Rabbit’s Feet

It’s a good day today. It sounds like Gloria has been doing a lot of reading. She’s still on the Hamilton but also she read Life after Life and has started the Williams poetry. I told her not to worry about the critical introduction and just enjoy the poetry. Really, Carlos Williams is perfect for simplicity and the details alone, in pieces like “The Great Figure” and “The Red Wheelbarrow;” also “This Is Just to Say,” one of the pastorals, “To a Poor Old Woman,” and many others. Gloria observed how he tends to venerate poor people, or to justify them in some way. He even wrote one about a poor drunkard that doesn’t really condemn him. Gloria got a little bogged down with the Greek mythology, but that’s okay. The names are unfamiliar and difficult, and Hamilton is actually more a reference book than the kind you read through. She got through the story of Hercules and his 12 tasks, etc, but she was surprised by his violence. Maybe I should go read the play by Euripides about Heracles.

The weather is very nice; it’s over 60 degrees and partly cloudy— great puffy white clouds in the blue sky. So, I took a hike to the market and the salon. I saw Lisa just driving away out of the parking lot as I arrived. Kathy and a newer guy were working inside. When I was returning home, Karen waved me to stop in, and she gave me some food and two rawhides for Aesop. The dog was pretty happy with his treats and right now he seems rather tired, resting by the door.

Gloria came after ten o’clock and took me to Bi Mart where I bought six items. She also helped me put the ac back together, with the hose to the window and all that. She cleaned the bathrooms with Fantastik spray, but first we had the Snapple (obligatory) and sat and talked. Her leg was very sore from the surgery; she noticed it more this time. But she said it was getting better each day. Funny but she got hearing aids for both ears and hasn’t told her family yet. I think they put pressure on her to get them, so now she doesn’t want to hear them say they told her so.

Wow. I almost had a big deja vu. I could swear I’d written that before sometime. I kind of like that experience, where an event is familiar to you but you can’t place it. It’s the repetition of something or some strange coincidence, and you want to believe it’s spooky. I can remember having 8th grade English class early in the morning, when the sleep was still in our eyes and we were still half dreaming. Junior high school was an odd mix of realism and superstition before I got to 9th grade. We read about the Hope Diamond curse, saw The Monkey’s Paw, and heard The Pearl by Steinbeck. We wore Rabbit’s Foot socks and carried real rabbit’s feet around the halls every day. Kids played D&D the whole school day.

Well, the rabbit’s feet might’ve been imitation, though they had a toenail in the fur.

I think one of the most intelligent things Ayn Rand ever said concerned how primitive our ethics was. She said Americans have a nuclear bomb in one hand and a rabbit’s foot in the other. Our morals are way behind our technology, in other words.

Sometimes I still kind of like her writing. It interests me that she was a Russian Jewish immigrant and how her background shaped her personality and her philosophy. There are much better writers, but I find Rand quite interesting.

I liked The Fountainhead.



Quarter of eleven at night.

Three hours ago I sat between purple cloud and pale sun to left and right of me. But I reflected, what if no contrasts existed objectively, and my old Chaucer professor was misled? I recall having a problem with his classification of female and male into polar opposites: because in biology, there are such things as Turner’s and androgen insensitivity, which blur such distinctions. Also I had read James Baldwin, with his passages on androgyny and what this meant for human experience. The Chaucer guy came from the school of Aristotle and Freud and described himself as an old fogy, getting older and fogier every day. His lectures were hilarious and very fun, and Chaucer by nature was bawdy and hysterical. At the same time, at least one student I spoke with had disagreements with the professor: I ran into her in the library the morning of the final exam. Her perspective on the class made me self conscious of mine; and then I had to go take the test. I remember filling up my blue book with essay answers while thinking about taking a trip to see my brother at his place in Michigan. And that’s what I actually did for the last week in June and beyond the Fourth of July. I had a wonderful time. 

Two Schools (in the Rain)

Two o’clock in the morning.

Outside you can hear the sound of the spring rain in the darkness. A train horn two miles off blows a chord and the voice carries like a whale’s under water. The rainy night has a suppressant effect on everything here below: even kind of narcotic and dreamy, though I see nothing out my window. Without relevance, a few lines from Four Quartets come up:

Garlic and sapphires in the mud

Clot the bedded axle-tree.

The trilling wire in the blood…

Yet I catch myself trying to be an encyclopedia. Sometimes reason and knowledge seem overrated, where it might be better to create from original experience. There are close to eight billion opinions in the world today. Somehow, all these appearances eclipse the thing in itself, or the objective essence, so that there is no truth beyond our conception of it. If there were, then we still couldn’t grasp it.

The secret sits in the middle and knows.

Amid the pouring rain, I hear my gutter overflowing on the front porch, reminding me that it needs cleaning.

When April, with its sweet showers,

Has pierced the drought of March to the root…

Mentally I can almost see the office of Prof B— in Prince Lucien Campbell Hall, some 33 years ago. On his door he had tacked a political cartoon that made fun of Marxist criticism by applying it to breakfast cereals, such as Postmodern Toasties and Foucault Flakes. He was quite outspoken about it. His physical aspect bore a resemblance to Geoffrey Chaucer himself, though he probably worked to cultivate this appearance.

In only two years at the university I went from New School “modern theory” to the Old School of Freud and common sense realism, and I graduated on the “old major” in English.

It kind of put the kibosh on the philosophy I started out with, so now I admit it’s very confusing. Things changed after I quit taking French classes…

Footprints in Fog

Eight thirty.

There’s a little fogginess in the neighborhood. When I got to the market, the place was pretty jammed with customers, most of whom take less than five minutes to shop and go out the door… I just had a memory of something that happened very long ago, when I was a student at university. A friend named Doug and I had just taken the final exam in history class and so we took my car to the Dunkin Donuts on Franklin Boulevard for the fun of it. No idea what we talked about. The campus life was a much smaller world than I’d believed it was. I ran into a lot of the same students from term to term and class to class and got to know them fairly well… I remember part of a lecture on Freud in that class. Dr McGowan said that, according to Freud, human beings were never meant to leave the mother’s womb. This gave me an eerie feeling yet I was fascinated. It was indeed a long time ago. Nobody takes Freud seriously anymore, and he was only a theorist after all… The fog thickens across the way and the birds are scarcely awake. Every day seems very strange to me: truth is stranger than fiction.


Seven o’clock morning.

Lisa’s birthday is this Sunday, she just told me. I took my chances and walked to market in the black darkness, feeling my way, stepping carefully on the glistening street. These winter birthdays remind me of a line from Thomas Dolby, maybe irrelevantly. “The winter boys, drinking heavy water from a stone…” My imagination can do lots of things with Capricorn. The sure footed climber with a fishtail in the sea. Ruled by Saturn and Father Time. Concerned with old age. Bones, teeth, and skeleton. Alas poor Yorik… The day may be long because I got up at four thirty. No daylight until nearly eight. I didn’t see much on my little pilgrimage— literally, due to the dark. Just now there’s a growing light that reveals thick fog on the trees across the way east. I tell Aesop to look out the window and he gives a small bark and a growl. There’s no threat, I say; no menace. He puts his head down and pouts for his breakfast, fortunately not far away.

Eight ten.

Already I feel tired and somewhat sad and lonely. It’d be nice if I had control over my thoughts and feelings. Aristotle’s approach is passivity. The other is creative and subjective, like Sartre’s model of perception. When I was in college, the faculty was divided into the Freudian team against the New School of modern theory. I was caught right in the middle of it. For the first half of my schooling I was more Continental and for the rest of it, psychodynamic. I guess now I can pick the identity I like better. It’s also doable to choose neither one.

If my life depended on it, I’d trust Aristotle to be accurate on reality.

Ten twenty.

The rain has begun…


Eight forty.

An event that happened 35 years ago still has me pondering the meaning of being human versus animal. According to ancient wisdom, humans have a rational faculty that allows them to participate in the divine and rise above animal instinct. But the distinction gets hazier when you move from philosophy to modern anthropology and consider evolution and the continuity of the whole animal kingdom. Then what happens to human specialness and the diviner part called reason? Can we still set ourselves apart? Here, my logic tends to break down.

Yesterday afternoon there was a hailstorm and this morning, the stones are still around to whiten rooftops and litter the lawns of the neighborhood. It’s cold. A while ago I remembered an album by Weather Report titled Night Passage. I bought the cassette as a special order from a small business named Face the Music on 13th Street, up on campus when I was a student. I also remember that the clerk was quite judgmental of Jaco for his chemical dependency, but I was undeterred and really enjoyed the tape. I wanted to play the bass in his style, like a lot of players did. Later on, I grabbed Word of Mouth from the same hole in the wall. I went through a phase of jazz fusion until the genre itself kind of fizzled. I wonder what happened to it?

For Professor Zweig

Midnight hour.

I have no idea what I’m going to say. I’ve been writing in my diary some sober reflections on white evangelicalism, people of color, ethnicity, music, and how all of these things are supposed to cohere in our world. The last sentence went, “I just feel like something terrible is going to happen.” America is said to be the melting pot of the world, but it seems like we forget to stir the pot sometimes. I can’t stomach the theories of C.G. Jung, who like Martin Heidegger gave inspiration to the Nazis, a fact that isn’t publicized very much, but everyone deserves to know about it. The little book I picked up at St Vinnie’s, The Age of Analysis, is rare, and it was used by my old Jewish philosophy professor. He came to the USA from Germany just before Jews were put in concentration camps. He disliked Heidegger for his Nazi affiliation, for very good reasons. And he had a special insight to the motives of logical positivists like Rudolf Carnap since the disaster of German nationalism. But racism can happen anywhere and it usually does. I’ve got white knuckles over this election and I just hope that voters have some sense. “Those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it.” I still feel that something awful is going to happen. 

The Blue Parka

Seven fifty.

A vapor trail in the east is pinked by the light of the rising sun. The moon is high in the west, an oblong smudge of white chalk. Crows on the wing to my right. Lisa has a story for us about her arrival at the store this morning. She says a homeless man by the storefront lit a fire in the can for cigarette butts and warned her not to come near. Fearing that the market would burn down, Lisa pulled out a taser and a phone and told him to put it out or she would call 911. This was the crazy start to her day. For me, it was only a matter of shopping for things to eat and drink today. It was colder, about 43 degrees, so I put on my old blue parka, a relic from student years.

The same parka saw the time when I learned about Indian religions and basic biology in old buildings along 13th Street. The geology building’s name was changed to Columbia Hall by that time, and class was held rather late in the afternoon because I remember it would get quite dark before we were done. The religion class happened in Chapman Hall in a smaller room on the second floor, across from the department office. Dr Kim really avalanched us with reading work so that I came away thinking social sciences were the hardest courses you could take. I fell way behind on my homework. Thankfully the final exam was objective and I bluffed through it. But the term paper took a lot of work. I wrote it on Jaina philosophy, though I was criticized for evading the religious practice element of the topic. He was a hard grader, like the professors of the old school.


Seven o’clock.

I have an appointment for a video meeting this morning at eight o’clock. I hope it’s not very long… The clash I have with Pastor is the same as always: he’s a collectivist on the side of the majority of people while I advocate for the individual. His experience in high school was probably very different from mine. I saw a lot of kids suffer from the false oligarchy of the beautiful people. I doubt if Pastor would understand this. He doesn’t like Rush either, though the band spoke for many of us in school in the Eighties and Nineties. We learned from Rush that dreamers and misfits can overcome and be successful.

Quarter after nine.

Okay, I got the meeting over with… My sleep was troubled, riddled with thoughts of mortality and also individual freedom. Life feels like sort of a dead end today. Often I ask myself what I want out of my life, what would make me happy. I know I won’t find a friend who is exactly like me, though I’d like to meet someone with values close to mine… Is it really true that if you let go control, then you’ll get what you need? I knew someone who advised me, “They won’t come knocking on your door.” If you don’t seek for happiness, will it seek you? I have doubts about that.

Quarter after ten.

I get a haircut tomorrow. Right now there’s some wildfire smoke in the air… I don’t remember much of reading Madeleine L’Engle in the past. It’s hard for me to take it seriously. She said something about releasing control, because if you try to control things yourself then disaster will result. This presupposes a god that takes care of everything. Maybe she never heard of Voltaire: this is not the best of all possible worlds. But also I think of the young dissidents in high school who dropped out of advanced classes in protest of our indoctrination. They had a different agenda from school, which makes me curious. Perhaps they knew something that others of us didn’t know.


Quarter of nine.

It was a little later before I got up this morning and fed the dog. I read my emails, then finally got my jacket on and out the door on my way to the little market around the corner. The neighbor lady herded her two kids into the van to get them to Howard School at the same time that Diana and Victoria came out of their house. On Fremont, a blonde woman also came out of her house with the intention of going somewhere. I saw a lone woman walking by on N Park and two young girls on the sidewalk of Maxwell Road, probably headed for the immersion school where Kelly Junior High used to be. At the store I ran into a few more kids; one of them I let go ahead of me at the Snapple cooler, a boy of about eleven years, stout with light brown hair. The other two rode bikes on the sidewalk right past me as I went home. Aesop gets chicken jerky for a snack today: I bought 5 for 30 cents apiece and put them in a small brown bag. The first thought I had when I left the house was, I hope it doesn’t rain on me; that would suck. The sky is full of puffy leaden clouds and it’s agreeably cool out. I used to think of my own school experience when I’d go over to Maxwell Road on days like this; sort of dwell in nostalgia. But today all that is behind me, I guess. Do eleven year olds read comic books anymore?