Diary, 12/25/2020 to 1/1/2021

Copyright 2021 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

{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 Mr. D 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 Mr. W 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 Mr. D, as I was to Mr. W 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 Mr. D is.  He is a black man 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.

Wrote the following to serve as a bridge between my arrest on March 4th and the first December entry:

[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.]

{12/26/20}  Weight 206.8 at 5:00 am.

So on Christmas I spent four hours in a philosophical discussion with Z on Twitter.  She could not make her philosophy clear to me, saying that it was difficult to express in English and needing diagrams.  I think she’s just confused.  The discussion did not always go smoothly, in part because towards the end, thoroughly frustrated, I got into a facetious mood which she didn’t understand at first.  I hate when that happens, but she lightened the load of Xmas for me.

Pissing away the morning on Twitter.  Now 12:20 and I need to get bananas (at least) from the store or just eat fruit cups for a while.

Actually I ended up going to Target and spending about $120 on food and miscel­laneous crap.

{12/27/20}  Weight 207.2 at 5:00 am.  I’d rather sleep a couple more hours, but doubt that I’ll be able to.

Meeting N at 10:00 today.  As usual, I’m relying on him to carry the conversational ball.  If R shows up, he’s likely to play his usual bore.

Meanwhile, the country is in serious trouble, both the unemployed and the military, because the Bloatus and the repugliKKKans are playing politics, on top of the botched response to the virus.

No N, some rain.

{12/28/20}  Weight 208.6.  Catastrophe.

I moved my desk and printer (on a separate small table) into the bedroom, allowing me to install nine wooden crates as “bookshelves,” giving me more floor space in the living room and, of course, more shelves for books.  This also allowed me to get all my DVDs out of storage (boxes) onto shelves.  Turns out that I have no DVDs worth watching again, or at least nothing that I want to watch again right now.  Over the last two nights I watched the first two Transformers movies; they both have “moments,” mostly involving things exploding or giant robots fighting, but they also both have very cringeworthy moments and a general lack of coherence or sense.  I may skip movies 3-5 and go right to Bumblebee, the best of the lot per my initial viewings.

This morning I dreamt that my belt had an overlarge hole at the end of the “notches” to allow buckling—I’ve been intending to put another hole in the belt because I’ve been losing weight, apparently the priming for this dream.  How does this fit Freud’s “wish fulfillment” explanation of dreams?  (It doesn’t, but I rejected that theory long ago, while reading his book.)

I finished reading [Alison] Bechdel’s graphic memoir, Are You My Mother, which reminds me a lot of Ellen Forney’s Marbles, though there are also large differences.  On searching, I find that I haven’t previously mentioned Forney, but I’m in no position to offer a review now—it’s all forgotten.  Bechdel’s book, on the whole, really offered few tears or laughter (indeed, no tears), but it held my interest despite a load of psychobabble that didn’t gel or interest me (cause and effect, but which is the cause?).  So, not recommended.

I haven’t done much reading this week because home WiFi and, to a lesser extent, home reorganization.  I’m done plodding through Barry’s Making Comics.  I may come back to it eventually, to the early description of Ivan Brunetti’s technique (p. 39), which is slight and perhaps slightly better than stick figures (though I’m still waiting for the book on stick figures that I ordered).  Or I may come back for the material later in the book that I haven’t read, on story structure and other stuff not directly related to drawing.  On the whole, I’m underwhelmed and kind of outraged by this book and by my rashness in buying it.  I’m also rather dissatisfied with how I’ve reacted to the book, but I have no desire to try to analyze or understand my impatience.

I suppose I’ll continue plodding through Tom Hart’s The Art of the Graphic Memoir, another disappointment in that it offers samples but not much guidance so far.

I was supposed to meet Pablo at Michaels today at 1:30.  At about 1:00 I finished with Target (returning a pepper grinder, don’t ask), and not wanting to hang around in Michaels, standing because there’s no place to sit and anticipating that Pablo would be late as usual, I sat at the bus stop across the street.  At 1:45 or so he calls me—he’s in Michaels!  And I had been preparing a lecture to him about his chronic lateness.  So I ended up the fool this time.  But he helped me carry home on the bus the three wooden crates I needed to finish my living room “bookcase,” making me appreciate his being a friend despite his problems that make (very minor) problems for me.  That is, he eats my food; he’s eligible for food stamps but won’t renew his account due to some phobia or something.

7:45 and listening to KUSC radio via the Internet.  Shall I watch Bumblebee?  It’s sort of “now or never.”  The news programs and such are all messed up because everyone’s on vacation.  Phooey:  all choices seem lame and forced.

{12/29/20}  Weight 208.0 at 5:00 am.

I thoroughly enjoyed Bumblebee last night.  Then I started reading W.V.O. Quine:  Word and Object, understanding almost none of it.  Bertrand Russell’s The Analysis of Matter, which I had tried earlier, seemed even more hopeless.  Very difficult books which I’m pretty sure wouldn’t be much easier this morning, though I still have some hope for the Quine.

The most surprising thing about the Trump presidency—I’m inclined to say the only surprising thing—is that he’s a traitor.  This is so obvious that I’m almost ashamed to leave this here.

My mood is clear from these two Tweets I wrote this morning in response to Tweets about, first, Trump’s indifference to the sufferings of Americans, and second, to bad news about the climate catastrophe:

  • It used to be a joke that “everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it.” Who knew that it was the death knell of civilization? In the actions of Trump I see a mirror to myself.
  • I feel like I’m living in the movie On the Beach. It’s not my own death that I contemplate, but the death of human civilization. It’s hard to keep despair at bay, seeing the indifference or dismissiveness of most of us. Above all is the guilt and the urge to help.

{12/30/20}  Weight 206.6.  Yay.

This morning I’m having severe doubts that I can do 2020:  A Graphic Memoir.  Maybe I don’t have to start my graphic journey with a thousand-mile step, however.  Can I do one page?  Or even one panel?

Well, another day with almost nothing done but Tweets.  I knew that this might happen; I don’t know what to do to change it.

Discussion with Pablo re self-actualization makes me realize that my putative goals of writing (finishing) Kick Me (or A Secular Salvation) and 2020 are probably misbegotten, because I’m unwilling to do actual work on them.  It’s not either black or white, however; I do marginal things, sometimes.  I would be happier to simply abandon both “goals.”  I have somehow gotten away from self-actualization, gotten neurotic about these goals.  But I think I am in no position to decide right now.  I need to rethink.  I think.

{1/1/21}  Weight 207.4.  Up and down, darn it.  Cheetos for lunch.  Still, my weight is down ten pounds since 1/1/20, but up four pounds in a month.

Last night I took a pill for erectile dysfunction—the same kind of blue pill that scared me with a possible (likely) tinnitus side effect.  The result was a good erection and a dry orgasm.  No tinnitus.  I’ve been masturbating a lot since my release from prison, ten times in December.

The thought I expressed to Pablo but failed to record is that Twitter is not simply “entertainment,” it provides news and a kind of social engagement that I probably need.

[My cousin] sent me a Christmas card, but I sent her nothing.  That was wrong of me.  I actually bought a card for $5 from a street seller (two middle-aged women) out of pity or generosity, but seldom thought about sending it.  I just didn’t care enough to be bothered.  But today or tomorrow I’ll be taking the trouble of sending out my report to probation, so it will be easy to add the card and I probably will.

I’ve been rereading the “Introduction” to Rorty’s Consequences of Pragmatism, which I called “Great” when I read it in 2019.  This time I’m finding it difficult and generally unrewarding.

I’m also reading (plodding through) Maslow’s Motivation and Personality.  It starts with two chapters that seemed to me tangential to the subject at hand, general observations on the motivations of scientists.  Chapter 3 begins on the subject proper, and so has been more engaging.

Ye gods, I’m dull this morning.

Twenty million cases of the virus in the U.S. in a year, hitting way above our weight.  Over 346,000 deaths!  “Millions travel over holidays despite warnings from CDC” is the headline this morning.  The Trump mis-administration is “responsible” for most of these numbers.  I put this here because, assuming that I live long enough to reread my diary, I’ll want the context.  Part of the context is the blocking by Mitch McConnell of $2,000 payments to all Americans, demanded by Democrats and Trump, an action that will have serious consequences for large numbers of people, such as homelessness and food insecurity.

January 6th approaches, the date on which the U.S. Congress rules on the outcome of the November election.  Some Republicans (that I call repugliKKKans on Twitter) are promising to challenge Biden’s victory—the final coup attempt, one hopes.  As politics goes, it’s been a memorable (as in Chinese-interesting) year.

Also the most horrible year of my life, on a personal level.  (So it seems now.)  A year without accomplishments?  Pretty much, yeah.  I don’t consider reading an accomplish­ment.  I suppose I should count the weight loss—not trivial.

I’ve had a never-healing wound on my nose for perhaps six months, which was treated with liquid nitrogen at the VA Clinic on 12/23.  Last night the scab fell off without my noticing it, leaving a faint scar.  Four other “cancers” were also treated.  A relief.

During the argument over self-actualization with Pablo, I struggled to define the term when challenged.  I would have expected to be able to rattle off a suitable definition, but I couldn’t.  What I said, hesitantly, did finally satisfy me, but I recognized yet again that I read many books but “remember little.”  When I want to learn things, I can—while in prison I memorized the periodic table and the Presidents with little difficulty.

Another, more manageable project:  a podcast, reviewing the ideas and my experiences with three books:  Lost Connections, The Willpower Instinct, and The Bullet Journal Method.  Music will be provided by my “singing bowl” and perhaps humming!

Sent a DM to Z regarding the three books I sent her (the same as in the previous paragraph):

I’ve been thinking that these three books together offer, or can offer, self-mastery. Self-mastery has been my goal for most of my life, and I’ve never felt close to it until reading these books and applying some of their lessons. Now I’m taking on a new project, one hopefully rather more likely of accomplishment than others I’ve lately abandoned or put on hold. The new project is a podcast on self-mastery.

Wanting to have music for my podcast, I downloaded a “free” app, a “Garage Band” app.  It turned into a nightmare, with a virus, unwanted additional apps, windows and popups that wouldn’t go away, and so on.  It took most of an hour to uninstall the crap from my laptop.  If I want Garage Band, I’ll pay for it.

Speaking of paying for it, I went ahead finally and bought the Yale Shakespeare, used on eBay, for $106.25.  I took the plunge because I wanted to look up a quote in Macbeth and discovered that I didn’t have a copy (except in a text file of all of Shakespeare).  The quote wasn’t important—“I have supped full of horrors”—it was how I thought of leading off my podcast, but I think I’ll stick closely to the subject (if I do it at all).  I’m currently reviewing the books.

On the title page of Lost Connections I had written a quote from Randolph M. Nesse, M.D.:  Good Reasons for Bad Feelings, another “very important book” that I read along with the big three (as I’m going to call them hereinafter).  Reviewing the typed quotes from Nesse in my CQ, I find that I stopped typing at page 57.  The Hari I typed completely, and I think the McGonigal also; not the Carroll, however.

This project could lead to important things, and could even lead to finishing KM as a byproduct.

Listening to the Joker soundtrack; wouldn’t it be wonderful if a true sequel were done, Joker Meets Batman?  Well, I have hopes.  I have fewer hopes for Wonder Woman 1984, which is likely to be a mediocre product despite Gal Gadot’s star power.  Who could have guessed that comic books would end up swallowing Hollywood?

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