Particulars

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. 

Musical Sunday

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? 

Wednesday Morning

Nine o’clock.

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???”

Back to School

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.

Saturday Morning

Nine o’clock.

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.

Monday Morning

Eleven o’clock.

I’ve been to the store and stopped to chat for a moment with Karen. She flagged me down as I was walking past. I remarked that it was Monday, an unconventional day for a salon to be open. She replied that they were catching up, and that her usual Monday gig was still closed. It was Aesop who prompted me to go to the store for his snacks. He whined pitifully until I agreed to go. Luckily there was still one pouch of bacon strips on the shelf at the market. I further bought a liter of Coke, a pound of cottage cheese, and a Hot Pocket. At the checkout, I asked after JR’s little daughter. She’ll be starting kindergarten next fall. The weather cooperated for my pilgrimage. According to the forecast, no rain until one o’clock. Before departing, I went on Amazon and preordered the 40th anniversary edition of Rush’s Permanent Waves. It was the very first Rush album I owned on vinyl. Mom bought it for me at Fred Meyer in the summer of 1981. I listened to it every morning till it was spotless. The record was warped and made a whoosh during play, especially on the outer edge. For a turntable I had a cheap Panasonic three in one stereo, a Christmas gift from fourth grade. Mom replaced it with a very nice Pioneer system a year later. Anyhow, the Rush music was incredible, and with each listen I noticed something new. It was very instructional for me as a drummer in the junior high school band. After that summer I would be a Rush follower for the career of the band.

Music of the Sphere

Quarter of midnight. I hate conflicts, so why do I keep looking for them? My logic sniffs out every contradiction like a bloodhound. My siblings each represent a different world, one worldly, the other divine, but I’m growing tired of being the referee in the wrestling match. Was I born to be the bringer of balance to these opposing extremes? My sister was born first, elected religion for her personal compass, and never looked back. Next came my brother, and chose science without a backward glance. My birth was an afterthought, and has been the trickiest life to figure out because it can be neither religion nor science exclusively. Presiding over our three lives is a strange kind of zodiac the harmony of which I would dearly love to know. Our mother set the little mobile in motion and now rests in peace. The music of the spheres, to my mind, has been Hemispheres by Rush, which I started listening to in winter 1982. I stretched across my bed and soaked up the vinyl LP every morning before school until I had memorized every note.

When our weary world was young

The struggle of the ancients first began

The gods of love and reason

Sought alone to rule the fate of man

They battled through the ages

But still neither force would yield

The people were divided

Every soul a battlefield

If I could only sit my siblings down to listen to the A side of Hemispheres until they understood the message of it, my task in life would be done.

They sat a while in silence

Then they turned at last to me

“We will call you Cygnus

The god of balance you shall be”

But in the words of Don McLean:

Now I understand what you tried to say to me

And how you suffered for your sanity

And how you tried to set them free

They did not listen, they’re not listening still

Perhaps they never will

Memorial

I dreamed that I went to the memorial concert for Neil Peart held in his hometown. It was a huge festival for musicians and poets, and the music was all performed on xylophone in his honor. Poets did readings and workshops and discussed high things in true Renaissance spirit. At first, I was watching the concert on television with my mother, then by some magic I was transported into the scene. I also dreamed about the bass guitar I built for myself last summer. I showed it to my mother. I made it play itself by remote control somehow. The tune was “Bubble House.” Mark the drummer appeared in the dream. Our cell phones got mixed up with each other. I ended up using an old phone that had been Mom’s because I couldn’t find mine. Eventually the concert for Peart came on her television screen and she reported to me what was happening. The event brought together people from all walks of life, everybody who loved music and poetry. It was a point of convergence and a great spiritual experience. And people who formerly hadn’t known who Neil Peart was became curious about him.

Homage to Rush

I’ve never been a round peg in any way. The outlets society provides for human wants are usually the wrong size and shape for me. Maybe it’s the way my life will always be. Few things are a perfect fit, but the ones that are, definitely are more intelligent than average. To my mind, there exists hardly a more perfect rock and roll recording than Moving Pictures by Rush.

It was so exciting to put the vinyl on the turntable the first time in the autumn of 1981. It was in the early evening, but already dark outside. My dad and I had been to K Mart on Goodpasture Island Road. I spotted the album out on display and begged Dad to buy it for me. He assented when I argued that I hadn’t had a new LP in a long time. So I took the record home and listened to it immediately. The first three tracks blew my mind. Rush had really refined their sound since Permanent Waves. It was the logical next step, a natural progression from before. Neil’s snare drum was tuned extremely tight, and the whole kit sounded perfectly musical. Alex’s guitar technique, especially biting the strings for false harmonics, was exquisite. His chord choices were tasty and often a surprise. And then, Geddy Lee’s driving bass was feverishly intense. To say I was thrilled would be understated.

Over the years, Moving Pictures was a record I returned to repeatedly for inspiration. Gradually I came to understand the meaning behind the lyrics, which were as fine as the music. To this day, Rush on the radio stands head and shoulders above most bands, in my opinion. They made music with quality and excellence that no one else could compete with. The question I would raise now is, How did they do it? How did they achieve perfection?

Banality

Eight twenty.

I used to be so full of lust, but now, where libido had been, there is only numbness. I don’t relate to women on the basis of desire anymore. Nothing looks good to me. Maybe it’s just as well. People go to the movies for an infusion of desire, but I dislike being told what to see. I defected from mind control long ago. I’d rather have my perception be clear and unbiased. It could be I’m just a fool. I even stopped following politics, having lost all faith in our leadership. I’m not sure what guides me today. There is no new thing under the sun, and all is vanity. Whose lead would I follow, if I had no choice? Are there any leaders anymore? In some capacity I must plug into the human spirit and play a role. My new Fender bass is coming tomorrow. Musician will be my job, but I don’t feel very romantic about it this morning. Maybe the book I’m reading is a downer. Sartre struggles with the idea of freedom in a world that’s gone to war. His characters have no control over political events, and each one responds to the inevitable differently. Why did I pick The Reprieve to read? The panoramic sweep of it is like James Joyce, sort of, but not as good. Doubtless it loses something in the translation. It’s a foggy morning, everything gray and desolate. I resolve to have a Coke and a smile. To go and spend some food stamps. It’s cold outside, but I’m working up my courage. Aesop is resting on the floor, unenthused by anything.

Ten twelve. I encountered nothing extraordinary at the store. However, a lyric occurred to me on the sidewalk: “Wistful and weathered, the pride still prevails alive in the streets of the city.” Emphasis on the word pride. The condition of pride is like gas in the car. It makes the car go. Pride gives a person hope for the future. Whatever happens now, one can always hope for something better. At the same time, the goals must be realistic. I aim to start playing gigs in the local music community. I will polish my technical ability to be the best I can be. But to be honest with myself, I’m a much different person without alcohol. Perhaps what drives me today is different from before. Rush has disbanded since Neil passed away, so those heroes are gone. It’s a time to reevaluate my life. There’s always so much uncertainty on any given day. The future stands like a blind implacable wall before us. Maybe it’s better to concentrate on the present moment. The grayness of the day gets me down. In two hours I have Heidi to see. If I had a crystal ball that gave me an objective look at myself, what would I see? And would I like it?