Diary, 7/15 to 7/23/19

Copyright 2019 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved


{7/15/19}  Weight 222.0.  Later, 221.4.

Did my work on KM.  Feeling a bit low, however.  Bored.  Irritable.

I’m thinking that the reading I do, which I called “sifting” a while back, mostly doesn’t stick except in the form of externalized memory.  That is, I highlight in books and/or type out quotes in my Collected Quotations book, but I don’t often review these products.  So I sift out the gems, but don’t make much use of them.  I need to make more use of them.  Then I won’t be feeling like I’m just wasting time.  In fact, the process, which grew by itself, seems efficient, but the ideal is to have these gems available in my head, and not out of reach.

In fact, there is a lot in my head that I don’t see until it’s called forth.  Talking with Sebastian at the Hemlock Club about pragmatism and philosophy generally, revealed to me how much is in there.  But I want more.

Next to me on top of the printer are four books that, last night, I pulled off the living room shelf where I keep books that I’ve read but “am not done with.”  I wanted to review them instead of doing more first-time reading.  (BTW, I finished reading NeuroTribes last night.)  So, I leafed through them all at least once, then started rereading Baggini’s The Edge of Reason.  Rather than moving on, maybe I should spend a week with just these books.

The thing is, well, one thing is, I don’t know the lessons of the Baggini book, but I want to know them.  I want to be able to tell people about the joys of rationality, or something.

Well, time for breakfast…

I have five multi-CD packages that I haven’t listened to all the way through:  Turandot, Il Trittico, Rigoletto, Boris Godunov, all operas, and Richard III, the Shakespeare play.  Rigoletto I’ve had for well over a year but have never played any of it; similarly with Richard III, but that I’ve only had a month or so.  What is this all about?  I like, even love, these operas.  Why not listen to them?  Because I don’t like them right now.  Well, so what.

All of these have been bought used, at Bookhounds, for generally $3.99 for the package.  So it’s not a lot of money.  And if I didn’t buy them, they would disappear from Bookhounds, so I would “never” get them.  Well, so what.  Clearly, I don’t need them.  They seem to have one function:  not to be chosen for listening to.  I do the same thing with philosophy books, or books in general.  On the other hand, I bought two Górecki “on spec” that I like well enough.

Apparently I need a different approach at Bookhounds, and to books in general, eh?

I’m depressed.  I should go out.  It’s harder to be depressed at the mall or Dagny’s.

Listening to Carmina Burana.  The recording is lacking because the percussion is submerged in the background.  I want the Sylvia and Coppelia ballet suites.  I want Alexander Nevsky and the Romeo and Juliet suite.  I had from the library a two-CD version of the R&J and it was boring.  There are exciting parts, but in the suite that’s all you get, while in the full ballet they’re spread out too much.

Interrupted the Orff for Mussorgsky, more vigorous.  It’s unfortunate that this recording has Pictures as a single track, so I can’t set the “Gnomus” or “Baba Yaga” parts on infinite loop as I like to do.  This recording of “Gnomus” is insufficiently vigorous.

I haven’t listened to any Shostakovich in at least two weeks.  It’s a 52-CD set.  I’ll never listen to all the CDs because I’m not fond of his many songs.

I think I’m ready for a nap.  (11 am.)  Sleep last night was interrupted around 11 and I was up until midnight, when I had an ice cream sandwich.

So I slept until 12:30, then got up and ate half a cherry pie (900 calories) without even thinking about it.  When I saw how little was left, I was appalled, and said aloud, “I’m not eating that.”  I put it in the fridge.  The pie is really good, with lots of cherries and little “red jelly,” but alas, it contains Splenda as a sweetener, which is likely to give me digestive weirdness for a while.  “The joys of rationality”!

Read my “The Bleak Philosophy:  A Preliminary Sketch” last night, making minor edits and regretting its disorganization.  I’d like to revise it, and there’s no reason not to, other than the usual laziness.

{7/16/19}  Weight 223.6.  Ouch.

Yesterday I started rereading the Maynard Mack book on King Lear.  I put on Shostakovich’s score for Lear also.  How utterly fascinating.  Guess I’ll work on KM.

Well, that was messy and upsetting.  Changing a book from a subject-oriented structure to a chronological structure is messy.  I’ve sort of committed to telling the story of my ten years in prison, and getting back into that, writing new paragraphs, is upsetting.  And I’m hungry, so I guess I’m done for now.  I’ll eat a banana rather than blowing off my second hour of “work.”

I’m feeling this morning like it’s “me against the world.”  About all I want to do is go to bed and mope and sleep.

A text—three, actually—from Salomé got me out of the house early, for breakfast at McDonald’s (and their WiFi).  That broke my funk.  She wanted to talk about writing, specifically her book.  She’s in it for the money and was trying to persuade me that there is money to be made in writing books.  True enough, but it’s a long shot, and with her dubious English skills, even longer for her.  But the world can always use another good book, hers or mine.

{7/17/19}  Weight 223.6.  Later, 223.2.

Up at 5:00 am.  Yawn.

I find myself resistant to working on Kick Me this morning.  I don’t know what to do about that, other than to stick with the soft commitment for two hours, that is, to write or do nothing.  I watched the headlines of Democracy Now, which I permit under the s.c., and the news was typically depressing.  But now I have the remainder of the time to… um… not fill.

So I’ve been working on KM for more than an hour, and it went well.  But now hunger…  So, after a banana, back to KM.  And I finished my two hours.  The work progresses, and I am very pleased about that.  I am less pleased that I tacked on, in the first draft, lengthy ruminations on society and philosophy and such.  Can I actually be that shameless?

Yesterday I was consciously and deliberately self-indulgent.  I made dinner of two ice cream sandwiches and an ounce of Cheetos.  I watched some movie on DVD.  I had to go look at the DVD to remember the title:  Let the Right One In.  It’s a very good, very disturbing vampire-fantasy, disturbing because we’re “supposed to” sympathize and identify with the vampire-girl, who drinks blood and kills and kills, and looks twelve.  I can’t be objective about this movie because I’m too perverted.  I also read Lindqvist’s novel.  It’s still on the shelf, in case I want to read it again.  Self-indulgently.

Lindqvist is a somewhat brilliant novelist.  He takes an idea, nothing unusual—zombies, vampires, serial killers, and so on—but gives it an unusually imaginative twist, then writes it uncompromisingly.  If he has a formula, it is to make a killer sympathetic, even lovable.  Little Star and Let the Right One In follow this formula.  His two other books that I’ve read, Handling the Undead and Harbor, didn’t follow the formula, and so lacked something.

Watched, again, Iron Man 2 this evening.  A good movie with some rough spots.

Went to bed about 7:30, got up about 10:00, and typed in the most valuable quotes from Johann Hari:  Lost Connections.  Shall I venture yet again to try to get another Meetup started, this one on depression?  What about group therapy?  Does the VA have some program, or local hospitals?  Things I could look into.

{7/18/19}  Weight 224.0.  I was hungry!  Later, 223.2.

I weighed that much once in May, once in June.  Last night, having no ice cream, I topped off dinner with three granola bars.

Why am I up at 5:00, anyway?  Back to bed for another two hours.  Later, almost two hours of work on Kick Me.  The day is off to a good start.

I’ve been watching the PBS series The Vietnam War, by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick.  The story is horrible enough.  They talk of corruption and war profiteering by the South Vietnamese, but I’ve heard nothing about war profiteering in the U.S.

Listening to the Bernard Herrmann soundtrack for The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad.  I can’t think of this movie without seeing how Kathryn Grant didn’t want to be kissed by Kerwin Matthews, yet allowed it because it was required.  Not much of an actress, I’m afraid.  But the movie was my ultimate favorite in 1958, and the soundtrack has been a favorite for as long as I knew you could get soundtracks.

After that “good start,” today turned into mush, with only a bit of food shopping and several naps to show for it.  Now I’m just waiting out the seventy minutes before I leave for my group meeting, which means exposing myself to hundred-degree heat in getting myself over there on the bus, plus ninety minutes of generally useless, tedious time in the meeting.  I’d do better to take a shower, so I guess I will.

{7/19/19}  Weight 223.4.

This morning’s idle reverie:  buy Zhumell Tachyon 25 x 100 binoculars, a tripod, a folding chair, and a collapsible dolly to cart this stuff around, then find a spot with a tree for shade, overlooking the Kern River, and spend a couple of hours watching the river and the birds.  This equipment would also be suitable for Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve to watch shorebirds; “the sign”—a stretch of road between Pine Mountain Club and Taft—to watch for condors and other raptors; and Chula Vista meadow and campground at the top of Mt. Pinos, to watch hummingbirds and other birds, plus stars & planets.  Cost:  about $400, plus rental car.

“I want to see mountains, Gandalf!”

But:  would I die of loneliness?  Perhaps not:  these locations, all but the first, are prime locations, magnets even, for birdwatchers.  I might be lucky enough to hook up with some suitable old lady or man.  This is, after all, an idle reverie.

Worked for about ninety minutes on Kick Me.  After the “memoir” part, I don’t know when to shut up.  Is this the place for my political and philosophical rants?  All that stuff offends the structure of the book.  Do I care?  Yes, I care.  But I also don’t want to take it out.  And I don’t want to look stupid.  I guess I’ll take it out.

{7/20/19}  Weight 224.4.  This is not going well.

I did about ninety minutes on Kick Me just now.  Still reorganizing, but I took out all the politics, philosophy, and the stuff about how “I am Meursault.”  And I put in the paragraphs that I had removed for separate storage because they were in the wrong place.  Getting them to the right place is still underway.  I’m also removing some of the endnotes, the jokes and afterthoughts, incorporating them into the text or deleting them.  I want to keep the endnotes just for bibliographic references.

Once I’m done with all the restructuring, I’ll need to read the whole thing again, though now it’s only 104 pages.  Also, I have many notes-to-self in many locations about things I want to include.  It will take a while to work through those.  And more rereadings…

But the fact is, I’ve reached a milestone, finally having been all the way through the book on a rewrite.  What had seemed endless finally became “quick and easy” when I found and stayed with the just-right compromise of the “soft commitment.”  I think it was important, too, the cutting out of all but fifteen minutes of news a day—though in fact, I’m watching more than that.  Mostly, I still find that I can’t watch much, because it’s all so bad—either just horrible, or just trivial (while the important issues are neglected) and thus outrageous.

When I can’t find anything more in the book that needs work, that’s when it will be ready to let it go, or perhaps to pay someone for a professional edit.

Something that might be worth considering is to hold on to the book until I can reread all my diaries and partial autobiographies and notebooks—there might be some memories there that I’ll want to include.  Should take only a few weeks for the nearly 2000 pages, though some of it will be tedious reading.  Preparing a detailed chronology would also be useful—school transcripts and old résumés would cover most of that.

Reading Maynard Mack’s King Lear in Our Time, I am encouraged to think of the Fynn novel in more mythic terms, which suggests new scenes, and some things related to the play.  Fynn wandering the mountains in a storm, perhaps cursing or blessing the elements; Fynn seeing Apple at a distance and naked, and she leads him somewhere magical; Fynn encounters a madman who is a hallucination; Apple playfully threatens to cut off his penis.

I was also thinking of combining Fynn’s story with Kat’s and an unimagined third, calling it Stories from a Mountain or the like.

In any case, fiction writing can be a pleasure and I should give it some thought and perhaps play with some ideas.

{7/21/19}  Weight 224.2.

Tail end of this morning’s dream:  “…in Grandma’s arms.”  This was not an image, it was the words themselves.  The rest is forgotten.

Last night I read much of the Fynn story, that is, skipping the drooling philosophical start, up to the point where he has sex with Karen.  My impression was that it was all rather rushed, too compressed, but mostly fun.  Will I do anything with it, once I’m done with KM?  I can’t predict, but if I must predict, I’d say, no, I don’t think that’s going to happen.  Yet, if I’m going to write any fiction, it seems like that would be the one.

Since today is Hemlock Club day, and since I don’t want to work on KM, I’m taking the day off of my soft commitment.

Three days until payday.  The month has been financially chaotic, but things have settled down and I have about $50 to carry me through.  It’s enough, even though I need groceries:  eggs, bread, juice, and ice cream; plus whatever I spend at Dagny’s and, possibly, for lunch.

{7/22/19}  Weight 223.6.

I did about an hour on Kick Me.  Some things need to be added and there are many notes to be reviewed, but right now I’m sick of looking at it.  Right now I’m questioning my “soft commitment” of two hours of work each morning, Monday through Saturday.  But given the emptiness of my days since I “quit watching news,” perhaps I need it just to fill the hours “productively.”  Because I really hate killing time—hours of life are all we have.

Edward T. Hall, in The Dance of Life, questions this cultural assumption—the need to be productive—and I found him persuasive at one time.  But most of the time I retain the assumption, as above.  Walter Kaufmann questions the “need for meaning in life,” an argument I found persuasive at one time.  Yet I cling to my meaning—“to make the world a better place through my writing.”  Given that he also praises ambition, and my “meaning” is an ambition, I’m a little confused.

Well, it would be a mistake, clearly, to give up the soft commitment right now, simply because I don’t want to work on KM right now.  I don’t have to do that, the commitment doesn’t require me to do that, specifically.  The commitment is to “write or do nothing.”

Yesterday was almost completely unrewarding.  The Hemlock Club was derailed by the arrival of Ron, an empty-headed bore.  All he wanted to talk about, it seems, was “where it hurts.”  In other words, his daughter-in-law is a bitch, the Mormons are greedy mercenaries…I don’t recall his other complaints.  I stared out the window, sometimes.  I asked him a few questions, but the answers were no better.  (He doesn’t read books, he’s unemployed.)  L was absent.  We played Scrabble, Ron not participating.  He has promised to return next week.  I “blew off” Salomé because I was annoyed:  in addition to Ron-frustration, I couldn’t get my web browsers to work, after initial success.  I learned that NCPTC has charged me $64 instead of the $32 that is correct.  This put my credit union account in a hole.  I need to start keeping a cushion instead of always spending down to my last dollar.  $50 wouldn’t be difficult.  I’ve lost a lot of money this month because of impatience and stupidity.

I’ve had problems all month with money and others—people and institutions.  Aside from my work progress, it’s been a bad month.  Not watching news has had a profound effect on my days.  It’s been difficult finding rewarding things to do, and boredom sometimes leads me to overeat, and once or twice even to binge on food, or as close to that as I ever get.

Last night I got to reading Will Durant’s The Story of Philosophy after seeing Kaufmann disparage Bertrand Russell’s The History of Western Philosophy, which I have been reading.  Kaufmann says that Russell is witty and amusing, but that he “caricatured” his philosophers, so I read Russell’s chapter on Nietzsche.  I found his comments apt, reinforcing my one-time opinion that, “Yeah, he really is a Nazi.”  I read Durant’s brief chapters on Russell, which were very interesting, but this was written decades before Russell’s History.  So, <shrunt>.  [<shrunt> is how I represent how Homer Simpson grunts a single-syllabled “I don’t know,” with a shrug.]

I started painting a sign to sell my trike.  The sign, incomplete, has been sitting for a week or more.

Last night I had a shockingly sharp pain in my left ankle as I was walking.  It was okay after a couple of minutes, but this is new and rather alarming.  I’ve had the growing conviction that, once I become disabled to the point of needing to rely on others, that will be the end of me.

I have a doctor’s appointment later today.  I had been thinking of asking him about group therapy for my depression, but now I’m not so inclined to do that.  Maybe I should anyway, because I can see talking myself out of it, then regretting that decision.  The other issue I definitely want to raise in the ear wax in my right ear, which has been a problem for a month.

So, I seem to be talking a lot about “where it hurts.”  That’s fine—I’m not trying to entertain anyone here.

Time for breakfast.

{7/23/19}  Weight 223.8.

Woke up before 5:00 and had so many thoughts churning that I quickly gave up trying to get back to sleep.

So I saw my doctor yesterday and fucked up by failing to mention the sleep apnea incident that gave me a considerable scare earlier this month.  This is really galling, because bus transportation to the VA hospital is especially inefficient and the weather is torturous.  Yesterday was miserable.

However, I did mention depression and we talked about that and he gave me a quick diagnostic test, etc.  Since I wasn’t interested in going on pills, I won’t be seeing a psychiatrist, but he did tell me about group discussion possibilities.  So, later that day, I get a call from “J.R.” and agreed to attend a group of Vietnam veterans today.

The problem is, I’m not ready for that.  I am afraid that if I tell them about my criminal past, there might be problems.  So, I quickly decided that “I’m not ready for this.”  I’ll call J.R. later.  Given that I’m already in a group—admittedly for a different purpose—well, I don’t see much “depression support” coming from that group.

Lately I’ve been thinking that I’ve been a bit short on caring for others—that I never felt much, that my emotions have been lacking, that I might have been, might still be, “somewhat autistic.”

But this morning I have the thought, who has cared for me?  Answers start coming:  my mother, “Enid,” “Caesar.”  These are the people who never stopped calling, thus, never stopped caring.  Charles and Barbara should perhaps be on the list; “Nick” and “Ted” are less certain.  Growing up in America, what else could be expected?

After these realizations, I see that my “caring” has generally been limited to money and presents.  I provided continuing support (money) to “Enid,” and currently to Pablo.

I also recalled, with new feeling, “I am a parcel of vain strivings tied,” which is the start of a poem by Thoreau.  I tried it on for size, and find that it fits my life somewhat.

I have not come to a conclusion about my soft commitment—to continue after KM, or not?  Which means, I continue until I decide otherwise.

As for KM, I keep having this urge to print it out, so I might as well do that and see if it makes a difference.  I want to get more of a feel for its overall shape, to see what I need to do in that respect.

Now comes a thought that is like a sudden, sharp pain, that had me reaching for my hair to tear it:  my Internet browser problem.  It occurred to me that I may need to reinstall Windows—again.  At least that’s a possible solution, without which I’d be looking at buying another computer.

The problem with McAfee seems to be over and done with.  The problem with my bank accounts has one lingering owee that isn’t worth describing again (see yesterday).

Now, one modest pleasure:  watched the movie Fargo last night, which I had seen decades ago.  It was very entertaining.  I should look into other Coen brothers possibilities.  On checking Videohound I see that I’ve really liked about half of their productions (Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, etc.) and even the other half weren’t terrible.

Caught about the last half-hour of The Green-Eyed Blonde yesterday on TCM and again had the realization that writers are lazy:  they don’t write dialogue that they should write.  The “stunned silence” reaction, which occurs at the end of G-EB, is a cheap way to avoid writing a difficult scene.  Susan Oliver at age 20 was pretty hot.  She died young.

Shockingly, I also watched some of Captain America:  The Winter Soldier, again.  If I had this on DVD I’d watch it less, which might seem paradoxical but is probably correct.

Since I’m feeling resistant to jumping into KM again, maybe printing it is the best way to go.  Most of what I need to do, at this point, is to add the stories I haven’t told yet, which doesn’t relate to printing it.  Maybe just getting the notes together and reviewing them, is the next step.

Now—how do I lose weight?  I had previously thought, “eat granola bars instead of ice cream,” and that’s a good thing to try because I’m not as fond of granola bars, and so will presumably be able to avoid eating them, once in a while.  Or maybe, fairly often.  If this is a rule of thumb, then I’d be better off eating toast.  Because the meals I eat, by themselves, won’t carry me through the day—I will snack, so if I can manage the snacking, that should solve the problem.  I haven’t managed it yet, aside from not buying the big boxes of cookies that I used to buy (and abuse).  So:  toast, where I can, or granola bars.  Yesterday’s dinner:  2 oz. of Cheetos, an ice cream sandwich, and the second of my two slices of chocolate creme pie.  It goes without saying that I refuse to diet.

Copyright 2019 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s