Six thirty 🕡. I just listened to an old Rush album; kind of corny but it was fun. I think of one of the rock bands I was in and have to smile at how bad we were. We played by instinct and the sense of hearing alone. Never mind music theory, we’ve got this. From the perspective of jazz theory, we had no idea what we were doing, so there were times when it didn’t work. I recall a gig at the Moose Lodge in Cottage Grove, around Christmas time 21 years ago. We did a Judas Priest song with an extended intro, just chugging eighth notes on the same F sharp chord until people recognized the tune. Supposed to be dramatic, but really it was cheesy. There was food for us, but I don’t remember eating very much. I sat at a table with the drummer and we talked about music; we had nothing else in common. The gig was a little disappointing because we had to mix our own sound. There was no house PA system or sound man to give us credibility. Our Cottage Grove gigs were all like that. But two years later we scored a steady situation at the Hollywood Taxi in downtown Springfield. The owner of the club mixed sound for us, yet we still weren’t very good. Our rhythm section was very competent overall, but the guitarists were rather awful. We tried to do Led Zeppelin and slaughtered it. The Hendrix we did fared even worse. One time we played two different AC/DC tunes simultaneously due to confusion of one with the other. Both songs were in E minor and cut from the same cloth.
Everywhere we played, the singer depended on the band’s “bible” of song lyrics because he couldn’t memorize the words. To his credit, however, he had perfect pitch. Also he was good at impersonation while singing a song. And when he brought out the harmonica for a tune by The Romantics, everybody caught the spirit and we rocked the house. It was a lot of fun when things clicked with the Muse, as happens to people in a group. Probably because we could work this energy in the band and with the crowd, we gained a little following locally and regionally… And then come home with my ears ringing all night long. One night at the Taxi I played hard enough to scrape the skin off of my fingertips and bleed on my ‘79 Precision Bass. The blood came off with some Windex, but for a few weeks I could only play using a pick.
There are lots of things I don’t miss about being a professional musician… and then something conspires to call me to adventure all over again…
Quarter of one. Long conversation with my sister this morning. She is definitely opposed to rock music, especially the image part of it. But I halfway agree with her… dunno. She has religious objections to rock and roll, as if it were inspired by the devil. It makes a part of me rather mad, but there’s nothing I can do about that. Whether she’s right or wrong is impossible to say, so I’ll keep doing what I’m doing. I think that her opinion is awfully narrow and unfortunate, but I don’t need her blessing to play rock music if I want to. She represents a certain type of Christian; not all religious people are like her, luckily. Pastor likes rock music, even Led Zeppelin. It’s just my sister’s complacency in her opinion that gets my goat. This difference in taste goes way back to when I was in junior high school and I got involved in the band program. I’m feeling very defensive right now, maybe a little persecuted because my sister is so convinced that she is right. Why should I care what she thinks? Is it because we’re family? She categorically tars and feathers all rock and roll, and that’s not very fair. I guess it’s up to me not to personalize her attitude. It hurts my feelings, but I should let it roll off my back. Her opinion is adamant, so the only thing to do is avoid the subject with her… After our talk, I replaced the battery in my Aria bass and made some racket for a while. I’ve had that guitar for about 11 years and just now am discovering its potential. I felt angry but a bit daunted at the same time. As if there were something wrong with the activity. And I remind myself that I am the only musician in my whole family— but not the only musician in the world.
Quarter of nine.
Well, I canceled my music jam for lack of sleep and because nobody else is doing anything like that. In addition, I believe I’m losing interest in being a musician, especially rock and roll. My number one priority is to stay sober, so it’s okay if there are changes. I think my temperament is wrong for music, and always has been. I’m glad I made the decision I did this morning. I only want to spend a quiet day home with the dog. The high temperature is predicted to be 82 degrees today, and even milder Thursday. I’ll try not to put pressure on myself to do things. I’m taking a load off. I don’t know when my laptop is supposed to ship, but I’ve waited a long time… Friday night should be kind of fun, like every week. I don’t think I’m interested any longer in appeasing the ghosts of my parents, particularly my mother. I think maybe I’m done with trying to be a rockstar. The only rock music I like tends to be cerebral and intellectual, and my favorite music for listening is Modern orchestral. I am a very neck up kind of person, not so much neck down. Take it or leave it, I guess. I did the right thing… It’s rather quiet outside this morning. The sky is cloudless, yet it’s still cooler. Finding my way takes time, but I think I should do something with writing. Funny: my second grade teacher wasn’t very nice to me, but she did teach me the rudiments of writing. This laid the foundation for all the learning that followed. Third grade spelling bees were a kick because I was an asset to my team. Recent days are not so very different. In church I read the lessons at the lectern. And I write and do a little reading every day. With a little luck I will write my way to Paradise.
Noon hour. FedEx just brought my new flatwound strings earlier than expected. I’m going to save them for a while, but they will probably go on my Mexican Fender. I hope I can play with the church, at least. Maybe I’ll email Pastor about that today. I feel like the ultimate geek because no one wants to play music with me.
Quarter after six. Feelings of shame lead me to do regrettable things. The opposite of shame is pride, and pride, rather than a sin, is indispensable to a guy’s wellbeing. Being rejected by the drummer this morning with no explanation made my pride implode. I can be okay one moment and then the next be thrown into a vortex of depression. If no musician wants to play with me, would it help me to know that I’m too good for him? “The better you become, the fewer the people you’ll have to play with.” A music teacher told me this truism in 1998, and now I’ve fulfilled the prophecy. I don’t even want to play bad music like I once did 20 years ago. I can laugh at rock and roll’s absurdity today, whereas then it gave me delusions of demons. The medication changed all that. Currently I feel I want to do something serious with music. The same teacher told me that I’d be a perfect candidate for music school. Said I could major in composition and play any instrument I wanted. I didn’t pursue it because my illness was not under control. But how about now? Could Eduardo introduce me to some people at the school of music?
So my mom’s birthday marks the climax of my decision to leave the church. Friday afternoon I was getting nervous about the worship service for that night. I couldn’t understand why. I thought maybe it was because I was riding with R—, but how was that an anxious thing? But when we got to the church I felt like quite a hypocrite or an imposter. Add to that the sermon on the wheat and the weeds and I grew very fearful. I definitely felt like a weed planted among the others by the Evil One. From there I became psychotic for the rest of the night, finally arriving at my email to Pastor saying I was done with the church. Funny but R— told me I looked good and healthy when she saw me. A paradox, I guess.
Two thirty 🕝. So what’s next? I lasted five years in my job, three years in the church; now I need a new gig. Maybe someone on WordPress has an idea of where I can go for an activity? Proofreading for Gutenberg used to be fun, but I took it as far as I could go. This moment is kind of exciting for me, because I have so many options open. I could probably get myself a laptop and then work from home doing something with my writing skills. Why didn’t D— think of that? So many times I’ve been let down by professional helpers who gave me bad advice. He thought I should work with senior citizens, but that would have been totally wrong for me. Even my sister thought so. I think it comes down to my own judgment and self knowledge. And I think my verbal facility is my vehicle to the next project.
Five o’clock. I ordered two more books by Ayn Rand, but direct from the publisher rather than from Amazon. Free shipping. One title, The Voice of Reason, reminds me of a coworker I once knew named Raejean. I don’t know if she ever read the book, but I think it’s possible because she used the phrase to me in a conversation. She was kind of a Vulcan, but for a few years, so was I. I wore an engraved dog tag that said “Reason” around my neck. I had a little obsession with the idea of “practical reason,” a term I borrowed from Aristotle, for as long as I was working. I converted myself into a robot and worked my job for as many years as I could. The abstraction of Reason was my totem every day until it broke down. Maybe it would have kept going were it not for my growing addiction to alcohol. Being a machine was okay with me up to a point. But eventually I wanted my freedom of thought restored to me. Or maybe I only wanted to drink my life away? I wonder if I’ll ever want to be a robot again. While it lasted, being a cog in the machine wasn’t so bad. It gave me a paycheck every two weeks, and I had a vehicle to drive around. The best part of it was that I could eat all the fast food I wanted. I was a frequent flyer at Carl’s Jr. They had one burrito item, grilled chicken seasoned with cumin, that I was crazy about… Perhaps it was just the alcohol that sabotaged my working life. How can I prevent this from happening if I decide to work again?
Two o’clock. I just did some maintenance on my SX hybrid bass, a project in progress. It may always be a project bass, something to tinker with for fun. A week ago I disposed of the SX body and neck I didn’t want, so now there’s only the one composite P Bass copy. It is still a firewood axe, I suppose. I hot rodded it with a Di Marzio pickup eight years ago. For pole pieces this has iron blades that rest against a ceramic magnet down inside the housing. The output is super deep and loud, best for heavy metal… I will hang onto this guitar for a souvenir and a reminder of what I went through.
I got out of bed because I could sleep no more. Day is just breaking. Clouds and no rain right now. I’m glad to hear that the lockdown continues to be eased up. If I go to Bi Mart today, I must remember a few things. I’m stopping by the bank, don’t forget. Treats for Aesop, socks for me. I will go to the bank first. The last time I was inside the bank, I thought of desertion by my family, and how alone in the world I was. But that’s only true if blood is thicker than water. I have many friends. My sister’s family is way out in right field. It’s always been like that. The only one of them who had any sense was my grandniece, though even she sold out to please her grandmother… I’m beginning to lose steam. I hope Suzanne emails me soon. “A minute seems like a lifetime, baby, when I feel this way.” Off of Presence, Led Zeppelin, which I just ordered. Originally I bought it on vinyl in the spring of 1983. Strange year for me. The high school band was overworking me in my sophomore year. Hard to believe I was that person. At this time, I’m really glad I didn’t major in music. This will always be my particular road not taken. Two paths diverged in a wood— you know the poem… Still no sign of rain. I’ll look at the forecast in a few. It could be a good day to go to Bi Mart.
One o’clock. Almost done reading Jacob’s Room. Only another forty pages. It seems to be a study in communication breakdown, the question of whether language has the power to preserve. Maybe it just perishes. The book contains many unfinished sentences and incomplete thoughts. Looking over this old paperback triggers the memory of music I heard that winter. It is The Song of the Nightingale by Stravinsky, a symphonic poem he completed in 1917. A hundred years ago might as well be a billion. A little older than the earth, the ancient sun has broken through the overcast. My mind’s eye can imagine the inside of the little music shop on the corner of Fifth and Pearl. The light was never very bright in there, but it was cozy and pleasant. A mere hole in the wall next to Cat’s Meow Jazz and Blues Corner. It smelled like spice or incense in the building. Like new merchandise. We stumbled onto the Music Gourmet in December 1993, I forget how. It started with buying the Nutcracker Ballet. I took this cd with me on a visit to Ken and Cindy in Harrisburg. Around that time, my grandnephew Travis was born. Things were never very peachy, yet I was happy because my parents were still alive.
Two o’clock. Now, my sole pretension to wealth is the roof over my head that I own. I might feel a little weird about going to Fifth Street to hang out. At the time in 1993, I was unconscious of socioeconomic realities. I lived in the lap of luxury, taking a free ride with my folks. I had no shame, no matter how my psychiatrist tried to drive me away from them. But he didn’t understand that we were an interdependent unit. The three of us needed each other. And in 1997, I performed with Satin Love to make my mother happy one last time. I felt, a bit desperately, that time was running out. But I pulled it off, even though I had to leave the band… It’s still difficult for me to tell whether I’m making choices in my own interests or rather in those of a ghost. When I was a student, my intellect went places where my mother couldn’t follow. I kind of liked that, just because I was doing something for myself.
I only like dreaming
All the day long
Where no one is screaming
Be good Johnny
Quarter after six.
I’d forgotten about the corona virus in my preoccupation with my new iPad. Typing on it calls up different ideas than my other devices. Maybe my attitude is a little more open and honest with this tablet… I was saying that I feel like a grown up sixth grader. I lack the ego and narcissism of the alcoholic I was derailed to be. I’m closer to the kid who read The Lord of the Rings. In that year, I sorely missed seeing Pam in school. She had left to go to a Catholic school. No other girl looked to me like she did… There’s a lot about sexuality that can’t be defined easily because no two people are alike, depending on your school of thought. Individuals are either entirely unique, or they have the same traits in different amounts. I think I prefer the former view. My teacher in third grade perceived me in a wholly different light from the one before. And when class had spelling bees, the team that had me would win. Life was fun when it was simple, and not so competitive and logical. It took a detour after around eighth grade, when the brighter students were singled out for enrollment in advanced English classes. An elite group was established in school. I found myself with either foot in two worlds, the academic and the musical. I rather wish that the latter had worked out. But both avenues got to be rocky roads on down the line. I guess it’s just a shame that we ever have to grow up and get jobs, marry and have kids, raise them and finally retire. A few of us choose the sideline, from where we write social criticism. At least from there we can feel relatively free, and free to express ourselves. What we do is often thankless, yet nonetheless writers provide a service… I think I’m going to like my iPad, and saying this occasions a deja vu from the time I was in the trailer. That’s all I know about it.