The Real Thing

Nine o’clock at night.

I had a nap from five o’clock until now. Poor Aesop still has fleas and I’m responsible for helping him out with them.

Between noon and one o’clock today, I made a lot of racket on my G&L bass, doing songs like “You Can’t Hurry Love” by Diana Ross and others from the eighties and nineties with bass lines by Pino Palladino and Flea. The Kiloton really rocks, having a tone similar to a Stingray, but it does it without a built in preamp because the pickup is already hot enough to make your ears burn. I also played around with “Three Views of a Secret” by Jaco Pastorius. I think Night Passage is my favorite album by Weather Report.

The main barrier to playing with other musicians right now is transportation, and also I don’t want to deal with substance use in the community. And finally, I run into many musicians who talk themselves up but can’t deliver the goods for lack of talent or the willingness to work at their instrument; they just aren’t serious about making music with quality. A lot of times it’s a failure to be honest and realistic about their abilities. Like everything, being a good musician takes a great deal of work and time investment; there are no shortcuts, and it’s about a lot more than the image of rock stardom. People try to substitute a shallow appearance for real substance and ultimately these people will have a hard time as musicians and, more importantly, as human beings. 

Good Things… Small Packages

Two o’clock.

I jammed on my G&L bass for a while. The snow was so bright that I didn’t have to turn the light on in the room. Out the window I could see Victoria sweeping her car of snow. A lot more people are coming out today to drive or walk around. They talk together in raised voices as if excited. When I was out on the sidewalk I heard this lyric: “The moments seemed lost in all the noise / A snowstorm, a stimulating voice / And rest for the day / With cold in the way.” During the time I played my bass, I moved the switch to the center to tap all the pole pieces, giving me a full range of tone. Sounds great, but I need someone else to play with. I expect two packages today and tomorrow, but the one coming by mail might be delayed… I can’t believe it’s only two thirty. But our daylight will be spent in another two hours. I don’t know if my little Rumble 25 is reparable or not. I may have to get a new amp for church, which doesn’t break my heart at all. There are some really nice combo amps for bass for a bit more money. Although, I don’t want to leave it in the sacristy all the time to be disused.

Nine forty.

Some very old music rises to my consciousness by the Ray Brown Orchestra. He was an amazing bass player, and hardly anyone realizes that he could play electric bass as well as acoustic upright. The tone of his Fender Precision would melt in your mouth and he was all over it with his huge hands… Amazon had one more copy of the music I wanted in stock— so I snagged it. It arrives on my birthday. 

Another Thanksgiving

Quarter after six.

At some point today I want to pick up my Snapple empties and bag them. This is grunt work that I hate, but I’m lucky that my life is not drudgery like that of many people, including my family. They have an antipathy for books and everything intellectual, despising what they don’t understand. This Christmas Eve for me is like another Thanksgiving, and the thing I’m grateful for is being the smart person I am. There’s an old cliché that goes like this: Which would you rather be, dumb and happy or smart and sad? It’s the same as saying that ignorance is bliss. But I think I disagree. Intellectual work is a lot more pleasant than manual labor, and overall, the life of the mind is a wonderful thing. So today I’ll make a start on the Snapple bottles and bless every moment I get to spend using my brain. Another thing. As students in junior high school, my friends and I used to play chess in the library. Often, a bully would come along and knock all the pieces over from sheer incomprehension and resentment. It was a symbolic scene that still goes on in the present day at some level. What can we offer the bullies now except a little music to soothe their feelings? Meanwhile I move on to celebrate the beautiful things in my life. 

Ship of Fools

Four o’clock in the morning.

I plan on going to church this morning because it’s a community thing, and it’s real and concrete as opposed to the virtuality of blogging. I’ve thought of quitting WordPress many times. The contention of competing voices on the website seems to me rather stupid and pointless anymore. I should have better things to do than get into a war of words with a confederacy of dunces, so today I’ll chuck it all and march off to the church on Maxwell Road. When church is done, I’ll come home and probably take up Wittgenstein’s Tractatus for a taste of real philosophy, like sipping a fine wine. I repeat that if people want free erudition they ought to check out Project Gutenberg and read some classics. I would even consider going back to being a volunteer proofreader for them. It’s a place for learning new things and it’s a great experience. 

Letter to a Friend

It was a pretty good day today. I got my account set up at Genoa pharmacy this morning, and the people there were very nice. I saw Darcy and Todd for my appointment. The cab driver was kind of a grumpy old man, yet he was rational to some extent. He didn’t like technology such as tablets and smart phones; and he really hated going online with them. Kind of funny. He said he didn’t like traffic either. I thought of asking him why he decided to become a taxi driver if he felt that way, but discarded the idea! What a moron. Maybe he couldn’t get a job anywhere else. At least he thanked me for guiding him back to my house. It’s interesting to consider how people do such illogical and inauthentic things with their lives. Maybe sometimes it’s because they’re paying lip service to a job they believed they just had to do in order to please another person. Somewhere they choose an option that was wrong for themselves, which takes them completely on the wrong track. Life can be very fascinating from an existential perspective of actions freely chosen by an individual. I find myself in a situation with the church, something that isn’t very genuine for me, and my options are to keep going there and compromise my integrity or to resign from it and be alone but at least okay with myself in conscience. That is, I won’t be a hypocrite anymore if I leave the church. But it takes a lot of guts to do the right thing for yourself; and sometimes it’s not clear which choice is right for you in the long run.

I didn’t do much else today except to play the bass guitar for an hour this afternoon. It was my G&L bass, the one I bought last April with my stimulus money. It’s the best sounding bass I’ve got, by far. Maybe someday soon I’ll have the nerve to look for other musicians again. Guitar Center definitely has a bulletin board for musicians seeking others at the back of the store. Last spring and summer I made some very gut wrenching decisions concerning my music, perhaps the wrong ones. Time will tell, I guess.

Culture is another strange thing. How do certain behaviors get associated with certain jobs or roles in society? Come to think about it, I don’t know what my own role is in this society, but I tend to critique it a lot. Bob Dylan did a song that ends with, “You’re invisible now / You’ve got no secrets to conceal,” and then the chorus goes: “How does it feel / To be on your own / With no direction home / Like a complete unknown / Like a rolling stone?” And I wonder if these lines apply to my own life in a significant way. It depends on how invisible I really am and how persuasive my posts are on WordPress. Or maybe everybody is invisible to a degree?

Writing can be seen as a struggle to get attention to what you write. Some authors go to rash extremities to do that, but it’s probably not worth it to me to join them. It’s better to leave it to the hands of fate than to calculate it too much. So many people are aspiring or disappointed writers. A lot of them end up on WordPress, blogging their lives away. I wonder if I should be planning my next move at this point.

The Illusion of Safety

Noon hour.

I catch myself being a jerk today and then I have to stop and reevaluate my attitude and behavior. The cabbie for the return ride was interesting. He lived through the great snow of 1969 in Eugene. I mentioned drought after observing that Kelly Pond had shrunk down to hardly any water at all. He said that in ‘69 it was dry for 120 days in a row. I was two years old that year and don’t remember much of it.

My meeting at the agency went pretty well, except as I said, I was kind of a jerk. I look back on my working days now and wonder how I endured the boredom of it. I was not challenged by the type of work I did. There was a coworker who understood that about me. She was very intelligent and incisive, and advised me to get a job in the larger community. But I stayed where I was because I thought it was safer. After a few years it turned into a big mess. The alcohol addiction usurped my life and in general I felt trapped. Today I still feel a little bit that way. Therefore, no situation is really safe. I’d like to do more fun things in the community and try to connect with smart people. Bookstores are a good place for me to start looking for intelligent life, and maybe a trip up on campus. The burden of being smart is that it takes more to keep yourself stimulated. 

The Misunderstood Artist

Wee hours.

I heard the rain start again tonight from my bedroom. If I was sleeping, I don’t remember my dreams, though there was a semiconscious thought process. My dog is not sleeping well either. So I got up and came in here to make a few notes. The streetlight is on outside my window and a couple of cars have passed by. The same wooden light post has been there since these houses were built in the early Sixties. There’s an undercurrent of the same old spirit when my family first moved into this house in 1971. This community can be an interesting place if I open my heart to it. Certain pockets of it have resisted change over the years. I need to go easier on the church pastor, I suppose. It’s probably true that my parents were hedonists, contributing very little to the neighborhood, especially my mother. While my dad was simple, Mom willfully sucked pleasure out of life. She did it without consequences for most of her life, until a heart attack cut it short. 

I wonder if there’s an ethic to being an aesthete like she was? She got the idea from Hollywood. I remember watching Gentlemen Prefer Blondes with her on television. Marilyn Monroe was the original, pretty much, with a lot of imitators. I don’t know that much about it. I think my mother admired her a great deal. It’s hard to know where she would have fit in; perhaps as a bohemian artist among other artists. Someone needed to guide her on the right track, but there just wasn’t anybody to do this. Mom was far smarter than the moral majority of churchgoers and gossips and other shallow people. 

She was the next Michelangelo. 

Decision

Quarter of four.

I’ve heard from Mike regarding my email. I’m still more inclined to leave the band after sleeping on it. He said something about taking the bad with the good, but it’s always been a dangerous situation for me and my sobriety. By the way, I opened the Kerouac book and read the first page: it’s definitely not for me, and it’s a thing that Ron would probably like. And as for ambivalence, sometimes the dichotomies are real and you have to make a decision one way or the other. I’ve been at a crossroads for the past seven months and now I know what to do. It involves dismissing the past, with my old friends and their attitudes… If I’m not doing music for a vocation, then I suppose I still have writing. Yesterday I also read a little bit of Les Miserables, a book I’d like to finish sometime in the future. 

Orpheus IV

Quarter after eleven. I feel rather tired and anxious about our practice today. I’ve had lunch already and turned on the air conditioner. I don’t know if I’m going to church tomorrow or not. If I do, then I really don’t want to be lector for the service. I guess I won’t go. I don’t like having to sing hymns anymore because my voice doesn’t sound good to me… Before long we’ll be having our rehearsal at Mike’s place. I’m going to walk over there, passing through the parking lot for the convenience store. I also have to go by the salon on my way… Funny but I don’t think like a Freudian these days, with his ideas about dreams and slips and so forth. I used to go far astray using his methods to understand human behavior. It was entirely inaccurate…

Quarter after noon. I’m leaving in a half hour. Aesop is not happy about it… I suspect that Freud was wrong about a lot of things, like the cause of schizophrenia. Was Jung any closer to being right? Psychotherapy just seems useless against severe mental illness, so I won’t worry about it anymore. I’ll be my own judge and live my life my way.

Eleven thirty.

Another rehearsal came and went this afternoon. It was rather disappointing to me for a couple of reasons. I think we’ll have to scrap “Peter Gunn” because our performance of it is just not acceptable. Meanwhile, “Jersey,” an original by Ron, turned out pretty good except you couldn’t hear my bass in the mix unless it was my dissonant notes. But that’s okay; I only have to use a different instrument and also change my strategy a little bit to minimize blue tones and bring out the harmonic ones. I told Mike that if we could get airplay on KWVA, the university station, then I’d be impressed with our little band. Now I want to encourage Ron to write more songs to add to our repertoire, or maybe I could make a few of them too… I gave him my copy of The Dream Songs, and to Mike I gave up my cd of Discipline by King Crimson. I believe we need to get inspired and get the creativity flowing. Then a few hours ago I popped the plastic on the selection of poems by John Berryman I bought recently. It’s a beautiful little book with a nice representation from his corpus, though I don’t yet have a feel for where he’s coming from spiritually or otherwise. Also I’m not sure what Ron finds so appealing about his poetry unless it’s a matter of sheer style, of form more than content. I guess that in addition to learning about John Berryman, I’m trying to get a better sense of my band mates in terms of mentality and focus. Where have they been, and where are we going to? But I believe KWVA is a good and realistic goal for us. 

Orpheus II: a Letter

I didn’t go to church this morning but the band practice today went very well, probably because we came at it fresh after a hiatus of three weeks. We played for two hours: hard on my fingers, so Mike let me borrow a guitar pick for the last half hour or so. This worked out great. Also we made three recordings that ought to turn out pretty good. The bass I used was the same old beater that only cost me one hundred dollars plus the cost of a replacement pickup and a bridge. But it sounds really great. When we were done, I just left it with Mike again. Boy, the weather was very wet today, and I had to walk in it over to the studio. My trouser legs got soaked. I put on a rain jacket 🧥  and carried an umbrella 🌂 for the 15 minute journey on foot 🦶. It was also very warm outside, making it feel quite muggy and kind of gross, but I didn’t have to bring an instrument with me this time. As I was traveling through the parking lot of the convenience store 🏪 I missed seeing Deb’s black pickup truck, but maybe she doesn’t start her shift until three; but just now I remember that today is Sunday and not Saturday. And of course Karen’s salon was closed for Sunday.

I think I’m a little better at cooperating with other people in musical situations than I used to be, as long as my recovery feels secure. However, I also can really feel my age in my poor old body. My back still hurts every day and sometimes my whole body just feels lousy, especially when I get up or sit down. Probably I could use some more physical therapy if my insurance will cover the cost 💲. All I have to do is ask my doctor for a referral.

Anyway I think this band might go somewhere when the venues reopen this summer or fall. Meanwhile, blogging may go a bit more on the back burner; I’m just not very inspired to write new ideas— and by the way, that’s really cool about your discovery of your Goethe book. I think it’s well worth reading and pondering when you have the time.

Okay, that’s my report on my day today. I’m quite exhausted now and pretty sore; glad I didn’t go to church this morning or else the damage would be somewhat worse. See you in the morning and take care of yourself.