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.

In and out of Time

Noon hour. I just jammed on the bass guitar for an hour. This cloudy day makes me think of early summers in junior high school, or late spring. I can’t believe how bright everything is, how vital and resonant. Maybe it’s just me who is full of love of life recently, and of hope for better things in the future. Right now it’s super quiet in the room and everywhere else. It’s very strange when this happens; like I’m the only human being alive on earth. It will be a lonely afternoon again today, unless I decide to go to Bi Mart. I guess I’ll do some housework after a bit. While playing the bass, I copied the line for “Invisible Sun” by The Police, a song that always gives me goosebumps. It takes me back to my sophomore year in high school, when the future was unlimited, and yet my vocabulary was inadequate to compass my experience of life. Maybe it was this innocence that made life seem so boundless and infinite, like I could live forever. I bought Ghost in the Machine on vinyl a year after it was released. I still think it’s a better record than Synchronicity because it’s more groove oriented… I didn’t know how to think when I was 15 years old. It must’ve been an odd mode of existence, being so green and inexperienced, nonverbal and inarticulate. Language gives me a handle on things and events, a feeling of having control and power over situations. Otherwise I’d be just a passive leaf in the wind. Or maybe we’re all merely leaves in the wind anyway? Except for a few geniuses who move and shake the world. Sometimes it takes more than genius; it takes money to legislate what people do and think… I really hope the band I’m in can be a modest success here locally, and maybe get some radio airplay. Notoriety around town can be a good thing. The three of us are all around 50 years old, but not too old to have ambition. Whether we win or lose, we’ll still be having fun in the endeavor. 

The New Renaissance

Six forty.

Gloaming of early morning outside my window. I feel rather good. Yesterday afternoon was a success for me, in that I got my point across to the other guys. I played my bass quite well, too. It probably sounded better to them than it did to me. The solo I took on “Bubble House” sucked. It was in G7, which is harder for me to solo over. But I really burned on “The Mincer,” in A7. If anything, I played too many notes… Aesop needs wet food again, and the store has just opened. At around eight o’clock I’ll go run my errand… I remember nearly crying (for the right reasons) when “Tom Sawyer” came on the PA in a certain waiting room. Rush did their songs with so much more intelligence than garden variety bands; with quality and taste, finesse and beauty. The other guys in my band aren’t very familiar with Rush, so I think I’ll make converts of them.

Seven thirty. I hear a birdsong outside my back door. The weather yesterday was insanely beautiful. Everybody got out of the house to do various activities.

Eight thirty. Melissa had a cold, but she sounds better today than yesterday morning. Camped across Maxwell Road from the store I saw a homeless man who kept himself company by talking to himself. It really annoys me when people say that homeless people choose to live that way, out of laziness or whatever. It’s the system that failed them, not the other way around. My park ranger nephew has some backward opinions, but luckily I don’t have to be around him… Some people are born without an aptitude that fits neatly into the job market. I’m one of them. There are no gainful jobs that allow for creativity and self expression in music or writing. People like me have to figure out another way or else fall through the cracks. Ayn Rand believed that the capitalist system could be manipulated to serve anyone who worked hard enough. I have serious doubts about that. Robert Pirsig said it doesn’t matter what work you do as long as you do it with quality. Again, I beg to disagree. And once again, in a perfect world… I envision a New Renaissance, a time when people can be what they want to be. Why is it that so many of us have a similar dream, yet the dream gets trampled by those with no imagination? 

World without End

Quarter after eleven.

I don’t know whether to write of the future or the past. Music: “Saved by Zero,” an old hit by The Fixx. I’m sitting here alone in my family room with my dog, just feeling, not knowing much. I guess I’ll attend church this Sunday morning and listen to the sermon. The last one was fairly innocuous and affirmative of life here and now. I hated the eschatological preaching last summer and fall. I’d prefer not to believe that Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead or that his kingdom will have no end. Am I supposed to take this literally, or is it just rhetorical hot air? Either way, it doesn’t make me feel any better. Thinking more deeply, maybe I’ll stay home Sunday. Do some reading and play my guitar, contemplate the beautiful and true as I unlock the secrets of the fretboard… I wonder what to do with my stimulus payment, when it arrives? Maybe save it for air conditioning this summer. Maybe blow most of it on music gear.

Midnight hour. A thought that bugs me is how different my sister is from my mother. Still I refuse to believe that rock music is spiritually wicked, or that my mother was misguided. The virtue of music depends on how you use it.

Five o’clock. If I could play guitar as well as Jamie West-Oram on Phantoms, I’d be happy. I needn’t set my sights on John McLaughlin to start with; this would be unrealistic and frustrating. The way to let myself in is by the pleasure of the sweet sounds of the Strat. And I think I will write of the future… 

Up to Me

Quarter after nine.

I finally got my benefits squared away with DHS this morning, so that’s a worry off my mind. The weather is only a little above freezing. There’s an advisory for snow possible this afternoon. I’m okay with that as long as we still have electricity. Some hours ago I canceled my order of those books by Clark Ashton Smith. I felt uncomfortable concerning my sobriety, thinking that his writing might trigger cravings. If I want to read something horrific I can pick up Paul Bowles, but even that seems pointless. I’ve got a nice big anthology of Bertrand Russell I could thumb through. Probably it’s above my head, but it wouldn’t hurt to take a peek. My brother has been on my mind a couple of days. I doubt if he thinks of me, however. Write him off as a toxic person. It concerns me somewhat that I’m the only sober person in my rock band. The music itself is not a problem. It’s the state of mind each of us is in when we play together. I guess don’t borrow trouble at this juncture and let events play out as they will. But I may be the one who has to bail out… The trip to the market was nondescript and uneventful. Just another day.

Ten thirty five. I remind myself that I’m the one in charge of my life, and every decision I make is up to me. Sobriety is my Number One priority. It makes a big difference in my relationships with people, even just three guys playing music in a room. Perhaps in that situation this difference glares the most. Time will tell. And again it’s up to me. 

Saturday Night Jam

Midnight hour.

When I was walking past the salon in the afternoon sunshine, Karen came out and flagged me down to tell me that Kim’s shoulder surgery didn’t go very well, and to keep her in my prayers. I understand that she’s in quite a bit of pain and sleeps most of the time. I was on my way to band practice with bass guitar in hand. 

Ron was already there when I arrived at Mike’s studio and knocked on the door. Mike said I could walk right in, joking that only cops ever knock. Our practice went pretty well, but the energy was less intense than the jam the week before. After two hours and twenty minutes Ron said he was tired, so we called it a night. A few times I had doubts about my involvement in music during the time we played. It seemed like an activity done better under the influence of alcohol. And generally, I realized that alcohol enhances pleasure I take in everything else in life. It’s like seasoning for a meal. In its absence, the meal is more of a chore to eat. It doesn’t taste as good but I suppose you still have to eat it… The tone of my bass through the new amp was pretty massive and powerful. I liked it. Low G on the E string hit me in the right spot. I think I had the most fun playing “Burning Coal” last night, a riff in G7 that goes on infinitely, no bridge or anything.

All in all, it was a good practice. Maybe we can add a new song to our repertoire before next time. Mike made a good point in passing, and this was that we need organization. I think this is true in general, so maybe we can open a discussion about it. 

Rock and Roll

Three twenty five. I played my FretWire bass for a long time and got it to sound pretty awesome. There’s nothing wrong with my old amplifier; it just needed some experimentation to give it some masculine muscle. Also I tweaked the truss rod on the bass and fine tuned the bridge— and the rest was up to me. I played a King Crimson song, plus UK and Rush. I felt inspired. Everything sounded great. And now I reflect on the role of rock and roll in our society: it certainly isn’t a bad thing. It’s just a cathartic release for people who need to escape from daily life, the old grind of the workweek and every other duty and responsibility. We need a break from having to be a machine as part of a bigger machine every workday. It’s no fun being stuck in this condition all the time. We made the counterculture for a good reason, and that is entertainment and relaxation. Everybody needs that. It’s impossible to exist like a computer one hundred percent of the time, so we created rock and roll as a relief from the industrial revolution… I think I’ll give two of my instruments away to my band mates. I have plenty of bass guitars for one person. I’ve gotten pretty good at being a bass tech for myself. With the right hardware and setup you can make a cheap instrument sound fabulous. The key is knowledge and experience— and a little self confidence. 

Another Tuesday

Four forty.

The sun is getting ready to go down on another Tuesday. I haven’t done anything out of the ordinary today, except to treat myself a bit more kindly. I’m still the same old pleasure seeker as always. Played some Queen songs on my green Dean bass, including what I could remember of “A Kind of Magic.” 

Something made me think of my mother again; it began with my dreams last night, flashing back to January twenty years ago. Life wasn’t too bad back then, although I didn’t feel as free as I do now. Poor Mom never had any friends, and the family from her generation had all passed away. I guess it’s fair to say that she was very difficult to get along with. I wouldn’t want to do it again. Her subjective opinions were so absolute to her as to be irrational. There was no discussing anything with her. She was as hardheaded as adamant. So it was rather odd to have a dream that was indirectly about her. I wonder if it’s because of her memory that I still do rock and roll music? I had another friend whose perfectionism was instilled in him by his bipolar father. He carried his dad around with him in his mind, and it made him depressed and suicidal. Possibly I’m a little bit like him, with the difference of some insight into myself. My mother expected nothing short of rock stardom from me, but maybe this isn’t the lifestyle I want. I think I’m happy enough as a writer of blog posts for right now. But nobody ever said I can’t be both a writer and a musician— again, like Paul Bowles. I reckon some things are just spelled out in the stars…