Out with the Old…

Five o’clock.

Now I wonder if Vicki will be working this morning. My imagination can summon all kinds of fates that could have happened to her. But the only fact I know is her absence yesterday. I also know the circumstances of her headache that never went away, the tumor on her brain, and the doctors who didn’t give her any straight answers… I don’t know how I feel about it, but I was used to seeing her every week morning for many years. Her quality of life probably wasn’t so great. She lived by herself and worked like a drone every weekday. She didn’t seem to enjoy it anymore; even stopped bantering with the guys who came in from the distributors. Her sense of humor had gone out of her life… What makes life worth living? Endless drudgery doesn’t seem to be the best thing. Rolling that boulder up the hill over and over again gets tiresome and boring to tears. The futility of it brings you down after a while. I lived that way for a short time until I learned that I couldn’t do it anymore. I had options available to me, and I chose wisely. My brother can call me names all he wants, but he isn’t happy with his life. He tends to blame others for his own unhappiness, but he needs to bring responsibility home to himself. He is free to choose for himself, regardless of what other people do with their lives. The truth is that everyone is responsible only for their own feelings, their own behavior. The ultimate arbiter is you.

Quarter of seven. I imagine that with the change to a Democratic administration, blogging will change accordingly, but I was prepared for this. I plan to keep writing on into the next year and see who shows up… I heard a shower of rain a few minutes ago. There should be daylight by seven twenty or so. When it comes, I will go to the store as I do every day. My heart is open to what the new year and the new government bring. It seems like anything can happen, but personally I’m very happy for the defeat of a tyrant who made us an embarrassment to the rest of the world. Aesop has finally gotten out of bed and wants a snack. I catch myself still avoiding the salon because I think Karen is very disgruntled over politics. Roger probably is too. I don’t see people openly jumping for joy, and yet my heart leaps quietly. Eventually it will be okay to talk about it. The rain has begun again, fortunately, though it’s still very dark outside. It’s going to be one of those days. 

Glory Days

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… 

Le Dimanche Matin

Eight fifty.

We are currently socked in with a thick fog outside. I can hardly see the houses across the street. About three hours ago I ordered myself a birthday present of a sci-fi novel anthology. I just wanted something to commemorate this three year mark. Yesterday I thought about my work experience and how my boss was an alcoholic. I had a good streak of sobriety going before I started my job. After working for eight months, I lost what I had. I really hated working for that guy, but I was stuck with him. I didn’t realize what my options were until years later. Shame held me back from doing what would have benefited me. Today, people can criticize me all they want, but it won’t make me drink again. And I’m very wary of toxic people.

Ten ten. Vicki wasn’t pleasant at the store, but I’ve never liked her very much. I just got a text from someone from church to congratulate me on three years. I bought a cranberry ginger ale and something to eat. The fog makes things appear surreal. The little perching birds seem to be confused; they think this is mating season. I see a lot of fox squirrels in my backyard and in the neighborhood, scrounging food for the winter. Fall and winter will surely come. I don’t feel so doom and gloom today. Last Monday was very odd, yet we got through it. I guess the pessimism was only me after all. My sister attributes the bizarrerie to this particular year, 2020. If that’s all it is, then I really hope next year will be more normal. It’s kind of a wonder that I stayed sober through this year, given everything we underwent. But it’s a consolation to know that we’re all in this together.

Quarter after eleven. The fog is lifting a bit, but there’s still some wildfire smoke. It’s nice to have cooler weather. Aesop has been very good over the past week. He let me brush him last night. I don’t know what happened to Damien a week ago, and I haven’t heard from him since. I feel a little lonely, and alone with my memories. Pastor said that in person church services will resume on 18 October. I don’t know how to feel about that, or whether I will attend. It’s an emotional thing. Meanwhile, my reason says the Jesus stuff is absurd. The people in church have been wonderful to me, of course. They’re like no other human beings I ever knew. If my mind were to mirror my heart, I’d have no problem with attending worship. There’s something compelling about a mass of people who are all doing the same thing. I reckon we’ll see how it all shakes down when the time comes. 

Beliefs and Burroughs

Noon.

This is Thursday. I’m wearing a shirt that reminds me of working years. It’s a nice shirt, though a bit threadbare. It’s a maroon sweatshirt, made by Russell Athletic. My experience at the store this morning was rather negative, and I seemed haunted by fire engine red wherever I went. The new checkout counter is finished in bright red, and the Coke I bought has a red label. I suppose I’m seeing political significance in the color. I can’t find much of anything that’s blue. Very strange. The wildfires rage on, and Angela at the salon awaits the order to evacuate her home out east in Springfield. Everybody is so preoccupied today. I started to contest the price of a couple of burritos at the store, then dropped it. Prices are going up while quantities are going down. The little market is getting expensive. I spent over $14 on 4 items. If I can manage the long walk, I should shop at Grocery Outlet more often.

It’s odd how Christianity is the ideology of the masses, especially the poor, while materialism is reserved for educated rich people. Victor Hugo’s comments on this are spot on. Then what are you supposed to do if you are educated and fallen through the cracks? The Christians you find yourself among don’t understand you. Does this mean that your education is wrongheaded? I may never know the answer. But I do know that I can’t fake my way through prayers of intercession anymore. It isn’t fair to either me or the others in church. And though I keep saying this, Pastor keeps hoping that something will magically change. My policy is honesty, and I’ll just pursue my truth as far as it goes. It will be my dower, for better or worse. But I will have the satisfaction of my integrity. I may end up unjustly dead like Cordelia, or alone and miserable. Still, I refuse to lie.

One o’clock. I can’t think of much else to say. I do think honesty is the best virtue I possess. I might pick up my Lloyd Alexander book that arrived yesterday and give it a flap. Then again, I could look at an old Edgar Rice Burroughs novel to determine what was so appealing about his writing when I was a teen. I read about half of his whole corpus of 90-odd books. I also lost a lot of my collection in the house fire. More than once, I’ve thought about subscribing to one of his fanzines. I even considered starting a blog dedicated to ERB. It would still be fun to meet other fans and compare notes.

The Next Day Was Cloudy

Eight thirty.

The experience of writing has become painful because it has no choice but to tell the truth. The truth isn’t always beautiful. I feel compelled to write it anyway. Music: Debussy’s Images. I went to the market to buy a cranberry ginger ale, but I didn’t say anything to Vicki about tomorrow. Didn’t want to make her think of it. Walking out the door, I noticed that there’s an American flag on their wall. I’m not sure why it caught my eye. “Ain’t that America, home of the free? / Little pink houses for you and me.” Maybe that was it: the way she’s worked for over thirty years, more or less thanklessly, at a convenience store. She needs to know that she is appreciated. Hopefully she’ll be back again Sunday morning… The sky is overcast today. I just thought of running into my tenth grade algebra teacher at Laurel Hill in my working years. His son had schizophrenia. I don’t remember our conversation very well. It was brief and I had to get back to work. I felt so imprisoned in the workplace, so I don’t like to recall it now. Mr Leslie was a very nice man, however. I recognized him right away in the agency meeting.

Nine thirty. Truth to tell, I absolutely hated my job at the optical office. Entering data was not for me. All the time I just wanted to express my original thoughts and feelings. So I eventually found a way to do that. Now I don’t feel quite so gagged with regard to freedom of speech. I still remember the issues that set me at odds with my family, and they were political. What you could or couldn’t bloody well say on social media. My neighborhood is divided into conservative and liberal, and I talk to both, though it’s getting more difficult with the former. There’s no excuse for racism, no matter what your background.

Soliloquy on a Coke

Seven o five.

I will go to the store a little earlier today. I might buy a Coke, as long as I’m stopping the gabapentin. The drug takes up to 48 hours to completely leave your system. Dunno, it still seems risky. I don’t remember when I started taking the gabapentin. I believe it was April or May. Okay, I’ll buy one liter of Coke and put it in the fridge.

Ten thirty. I offered to go with Vicki to her appointment scheduled for Thursday. She said her best friend is going with her, but she appreciated the thought. Well, I bought the Coke. It’s waiting for me in the refrigerator. I’m a little nervous about it. I think I’ll try it late this afternoon. The soft drink is like catnip to me; I just love it and can’t explain why… I have packages coming today, tomorrow, and Wednesday. Tomorrow morning I can go to the bank and deposit my windfall. The sunshine is nice and not too hot. Aesop had his breakfast. Yesterday, I got a text from the guitarist who was interested in jamming. Sounds like he’s making arrangements. I still don’t know his name… I kind of miss the times when I was working. My life felt like it had a momentum going— until I realized that there was no opportunity to move up the ladder. It was a dead end job, and the tasks were too easy. I merely entered data without being allowed to think. So maybe I don’t miss it after all.

Quarter of noon. It’s about time for lunch… Perhaps the aim of life is pleasure, as more than one philosopher has asserted. But if so, it seems like many people refute this idea. I’m far from ever being a self abnegating religious person. For some, even thinking is self indulgent. Why would anyone want to think? This was one of the attitudes that turned me off of AA.

Quarter of one. It was from Aristotle that I learned the hierarchy of ends, with happiness as the highest good. I should go and review the Nichomachean Ethics. Over time, I confused this with the summum bonum of John Stuart Mill, but these were obviously not the same… In the old Christian workplace, I was an oddball with essentially Greek notions. My education was geared that way, so I wondered how other college graduates could have missed it. Likewise, they wondered why I lacked Christian indoctrination. I guess my old job really wasn’t much fun. But I hope the Coca-Cola tastes good anyway!

Coloring Book / Commodity

Six twenty.

Even before I begin to write, my brain wants to shut down. It’s odd how we refuse responsibility for our perceptions, as if thoughts were inserted. But consciousness is very much an active thing, creating and constructing at will. The sky is overcast: to say this is a fact, but what it means is up to me. I choose to name it good because it suggests cooler weather today. This positive thought accordingly lifts my mood. Morally, we create our own reality. Why is this so easy to forget? Objective reality itself is a coloring book, but we provide the colors from our imagination. The colors are moods and meaning… The atmosphere appears bluish, giving a hint of rain. At times I ponder psychosis: just what is this separation from reality? Does it serve a purpose? It could be an indicator that something is not right… I listened to Aaron Copland in the wee hours and still enjoyed El Salon Mexico the most.

Eight twenty. Sometimes I wonder why I shop at a convenience store every day. Perhaps because it’s convenient? Or maybe part of me longs to be able to drink beer as in happier times. I know I won’t do it, and the self restraint feels kind of good because it is a form of control. It’s almost like a rebellion against myself, and of course I’d be into that. Being rebellious is often what motivates me. At the store a bit ago, I played mind games with myself, thinking of instances where I could feel paranoid, but don’t anymore. And it seems to me that a lot of people have paranoid schizophrenia. They go around blithering about “karma” and “angels” and other bs that they can’t prove yet “believe” anyway. I suppose it helps them cope with life. Then there are some who never stop to think about what they believe.

I was like that once, when I was on a working and drinking treadmill. Nothing else mattered but those two things. It must have been October 2007 when I had a car accident in a drive thru at 11pm. Sandy secretly gave me a black tarantula doll for Halloween. I had to drive a rental car until my truck was repaired. But my poor mind was all over the map in those days. Instead of working to live, I lived to work. Memories from that time are difficult to retrieve; I was such a different person. Money meant more to me then because I got bad advice. Finally my inner voice gained the upper hand and now I’m closer to being authentic. Moiling in survival mode is not for me. It seems like the things we need have a way of falling into our lap if we simply believe in ourselves. That’s the only faith we require.

Decisions

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.

Late Afternoon

Four o’clock 🕓. Aesop keeps indicating the front door with the anticipation of pleasure, but I have to tell him that the mail is not bringing him any treats today. I think I’ll give him another bone from the package stored away in the pantry. The temperature in the house has surpassed 73 degrees, making me a little giddy… I gave Aesop a new bone, so now he’s in bliss, of course. I feel like a reverse Mother Hubbard, for the cupboard was not bare, and the dog actually got something.

Five twenty five. My imagination for writing posts has run dry for the present. Everyone seems to be busy worrying about the virus or something. Blogging is not what it used to be. Maybe it’s time to go back to Distributed Proofreaders and do some volunteering. I’ve been doing WordPress for almost four years and it’s getting kind of old. I should just follow my feelings to determine the next move. Everything is stalemated by the circumstance of the coronavirus, so it’s hard to know what to do. Meanwhile I continue to age a little more every day. When I lie down, sometimes I feel how fragile my life is. My heart could stop beating, I could stop breathing; one of my systems could fail, and I could die on the spot. Something keeps me going, perhaps mind over matter, or maybe there’s a spiritual component to human existence; I don’t know. But I need an activity to keep me occupied, especially when the world is at a standstill. It is not the end of the world, but people are acting as if it were. The sun keeps on shining day after day while we hunker down in terror. We’re not making much sense. Or perhaps people have better things to do than blog nowadays? And maybe I don’t blame them.

Saturday Morning

Nine o’clock.

I know I’m lazy. If there’s no incentive to work and if I’m comfortable, then I won’t bother with it. The house is paid for and I make do on $803 per month. As long as I don’t feel guilty, I’m in good shape. D— said that some people would judge me, but he was speaking for himself. Our last meetup was quite strange. Neither one of us was feeling well. He had a flu bug and I was psychotic. But I stood my ground with him and he sort of wilted. The most important thing, no matter what happens, is not to drink. In my experience, feeling guilty is a recipe for any kind of behavioral havoc. I consider toxic any person or situation that plays on guilt feelings. I just avoid putting myself in those positions. My brother wallows in guilt and alcoholism, each feeding the other in a loop. Oh well… Aesop slept in this morning. I heard him breathing rhythmically, sound asleep. I went to the store for a few things and chatted with Michelle. Putting on a face mask is like a brassiere for the nose, or so it seems to me.

Quarter after ten. Aesop just had his breakfast. We have a daily routine that he depends on. I’m thankful that I can afford snacks for him nowadays. Maybe again today I’ll listen to Permanent Waves. I could email Mark just for fun. The fireworks last night weren’t too bothersome with the new storm windows. I explained to Aesop how some people like to make noise, and this was normal. By ten thirty or so, they stopped. I walked past the blast marks on the street this morning, black and brown skids of gunpowder. Right now the sun is trying to come out. It could be a good Independence Day.