On a Box Chain

Nine ten AM.

The low temperature last night was 28 degrees and it still is below freezing. The Oregon race for governor has not been decided yet. It seemed like a big deal yesterday but today, nobody appears concerned about it. The sun is out in a mostly cloudy sky. Yesterday I did some thinking about the job I used to do, about meaningless work versus something worthwhile to do. I didn’t like being a data slave, with all those indifferent numbers and letters I had to index for future retrieval. Every day I’d wear a box chain like a collar around my neck with a sterling tag engraved with Reason to remind me of my industrial commitment. Everyone probably knows the feeling of being a robot in a worthless job, but I felt I had more poetry and beauty in me to share with the world. I didn’t want to waste my life away as a work turtle. Again I’m singing to the choir of a billion people who feel just the same way I do. I guess my point is, if you have other options, then you probably ought to take them and run the risk of rejection. It’s better to do this than let your life be controlled by feelings of guilt or shame, so you end up stuck in a bad situation while time passes you by. That’s been my experience. You can ask yourself if it’s better to be assigned a job like street sweeper and live with the burden, or instead strive for what you were born to be. The ideal place is one where everybody can be what they want to be, but it’s probably a long time coming. But I don’t think the answer is like Robert Pirsig in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The nature of our work really does matter, not just the quality with which we do the job. After a while, something snaps and it’s necessary to throw off the slave collar. 

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To Be a Better Writer

Aesop held a grudge against me ever since yesterday morning for using the phone a few times. He hates nothing more than that. It’s his worst bete noir and pet peeve of all. It took me a long time to figure out what was wrong with him, but now I know.
I made a post this morning that was simply realistic, just reporting on what I observed when I hiked to the store. The interesting thing about realism is its complexity and refusal to conform to our expectations based on systems of belief or whatever else we use to simplify experience. A faithful adherence to facts reveals lots of irony and contradiction, something like paradox. A paradox is a contradiction that only seems to be that way. Deeper analysis shows it to be the truth. Sometimes when I write, I can really nail this style, so it’d be great to refine it to a craft. Maybe this fall I’ll be able to concentrate more on being a better writer, perhaps getting away from the philosophical stuff. I might invest some time in reading Josep Pla’s Gray Notebook. I need an influence that complements the style I’m going for. It seems like I was pretty good at it a couple of years ago.
Today isn’t very remarkable otherwise. The sky is still smoky white, casting a brown light on the ground below. I’d consider a trip to the market but it’s rather gross outside. It can wait till tomorrow morning. I don’t know which title I might buy from loa yet. Something with good descriptive writing. Maybe Steinbeck?

“Calcutta”

Wee hours.

I hear rain on the roof and on the patio cover, while it’s pitch dark outdoors. A very old song from Andre Kostelanetz plays inwardly: “Calcutta.” This is a souvenir of my senior year in college when I took a religion class and also biology. I still have a soft spot for the religious studies department at the university. The place was just a hole in the wall on the second floor of Chapman Hall the last I knew. It may not even exist anymore: the department was always on the chopping block. The administration talked about merging it with the history department or moving it over to Northwest Christian College, but as of ten or twelve years ago it still remained open. The university in general makes me think of my dad, who had a fiscal job in the psychology department for at least ten years. He found a good niche there for himself and seemed fairly happy with his occupation. Quite a few times we had lunch together in his office or we’d go out for Italian food occasionally. Life back then was very secular for me because of who my parents were. But today it’s anybody’s guess where I belong, though I’ve been doing the same things for a handful of years, in the same comfortable places… Just now the day is dawning gray and wet. I wonder how the weather is in Calcutta?

Pixie Dust

Quarter after eleven.

I feel kind of tired and a bit anxious in general. Maybe I shouldn’t have called my sister on the phone. She has inflexible opinions on everything… I’m watching the squirrels in my backyard while Aesop pouts by the glass door. What would make him really happy?

Nine forty PM.

By now I realize that I’d love to play nineties jazz fusion with my friend here locally. It was an ambition I left behind when that style went out by around 1996 and all jazz converted to acoustic instruments. If we can get it to take off in Eugene then maybe I’ll be spending less time writing and blogging, which is all good with me.

Quarter of eleven. Perhaps it’s me who has inflexible opinions as to how much is possible?:

With happy thoughts and a dash of pixie dust, anyone can fly—

Pathfinder

Seven forty.

The real world is a far cry from the university campus, but the latter is more expensive. It’s an arrangement that doesn’t seem fair if you’re an intelligent pauper. Poverty can be a prison cell, and yet everyone likes to have free time to do what they love to do. A gain here is a sacrifice there. We barter time for money and money for time but can’t have both. A title from Lord Byron speaks: “I Would I Were a Careless Child.” I long for a Golden Age where necessities grow on trees and nobody has to earn their living. Like children, you can play and enjoy life with no responsibilities. The Golden Age and the Garden of Eden are the same thing, a childhood paradise that would last forever if we only obeyed our father.

At nine o’clock, Gloria is coming to work for me again. The sky is clouded over and there’s no breeze. I bought her a bottled water because she told me she’s diabetic. She worked hard the last time she was here and we got a lot done. I’m not certain what I’m aiming for with my life. I’d still like to play in a rock band if that’s even realistic. Circumstances keep blocking my way, so I think I have to plow an avenue myself where no road existed before. 

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.