Gray May Basket

Seven thirty.

It rained during the night. The forecast says no rain today, but the clouds look quite gray. I got a good sleep for a change. I got up in the small hours and read to the end of Symposium. I feel like I’m getting another chance to do what I’d always wanted to do, which is to make music with my buddies. The only thing that could thwart this is substance abuse. Life for an active alcoholic tends to crumble to ruin, as I’ve seen firsthand. It’s kind of ironic how Oregon has legalized marijuana, since this can be a drug of demise like alcohol.

Quarter of nine. My mood was rather weird on my outing to the store, as I turned over thoughts about criminal activity and declining morals. I saw a number tattooed to the back of the cashier’s neck and began to wonder. And then I almost inadvertently stole a bottle of pain medication that was in the bottom of my shopping bag. It is strange how our thinking modifies our perception from moment to moment, as Wordsworth describes in The Prelude. As if events in the world were fitted to the workings of the human mind, or perhaps reality is completely projected by the latter. It started to rain lightly when I was coming home, so my rain jacket was a good call. On my own street, maybe five cars were parked in front of Betty’s old house, and again I felt suspicious. The blinds were all closed in everyone’s front window, and I observed that my front lawn is in need of a mowing. Presiding over the whole scene was this sense of gray ambiguity from the cloud cover and also from my own vision. An odd sort of May Day morning. 

Not Writ in any Book

Midnight.

I’m just beginning to understand the difference between prosaic and poetic, and what poetry is supposed to do. It is something untaught in a book like Perrine’s Sound and Sense, a mere handbook of literary devices. The effect of poetry ought to be like that of intoxication either by liquor or very abstruse ideas. It should transport the reader to heaven and back again, or to the world of Platonic Ideals. Sometimes a dream does more than fulfill a wish: it unveils the reality beyond this shadowy illusion. A dream can be a poem, and a poem can be a dream.

My dog just jumped out of bed and trotted down the hallway to see what I’m up to. In a few minutes I have to take my medication to banish “false beliefs” and perceptions that aren’t true. Occasionally I think this judgment is an arbitrary call. Still, I take the pills dutifully every night to be responsible for my behavior. And it’s worth it to be able to play my music without the assault of religious delusions on the dark side.

When I was a junior in high school, I fell into quite a depression without knowing the clinical terminology for the condition. Now it seems to me that depression is a doorway to more severe mental illness, as well as to substance abuse. These things are colloquially known as “demons.” And after all, maybe certain kinds of music really are unhealthy for the soul. How can we guard against darkness and look instead for the sunshine?

Two o’clock. Some music simply strikes me as intrinsically beautiful. Right now I remember the sound of “It’s My Life” by Talk Talk, with the words, “Funny how I plowed myself an avenue…” Around the same time, I was reading an arabesque by Lovecraft full of fantastic images, such as being aboard ship on a transparent sea and peering down at the life on the ocean floor. And again, these things are not taught in a manual like Sound and Sense

Lots to Think About

Eight thirty five.

Heidi is going to call me today at two o’clock, so I’m really jazzed about that. In concert with my mood, the sun has come out. At the store I bought Aesop a pouch of ribeye steak treats just because. Michelle wore a Peanuts gang sweatshirt under her work apron while “Honky Tonk Woman” played on the radio. She said she prefers The Beatles, and I agreed with her. The Stones were too garage band for me. When I got home I scheduled a ride to my appointment for a lab Thursday morning; no sweat. Earlier I was thinking that Aesop is more than just a dog: he is a pure intelligence with the appearance of a canine. He gets breakfast very soon. If not for his aggression towards other people, I would recommend blue heeler as a breed. They are very smart and very devoted… Now his breakfast is done. With the band and the church, I have a lot to think about. It’s probably not as cut and dried as I’ve been making it, and I don’t necessarily share my sister’s opinion on rock music. Her views are as hard as adamant, but couldn’t constitute the absolute truth. I know she’s worried about me. However, I believe my sobriety is strong enough to endure environmental stress.

Nine thirty. My new stainless steel strings should come in today’s mail. I’ll put them on my J Bass as soon as I can. I miss seeing my old friend Todd, another bass player who left town about ten years ago. They said he had an opportunity in sales he couldn’t refuse. He taught me how to adjust the intonation on my own bass guitars, and in general had very good taste and knowledge of bass gear. People you know tend to come and go. My sister observed of the music community that the A&D condition is unlikely to change, and I realize that she’s right. Thus I have to judge whether I want to deal with people who drink and use. I’m at a kind of crossroads in my life, so I hope I choose wisely. 

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. 

Cowbird Analogy

Ten twenty five. I found out that the party is not until noon today. So I went ahead to the store and got a root beer and some food. Cathy was cashiering and Supertramp was on the radio. After ten o’clock, business picks up really well for the market. I saw quite a few people there. The weather is cooler today, much more temperate and agreeable. My root beer tastes fab…

It’s nice to see that life goes on, much the same as before. Part of me craves beer, the taste and the feel of a cool Foster’s Lager. But I know that one beer multiplies to a 12 pack before I even know what happened. It’s a perfect day for a bacchanal, a drunken spree, but I have to forget about that. I can’t judge by what other people do. Some can afford to drink, but I remember how my account used to be overdrawn from spending on beer. And I didn’t care at the time; I could only think about having more to drink. It was a kind of mania with me, occluding my perception of everything else. Alcoholism takes over your whole life if you allow it to. Thus I won’t go back to drinking in any capacity. If I could make a political cartoon of alcoholism, it would look like this:

A bird’s nest full of eggs. A cowbird comes along and lays an egg in the middle of the nest, except this egg resembles a 750 ml can of Foster’s Lager. Before the other eggs can be hatched, the can of beer nudges them all out of the nest, becoming the sole occupant while the legitimate lives ultimately perish. The mother bird feeds the Foster’s bird until it grows to the size of a dodo…

Buzzed and Confused

Three o’clock 🕒. I can see why some people use gabapentin for recreation: I’ve got a good buzz going. No joke, I have to get off of this drug. It looks as if my brain has become normal enough to respond to pleasure once again. This is dangerous to my sobriety, and maybe I can’t call myself sober anymore anyway. I want to be able to write soberly and seriously. Writing ought to be my way to mental wellness. Use it as a vehicle to transcendence. This idea makes me want to go over my Keats and Mallarmé again… I just don’t want to relapse to alcoholism. It nearly killed me three years ago. And I was useless as long as I was drinking. The withdrawals were awful and scary. What hooks a person on alcohol is the euphoria, which resembles a foretaste of heaven. But when you abandon your life to alcoholism, you give up your responsibility to society. You lose everything you had due to an obsession with a buzz. It is like the Lotus Eaters in The Odyssey, the most depressing episode in the poem.

Quarter of five. I just emailed Pastor about my discovery regarding gabapentin. How worried should I be?

The Caffeine Trap

Quarter after four. I restrung my J Bass and gave it a good workout this afternoon. The strings are extremely bright and made more so by the bridge. I told Pastor that I’d be willing to buy a keyboard amplifier for the church so Eduardo can set up outdoors. Maybe at Guitar Center I can work a trade in for the American Fender bass. But no: see about an exchange from Musicians Friend first. Call them Tuesday, after Memorial Day is over with. On Friday I spoke with a rep who was a complete ignoramus. She knew absolutely nothing about music gear, nor how to retrieve records from their system. She was too stupid to be embarrassed about it. I came away frustrated and angry… Meanwhile, Aesop is dozing after an anxious afternoon of me messing with my bass guitar. And I’ve probably overdosed on caffeine again, making me irritable and kind of mean. I felt great five hours ago and now I’m a jerk. One two liter of Coke is almost a six pack of cans. Also I feel like I’m having to rationalize my caffeine intake. I know that it’s too much to be healthy and moderate. I begin to use it because it makes me feel good, and then I want more and more of that euphoria. How does that differ from an alcoholic buzz? In principle it is no different, and that’s why I have to justify doing it. It’s another addiction.

The Bottle

One o’clock. I think I want to drink beer, and that’s my battle with myself. A lot of evidence points to it. In this case, I probably need to heap on the religious discipline. It hurts, but it keeps me alive. I don’t know what to do. If I want to drink, then it’ll probably happen that way. My body would hate it, especially stomach and liver. I can’t afford the financial cost of drinking. Before I knew it I’d be overdrawn. I’d lose my friends. Aesop would be neglected. I could end up in the hospital. People would accuse me of being selfish and irresponsible. My conscience would kill me. I would be worthless as a person… It’s beginning to rain. Damien is not here… I know that I cannot drink alcohol. If I can just drive that home to my inmost self, I might achieve some peace. What can I do for a diversion? Playing an instrument usually helps.

Androgyny

Quarter after four. Well the book came. I marked my place in it where I left off… Tomorrow I’ll call in a refill for my medication, as I am down to my last three pills. It seems to me that my life would have been totally different if I had flown the nest at 18 years old. What if I had gone to Columbia University in New York? Would I have learned that I was a homosexual? And then what? My mother was protective of me while I went to college here. She judged that one friend who came over was gay— and she was probably right. He and a circle of his friends tended to be androgynous. They had wanted me to join their clique… and what would have been wrong with that? The bunch of them used marijuana frequently. I figured out later that must be why one of them had tits like a girl. They were not good students. But why did they want me in their group? I belonged to another group of friends, mostly musicians, who were all heterosexual. The network spanned multiple high schools and ages. This was the reality I chose, and which my mother approved. It appears quite clear to me now… Moreover, when I looked up Sheryl on the web, I noticed that her name was preceded by a “Ms.” I don’t think she’s ever been married. On the other hand, Beverly is a mother and a grandmother.

I’ve been mistaken for gay since junior high school because I never had a girlfriend. My illness made me shy of dating when I was young. Some people accept that schizophrenia is a biological disease, and that’s that. You treat it with meds just as you would a physical illness. But others go in with a psychic scalpel and try to find meaning in the nonsense, a method I disagree with. The controversy between psychiatrists and psychologists will likely go on long after I’m gone.

Tuesday

Quarter after ten.

Tempted to do Coca-Cola again, but I don’t like the feeling of being hooked. Also I can’t sleep well with caffeine. My book is coming today. Aesop needs wet food. Guess I’ll go to the store right now… I’m thinking about aborting the story I began. Maybe let it germinate for a while. The Coke yesterday really went to my head. I was able to distinguish between sanity and craziness induced by caffeine. Today I bought just a ginger ale. It occurs to me that the caffeine triggered a hypo manic— if Todd is right that I’m bipolar. I had a wild flight of ideas yesterday afternoon, which isn’t like me. Usually I’m quite realistic, even a little bovine and dull. I’m safer to avoid caffeine. I can only imagine how alcohol would affect me now. Not pretty. I anticipate getting my Baldwin book today. A package from UPS is always a good thing. Roger just drove up and backed into his driveway in that old rust colored Ford. The weather is fantastic again. Corona has become business as usual each day. I feel kind of restless and frustrated. Mostly I’d like to jam with my band again as soon as possible. Between now and then is just marking time.

One fifty. I pulled out my Aria bass and gave it a play. First I checked the battery to make sure it wasn’t leaking. There was no damage. It’s a great sounding bass. I had a friend who distrusted it because it wasn’t a Fender. Everything was different back then. I drank and acted like a prick. But Roman insisted on talking politics, and left his television tuned to Fox News all the time. It got so I felt uncomfortable at his house. I can remember it now. The last time I saw him was ten years ago. The right wing was everywhere around me, no escape from it. Everyone I knew was a conservative. The street I live on was entirely the same. But nowadays it’s harder to tell the difference between a liberal and a conservative. Maybe it’s only me. The Millennium was a strange time. I heard a lot of people say that you can’t be ambivalent. You are either for Christ or against him. There is no fence, no agnosticism. I learned later that black and white thinking is unrealistic and not very healthy. In my opinion, Jesus was a dichotomous thinker, as was Aristotle with the Law of Excluded Middle. In truth, we need the shades of gray to be healthy.