Falling in Love? My Diary, 1/29 to 2/2/2021

Copyright 2021 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

The Lord of the Rings

{1/29/21}  Weight 208.8 at 6:20 am, a pleasant surprise.

Another pleasant surprise, much more significant:  a call from Nog.  We talked for 38 minutes and will be meeting on Sunday (day after tomorrow), sans Pablo.

{1/30/21}  Weight 208.2 at 7:20 am.

Over the past four days I’ve watched the first two movies (extended versions) of The Lord of the Rings.  What’s notable is that I’ve watched every minute (excluding the closing credits) and enjoyed the experience about as much as I’ve ever enjoyed the DVDs—this is notable because many times in the past I’ve fast forwarded through the Arwen-Aragorn scenes and much of the Gollum scenes.  I still don’t like the Arwen-Aragorn scenes (a total lack of chemistry between the “lovers”), but the Gollum scenes were tolerable and even good.

Added a comment to my Collected Quotations regarding a quote from Nick Chater:  The Mind is Flat:  “Shafir and Tversky argued that when we make choices, we are not ‘expressing’ a pre-existing preference at all; indeed, they would argue that there are no such preferences.  What we are doing instead is improvising—making up our preferences as we go along.”  p. 119.  Yet we make the same choices again and again:  foods to eat, drinks to drink, authors to read, actors and types of movie to prefer.  If these are habits, how does that differ from a preference?

Reread my essay on The Stranger and liked it a lot.  Perhaps I should submit it to a “little magazine” for publication?

{1/31/21}  Weight 208.6 at 7:15 am.

Whenever I’m about to meet with Nog, as this morning, I always worry about not having anything to say.  Yet we always manage to fill four hours and I, at least, find the time all too short.  If I were a younger man, I’d want to take him to bed.  Not that I lust after him, indeed I do not, but it seems that I am in love with him and just can’t get enough of him.  Putting sex on top of that would likely be wonderful, even though his genitals don’t interest me, while kissing him would just feel weird.  I suppose I would learn to enjoy it.  In any case, I haven’t reacted to another man this way since I was twenty.  All of this is almost true.  It’s a romantic fantasy which likely would disappoint.

I took a shower yesterday, first one this month, because Nog.

So I waited for Nog at the Raising Cain’s Chicken Fingers place.  After a while I said aloud, “I’m always the one waiting,” and “I don’t disappoint people like this.”  I was hot and decided to go home, but as I was waiting at the bus stop, he arrived, forty minutes late.  He had stopped to talk with an old friend whom he hadn’t seen for a while, so I forgave him, though I did tell him (calmly) about the things I’d said.  He doesn’t have a watch, however, which makes his faux pas even more forgivable.

We talked for about 2½ hours, at first about the books he had brought for me and I for him, which we had arranged.  I gave him the Doris Encyclopedia of Cindy Crabb (reprinted as Things That Work) and Camus’s Stranger.  He gave me three books, Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo:  The Statues that Walked, about Easter Island; Ralph De La Rosa:  The Monkey is the Messenger:  Meditation & What Your Busy Mind is Trying to Tell You; and Julian Baggini:  How the World Thinks, which I had given or loaned to him before my nine-month stint in prison.  These are all books that I want to read, starting with De La Rosa because he wants to pass it along to S, a young woman I was much interested in after meeting her in 2019 (I think), and of course am still interested in.  It’s about meditation, which is not encouraging, but there are some good signs also.

Nog said something about my wisdom, not the first time he’s mentioned this.  I said something about having done more reading than him, but he had more life experiences—I quickly realized that I was mistaken in this when I mentioned the wife and kid leading to the best eleven years of my life, as well as the maturing effect of having a child.  We’re both into acquiring wisdom, which perhaps would strike most people as preposterous and putting on airs and so on, but I see it as simply the truth and a large part of what brings us together.  Of course, I may be into acquiring wisdom, but I do damned stupid things sometimes.

Nog mentioned that he needs to support his mother and sister; I asked him how he might do that.  He mentioned selling plasma and the possibility of doing the rickshaw job again.  He also talked about receiving $12,000 in the mail, apparently unanticipated; he gave it away to family and friends.  I suggested that he might have bought a pair of shoes.

I talked about “the book I’m writing,” how it has become an accusation and a burden, that I want to “get rid of it,” but also that I “work” on it virtually all the time; I was not specific, but this amounts to seeking material (i.e., reading) and sometimes writing down what I find.  And of course, the writing I do here is grist.

Pablo called around 12:30.  I told him where we were; it’s clear that he was hurt by having been excluded.  This was something Nog and I had discussed and agreed upon during our phone conversation on Friday, so I was not apologetic.  Nog expressed a favorable opinion of Pablo, saying that he appreciated Pablo’s energy.  Pablo arrived forty minutes later and proceeded to tell us about R’s girlfriend problem and other such gossip.  He also found it necessary to talk about the letter I had written to Nog.  I was pretty bored by what he was saying, and I was more or less squeezed out of the conversation, which Pablo mentioned to me afterwards.

Nog said something about wanting us all to read the Tao Te Ching, perhaps in the context of the Dagny’s Bible discussion group; I’m game for this, with some hesitation.  Pablo didn’t respond and I thought hadn’t heard Nog.  Nog also mentioned having wanted a copy of Chuang Tze; I’m not sure if he got one or not, because I suppose I’d want to give him the copy I have but am unlikely ever to read (since I read it once and was bored without mercy).  I also have a copy of Burton Watson’s Basic Writings of Mo Tzu, Hsün Tzu, and Han Fei Tzu, a companion to the Chuang Tze (or Tzu, as Watson has it).  I should give him both of them, because he will get vastly more out of them than I’ll ever be motivated to do.  I should probably give him my I Ching; he might be resistant if I give him too much at one time.  I’m never going to have the time to devote to these writings that they deserve and require.  If I’m going to study something, I’ll stick with Cognitive Neuroscience, etc., and maybe the Tao.  I like owning these books, and in fact I occasionally try to read them; but it never lasts.  I’ve got Rorty, Kaufmann, James, Russell, Quine, and Wittgenstein to work on, too.  Multiple books by each, and others like Horace, Plutarch, Cicero, Juvenal, yada yada, virtually untouched.

Much discussed was the possibility of getting women to attend future meetings, Pablo saying that we needed the “yin energy.”  This will likely most often be L, it seems, but S is also a possibility.  I had a long conversation with L once before, having seen her only the one time—see 3/1/20.

Pablo raised the issue of a podcast that I had talked about weeks ago; I said that I wasn’t ready, but didn’t really say much about it.  He suggested a group podcast, but the idea wasn’t pursued.

After much discussion we agreed to meet at Dagny’s next Sunday (Cane’s has loud outdoor music), but it’s clear that future meetings will sometimes be held at my place.  Nog gets rides from L.  So it looks like we have a Hemlock Club again, and I’m very happy about that.

After watching as much of the last disc of The Lord of the Rings as I wanted to see, which amounted to not much after the end of the “battle of Pelennor Fields,” I started reading the De La Rosa.  The early material was abstract and seemed like vague generalities, but then the author got into his personal story, and I found that interesting enough.  But I’m having trouble relating the concept of “monkey mind” to my own experience.  It seems to me that I used to know exactly what this was; but now, I seem pretty relaxed just about all the time—exceptions being when discussing politics with Pablo, which often gets rather rancorous.

There are times, however, that I wake in the night and begin thinking about something that I need or want to do, or something that won’t “be quiet” even if I use my usual tool of mentally reciting the names of the elements in the periodic table—that is, my mind wanders away from the elements back to whatever is nagging at me.  When this goes on too long I may get out of bed and do something more distracting, usually either reading or watching TV, or possibly writing.  Perhaps that is my “monkey mind”?

My mind these days seems a pretty comfortable place, though of course I have low moods much of the time; on the other hand, I told Nog that I have an almost constant current of rage just below the surface.  This rage is over our culture, or perhaps our politics—whatever makes this country so much less than it should be, so much less than it claims to be, and a cause of so much unnecessary suffering in the world.  I mentioned the quote from James Baldwin about how intelligent young black men are (should be?) in a rage all the time, but I have much less cause.  And I mentioned my loss of a bag of groceries, being choked in prison, and being randomly attacked on the way to Dagny’s.  I told him that these incidents did not lead me to hate anyone—I felt that I knew where these men were coming from, and I sympathized with their anger and desperation, for which I blame society far more than the men.

I said above (not in the group) that I worried about how we would fill four hours with conversation, but now I see that Nog, and later Pablo, both have ample resources.  Perhaps I do as well.

I didn’t take notes during the talk, not thinking of it until too late; but it all seems to be coming back, at least in general—the details are mostly gone.  It would be easy enough to record the talk or let it go to text (though the dictation app shuts itself off unpredictably).

I had a dream this morning.  I was at a park with a couple of friends, sitting on the grass, right on the seashore.  I saw gulls on the waves and said something about wanting to set up a spotting scope.  I went to the sand and saw a large (softball-sized), beautiful sea shell with a hole dug in the sand next to it.  I picked up the shell and discovered that it contained the largest of hermit crabs, which startled and alarmed me.  That’s it.

{2/1/21}  Weight 208.6 at 8:30 am.

“No one will find my story inspirational.  It is not a story of success.  I am still an asshole.  I still speak sharply to friends.”  That’s what I wrote while reading Judith Moore’s Fat Girl, a memoir I described as “A fabulous, irreplaceable book” on 2/24/19.

In a dream this morning, a man is standing in a hot-tub-sized above-ground vat, clear on one side, and the vat is full of wads of paper that come to his waist.  The floor begins sinking, and persons outside the vat are throwing in additional wads, the level rising to the man’s neck.  That’s all.  If I wanted to strain for an interpretation, I could say that sometimes it seems that I am “drowning in paper,” with my various printouts and mail.  In fact, my papers are better organized these days than they’ve ever been, and I have just two small sheaves sitting around me.

Last night I started reading the annotated Walden; this morning I don’t want to take the time for it, having many other books demanding “urgent” reading.  For now, that would be Nog’s book.

The faces of children tug my heartstrings, especially when they show emotion.  When they cry I ache to hug them.  Too bad.

{2/2/21}  Weight 208.6 at 7:00 am.

Lost my macro key assignments again; this time, at least, I understand how it happened, though not why.  When my laptop shuts down because of loss of battery charge, MS Word shuts down, of course.  Then, when I restart Word, the program asks whether I want to save the Normal template; answering “OK” clobbers the key assignments, because these are stored in the template.  I don’t understand why the newly-saved template doesn’t have the key assignments that I use all the time.  I’m still missing a piece of the puzzle, because when I shut down last night, I had been using Word normally, with my keys intact.  Apparently just saving a document doesn’t save the template as well?

Getting “help” on “save template” results in the usual:  no help.  Well, maybe a little.

While I’m griping about MS Word, I should mention that I hate “OneDrive.”  I don’t want two different folders named “Desktop” and two different folders named “Downloads.”

AOC is told to “move on” by the vile repugliKKKans.  AAAGH!  I had to scream at the TV when I heard this on Democracy Now.  I don’t scream at the TV, but words failed me this time.

A nine-year-old girl is handcuffed and pepper sprayed by Rochester police.  This hurt me.  I’m actually in distress.

Yesterday I heard that none of the people who blocked access to COVID vaccinations at Dodger Stadium were arrested.

Maybe I just shouldn’t watch the news any more.  I don’t want my head to explode—which is a colorful thing to say, but is not really good communication.  I told Nog that I have a current of rage just underneath the surface.  I feel no rage toward any particular individual today, just toward the system, but when I said that to Nog, I had in mind the arguments with Pablo.  I should regard him as I regard the sea:  “How many of us can accept people as we accept the sea?” is a quote from Barry Stevens that I am very fond of.  It’s easy to say the words, hard to put into practice.  Perhaps I should set a rule:  every time he gets me into a rage, I have to give him $5.  But I’m going to make this more practical and say $1 until I’m out of this financially desperate two months.

This one is apropos, though not yet a favorite:  “Why should we arrange a ‘civilization’ which is a torture to many and not very good for anybody?”

A tedious trip downtown to mail letters and a package (spent toner cartridge) and to buy bus passes, to Pablo’s for ten minutes to give him his pass, then home, only to recognize that I need to write another letter—an appeal to Medicare to reconsider their nonpayment—and mail it ASAP, like tomorrow.  Tomorrow, however, I can go to the closest post office.

Copyright 2021 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

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