Pastor broadcast my birthday in the Daily Devotions email this morning, and Nancy emailed me her birthday wishes. It is super dark and wet today. At the Fremont end of the street the gutter has backed up and made a miniature pond that was difficult to cross. I chatted with my sister for more than an hour and then fed the dog before my trip. I saw almost no one, and I got the store all to myself when I bought a Snapple and some easy food. I considered an outing to Bi Mart, but the weather isn’t favorable for it. I might put it off until Wednesday afternoon. I received a Stimulus payment this morning, as a lot of people will have. Tomorrow my new bass amp is scheduled to arrive. I’m stressed about that in a good way. And yesterday I ordered a little selection of the poetry of Carl Sandburg to replace the one I gave to a neighbor three years ago. What I remember about it mostly is the panoramic sweeps he made, in a style reminiscent of Whitman. His descriptions of Chicago and the prairie, and of the people traveling back and forth between them, were very interesting… For the moment it has stopped raining, so maybe now is a good opportunity to go to the pharmacy. Regardless of the weather, I’m taking a taxi. Then again I might just stay home today.
Noon hour. Lately I’ve been playing the bass line to “Circumstances” by Rush, a song often overlooked in their repertoire. I love the lyric to it, about Neil’s youth in England before he came back to Canada to join Rush, bringing with him a lot of prog rock influences. The other lyric I always enjoy is “The Camera Eye,” which compares city life in New York and London. Sometimes I wish I lived in a bigger city than this rather backward one, a town of hippies and rednecks with not much else to choose from… And then there are the Lutherans. I think I’ll go to church this Friday night and help with the service. It’s nice that Pastor remembered my birthday today, something I didn’t expect… I had an erotic dream this morning. A young woman across the street from me tried to seduce me, wearing only jeans and a bra. She was a beautiful brunette with luscious curves, and I felt tempted. Suddenly my dad appeared and asked what was going on, and the girl, seeing this, dropped her pursuit of me. Then I woke up with regret that my dream self destructed— or maybe that’s just my personality.
One thirty. I feel myself flashing back to ninth grade, still the happiest year of my life. I think it was happy because of Rush, such a joy and inspiration to me for many years to follow. I had a minor crush on Gail W— in ninth grade pre algebra. Junior high school was weird, the beginning of a strange odyssey to college. It began and ended with egoism, the very antithesis to the churchgoing mentality I’ve since learned. Then why did I say that ninth grade was a happy time? The egoism led me inevitably to alcohol abuse three years later. Wasn’t my formal education instead a mistake? The soundtrack to the whole mad pursuit was Rush. And the basic text for Rush?: Ayn Rand. So now it’s nearly Christmas, 39 years after ninth grade egomania. Have I learned anything? No, but I’ve gained perspective enough to make an important distinction between school indoctrination and that of the Church. Perhaps Rush as a “soundtrack” is disposable. Then again, maybe it isn’t.
Quarter of three. It may be better to keep a critical distance from Ayn Rand, but then, the seeds of egoism were sown in me forty years ago. Better to acquaint myself with the enemy in order to weed it out by the roots. In my experience, alcoholism naturally follows from “reason, egoism, and capitalism.” Thus, the precepts of Alcoholics Anonymous are not far from the mark.
Four thirty in the morning.
I just listened to Rush’s Hemispheres after a long hiatus. It sounds as brilliant as it ever did, the product of very hard work. Yesterday I played the bass line to “Circumstances,” or rather the parts of it I could manage. There are some runs that are virtually impossible to copy… After spinning the CD, I began to meditate on the letter R. It is the initial for some important words, to my mind, such as Robert, Rush, reason, and Ayn Rand. In numerology, the letter R falls under the number 9, and resonates with that number’s energy. Maybe I’m thinking along these lines in anticipation of my birthday.
Eight forty. I’m off to a late start today, but that’s okay with me. In the days when I worked, I didn’t earn much PTO, but the day I took off was always my birthday. One time on January 4, I indulged in beer and in the afternoon, UPS delivered an edition of Milton that I still treasure. It is a big maroon hardcover tome published by Hackett. One of these days I’ll finish reading Paradise Lost.
Ten o’clock. It’s mostly cloudy, with a little bleed through of sunshine. Melissa said she hoped it wouldn’t rain, but the forecast calls for a lot of it next week. I stopped on the sidewalk to take a look at the dog rescue shelter across Maxwell on N. Park. I noticed a couple of buses parked outside the building, one orange and the other white. Karen and Kim talked about the local utility company, and how to save on our electric bills. The former was dressed in a royal blue blouse and vest. We also talked of kung pao chicken and shrimp. Just trivial things of no vast import to the nation. No great figures of speech. Roger was busy grinding down something metal, the sparks flying out behind him. I imagined he was vexed about politics. Maybe someday he’ll move to Montana as he’s been threatening to do. Someplace else to live the dream…
Noon hour. I had chili for lunch. Both of the Snapples are gone, a half gallon of fluid in my system. Late last night I listened to another old Rush album from 1987. That was fun. I really like Alex Lifeson as a guitar player, regardless that he is underrated in the polls. His style is beautiful and exhibits excellent taste. His solo on “Turn the Page” is very colorful and passionate in a cerebral way. One day, when I was waiting in the lobby of Willamette Family, the PA played a lot of garden variety pop music. Then suddenly, “Tom Sawyer” came on and totally dominated. There was no comparison to the other bands. Perhaps Rush simply spoke a language that I understood.
One twenty. Again I sort of wish I had another bass with active electronics.
Three o’clock. And then I have second thoughts about rock and roll as a profession. Music of any genre can be rather dangerous to get into. Mom didn’t demonstrate very good sense when I joined Blueface in 2001. Maybe she never did have sound judgment where I was concerned. Everyone else denounced her as quixotic, idealistic, and just an idle dreamer— even crazy. But I think I can be the judge of that, having grown up like her only son. It brings to my mind Kermit’s little song, “Rainbow Connection.” What’s wrong with being a lover, a dreamer, or even a lunatic? If my mother was crazy or stupid, still you have to forgive her, if not admire her audacity to dream big.
Quarter of nine.
Thanksgiving Day has started out quite nicely. I bought Aesop a special treat of T bone snacks. The peppermint candy ice cream tempted me but I passed today. In the home stretch of my walk, I met with Bonnie Rose in her big black pickup truck. She rolled down the window and wished me a Happy Thanksgiving. I wanted to ask her if she was the one who kept setting up my lawn sign, but there wasn’t time. It was a little like Beauty and the Beast as I trudged up the street in my sapphire hoodie with a full shopping bag. Or maybe Lady and the Tramp. I can remember when she was a young girl and my mother had just passed away, nineteen years ago. Her older sister played the piano and her younger sister shot hoops with their dad in the driveway. The parents divorced a few years back, and now the family of women keep more or less to themselves.
Quarter of ten. The other morning I spun the disc of Rush’s Power Windows and was impressed with their mid eighties sound. Hearing Geddy Lee play his Wal bass made me wish I had another bass with active electronics. Perhaps someday. I wish even more for opportunities to play with other musicians… What I’m thankful for today is my sobriety and the positive effects this has had on my relationships with people. My pen pal thanked me this morning for my kindness, and it’s nice to be perceived that way. I still believe that alcohol is the root of all evil, though I know madness can stem from other factors. It does seem that avoiding alcohol has a magical impact on my fortunes, the year 2020 with its strangeness notwithstanding. It’s miraculous alone that I stayed sober through the trials of this year. I think fleetingly of my parents: they could never have maintained sobriety for three years. Whatever helps me today, my parents had nothing to do with it.
Quarter after ten. It feels very cold outside. I put on my jacket and chattered my way to the market for food and, for a change, a Coke. I told Vicki about the burrito pricing mixup, so she entered the new prices in the register. In addition I asked her when there would be more dog food on the shelf. She answered something vague, but at least I put a bug in her ear. Aesop doesn’t like the Costco brand of canned food anymore, and I said so.
As I plodded there and back, I began to consider the introduction to the Montaigne book. The striking thing for me is how he lets the contradictions within himself remain. He doesn’t impose unifying principles on his own experience, makes no attempt to systematize. And this is called diversity. It impresses me as the very opposite of Joseph Campbell, and even of modern natural science. It seems rather lawless, like chaos to me. And yet it is a valid way of perceiving the phenomena of life. According to biology, without organization a life form breaks down and dies. Without it, perhaps the sciences could not exist as they do today. But still Montaigne reminds me that some people leave the particulars as they are, and they don’t operate on what they perceive. This kind of variety means a minimizing of conflict which in the extreme would otherwise result in bloodshed…
The Coke is a little gross, bubbly and acidic and ultimately unhealthy, though it’s a treat just the same. Tomorrow I have physical therapy again, this time taking a taxi both ways. I plan on not doing the homework. Erin can then decide if I should continue the sessions.
Sometimes I see myself as an aesthetic person, and this applies even to the experience of sitting down to read a book. The volume in my hands is like a succulent meal, like the best prime rib or shrimp scampi. There’s something obsessive about it for me, perhaps even manic. Moreover, taste makes waste. On the other hand, life needs the seasoning of beauty to render it palatable. The weather, speaking of beauty, is cloudless and perfect, the sky a blue pearl. Now the maple leaves begin to change from green to gold. On the fringe of my mind lurks the figure of Neil Peart, whose inconsistencies make me wonder if he ever read Montaigne.
Noon hour. I’m hearing an old song by The Cars in my head: “Good Times Roll.” It was their old sound, before they went synthetic in the 80s… I wanted to buy some Snapples for Damien before it gets too warm out. I didn’t think of it on my trip this morning. I looked out for Number One instead. I think a lot of people are doing that, but it’s making us miserable. One thing I am enjoying, however, is A Farewell to Kings by Rush. I still haven’t heard all the bonus material or read the booklet. IMO, this album was the beginning of their more sophisticated sound, working with complex chords and soft subtleties. It was more sensitive overall than 2112, and more musical in the abstract. It was just different from their previous stuff. Basically, it was inspired.
Three twenty five. Damien hasn’t replied to my text from this morning, and he isn’t here yet. I take people too literally, I guess. He has things on his mind and a lot of work to do. I skimmed the liner notes to the Rush album. It goes into some musical detail about each piece, some of which looks inaccurate to me, particularly the analyses of time signatures, but I know I’m being pedantic. I’d forgotten that the band recorded it in Wales, so this explains part of the difference in temperament from previous records. Alex Lifeson also reports having used chorus effects on his electric guitar for a fuller sound… The music gets sort of lost in the translation into words. I can say with confidence that hearing these old songs makes me feel happy. And it’s very satisfying to sit down with my bass guitar and nail a part played by Geddy Lee on the original recording. I feel as if Rush were in the room. Who says rock and roll is dead?
I was sleeping too much, so I bought a Coke to keep me awake during the day. I guess there is no perfect mental state. Just accept and roll with it. I was the only customer in the market a bit ago. “Magic Man” by Heart was on the radio, followed by Tears for Fears. I wore my straw fedora for the fun of it. I met the same old man walking with a cane on the street. We always say good morning, but I don’t know his name. Before going out, I read a headline about the US not cooperating with the World Health Organization towards developing a vaccine. I believe this isolationism must come to an end. It is ridiculous for us to cut ourselves off from the rest of the world and call ourselves “great.” The world outside of America thinks we’re all very conceited and arrogant… and stupid. Why do we have to keep proving them right?… It’s forecast to be a day in the 90s. Aesop’s breakfast is almost due. He’s a great dog, the smartest I’ve ever owned. I brushed him Monday night, and he seemed to like it. Eight years old this month. We’ve been through a lot together… I should get my Rush CD this afternoon. “Can’t we raise our eyes and make a start / Can’t we find the minds to lead us closer to the heart?” “Can’t we learn to feel what’s right and what’s wrong / What’s wrong???”
Nine twenty five. Aesop gets his breakfast in a few minutes. I exercise my freedom wherever I can. It’s a beautiful day, with the high temperature predicted to be 90 degrees. I just paid my insurance bill. I’m glad August is over. September is the month when school starts in my city.
I can remember the feeling of returning to school in Stride Rite shoes, either waffle stompers or wallabies, periwinkle cords, and a homemade shirt. I smell my lunch thermos. Scooby Doo or Speed Buggy was the theme. I see the old playground. Monkey bars and structures for climbing on, swings, and a slide. The fierce sun made the asphalt stink like tar. Some of the girls wore Bluebird or Brownie uniforms on certain days. We sang patriotic songs without really knowing what they meant. I was fascinated with dinosaurs, so I started a collection of books, posters, and stickers about them. Mom didn’t approve of this, but she went along with it. It’s strange, I can feel what it was like to be seven years old. The teacher hated me, but some of the other kids were nice. I began piano lessons the same year. I rode my bike to get my weekly lesson early in the morning, then went directly to school.
Mrs Weight lived in the green house at the end of Fremont. Her son had a dachshund named Sergeant Pepper. They called him Sarge. Every Christmas she held a recital of all her students. These were nerve wracking, and I don’t recall them very well. I studied with her for six years, then finally quit and dedicated myself to drum lessons with Ken. Mrs Weight was upset because she didn’t approve of rock and roll… Speaking of which, I ordered the 40th Anniversary edition of A Farewell to Kings by Rush. It should be kind of emotional for me, reminding me of past joys and disappointments. “Madrigal” ought to be particularly sweet.
I know I’m lazy. If there’s no incentive to work and if I’m comfortable, then I won’t bother with it. The house is paid for and I make do on $803 per month. As long as I don’t feel guilty, I’m in good shape. D— said that some people would judge me, but he was speaking for himself. Our last meetup was quite strange. Neither one of us was feeling well. He had a flu bug and I was psychotic. But I stood my ground with him and he sort of wilted. The most important thing, no matter what happens, is not to drink. In my experience, feeling guilty is a recipe for any kind of behavioral havoc. I consider toxic any person or situation that plays on guilt feelings. I just avoid putting myself in those positions. My brother wallows in guilt and alcoholism, each feeding the other in a loop. Oh well… Aesop slept in this morning. I heard him breathing rhythmically, sound asleep. I went to the store for a few things and chatted with Michelle. Putting on a face mask is like a brassiere for the nose, or so it seems to me.
Quarter after ten. Aesop just had his breakfast. We have a daily routine that he depends on. I’m thankful that I can afford snacks for him nowadays. Maybe again today I’ll listen to Permanent Waves. I could email Mark just for fun. The fireworks last night weren’t too bothersome with the new storm windows. I explained to Aesop how some people like to make noise, and this was normal. By ten thirty or so, they stopped. I walked past the blast marks on the street this morning, black and brown skids of gunpowder. Right now the sun is trying to come out. It could be a good Independence Day.