The Kookaburra

Six o’clock.

I’m just up out of bed, and as I gain consciousness, the old kookaburra song comes to mind. It’s something my third grade class used to sing in rounds, led by Miss Otzby the cafeteria coach, way back in 1975. It was the first school year that I felt more or less human after a bad experience up until then. A teacher can make or break you, and Mrs Baggerman was the dawn after a very dark night. She was a Texas sexagenarian, very strict and not popular with the rowdy boys in class, but she liked me because I was quiet. I remember staying in from recess by choice to do SRA readings. My comprehension grew exponentially as I became rather introverted but not unhappy that way. Of course, one of the high points of that year was the Bicentennial, and we took a field trip to see the Freedom Train when it came through. It was just a mobile museum of Americana. I had a little crush on a Native girl a year older than I, named Robin. And I also remember how nice to me Stephanie was. And Karen, whose family was Jewish, so she stayed home for our Christmas party. And the popularity of Freddie, a Black kid, and Fritz. Everyone was so diverse yet we got along fine together. It makes you wonder why adults do not.

A Little Improv

Five thirty AM.

This is Sunday, my day of rest at last. The light is coming up gray again after probably two weeks of this sunless stuff. Yesterday morning I got caught in the downpour without an umbrella coming back from the store. I got a little wet again in the afternoon when I left Karen’s place. I just remembered that she gave me a refrigerator magnet that I put away in a pocket of my shopping bag. I looked and found it still there and now it’s on the door. It’s interesting, the little symbolic things people do, the things we think that project ourselves onto the world. So that a bad mood reflects bad weather or the reverse in a Petrarchan way if you’ve ever read his sonnets. It’s a beautiful quality of human nature to have this confusion in perception. My dog is still sleeping in the middle of the floor, dreaming doggie dreams of doggie things. His universe is essentially canine because of his nature. The same is true for the squirrels and every creature that creeps or slithers on earth. Sometimes I see snails and night crawlers on the ground at my feet and pay them no heed except to observe that the worm is a hermaphrodite, having both kinds of sex organs. What do worms think about? 

The other kids in eighth grade PE class called me “worm” when we played flag football on the field outside of Kelly Junior High. The ball took a bad bounce and hit me right in the groin. The weather then was like today, gray and wet, and soon I would be reading in the library for third period instead of playing flag football. It was more fun to read Lloyd Alexander than to be called names anyway. “Be kind to nerds. You may just wind up working for one.” And then you discover that the oligarchy of school was a false one. 

The Backwards Traveler

Back in the nineties, there was a commercial for Target on tv that used “Daydream” for the music, and the video showed the Grim Reaper doing good deeds on his day off. He rode a huge bicycle through the fields, carrying his scythe etc, but he did things like putting the fallen bird back in its nest. I thought it was hilarious. I also liked the commercials for Foster Farms chickens, which you had to see to believe. I betcha that YouTube would have those videos if you go searching.
Some days are more difficult than others regarding losing my parents. I think it’d be neat to have a retro movement to the nineties, when people were in much better spirits than today. I feel kind of sorry for the kids born around the millennium, the ones called the millennials. They don’t remember the previous century. It’s as if a great dividing line existed between then and now, but it’s a false situation, totally contrived by the numbers and our superstition about the new century: the predictions of Nostradamus in his series of verse prophecies called The Centuries. Whatever. The method he used, I think, was astrology. Different editions of his stuff were sold everywhere in bookstores and even in grocery stores during a ten year period from 91 to 01. I bought four of them out of a weakness for crazy ideas, but never read them through. No one would have to, because those ideas were spread by word of mouth. Similarly, the world would see a lot of things from Carl Jung, William James, and maybe T.S. Eliot, and yet not know where it was coming from. Advocates of Intelligent Design theory additionally used Aristotle to support their belief in teleology.
I don’t know. I think the world needs to get back to basics and put away ideology for a while. Give it a rest and just live a little. Chill out and listen to good music. Like Supertramp on the radio that I heard this morning: “Give a Little Bit.” When I hear “The Long Way Home” I remember the cafeteria at my junior high school, sitting at a table with Tim Wood and some other guys, just trying to survive the system of education away from home. We were in seventh grade with a long way to go.
Sometimes my sack lunch would have a meatloaf sandwich with ketchup. Leftovers from the night before. Boy those were good!

Strong Dreams

Six o five in the morning.

Another gray day. Funny how emotional scars can carry on for many years and burrow down into your soul. The passing of time only makes the memories richer and more meaningful because of the perspective you gain. Through love comes learning. Everyone is so different and yet so much the same. The problem I still wrestle with is metaphysics and the God thing, feeling myself to be deficient if I am non religious. I guess I missed the critical period for accepting Jesus and the whole Bible, so I should just let it go. Christianity will always be a big item. Like Thomas Hardy, I can only wish it were so… Pretty soon I’ll make a run to the store like every morning. It’s all equal to me if I get rained on today. “It’s a big enough umbrella / but it’s always me that ends up getting wet.” Yesterday was graduation day at the university, which brought back a few things for me. For a gift, my mother gave me a copy of Bartlett’s, still lying around here somewhere. She also paid my dues for membership in Phi Beta Kappa and bought my key. I used to wear it on a chain all the time but now I carry nothing around my neck. No point in being pretentious, although Mom was very proud of my achievement. I suppose I still am a little bit, too.

Seven forty. The Covid virus I had a while ago has now gone away totally. I feel better every day. At the market I saw some Mexican guys who worked for Huey & Sons Roofing and I caught a word or two of their slang. Otherwise my trip was rather dull. The overcast was not complete. There were breaks showing blue sky, very pale and luminous. I hoped for a glimpse of the moon, in vain. But I almost dreamt I could see a ladder to heaven.

Spring Rains

Eight fifty.

I couldn’t contain the nightmares last night, so it was a miserable time. But this morning, everyone else is in a good mood. Cathy was very nice to me at the market and introduced me to her trainee named Thomas, who will cover weekends. He’s a young guy with a black beard. The day is wet out although the rain that comes down is very light and fine. The spring rains remind me of my philosophy class with an old Jewish professor at the university a long time ago. My route to the Education buildings took me past the Pioneer Cemetery on my left and in behind the Knight Library. I always carried my Duck umbrella and my book bag with me to class and I took notes using a spiral notebook, which I suppose was traveling lightly. Dr Zweig wore a suit the day he lectured on Wittgenstein, but other days his back bothered him and he could be a bit crabby. The talk he gave on William James inspired me, though his specialty was Immanuel Kant. He spoke convincingly about transcendental idealism and the virtues of the thing called reason, which could guide a person rightly and overcome any difficulty.

Ten o’clock.

Beyond the university campus it’s a dangerous world of small minds and attitudes. My whole family has pretty much disowned me for my mental health issues, so it’s really hard to forgive them their prejudice. What has been my crime? 

A Little Gem

Four ten in the morning.

The next to last time Gloria was here we found my old desktop computer. I was just dreaming about that, so when I get the nerve I’ll try setting it up for use again. Out of my bathroom window I saw the moon, full and bright, the same moon seen by people in antiquity from Babylon to Stonehenge. It used to mean something personal to me, but now it’s just an insignificant rock; nothing romantic about it. Outdoors it’s less than freezing.

Quarter after eight.

I deliberated on it a while, but I decided not to go to church for Easter. I have profound disagreements with Pastor on three or more issues, and by now the whole thing offends me. My main observance that is anything like religion is honesty, simply telling the truth and not hiding anything from yourself… From the garage yesterday I dug out a neat little edition of The Portrait of a Lady. A student told me once that Mark Twain hated Henry James, though I think he projected himself onto the former. People say the strangest things between the lines. I don’t remember what my reply was, but I stuck to being a James advocate. We were standing in line at the English department, waiting to register for class. When I spotted Katy, I went to her and we had a better chat. It was fall in 1990, and after that my school life went kind of downhill. It could have been better if I hadn’t been seeing a psychologist… Anyway, I still think James is great, and the weather is blue sky. 

Colin Kelly

Eleven twenty at night.

I dreamed I was playing the bass line to an old tune by The Knack that got airplay when I was a seventh grader, which would be 42 years ago. The place where I went to junior high school still stands over on Howard Avenue. I got a good look at it from the backseat of a taxi last Thursday at noon: a creme colored building with red brick, and fixed to the outdoor wall, the propeller to the plane flown by the school’s namesake, a local war hero no one seems to remember. We were known as the Kelly Bombers and our colors were green and white, as I recall from a book bag I bought at the school store. My high school experience wasn’t as good as the time I spent at Kelly. In Stage Band we did a song called “The Sponge” that was fun for me on drums, yet the trumpet players hated it for its difficulty, and our bass player also had a hard time with it. Some other titles we played were “Hurt So Bad” and the theme for Masterpiece Theater, as well as “Fame” and “Staying Alive.” I don’t remember what make of bass guitar our band had; it might have been a sunburst Yamaha. It was entrusted to Brian to play, and I recall how Mr Kuryluk would help him with his parts before class started. But I loved the green sparkle Ludwig drum kit we had, with a Paiste crash/ride cymbal that just rocked. Mr Diller joined us on his saxophone when he wasn’t too busy directing us, and Kuryluk worked the electric piano. A horn player named Dax used to call me “Animal” every day of class, after the drummer on The Muppet Show. Those days are gone but not forgotten by a few people. There are some memories that nothing can really erase; they are a part of you, just like an arm or a leg, and just as vital to your humanity. 

When It Was Tarzan

Eight fifty.

I purchased one Snapple tea this morning. The air felt very cold to me outside and the fog is hanging around longer than usual. Otherwise I saw nothing extraordinary on my walk. Though I rack my brains, I can’t remember what I was doing a year ago this month. I only know I played bass with Ron and Mike at Mike’s place in the neighborhood. But as far as what I was thinking at the time, I have no clue today. I think my Vraylar works maybe a little bit too well.

I love my little community in the environs of Maxwell and N Park because of my old school on Howard Avenue, where I attended when I heard my first Rush albums and began taking advanced English classes. I was a dunce at math and barely passed the competency test in the spring trimester with a score of 80. I remember the smile on Mrs Vaughn’s face when she said it to the whole class. She read the scores off to everyone one by one. For entertainment I still read Conan books as a ninth grader, plus Doc Savage and during the summer, some Ian Fleming novels. Purely masculine fantasies good for a 15 year old boy. The next year my taste grew more realistic, admitting some human weakness to my reality, though it wasn’t as fun as Edgar Rice Burroughs. In the end it all got left behind with the Kelly Bombers: no more innocence, for life was not a fantasy of control, strength, and courage; or if it was, it became more abstract and mental than an action hero like Tarzan. Gradually there was a better match between reality and my reading habits. Still I miss when the stories were graphic and very exciting, kind of like Nietzsche’s superman rendered in pictures… 

Domesticity

Eight thirty.

I’ve put out the trash for today and it’s below freezing out there. Again there is thick fog on the valley floor. Michelle might be back to work this morning. I called the veterinary hospital to reserve some flea medication for Aesop, so I’ll pick that up during the week. When I went outside, the cold freshness reminded me of times when I used to go to church regularly, before Covid came to mess everything up. I tend to see events in linear fashion, of cause and effect without a purpose or end. It’s the Darwinian way of understanding how nature works. So I guess I never had any business going to church— except for a mystic impulse in me that ponders the other side of the celestial veil, a possible fourth dimension.

Nine thirty. Still no Michelle at the store, but it was good to see Cathy. She said the customers come in waves, and some of them are students from the middle school, though not as many as you’d think. The old school makes me think of junior high school band, especially Stage Band in ninth grade where I played drum kit. We all admired Neil Peart, and I learned to sound a lot like him… My first drum set was a red sparkle Pearl that my mother bought used for $275. Gradually I added on Zildjian cymbals, all of them courtesy of my mother. She spoiled me rotten, but everyone believed I would be a rockstar someday. Probably the only person who had doubts about that was myself. It turned out I was a homebody. I’m still content to be comfortable and safe with a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and a little something to eat. And for entertainment, books to flap and CDs to spin. 

Dodgeball / Mary Shelley

Wee hours Wednesday.

I have a rather stupid song playing in my head, called “Jenny,” a cheap imitation of “Message in a Bottle” by The Police that got airplay in 1981. Forty years ago is a very long time. I guess I was feeling sort of bitter all day yesterday because of how my doctor appointment went: just strange and awkward for some reason. And then I began to personalize the whole pandemic, saying it was all my fault that it was happening. Like I was the ultimate jinx on humanity. Also I felt guilty for doing pretty well in these times while many others are less fortunate. So yes of course I felt bitter and resentful for the way I was treated at the cancer institute. It was as if they blamed me for doing okay. My crime was simply to be a survivor, I guess. I feel the way I used to in grade school when we played dodgeball. I was good at avoiding being hit, but otherwise I was a lousy player. At least once I was the last one on my team still alive in the game, and the ones who were out shouted at me to forfeit so they could play again. I was just a useless piece of slack to them. So maybe that’s what I am in this pandemic as well, but hopefully my analogy isn’t true… In fall of 2008 I bought a copy of The Last Man by Mary Shelley because I had left my job and I felt lonely and alone in the world. I didn’t realize that my choice was prescient of a real pandemic that would hit us in another 12 years. It’s very odd the way things play out. And someday maybe one of us will indeed be the sole survivor and the true last man.