Alcohol

Eight thirty.

Inflation is very bad, so that I can hardly afford groceries every day. For a couple of reasons I’m cutting out the Snapple tea each day and just buying bare necessities. Right now it’s mostly sunny and nice, so how could anybody have a problem? I suppose I should read more than I write to be wiser. But the older you get, the more you become a fogy and resist new ideas. I often long for not just the past but for other countries; and of course I wish I could drink beer again and sample heaven as before. When you are sober, the world weighs on your shoulders as if you were Atlas. When you are drunk, the world rolls away and you don’t even care. I know I won’t do it anymore, but I still think we are too harsh on alcoholics in hospitals and other places. Carlos Williams made a little poem about a drunkard that was quite sympathetic with him. I don’t remember the ending to the one by Robinson, “Mr Flood’s Party,” or whether he had compassion or not. Does an alcoholic have to have a reason to drink? Whatever, I think it shows strength and courage to stay sober and deal with the challenges head on rather than try to make them go away.

Water on the Smoke

Quarter after one.

I played some Jaco and Mark Egan parts on my white Fender bass and it worked out pretty well, so I guess I’ll hang onto that axe rather than sell it. As I write this, the sun appears from behind the clouds and splashes the ground with pale yellow light. Two of the songs I played were from American Garage by Pat Metheny Group, way back in 1979. I never heard that music until ten years later, when I was a student at the university, reading a lot of British literature of the Renaissance and the twentieth century. But my taste in music was for American jazz at the time. I imitated Jaco on the electric bass and made quite a few home recordings, but I had no jazz musicians to play with while I was working on my degree. I guess there was no money in jazz for local players, or maybe my attitude was rather cocky, especially for a bass player. I wanted to play lots of notes like my heroes on the instrument, but Eugene was a Blues town and very slow and conservative. Also very hippie, like a throwback to the late sixties with some people. It’s weird to stand back and take a look around at the culture of Eugene: a friend of mine described it as a place of mostly rednecks and hippies. Almost all of the bands I played in used weed every day, as if it were their religion or something. The dividing line between hippie and conservative is often the drug of choice on each side… The more I think about it, the more I believe I should probably hang up the music ambition and just forget the whole thing. The music community in Eugene will never change, nor do I have the right to try to change it myself. 

One Thing

Eight o’clock.

Saturday morning. It’s very quiet in the house right now, which is kind of nice. I can’t think of a way to describe this month so far, except as a time of temptation for me to drink beer again. Last night I caught myself trying to rationalize doing this. I seemed to think that sobriety has a finish line, and after that you’re free to drink all you want. Now I have to figure out how to correct my thinking errors about this problem. It’s hard to accept that staying sober is a lifelong proposition; maybe it really is one day at a time, as AA says. Meanwhile, my life without alcohol can be pretty dull and anhedonic, and it seems like the One Thing I want to do is get drunk and forget the world. This feels like the authentic and genuine action for me to take. But even this is rationalization to do something essentially bad with my life. And as time goes by, I come to believe a little more in the existence of good and evil in human affairs. It started when I sampled some Baudelaire in French two months ago. Wickedness is just that, no matter what mental gymnastics I try to pull off. And goodness is the free and clear path, however boring it may be. 

A Letter: Alcohol and Caffeine

Now I know more about what’s been bugging me lately. I don’t know why I started doing so much caffeine recently, but it’s having an impact on the way I think and feel and remember. I believe that everything we do boils down to brain chemistry, and ultimately everything is physical and material; it’s all constructed of atoms, basically. I could be wrong about that, but it’s my particular belief system. Nothing spiritual is necessary to explain natural events. Now the question is what made me buy the Coca-Cola in the first place. Today I got myself two Snapples, still too much caffeine, so tomorrow I’ll either skip it or just get one of them.

I guess I’m going to church this Sunday, though my feelings about it are mixed. I think I’d prefer not to sit through a sermon and take communion and all that stuff again. Maybe I’ll wait and see at the last minute whether I want to go.

Yesterday I flipped my blank book over and started writing going in the other direction on the left hand pages. Meanwhile I kind of wonder what interested me in Paul Bowles again; or even why I used to like his writing originally. I’ve changed since I first read him in February 98. And at the end of the same year I finished Moby Dick, the mood of which was very similar to the Bowles book: it was quite nihilistic and maybe sort of wicked like Macbeth. I don’t know how I feel about the unconscious from a Freudian point of view anymore, something dark with basic drives, but you can see it illustrated in the tales of Edgar Allan Poe, like in “The Cask of Amontillado” and many others. And that reminds me: have you decided on your next purchase from Amazon yet?

It’s been drizzling here since about noon today, but it’s supposed to stop pretty soon, only to redouble itself for another week or so. Rain, rain, rain! But I have no complaints about it, and I actually like it. It promotes a state of mind for thinking and reflecting about abstract things.

Aesop has been in a sympathetic mood yesterday and today, probably sensing that I was feeling rather crappy since Monday afternoon. He is a very smart dog, and I think I care more about him than the dog I had before him, a little pug named Henry. The pug was more gregarious than Aesop, and everybody loved him. Henry was very sweet and cute as could be, and sometimes I miss having him around. But like a lot of things and people I used to know, he belongs to a past that can’t be revived. I may regret it all I want but in the end I will accept that the past is buried and irrecoverable.
But once in a while something happens to remind me…

At some level I wish I could get drunk and enjoy my life like I used to years ago. I thought I had my whole life ahead of me when I’d get a mile high. The future consequences don’t occur to you when you get wasted on alcohol or other drugs. And then you get a wake up call and realize that life is very short and you are not immortal. And you know then that alcoholism really is fatal.

Morpheus

Six ten.

Another hot one is predicted for today. Think I’ll stay home from church yet again. The reading I did of Shakespeare during the night got me reflecting on collectivism in a new way. Autolycus as a character in The Winter’s Tale is a fly in the ointment, and by nature he is unlikable with his dishonest purse cutting and bawdy songs. It makes me compare his role in the play to my own place in the church and the community. And seeing myself in this light, I don’t really like my image. Funny how reading a good book can make you self aware.

Seven thirty. The store was supposed to be open at seven, but when I arrived, no one was there and the doors were locked up. I’ve never seen this happen before at Community Market, a total failure to show up. So I crossed the street to the espresso hut and bought a raspberry tea from the pretty girl and came home. I can’t speculate what happened to Heather this morning. I only know she didn’t show up to open the store today… I’m still contemplating going to Our Redeemer for Sunday worship. It’s a very long walk there, and Aesop won’t be happy about my absence. I’ll leave it to the last minute to decide… Band practice was such a disaster yesterday that I won’t make an Orpheus post this time. My mates were too stoned and drunk to be able to play their instruments, let alone think and make sense in speech. I was terribly embarrassed. Maybe in this case it’s two strikes and you’re out. I wasted my time yesterday with these bozos. I just want to make music, while the others make music secondary to the drugs… Church is looking better and better as I think about it… 

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…