22 July 2001

Red Rain Barrow

In the face of a turbulent world, riddled with foes, snakes and ladders, I continue the great quest for a home. It’s a journey of mythic proportion. So much depends on a red rain barrow…

There are demons, monster and angels swirling in the crossfire of an enlivened quest for that one fundamental, elemental goal… home. Strange little chariots from pumpkins turned house gnomes and furry creatures that nip at my ankles. The little critter’s teeth gnash and burrow, sting like burrs yet their voices cheer and spur me on. I find myself swatting at them, but pausing from time to time, trying to sort out if they’re an irritant or a blessing. But then perhaps this is simply the fleas in the carpets, that have infested the apartment for years on end despite the no-pet moratorium in place in this fine crumbling villa for well over twenty years. It’s hard to tell.

The side the house is embedded still with large shards of glass from when my building blew up. Sometimes, on windy nights, I’ll hear the tinkling of falling and breaking glass as it loosens with the weather. Some of the shards are easily six inches long and have pierced and lodged into the wood siding of the neighboring building, where they’ve remained for nearly a decade. Perhaps this part of the old house is the part I like the best. The part that wanted so badly to reach beyond its own boundaries and become part of something bigger, leaving bits and pieces of itself in the things around it. It will not be difficult to leave this place.

And what waits for me on some picturesque hillside or dreamy bay? There are a few things I know. I’ll see the fog dripping from someplace else, but it won’t be upon me with its chilling fury. There will be a God damned red wheel barrow, covered with rain for chrissake, to depend on, not the roar and thunder of the diesel busses climbing the hill. If I have to I’ll simply spit on it, if that’s what it takes, and I’ll make the sun glisten through my saliva and cast prisms into unseen places.

I see my life becoming different - comfortably different. The City and all that it has come to represent will fade with my disdain into a beautiful landscape filtered through fog that I will look on with awe and wonder. Sometimes when you’re further away from things they’re more beautiful. Perspective is everything. A rolling hillsides appears almost liquid windswept. Such a different experience from the burrs that get enmeshed in my cotton socks from the thicket up close. The City is quite the same way. Appearing magical on a horizon but so toxic and crumbling while I’m here, in the middle of her, surrounded by her buildings, noise and perpetual exhaust. Home should be where you feel you can’t get near enough.

Okay, okay. I’ll get off the home kick. You’re thinking enough already. Okay. Enough.

18 July 2001

The Undead

Did you know that there are vampires in America? Okay not really vampires, but kids who like to pretend that they’re vampires. They actually suck each other’s blood, ritualistically. I’m all for ritual and defiant teens, but this blood sucking thing is a little over the top. Blood is dirty, I mean really dirty. If you’re compelled to ingest something for the sake of becoming undead, why not eat dirt? It’s cleaner than blood and dead things are often put in dirt. There is a symbolic angle on the whole thing too, life springing from dirt and dead things returning to dirt and spawning new life borne of dead things. One could easily call a potato the undead or the living dead. Tubers. Tubers should be the new rebellion. If you want to be a vampire, eat a potato.

16 July 2001

Home

So commences the arduous task of finding a home. All those tawdry clich├ęs seem to float away, not enough weight to hold them to the ground. Home is where the heart is. Home is wherever I lay my hat. Blah, blah, blah. Home is the place where my bed is, where all my stuff is, where I stack old journals in a bookshelf and dust piles up from time to time. Home isn’t some abstract place of comfort and serenity, it’s a place, preferably on a sloping hill that rises to a beautiful little hovel and falls to a boat dock on the bay or some inviting body of water. I suppose it could be on a park where children play on weekends and dogs run around like pinwheels.

Home has changed over the years. At one point it was a box on the wrong side of (and way too close to) the tracks. The commuter train would thunder by and the walls would shake as the whistle blew and the clanking sounds of the crossing bell would pierce the air on the hour, all night long. The pea-green carpets were terminally stained and the cocaine dealer who lived next door would beat his girlfriend and target practice in the backyard when he wasn’t drinking beer and throwing the empty cans out his front door to an ever-growing pile of aluminum on the lawn.

For a spell it was the back seat of a 1967 Dodge Dart, complete with built-in roommates, torso and full mannequins that would be rearranged at night such that we all could sleep, the largest with her foot out an open window. When it rained there was simply no way to keep the sky out and accommodate all of us comfortably. The trunk was my armoire into which many things fell irretrievable. This did not last long.

Then home was a small room on a windy hill in a house on a caldesac. Later it was in a room on a windy hill surrounded by trees in a Mormon household. Then home was little box in the sky, a dorm room built on prison specs, little single beds that pulled out from a bolster such that the bed could pretend to be a sofa during the day, two to a room.

Then home was a beautiful room in a big Victorian House, filled with college kids and dreams, a big pantry and sweet little fixtures from an era gone by, the wedding date of residents of years ago engraved on a broken pulley that one day opened the door from the top of the steps. The overhead electric rails strung out in front of my street-side window, sparking as the bus’ rabbit ear antennas scrolled over junctions in the line. Watermarks on the ceiling and roaches scurrying across the kitchen floor were just a few of the features of this aging beauty in the heart of the Western Addition. The demise of this fine paradise was the culmination of a summer sublet to a punk band from Wellesley. The once new carpets were beer-stained and haggard, the built-in cabinets filled with months of trips to the recycle center. It never regained it’s charm.

Home became a basement studio sublet in the heart of Pacific Heights, caring for cats who’d drag in mice from the backyard and taunt them, squealing, into the small hours of the morning. The dark subterranean haunt was hidden from the world and marked a moment of going inward. It was all very temporary.

I had a dream about the madwoman in the attack and by serendipity home became a small, very small, one bedroom let on the top floor of an old Victorian. The greatest feature of this miniature living space was a seemingly centuries old stained glass window that withstood earthquakes, fires and explosions to filter the light in colors across the living room floor. When the building exploded nearly a decade back, the sturdy room resisted the momentum and stood unmoved while the plaster and glass shattered throughout the entire building. The window remained unmoved. But not me, I moved a little back in the building to a far less hearty, but slightly more spacious nitch in the world. A nitch we’ve I’ve grown, admittedly, to despise most of the time, but it’s home nonetheless.

I wonder where home will be next. What little place exists for me that will grow as comfortable as a habit? Where will I raise my toes to point toward the ceiling and fall into fitful sleep at the day’s end? On what wall will this photograph rest that inspires me throughout the day and will my neighbors sit for a spell and watch the world go by on our front stoop? Will I occasionally smell aromatic wafture of briquettes in a grill and hear the far away echoes of children playing? One thing is decidedly clear, where home is next doesn’t have the roar of engines up a hill, the sound of sirens throughout the day and the ever present noise of car alarms and mayhem. It’s going to be a quieter place with trees and grass and perhaps water. I simply cannot continue to live where the only place of serenity is a place I cultivate on the inside.

12 July 2001

Condemned

Well. Wouldn’t it just figure. Inadvertently, likely due to the previous post about organ donation, and the note to my organ donor recipient, I put too much vacancy karma out into the world and my landlord somehow capped into that energy source. Yesterday morning he announced he’s evicting me. Yes, they’ve come for me. Another victim of the great San Francisco gentrification project. Legally he has no grounds or cause (and I know he knows it), I’ve gone from most-favored-tenant-status to undesirable as a consequence of being a long-time good tenant living under the protections of rent control during the dot.com invasion. I suppose I’d be more miffed about it if he weren’t such a slumlord. Besides, I can’t stomach thinking about myself as a victim, it’s just not in my DNA.

Within hours of the news I already felt the pressures from the tenant’s rights advocates to oppose the imposition on principal. People have to fight back. You have to do it for the people. You can’t let “The Man” get away with this. They are all, of course, absolutely right. I’m not exactly sure who really wins by fighting this one on principal, however. It’s not as clear as some might think, although the Soup might disagree. Sure, technically, I would probably win, but really, win what?

10 July 2001

Take These Eyes

I think we should all become organ donors. Sure, we might not die for ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, etc years from now. This isn’t one of those areas where we can make a difference in our lifetime. This is one of those ways that we can make a difference when we’re dead. We could write little notes to our potential organ recipients.

Dear recipient:

I hope you like my eyes. I’ve been told that they’re a lovely shade of blue. I used them quite a great deal. When you close them at night, you’re going to see colorful geometric shapes behind your eyelids that turn into magnificent pictures. Don’t be startled. It happened to me all the time. You get used to it and you’ll grow to really like it.

I imagine that right now I already miss them, but I’m likely in a place of transition and I’m learning to let things like eyes go. They belong to you now, I understand. They really like flowers, up close, and looking into tide pools for hours on end. You’ll probably do things with them that I’ve never done, take them places that I’ve never been with them. I know this will make them happy. I can tell you that they’ve always wanted to see the earth from far away, like from a spaceship or the moon. If you can do that for them, well, it would be great.

If you can do me a favor, however… They’ve spent a great deal of time being used for work, and right now I think they really deserve to play. It’s something I never found enough time for and I regret it. I feel like I owe them this advocacy, that you use them for indulging the splendor. They are a window to your soul and there’s none of me left in them. It’s a clear shot to you now. Please make the view as beautiful as possible for their second time around.

Best of Luck.

-Zuzu

08 July 2001

Joyful Girl

I do it for the joy it brings, because I am a joyful girl. - Ani DiFranco

Drunk Co-eds live next door and have a propensity to wage battle with the gate that the landlord has put up to protect the garbage and recycle bins from pillaging City dwellers. I’ll hear screams from the gate being conquered and holler out my window to remind the Co-eds that they’re welcome to use my key anytime. They’ll stumble up the stairs, weaving serpentine and bouncing off the banister and stand before me happy and glassy-eyed, slurring that they’ll return the key shortly. A few moments later, predictably, they’ll present themselves on my doorstep with key in hand, breathing heavy with a bit of sweat glistening on their upper lip and brow, to explain how they’d locked themselves out, they’d lost their key or some other crisis, adventurous tales of climbing the fire escape, squeezing through partially opened windows, a story that grows in fury with each passing word.

They depart grateful and beaming. I fancy myself an icon of salvation and redemption in that hazy moment – the benevolent benefactor. I savor the notion that it’s entirely possible that one or the other of the Drunk Co-eds take a moment of pause and think to themselves, wow, she’s really got it together. Part of me anxiously wishes that they’d say it out just so I can tell someone. Hey. I’ll take it where I can get it.

Yesterday I went hiking the Steep Ravine trail on Mount Tamalpias. It feels like forever since I’ve trekked those paths and being among the wet mossy green towering redwoods was very sublime. Above the fog line it feels like I’m walking through heaven and I can look through the clouds at the ocean below. I brought my digital camera along such that if the day turned out to be a fateful day when I encountered another Mountain Lion I could take a picture. When the Park Ranger raised that skeptical eyebrow at me, when he pulled his we’ve-never-seen-a-Mountain-Lion-in-this-area-but-people-like-you-see-them-all-the-time attitude while I filled out my Mountain Lion sighting report I could whip out the proof. I fantasized about being mauled by the beastly creature and showing the ranger tattered and bloody photos of the cat gnawing on my arm. Ah! I’d like to see what he writes down about witness credibility on that stupid form after I leave this time!

Alas, no Mountain Lion. But I did see a Banana Slug. For all I know it was a rare and dangerous poisonous and carnivorous Banana Slug. It’s possible. After all, Lawyer-babe was afraid of it. Who’s to say it wasn’t a deadly Banana Slug? I could have died! Excuse me Mr. Know-it-all Park Ranger man, I’d like to fill out the Banana Slug sighting report. I admit that I feel shunned and dismissed that there is no Banana Slug sighting form. One day the world will rise to my expectations.

Cassie and I went to see the lovely and talented Ani DiFranco at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley on Friday night. Ms. DiFranco is going through her Chia Pet phase and is wearing her hair tied up like a little troll doll. It’s fabulous. Anyway, there was all this girl energy rising from the center stage audience and I kept imagining someone letting the lion’s loose in the pit. Cassie said, it’s Greek not Roman. And I said, and it’s a theatre not a coliseum but it could happen. She contends that couldn’t happen and that by the way she doesn’t like hippy chicks, she likes earth girls, and how the way I say it makes it sounds like a bad thing so if I must categorize her tastes at the very least I have to say intelligent earth girls and I can’t laugh when I say it and how I have to say it like it’s a good thing. Rules schmules. Earth girls, earth girls, earth girls.

At the concert I sat next to a Catwoman with mousy brown hair. Not Cassie (who doesn’t have mousy brown hair at all), but the woman on my other side. The mousy-haired Catwoman batted the air with an open palm (not at all in time or synch with the music), like a cat trying to catch a fly (that wiggled and jiggled and giggled inside her). When she was excited she’d stand up and pull the hood of her sweatshirt off her head and flail around in jerky seizing motions while she batted the air with her open cat palm. It was frightening. The first time it happened, I was startled and feared she’d started to seize into a diabetic coma. I demanded that Cassie retrieve the apricot oatmeal bars from her satchel and shoved the bar under Catwoman’s tongue and yelled for orange juice. “Chew woman, chew!” Catwoman’s date looked on in utter horror and ran looking for security. It was an honest mistake. It could have happened to anyone. Under any other circumstances I would be a hero for saving her life and yes, forchrisake, I’m sorry. So we all made nice but Catwoman and her date gave me sideways glances the rest of the evening – which I thought was totally uncalled for.

01 July 2001

Strategic Planning

Power is the ability to set the agenda, to move the agenda and to stop the agenda. It has nothing to do with titles, positions or pay scales. Power is a choice and with it comes responsibility and repercussions. If someone is willing to take responsibility and live with the consequences, they wield a great deal of power regardless of who they are. It’s just that most people are wholly unwilling to sit with the consequences, which are rarely, if ever, pleasing.