Diary, 2/28 to 12/25/20, My Return to Civilization

Text Copyright 2020 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

Note to Readers: The following is my diary entries which, in part, explain why I have been absent from this blog since March, 2020. It’s a lot to read, but hopefully rewarding–fifteen standard pages in Microsoft Word. Merry Christmas to all!

{2/28/20}  Weight ?

1:44 am.  Here I go again with insomnia.  This time, I couldn’t stop thinking about ASS and A Friendly VoiceASS is my memoir-in-progress, or not in progress [acronym for A Secular Salvation]; the particular thought is, can I dare to publish it, if I even finish it, and how might I go about it.  Perhaps that’s unclear, but I’m not inclined to explain further.  A Friendly Voice is described in my 2/16 entry, but I’ll repeat:  I want to publish an ad saying, “A Friendly Voice,” with my phone number, saying that I’ll talk with anyone who feels the need.

I would like to limit my availability with AFV to, say, 6:00 to 9:00 in the evening, but the thought occurs to me to have no such limit.  In any case, I’d need to get permission from my probation officer.  I’ve been putting off actually beginning this charity work, but I can’t think of any reason to continue doing so, since I could publish my phone number via Twitter and my blog.  “How to publicize” had been an unsolved question, but I just solved it…

Might I someday want to stop it?  Of course.  Things often don’t work out as I expect or hope.  Would I stop it merely because I wanted to?  How can I predict?  I would hope that it would not be “necessary.”  What if people abuse me?  How self-sacrificing am I prepared to be?  A pointless question—again, how can [I] predict how I’ll feel at some future date?  Any such prediction would be worthless, which I say from experience and self-knowledge (if there is such a thing).

[12/25/20:  The following text had the same date as the previous, so I deleted that line to combine the two.  Impossible to tell now, what the correct dating would be.]

Up too early at 6:45; ordinarily I’d be happy to have slept this late, but I was up for more than an hour last night because of insomnia.

I am pretty well convinced that I want to go ahead with AFV.  I’ll want to prepare by having numbers for suicide hotlines, legal aid, a medical advice number (if there is such a thing), and Alcoholics Anonymous (if they have a number for this).  I’ll want to post something on my blog, a disclaimer and FAQs and whatever else I can think of.  And I’ll need to advise the PO.

I confess some hesitation about this, as I can easily see it becoming a burden that I’ll want to put down; but I can also see it as a possible large change in my life that I will treasure above all things, that will make me believe that I can walk on water.

Well, “the lady said no,” that is, my probation officer said no to “A Friendly Voice.”  It would be “inappropriate, given my history” and that there are already “services available.”  Are there really?  Anyway, ’tis a pity.

Interestingly, this very brief telephone conversation left me feeling partially suffocated, as though I had a sudden increase in chest congestion.  During the conversation, I felt a sudden tightness in my stomach, i.e., anxiety, as though I were accused.  “I’ve been a baaad boy!” (Lou Costello)

Perhaps one of my many readers (joke) might pick up the fallen torch.

Could I walk around town with a sign that said, “Conversation welcome”?  No, given my history, I presume.  Not that I’d want to do that.  [12/13/20:  Surely there are verbal or nonverbal behaviors that could serve the same function?  No way she could object to that, right?  As long as it’s not beyond “normal behavior.”  Maybe it’s enough to just say “Hi.”  Can I do that?  I think I want to do that.]

Maybe I won’t ask about publishing my book.

In other news, 33 cases of COVID-19 have been identified in California.  One assumes that this includes the fourteen from the cruise ship; I assume, because the news hasn’t informed me yet, though perhaps it’s not necessary to assume anything because one wants to hope for the best.

{2/29/20}  Weight 213.0.  On 2/1 I weighed 213.6.  So, as far as weight loss goes, there wasn’t any.

Not that it matters, but my comment about “fourteen from the cruise ship” was in error, I think.  It was people from China, not the cruise ship, that were greeted and handled, inappropriately, by untrained and unequipped virus-fodder people from the DHS (who then scattered through the community).  The stupidity has already risked lives.

It seems that Britain and South Korea and the WHO all have COVID-19 test kits that could have been obtained for the U.S., but are not being so obtained.  We’re apparently bumbling along trying to fix our own defective kits.  It seems, too, that we knew about the virus more than two months ago, and did squat.  Under Obama, it would have been different, i.e., Americans and likely the world would have been safer.  The stock market has behaved appropriately, the DOW dropping more than 3,000 points this week.  Meanwhile, the preening promise-breaker says anything that he thinks might prop up the DOW and save his restealing of the 2020 election.

The ominous thought occurs, and has occurred to me a number of times over the past 2-3 days, that the fat traitor will try to use the bungled response to the virus as an excuse to cancel the 2020 election.  Such an action, again, would probably get people killed—the wrong people.

But now I’m just blathering.  (Voice from the back of the room:  “What else is new?”)

On 2/25 I wrote:  “I don’t seem to have an inner battle, despite my guilt.  All my guilt is from the past.”  It’s a comment I wrote in a margin of Schiffman’s book.  Now, I do have an inner battle, I’ve realized:  in trying to decide “am I OK?” I find that neither yes nor no works.  I’m OK most of the time, but at other times I feel quite not OK.  (This is in relation to Thomas Harris’s book, I’m OK—You’re OK.  Which I read a couple of generations ago.)  But this is another unanswerable question—in other words, which straw shall I grab from the hurricane this time?

What about my inner battle over writing-not writing my book?  Not much of a battle.  Sometimes I feel like I need to be typing away; more often I recognize two things:  I am “working” on the book constantly (my reading all relates to my self-therapy and so on, except my bedtime reading), and I am typing, here.  Recent entries especially are directly related to my attempt at “secular salvation.”  I don’t know quite what that salvation is supposed to be or [how it’s] supposed to work.  I’m working on myself, which I hope and believe will eventually lead to a feeling of, yes, I am OK.  If that’s the salvation I’m going to end up with, then I’d better get a copy of Harris’s book and read it again, if only for relevant quotes and definitions.  Which, really, is about all I expect to get from it.

{3/1/20}  Weight 213.8.

First U.S. fatality from COVID-19.

At the Hemlock Club (new version on Saturday), N said that a new person might show up, and sort of apologized in advance that she was a little strange or crazy or something.  So when Q arrived, we had a long conversation, me mostly listening.  She was arguing that, essentially (though she would reject my words), the Holocaust didn’t happen (or was radically different from what we’ve been told) and that Jews control the world.  She presented two main pieces of evidence that I listened to:  first, that prior to the six million victims of the Holocaust that we’ve been told about, there were multiple newspaper headlines going back almost a hundred years, claiming “six million victims” of various anti-Jewish repressions, genocides, and so on, in various countries; and second, that the gas chambers at Auschwitz had locks only operable from the inside, i.e., that the official story couldn’t have happened.  I went “meta,” cutting her short a few times because she was drowning me in detail, and she naturally objected to this.  When she mentioned the twin towers, I was dismissive and disappointed.

Repeatedly she said that she wasn’t trying to convince me of anything, rather, that she just needed to figure out how to present her evidence in a compact form, so that she could create a brochure or a lecture that would, I guess, be persuasive.

I pushed back, essentially blaming myself that I had a closed mind on conspiracy theories, having wasted considerable time on the Kennedy assassination and Velikovsky and so on, and that I didn’t have time to waste on this [12/25/20 which is essentially what I meant by “going meta” above].  I asked if she wanted to hear my reasons for doubting what she said about the newspapers and the gas chambers, and she said she did, but then she was off again, or N intervened, or something, and I never got to say what I had in mind about that.

Our argument was undoubtedly passionate, and N began interjecting himself, questioning what we could expect to result from continuing this, and being concerned about others at Dagny’s.  Q resented this intrusion and pushed back strongly against him.  I seconded her in this, but this new argument derailed the other.  N said something about his distress when his parents fought, I reassured him that we had not gotten loud (unlike past embarrassments with Pablo and J), and I told Q that N was in distress over our talk, and so eventually the discussion subsided or fell apart.

Now, this incident hardly deserves so many words, except for one thing:  at the end of it all, when I was packing up to leave, I felt surprisingly affectionate toward this strangely obsessed woman, and I think she felt much the same, a conclusion I base on the warmth of her goodbyes and multiple handshakes—one of which was a double, that is, she took my right hand in both of hers.  While our positions could not have been more opposed, we had remained courteous and respectful throughout (with two exceptions I’ll get to in a moment); the only real problem had been N’s unreasonable distress.  So I think I learned something and maybe he learned something; Q, I don’t know.  From her description of her efforts, it’s clear to me that she has a “mental problem,” that is, her interest is far beyond the rational.

The exceptions to our “courteous and rational” behavior were that she called me a misogynist at one point, a remark that greatly puzzled me, and I called her obsessive, which didn’t seem to ruffle her at all.  Doubtless she’s been told that by others.

Afterthoughts:  Q’s quest is clearly wrongheaded, and the manner of presentation isn’t the problem—there is a mountain of evidence against her, and it seems obvious that this can be combatted only by a second mountain of evidence, and therein is the problem, that nobody “normal” will have the patience to deal with it.  Also, I wish I’d thought to ask whether she thought the moon landing a fake.  Regarding the evidentiary claims she presented, I had wanted to say that such things could be faked; even if the cited newspapers are legitimate, that says nothing about the Holocaust itself.  As for the gas chambers, the locks being on the inside is interesting but not conclusive:  the doors could have been blocked from the outside after the victims were inside.  Finally, her statements that she was interested in making a brochure and otherwise wanted to learn how to organize her materials for presentation are undermined by presenting a wealth of detailed evidence about her theories.  In other words, she clearly was trying to make me a convert; it’s not unlikely that she didn’t know her own motives.  I don’t suspect duplicity.

It’s a pity; about a hundred years ago I had the notion that I would marry a woman named [Q].  Ain’t gonna be this one.

{3/2/20}  Weight 213.0.

A dream which might be enjoyed by Freudians:  the scene is a woman’s pubic region (labia not visible), with an adult hand and a small child’s hand, and everything is wet.  The child’s hand, with index finger extended, moves toward the woman’s crotch but stops short, and the finger crooks and presses into the groove between the woman’s thigh and body.  The finger scrapes along this groove, toward the child, apparently pulling a pubic hair.  It moves further and further, in slow motion, toward the child, and I thought “it’s going in his mouth.”  And the child’s other hand appears and both hands clutch at this loose hair, pick it up, and into the mouth it goes.  That’s the whole dream.

So Buttigieg drops out of the race; presumably Biden made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.  Bernie bros will cry foul, saying that the Democratic establishment are colluding against him, but clearly, this sort of thing happens in every election—Buttigieg just doing what makes sense to him, personally and politically, though as of last night he hadn’t endorsed Biden.  And, of course, I haven’t listened and won’t listen to the Mayor’s speech.

Warren, on the other hand, says she’s in it for the long haul, which will siphon away votes that would mostly go to Bernie if she dropped out.

Dare I say, “Yawn”?

The important news this morning is the first COVID-19 case in New York, and two dead in a Seattle nursing home.  Two cases in Florida, one in Rhode Island.  Yow.  Is it time for solitary confinement?  I was thinking of going to Macdonald’s this morning, on the way to the post office.  The post office, alas, is necessary.  The virus has been on the loose in Washington for “six weeks.”  Dr. Matt McCarthy predicts:  “Hundreds of cases this week, thousands of cases next week,” and “a hundred million are at risk of a severe infection.”  What’s he doing to protect himself?  Nothing much:  washing his hands “constantly,” don’t shake hands, avoid coughing people.

I’ll go out today, but after that, I’m hunkering down.  I want to get a nail brush and hand sanitizer,  bananas, and pico de gallo.  Probably ice cream.  It’s not as though I won’t be going out—the feds require it of me, five times this month.

One thing I’m concerned about is a face covering.  The masks “won’t stop it,” but they’re not available anyway.  I’m thinking maybe a wet paper towel or wet cloth would be more effective (until it dries out), but this would be incredibly awkward to implement.  Another thought was the microfiber lens cleaning cloths I have; that’s what I plan to pin my hopes on for now (if I even bother).

Met with N at Barnes & Noble yesterday, for four hours.  Seemingly, we can talk endlessly and amicably.  Is this love?  Sure is, at least for me.  He praises me often.

Interesting times I live in.

So, I now want to interrupt this nonsense to get my butt over to Macdonald’s.

Done.  On the way home, I was queried by a panhandler, the same one I had given $2 on the way to Macdonald’s.  I got angry, told him I’d given him $2 already, but he pursued me, continuing to ask.  I told him never to ask me for money again.  This was gratuitous and uncool of me.

More bad COVID-19 news.  Also, 35,000 gather for a Bernie rally in California.  What could possibly go wrong?  (There might be a funnier way to say that.)

In Afghanistan, we have 12,000 troops and 26,000 “contractors” (mercenaries) per Democracy Now today.  The war was completely unnecessary and just made everything worse.  If our military budget is over $700 billion, why do we need mercenaries at all?  Who is the enemy for which we need new weapon systems, more atomic weapon purchases, and 800 military bases (last I heard)?  The ridiculous budget impoverishes America.  It seems unlikely that the preening promise-breaker has found a way out, despite today’s pronouncements.  (The Afghan government was not consulted, of course.)

Julian Assange exposed American war crimes and other malfeasance—this is his “crime.”  Why is America salivating over the possibility of getting him into our “justice system,” but ignoring what he revealed?  The Brits blocked his extradition.

For me, a day of bus riding and shopping.  Five bus rides took me to Macdonald’s for breakfast, then the post office to mail two letters, then home, then four bus rides to get me to the bank and Food Maxx (where I spent $150) and home.  I have now spent $350 to stock up for this month’s “solitary confinement,” as previously described.  I didn’t get hand sanitizer, because it’s just antibacterial—useless against flu and COVID-19.  I also didn’t get a nail brush, no big deal.  The big thing was 35 more bottles of water, super-cheap.

Maybe, if I spend about 25 days at home this month, I’ll be able to get some work done.  What about Wi-Fi?  I don’t know.  Maybe I’ll just go to Macdonald’s for breakfast once a week.

{3/3/20}  Weight 213.8.  Couldn’t stop eating yesterday.  This is bad.  I need to get serious about weight loss this month.  And other things that I’ve been neglecting.  Somehow I don’t think today is the day I finally grow up and discover self-mastery.

Stupor Tuesday today.  Woo hoo.  At least this will mark the end of speculation about Stupor Tuesday, but it also marks the beginning of analysis of Stupor Tuesday.  Yeesh.

Created a new document, Towards Secular Salvation.  So far it’s ten pages of diary text from 2/7/20 to present, cutting all irrelevant material.  So my working method is to continue what I’ve been doing.  I’ve been “working on the book” all along, and I sorta knew that.  Much of what I’m doing is reading.

Now, if “my guilt is gone,” or at least no longer feels like a burden, what is left before I can call it “secular salvation”?  Perhaps tackle the really big thing, “my neurosis”?  I see no light at the end of that tunnel; instead, I consider it impossible to change that pattern.

Clearly, my “salvation” is going to be about as complete as Charlotte Vale’s “happiness.”

If that’s beyond hope, what then is needed?

[12/25/20:  I was arrested on March 4th by my probation officer for a probation violation.  I spent the next nine months—until 12/1/20—in Kern County Jail and the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles.  I’ll very briefly summarize those nine months:  while incarcerated I caught COVID-19, had very mild and inconclusive symptoms; I was almost murdered, literally, by my 22-year-old cellmate strangling me; on the date of my release I suffered a heart attack and spent three days in White Memorial Hospital in L.A.; returned home to Bakersfield; threw out about $50 worth of food that had spoiled or not aged well in the nine months; discovered that I probably have suffered some minor permanent damage from the virus; have been treated for skin cancer; made contact with my two most important friends, Pablo and N; discovered that I’m about $12,000 in debt; had $5,000 in the bank (a surprise); and acquired home WiFi.  Anything more will be covered below, or have to wait for further entries.]

{12/6/20}  Weight 203.4.  [Ten pound loss!]

I am at a very low point and have not reached the bottom yet, but I’ve been very lucky as well.  Much the same could be said of the country.  I don’t feel lucky, but I try to put a good face on things, for some reason.

Notable events of my year in four words:  cancer, cardio, covid, choking.

{12/7/20}  Weight. 204.0.

During the nine months of my sojourn in Kern County Jail and the Metropolitan Detention Center Los Angeles, I often had the notion, “I’m going to die here.”  I came close.

{12/9/20}  Weight 204.6.  Cheetos + cookies + ice cream.

2:43 AM.  I went to bed early, about 9:30.  Inevitably, I’ll have a nap during the day today.

{12/10/20}  Weight 205.4.  Gained two pounds in four days.  Ouch.

{12/13/20}  Weight 207.6 at 2:00 am.  Out of control, it seems.

Sometimes when I ponder events of my childhood or youth, I feel a twinge of rage against that stupid boy, wanting, sorta, to choke or punch him.  Is this guilt, or shame, or what?

Shopped at Barnes & Noble yesterday and spent about $120.00, coming home with three books, with two on order to be mailed to me.  The total included $25 for membership renewal.  One was a graphic memoir, Marbles, by some woman afflicted with bipolar disorder.  Another was by Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D., Transcend:  The New Science of Self-actualization, an updating of Maslow’s theories.  Third was an Invader Zim comic book which turns out to be surprisingly dull.  The two I ordered were books from people I’ve heard on KPFK:  Scott Horton’s Fools Errand, about the Afghanistan war, and Richard Wolff’s The Sickness is the System, about the system, i.e., capitalism American style, that is, class war.

The class war this year has been especially bitter and brutal, if I even know what I’m talking about.

Last night I also started reading Sean Astin’s There and Back Again, a memoir, and my Complete Paintings of Van Gogh, which I selected as my bedtime book—I’ve had it for probably five years, seldom cracked.  Lately I finished reading Muriel Schiffman’s Self Therapy, which seems like it might be useful if I ever have some “irrational behavior” to examine.  I mean, sometimes my eating seems less rational than I would like, but I’m not inclined to analyze it.  Other areas of irrationality need not be mentioned, perhaps, since I’m already feeling a bit down.  The days since my release and subsequent to my hospital stay seem like a complete waste and largely joyless, though I did manage to masturbate twice to orgasm without use of Viagra or pornography.  This seems a minor sampling of my future sex life, and somewhat encouraging in ways I don’t care to explain.

Have met with Pablo twice, and he’s promised to call me tomorrow “so we can do something.”  I was rather brusque with him when he called at 8:00 last night—it was annoying to receive a call that late, and as well it ruined my anticipated pleasure of watching Samantha Bee’s show.

I am troubled about my weight gains but don’t know what to do about it except to lay off the cookies and resist with greater steadfastness any eating after six pm.  As usual, the main thing is to control my shopping.

I’ve been in a bit of a funk but don’t want to think about it.  I’m not sure there’s anything to be learned—I’m not working, or even “working,” and I don’t see that changing any time soon, so maybe I’ve just given up.  Temporarily, one hopes.  I have the urge to turn KM into a graphic version; I should lie down until it passes, because I can’t believe that I’d ever finish it.  Hundreds of graphics, and I have little interest in doing one?

It’s a long way from my enthusiasm for The Willpower Instinct to today’s lack of enthusiasm for anything much.  Apathy.  Anhedonia.

When I’m home, I mostly watch news.  The news offers little joy; the departure of the hated Bloatus seems to be taking forever and doesn’t really mean much to me anyway.  I watch news somewhat compulsively because, I think, I have “control issues.”  In other words, there’s some mild anxiety driving it, as though “If I don’t keep an eye on things, they’ll get out of control.”  Of course, they’re already out of control, and I have no power to change anything, or even much desire to try.

If I were feeling at all mentally tough, or energetic, or whatever is lacking, I’d try leaving the TV off for a day or two.  As it is, I’ll be getting WiFi and probably be tuning in to KPFK.org rather a lot, and so adding to my daily exposure to “news,” which is likely to be even more depressing than TV news.  Perhaps this makes sense:  why wouldn’t I be depressed at “the end of civilization”?  But perhaps I’m just fobbing off onto “civilization” my personal problems.  That seems rather likely.

Actually, it’s pretty encouraging, or somewhat encouraging, that I’m writing at all, even though I’m just pissing and moaning.  One must do such things from time to time (or all the time).

Looking back, at 1/12/20 I have:  “I told Pablo a few days ago that every morning I am faced with a choice, either to be a slug in the mud, or to ‘fly high, for fuck’s sake,’ and that I generally choose the former.”  How little difference a year makes.

A good indication of “something’s wrong”:  I’ve been working sudoku at home.  That’s a level of boredom I should find intolerable, but I have too little energy, it seems, to work up even that modest level of emotion.  Perhaps I should be encouraged that I haven’t done any sudoku since my trip to B&N.  It might make sense to throw the book away; I could probably avoid buying another anytime soon.  But then, what would I replace it with?  Clearly, not with reading Cognitive Neuroscience.  Or working on KM.  Or self-analysis!

My bullet journaling died somewhere between March 4th and today.  Given that I’m using my two-year calendar, and the COVID encouragement to stay home, there seems little need for BuJo-ing.

Rereading Toward Secular Salvation (yet another version of my book-in-progress) was quite fascinating, and it revealed where I was at the time the axe fell, 3/4/20.  And it quite lifted my mood.  It’s a bitter pill that the diary entries I wrote in prison this time have been lost, because they seemed important.  Once again it has become clear that my diary is “my best writing and my best reading.”  TSS is just diary extracts.

This document [2020 diary] is 49 pages long; it would take a while to read it all, and it covers only this year (minus, of course, nine months).

In the BuJo dated 2/25/20 I find:  “What is self-analysis?  Comparing (fitting) memories, emotions, behavior, etc., to theories in the attempt to change one’s beliefs and behavior.

“What chokes me up or makes me sob, feel joy, or laugh?”

The Bullet Journal is a good “portable diary,” a way to capture thoughts that might otherwise be lost.  Useful at the Hemlock Club, but too large for pocket, so too large otherwise.  The little moleskines can serve instead, but the one is about full.  Fascinating reading—clearly it’s a valuable investment in the future, as is the diary.  But that valuable investment needs to be exploited, lest it die of neglect.  Too much reading is distracting me.  What I need now is less reading.  Preferably also more writing.  The reading I’ve been doing isn’t really very important, and I’m not sure that there are many things it would be important for me to read now.  Minor enhancements of my concepts of mind and self, for instance, seem kind of unimportant, especially because they get lost.  I have tasks of some importance to work on.  [12/25/20:  Things “get lost” only when I don’t write them down!]

I need to prioritize, and get to work.  This would very likely lift my mood, which has been down down down since 12/4.  The little work it took to write this entry has already done much to, um, “elevate me.”  Getting home WiFi runs the risk of encouraging me to waste much time, such as with KPFK.org, as I’ve been doing with the news on TV.

I spent a lot of time today on cleaning and vacuuming.  Unfortunately, I wasted much of the latter effort because I neglected to reset the vacuum cleaner properly.  But the effort made is a very good sign.

From 2/19:  Writing down my thoughts about my life and my problems—that seems to me effective self-therapy.  [Schiffman would disagree.  Thoughts without action?]

{12/14/20}  Weight 205.0.  A modest effort leads to a significant loss.

{12/15/20}  Weight 206.2.  Rebound, and a lapse with Cheetos.

Slept eight hours last night, a thing I haven’t done since March 4th.  “Pillipaw confinement” came to me in a dream.  While in the dream I believed that the adjective meant “for punishment.”  As expected, not in the dictionary.

All my talk of “too much reading” on the 13th amounts now to “watching more TV.”  Stephanie Miller and Thom Hartmann and Randi Rhodes all are optional at best, excluding the first fifteen minutes of Hartmann.  His web site may be more valuable.

“They are lucky that what black people are looking for is equality and not revenge.”  From something about “black rage” on Link TV this morning.  The title appears to be “I Can’t Breathe.”  Apparently an Australian production.  Not listed correctly in the cable log.  They were showing video of the murder of George Floyd.  I had to look away.

On alternate Thursdays I really hate racism.

About a year ago, L said something that suggested to me a racism so deep that he didn’t see it as racism.  It preys on me now that I said nothing, was careful to hide my negative reaction because I “didn’t want to make an issue of it.”  I should have made an issue of it.  My impulse now is to say, that I should have said, “I really hate racism.”  And get up and walk away.  I could imagine myself doing that.  Even that seems inadequate, but I wasn’t woke enough to do even that little bit.  I can’t imagine having a conversation with him about what he said.  It made me happy to think that I wasn’t likely to see L again, so I wouldn’t have to confront him and that situation again.  Now, that’s shameful.  I know I’m a coward; but this seems beyond cowardice.

{12/16/20}  Weight 205.8.  4:45 am.

Reorganizing my living room, moving my desk to the bedroom.  A vague idea of using my living room for small parties (i.e., up to four adults).  At least it will be less claustrophobic and more accessible for vacuuming.

Bought a cool Robby the Robot toy yesterday, fifteen bucks.  Also, on impulse, sent $120 to Free Speech TV, to get Thom Hartmann’s The Secret History of American Oligarchy, which I’ll receive some time next year.

{12/17/20}  Weight 205.8 at 4:30 am.

I’ve been watching the news pretty much all day long while I’m at home.  This is naturally very repetitive and boring, so I channel surf also.  It pisses away my hours.  Can’t do that.  I need to be selective—Democracy Now, Thom Hartmann’s initial “rant,” then Chris Hayes at 5:00 would be enough.  Hayes, lately, has been more consistently interesting and intelligent than Rachel Maddow.  I’ve done very little reading for the past week, or indeed, since coming home, until last night when I read my ragged essay on philosophy, which was fascinating.

Writing and art are what I want to work on.  Art, towards marginal faces as a running commentary on KM, or a graphic version of the whole, perhaps.  The graphic version would be an immense job, hundreds of paintings, but I’ll have the time if I continue as I have been doing.  Which is unlikely, given that I’ll be getting home WiFi in the next couple of days.  But, curiously, DVDs don’t seem to be very attractive to me now…rewatching old favorite movies tends to hang up on the thought of “wasting two hours,” and I don’t have much of anything else.  I haven’t watched a whole movie except on cable, since my release.  I can’t remember what I watched except the Emma of Anya Taylor-Joy, twice, but that was in the hospital.  I found her ravishing, but the actor playing Knightley was quite short and so not quite as impressive as one might wish.  I couldn’t get into the BBC Doran Goodwin miniseries that I loved a lot last year, I think because by then I was tired of the story.  The new Disney Mulan I bought was okay, but the recycled music from the old animated version was an annoying distraction, though thankfully without the singing.  The High Barbaree I bought from Amazon nine months ago was even duller than I had anticipated; I had caught the eye candy (euphemism) on TCM and so wanted it, I thought.  The Joker soundtrack I bought at the same time is good, but annoyingly short (36 minutes).  The third item was Schiffman’s Self Therapy.

The news is kinda overwhelming and beyond my desire and probably ability to deal with here.  What happens when Tennessee and Kentucky and some others secede?  Biden suggests to me more of James Buchanan than Abraham Lincoln.  To think that I should have lived to see such times.  As long as the Bloatus and his media echo chambers continue as they have been doing since November 4th, stoking the fires of insanity, the anxiety will continue and events will escalate.

{12/18/20}  Weight 205.4 at 5:30 am.

Back on the Internet.  Astonishment:  my blog is getting multiple hits (two, three, more) every day.  Mostly for my ages-old list, “Character names for adventures,” sixteen this month.  In other words, my layoff has resulted in increased popularity compared to early this year.

Bought a lot of things today on the Internet, about $50 in books and DVDs, which doesn’t sound like much but it was a lot of cheap items.  I did actually show some restraint, however, passing on the Complete Invader Zim DVD set ($30) and various iterations of the Yale Shakespeare ($50 and up).

It’s irritating that I’m flailing about, seemingly rudderless.  I want consider my projects and priorities, or more simply and comprehensively, activities.  First, a list:

  1. Writing; productivity
    1. Art, graphic memoir, etc.
    1. Blog, essays (philosophy writing)
    1. Kick Me
    1. Typing (prison diary, quotes)
  2. Entertainment
    1. News, politics
    1. Shopping
    1. Internet
  3. Reading (overlaps with above)
  4. Social life
  5. Housework, other maintenance and improvements
  6. Exercise, diet, health; depression

News and politics, though anxiety-driven, I have to think of as primarily entertainment.  I don’t feel enlightened.

{12/19/20}  Weight 206.4 at 2:30 am.  Not alarming because of the hour.

Meeting Pablo, supposedly (he’s routinely late), at 10:00 at Barnes & Noble.  I presume we’ll then go to some food place to buy lunch and sit around in the parking lot to eat—to such extremities are we reduced by the virus.

What to do between now and then?  Typing and reading, most likely.  Perhaps.  I’m not feeling it.

The news is ridiculously boring these days—nothing but the virus and the Bloatus and the cyber attack.

Went to Barnes & Noble at 9:30 and met Pablo there somewhat later.  RL was with him.  I was in the checkout line, so we finished there and went to Raising Cain’s chicken finger shop which I had discovered had outside seating.  I bought a combo which I shared.  RL and Pablo mostly talked about music.  A bit later, to my delighted astonishment, N showed up and joined us.  This was a much-desired reunion on my part, and perhaps on his as well, and I felt very lucky indeed.  We’ll be meeting there Sunday week, as the saying goes.

We talked about a number of things, it turns out that N has read Ulysses (which I have not), and we discussed birds—he’s seen some owls in Bakersfield—I told him about my year, somewhat, and so on.  It seems that he now has a phone, but we didn’t exchange numbers, having put it off until it became inconvenient.

Bought a couple of books:  Alison Bechdel:  Are You My Mother?  A Comic Drama, or a graphic novel, and Lynda Barry:  Making Comics.

Had the idea of telling the story of my year 2020, which at the group I called “the worst year of my life since my father died when I was ten.”  In some ways that’s certainly true, though the year I went to prison the first time was also very terrible, of course.

{12/20/20}  Weight 206.6 at 6:30 am.  Drat.

Coughing last night, sore throat this morning.  Much bigger drat.

Six hours later, no symptoms.  This sequence also happened before, recently.  COVID aftereffects?

{12/21/20}  Weight 206.6 at 5:00 am.

{12/22/20}  Weight 206.2.  Ha!  I was expecting a gain because of my late-evening Cheetos binge, but aside from breakfast my meals were light or nonexistent, so I was as much hungry as depressed.

Stephanie Miller has disappeared from FSTV, small loss.  She’s still on KPFK, though only for an hour.  The show is occasionally hilarious, more often self-indulgent and chaotic, a show I had decided I could do without.  However, the replacement so far is just filler.

I finally tried out a drawing with the brush pen and was not happy with the result—the brush was harder to handle than, um, a pencil, I guess—a tool I’ve been using all my life, thus an unfair comparison.  My diffidence over sketching is annoying, but sketching an imagined image is vastly more difficult than sketching something one can see.  There’s a skill involved that I don’t yet have because why would I?  Yet, I find so many things easy to do that I had unrealistic expectations, despite my general failure to develop a self-portrait-cartoon that I liked.

Buy on impulse, repent at leisure:  Lynda Barry’s Making Comics turns out to be a one-trick book, and the trick doesn’t impress me.  Here’s my Amazon review:

Buy on impulse, repent at leisure:  Lynda Barry’s Making Comics turns out to be a one-trick book, and the trick doesn’t impress me.

That’s what I wrote in my diary this morning, but the truth is more complicated.  I am not a good reader for this book, that is, whatever the book’s failings, I am unprepared to accept it as a whole.  It’s not that I miss the point, it’s that the approach is mystical and I generally despise mysticism, which I see as a con.

Given this rather arrogant opinion, I am inclined now to think that this is EXACTLY the book I should be reading!  If any little book can teach one something important about oneself, and indeed many little books have done this, then I see here another chance to learn something important, to wit (my style this morning is uber-turgid, apologies), I have seen the rigidity of my age (73) and like it not.

Cutting myself a bit of slack, I am put off by the style of the book.  The drawings are frankly ugly and childish to my jaundiced eye.  I suppose if the name was Picasso, I’d feel differently.  I don’t want to draw like Barry.  But, after this navel gazing, I am inclined to return to the book with a more open mind, to actually try the exercises rather than sneer at them in all ignorance, and perhaps gain something I sorely lack (it seems):  imagination and greater tolerance.

So I’ve been hasty twice:  first, in buying a somewhat unappealing book on a whim because I’m impatiently trying to get started on creating a graphic memoir, and second, in rejecting it after a superficial and unfair reading of the first fifty pages.

How to assign a number of stars?  My first impulse was to give it one star, out of spite; now I’ll give it three because it’s largely an unknown quantity, meaning, maybe this tested approach can work for me, too.

The title of my review was “A spiteful, self-regarding review.”

Got to reading my blog post, “Diary 10/7 to 10/19/19…,” where I mention buying Gardiner’s Egyptian Grammar for $15.  This is currently selling on eBay for $90 and up.  I’m not at all surprised, or not much, but why didn’t the library volunteers check this?  Meh.  Selection from that diary entry:

So I started a notebook and on the first page listed my “willpower challenges”:  TV channel surfing, saving money, losing weight, exercise, shyness, writing, housework, typing, and my neurosis.  I thought about:  German (or languages or study), and cursing and/or being mean in conversation.  But I think that these can wait—the important ones are saving money, shyness, and losing weight.  The TV thing is probably too easy to bother thinking much about; basically, I’m not worried about it.

Not much change in fourteen months—these are still challenges but mostly come down to one thing:  “laziness.”  A lifelong problem, which means that I should likely work on my judgementalness rather than not working on my “laziness.”

I don’t feel guilty about being lazy, do I?  Do I feel guilty about not writing, not exercising, not doing (enough) housework?  I dunno—I’m too lazy to think about it now.  And since it’s 10:30 now, I’m off to bed.  This entry is fairly stupid, anyway.

Another quote (at 10:44):

There’s not much point in reading a little, dropping the subject, and picking it up again six months later.  Which means, I either need to study the German language and Chinese philosophy and Rorty every week (if not every day), or give up any thoughts of learning anything.

Good idea, not followed.  Now, off to bed.

{12/23/20}  Weight 206.2 at 4:45am.

Off to see the doctor today, many issues to be raised:  COVID-19, heart attack, skin cancer, ear wax, ED (erectile dysfunction), lung efficiency, and bills related to the heart attack.  I don’t see all this happening today.

I face a choice:  how to use my days, specifically, what to do about all this TV news and Internet media I’ve been consuming?  This practice isn’t stupid, exactly, in fact I see it as valuable, but neither is it advancing my goals, my mission statement.

The real question is the graphic memoir 2020 that “I’d like to write.”  If I pursue this goal as vigorously as it needs (i.e., making it “the top priority”), other questions will resolve themselves—I won’t have time to spend watching TV.  This sounds good, and the way to get it going is to play with stick figures.  Or work through Barry’s book.

So the doctor gave me prescriptions for heart meds, sprayed liquid nitrogen on my skin cancers, and authorized a visit to a nurse for my ear wax (in a week).  Since it wasn’t my regular doc, I didn’t mention ED or lung efficiency.  I have phone numbers for bills, VA might cover some of them in part.  Few people at the clinic.

Watched Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, a wonderful experience again.  Videohound calls it “bloated and overly sentimental” and rates it two and a half bones.  I don’t think so.

My Amazon review for Joker, titled “THE Joker for Our Time”:  “This super-dark, poignant film ranks for me as “instant classic.” Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is at least the equal anything I’ve seen on film before, making a thoroughly creepy and repulsive character both poignant and sympathetic. In a way, it’s a shame that this movie has the DC label–it would be given more serious attention as a stand-alone film, though it would also have presumably made less money. Many fans will be disappointed; serious adults may be surprised and delighted to find a gem in such poor company.”

The soundtrack I called “Brilliant! Darkest score ever”:  “This music is as dark as the inside of a cow in a coal mine, pitch-perfect for this brilliant film.”

I suppose I shouldn’t be supporting Amazon this way.  I should find another outlet for my reviews, GoodReads, perhaps.

{12/24/20}  Weight 207.6.  Another late-evening binge.

Mild sore throat last night and this morning.

Rotten Tomatoes “consensus” on Interstellar:  “Interstellar represents more of the thrilling, thought-provoking, and visually resplendent filmmaking moviegoers have come to expect from writer-director Christopher Nolan, even if its intellectual reach somewhat exceeds its grasp.”

Depression this morning, perhaps deeper than usual.  I keep typing things, then deleting them.  I want to read, but I want to write, but I want breakfast, but I want to go back to bed, but only if I can sleep, but but but.  That’s how my mind is working this morning.  Where is Seymour Butts when we need him?

Chausson’s Symphony playing this morning diverts me momentarily.  I feel physically low, and maybe that’s the “real explanation” for what I’m feeling.  Perhaps a light breakfast—banana and orange juice.

Isn’t it sad that the first thing I turn to in the morning is entertainment?  In this case, the Chausson and Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir, Are You My Mother?  A Comic Drama.  The book is heavy with Freudian and Jungian psychology, which I feel an urge to call “psychobabble.”  This is a disappointment—indeed, three books I bought this month have all disappointed.

On to Chopin’s Nocturnes, of which I have 1-10.  But I’m quickly thinking, “not soporific enough.”  Switching to “Interlude” by Bernard Herrmann.  I can’t tell which movie it’s from.  I’d thought Vertigo, but now am not sure.  This is something I could put on infinite loop for a while.

My mother repaired my pants with iron-on patches, a memory dredged up by Bechdel’s memoir, a scene showing the same thing.  I wish my mother were still alive and I were with her on this Christmas Eve.  And I were ten again.

On to Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy which I know better as Scottish Fantasia, a piece I knew well from an LP (bought used, marked with soap) and heard perhaps sixty years ago being whistled by a passing stranger.  I was astonished but also envious, that he could whistle so well and I couldn’t whistle at all.  Despite many efforts over the decades, my ability is still very poor.  This I think is my favorite of all violin pieces, in part because it never shrieks.  On the other hand, it rarely rises above the “wallpaper” level.  It’s pleasant, and pleasant is what I want this morning.  Pleasant or melancholy.

{12/25/20}  Weight 207.0 at 7:00 am after a good night’s sleep.

Sometimes, not often, my dreaming takes on the look of a kind of low-grade consciousness or thinking.  This morning, I dreamt of asking N something about how he wanted to “spend the time,” and he said something about “the hot tub.”  I thought for a moment and said that there was no hot tub.  I woke very soon.  This was unlike an ordinary dream for me, which usually would be intensively visual; the only sight I can recall accompanying this dream was of N’s beard, his most distinctive facial feature.

Christmas day.  I had thought about going out and hanging around on Union in the hope of seeing Dalz and giving him a twenty.  Now it occurs to me to invite him over, perhaps to watch a movie or just to hang out and get drunk—which would be done as a charity and not “for the pleasure of his company,” as I shudder to think how that would work out.  I’m not going to do either of these things; generous impulses sometimes need to be “checked with cold counsel” or whatever the quote might be.  I remember having Willie in once—I think Pablo was here also—and it isn’t a fond memory, though we all were civil enough.  I don’t object, in fact, I am glad to be an extremely modest benefactor to Dalz, as I was to Willie before he disappeared, but having him in here would be distinctly uncomfortable and would put me in a role for which I am ill-suited—a kind of mockery of actual good-heartedness.

Given that I write my diary half in the expectation of posting it to my blog, I suppose I should explain who Dalz is.  He is a black man of in his fourth decade, perhaps, emaciated, mumbling, shambling, with scruffy hair and facial hair.  He used to ask me for spare change (or something—his speech is undecipherable, accompanied by genial, smiling expressions) to the point where I now look for him as I walk to the bus stop and give him a five each time I see him (though only once a day).  We’ve been doing this for a few years, though it used to be two bucks I’d give him.

I am rarely asked for money on the street, in part because I’m rarely on the street, walking less than ever these days.  To and from the bus stop is all, in this neighborhood.  It used to be that I would see people with signs hanging around the entrances to the county fairground, which is across the street and just a bit south of where I live, and as I walked to the more southerly of the two bus stops across Union I would sometimes walk up to them and give them cash.  One fellow with cut-off legs I would give a twenty, others somewhat less or nothing, depending on circumstances and familiarity.  These days (meaning this month, actually, since getting out of prison this time) I don’t bother to walk to that more distant stop.  And, of course, I’m deeply in debt now and will be more reluctant to give more than $5.  I carry $7 in my back pocket as a rule, in anticipation of giving it away if asked; but most days, like two out of three, I am not asked.

Text Copyright 2020 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

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