12 December 2000

Delete Key

I’m enamored by the delete key, it’s such a happy function. Look, poof, that didn’t exist.

06 December 2000

Intelligent Trash

“What do you mean by intelligence?”... “The possession of the means of coercing things or men”... “Each time he asked this question the other person, no matter who he was, would answer by producing the image of his desires.”

I whisper to you, woo you, sing you sweet poetic melodies and yet you leave me dry and alone. Sleep, I have never been so shunned in my affections and left horridly unrequited. Cold winds blow strong through this narcissistic city of power. From my hotel room window, here at the Park Terrace on Embassy Row in the heart of DC, I watch newspapers dance furiously beneath streetlights. Words, words, words announcing tragedy, fortunes made and broken, the debutante’s coming out and yet under this light and at this hour, it just looks like trash.

On the airplane I conspired about the life I will lead. Amusing myself with the notion of early morning coffee, a heater in my study, time in the middle of the day to paint water color pictures and the idea of buying a plant – a real live plant. The answer to every problem? No, not exactly. But it’s a start – a first step in a new journey down a road that makes sense. Perhaps it leads to paradise.

Perhaps it leads to paradise but the airplane still touched down in DC. It stayed its course where men and women wear long black wool coats and scarves and carry brief cases. There’s nothing mysterious about the airport, the taxi and hotel lobby. Nothing wondrous or delectable about the room service menu or the faux satin chairs by the little round table in the corner or the two full-sized beds with floral print spreads. But there is something slightly delightful about the daily news dancing furiously under the soft glow of the streetlights. I must admit, even though it’s just trash.

What is intelligence? It is the ability to find beauty and meaning in gestures and silences. It overlooks what’s unpalatable to find redemption in the way the boy in the corner of the bar fidgets with his hair or the way the girl at the counter is crossing her ankles. It’s in all those little, real, unconscious gestures that give people away, reveal themselves, despite themselves. It’s seeing the more in the less and setting aside personal judgment in order to see it. It’s surrendering to that beauty and finding a way to sit with it, be with it, soak it all in. Intelligence is feeling the wonder of what far too few people even pay attention to – the nuances of the environment. It isn’t in all of the things you have to say, the facts you can spew off your tongue or from your photographic memory. It’s in the place that you hesitate, touch your head, breathe irregularly or fumble ever so slightly. It’s the way you place your hands on your legs to steady them and keep yourself from floating away. That was smart. That trash was the most intelligent thing I saw all day.

04 December 2000

My Pulse, My Pulse, My Pulse

Feel it. Here. Ah yes. Right there. Yes. Right here. Deeper. Go deeper. Beneath this pale skin, behind my blue eyes. Through to me. As sacred as a prayer. With the intensity of a quivering soldier. There’s a reason why they tap the magazines against their helmets. (For safety, my dear boy.) Kneel with your soul and lean in against my shoulder. Cry with the laughter of just having almost fallen. Catch yourself and my breath.

The world is changing. There’s far less poetry in it. But there is. But there is. It’s my turn. I’m tired of mountainous facts that lead nowhere. Yes, I have ambition. Does it have to make sense for it to make sense? Fuck you then. Fuck you and your words and parts of speech and simple narratives that get you everywhere and empty all at once. I stopped sitting tortured at the base of those glaciers long ago. With so far to walk.

But I don’t mind walking. In fact, I like walking. Go ahead and walk that way, kicking the blooms off of flowers and stomping all your angst into little places. I follow at my own pace and make something of those trampled petals. The world was made for so much more than what you’ve made of it. No one will accuse me of making that same mistake. No one will say of me, “she forgot to live.”

I’ve seen Paris, Moscow and Leningrad before the fall of the Soviet Union and Berlin before the wall came down. I sat on the steps of the temple to Minerva in Assisi and I was not unmoved. I slept in the park behind the bullring in Pamplona during the Festival of St. Fermin – the time when young boys run with the bulls to get favor and closer to God. I lay at midnight under a blanket of stars on a terracotta-tiled roof on Majorca de Palma while the warm winds of Africa blew dust across the Mediterranean sky. I turned twenty-one in the back seat of a rental car in Liverpool.

Even I will admit, even now, that it was only in doing something extraordinary that life became ordinary. Can you go any deeper than that? Even I, on a janitor’s wages, once wrote reams of poetry, fell in love and had my heart broke over and over and over again. Right here. Behind my pale skin, beneath my blue eyes. The spaces between the words we don’t say to one another. The deafening scream of the bathroom tiles. My pulse. My pulse. My pulse.

01 December 2000


Still waters, really still waters, aren’t clear, they’re murky. It’s movement that maintains clarity and I’m so conflicted by the desire to just sit back and rest for a spell. And I ask myself what I hope to accomplish by sitting idly in a garden or staring into a tide pool for a fortnight and then some. What I hope to accomplish is peace and perspective, finding a wellspring that satiates and strengthens. And then what? And then to walk boldly toward destiny as it presents itself. (But destiny, my dear, is always looking you in the eye and whether you believe it or not you’ve always the capacity to face it.)

Destiny, you are not my enemy. You are welcome in my home and at my table. Come, let us break bread and commune, set aside our differences and make peace.

22 November 2000


Squid change colors to blend into their environment. When the surf kicks up the sand, their body becomes translucent, like the color of dust falling through sunlight. When everything settles, they become shadows and light of underwater rocks.

14 September 2000

Firmly Against Them

Max and his daughter Eva picked me up from work at about 5 pm. We whisked through the City in Eva’s new SUV and headed right into tourist central – Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39. Max is a naval engineer and his professional society meeting was this evening. It was compromised of a guided tour of the World War II submarine, Pompanito, complete with Veteran submariner’s providing detailed explanations of life on a submarine and the machinery of the magnificent vessel. Honestly, I didn’t understand half a word of it. Naval architects and marine engineers are interested in esoteric details of the vessel’s operations. I understood neither the questions nor the answers. I liked the salty-dog demeanors of the graying men and I suppose it didn’t much matter what they were saying. Being near them felt comforting.

After the tour we walked from where the submarine is docked on Pier 45 to Swiss Louise, a restaurant on Pier 39. One of the docents provided an address to the society members, tearing as he spoke of the pride and commitment of those who wear the “coveted twin-dolphin insignia.” While again I understood less than half of what he said, he had a warm and inviting smile. I thought he’d make a good Santa Claus. I think some day I’d like to take that guy to lunch.

Max and I get together every month or so. He makes a stellar effort to stay in touch and tracks me down despite my hectic schedule. I’m glad he does this. It keeps me grounded. We’ve been meeting for lunch in the grand ballroom of the Palace Hotel, downtown. It always feels a little tawdry, taking the train downtown and slipping into the side entrance of this upscale hotel at noon. It’s part of a ritual to stay connected. That’s something that’s difficult for me to do.

I became friends with he and his late wife, Anna, a few years before she died.

I had the sense that Max and Anna were a bit anxious around me at first, this tattooed stranger wearing Doc Martins adorned with spikes and an aggressive politic. It didn’t stop them from offering me a ride home or following up with phone calls and pursuing a relationship. A time came when I’d be having dinner at their home in Dublin and strategizing with them on various political initiatives.

I believe that Anna told me things that she didn’t confide easily in other people. In quiet moments over coffee, in her kitchen, she told me that she never liked being a mother. She felt trapped by her children and never embraced motherhood. If she had it to do over again, and saw a different horizon, she’d have done it all differently. She told me that she never felt as alive as she had since becoming an “activist.” She felt that her world was opening up and she had an incredible sense of purpose and joy.

She unfolded before me. It was awesome to be witness to this blossoming. (She went to see Le Miserable and stood up and cheered as the revolutionaries stormed. “Everyone looked at me,” she said, “but I didn’t care.” I wanted to tell her that it was smug intellectuals who lead people to their deaths and there’s no honor in that type of deadly arrogance, but I didn’t want to burst her bubble.) Her new hero, she told me, was Malcolm X. This from a white suburban woman, complete with colonial-style home with a two car garage, a white picket fence and 2.5 children. Malcolm X. Imagine that.

When she lost her hair to chemotherapy, I asked to take off her hat. I touched her bald head. “It’s beautiful, Anna,” I told her, “don’t cover it up.” She shaved the rest of her hair and bought a pair of purple Doc Martins. I was titillated.

She invited me to speak to a group at her church, educating and organizing Evangelicos in the suburbs about pharmaceutical companies, expanded access and FDA regulations. The cancer metastasized and eventually overwhelmed her bones.

She was in a great deal of pain. She asked me to lie in bed with her, to press my body firmly against her back and hold her. She’d always had dreams of soldiers on hillsides, sentries of sorts, who protected her. “The soldiers are gone,” she said, “or rather they’re drunk. They’re laying there drunk and they’re not protecting me any longer.” “Perhaps they’re just resting,” I said. She died not long after.

Max invites me to celebrate Anna’s birthday with his family each year. This year it was a Hornblower Yacht cruise. Eva tells me that we’re going camping in the Grand Canyon next year. It feels like such an honor. I stand humbled in the presence of this family and the way they embrace. I hope that one day I’m really able to recognize my ability to press firmly against them and hold them – the way that Anna let me hold her and in a strange way, the way she continues to hold me.

07 September 2000

It Was Just A Puddle

There’s something very comforting about the predictable expanse of sky in the desert. You see the weather coming and it does. There’s time to prepare if you want to – or not. Clouds drop to meet the earth like a white wash on the horizon and half hour or so later it’s drizzling lightly on your toes. A patch of blue provides a window for the sun to highlight textures of the mountain range and you can predict the small puddles on the porch will be dried up as the weather, invariably, approaches.

On this drizzly Thursday morning God speaks in rumbling distant thunder – a soft low voice speaking of serious things over coffee at the kitchen table before the children get up or in hopes that they won’t hear. There’s business that must be dealt with before the day starts and the work begins and this is our time alone to discuss things.

It’s precisely how I imagined it would be - everyone in my consciousness, some physically closer, some not. Cassie is here, but not here. She’s exactly in the place I envisioned. Her, waking up early and wandering out for a walk in the morning - myself thinking, writing. Her in her own world but very near – me in mine but near. In the dream she would enter and leave, always with excited and engaging thoughts to share.

The morning ambles on – Cassie returns. We read and talk, interrupting one another constantly with “listen to this!” A few paragraphs or recital from her book or the magazine I’m reading leads to a tangent of discourse and eventually fades to quiet again as we refocus until one or the other of us break the silence again.

As the morning passes into midday, the low measured talk with God becomes an argument – voice raised and thunderbolts returned. Lightening is deceptive. Our first instinct of interpretation of things may sometimes be all at once far too complex and simplistic. Lightening doesn’t come from the sky, it’s drawn from the sky by the ground. A force from within the earth beckons the energy in the sky, which comes down to meet it part way. It’s the earth, however, that speaks first.

“There was an exodus of birds from the trees because they didn’t know we were only pretending. The people all looked up and looked pleased, while the birds flew around like the whole world was ending.” – Ani DiFranco

It wasn’t the kind of argument that leaves me feeling in conflict. Maybe that’s merely because I wasn’t taking it seriously enough, wasn’t listening carefully – perhaps if I were I’d believe things weren’t right with the world and there’s a great deal more conflict I have with God that’s needing resolve. Instead, be it delusion or divine clarity, I take it as an inspired oration on the order of things or welcome instruction on watercolor – a simple fact that didn’t go unnoticed or unlearned that lead, ultimately, to my enrichment.

The sun leaks out from time to time from rips in the desert cloud cover. A puddle of water gathered on the plastic lawn furniture forms an organic mirror filled half with sky and half with building. Looking at it long enough I’m left with the impression that it might be a window into another world when in fact it’s merely a small reflection of the one I’m in. One that the dry desert air will likely swallow up before the evening – making it no less than what it was but gone nonetheless.

It’s perhaps what’s all at once right and wrong with the way we look at ourselves. Seeking epiphanies like organic reflecting pools and believing that we’re looking at the “real thing.” When the moment is over and nature has dried up our looking glass, we’re left with a lingering feeling that something large and immutable happened when in fact we were simply knocked off balance because we “paid attention” for a moment. It was just a puddle.

27 June 2000

If You Are Squeamish...

If you are squeamish, don’t prod the beach rubble. –Sappho

12 June 2000

I Hope The Whales Can Forgive Us

You have to let people be right from time to time, it’s their consolation for not being anything else. – Andre Gide, The Immoralist

There are two beached whales on Ocean Beach. It’s not a common site on this particular stretch of the California coast. It made headlines on the 10 o’clock news, mixed with fairly remarkable footage of whales migrating. The woman newscaster’s voice relays the possible causes of the whale’s deaths while a scene of young boys poking objects into and further mutilating the magnificent beasts runs as backdrop. Cut to real time footage of college co-eds, inebriated and stupid, building bonfires near the dead animals.

“Let the dead be dead,” I think.

A few months ago, Cassie and I took an early morning walk on Muir Beach. Past a rocky point was a dead, beached whale. A few people had discovered the animal as we had and had climbed over the rocks to get closer to the spectacle. I did the same, with camera in hand. I’d never seen a whale’s teeth before, so up close and personal, and frankly I was mesmerized, humbled and in awe. I wished I had some sense of its life so that I could quietly honor it with references that carried some weight and meaning for it. I could not. After all, it could have been a “very bad whale,” doing things which left the other whale’s aghast and it’s possible that the day it took its wrong turn and met its demise the other whales might have knowingly thought, “I told you one day he’d get his comeuppance.” But to me, this whale, lying tangled amidst the boulders and breaking waves, looked peaceful and innocent and I was filled with a mournful pause. It’s as though everything cumulated into a shallow breath and the truth of history didn’t matter – just the right then.

I have a peculiar interest in sea animals. As a kid, through a strange series of events, my family would winter in Mexico – Matzatlan, Zihuatineo and finally and most frequently Manzanillo. Us kids were required to take Spanish in school and each became the favorite of our Spanish teacher, Senor Saucedo. At one point I had some fluency, but lost it overtime through lack of use and exposure. When you neglect things, they abandon you.