Clothed in Heavenly Light,
Neil Peart appeared to me
In a half waking dream
And taught me the meaning
Of his song “Heresy”
On the Rush disc of thirty years ago.
It was important to me
Not only because of the Berlin Wall
But it was the year I fell ill
With this dreaded disease
That changed the whole course
Of my life,
Giving it a purpose
Unguessed by the living,
But to Mr Peart
It makes perfect sense
In the unfathomed ways
Of the Other Side.
In a better mood this morning, I hoofed it over to the store to buy a couple of things. Heather was handling business very well on her own. I let another customer go ahead of me because he had cash. People were quite courteous to each other. On N. Park I saw a guy loading his vehicle with fishing gear and stuff, preparing for the holiday weekend. I also passed Colin’s house and reflected that I never see him outside anymore, I don’t know why. I don’t see Kat very often, either. Fear drives people to do strange things, and self preservation is the strongest instinct… The way some people hibernate in their homes, we might as well be bears living alone in the woods. I find that people are only indecent when they are out of their senses, due to substance abuse or madness of some kind. It is not our natural state to be wicked, and yet we’re so mistrustful of other people… Aesop is asking me when his breakfast is coming, so I tell him a half hour and he understands. The morning is partly sunny. Music: from Rush’s Counterparts, but there’s also a real train horn off to the southwest. I hear a mourning dove cooing somewhere near. Consciousness is a complicated thing, a system of associations with multiple layers, like peering down into a well, or at an overhead projection with different transparencies. Margaret Atwood uses these images somewhere in her fiction, probably in Cat’s Eye… And again the silence in the house overwhelms, but today it isn’t a bad thing.
Nine ten. I’m actually thankful for the peace today, and I’ve gotten my shots out of the way. It was good to talk with my sister yesterday morning. I don’t know if my family will ever accept me, or even if I care, but for now I have my sister. People can be ungrateful when you treat them kindly, or perhaps we’ll never know how they feel.
The world really is a lapsed place of blasphemy, so tomorrow morning I guess I’ll go to church, just like old times, to search for my lost innocence… At around noon yesterday, Damien and his friend came and did some important yard work for me. I felt terrible all day from the threat to my sobriety I perceive in the band. I think music is not a very safe profession if you want to stay sober. Now I’m looking for a way to transcend the fallen society that surrounds me. Last night I thought of Boethius and his Consolation of Philosophy, considering the things that are immutable, like rational love, as opposed to the things that pass transiently like the pleasures of the senses. I figured that wisdom was more important than a beer buzz, and longer lasting.
When I was a kid, and my nephews and I were turned loose in the shopping mall known as the Valley River Center, they went off to buy candy, while my destination was always the bookstore for what was imperishable: Logos, the written word. I read trashy Edgar Rice Burroughs books, yet they were good for building vocabulary. My mother helped me write my first book report for seventh grade reading class, and the book was Tarzan of the Apes. It got a perfect score from the teacher, but Kelly, the girl who sat behind me, was quite outraged at my success. Once during this class I was reading The Moon Maid and David accused me for looking at a book with a naked lady on the cover. Mrs Cheleen passed it off because I was her pet student— and after all, she was right: there was nothing wrong with reading Edgar Rice Burroughs at the age of twelve. Funny but I had a full head of hair back then, and braces which came off the next semester.
I didn’t hear my first Rush album until the summer after eighth grade, and that was where my true education really started, both mentally and emotionally. I heard someone say that their son had outgrown Rush, but of course they were talking nonsense. Rush is a band you never outgrow.
Quarter of seven.
At midnight last night I spun the disc of Rubber Soul and really enjoyed it. The vocal harmony on “Nowhere Man” sounds awesome remastered. I love the following lines:
Nowhere Man, don’t worry
Take your time, don’t hurry
Leave it all till somebody else lends you a hand
The pastor of the Lutheran church is a huge Beatles fan. I wonder if I should go see him this Sunday morning? But you know, my life keeps changing, and I don’t feel very religious anymore. Today I have DDA group again, and this program is hardly religious at all. They must’ve figured out that homeopathy doesn’t work for schizophrenia. If you have religious delusions, why fight them with more religion? I remember when psychiatric rehabilitation was a very uncomfortable thing… The sun is coming out, and pretty soon I’ll take off to the store. One of my core beliefs, from the time I was in junior high school, is free will, due to the song by Rush. Thomas Hardy held just the opposite opinion, which is fatalism, but this depends on the universe being designed by an intelligence. I think it’s desirable to believe in your own responsibility and be an active agent. Passivity doesn’t conduce to personal happiness. We have to legislate the world ourselves by what we do… and this is what democracy is all about.
The weather is unbeatable this morning, perfect as a picture. I probably won’t do the coffee ice cream again for a while, though it was worth it for grins. I asked Suk when Michelle would be back to work and he said two or three weeks. This information surprised me, but it’s none of my business. I’d been thinking I would go to Bi Mart this morning. Now I think I’ll postpone it to tomorrow afternoon since I have no appointments then. I just got back home with Aesop’s canned food and my day’s sustenance. Did I say the weather is beautiful today?
There are so many books I could read. Right now I feel curious about the stories of Jorge Luis Borges. I’ve only read one of them, and it was quite interesting, dealing with the creative power of language in a sort of wilderness of the written word. His invention of books and periodicals that don’t exist reminded me of The Necronomicon of Lovecraft, a totally fictitious work of black magic he alludes to repeatedly… Another book that intrigues me is The Big Money by John Dos Passos because of its connection with Neil Peart. I’d like to know where the Rush lyricist got the inspiration for “The Camera Eye.” It would be nice to dive a little deeper into the city imagery of this song and perhaps write a poem of my own about it. I haven’t tried writing just an objective sketch in quite a while. I love the calm detachment of some of Rush’s best lyrics and wish to cultivate this mood for my writing.
Quarter of eleven. I remember a December evening in a hotel in Reno when I sipped Old Granddad by myself with my back to the window, reading Atlas Shrugged, then switching to Stephen Crane, and finally listening to Rush with my Sanyo portable cassette player. Out of the window you could watch the traffic coming down the highway over the Sierras as night was falling and the headlights came on. I saw the first star appear in the sky, and I recall what I wished for. It was perfect.
Gloaming of early morning outside my window. I feel rather good. Yesterday afternoon was a success for me, in that I got my point across to the other guys. I played my bass quite well, too. It probably sounded better to them than it did to me. The solo I took on “Bubble House” sucked. It was in G7, which is harder for me to solo over. But I really burned on “The Mincer,” in A7. If anything, I played too many notes… Aesop needs wet food again, and the store has just opened. At around eight o’clock I’ll go run my errand… I remember nearly crying (for the right reasons) when “Tom Sawyer” came on the PA in a certain waiting room. Rush did their songs with so much more intelligence than garden variety bands; with quality and taste, finesse and beauty. The other guys in my band aren’t very familiar with Rush, so I think I’ll make converts of them.
Seven thirty. I hear a birdsong outside my back door. The weather yesterday was insanely beautiful. Everybody got out of the house to do various activities.
Eight thirty. Melissa had a cold, but she sounds better today than yesterday morning. Camped across Maxwell Road from the store I saw a homeless man who kept himself company by talking to himself. It really annoys me when people say that homeless people choose to live that way, out of laziness or whatever. It’s the system that failed them, not the other way around. My park ranger nephew has some backward opinions, but luckily I don’t have to be around him… Some people are born without an aptitude that fits neatly into the job market. I’m one of them. There are no gainful jobs that allow for creativity and self expression in music or writing. People like me have to figure out another way or else fall through the cracks. Ayn Rand believed that the capitalist system could be manipulated to serve anyone who worked hard enough. I have serious doubts about that. Robert Pirsig said it doesn’t matter what work you do as long as you do it with quality. Again, I beg to disagree. And once again, in a perfect world… I envision a New Renaissance, a time when people can be what they want to be. Why is it that so many of us have a similar dream, yet the dream gets trampled by those with no imagination?
Feet of Brass
If Neil Peart came back from the grave
With feet of brass,
A gold band around his chest,
And floating white hair and beard
To open the seven seals
And judge the living and the dead,
I wouldn’t be the least surprised.
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…