25 Apr 2010, 4:51pm
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what the sidewalk says

(in san francisco)

21 Apr 2010, 9:23pm
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six days

met my aunt theresa and my cousin dash at their house in the mission; found theresa in the sun on her verdant deck watering plants

we went to dinner at a noisy “pan-latin” restaurant with beautiful evening light streaming in through the windows

theresa and i drove across the bay to see elana’s play

waited in the warm evening on her porch until the play began and we followed actors around her house. the pair i followed were played by a woman i know from college and a man i used to know, used to hate, and before that used to live with, and before that used to love (something like that; i admit: that’s an exaggerated simplification for the sake of poetry)

said hi

slept well in theresa’s warm attic

in the morning, met alice and her boyfriend tom at the bart station and we went to the farmer’s market for breakfast and people-watching and cheeses and glimpses of baby goats

alice and i rode the streetcar to golden gate park and climbed trees

and then wandered outer space and rainforests and oceans at the california academy of sciences. the roof is like something out of a dream or a hallucination, but the miracle of it is kept very much out of reach by railings and security cameras

on the way out of the park, prehistoric plants

& jazz music echoing in a buried concrete underpass

then a long line for very tasty ice cream (lavender honey & brown sugar scoops), a bunch of alice’s friends enjoying the sun in dolores park, and a wandering walk back to theresa’s through the mission

in the evening i went to berkeley again; walked from the bart through neighborhoods full of pretty houses and prettier gardens to see the lysistrata project one more time and follow a different pair of actors around elana’s house

after the show, i went out for a drink with my friend from college, my ex the actor, his ex, and a couple of their friends. had fun despite myself. got a little drunk despite myself. my ex is really into gardening these days and we both laughed a lot. & E and i talked about traveling and future possibilities and unexpected transcendent moments

back to the city late and deeply tired

on sunday morning,

theresa made me tea and breakfast and then took me on a walking mural tour of her neighborhood (i have dozens and dozens of photos, from this and other wanders, of beautiful murals in every style; i’ll share them later). also: a fortune-telling storefront art installation

& an incredible park and playground with a giant gaudi-esque mosaic dragon

met elana downtown and we walked to japantown, thick with people, for the cherry blossom festival and parade. ate tasty things from booths with long lines, stood in the sun. the taiko drummers were our favorites… & the kids watching the parade

walked back to the mission to escape the crowd and pick up my things; saw goofiness

& devotion

elana took me to see girlfriend at berkeley rep, where she works. for the show, there is one word: cute! with exclamation mark

walked to her housesitting gig and fell asleep in luxurious bedding, complete with soft warm cat

slept late, met elana for lunch, wandered berkeley with my camera. lovely gardens, and everywhere—in san francisco too—this sweet-smelling vine:

read the snow leopard in a coffeeshop & then walked back with elana; we stopped on a whim at a thai restaurant with a “grand opening!” banner that turned out to be excellent and smiled the rest of the way to her housesit, where we poured glasses of wine and sat in the hot tub in the big backyard and talked away the daylight

watched a completely ridiculous and very funny movie (repo: the genetic opera)

it rained overnight and everything was wet in the morning

but in san francisco it was beautiful and sunny

met bonnie & scott for falafel near their home; we sat on a grassy hill in a park and they gave me directions to the beach

walked a long way on the dunes and then on the beach, picking up interesting stones, watching the birds, squishing my heels into the sand

wandered into golden gate park

and made a tiny cairn from the stones in my pockets, hidden in a tree

walked back out into the streets and realized that behind all of the painted houses there are hidden green backyards i can’t see from the sidewalks; in theresa’s neighborhood, some of them have huge old citrus trees heavy with fruit

met elana in union square

tea & hot chocolate, then a steep walk uphill and down, then a slow, thoughtful walk around the labyrinth at grace cathedral

we went to theater pub, a project run by a friend of elana’s, and watched a play in a bar while sipping pints of beer

crossed under the bay again


came home.

19 Apr 2010, 10:12am
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on clinging

from a book i started a few months ago, forgot about, picked up again before i came here, and have been completely enamored of for the past few days:

I am getting hardened: I walk lighter, stumble less, with more spring in leg and lung, keeping my center of gravity deep in the belly, and letting that center ’see.’ At these times, I am free of vertigo, even in dangerous places; my feet move naturally to firm footholds, and I flow. But sometimes for a day or more, I lose this feel of things, my breath is high up in my chest, and then I cling to the cliff edge as to life itself. And of course it is this clinging that gets people killed: ‘to clutch,’ in ancient Egyptian, ‘to clutch the mountain,’ in Assyrian, were euphemisms that signified ‘to die.’

—peter matthiessen, the snow leopard. a really beautiful book.

i am in the bay area for a few days, learning some things about my past and my future. on my fourth visit since january 2008, this place is starting to feel inevitable.

16 Apr 2010, 8:04am
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butterfly leaves

at the french school last friday, i asked a class of kindergarten kids one at a time to describe to me drawings they had made of radish seedlings that they planted a few weeks before (so that i could transcribe captions for little books they’re making about the process). when they ran out of steam, i would point to parts of the drawings and ask, “qu’est-ce que c’est? qu’est-ce qu’on voit?” (what is that? what do you see?) to get them to identify the leaves, the roots, and so on, in french. when i pointed to the seed leaves he’d drawn, one of the little boys hesitated for a moment and then said, “les feuilles sont comme un papillon” (the leaves are like a butterfly).

(my baby arugula. the butterfly-shaped leaves are the seed leaves!)

my friend k. recently wrote this about seed leaves:

there are leaves on most seedling plants, on the stem toward the beginning of the root, which look different than other sprouting leaves and actually serve a different purpose: their job is to kick-start photosynthesis, get the plant to sprout up and out of the soil toward the sun. once this has taken place, these initial leaves can be buried over in transplantation, as their job is done.
([lesson:] living things develop systems of growth that are then outgrown; it is okay–and perhaps even preferable–to shed them in order to continue forward motion)

another kid had recently learned that the sky is the same thing as the air around us, and spent the whole day telling his classmates, “did you know you can touch the sky? with your whooole body! even the top of your head!”

so: the leaves are like butterflies, and did you know you can touch the sky!?


a.’s band played a rockin’ show on saturday night. you should check them out. here’s that link again: saxon and the satisfactions. they recently recorded a sweet five-song ep; the first run is all gone but they’ll reprint soon! $5!

1 Apr 2010, 6:29pm
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hey there. it is april and today has been beautiful. i walked seven miles or so across town just ’cause.

been hanging out with my brother, who has more or less moved to portland, a lot lately. we are pretty close in age (he’s 14 months younger than me) and when we were young we were really close, but sibling rivalry, different interests, and eventually physical distance kept us apart for a long time (stressed-out phone calls during college in which it was suggested that we run away and join the circus together notwithstanding), until fairly recently. it’s pretty fantastic to have him around. he bought me a month membership at the portland rock gym and we’ve been going climbing a few times a week. climbing is pretty fun, and i know it’s making me stronger. when we first started, i was sort of surprised to discover that i am a little bit afraid of heights. i mean i’d get up there all right, but then i’d be drenched in sweat and things that would be easy closer to the ground were nigh impossible. it has been something really tangible to work on w/r/t courage, and i am getting better. the climbing routes are all numerically rated in terms of difficulty, so it’s easy to see improvement and get that awesome feeling of accomplishment. yesterday i climbed a 5.8 for the first time! (still relatively “easy,” but pretty hard for me.)

plus, i am excited to get my arm strength back. i keep saying that, “get it back,” but i’m not sure really that i have ever been much stronger than i am right now. i just still think of myself as having been stronger before getting hit by a car, and as still being weak from that. which says to me that i still have some work to do w/r/t that, too. sometimes i feel strong enough to start to do that work. more of it. it feels never-ending, and i feel ridiculous for feeling that way, because i am happy and healthy now despite what happened almost two years ago, so why should it still feel so looming and important to me?

have also been chipping away at my master gardener “payback” volunteer hours, weeding and spreading mulch and potting plants at the beautiful public gardens i like to hang out at anyway. workin’ on dreams; i know i can’t make them true if i can’t tell quite what they look like. but the more i do, the more i know, and there is no climax forest (see below).

a. and i celebrated our 2-year anniversary last week. i drew this picture of him a couple weeks ago on the first day of spring, which was BEAUTIFUL, while we were hanging out at laurelhurst park (along with the rest of portland):

we sort of blow my mind, all the time. i know that our struggles and successes, and our care for one another, are nothing new or unusual in the grand scheme of things (and that itself is a pretty amazing and fantastic thing, i think), but our relationship does new and unusual things to me, for sure, and regardless of its future (one big giant question mark), i am really grateful for it.

a few weeks ago we went hiking on the coast with aniss and sarah (my roommate from freshman year of college, recently returned to our city of roses, much to my delight!)—


quotations from things i’ve read in the last month or so:

Barefoot Barry resigned his position from what he called “the Ivory Tower of Babel” shortly thereafter and migrated into the French Quarter. His decision, and his grandstanding, were hardly unique. In the French Quarter, it seemed as if everyone had a gigantic personality. There were exceptions, of course, but every day saw the additive madness of the world surpassing the wits of another to understand, and they surrendered. Not to some enemy foreign or domestic, but rather to the world itself, to life and death, to illusion and confusion, to the blowing of the wind. They surrendered to the Great White Spot, to all the uncertainty, insecurity, and impermanence that it emphasized. They clicked off their teevees with a dismissive cuss, shrugged, shook their heads, and walked away into the wilds of whatever.

But what is whatever? Whatever does it mean? According to Barefoot Barry at one of his many public lectures throughout the French Quarter, “Whatever we wish is what is whatever. Whatever is our final frontier, our shrug against the imperatives of the bossy, the declarations of the boorish, the grumbles of the fretful. Whatever is unimpressed, uninvolved, the supreme dismissal of all conflict, push leads to shrug, don’t you know? Whatever you wanna believe, man, I don’t really give a fuck. It ain’t my trip, and it’s just not that important. Whatever is the proper response to any and all nonsense, but what do we presume to answer by our utter of whatever? Whatever what? What is whatever supposed to mean?

“Hear me now, for this is the wisdom of whatever: Whatever means anything, and exactly that. Anything and whatever indicate the same concept, they are synonymous, they mean the same thing. Do whatever you want. Do anything you want. Anything. Any thing. Limitless possibility. This is the wisdom of whatever, and this is the wisdom you have always known. You can always say whatever. You can always walk away.

“And you can never lose more than you can abandon.”

—from nine kinds of naked, by tony vigorito, my over-the-top ridiculous chaser to oh-so HEAVY infinite jest, courtesy of the zine-and-book-exchange mailbox at 33rd and belmont (i love that thing). i picked it up because i remembered enjoying vigorito’s just a couple of days when i read it a few years ago. his writing is like that of tom robbins, but, uh, less subtle, if you can believe it (and his metaphors are frankly not as good). still, i enjoyed it and it was very different from ij, which i needed.

Together the two classes of specialists [pioneer species and old-forest species] create a complex mosaic of vegetation types across the forest which, by regular tree falls and landslides, is forever changing. If square kilometers of space are mapped over decades of time, the mosaic turns into a riotous kaleidoscope whose patterns come and go and come again. A new marathon is always beginning somewhere in the forest. The percentages of successional vegetation types are consequently more or less in a steady state, from earliest pioneer species through various mixes of pioneer and deep-forest trees to stands of the most mature physiognomy. Walk randomly on any given day for one or two kilometers through the forest, and you will cut through many of these successional stages and sense the diversity sustained by the passage of storms and the fall of forest giants.

—from the diversity of life, by edward o. wilson. there is no such thing as a climax forest.

i loved you on purpose
i was open on purpose
i still crave vulnerability & close talk
& i’m not even sorry bout you bein sorry
you can carry all the guilt & grime ya wanna
just dont give it to me
i cant use another sorry
next time
you should admit
you’re mean/ low-down/ triflin/ & no count straight out
steada bein sorry alla the time
enjoy bein yrself

—from for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf, by ntozake shange.

Next, she thought, “When two people meet and fall in love, there’s a rush of magic. Magic is just naturally present then. We tend to feed on that gratuitous magic without striving to make any more. One day we wake up and find that the magic is gone. We hustle to get it back, but by then it’s usually too late, we’ve used it up. What we have to do is work like hell at making additional magic right from the start. It’s hard work, especially when it seems superfluous or redundant, but if we can remember to do it, we greatly improve our chances of making love stay.”

—from still life with woodpecker, which rivals jitterbug perfume for the title of my favorite tom robbins novel (i have read both of them several times). “who knows how to make love stay?” is one of the central questions of the book, and has been on my mind these days. hard work for sure! but magical too.

I returned to stalking the wild universe.

Final question, if you please. How do I stop being afraid?

“Know that there is no safety anywhere. There never was and there never will be. Stop looking for it. Live with a fierce intent to waste nothing of yourself or life.”

There was one final message.

“Turn fear around. Its other face is excitement.”

—from PiHKAL: a chemical love story, by alexander & ann shulgin. i am really enjoying this book!

“Well, there are often several levels going on at the same time. Right now, on one level, there seems to be a sort of compulsive surveying of human history, images of people from prehistoric times up through the present, creating cities, books, paintings, religions, political systems, wars, making the same damned mistakes, over and over, and every generation asking the same basic questions and having to figure out there own versions of the answers.

“It’s hard not to feel a dreadful despair about the whole picture. I mean, why don’t we get wiser, as a species? Why can’t one generation pass on what it’s learned in such a way as to save its children from falling into the same stupid traps?”

I shrugged, spreading my hands, “Then, on another level, I’m seeing that if the elders of each generation were capable of really instilling chunks of wisdom into their children, they would also be able to instill other things. Along with the good stuff, you’d also get all the misconceptions. prejudices, traditional tribal hatreds—all that sort of thing would be absorbed and perpetuated too—and that would mean no new perspectives, no moving forward at all. If there’s to be growth, evolution, the children have to shape their world differently, taking some of the good and some of the bad from their parents and ancestors, but basically remodeling it, putting their own stamp on it.”

—another one from PiHKAL: a chemical love story.