Love of Music

Quarter after ten at night.

I’m awake since having lots of dreams of the collapse of civilization tonight, and when I got up, my conscious thoughts ran to The Handmaid’s Tale, the dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood. Now I’m trying to clear my mind entirely and start over again… During the day I played my modified P Bass two different times. At once, the instrument is a war axe and a highly sophisticated piece of technology. In neither light is it quiet and subdued by any means. I did a great deal of shredding on it, eventually slowing down to pound out a few Rush tunes from the turn of the eighties. It makes me emotional to revisit old songs like “Cygnus X-1,” a throwback to happy times as a drummer jamming with friends my age for the summer of 1982. They were no older than 16 and ready to go pro in the L.A. music scene, but my parents protected me from such a future and ensured that I’d finish my education. My path with my friends crossed again in another 15 years for the disco gig. I’m not sure what I learned from that experience, or even how I feel about it. Music as expression and music as a business are different things. Robert Fripp advised young musicians to stay out of the industry if they really love music. From what I’ve seen, I’m inclined to think he’s right.

Pathfinder

Seven forty.

The real world is a far cry from the university campus, but the latter is more expensive. It’s an arrangement that doesn’t seem fair if you’re an intelligent pauper. Poverty can be a prison cell, and yet everyone likes to have free time to do what they love to do. A gain here is a sacrifice there. We barter time for money and money for time but can’t have both. A title from Lord Byron speaks: “I Would I Were a Careless Child.” I long for a Golden Age where necessities grow on trees and nobody has to earn their living. Like children, you can play and enjoy life with no responsibilities. The Golden Age and the Garden of Eden are the same thing, a childhood paradise that would last forever if we only obeyed our father.

At nine o’clock, Gloria is coming to work for me again. The sky is clouded over and there’s no breeze. I bought her a bottled water because she told me she’s diabetic. She worked hard the last time she was here and we got a lot done. I’m not certain what I’m aiming for with my life. I’d still like to play in a rock band if that’s even realistic. Circumstances keep blocking my way, so I think I have to plow an avenue myself where no road existed before. 

Time

Eight forty.

There was frost on everything when I stepped out my front door. My dog is feeling better this morning, and he appears to forgive me for Tuesday. So I told him I’d be right back and walked out the door. Victoria was busy scraping ice off her car windows just across the street. The sky to the east was striped with white cloud as I trudged south. Two other cars idled in the driveway to thaw out. But I saw no human bodies outside. A little later, Michelle told me the delivery truck never came yesterday. So, I made do with a sausage and egg muffin, some cottage cheese, and my usual Snapple tea, plus two snacks for Aesop. My appointment with Todd is at eleven o’clock, but there’s still an hour before I have to go. I just let my dog know I’d be gone for two hours this morning. He’s really smart enough to understand that. Music: David Gilmour’s guitar lead on “Time,” the Pink Floyd classic. It is nearly a half century old by now, old as the hills, or as time itself. I was an eighth grader when I got my brother’s vinyl copy of Dark Side of the Moon and played the grooves off of it. That was before I ever heard Rush… 

A Bowl of Suds

Midnight hour.

I feel less inclined to pursue rock and roll now that I’ve seen the dissolution of one of my icons. I don’t know what to do now, but the intellect should never be compromised for a beer brand. It sets a terrible example for the fans who believed in the music and the message of freedom, happiness, and idealism. Now to see it all go down the drain is devastating. I have no more heroes. Rock music, as I understand it, is really dead. Rest In Peace. 

Good Things… Small Packages

Two o’clock.

I jammed on my G&L bass for a while. The snow was so bright that I didn’t have to turn the light on in the room. Out the window I could see Victoria sweeping her car of snow. A lot more people are coming out today to drive or walk around. They talk together in raised voices as if excited. When I was out on the sidewalk I heard this lyric: “The moments seemed lost in all the noise / A snowstorm, a stimulating voice / And rest for the day / With cold in the way.” During the time I played my bass, I moved the switch to the center to tap all the pole pieces, giving me a full range of tone. Sounds great, but I need someone else to play with. I expect two packages today and tomorrow, but the one coming by mail might be delayed… I can’t believe it’s only two thirty. But our daylight will be spent in another two hours. I don’t know if my little Rumble 25 is reparable or not. I may have to get a new amp for church, which doesn’t break my heart at all. There are some really nice combo amps for bass for a bit more money. Although, I don’t want to leave it in the sacristy all the time to be disused.

Nine forty.

Some very old music rises to my consciousness by the Ray Brown Orchestra. He was an amazing bass player, and hardly anyone realizes that he could play electric bass as well as acoustic upright. The tone of his Fender Precision would melt in your mouth and he was all over it with his huge hands… Amazon had one more copy of the music I wanted in stock— so I snagged it. It arrives on my birthday. 

Manuscripts

Quarter of ten at night.

I’ve awoken feeling overheated because the dog was plastered up against my side in bed. Before I slept, I made some personal notes while the rain trickled down like a narcotic lullaby. I said that I miss my old friends from an alcoholic social network and observed what an outsider I am today, not really belonging to any group of people because I can’t commit myself to a particular system of beliefs. I certainly don’t feel like waiting for the Second Coming to have something like happiness with my existence, and I don’t think life has passed me by; instead, it should be just beginning. I’ve spent most of my life being meek and mild, the thrall and victim of authoritarian parents who handed me down to my siblings to control, until finally I broke away from the whole family quite deliberately. I remember having dreams of my mouth being sewn shut, and even in my sleep I tried to speak but couldn’t get the words out because of the stitches. And if not for the power of the written word, my life would still be out of my own control, yet you know it’s a real struggle even now. The world is set up to be a devouring cannibal, always keeping the upper hand and gainsaying my every thought, as if it were criminal to hatch one original idea. But the progress of the human species ultimately depends on original voices, much as our philosophers are stuffed into a bottle and thrown in the sea, a desperate message of distress afloat on the waves towards unknown shores very far from here… or a bottle stowed in a balloon and released on the winds to seek its fortune long away.

Eleven o’clock. I just got an email from my friend Mark, the drummer and composer who lives in the south part of town. He included a link to his Craigslist ad and asked me to call him tomorrow. I can hardly wait until then, though I’ll bridle myself and keep a level head. 

Notes on Canvas

Eight thirty.

It’s very foggy out there; the treetops are lost in the mist. It helped me yesterday to play my bass guitar in the afternoon. This took my mind off of other worries, like being in musical limbo for a while. Music does give a reprieve from everyday life, as Schopenhauer observed in his philosophy long ago. I don’t play as well as I used to; it often sounds like a person with schizophrenia tossing notes out there, paint thrown on a canvas. Random and dissonant but still cathartic for me. The amplifier I bought almost a year ago for $300 sounds like, well, $300. You get what you pay for. When I was in a band last summer I couldn’t understand why the other guys didn’t invest more in their music gear. It was their code of ethics as working class people not to show off with their instruments. I broke this rule with them several times; not showing off, but just trying to be professional. Anyway, the new amp isn’t so great, and I could’ve saved my money for something else.

Quarter after nine. Everything passes, and nothing is ever permanent. I’ve heard good things about Ursula Le Guin but I don’t know which novel to start with. Doubtless her feminist perspective will be different from the male authors I’m used to, even from the Christian tradition and everything plunked down by men over the ages. I don’t remember when I read The Farthest Shore; if it was last spring or the year before. I thought it was good, the way it treated death as a natural part of life, and the greed for more than this was a kind of evil. She was an Oregonian, living in Portland, I think. 

Dare to Know

Quarter after seven.

During my sleep, I felt terrible all night long, so I’d like to know why. Is it because I got the vaccine last spring? The sky is like the skin of a nectarine mixed with gray. I feel very impatient with the whole pandemic situation, but I think Pastor Dan makes a bad thing even worse. He has let the idea of leadership go to his head. An article said that half of the people fear Covid, and the other half fear being controlled. I guess I’m in the second category. For this reason, my mind is full of doubts and fears concerning having a personal care attendant. Maybe this is what troubles my sleep. I treasure my independence and I hate feeling dominated by other people. It seems contradictory to hire a person to be your boss.

Eight thirty. Two people have advised me to just try the PCA thing and if it doesn’t work out, then I can say I gave it a fair chance. I was just outdoors: the clouds were scalloped against the blue, but otherwise, the scene looked pretty much the same as every day. I’ve left my shopping bag at my feet just now, and my Hot Pocket might thaw out before I can put it in the freezer. I’m being lazy, but I’m also tired and depressed. Hand in hand with this go feelings of resentment and a little anger because I feel so helpless and powerless right now. Maybe it’s simply the rock and roll impulse in me that makes me rebellious and difficult. Then again, our founders never knew about rock music, yet they were full of the Enlightenment spirit of liberty and happiness and the audacity to know. And they were not at all superstitious. Every individual ought to be like Benjamin Franklin and harness the lightning, but we seem to have forgotten how. It goes far beyond technology. It is the science of our souls. 

There and Back

Eight fifty. I guess I’ll go. Leaving in ten minutes. I negotiated with my dog about it, haha, and I think he’ll be okay with me being gone for two and a half hours. Also I called the store: Heather didn’t hear her alarm this morning, so she was late.

Now I’m waiting outside of the church for Pastor to arrive. Maybe I should have stayed home. I hear the sound of chickadees in the trees.

Noon hour. I made it home again in one piece. Service was good: Eduardo and Tori gave us a piano and flute duet of music by Lili Boulanger; very modern and French sounding. Great chords, and the flute dynamics were spot on. The sermon was rather Jungian, I thought; like a collective soul of Jesus Christ in which the individual participates. It seemed to me harmonious with the Shakespeare I’ve been reading. It’s interesting how a person can lose touch with Romantic thinking on the force of history… I probably baked my brains in the sunlight on the return trip. Took advantage of the shade of a few trees. Nancy gave away loaves of white bread, so I took two of them and carried them home, one in each hand. I was glad to see everybody today. I might return next weekend, and meanwhile see about what to do with the rock band. This quandary has been bugging me ever since I started playing in the band last December. I think finally I can choose once and for all which way to go… 

Is Rock Dead?

Four thirty.

I slept okay but I think I’m done now. Unbidden, the old song by The Beatles comes to me, written by John for Brian Epstein: “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away.” It’s more an attack on culture than on his friend, so the title is actually ironic. It raises the question why… Yesterday I had doubts about my participation in rock music. But right now, on the contrary, I’d be stupid to do anything else. Speaking of The Beatles, my mother was a fan, though in the closet with it. Her own mother found the band disgraceful, and her daughter fell in with her opinion. Why was my mother the family pariah? In my estimation, she was far more intelligent than my sister, and probably for this reason she had a difficult time making friends. I wonder why it is that the very best of us get derailed into a self destructive pattern? But she pinned all her hopes on me when I was growing up, perhaps a bit too much pressure for me to handle. Still, I don’t want to let her down, even twenty years after her death… Therefore, it’s rock and roll till I die— or until rock and roll itself is dead, which is a real possibility given these circumstances. Yet like the Ark of the Covenant or the Olympic flame, someone keeps the dream alive and safe.

Five thirty. The sky is bloodless over the treetops across the street. A cadaverous gray. The store doesn’t open until seven on weekends. Not really looking forward to hearing from my sister; maybe we can skip it this week. A mournful train horn sounds in the distance to the southwest alongside Northwest Expressway. I used to know a guy who stowed away on a freight car and rode it all the way from Portland to Eugene. I wish I were so adventuresome. But this guy’s dad was a rich timber consultant, so his poverty had a silver spoon tucked in it… The crows wake up east of me. Squirrel prances on the roof of my house. And now I just await my friend’s email…