11 May 2002

The Origin of Love

I wonder how many people have actually read Plato’s Symposium.

The last time I saw you, we had just split in two. You was looking at me. I was looking at you. You had a look so familiar, I could not recognize. You had blood on your face I had blood in my eyes. - Hedwig (and the Angry Inch)

Lowering myself off the back of the boat into the deep blue waters I had resolve to just face whatever it was I had to face. The cold made me catch my breath, draw her into me with reflexive conviction – as though my body were saying, one last time. And in she came, doing nature’s bidding with pure abandon. Once in, there was little point or thought about going back. Maybe just a moment of hesitation. I looked at Ed, he looked at me, and we laughed then situated our masks and bit down on the mouth pieces and alone, together, one last glance and smile, we laid our body’s prostate and peered into her soul.

It was the most amazing moment. It was like going home. And home is a hard place to describe, as much if not more of a feeling as it is a place. We laid adrift and stunned – something beyond awestruck, looking down at the reef shelf below us, hundreds, no millions, of brilliant coral as backdrop to millions of the most amazing fish of every color and variation that I could possibly imagine. And I felt my heart skip a beat as I saw what we were heading into -the edge of the reef - dropping down perhaps a hundred feet or more – not into darkness, but into depth. Again I hesitated as we moved toward the edge and then suspended over a huge underwater canyon. At varying layers of depth larger fish lumbered about as next to us in this vast expanse beautiful fish of indigo and emerald swam with us, not below us, through the pristine clear waters. Across this great divide was another reef shelf where a sea turtle glided peaceably, like a bird around us. In every direction there was something. As far as the eye could see, this was an endless feast.

They called this place the Super Highway. I have never seen anything like this before in my life, didn’t know such a place could exist. I’d read books about these places, had heard that the most amazing underwater places on earth were off the coast of Niihau and now I’ve seen and nothing has come even close to describing it. I feel somehow forever changed.

Dumbstruck, afterwards, Ed and I looked at each other. That was amazing, he’d say with a complicit understanding of the frailty of words. I’ve never seen anything so spectacular in my life, I’d say like a fact. We grasped at someway to speak it, but could not. It was holy – sacred.

I’ve been to the Caribbean and was rather nonplussed despite the brilliance of random triggerfish around a sad lump of reef off the coast of Saint John’s. I was much more impressed with the amazing caterpillar of a rather drab moth in the rainforest there.

The shores off Miami coastal waters divulged rather dull sea life and a gaggle of piranhas that I could have lived my life without encountering. I’m not ashamed to admit that the restaurant I went to, in the hotel with the infinity pool, curtains of fabric, two stories tall, wafting in gentle breezes embracing the pool area and a life-sized chessboard was more titillating then the subterranean spectacles I saw there.

In cities across Europe while other young twenty-something’s were chasing beer halls and adventures, I was chasing aquariums and flea markets with my backpack in tow. While rather unkempt and not well attended, in all regards, the aquarium in Barcelona was strangely among my favorites (although the Baltimore aquarium is certainly something to behold). But perhaps it was just that it was in Barcelona – among the most beautiful cities in the world with its magical Rambles, Miro mosaics tiled into the very streets where one walks and melting architecture.

In the great halls of the Hermitage in what was Leningrad, the place they now, again call Saint Petersburg, there are divine works by human hand, in the Metropolitan or MOMA in New York, in the museums of Amsterdam, Madrid, Berlin, Paris, London. I’ve been to all of these places and been witness to their treasures. But nothing, absolutely nothing, even begins to compare with what I saw off the coast of Niihau. It was organic and alive and mutable – a metropolis of color, species – a living art untouched and unspoiled. There was a pain that ripped down to the very heart of me, a deep soulful pain of finally coming into contact with that which makes one whole.

10 May 2002

Avacado Reprieve

Fantasy: I see some gluttonous sunburned white man wearing a straw hat and sunglasses, smoking a cigar with his young secretary, bleached blond in a Hawaiian print dress, neck adorned with lei’s, a broad brimmed hat and stylish sunglasses. An avocado rolls out from under the driver’s seat and rests neatly beneath the brake peddle. When he comes too quickly to a stop, loud Hawaiian music playing on the CD player (a little something he picked up at a gas station outside of Lihue), he feels a smush as he hits the pedal. What’s with the God Damned Avocado’s?!?!? He yells. She tenses up and purses her cherry-red lips.

We picked up a new rental car. For just a few dollars a day extra we got a snappy little convertible – vroom, vroom. We drove through Waimea Canyon all the way to Kalalau Lookout. I took pictures of the canyon and the Valley of the Lost Tribe along the Na Pali coast. There were roosters everywhere, but I don’t think my pictures of them are going to be that stellar. I think I’ll have a lot of blurry amber and blue feather with a chicken foot leaving the scene. I chased one around the parking lot for about a half hour at the Kalalau Lookout. Ed nearly wet himself laughing. I do not run like a rooster.

09 May 2002


I imagine that looking at the world from outer space it appears to change little from minute to minute. I imagine that you could look at this brilliant blue and green sphere for a good long time and like looking at a marble it wouldn’t appear to change much over the course of say an hour or a day with the exception of the angle of the light (and maybe the patterns of the clouds).

And then we zoom in on this little beach, with its relentless rolling waves and wind. Every time a wave washes in it displaces a little sand, carries something in and something out with it. All and all over the course of a typical hour, while there is a million little changes going on, they’re not tremendously obvious albeit perceptible to anyone paying attention. Sure the beach changes quite dramatically over the seasons. In winters the heavy surf carries the sand out of the tide pools and deepens them. In the spring a river cuts the beach in two and brackish water is home to a bounty of little fish. The longer one looks at this beach, truly the more changes one is apt to see – from the more obvious waxing and waning tides to the more sublime new set of delicate prints left from a crab scuttling across the softer sands. The closer one looks at the details, the more changes are apparently going on.

Put the magnifying glass on a higher resolution and narrow the scope to simply this little tide pool. Nearly every time the water washes in and out the entire ecosystem of the pool appears to change. New life brought in, residents who’d perhaps been there awhile or maybe even just taken hold carried away. Perhaps the only truly permanent fixtures being the lava rocks that bank it and the sea slugs that lay a little more solid for their weight. From the perspective of the tide pool the world is in constant movement from chaos to short-lived order to chaos again. Sometimes, at low tide, there is a protracted period of calm. But even peacetime carries with it it’s own set of threats and upsets. From the perspective of the tide pool, change and movement is incredibly obvious. Turmoil is the natural order of things.

Earth is such a pretty word (I say it in my head and under my breath – air-tha’). I think of all the names men might have given this planet and Earth is a perfectly fine choice, but I don’t think it would have been mine. And while I think about such lofty things as naming the planet, I’m really most thrilled to notice today that my toenails have grown back (a trouble likely due to poor-fitting hiking boots.) Because my toenails, why those are part of the tide pool that is me. My beliefs, those would be something of the lava rock that banks it. Ed, Cassie and a host of others, they would likely be my sea cucumbers. (The funny thing is that when you poke at a sea cucumber they dispel everything from their stomachs. Heh.) Secret Agent Dog, maybe she’s something like a barnacle, sticking to my beliefs.

08 May 2002


We found another avocado on the floor of the rental car today. It seems that every time we go out another avocado shows up on the floor. What’s with this car and avocados? Ed commented. I assumed it was a rhetorical question.

07 May 2002


Ed lays soundly asleep beneath a drapery of mosquito netting, his head at the foot of a brilliant stained glass pictorial of a Polynesian fishing village. The wind is warm and forgiving.

For some reason a pull quote on the front page of a Sunday Magazine section of an old San Francisco Chronicle keeps popping into my head. I did bad things for love. That was Vietnam. I did bad things because of love. That was Kate. I could be misquoting it a little, it was something like that. The words, when I read them, felt so clean, simple, easy, liberating and full of redemption. They didn’t ask for anything. They didn’t take anything back. They felt infinitely enough. Of course words alone are not enough. There had to have been a huge, painful and creative process that proceeded those words, like the perfect sentence finally and yet never arrived upon in Camus’ The Plague. And there had to be an equally huge, though infinitely less painful and extremely patient process that followed those words. But to arrive even there, at those few short sentences – that seemed to me to be the dancer’s toes.

I have never been the smart one. When I was a kid I was merely the youngest one or the last one. Somehow I knew I was incredibly average and with that came to believe that average had it’s advantages – there are tremendously few expectations.

I was, in fact, a grand last mistake. I don’t know how I know this. It doesn’t really seem like the kind of information that my mother would divulge to me, but maybe she did. Or maybe I’ve constructed it all - made it up. Maybe this wasn’t the way it was at all. My mother, discovering she was pregnant with me, was livid, not prepared for or feeling that she had the capacity to deal with another baby – having already had two too close together. An argument ensued between her and my father, “how could you do this to me!?!?” He too knew he couldn’t afford another mouth to feed. It was a painful and tragic moment for both of them. I picture him going out drinking with his buddies or maybe pondering the levity of what was happening in conflicted solitude – coming to his conclusions with great unease. He approaches her, shaky and lacking confidence, he’s learned of a doctor who deals with these sorts of problems. She wells with tears, fear and resolve, “you’re not going to kill my baby!!!” And my birth was the catalyst to the final deflowering of his manhood and her final stand on the subject. Either I was given a few objective facts and embellished them in my imagination, but I feel this history like I was actually there, observing the events unfold, watching it like a little movie.

Strangely I feel an incredibly deep understanding of the emotions motivating each of them. I feel like it wasn’t actually them speaking to each other, but that it was me speaking through them, using them as catalysts for my own debate about coming into being. I have this sense that more than once during their discussions they felt like they didn’t know who they were or where their words were coming from – but that they’d shake off some uneasy feeling and proceed.

Being someone’s grand last mistake is very liberating. What could I possibly do that could be more disappointing than being conceived and born? Most people spend their entire lifetimes in fear of disappointing their parents - books, poems and empires have been built on this fear, a constant struggle for approval. The way I look at it, I got that out of the way early and found that it was not only bearable, it wasn’t really that big of deal – the cost just wasn’t that high, ultimately. And I’m left with the distinct impression that my life was extremely deliberate despite it all. Certainly there was and will be many more grand last mistakes to come for both of them – I’m just talking about their grand last mistake that lead to me.

So I digress. I was never the smart one. I never have been nor will I ever be the smart one. My sister was the smart one. Thus she carried the responsibility of using her intelligence and demonstrating to everyone what kind of success is gleaned by mental acuity. My oldest sister, she was the pretty one and the first born, which bestows upon her a special magic and responsibility of fulfilling all the destinies and dreams of my parents. My brother, he was the only boy, which carries with it its own set of mythical charms and responsibilities. I was the youngest one or the last one which merely carries with it the responsibility of writing the last chapter, or maybe simply the last two words.

I too cling to my birthright and stand ready and poised with pen in hand.

06 May 2002


In the art gallery I giggled over a series of fabulous paintings by a man named Jonas Somebody. A parrot eating a plate of spaghetti, a lion with a cockatoo pull at his whiskers, a lemon with a nail in it. The gallery clerk was more than excited to talk to me about his paintings and showed me how his style was evolving to seascapes. I whispered to her sideways that she should inform the artist he should stick with the funny stuff. She told me in that same sideways hushed way that the artist was her husband. How terribly embarrassing.

02 May 2002

Proverbs and Tales

Looking. Finding words, from way down here, deep in the belly of the soul. Spitting up once in carbon, graphite, now ones and zeros, flickering light and darkness. Thanking angels for language, which is never enough.

Suspended above an ocean, sometimes dozing, sometimes reading, an ocean of what? A seascape of dancing spinner dolphins and murky depths where old creatures live or none at all. A landscape spangled with humanity ruining rivers and trees where they congregate. Perhaps their fear of being alone is that much greater than their fear of killing things. Living in that deep, cold isolation, feeding on the refuse and remains of the creatures of the light sounds all at once so distasteful and essential. I travel toward the sun, toward the most remote place on earth, above it all, sometimes dozing, sometimes reading, mindless mostly.

I touch down.

I think we draw pictures with our lives. I think it’s important to remember that we all deceive ourselves into believing we’re benevolent creatures. We do bad things and we tell ourselves we’re justified, no one notices, how somehow it’s okay, somehow this doesn’t make us unkind or how it’s not a contradiction, or that it’s human nature, or that it’s our nature. All too often we veil our cruelty in love or wisdom. I can’t help but believe this is wrong. I can’t help but feel we’d provide at least palliative relief from most of our ills by proceeding on the notion that we need to apologize, that every moment we’ve got something to atone for and something to forgive. If everyone lived his or her life in the axle of humility we’d be that much better off. Sure, it’s not the answer, but it’s an answer – or at least a jumping off point.

What I’m thinking is that we need to deconstruct our successes and failures. We’ve been given this reflective capacity and we need to use it. Resting on laurels is a hollow retreat from living. Becoming moribund at that thought of our shortcomings is an equally empty venture. I guess especially in the context of our society, being recognized for an achievement is suspect when the social mores and values are so ailing and dubious. If we could simply reinvent this stuff and take some responsibility for cultivating community as opposed to social enclaves maybe we could really celebrate achievement in a new context. It seems to me, in order to do this all right, all roads lead to anarchy.

I only recently heard someone explain the difference between community and social enclaves. Sister Somebody, a nun who is an ethicist, I don’t remember her name off the top, explained that mostly we live in social enclaves, groupings of people who come together because they share a common interest. So I interpret this to mean people at the bar who hang out together, folks who meet in the context of a sporting event, sewing circles, etc. Community, on the other hand, is people who share common values, morals, ethics, etc. The distinction seems very important to me and one that has been all but wiped away from our common understanding and dialogs about community.

What this tells me is that in order to take any responsibility for cultivating or participating in community, first we have to define and articulate our beliefs, values, morals, ethics, etc. I think back on my education and I just don’t recall any framework for doing this. Even organized religion, which is maybe the closest thing that exists for organized schooling in this regard, outside of ethics majors, etc., merely dictates and strives to instill belief systems rather than teaching us the logic for defining our own paths. What really do we have other than a handful of proverbs and tales?

01 May 2002


If we can recognize that change and uncertainty are basic principles, we can greet the future and the transformation we are undergoing with the understanding that we do not know enough to be pessimistic. - Hazel Henderson