20 August 2005

Whichever Comes First

The frog in the riverbed at the top of the falls was maybe the size of a dime. It looked like someone doodled on its back with felt tip pens.

Back at Doodlebug it was just me and a few teenage girls who work there. At one point a ten year old came in to work on a project for spell. I sang along to Tommy James and the Shondell’s while I put the second and third coat of ceramic glaze paint on Secret’s bowl. The teenage girls seemed to know the words to all the songs that I didn’t. We have committed different things to memory.

Tar and rock roads were laid through Southwest Minneapolis, in the 1970’s, during the recession. At that time it was a blue collar neighborhood. My parents rented farmland from Mrs. Rudder in Eden Prairie in expectation of disaster and the basement was stocked with canned foods when the first news and ripples of economic crisis began. We filled our red wagon with ice and bottles of Coca Cola and mom and I pulled it round to where the workers were laying road and sold them Cokes for a nickel or a dime – I can’t remember which. We waited while they drank so as to get the return on the bottles. Mom laughed while dad tossed mud crusted squash across the kitchen after the harvest. He worshiped her and she was happy. I wonder what happened to them.

Despite everything, there’s not a part of the story I don’t cherish. I wish I could have loved it all more when it was happening. I remember being a very nervous child. Something frightening lived behind the wood panels of the walls. At night, the vacuum cleaner would come alive and make sinister faces at me. When I dared leave the bed and slip downstairs, mom would let me slip my cold feet between her thighs to warm them up (that must have been cold and uncomfortable.) My grandpa was a Pentecostal preacher who wore boleros with scorpions encased in Lucite, big silver and turquoise rings, loud Hawaiian shirts, drove a purple Cadillac and pointed to a scar from an appendix operation and wove tales of being injured by Indians. Grandma canned tomatoes and made strawberry preserves.

In the summer, mom would haul a lawn chair and a cooler to Lake Harriet and I’d stay in the water until the very last minute – crawling along the shoreline and then running across the hot, hot, hot black top foot path to the shade of the concession and just hope she might buy us ice cream or saltwater taffy. We’d all put damp towels on the searing vinyl seats of the Buick Station Wagon – avocado colored I think, or was it mustard? Everything was made of splintering weathered wood painted forest green or white with sun faded red lettering, not quite pink. Grandpa caught fish on big lakes up north and kept them alive in buckets of water outside his garage so we could win the ice fishing contest at Lake Nokomis during the Winter Carnival. My brother sold my sister’s turtle for five dollars at the Aquatennial. Under a full moon snow sparkles like diamonds and the trees have secrets. Before Dutch Elm disease, every street was a canopy of color in the Fall – you couldn’t even see the sky.

These girls in Doodlebug, they don’t know seasons like that. They don’t know poverty or wealth like that. They know it all differently. We have committed different things to memory. They will have memories of Oleander and Naked Ladies blooming in late summer. They’ll talk about what they were doing when the Twin Towers were struck by airplanes the way my parents remember where they were when John Kennedy was shot. And then once these pictures are painted just so, with the right number of coats and we set them to rest… we’ll fire them up and fix them like this for eternity or whenever they break.. whichever comes first.

18 August 2005

Coupling Over Spirits

In addition to my ritual walks with Secret, I went on an amazing bicycle adventure yesterday. While only a mere fifteen mile ride, the terrain likely adds double to that, at least, in terms of difficulty. If words could describe adrenaline, sweat, dirt, wind, water, mountain and whir of bike through the dusty trails I’d no doubt have a better tale to tell. But words fail. Today my legs are wobbly and sore and I’m taking it easy while the muscles knit themselves together again. (I imagine them in pieces like heartbroken strangers coupling over spirits in a tawdry dark bar…)

The absolute physical exhaustion of yesterday was awesome. My mind quiets, my heart beats in smooth steady rhythm – I feel right as rain. And that contentment lingers into today just like the fog that ventured over the coastal mountains and now nestles in my sleepy little town tonight – bringing a crisp cool air (curling twice around the house, yes? And then to sleep?)

17 August 2005

The Lies We Stand On

Now you might think I’m overly obsessed with this kitchen, with this floor – but you’d only think that way if you’ve never been in a major earthquake. What we think is solid, isn’t. Concrete, brick and all we stand on as foundation is like sand in the face of nature. To run my toes through the grass and feel rooted in the earth – it’s pretty to think so. I like the illusion and there’s nothing wrong with that. And I want black and white flooring covering up the dust of dead things that form the carpet that we walk on from which springs life only to decay again and again. I want something more permanently dead beneath my feet and my feat in my kitchen – the center of home life. This is the place from which all nurturing springs and here, of all places, we need the lies to stand on. I want my fucking floor.

15 August 2005

On Principle

Won’t it be crazy when I post that the FLOORS ARE DONE!!!! YAHOOO! I’M ALL MOVED IN!! Yes, that will be crazy, wild and exciting. Too bad they’re not. Too bad I’m not. I won’t belabor this point. There’s been more delays in getting the product (it’s not easy being green.)

There’s a new cyclery in town. Well, it’s been there for a year but I made an effort to stop in for the first time on Saturday – so it’s new to me. I finally broke down after these several years and bought a pair of bike shorts. I promise I won’t wear them without board shorts – on principle.

Speaking of principles. I am struck that we rarely write about principles (perhaps at this age I prefer poetry to heady prose on principles and political conviction?) What are my virtues? Ah… what a tangled web we weave and what a weave of contradictions are my virtues.

My virtues are that I can be kind and that I can be cruel and that mostly I am wise in using my rulers and meting out right proportions of the two. Unless, of course, you think me too kind or you think me too cruel, then there’s either something wrong with me or there’s something wrong with you. So perhaps this isn’t a virtue at all?

My virtues are that I am fiercely independent and don’t compromise on my values. This is all well and fine unless you don’t fit neatly into my spectrum of good, moral and just and then I’m sure you think on me as rigid and a thought fascist. Yet I try to be open, a relativist and listen – still I’ve been given the gift to think, reason and act and I use these gifts.

I am humble. I have an idea of myself that is right sized. I am small in the face of the enormity of the universe yet my size doesn’t hinder my ability to stand up for what I believe in. While I don’t know if I can change the system I accept that I might not be able to and I try anyways. Not trying is choosing a certain kind of death. I actually have beliefs – not a belief in God per se, but a set of articulated values – of judgments if you will, well conceived, I believe, overtime – an ethical framework or lens for evaluating circumstances and informing my actions within them. Though again, I’m flexible.

To tell you that I have beliefs, however, doesn’t tell you what those beliefs are. You’re to take on faith that they’re interesting, good, sound? And then you’re to take on some faith that I act on them accordingly? I believe, for example, that health care should be a right, not a privilege. I believe that science needs democratizing. I believe that we can experience a greater sense of joy every day if we cultivate and strengthen our community. I believe community includes the people who live next door to me, not just people who look like me, dress like me and/or share my values. I believe the people I have the strongest visceral reactions too (positively or negatively) are most like me and I need to pay attention to both so I can strive to see myself more clearly. I believe that EVERYONE of us believes that we’re good people, motivated by good things, doing the best we can – and given the state of things a good many of us are wrong and we are likely part of that good many errant in our thinking on a spectrum of issues at any given time.

I believe that my government is failing its people. I believe that my president has lied. I believe that many if not most politicians are corrupt. I believe the only way to change the government is by getting involved – somehow. I believe that a small group of people can change the world. I believe a single person can change the world. I believe a poet or a playwright can change the world. I believe an artist can change the world. I hope I believe in the vision of the people with the most youth, energy, wisdom and courage to change the world.

I believe that it doesn’t matter if society accepts me if I can love and accept myself. I have come to discover, over time, that I only care if other’s accepts me until I come to accept myself.

Once someone said, “if you want people to take you seriously, you shouldn’t wear your hair like that, dress like that” etc. I am not a straight white man. On some level it doesn’t really matter how I wear my hair, how I dress, what piercings or tattoos I wear on my face and body – I simply do not conform to what the ruling elite takes seriously – straight white men. We must dig deeper. We must be smart, articulate and strategic. We must speak through the overlay of judgments being meted out and demonstrate that we are a force to be reckoned with. If we dress up in suits and conform we’re becoming part of the problem – because some people don’t have the luxury to hide the colors on their skin in order to taken seriously. And some don’t have the economic means to afford the suits that might engender respect among elite wealthy crowds. We must demand that people listen to what people say and judge us on the merits of our arguments and content of our character – and not the color of our skin, our hair or how we dress. And on the same token, we mustn’t be shocked that some people have a hard time doing this – we must help one another and not judge those who have a difficult time seeing past the superficial trappings of this mortal coil. In the same way we wish not to be judged by the way we look, dress, etc., we mustn’t judge people with a disability to look deeper. (But be aware that sometimes we're not taken seriously because we're not saying anything interesting or valuable and it has nothing to do with how we look!)

I believe in love. I believe that love heals. I believe in intimacy. I believe that trust must simply be given and possibly later lost – that’s it’s an impossible thing to simply have to start out earning.

I believe in the mystical origins of the Church (it is said that the church is the energy created whenever a group of people come together in common worship – that this energy created is greater than the sum of the parts.) I believe that when I am with friends who share common beliefs and we celebrate together, something is created that is greater than each of us – it’s almost tangible. You feel this in the pit at punk shows. It’s the tingling in the back of your neck when you witness the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat. On those Friday nights when you’re hanging in the park with friends and you randomly just feel a great sense of kinship, belonging, being part of something – there it is again. Turn a stone, split a log… it is there.

So how do I act in consort with these beliefs? I am an activist and an educator. I sit present and repeat myself to be heard. I keep my eye on the end game – it’s about the goal not always about how we get there. If the devil is in the details then surely it must be true that some kind of salvation or enlightenment rests in them too. I try to gather information and include the concerns of diverse people/communities in my efforts so that others don’t have to come after and fight to change programs so that they better serve their needs. Better that they serve diverse groups of people’s needs from the beginning. I have an open door. I try to cultivate deep, rich and meaningful relationships. I embrace failure. (When I tell myself, or others tell me, “that’s impossible,” my response is, “okay… it’s impossible and I’ll likely fail. Let’s start with that as a given and go ahead and try anyways. Likely the worst we can do is exceed expectations.”) I have sat on the board of a Dance Company. I sit on the board of an international trade/policy organization. I try to buy locally grown organic food. I walk and ride my bike instead of driving, often. I train and walk my dog. I laugh at least once each day.

I strive to see myself objectively.

The most revolutionary, radical and rebellious thing I do is respect and love, to the best of my ability, the people who come into my life – even when I sit in the midst of their judgments.

12 August 2005

Friday Night, Almost

We’ve slept in the new house since Tuesday night (and no the kitchen floors are not done.) I wasn’t accustomed to the new place, the new bed, or my head facing a new direction. Secret was fidgety. I was fidgety. No one slept well. I’d pondered the idea of taking Secret back to the smaller cottage to sleep on the day bed. I stuck it out, however, not without regret. Each night the sleeping has been a little better, a little sounder, a little deeper. We adjust to new awkwardly despite the length of time we’ve waited, wished and craved for it.

Ed woke early, bought the boards for the fence and began nailing. (He’d sunk the posts last weekend.) It had to be done today – and it’s almost done. Everything is in a state of almost being something other than what it is. He left and I began faking my way through it. I did okay (just okay) until I no longer felt I was doing okay. That’s when I stopped. At that point there were only four boards left and we probably need at least ten to finish.

Tonight I lay floating in a kaleidoscope of colors, under the towering redwood trees and a canopy of stars. The neighbors were having a drum circle in their backyard. Normally I would find this somewhat annoying – tonight it was just fine. In fact, it was almost pleasant (there’s that almost again.)

08 August 2005

Ode to Bed

What I’ve been meaning to say was that the beach was beautiful on Friday. The fog burned off about 200 or so yards off shore and while it was sunny, clear and mild on the beach, I spied the fishing boats shroud in a haze of crisp fog further out. Just brilliant.

Saturday we went to the funeral service, burial and reception for Ed’s second cousin (his mother’s cousin.) His mother was close with this family as they retrieved her from the orphanage after her father was killed in the war and her mother couldn’t manage being a single parent working full time. From what I’ve gathered she spent her weekends with her mother and weekdays with relatives after the stint in the orphanage. Any rate, this man was more like an uncle to Ed given his mother’s relationship. An Irish police officer and later a sheriff, the ceremony was all you’d expect with Irish prayer and proverb scattered in among the traditional Catholic Mass, honor guard, bag pipes at the burial site and a whole lot of libations. (He’d never arrested someone for drinking and driving because he didn’t view it as crime. The closest he came, his brother, who was on a drunk driving task force, told the story, was when a neighbor nearly hit his patrol car whilst careening through a red light at an intersection. His fellow officer drove the neighbor’s car home and they handcuffed him to his bed – releasing him after their shift was over.)

A different era. He was a member of the Elk’s Club. The woman who sat next to me at the reception said, “Oh they threw the best parties, the Elks. Bands inside and outside. Once I smoked a cigar at one of those parties. We were drinking and bands were playing and someone passed around a cigar. When we got home my husband said that the cigar was taking things a little too far.” And she laughed (may he rest in peace.) Somehow a more innocent time. A cigar taking things a little too far. Oh for our vices to be so benign.

On our way home we bought a new bed, again paying more then I’d planned or budgeted. (At some point the spending just has to stop, but it feels like it hasn’t even wholly begun.) I’ve had this old bed for some fifteen plus years and while it served me well as the best bed in the world, now that it sags and we roll into the middle it’s startling to think it once deserved that title.

A different era. The lovers that found grace in those sheets - quiet moments, forgetful moments. Ah. I have no sadness in shaking off the past. Sometimes I wish it would disappear with all its trinkets and baubles. Other times I cling to it like a life raft. What is it about ghosts that sit with us more steadfast then our closest living friends? It’s like once you die or fade into the past you become the house guest that won’t leave. That old bed is too crowded anyways.

05 August 2005

We're Leaving For The Beach In An Hour

Yesterday Ms Cassie and I hiked to the second waterfall at Elliot. It’s an amazing trek with spectacular vistas and I just love coming out of the thick dwarf forest and descending on to the valley with the second waterfall. It’s like a moonscape and there are these little oasis’ of waterholes, tadpoles abound in the stream and little baby frogs, smaller then dimes, are kicking about. The wild tigerlilies have stalks and huge green buds that emerge past their bloom - recovering from bursts into brilliant splays of orange.

Secret loves to swim. We’re going to Bolinas today. It’s supposed to be 105 degrees inland – which either makes the coast a perfect idea or a mad disaster. The microclimates in The City are amazing. The temperature can vary greater than 10 degrees from one neighborhood to the next – less than a ten minute walk. The Avenues are nearly always socked in with fog while if there is going to be sun anywhere in The City on a given day it can be found in the Mission. The Mission was about a ten or fifteen minute walk from where I used to live, on Haight Street, which was invariably a cold windtunnel of fog straight off the ocean. You could turn a corner from a side street on to Haight street and just be slammed with a woosh of cold, wet, damp air. Ah.. summer in San Francisco.

Oh wait, I wasn’t here to tell tales of the weather. We’re going to Bolinas today (I’m not driving.) Perfect idea or mad disaster.. right then. The hotter it is inland, the more likely the coast will be cold and foggy. This is why The City is so cold all summer while the Central Valley swelters. So while it’s all well and fine to escape the heat by going to the coast, it’s common to walk out of 105 degree heat onto a 60 degree beach, socked in with fog and a bitter, fridged cold whipping wind. So we pack up as the heat of the day descends and it’s strange to be bringing extra blankets, sweaters and jackets while the back of your neck is being singed and the sun beats cruel, pitiless and relentless. But then we might strike that balance of heat where the fog is somehow kept back off the coast a bit and burns off every time it tries to get near shore. Or there are those days when it’s a battle.. this moment cold and overcast, the next hot sun beating back the sky. It’s very surreal and beautiful and strange.

And we go to this place well known to be one of the feeding grounds of the great white sharks – cool, murky, seal-laden shore waters of the pacific. It’s where we go to play, in these dangerous places.

After the weeding and the whatnot I showered and readied for an event in The City, a Best of the Bay party, honoring the Bay Guardian’s picks for Best of the Bay and Local Heroes and the whatnot. I went as the guest of a Winner (Are you with a winner? The Bay Guardian staff inquired at the reception sign-in desk. I’m not a winner, but I’m with a winner. Story of my life??) Also, Cassie exgirlfriend was a winner too, for the most tawdry stage act, and she was there with her crew, dressed in festive pink and sparkles and more sparkles and more sparkles – very fun. I said hello but didn’t linger. We didn’t stay long.

Back at home I took the Honey Bee to the park and tossed the ball until night fall. The stars were brilliant. Jugglers juggled, teenagers showed off for one another and giggled and shook their tale feathers, children picnicked with their parents – we shared our blanket with a little girl and her mom. And when the world went to sleep we were snoring softly with her.

And today, today is a new day.. and we’re leaving for the beach in an hour.

03 August 2005


Speaking of driving… Did someone mention driving? Well, I just got home from another trek to Elliot – a brilliant morning sojourn to the waterfall. I stole a rock from the riverbed to replace the one Ed stubbed his toe on last night and catapulted into the neighbor’s yard. He was kind of being a dickhead. Sometimes he just doesn’t get it. The riverbed is not filing charges for the theft – the neighbor’s may, however.

I rode the mountain bike up the back side, from Phoenix Lake to Five Corners last night. It’s the first time I’ve made that hill without dismounting and pushing for the last leg or two or three. If I do it a few more times, I’m going to try going up the steep way – though it’s a brutal cruel climb.