Disdain

Five thirty.

Yesterday at noon I took a gabapentin and later it knocked me for a loop. I won’t do that again for a long time. You know you’re getting older when… The moon was big and round outside my bedroom window, and I wondered if that could account for how I’ve been feeling lately. As usual this time of the morning, an airline jet roars overhead, taken off from Mahlon Sweet airport a little west of Eugene. It reminds me of the trips my brother and I used to take to the coast for the purpose of getting drunk and having a good time. Alcohol is such a double edged sword. But the worst part of it is that I never really had a relationship with my brother; for him it was second to the booze. When I wanted to engage him in conversation and pick his brain, he told me he associated thinking with his work. He didn’t enjoy using his intellect. But for me, intellectual stimulation is one of the great joys of living, though it’s like Marius the Epicurean, an aesthetic activity.

I still like to picture my brother as the practical guy who retreats into the woods with a fishing pole and a cooler of Miller Light, disdaining the human world, its culture and history, to embrace the simplicity and the beauty of nature. If he made up his mind to it, I seriously believe he could be the next Thoreau.

Another jet soars over my head. 

It Isn’t Just Me

Five thirty.

I had a good morning, but after twelve o’clock my mood went downhill and I felt uncertain and unstable. I have doubts about playing the bass guitar anymore or doing anything at all with music. I don’t know what I want to do besides write. Above all, I feel quite rudderless the more I realize that my mother is really gone. I’ve set my course for sobriety, whatever this entails for my mental state and however lonely it makes me. It’s hard to seize the day when the day is so slippery. It’d be cool to be a master strategist, planning every move like a chess player— like my brother. He always kicked my ass at chess and every kind of game. My own method was defensive and passive, simply reacting to action.

The other thing to consider is that my brother was rather unkind. People like to believe that kindness counts for something. We wish for good to be rewarded and badness punished. But it’s difficult to say whether the cosmos has those values. Five years ago I began reading An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser. The novel deals with just that question, and you wonder throughout the story if crime is punished or not. Will the protagonist get away with manslaughter? And is it more than a coin toss which way it goes? Which outcome are we pulling for?

But I didn’t get very far in that book.

It feels like we live in an amoral culture today. The Machiavelli approach to life is not worth it to me, I guess. I certainly hope that the meek get the heaven they deserve.

“Death defying, mutilated / Armies gather near / Crawling out of dirty holes / Their morals disappear.”

Paranoia

Noon hour.

I’m getting an overdose of society today, and I’ve got Gloria tomorrow morning. I just feel besieged and I worry too much all the time. I want the world to go away for a while, so maybe I should go off the grid temporarily. Unplug everything and take a holiday from people and their conflicting opinions. I don’t want to deal with this anymore. And the fucking news in my face every time I use my phone or tablet is driving me bonkers. It’s too much like The Central Scrutinizer of the record by Frank Zappa; so totally Orwellian and intrusive in our individual lives. Am I just paranoid? Meanwhile the clouds are clearing way for the sun to shine through. If nature were all we had to deal with! But instead we have The Monster, this disembodied octopus in charge of all human beings, thinking in ones and zeros, calculating our destiny with no mercy, no heart, and no soul. If we could just conquer this oversized brain, this cyber Messiah, with the will to love one another like humans and not machines… but it will never happen. There will be no Human Revolution during my lifetime, short of a cataclysm: an asteroid collision with the earth. The next Ice Age. Be careful what you wish for…

Society

Quarter of seven.

To be at peace on one side is being at war on the other. You can’t please everybody, so it’s best to just please yourself. On my own behalf, I have no complaints. The system works for me well enough. We need to take care of our disabled people and not throw them to the lions or out on the streets. Many people feel resentful if someone isn’t pulling himself up by his own bootstraps, being a bum and a slacker. Even my family feels this way, especially the guys. Maybe my position is indefensible, but I’m not alone in it. My medication out of pocket would cost me about $1450 a month, and there’s no way I can afford that without my benefits. The alternative is to refuse medication or take a less expensive one that doesn’t work as well. Unmedicated people with schizophrenia often use alcohol or other illicit drugs and end up homeless. I just do the best I can with my circumstances, so people can take it or leave it… I had a dream last night that symbolized society with a veterinary hospital. The vet gave me hell for being a poor dog owner, so I told her what she could do. I still question whether sociology is a legitimate science. Is society a measurable, palpable thing, or just a meaningless abstraction? But if I can dream about it then it must have subsistence that I can feel, if not define. 

Money

Gloria was here this morning and she vacuumed the family room but with a very inconvenient tool, a Compact machine from back in the sixties with a section of the hose missing, forcing her to stoop over the whole time. She told me it hurt her back. I felt bad about that, so I guess I have to think about buying a new vacuum cleaner. But on the bright side, the work she did on the green carpet looks fantastic, and after a shampooing it’ll be divine. I do have a Eureka upright vacuum cleaner missing the dirtbag; I could look on Amazon for a replacement bag before I invest in something totally new. And then we made another trip to the thrift store to drop off more stuff I don’t need anymore. The weather grew rather inclement at that point; it rained and hailed on us, though by the time we got back home there was blue sky in the west. Springtime is sometimes a blustery mixed bag here in Oregon. I kind of like it when I’m feeling okay.

Before I took a nap I read two more chapters in my Henry James novel. Somehow the story reminds me a little of Jane Austen and her concerns with marriage, especially among the wealthy classes in America (now I mean Henry James) and in Europe. This makes me think very regretfully of my college education and the unfairness of social class in this country and everywhere. In a heartbeat a person in a privileged position can slip through the cracks and be a pauper with nothing to his name. So that I think Henry James is rather shallow in ignoring such realities as poverty and woe, because intelligent people exist at every level of society. Now I think writers like Twain and Melville were much more aware of the truth of money and the people who have it and the ones who don’t. I even have to give credit to Charles Dickens for having open eyes and ears to people at every stratum of our social structure. Just imagine not having a car! And yet this is my situation here today: a pedestrian in the direst of poverty. What would James say to the homeless population here in America? Would he turn a blind eye and go on sipping his English tea in the afternoon, on the green lawn with the Thames River meandering down the hill apace, and his back to an old Tudor mansion?

Prose Poem

The Drowning Mouse

This is an experiment that scientists have actually done with white mice. They trap the mouse in a jar of liquid oxygen. He resists drowning, fighting desperately to stay alive until he can fight no longer. Then his lungs fill with the fluid and he finds he can breathe, so he lives in this strange new element.

I feel a lot like the white mouse in the experiment. And the scientists are the powers that be, whether god, government, or society more generally.

“As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods. They kill us for their sport.” 

Can Spring Be Far Behind?

In the middle of the afternoon I thought about getting myself a Coke so I could have a caffeine buzz, sort of like being drunk on alcohol but less harmful; but instead I went to bed to try to forget my life temporarily. I guess I’m really not very happy with the PCA situation on my horizon. I just feel as though the authorities are taking over my life, suggesting that I’ve done something wrong. But I haven’t broken any laws that I know of; only the unwritten rules of protocol that you can find partly in the Bible. They are things people do just because everyone else does them, so if you ask them why, they can’t tell you exactly. I think it’s called culture. Some people are very strongly in favor of the rights of society while others assert the rights of the individual. Pastor Dan loves sociology but I just hate it, and that’s why I started reading Les Miserables two years ago. Jean Valjean breaks a law to feed his family and it brings the wrath of society down on his head in the figure of Javert, the detective. So, the ethics of this situation is very complicated: it’s almost a suspension of the ethical in order to serve a higher purpose than that of society. It’s a very great story, admired by some other great writers. It raises the question of what is justice after all, and according to whom? It goes way beyond sociology to something much more personal and meaningful. And this is what Pastor seems to be missing…

The weather forecast calls for rain all week but it was just cloudy today. I’ll be glad when the winter dies down and gives way to the springtime again. I feel like something has to give. The winter has been awfully long, and I feel like things haven’t been going my way ever since I left the rock band last summer. And to a great extent I blame Pastor for my departure and my disappointment in music. The lesson I should learn is to keep my own counsel for my personal life and to assert myself according to my heart. But unfortunately there’s a lot of people who think like Pastor Dan, putting the rights of society first, like a big mechanical octopus that controls everyone impersonally, with uniform precision and a lot of mathematics.

Jungles

Seven thirty five.

I saw a few snowflakes on my way to the store just a bit ago, some stray spots of white. I formally met Kim, the person who is replacing Heather on weekends. Her hair is long and red and she seems like a nice woman. She addresses people as “sweetie” and “hon” whether she knows them or not. In general I noticed how rapidly things are changing for that little business and maybe for the world as well. Michelle is leaving pretty soon to go live in Wyoming with her family, and Heather has already gone. The store has switched distributors again, so that means different goods for sale. I know that the bottom line to every change is economics, making the most profit at the least expense. Every life is numbered and packaged in a compartment. It makes you want to live like a rustic or even a caveman sometimes. Grow your own crops and live off the land. Perhaps do a Thoreau: build yourself a log cabin in the woods. But doing this requires practicality and the ability to work with your hands. No city slicker would survive very long in the wilderness… My taxi is coming to pick me up after nine o’clock. I have a visit with Misty… Which is the more jungly, the country or the city? In either case, we have to survive. 

John Galt

Eight twenty five.

When I arrived on Maxwell Road, the holes in the street had been tarred over and it was okay to walk on them. The crew has the weekend off. It looks like they might be finished for a while, though frankly the work they did isn’t very pleasing to the eye. It only adds to the squalor that was there already, the utter run down poverty of the place. It’s an overcast morning and moderately chilly. Cathy is covering for Heather who’s been sick with a virus; she’s actually covering for two people this week. Cathy was quite gabby with me today, which I found pleasant. It was nice to see a few people of color in the little store this time. But sometimes my neighbors across the street are downright unfriendly to me for a reason I can’t fathom. Maybe it’s because, as a houseful of women, they are paranoid of guys. And yet their aloofness is getting worse instead of better with time. Conservative neighborhoods are every man for himself; just a lot of selfishness and hoarding and apathy for people. I wonder who’s to blame for these attitudes. Was it Ayn Rand? Who is John Galt? Who is Ayn Rand? 

Fighting Hearts

Quarter after nine.

My taxi is coming for me after nine thirty. I feel like a statistic today, just a number in a society that allows no individual self expression, or close to none. The rights of individuals are shrinking every day. Maybe I’m in a bad situation with my therapist and need to stop it.

Ten fifty.

Now my excursion is done. The cabbie wasn’t particularly nice to me, though he gave me a return ride without me having to wait a long time. The people at the agency were much nicer, but then they know me better than a total stranger ever could. All in all it was good to get out for a little while. I also walked to the store after I got home, where Cathy and Suk managed business. The work crew was busy on the other side of Maxwell Road this morning, so I don’t know really what their project is. Partly they’re putting in a crosswalk or maybe even a traffic light to help students get to school safely… I often forget that stark existence offers us opportunities every minute, regardless of sociology and other things that seem to limit freedom. If you let yourself be steered passively by others, you’ll end up very unhappy. First, it’s important to know what you want out of your life. I guess that’s something I still need to figure out. But it isn’t like every individual is a parrot for other people’s opinions. A monochrome society would be very dull and redundant. Somewhere in everyone resides an original soul. Often you have to fight to express it.