The Day after Christmas

Quarter after six.

I’ve probably done a bad thing today, but I said what I had to say to my friend in Texas. Maybe we won’t be as close after this. Life for everyone has changed a great deal since this year began. Dunno; I had a long and lonely weekend with a lot of frustrations and pains in the butt. I keep saying to myself how unhappy I am with my life currently because I don’t feel like I’m free. Life is strange, though I wonder if I’m trying to blame other people for my own situation? I knew a friend who said that the only limitations you have are those you place on yourself. And what could be freer than verbal self expression?… I think I might pop the plastic on my book of Jack Kerouac and do some reading. I suppose some relationships wear out with time, or when things get to be a strain on each person. I only know that I haven’t been happy for a long time and I feel ready for a change. Christianity doesn’t make me feel good anymore. I chafe against it, striving for more freedom just to be myself. The cookie cutters that form every individual are each so different. Life for me is less like Jesus and more like Walt Whitman.

Seven twenty. I guess I’ll go take a nap for a few hours. Tomorrow there’s still nothing on my plate, so I’ll have to make a trip to Bi Mart or something to break the monotony.

Quarter after eleven.

I dreamt about a little Jewish guitarist friend that I used to know in the past two decades and who was kind to me, though he was illicit and rather dangerous to be around. He used to work as chef at Hole in the Wall Barbecue in Springfield, but I’ve lost touch with him since July 2012. I just wonder why I keep dreaming about him… Before I fell asleep, I started thinking of the series of events I set in motion as of last December, when the band came together again to practice the day after Christmas. Gradually over six months, I have separated from the church in spirit as I committed myself to rock and roll with the guys… which might be a mistake. It’s been a process of secularization, stepping away from the sacred and toward the profane, though such terms are too general and dramatic for the real things that happened. It is hyperbolic to say something like I’ve been dancing with the devil or whatever, and it borders on psychosis or some other extravagance of the imagination: it’s just a fantasy. And yet, without my medication for schizophrenia, this daydream would be very real to me, and terrifying. So now I ponder why society has a counterculture like rock and roll: and why do we call the devil the Beast? Probably there’s no devil except for ourselves, and our dark animalistic instincts simply need a place for expression: et voila the rock and roll revolution.

After midnight. I still have doubts about what I’m doing with music, however. I feel as if I’d gone astray like Little Bo Peep’s lost sheep. “Let them alone and they’ll come home / Bringing their tails behind them.” The myths we live by can be larger than life sometimes. I just don’t understand why I have to take a drug to reduce cultural fantasies to a manageable size. What’s up with that? 

Orpheus IV

Quarter after eleven. I feel rather tired and anxious about our practice today. I’ve had lunch already and turned on the air conditioner. I don’t know if I’m going to church tomorrow or not. If I do, then I really don’t want to be lector for the service. I guess I won’t go. I don’t like having to sing hymns anymore because my voice doesn’t sound good to me… Before long we’ll be having our rehearsal at Mike’s place. I’m going to walk over there, passing through the parking lot for the convenience store. I also have to go by the salon on my way… Funny but I don’t think like a Freudian these days, with his ideas about dreams and slips and so forth. I used to go far astray using his methods to understand human behavior. It was entirely inaccurate…

Quarter after noon. I’m leaving in a half hour. Aesop is not happy about it… I suspect that Freud was wrong about a lot of things, like the cause of schizophrenia. Was Jung any closer to being right? Psychotherapy just seems useless against severe mental illness, so I won’t worry about it anymore. I’ll be my own judge and live my life my way.

Eleven thirty.

Another rehearsal came and went this afternoon. It was rather disappointing to me for a couple of reasons. I think we’ll have to scrap “Peter Gunn” because our performance of it is just not acceptable. Meanwhile, “Jersey,” an original by Ron, turned out pretty good except you couldn’t hear my bass in the mix unless it was my dissonant notes. But that’s okay; I only have to use a different instrument and also change my strategy a little bit to minimize blue tones and bring out the harmonic ones. I told Mike that if we could get airplay on KWVA, the university station, then I’d be impressed with our little band. Now I want to encourage Ron to write more songs to add to our repertoire, or maybe I could make a few of them too… I gave him my copy of The Dream Songs, and to Mike I gave up my cd of Discipline by King Crimson. I believe we need to get inspired and get the creativity flowing. Then a few hours ago I popped the plastic on the selection of poems by John Berryman I bought recently. It’s a beautiful little book with a nice representation from his corpus, though I don’t yet have a feel for where he’s coming from spiritually or otherwise. Also I’m not sure what Ron finds so appealing about his poetry unless it’s a matter of sheer style, of form more than content. I guess that in addition to learning about John Berryman, I’m trying to get a better sense of my band mates in terms of mentality and focus. Where have they been, and where are we going to? But I believe KWVA is a good and realistic goal for us. 

New Thrills

Eight o’clock.

Ever since Sunday I’ve been worried about Pastor’s reticence regarding my rock band. This silence tends to make me imagine all sorts of things that may be blown out of proportion to reality. In the first place, I can’t figure out why his opinion means so much to me. It’s as if his approval were the ultimate judgment on the quality of the music, especially its spiritual goodness or badness. So then I have to remind myself that Pastor is just a human being, not a god or even a saint. Maybe he’s just concerned that I might be tempted to use drugs with the other guys and mess up my life?… I didn’t notice much on my excursion to the store today. It’s cloudy right now. I bought Aesop two peanut butter bones for a special treat. I’m not so afraid now that I will lose my sobriety, so when I go into the market, the place feels rather dull and insignificant to me. It is simply where I get something to eat every day and chat a bit with Michelle. The old excitement associated with the store is gone. The only thing that gives me a thrill now is playing music in the band, and I anticipate it all week. Intellectual gymnastics don’t interest me as much as they used to. I still like good books, though perhaps something a little lighter than heavy old classics. Dunno; I’m just figuring myself out while the times keep changing and developing into new things. Now it’s time to feed my dog. 

Orpheus III

Seven forty.

I had a great time yesterday with Ron and Mike. We held practice at five o’clock and it was a sunny evening. My old Aria bass through the Fender amp ground out a beefy tone, kind of aggressive, but perfect for our music. I described our sound to a friend as unsubtle and often dissonant but with a beat that gets you moving. It is probably more rock than jazz because the keyboard is sometimes fuzzed and gritty. Ron said his influence is more Keith Emerson than Rick Wakeman, hence visceral and raw as opposed to refined. I think we do pretty well as a trio of keyboards, drums, and bass guitar. One of the songs we did yesterday was “Bubble House,” in which I have to take a solo on bass in G minor, not one of my better keys. But I hacked my way through it and came out sounding reasonably good. Before and after rehearsal I got a lift from the other guys. Now I owe Ron a book of John Berryman, so next time I’ll bring him The Dream Songs. The sunny weather continues this morning. At the market I bought a peach Snapple tea in honor of my friend who did the same thing yesterday. My cattle dog seems happy that I’ll be home all day today: no engagements at all. 

In and out of Time

Noon hour. I just jammed on the bass guitar for an hour. This cloudy day makes me think of early summers in junior high school, or late spring. I can’t believe how bright everything is, how vital and resonant. Maybe it’s just me who is full of love of life recently, and of hope for better things in the future. Right now it’s super quiet in the room and everywhere else. It’s very strange when this happens; like I’m the only human being alive on earth. It will be a lonely afternoon again today, unless I decide to go to Bi Mart. I guess I’ll do some housework after a bit. While playing the bass, I copied the line for “Invisible Sun” by The Police, a song that always gives me goosebumps. It takes me back to my sophomore year in high school, when the future was unlimited, and yet my vocabulary was inadequate to compass my experience of life. Maybe it was this innocence that made life seem so boundless and infinite, like I could live forever. I bought Ghost in the Machine on vinyl a year after it was released. I still think it’s a better record than Synchronicity because it’s more groove oriented… I didn’t know how to think when I was 15 years old. It must’ve been an odd mode of existence, being so green and inexperienced, nonverbal and inarticulate. Language gives me a handle on things and events, a feeling of having control and power over situations. Otherwise I’d be just a passive leaf in the wind. Or maybe we’re all merely leaves in the wind anyway? Except for a few geniuses who move and shake the world. Sometimes it takes more than genius; it takes money to legislate what people do and think… I really hope the band I’m in can be a modest success here locally, and maybe get some radio airplay. Notoriety around town can be a good thing. The three of us are all around 50 years old, but not too old to have ambition. Whether we win or lose, we’ll still be having fun in the endeavor. 

Life and Music

Quarter after five.

“Never let the music die,” said the drunken guy I encountered on the road to Mike’s place yesterday afternoon. In one hand I carried a bass, and the other an umbrella. The man weaved in the lane ahead of me, holding a white plastic bag in his left hand and mumbling to himself. I believed he was homeless until I saw him head for a certain house around the curve, where he stopped and waited for me to catch up. He was barely articulate, but I understood his speech about being a musician at Lucky’s tavern prior to the pandemic. He said how unfortunate it was that people can’t get together and play. It made me reflect on the reasons people have for picking up an instrument and banging out their feelings. Also I wondered at the illegality of the local music community: why are so many musicians in trouble with the law? Are we just not very smart?

Our band had a few tense moments, but I still enjoyed playing “The Mincer,” just a slow jam in A7. The original version was quite atonal and noisy. Our rendition cleans it up a bit, saving the Wetton bass line and building up from there. We made no recordings this time; Mike thought it was a distraction, and also the mic is not set up yet. I got a good tone from my kit bass through the Fender amp. It made a difference to set the amplifier on the floor.

Now it’s after six o’clock and the little market might be open, though because it’s Sunday the hours could be different. I’m just sitting here awaiting the dawn of day, anticipating my Snapple raspberry tea. Aesop needs wet food again, so that’s the first thing on my list. 

A World Unseen

Three thirty in the morning.

Occasionally I am haunted by what happened early in my recovery, when my mental health was quite poor. I’d be awake 24 hours a day, and during December 2017 I read a raunchy little novel by Dawn Powell titled Dance Night. Those memories are miserable, yet sometimes they are necessary to my continued sobriety. I guess the worst part of it was desertion by my family, although at first I had my brother’s support. You always lose someone by the personal choices you make— and gain a few others. In this sense, every one of us ultimately lives their life alone with their freedom and responsibility. A grim thought, but probably the truth. I keep intending to read my Nietzsche or something else existential— even Dostoevsky would be interesting. On the other hand, I do pretty well at just winging the philosophy. 

Every decision I make cuts away something, but also certain people in my life. I could be putting myself in danger with the rock band because of the A&D factor; additionally with their ideology of rock and roll rebellion. I don’t know what I’m getting into. Supposedly music expresses no opinion, and yet it’s a language of its own, saying something spiritual that may be either good or perhaps not so good. The virtue of the music is only observable by its effects on the hearers for better or worse. All the time I feel myself slipping away from the church the more involved I get with the band. In a world unseen, there’s a struggle of light and darkness for supremacy, and the choice again is up to me. To begin with, it’s good to be aware of the situation. From there, I can make an informed decision. 

Saturnine

Two o’clock in the morning.

Due to drug issues, practice with the band was mostly a disaster yesterday. However, I’ve decided to forgive my friends and give them another chance. We did manage to do a little Led Zeppelin, namely “Four Sticks.” I just sort of played by instinct, covering both the bass line and the synth part in a kind of musical Impressionism, hoping someone would follow. The original of the song is so beautiful, with John Paul Jones on bass and synthesizer, so elegantly gliding along. We also played around with “The Mincer” again, an old King Crimson classic… It’s good to play a Jazz style bass again after a long time with Precision Basses. But they all sound majestic… When I have doubts about my involvement in music, I sometimes take recourse to the zodiac for support of my self image. The real events of my life don’t make much coherent sense. I’m aware of how my sister thinks about rock and roll: it’s just impertinent rebellion against God and mainstream culture. She and my mother disagreed on this point, and it always puts me in a difficult position.

Quarter after six. So I resolve the conflict by appealing to my horoscope, according to which my ruling planet is Saturn, another name for Cronus, the father of Zeus in Greek mythology. I don’t know how music got to be related to Saturn, nor literature, but it’s true… A half hour ago I listened to “Four Sticks” on YouTube. It was just as I remembered it, except I’d never paid attention to the words before. The cumulative effect is quite breathtaking, music and lyric. Like a Keats poem or something. It transports you to another dimension.

Seven o’clock. Dawn breaks outside. I want to stay home from church today and read my Goethe; maybe listen to some music and play my bass. I feel rather rejuvenated, knowing that I’m sober and how this really benefits me. My life feels purposeful: I am an instrument of the planets, not just a biological organism. 

From a Phish Song

Noon hour. I motivated myself to blow the dog crap off the patio with the garden hose because it was attracting the houseflies. Motivation is difficult for people with schizophrenia. No one knows why, and therapy doesn’t seem to help. No use in making a moral issue of it either; it simply is… I’ll be going to practice between three thirty and four o’clock. My slovenliness embarrasses me, yet I can’t help it. It would be even worse if I were drinking. I will try to muster up enthusiasm for the music today. But overall I feel like an empty shell, burnt out on everything I used to love.

One thirty five. I looked up the lifespan of the average schizophrenic: it shaves off up to 25 years. By this predictor I could die before I’m 60 years old. I guess I’m okay with that because I already feel like an octogenarian. Can’t imagine living to be 75 in real time. Time to start doing what I really want to do with my life and make every second count. Or perhaps I’ve done enough. It’s like the song “Character Zero” by Phish. What is the best use of our time? Should we rush or take it slow?