A Little Poem

Democracy

Upon an autumn morning, innocent,

I wandered home from the convenience store

Weighed down with Dog Chow and my groceries,

When falling like a thunderbolt from the blue

The bald eagle clutched me in his crooked hands

And flew me away to drop me in a dump,

Leaving behind my patriot shopping bag

And bag of dog food on the asphalt street. 

Book Smart

Two thirty five.

I’ve read about 19 pages in Emerson’s journals today and drunk the second Snapple tea. This afternoon is warm and autumnal soft and reminds me of college 31 years ago. For the winter I had an opportunity to take American Romanticism. Actually, I enrolled in it and attended one class, but dropped it because the instructor’s approach was way too elementary for a 400 level course. But now, plainly, I regret that I didn’t continue with it. Our first reading assignment was “William Wilson” by Poe. That class would’ve taken us through Poe, Emerson, Hawthorne, Melville, Thoreau, Whitman, Dickinson, and also Stowe. Call me an idiot for dropping out.

Three twenty five. Tomorrow I have a meeting with my case manager, Misty, at the agency. I hope it’s another fine day like this one. There are so many books I’d like to either read or reread, and right now I like Walden.

Ten forty. It must have been five o’clock when I went to bed for an evening nap. My dreams were mostly nonsense but I rested well. I don’t count myself a Jungian, but I do like the Romantic literature that was inspired by the American soil, like Leaves of Grass. In this way I guess I am a patriot.

Eleven thirty. Sometimes the convenience and commodity of everything Americans can buy fills me with vertigo. I don’t even have a car, but goodness, look at the selection of books I have to choose from to have delivered to my door! Already I have more books than I have shelf space for. But in the name of love of language it’s worth it to indulge in good books, especially when I can’t drink beer again… If I needed a personal bible that was not the Christian Bible, what would it be? What could I stake my life on between the covers of a book? Maybe the question is bogus, because dogma kills the experience of life in all its dynamism and kinesis. Trust the open book of life alone, and the book of yourself. Remember to read as much as you write. 

American Xanadu

Midnight hour.

Reality dawns on me a bit more all the time, and in America, very little can be done without money. It makes the difference between paradise and damnation, like in a tale by Edgar Allan Poe of how an inheritance of a lot of cash plus a knowledge of horticulture are able to build the Domain of Arnheim here on earth. But it would’ve been impossible without the money. Capitalism is the curse of American life that keeps us in the dark ages, especially if you don’t have any money. I think I’d rather live in Xanadu than in Arnheim, although the vision of Poe is a symptom of the reality of economics. By the way, Poe was poor and only genteel by means of his intellect. He had fame without riches. If I had to pick one over the other, then I’d take fame; but then I could never live in a place like the Domain of Arnheim. Does Xanadu still offer an open door or maybe a window? And is “Xanadu” really Canada? Then Arnheim is a place in the United States, or in its imagination… These thoughts keep me awake at night. I always believe there must be a better way to govern the people than by capitalism. So that Poe’s paradise needn’t be achieved through the almighty dollar, but through ingenuity alone. 

Insanity

Wee hours of Monday.

I made the mistake of taking my cholesterol medication tonight, so now I’m paying for it in insomnia. I guess I might as well read a book for a while… With Pastor, my first reaction to his sermon yesterday was to rebel and disagree. But later I tried to harmonize with his point of view. And now I don’t know what to think about it. The truth is that I don’t like when people talk about the devil as if he really existed. It sounds quite cuckoo of some Christians, and indeed they may be psychotic, out of touch with reality. Probably for my own good I should avoid the church as I’ve been doing. That sermon yesterday was like a horror movie… I have been made well by taking my antipsychotic, but it sounds like some people are on the downswing, through no fault of my own. In the old days, they used to chain schizophrenic people up in a dungeon. Today, a lot of us still end up in a hospital… It doesn’t help the situation when religious leaders lose their marbles and spout crap about the devil. I’m so tired of all the insanity I run into every day, and the church only fuels the fire. 

For a Little Motivation

Five twenty five.

Hard to believe it isn’t even summer yet. To me it feels like next autumn already. The climate has been very temperate lately except for a few days in the lower nineties. Right now the sun is just coming up. I hear the soundscape from “Close to the Edge” in my brain. It is curious how a lot of Americans disregard music from across the Atlantic, as if they didn’t understand it… I don’t know if I’ll call my sister this morning or not. It might be very uncomfortable for me if I did… I have problems with motivation, and also my body is giving out as I get older.

Quarter after seven. It has just begun to rain seriously. I got a few drops on me coming back from the store. Heather was super nice to me when I checked out. I had enough change in my raincoat pocket for a non comestible item, so she took my smaller coins and let me have my quarters. Also I got good news in my mailbox this morning. Probably I will avoid church this Sunday and just go to my band rehearsal in the afternoon. My sister said something pejorative about churchgoers who are not fundamentalist, or who don’t interpret the Bible literally, word for word. To her mind, these people are not really Christians. She doesn’t realize that she represents only one form of religious belief, and that others are equally valid.

Quarter after eight. I’ve decided not to call her this weekend… It’s different to see it dark and rainy here today; I kind of like it for a change. There’s such a disconnect between my mind and my body, and between thinking and acting: it’s almost too much to try to initiate a movement. It’s not a matter of laziness or anything moral like that at all… It looks like communication is reopening between America and the UK, if I’m not being too optimistic. And if I had the courage, I might do a Henry James for real and travel to the motherland at least for a holiday. 

Self reliant

Eleven thirty. It’s nice when I get likes from European readers. There aren’t enough of them. Kate, as I recall, was very literal and realistic, and she disliked extremism in any form. She was not religious or even Romantic. She thought I was crazy when I joined the church and the American way, which I can understand now. I really miss her and her sophistication, so different from my own country. It was this foreignness that attracted me to her. It seemed like a healthy way out of my illness. The problem was that I couldn’t stop drinking all during that time. Today I’m just kind of in suspense to see what happens next. Everybody is. The light of the sun is bright again like yesterday. Is psychology an overrated science? Sometimes I could do without it. I think it’s an American concern, more so than across the Atlantic, from what I’ve experienced.

Quarter after two. The sunshine goes on, with the sky mingled blue and wisps of white. There’s a tree frog screeching in my front yard, but otherwise it’s quiet as a deserted church. Only one other sound: an air conditioning unit next door or somewhere close by. Seems odd for January. Now a prop plane overhead. I just finished playing my Dean bass for today. Saturday afternoon I’m taking my blue Fender to practice again. It’s my favorite instrument and my main axe. It feels unreal that I don’t drink anymore. Certainly if I did, I couldn’t do music with other people, and my life would be useless even to me. Drinking beer is extremely expensive and it takes a huge toll on your quality of life. I still have dreams about alcohol at night sometimes, usually connected with my mother and my brother. My brother is still alive, yet I doubt if I’ll ever see him again. He seems to think that you can’t have a good time without alcohol. Even if he called me one day, I’d probably have to keep him at arm’s length. We’re not in the same situation together, and we have nothing in common anymore. I used to crave his approval so desperately, but now I don’t see why. I used to need my sister’s approval too, but since being sober for three years, family is expendable. I’ve discovered that I can think for myself and solve my own problems without depending on other people. I’m not anybody’s perfect poster boy, but still I hold my own… Sunlight filters through the kitchen window and shadows glow a little green. Except for a bit of a hum outside, the room is silent. I like myself. 

Just Ideas

Wee hours.

The only improvement on Ulysses I can think of is to make Poldy Bloom a Black man rather than a Jew; and yet Jews have had to live in ghettos in history as well as Blacks and Hispanics. I’m thinking aloud about the crucial problems facing the United States today. There’s a great deal of resentment by the uneducated for the educated, which could be solved by making university tuition free for everyone who wants to go. I don’t know how to implement this plan, but Scotland has already done it. We could take a clue from their example, if we were willing to convert to a benign socialist system and give up our broken capitalist American Dream. Some dreams need to be awakened from, and last Wednesday was our wake up call. Instead of the American Dream, we need to dream globally for the sake of our future. The time has come to take idealism seriously rather than cling to economic survival and the delusion of a prosperity that doesn’t exist. People need to become more philosophical and curious about more than their percentage. If we can overcome greed, we can learn to get along with each other through free education in a free and equal society.

Open Doors

Two thirty five in the morning.

I couldn’t sleep any longer, so I got up. It seemed to me that the Eugene population is being thinned of Mexican people, so I did a little research with Google. I learned about an agency called ICE, a division of Homeland Security. But most of the articles I found were from last year. Who knows what’s happening right now? I only know that I don’t see many Mexican people locally anymore. They used to be very visible. One of them overcharged me to do my yard work all through the Obama presidency. The alternative was to hire a white guy who charged even more, and who insisted on a contract that would last a year… I don’t know what to think about the current isolationist attitude of the United States. We don’t want anything to do with the rest of the world. It’s a formula for stagnation and cultural poverty. Republicans don’t perceive it that way, caring only about money— a huge mistake. My life was a lot richer when I had a friend from abroad. She introduced me to Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry— the whole ‘70s glam genre in the UK. John Wetton played bass guitar brilliantly on Ferry’s solo album. Was it only a dream? A lot can happen in eight to ten years. The trend I see is the social withdrawal of America, so how can we really understand what it means to be fully human? We can learn a lesson from the life and writings of Henry James, the American expatriate who enriched literature forever. And from The Beatles and the British Invasion of the ‘60s, and again from New Wave in the ‘80s… The same sun shines on the rest of the world as on America. It makes no sense to put up walls. 

Where Have All the Schizos Gone?

Quarter after five. Thomas Mann assumes that sickness has moral underpinnings. I’ve always struggled with that opinion, but there’s such a consensus that agrees with him. What we don’t understand we treat with religion. I’m not even sure how to define mental illness anymore, having heard so many perspectives, and none of them superior to another. When was the last time I heard the DSM5 referred to? At least in America, talk therapy has monopolized the field of behavioral health. I never hear anything about psychiatry anymore, maybe because mental illness is too expensive for society to afford. While this is going on, people with schizophrenia and bipolar still self medicate with illicit drugs on the street. Some of them even refuse medication, and we tell them that’s okay. Honestly, I haven’t spoken with another person who has schizophrenia in many months. It’s as though they were running around undiagnosed and unmedicated. Mental illness has become a big gray area, and all because we’ve done away with psychiatry and diagnostic labels. Or is this only my own experience in the past three years? What do we do with our severely mentally ill people these days? Where have they gone? Why don’t I see them anymore? Perhaps they’re all homeless and sleeping under the Washington Jefferson Street Bridge? They seem to have been assimilated into the mainstream, their symptoms ignored and untreated. Is this a good thing or a terrible miscarriage of justice? I only think of the suffering of people with psychosis who don’t get the relief they deserve. There’s something wrong with this picture. But of course, I would have to see some statistics on recovery rates to really know what is happening… 

It Is a Time…





It is a time of contrariety

And even if you hold still like a tree,

Opposing tempests whip and scar your skin,

A hell and heaven smite you on the chin,

At war with one another and with you

If you display a color red or blue.

I often ponder on pedestrian tours

If I could quell the striving with a Coors

And thereby make the nation go away;

Yet anesthesia lasts for but a day

And then continued numbing would depend

On how far I could make my money spend.

In just another month the vote is done,

So maybe then again we’ll have some fun.