A Significant Sight

Quarter of eight.

We’re still a ways from a decision on the election. It’s a limbo until then. But the sun is out for now, after a night of constant rain. I have to call and schedule my rides for next week.

Near nine o’clock. I saw something significant at the store: three Mexican guys walked in, on their way to work. These people have been scared over the past year, and made themselves scarce in public. I used to see none of them for months on end in my stomping grounds, but now, finally, there were a few. It’s hard to stand by, wait, and watch while the scene figures itself out. “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” is on the radio a lot lately. I would like to add a line from Rush: “Those who know what’s best for us / Must rise and save us from ourselves.” But I guess it’s enough to be the masters of our personal fates. Justice is a long time coming. Hopefully it arrives before the deadline… There’s a knocking on my roof: probably a squirrel, or maybe a jay. But no, it just scampered overhead, little hands drumming. Now I’ve got Tears for Fears music stuck in my head. Physical therapy is today. I’m ready to defend myself against criticism if needed. To my knowledge, I’m doing the best I can. If I could do better, then wouldn’t I do it? Who would knowingly choose wrong? Are morals absolute, anyway? Is it all a game of Simon Says?… Suddenly it’s very quiet in here. 

Innocence

Seven thirty.

I couldn’t rest very well due to my appointment Wednesday, when I was poked and prodded in the spine and made to do wall squats repeatedly. My posture was also criticized and the way I lock my knees when I stand. Was it really worth it? I’m losing sleep because of it… Meanwhile, I’m gaining objectivity of perspective. For a long time I was quite a narcissist… Going back to bed. I can’t think or write at this moment.

Ten o’clock. I had a pleasant little outing to the salon and store, except for the cold weather… or maybe because of it. On the wall behind the checkout counter they’ve put up grayish brown paneling. This looks totally different from before, and I don’t know what to think of it yet. It darkens the interior of the place, which I wouldn’t choose to do. Suddenly it seems that the upgrades are coming too rapidly, so that I hardly recognize the market now. It feels foreign to me, so completely unlike the days when Belinda was the owner. Business must be thriving, or perhaps the new owners invest more in their establishment to make it nice… In some form, they’re selling marijuana, but I’m not interested enough to know how that works. Also I saw on display what looked like capsules for sale, the kind you swallow. I’m very ignorant about these things, but I know that we legalized weed many years ago… In fact, the display of pills and capsules is very big and conspicuous, and a computer screen advertises weed constantly. I’ve just stumbled onto an observation that feels a bit uncomfortable. My dad would be rolling over in his grave. 

A Magic Trick

Quarter after eleven. I had a superstitious dream of writing about my fourth sober Halloween. An evil spirit caused the content to disappear, as if being sober were not the reality. Now, consciously I recall those old Nightmare on Elm Street movies. Freddy Krueger the slasher could only kill you in dreams, so you dared not fall asleep. The films were played on cable television all the time, so right now I wonder if they might’ve been toxic to the viewer. I hadn’t thought of Freddy in years, maybe since the last one I saw, in fall of 1989. Wes Craven movies were such a juvenile thing, but I watched them like everybody else. You were not cool unless you did so. In turn, I think of my old friends from around that time, who all had secular beliefs and values. A lot of them drank like fishes. I’ve lost contact with all of them since my decision to stop drinking; they vanished as if by a magic trick. As if they’d been erased by Freddy from the screenplay of the life we once shared… When I told M— the guitarist I had stopped drinking and joined a church, he replied that I was a “good American,” and after that I never heard from him again. His friend on drums was a mutual friend of some other friends I’d known, hence word must’ve spread through the grapevine. Closed social systems are very strange things. Alcohol and cannabis had run rampant in my old scene. Towards the end of my drinking career, marijuana was everywhere I looked. I was getting deeper and deeper into a bad bunch. Each new rock band was a step lower into hell. But today, the “good American” sticks out to the old scene like a sore thumb and the effect is like magic: everybody from that loop disappears.

Colorful Rocks

Seven thirty.

My sleep was troubled and fitful, perhaps due to what I’d been reading. I’m very sensitive to stories, whether in print or in movies… Now I wonder why so many musicians are fans of King Crimson. I find some of their lyrics dreadful, dealing with mental illness without much sympathy. What’s their point? I don’t listen to much music these days; I’m not sure why. I’m half inclined to go back to bed, because I still feel drowsy. Sometimes I think of those clowns who worked on my house a year ago, and how slipshod they were. Ultimately it was the Portland contractor who was blameworthy for the shoddy job they did. It can be depressing to think about now… I guess I’ll go to the store and see if they have any new inventory.

Nine o’clock. I went to the market and bought a Reuben, cottage cheese, and two Snapples. Vicki’s eyes were on the front door, where she could see a pair of homeless people just outside. I passed them on my way out. Some people believe the homeless choose to live that way, and they could get jobs if they tried. I’m not one of those people. When conditions are bad and times are tough, the incidence of homelessness goes up. This doesn’t substantiate the claims of narrow minded conservatives. Hard luck befalls a lot of people. I’ve been lucky, probably more lucky than clever… Some people care more about “numbers” than human beings. I’m certainly not one of them. All is not gold that glitters. Think of the worthless “rocks” in Voltaire’s El Dorado. Precious gemstones are scattered everywhere on the streets, but in a perfect world they have no value. For reasons of greed, Candide and his friends lose Paradise, packing off a bunch of colorful rocks to the real world. Call it idealism to make this observation. It remains true. 

Another Letter

Eugene has a large hippie population that gets into The Grateful Dead, Khalil Gibran, and The Celestine Prophecy. I even met a woman named Celestine. But no, I haven’t been lured in to read it myself, mostly because here it is such a cliche. I don’t care much for hippies, and they don’t care for me either. Their little culture is very exclusive, and if you possess anything of value, they look upon you with scorn. Remember that Ken Kesey lived in my area, that is, Springfield, the sister city to Eugene. He and his Merry Pranksters were disrespectful of anyone’s property, and would either steal it or destroy it given the chance. These people took over the stage at one of my disco gigs. It was the CD release party at the Hilton, New Year’s Eve 1998. Kesey at midnight strode in and sang Auld Lang Syne. Chris saw him coming with his Pranksters and told me to hold onto my bass. It was an unlikely meeting of disco and hippies, since the attitude of the former is quite materialistic and greedy. More fitting to call it a crashing by the latter. I was only a thirty year old babe in the woods, sheltered at home with my parents. Looking back, the sociopolitical scene becomes very clear, while at the time I was clueless. So I guess The Celestine Prophecy wouldn’t be high on my list.

Inadvertently, however, I went through a long phase of Carl Jung, and his influence is strong on the Eugene Downtown community. Or it was, anyway, until cognitive behavioral therapy pushed the Jungians to the margin. As of August 2009, the Friends of CG Jung Library still operated Downtown. I never did go there to look around, but a counselor recommended it to me. Now, the place seems to be defunct, and the person who maintained it only does the Jungian thing out of her house. The AA people used to be very enthusiastic about Jung, but today I don’t know any AA members at all, except for Pastor Joe from the church. Evidence based psychology has done rather a hostile takeover in Eugene, as I’ve been awake enough to witness over the past two decades. My personal phase of Carl Jung happened in the 1990s mostly, and continued into the 2000 decade, finally replaced by CBT when I met Kate in 2011.

It’s kind of fascinating to survey all these trends in people’s thinking and behavior, and how it all relates to socioeconomics in a given region. I doubt if disco is still a big thing in the area. Retro was a phenomenon of the 90s.

Amid the Crowd

Quarter after one. I felt so alien to myself on my excursion to Bi Mart just now. I stopped and said hi to Judi inside the store. She has worked at Bi Mart since the time she graduated from high school. I remember being a sophomore while she was a year or two ahead of me. I bought some cheesy adhesive address numbers because I didn’t want to bother with a hammer and nails. The high school students were out on the sidewalks and parking lots, using foul language and telling stories to impress each other. I was at once a foreigner to them and one of them. The North Eugene community has been my home for a very long time, while life around me has progressed and changed for better or worse. I have no idea what young people study anymore, especially in the humanities. The weather was very gray but dry at least; favorable for my walk outdoors. It’s so odd to think that no one reads philosophy or certain works of literature in high school anymore. One girl on the sidewalk actually smiled at me but said nothing. An impulse in me wanted to jump into the crowd and start acting like a clown; to just say anything and engage people in lively talk. The grayness of the day would’ve permitted it. People could’ve used a little entertainment and fun, and some food for thought. But I kept to the sidewalk and the street, just looking around and taking it in. I felt alone in the crowd but still a part of it, every one of us trapped in private worlds, realities. It seemed I was there and back in no time, the exercise being no strain on my body. The experience of being another person en masse served to open my eyes yet again, and as before, only a mile from home.

A Sketch

I remember seeing Amy collecting trash in a plastic bag on the railroad tracks once, probably in 2006. It calls to my mind the streets and sidewalks I traverse every day. The gray pavement is always littered with cigarette butts and debris from fast food or from the store. A veritable wasteland of human rejects and refuse. On the most beautiful of days, it’s a dirty and seamy suburb. But it’s a soil that yields up prophetic voices and bluesy thunder, proclaiming to the world that we are. From a terrain of gravel and ashes rise weird squeals of the railroad, where vagrants stow away. Sometimes they wander to the store, their faces smeared black, rubbing together a few bills for a bite to eat. Sometimes it was me, in soiled clothes and broken glasses, with just enough change to buy one pint of malt liquor. Still, the prophetic voice emerges, not from billboard ads for Black Velvet, but from car stereos in parking lots and streets. Live music can be heard pounding from houses and woodsheds, the entropic notes rising to cloud. Poverty and woe raise a howl to the powers that be beyond the sheltering sky. And behind the curtain, the fourth dimension makes its cryptic plan.

Statement of a Brother and Uncle

Nine thirty.

Nighttime is when I have some breathing room. Families are a drag. Mine bears a resemblance to the crazy characters in William Faulkner fiction. The members each have some degree of neurosis, myself being the hardest hit. I had lunch with the leader, the sort of elder of the clan, which gradually I’m coming to accept as such. It appears we are on good terms at this point. But you know, the family system is dissolving and decaying fast. It manages to propagate itself for the generations, but as an individual, I still feel inclined to defect from its traditions. These are so old fashioned as to be maladaptive for the changing times. I could be wrong, yet my feelings are what they are. In particular I can’t countenance the racism and bigotry that pervade the family’s structure. As a man of principle, I reject these things. The family needs to examine itself and reevaluate its core beliefs before I will consider being a member. Until then, I deem myself a conscientious objector to family policy and practice.

Progress and Prophets

Ten ten. I priced some desktops, laptops, and iPads. I believe I’ll need some advice on what’s popular and efficient nowadays. I really don’t relish the prospect of setting up an old clunky computer that takes up space and has tons of usb connections and cables and crap. I want something smaller and handier and easier to work with. Maybe a laptop is the best option? I saw many for about $200, which doesn’t seem bad. Whatever helps me express myself is best; though it appears that the world is rushing ahead too fast for me to keep up with. Am I alone in feeling left behind? It would be very logical to feel that way.

The worst part of it is that people don’t interface with each other like they should. We avoid talking to one another anymore, and as a consequence become increasingly dehumanized. The writer D H Lawrence from a hundred years ago would be aghast at the state of human affairs today. He thought the coal pits were bad, and motorized wheelchairs and the invention of cars and the railroad even. I think it was Thoreau in Walden who observed what a terrible black thing the locomotive was in the middle of the countryside. Of course it’s impossible to reverse progress, or what we call that. How much of wilderness is left on planet earth? Can we afford to be technocrats anymore? What if Mother Earth was vengeful? We should expect a lot more natural disasters. What difference does it make whether I get a new computer? Still we race ahead towards certain doom…

Disillusion

Eleven thirty five. I was thinking as I lay in bed that I want to get away from people for a while. I can’t believe the drama I’m seeing from Nate and Chad, their shameless squabble over money. Nate is saying Chad sucks; Chad is saying Nate sucks. Neither wants to work with the other ever again. All the while, Nate is dangling 70 thousand dollars over Chad’s head and taunting Merry Christmas. And all I can do is stand by and watch. But it’s my damn house they’re fighting over. I need a break from people, a separate peace from the constant furor. Just one week alone with my dog should be sufficient. I may be feeling like a misanthrope, which is always self contradictory. Still, I’d prefer an insular life with my dog for a holiday. While I’m away, the human comedy can go on with the almighty dollar fueling its progress. Contra naturam.