. If I play the bass again today, will it sound as great as it did yesterday? But this is perfectionism kicking in. Simply plug in and play and go from there. The sunshine is cheerful but also soft like autumn… I feel like doing something generous for someone, like being thoughtful and kind. Lately I’ve only been concerned for myself, but last night I pondered how others may suffer and need kindness. On that note I’m going to the store right now.

Nine thirty. Vicki wasn’t very pleasant, and it was kind of a bummer of a trip. I’m glad to be home again. I bought no soda at all. Trying to stop a bad habit. I hope today is a better day than yesterday. In general, August can be a rough month. Sometimes I really miss my parents and the way it used to be in the mid 1990s. There won’t even be Duck football this fall. But it was only an occasion for drinking beer with friends. Everything changes, and happiness resides with looking forward, not back. Aesop is getting amped for his breakfast.

Cowbird Analogy

Ten twenty five. I found out that the party is not until noon today. So I went ahead to the store and got a root beer and some food. Cathy was cashiering and Supertramp was on the radio. After ten o’clock, business picks up really well for the market. I saw quite a few people there. The weather is cooler today, much more temperate and agreeable. My root beer tastes fab…

It’s nice to see that life goes on, much the same as before. Part of me craves beer, the taste and the feel of a cool Foster’s Lager. But I know that one beer multiplies to a 12 pack before I even know what happened. It’s a perfect day for a bacchanal, a drunken spree, but I have to forget about that. I can’t judge by what other people do. Some can afford to drink, but I remember how my account used to be overdrawn from spending on beer. And I didn’t care at the time; I could only think about having more to drink. It was a kind of mania with me, occluding my perception of everything else. Alcoholism takes over your whole life if you allow it to. Thus I won’t go back to drinking in any capacity. If I could make a political cartoon of alcoholism, it would look like this:

A bird’s nest full of eggs. A cowbird comes along and lays an egg in the middle of the nest, except this egg resembles a 750 ml can of Foster’s Lager. Before the other eggs can be hatched, the can of beer nudges them all out of the nest, becoming the sole occupant while the legitimate lives ultimately perish. The mother bird feeds the Foster’s bird until it grows to the size of a dodo…

Sense and Sound

Eleven thirty. My mind is devoid of abstractions. I have nothing interesting to say. I suppose I could ask Todd about lowering the dose of my medication. Before I know it I’ll be on no drugs at all. Will I have recovered from schizophrenia? Stranger things have happened. Maybe that’s why I’m concerned about having a job or not. The lowest dosage of Vraylar is 3 mg, I think. Currently I take 4.5 mg.

Noon hour. I’m juggling the idea of putting on the new strings, yet I’m so uninspired to play my bass. I just remembered how happy my mother used to be whenever her cousin Bub showed up here in the fall. No other relative gave her such pure pleasure to see again. They would sit together in the family room and talk about old times and laugh their brains out. It was a kind of humor that only they understood. It was couched in the family dialect, so it wasn’t conventional or logical. Today, even I would have trouble trying to see what was so funny. My sister still speaks that language. I guess the only oddball is me. The sense of the words matters more to me than the sound. Maybe it’s important to try to remember the old language and preserve it somehow… Bub always stayed for dinner and then chatted with my mother and my dad too. He always had a new car to show off. He was a collector. The last time I saw him was probably in the fall of 1994. Mom was not doing well. She was growing more and more reclusive. No; he was here in August or September of 1996. I had a project to do that summer, so I might have been busy. A couple of years later, he was gone after a battle with cancer… I should call my sister once a week and keep in touch. It wouldn’t be right to allow the language to vanish.

The Next Day It Rained

Eight o five.

It’s raining this morning, and the flavor of it is almost autumnal. I love it. I’ve been to the store and seen Vicki. I wished her luck and said I was thinking about her. The rain is like old times when I would walk to church regardless of the weather… A guy named Mitch just emailed me regarding my ad on Craigslist. They are a rock power trio. Said backing vocals are a must. I don’t think I can do that. But I will help the church out tomorrow night with my voice. It is still very early in the morning. I’m clearing the rocks out of my tear ducts. Aesop is being quiet, resting on the floor. Memories want to come up, and yet are inhibited. What use are they when we’re in a pandemic, a totally new experience?

Nine o’clock. The rain has a soporific effect on me. I just thought of the enormous expense of owning a car, back when I had one. I don’t miss it very much. I only used it for daily beer runs. Is my life just a microcosm of the world’s experience? Seems like we’re all doing similar things to adapt. I hate to see life growing more and more computerized, however. What begins as a convenience turns into a dependency. Probably someday musical instruments will all be synthetic: no more real drums and bass, and guitar will be the last to go… After seeing the list of cover songs, I turned Mitch down. Chances are they smoke pot and drink beer. I said I just wasn’t into that scene. At the same time, my new flatwound strings have shipped. I’ll see those next week.

Quarter after ten. The rain has stopped, but it’s still overcast. I feel good today, stronger and more equal to life. I can make decisions, which is really great. Singing with church ought to be fun tomorrow night. The weather will not be hot, thank goodness. It seems like Thursdays are days when things happen. Now the rain recommences lightly…

Control Again

Seven o’clock. I took a risk on Coca-Cola because I really wanted to drink beer or something else with alcohol. But I wonder why I picked now for a time to do this. I don’t feel very clever at this time. I feel disappointed in myself for being stupid. What was the stress that pushed me to do this? I shouldn’t be feeling any pressure at all, yet something has been bugging me since the heatwave hit us. Life seems out of control, or rather out of my own control, and maybe by drinking I believe that I could seize some power over events. At least, this is what makes sense to me. It used to be that drinking was one of the freedoms available to me, and by doing so I could assert my control over my life. In the face of everyone who said I mustn’t drink, I stubbornly persisted in doing it in order to be independent and free. Rebellion is absurd sometimes. We go to self destructive extremes in the name of freedom and power over our own lives. What is the contrary of rebellion— obedience? But what is it that we must obey? And this line of inquiry will lead me to Milton’s Paradise Lost. I never bothered to read the whole poem, but perhaps I should.