Lion & Ox

Five ten.

Of course it’s still dark outdoors, but I was done sleeping for the night. I wrote something about memories and regrets before bedtime. I concluded that because I decided as I did, I am still alive, safe, and writing today. In other words, I made good decisions, so those regrets are useless. It’s sort of like Pollyanna or Pangloss, reasoning from what is optimistic, looking on the bright side, the glass half full. This made me feel better before I went to sleep… I reread my letter to a friend from yesterday and remembered how I felt at the time of composition. Not only were there no regrets, there was no guilt or shame whatsoever. I believe that being remorseless is the key to solving depression. And if a person wields guilt as a tool to manipulate you, then you should probably blow them off. Life is too short for feeling shame. The experience of pride is our ticket to joy… The “mild yoke” that Milton refers to is the yoke of shame, in my opinion. Under the burden of guilt, your whole perspective is darkened as long as it remains to plague you. Therefore it is desirable to liberate yourself from it.

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Exile

Quarter after nine at night.

Even in sleep, it’s the same old ambivalent feelings on things old and new. I had three good friends I gave up when I decided to quit drinking— friends a little on the shady side: they bent the rules whenever it served them to do so. I know a guy today who reminds me of the same thing. I run into him occasionally at the little market. His face is a bit red, presumably from drinking alcohol, yet I really like the guy. He summons my brother to my mind and the good times we used to share on our trips to the coast. I feel as if I had to make a choice like that of Prince Henry when he said to Falstaff, “I know you not.” …I don’t think there’s anything great or distinguished about being sober, especially when it’s such a struggle for me to maintain. Often I feel like saying screw it and getting drunk just to be my natural self again. Suddenly I remember a day a decade ago at Grocery Outlet when I bought some English breakfast tea and later told my friend in Scotland about it. I miss those kinds of things. I miss my old friends. 

Nice Guys…

Eight thirty five.

It’s a dense fog again today, rather tiresome. A low energy day so far. I’ve gone to market this morning and been accosted by the neighbor who lives next door to Kat and Corey. He remarked that he sees me going to the little store every day and I must be a hungry dude. I answered that I don’t stock up on groceries. He said he got it. This neighbor is the one who flies a Let’s Go Brandon flag on his pole. I didn’t think to ask him what happened to Derek, who used to have a job with him. It’s an HVAC business… Heather told me that someone had broken into her car and stolen her registration card and something else. I told her that I wasn’t feeling as good today as yesterday. Life has become an onerous hamster wheel, punctuated by fewer and fewer pleasures and joys. But it’s up to me to seize the day and maybe permit myself the indulgence of a fantasy that doesn’t self destruct. Everyone needs love, though people don’t give it very often these days. Sometimes I forget that I’m a guy. No one validates my masculinity except perhaps one person I know. The world is going in an unnatural direction, from what I’ve experienced since I quit drinking. I think the world needs to wake up and smell the flowers and hear the hum of bees. Delight in a birdsong and learn to sing along— as long as such things remain. But then it’s more difficult when you are older and not so pretty anymore. It feels like a conspiracy… yet it was my decision to be an honest person with everybody, what might have been a mistake to a Machiavellian. 

Janet

Eleven ten.

A lot of thoughts crowd together in my brain. I rummaged through a box of books and picked out The Essential Browning. I can remember where I got it: I was with my dad at the Gateway Mall, and I believe it was the winter of 1995. I miss my parents sometimes.

One fifty five. I was feeling sick as a dog, so I crashed into bed for two hours. I’m not going to play the bass today… The events of my life before 1997 are a confused blur, perhaps because I didn’t write things down regularly. It shocked me to realize that Robert Browning had total faith in the afterlife. Gradually I learned that a lot of people do. I don’t know whether this belief is simple or complex. At the beginning of March 2020 I went with Karen to Darlene’s funeral and observed the service like an outsider. The daughter gave me a hug but never looked in my eyes or spoke to me. Our paths had diverged since grade school. I feel partly guilty for the track I was on, yet it was out of my hands while we were run through the chute. But today I’m aware that I should have been kinder and friendlier to her rather than awkward and embarrassed when we met each other in her workplaces. As it happened, life took a huge crap on me, which might suggest a kind of retribution for being socially insensitive. Maybe by the same token we can hope to be rewarded for our kindnesses. 

In Art and Life

Quarter of ten at night.

I’ve found some interesting passages in Native Son that make a worthwhile study of the novel. In the poolroom scene where Bigger is giving Gus a hard time for cowardice, the narrative says that he had never been responsible to anyone else in his whole life. But it goes beyond that to his responsibility to himself and his own emotions which he usually projects onto others. Does this refusal of responsibility explain why he kills Mary Dalton at the end of Book One? I imagine this will be examined in the rest of the novel. I won’t really know until I’ve read the entire book.

In my real life today, nothing of much consequence happened. I tramped through the snow and slush off to the market this morning to get my Snapple teas and cookies for my dog. Michelle offered me some microwaved food that would otherwise have to be discarded, but I declined because I didn’t want to be loaded down with too much stuff for my trek home. As I walked away outdoors I kind of kicked myself for turning down free food. It was actually the look on Michelle’s face that I regretted, so then I struggled with feelings of guilt and remorse. At around noon I did my reading and also wrote a little in my journal. I never did play the bass guitar today. The mail carrier left a package on my front doorstep at five o’clock: I’d been expecting this copy of Paul Bowles for a few weeks. And finally I took a nap this evening. Tim has a friend who might be able to fix my 25W bass amplifier. We’ve been texting each other about that yesterday and today. 

A Letter: Alcohol and Caffeine

Now I know more about what’s been bugging me lately. I don’t know why I started doing so much caffeine recently, but it’s having an impact on the way I think and feel and remember. I believe that everything we do boils down to brain chemistry, and ultimately everything is physical and material; it’s all constructed of atoms, basically. I could be wrong about that, but it’s my particular belief system. Nothing spiritual is necessary to explain natural events. Now the question is what made me buy the Coca-Cola in the first place. Today I got myself two Snapples, still too much caffeine, so tomorrow I’ll either skip it or just get one of them.

I guess I’m going to church this Sunday, though my feelings about it are mixed. I think I’d prefer not to sit through a sermon and take communion and all that stuff again. Maybe I’ll wait and see at the last minute whether I want to go.

Yesterday I flipped my blank book over and started writing going in the other direction on the left hand pages. Meanwhile I kind of wonder what interested me in Paul Bowles again; or even why I used to like his writing originally. I’ve changed since I first read him in February 98. And at the end of the same year I finished Moby Dick, the mood of which was very similar to the Bowles book: it was quite nihilistic and maybe sort of wicked like Macbeth. I don’t know how I feel about the unconscious from a Freudian point of view anymore, something dark with basic drives, but you can see it illustrated in the tales of Edgar Allan Poe, like in “The Cask of Amontillado” and many others. And that reminds me: have you decided on your next purchase from Amazon yet?

It’s been drizzling here since about noon today, but it’s supposed to stop pretty soon, only to redouble itself for another week or so. Rain, rain, rain! But I have no complaints about it, and I actually like it. It promotes a state of mind for thinking and reflecting about abstract things.

Aesop has been in a sympathetic mood yesterday and today, probably sensing that I was feeling rather crappy since Monday afternoon. He is a very smart dog, and I think I care more about him than the dog I had before him, a little pug named Henry. The pug was more gregarious than Aesop, and everybody loved him. Henry was very sweet and cute as could be, and sometimes I miss having him around. But like a lot of things and people I used to know, he belongs to a past that can’t be revived. I may regret it all I want but in the end I will accept that the past is buried and irrecoverable.
But once in a while something happens to remind me…

At some level I wish I could get drunk and enjoy my life like I used to years ago. I thought I had my whole life ahead of me when I’d get a mile high. The future consequences don’t occur to you when you get wasted on alcohol or other drugs. And then you get a wake up call and realize that life is very short and you are not immortal. And you know then that alcoholism really is fatal.