Clair de Soleil

Six o’clock.

Less than an hour till the dawn. At two o’clock this afternoon I have a phone appointment with Heidi, the most important item today. I kept dreaming that I was supposed to go to class this morning and turn in my assignment. In reality, there’s a bit of paperwork I need to get done. I can do that today and mail it off as soon as possible. 

I’ll probably call Polly this morning, after her son goes to work. I don’t feel very intellectual right now. A song by Steve Miller Band popped into my head, very redneck sounding, so I thought of my brother drinking beer and singing karaoke. He made a competition out of it. I’m glad I wasn’t there to hear it.

Seven o’clock. I need large envelopes and a postage stamp.

Nine ten. I’ve been to the store already. In the western blue I spotted the thumbprint of the waning moon, cool and aloof as I marched mechanically along Maxwell Road. It’s a sunny morning like tangerine peel. I got ahold of my sister and we gabbed for an hour in rambling fashion, but pleasantly enough. I’m thankful that being sober facilitates our relationship. Later today I might be in the mood for a bag of Doritos and some Pace chunky salsa. The sunshine invites such diversions. Maybe I’ll see Deb and Cathy again. Yesterday the atmosphere was lemon and muggy without the humidity; odd for Oregon, and a sign of constant change… I have nothing to deny or to rationalize. My mind is clear as a bell and free as a bird. But I do tend to put things off, to delay and postpone the inevitable. 

A World Unseen

Three thirty in the morning.

Occasionally I am haunted by what happened early in my recovery, when my mental health was quite poor. I’d be awake 24 hours a day, and during December 2017 I read a raunchy little novel by Dawn Powell titled Dance Night. Those memories are miserable, yet sometimes they are necessary to my continued sobriety. I guess the worst part of it was desertion by my family, although at first I had my brother’s support. You always lose someone by the personal choices you make— and gain a few others. In this sense, every one of us ultimately lives their life alone with their freedom and responsibility. A grim thought, but probably the truth. I keep intending to read my Nietzsche or something else existential— even Dostoevsky would be interesting. On the other hand, I do pretty well at just winging the philosophy. 

Every decision I make cuts away something, but also certain people in my life. I could be putting myself in danger with the rock band because of the A&D factor; additionally with their ideology of rock and roll rebellion. I don’t know what I’m getting into. Supposedly music expresses no opinion, and yet it’s a language of its own, saying something spiritual that may be either good or perhaps not so good. The virtue of the music is only observable by its effects on the hearers for better or worse. All the time I feel myself slipping away from the church the more involved I get with the band. In a world unseen, there’s a struggle of light and darkness for supremacy, and the choice again is up to me. To begin with, it’s good to be aware of the situation. From there, I can make an informed decision. 

Tempted

Nine thirty.

Here in the south of the Valley, we were charmed; no snow or freezing rain, and today the temperature is 48 degrees. The forecast says rain for the next week. Like every day, I walked to the market for my daily groceries. I saw nothing extraordinary. My thoughts are still occupied with realism versus Romanticism, and the possibility of transcendence by means of poetry and music. Can art unite us with the sublime like the nightingale’s song, or is it just an illusion? It was long ago when I read “Endymion” by John Keats. Vaguely I remember how he dreams that he makes love to Diana, the goddess of the moon. The poem takes you from the mundane to the beyond and back again. He awoke and found it truth… But why is the imagination important to human life? I regret that my medication puts the brakes on my capacity to dream and create poetry… I haven’t gone to Grocery Outlet in a very long time. Being there again is like bursting a time capsule, and I feel tempted to buy a half rack of beer or a gallon of wine. Life without alcohol is gray and prosaic, and yet the stuff is so toxic and lethal if you overdo it. That store is rather slippery for me, though I can get away with a trip to Bi Mart…

Ten thirty five. Maybe I confuse imagination with intoxication? And maybe it’s a fine line between them. Mallarme wrote that drunkenness is a foretaste of the real bliss of heaven. I suppose that’s what makes alcohol hard to resist in earthly existence. But heaven has to wait, however insipid each day is. What else affords us a glimpse of heaven in the meantime? 

Friday Morning

Quarter of nine.

During the late night I finished reading the first part of Faust. After being seduced by him, Gretchen’s life and reputation fall to pieces. Three murders are associated with her, and she ends up in prison. Faust meanwhile gets away with his crime and goes off with Mephistopheles. I’m not certain what to make of the plot. While Faust indulges himself and gets a little enjoyment from life, he ruins the life of his sweetheart. He’s even responsible for killing her brother in a duel. Faust’s pleasure is had at a huge cost, which I guess is the devilry of the story.

Michelle has come back from vacation. She went to Tulsa to visit her son. She said she had lived in Oklahoma for thirty years. Between eight and eight thirty, the store was quite busy with customers and one of the distributors. I sometimes wish for a time machine to take me back ten years. I really believe I was happier when I drank, though I wasn’t as healthy or as empowered. The difficulty of sobriety is having to face reality without the fog of intoxication, and indeed life is painful and hard; it is suffering, as the Buddha knew— but I don’t think nirvana is the answer. People should magnify the things that make them happy and spread happiness around… Tomorrow I’ll be doing band practice again at Mike’s place. At around noon today I’ll play the bass a bit and make sure my technical ability is there. I used to believe that I was the best musician in the area, but now I’m more realistic of my potential, more humble about it. I enjoy doing music as a group effort now, with less ego and more cooperation. I hope the music venues reopen before too long so we can go out and rock the house. Attitudes toward the virus vary from person to person and business to business. The news about the pandemic is very grim every day, yet we have to hold our heads up and persevere. Giving up is not an option for us. 

Twelve Steps and Romanticism

Quarter after two. As I was just about to read my book, I got a call from Heidi. She made me an appointment to talk on the phone for next Tuesday at two. I look forward to this very eagerly. Then I settled down to read Goethe. It’s interesting that Faust, as Gretchen says, is not a Christian per se, but rather a Romantic. In turn, this distinction makes me think of certain people in Twelve Step programs, and how this situation must have come about. The AA’s I hung out with were the Romantic type, with a nebulous concept of God rather than strictly Christian. Their God contained a little of both light and dark, and there were no angels or demons or anything biblical… The first part of Faust was published in 1808, a little before the major poetry of Percy Shelley… Another word that comes to mind besides Romantic is “mystic” for what the AA’s I knew stood for. Mysticism is the direct experience of God, with no props like the church or even like Jesus Christ. God could be immediately apprehended by the devotee. The approach was intuitive, sort of like Zen Buddhism… Now I’m wondering if maybe AA would suit me better than the Lutheran church, and why didn’t I do that earlier? You don’t have to be a Christian to be an AA. I suppose it’s about time I made my peace with AA and the members I knew in the past. Usually AA is a great networking tool for sober musicians, as I discovered long ago. It’s worth considering. 

Bucket of Ashes

Seven thirty.

It is just now sunrise. Another four days have gone by, which means I have to buy dog food again. At eight o’clock I’ll head out. As I said before, I no longer need a disguise. I’m a decent bass player but I’m not a rockstar; just a guy who has a skill. For our next practice I’ll use my kit bass, the one I built myself.

Eight forty. It’s super cold outside. A few other customers were ahead of me in line at checkout. I thought a little ruefully about the past, before the market became more sophisticated and mass production. It seems less personal this way, with computerized registers and the surveillance system, and the staff having to watch what they say. Less personal and less romantic. More regimented, like an assembly line or part of a vast factory, industrial and soulless. But I cleaned my mental slate, thinking on the adventure of the present and future. I began my sobriety with the attitude that “the past is a bucket of ashes,” and accordingly a kind of indeterminism that refutes Freud. This got my recovery underway. On Sunday morning we’re having church again, at a capacity for 26 people. In spite of everything, we must plow our way ahead with what is important to us. Nothing is more important to me than sobriety. On this, everything else stands or falls.

Nine forty. Each new day wears a different aspect, and no two days are alike. When you erase the past, anything in the future is possible, and determinism collapses like a house of cards. That is the meaning of freedom and positive change. 

Night and Day

Six o’clock.

I guess I’m satisfied with the authenticity of my choices over the past few years. It isn’t like I made decisions for no reason. The bottom line is always sobriety and whatever promotes this condition. I was just poring over some editions of Mallarme on Amazon, considering a purchase, but then I remembered that he was probably not sober, and this would affect his poetry. Until now, with the rock band, I never worried about another person’s drinking behavior influencing me. It puts me in a difficult position.

Nine thirty. I feel so much better now. The day has a good vibe to it. Last night, Sandi said that the Wetlands Brew Pub on Garfield was packed with people who wanted to get out and socialize. Melissa just told me that Rick is going to try to open the deli today. What a relief this will be. I treated myself to a raspberry tea this morning because it felt right. Pastor’s sermon was rather gloomy, but I think people are getting tired of that stuff. I encouraged my pen pal to check out the books of John Muir and John James Audubon online. Also I offered to get Ron a new keyboard if he wanted. And Aesop seems pretty happy with his life today. All is better with the world. On second thought, I might have another look at the book of Mallarme’s poetry. 

Up to Me

Quarter after nine.

I finally got my benefits squared away with DHS this morning, so that’s a worry off my mind. The weather is only a little above freezing. There’s an advisory for snow possible this afternoon. I’m okay with that as long as we still have electricity. Some hours ago I canceled my order of those books by Clark Ashton Smith. I felt uncomfortable concerning my sobriety, thinking that his writing might trigger cravings. If I want to read something horrific I can pick up Paul Bowles, but even that seems pointless. I’ve got a nice big anthology of Bertrand Russell I could thumb through. Probably it’s above my head, but it wouldn’t hurt to take a peek. My brother has been on my mind a couple of days. I doubt if he thinks of me, however. Write him off as a toxic person. It concerns me somewhat that I’m the only sober person in my rock band. The music itself is not a problem. It’s the state of mind each of us is in when we play together. I guess don’t borrow trouble at this juncture and let events play out as they will. But I may be the one who has to bail out… The trip to the market was nondescript and uneventful. Just another day.

Ten thirty five. I remind myself that I’m the one in charge of my life, and every decision I make is up to me. Sobriety is my Number One priority. It makes a big difference in my relationships with people, even just three guys playing music in a room. Perhaps in that situation this difference glares the most. Time will tell. And again it’s up to me. 

Saturday Night Jam

Midnight hour.

When I was walking past the salon in the afternoon sunshine, Karen came out and flagged me down to tell me that Kim’s shoulder surgery didn’t go very well, and to keep her in my prayers. I understand that she’s in quite a bit of pain and sleeps most of the time. I was on my way to band practice with bass guitar in hand. 

Ron was already there when I arrived at Mike’s studio and knocked on the door. Mike said I could walk right in, joking that only cops ever knock. Our practice went pretty well, but the energy was less intense than the jam the week before. After two hours and twenty minutes Ron said he was tired, so we called it a night. A few times I had doubts about my involvement in music during the time we played. It seemed like an activity done better under the influence of alcohol. And generally, I realized that alcohol enhances pleasure I take in everything else in life. It’s like seasoning for a meal. In its absence, the meal is more of a chore to eat. It doesn’t taste as good but I suppose you still have to eat it… The tone of my bass through the new amp was pretty massive and powerful. I liked it. Low G on the E string hit me in the right spot. I think I had the most fun playing “Burning Coal” last night, a riff in G7 that goes on infinitely, no bridge or anything.

All in all, it was a good practice. Maybe we can add a new song to our repertoire before next time. Mike made a good point in passing, and this was that we need organization. I think this is true in general, so maybe we can open a discussion about it. 

Candy

Quarter of eight.

The song in my head: “Message of Love” by The Pretenders. The turn of the eighties makes me think of cherry Bubble Yum and Pop Rocks and Lemon Pepsi. Trashy Edgar Rice Burroughs books. The occasional rendezvouses with my nephews where they lived on Morningside Drive, with the church right next door. We played Space Invaders and Pac-Man and frisbee golf. I always bought a book when I had any money. It was such a pleasure to find The Warlord of Mars at the Waldenbooks in the Valley River Center. At the same time, these memories bring me pain.

Quarter after nine. At the end of my street I met with a crow in a treetop of Colin’s house. “Quoth the raven, ‘Nevermore!’” Then on N. Park a young man was walking his pointer dog, heading south. I followed behind him past Randy’s lot of ruined cars. I didn’t notice much of anything else, feeling a nebulous ache in my body and mind. Maybe I don’t want to go to church tonight. The thought flits across my awareness here and there. Out of a black sky beams a ray of sunshine, outwardly and inwardly. Except for my music, my life is going nowhere. Where would somewhere be? A life of satisfaction and pleasure, along the lines of my parents. I suppose I’m feeling like a dry drunk, a person irritable without his alcohol. And again I remember the consolation of freedom and responsibility, of philosophy in general. It is good just knowing that I am empowered in word and deed. Certain social ties I wish I could cut, and I believe I’m free to do that, but also responsible for the outcome. I could brush up my French and reread Les Jeux Sont Faits. There’s a lot of things I could do with my time, with the end purpose of a little pleasure. Any task is like eating a Tootsie Pop: you lick the sucker to get to the chocolate center. Everything is candy.