Up to Me

Quarter after nine.

I finally got my benefits squared away with DHS this morning, so that’s a worry off my mind. The weather is only a little above freezing. There’s an advisory for snow possible this afternoon. I’m okay with that as long as we still have electricity. Some hours ago I canceled my order of those books by Clark Ashton Smith. I felt uncomfortable concerning my sobriety, thinking that his writing might trigger cravings. If I want to read something horrific I can pick up Paul Bowles, but even that seems pointless. I’ve got a nice big anthology of Bertrand Russell I could thumb through. Probably it’s above my head, but it wouldn’t hurt to take a peek. My brother has been on my mind a couple of days. I doubt if he thinks of me, however. Write him off as a toxic person. It concerns me somewhat that I’m the only sober person in my rock band. The music itself is not a problem. It’s the state of mind each of us is in when we play together. I guess don’t borrow trouble at this juncture and let events play out as they will. But I may be the one who has to bail out… The trip to the market was nondescript and uneventful. Just another day.

Ten thirty five. I remind myself that I’m the one in charge of my life, and every decision I make is up to me. Sobriety is my Number One priority. It makes a big difference in my relationships with people, even just three guys playing music in a room. Perhaps in that situation this difference glares the most. Time will tell. And again it’s up to me. 

Another Tuesday

Four forty.

The sun is getting ready to go down on another Tuesday. I haven’t done anything out of the ordinary today, except to treat myself a bit more kindly. I’m still the same old pleasure seeker as always. Played some Queen songs on my green Dean bass, including what I could remember of “A Kind of Magic.” 

Something made me think of my mother again; it began with my dreams last night, flashing back to January twenty years ago. Life wasn’t too bad back then, although I didn’t feel as free as I do now. Poor Mom never had any friends, and the family from her generation had all passed away. I guess it’s fair to say that she was very difficult to get along with. I wouldn’t want to do it again. Her subjective opinions were so absolute to her as to be irrational. There was no discussing anything with her. She was as hardheaded as adamant. So it was rather odd to have a dream that was indirectly about her. I wonder if it’s because of her memory that I still do rock and roll music? I had another friend whose perfectionism was instilled in him by his bipolar father. He carried his dad around with him in his mind, and it made him depressed and suicidal. Possibly I’m a little bit like him, with the difference of some insight into myself. My mother expected nothing short of rock stardom from me, but maybe this isn’t the lifestyle I want. I think I’m happy enough as a writer of blog posts for right now. But nobody ever said I can’t be both a writer and a musician— again, like Paul Bowles. I reckon some things are just spelled out in the stars… 


Quarter of eight.

It’s the same old story: Aesop is out of canned food. I should call Polly after nine o’clock.

The sounds of bird life around Fremont Avenue are insane today. I halted on my walk to examine the treetops, where you could see them perched, twittering in a frenzy. I took my excursion very slow this morning. Also I was slow at the checkout counter, and it annoyed the customer behind me. But it didn’t concern me that she was irritated. Michelle acted as her emotional caretaker and checked her out immediately at the other register. My business wasn’t even finished yet.

Eleven o’clock. It’s been raining and shining by turns while Polly and I talked on the phone. Our chats keep getting better. It seems that she’s done some serious independent thinking over the past few years, or maybe she’s always had a separate opinion from her son. I feel privileged to get to know her. We agree that money and material success are really negligible, and the important things are integrity and caring about other people… I missed the garbage pickup this week, but the service is cheap. I guess I’m feeling kind of relaxed today. Not exactly devil may care, but nothing inconsequential can ruffle my feathers. People can chase their tails all they want and it doesn’t bug me. They can foam at the mouth and throw a fit, but it’s all fruitless for them. I’m having a pretty good day. 


Six thirty.

I’ve figured out why I was stuck on the problem of society and the individual. It’s because society to my mind really means my family, and this is an alcoholic system. In choosing sobriety I’ve had to abandon the system, sort of like Lt Henry deserting the Italian Army in Hemingway. Did I need an altruistic motive for staying sober? Or is the validity of self preservation self evident? My brother used to say it was my brotherly duty to drink with him… Family politics is only so much nonsense.

Quarter of nine. I braved the rainy element and walked to the store where Melissa held down the fort. She said her little boy is two and a half years old and a real handful. He’s only quiet when he is sleeping. I said it was nice that she had a little family going, but inwardly I was thinking that it wasn’t for me… I expect Damien will be here at around noon with a buddy to rake leaves. The physical therapy people sent me a bill for over a hundred dollars. I’ll call them tomorrow and make sure they billed my insurance correctly. It could be an expensive month… A while ago I looked up John McLaughlin online: he is 78 years old and still performing and recording. I really like the chord textures in Birds of Fire, such as the augmented octave in the song “Sanctuary.” I didn’t realize the complexity of the mode until I sat with my bass and noodled around with it. It would be interesting to get a few guys together and mess with those scales and chords. Doing this by myself isn’t the same. I reckon a lot of musicians feel lonely through the pandemic. We don’t have a purpose when we can’t get together. The times are as tuneless as a Mahavishnu song. Out of context, the roots in the bass don’t make sense. 

Thanksgiving Plans

Eleven o’clock.

I just missed the heavy rain. It was very windy while I was out walking to my usual haunts. Kim and Angela are managing business by themselves today; Karen is on a mini vacation until Thursday. The girls had the radio tuned to an eighties station rather than the oldies that Karen likes. I heard The Clash come on. Then I moved on to the store, where Vicki was in an okay mood. Cathy busied herself with unpacking foodstuffs. 

Prior to my excursion, my sister called me and we chatted for an hour. She and her son are having their Thanksgiving with three other relatives at their house. I don’t have any plans of my own for the holiday. Usually my church has a public dinner, but this year it isn’t doable with the pandemic. Maybe I’ll take a food box from Laurel Hill this year. It’s rather strange that Polly didn’t invite me over, but then I’ve been unwelcome for Thanksgiving since 2007. It’s all right with me. Mixing with family would feel very awkward. After all, the only relative talking to me is Polly. She has to distort herself a bit in order to do this. But she can’t control the behavior of her family members. It’s all out of her hands. Whatever; she tries and does the best she can. I know that she’s a different person with me than she is with her own kin. As her brother, it’s always been kind of like that. Probably we’ll do something special for my birthday in January. I guess I am sort of a special case. 

Bargaining with Loss

Three thirty five. The afternoon is already deepening to dusk. There’s an irrational thought process at work. If I get drunk, then Kate will return as my friend. It’s a form of sympathetic magic such as primitives use. This reminds me that I should read The Golden Bough, a great expose on superstition. Anyway, nothing, not even magic, can bring back my lost friend. It doesn’t work! The transfer of power to the Democrats is meaningless to this end as well. Accept that Kate won’t be coming back and forget about it.

Four thirty five. I searched through some boxes of books and found my copy of Frazer. It’s kind of a dangerous book to someone like Pastor, who had no answer when I compared prayer to magic spells. This was the beginning of my loss of faith two summers ago. Well, I can’t help that. You know what you know, and it can’t be reversed. Probably every summer is going to be a period of skepticism and doubt for me due to that first time in 2019… As for my imitative magic regarding Kate, I caught it and I can dispose of it. Changing my mental state doesn’t alter the objective reality. I can try all kinds of conjuror’s tricks, to no avail except as a delusion. The past remains in the past, and the present is today. It happens to be November and we happened to elect a Democratic president, yet history will not repeat. The fact is that I wish very strongly for Kate to come back, and wishes drive every kind of dream and attempt at magic, every sacrifice, and every prayer. Every delusion! But we learn to negotiate the world as it really is, ultimately getting over the pain of loss. 

Sunshine in November

Noon hour. I’m at physical therapy now, way early. The cabbie was very nice. Polly was difficult, but families are like that. I see that Suzanne liked my post this morning. I don’t know. I’m leaning toward science right now. WordPress is up in the air since Biden won.

Two fifty five. Home again. Erin had made a note of how Christina made me feel judged for my posture. The latter read it and asked me about it, so I answered her honestly. Christina worked a bit harder to be nice after that. I saw Erin on her way in to start her shift and she asked me how it went. I said pretty good. The sun was out, and it still is right now. I don’t usually associate sunshine with November. It seems like something new in my experience. It feels beautiful and cheerful. The most unprecedented thing today is that I’m sober. Yesterday, Misty told me that three years is a significant chunk of time. And looking around me, I sense so many things that feel new, things I’d never noticed before at this time of year, in these conditions. The return cabbie was good looking in a rock and roll sort of way. I liked her. I’m just a square type of guy myself. It was a bizarre fluke that I ever got involved in rock music. Plus the alcohol and the diagnosis that stuck me in an illicit category. But life has a way of equalizing everyone in the long run. The Buddha taught that life is suffering. We all go through it, more or less in the same degree… The westering sun projects soft tangerine beams over the tree line. I’ve had a good afternoon. 

A Christmas Gift

Four twenty five. The day has been going very quietly. I took some bed rest because I was so tired from PT yesterday. It feels solitary today, and I’m all right with that. The sun never did come out. I look forward to writing a letter to my friend this evening. The day started off right when I saw how much I had in my checking account: the cancellation on that item from Musician’s Friend went through. We’re so close to Election Day; this is the calm before the storm. Hopefully there won’t be a storm of protests by outraged voters… My afternoon yesterday went south after the therapy appointment. I began thinking about three years ago and the bad shape I was in. I’m more hopeful today. At least I’ve learned that I distrust psychotherapy and won’t make that mistake again.

Five twenty. There’s a lot of evidence that I’m doing better now than three years ago. Look at my relationship with my sister, and all the friendships I’ve gained. For six years I had only one friend. I simply had a bad afternoon yesterday. Maybe I can get rid of some of the material reminders of 2017 and 2018… A piece of music begins to play in my head. It is the beginning of Polovetsian Dances from Prince Igor by Borodin. My mother gave me the CD for Christmas in 1989. Shortly after that, she was diagnosed with cancer and had to have surgery. The disc actually compiled the Firebird Suite and the other by Borodin. It was the first classical music to really blow me away, especially the Stravinsky. The joint effect of having read Joyce that term and the incredibly beautiful Stravinsky was devastating for me. This was one Christmas gift that Mom nailed on the head, and I’ve never forgotten it. 

Culture Shock

Nine thirty 🕤. I’m in the waiting room of the physical therapy place, situated on the lower level of the building. I arrived very early due to Ridesource policy. The colors are very beige and pumpkin. I think my appointment starts at ten fifteen. At least it’s kind of comfortable here: only one other person in the room. I’m glad I brought my iPhone, because there’s nothing else to do. I feel rather alienated from my normal self. It’s so much like Halloween, but from 18 years ago. This place is located in Santa Clara, where I haven’t been in a long time. I don’t like this sector of town at all. The farther north you go, the worse it gets. Maybe it’s only an impression on my part. I see no Halloween decorations, and yet the nutmeg carpet and the custard walls give off the sense of the season— in 2002… How much time did I use to spend in Santa Clara? My sister lives here, way up River Road. I’m probably just psyched out. I identify with the south side of town mostly.

Quarter after one. My physical therapist, Christina, is very good at her job. But I’m still glad the appointment is over with. Right now I feel lightheaded and kind of tired. Funny, the cabbie for the return trip said that the receptionist wouldn’t inform him whether I was there or not. She was trying to uphold HIPAA regulations, protect my privacy. I kept him waiting for about 15 minutes because Christina was behind schedule. I was very apologetic when I finally came out to the car. As we drove away, I saw that Albertsons had a great mound of pumpkins piled up next to the front entrance. How strange it felt to go north of Division Avenue! It’s like going behind enemy lines, although a decade ago I traveled there occasionally. Up there the people are so very rednecky and incurious about cerebral things. This strip of River Road, before it debouches into farmland, extends some seven or eight miles. I think of it as an intellectual desert. All this space and nobody home. 

Buffalo Breakfast

Quarter of nine.

It’s a gray and wet autumnal morning, the normalcy of which is promising. Aesop grows older and mellower all the time. Tomorrow I have physical therapy to go to. I know that Ridesource will get me there ridiculously early. But there’s a lot that I don’t know. I love October, especially now that I’m on a medication that works. I can remember how I felt 18 years ago, always scared that I would go to hell. The delusions arose from who knows where in my brain. They leaked into consciousness through a hole in the floor. Today, my brain chemistry is totally rearranged. There is no floor, no above and below. This model makes little sense to me now. It’s just a theory on paper, and equally flat and two dimensional. Outside, the blueness within the gray emits a glow, and there is a wind blowing. Aesop gets Blue Buffalo Santa Stew for breakfast. Three minutes and counting.

Quarter of ten. I watched him eat every bite: I think he liked it. Funny how the wildfires robbed us of a normal September. Rarely did we see a blue sky. Now I’m thinking about my family, and who really trespassed against whom. It seems to have gone both ways, so the way for us to heal is to forgive all around. I believe I understand my sister better than I did before: there was never any guile in her heart. Alcohol and madness kept things complicated from my end, but I wasn’t the only one who drank. It’s good to see it all more clearly, and forget about those wasted years. Or instead, understand them and take away a lesson. Our conversation yesterday was a bit of a minefield, but we got through it without blowing off a leg. And to some degree, time itself is a healer of all wounds.