Monthly Archives: November 2009

San Francisco Daze: November

Hello all! Last year I published Jan-Sep of “San Francisco Daze” on the Blog. SFD was an (aspirational) daily prose and poetry reaction to life in San Francisco that I write in 2005. I guess I got busy toward the end of last year, because I never got Oct-Dec out. A week or two ago, I finally posted October. here’s November, with December to follow in December….

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November 1

I awake to the visceral horror of the cat scratch on my stomach. Bedroom littered with socks and papers. Empty bottles everywhere. The first morning of the new age. What has God wrought? We shall see, we shall see…

November 2-4

The first few days of freedom from work are too much for me, resulting in no useful scenes of daily life here in San Francisco. No useless ones either, for that matter.

November 5

Rain of the last few days is soaking into my socks through the cracks in my shoes. This tells me two things:
1) It’s time for new shoes.
2) The weather that marked the beginning of these daily snapshots of life in SF is back. I love winter!

November 6

At night, going to the store on Clement Street, rain falling through the sky, caught in the light of the streetlamp, looks like a shower of particles of gold.

November 7

Rainy day
Liquid gray
Monday morning
As I am coffe a’borning
At 7-11
Cute Asian gal buying cigarette heaven
Is asked for her ID
Delighting her and me


November 8

On the ocean side of the city, sun shines through silver ice of clouds, highlighting them liquid gold in the dusk.

November 9

Shafts of gold poured down today through silver clouds as I trudged home for a three hour nap, feeling like I was coming down with something. As long as this rainy weather persists, the metallurgical alchemy of the sky will delight. Achoo!

November 10-12

Of which I have nothing to say, except for parents, thank God for parents. They visited me this three day weekend, and I got untold time to spend with my father. Comforting, given my brothert’s recent passing. That is all. Hopefully you and I all shall all speak again soon.

November 13-15

Not too soon, thanks to the stomach flu. God, this is getting boring, just like a bad online journal.

November 16

The simple beauty of life today was sipping coffee and having a tuna salad in a café on Clement Street while getting back into the swing of daily writing on the NaNoWriMo. BeBopOBombOooh…

November 17

The 3rd day
Of 80 degree weather
In the 2nd half of November
Brought dismay from one man
But a steel blue sky for all

November 18

Aww, the dour looking woman in the seat in front of me on the 38 Geary has a really nice voice. Just another proof that the books, they should not be judged by the covers.

November 19

In the basement of Saint James’ early this afternoon, amid the clutter of a kitchen strewn with pre-school implements and too-short chairs at a too-tall table, two (not quite) strangers went over my finances in detail. I have never felt happier or freer.

November 20

Elephantine white
Massive marble block curved
Halls of Opera

November 21

Writing in my living room as a Monday afternoon gives way to dusk. The 5-CD changer loaded with Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Guns n’ Roses, Megadeath and Metallica. Outside, over the backs of the houses that face 12th Avenue, and the trees of Park Presidio, blue has flared into colors and faded into milky white. The next step will hollow violet, and the eternal black high lit by diamond.

November 22

The buildings of downtown
Silver
White
Reflecting
Jut into afternoon sky
Blue
White
Empty

November 23

What always gets me about returning to Prunedale at night is the supernatural darkness, earth trees and sky all black, RV Park and gas stations and small shopping centers huddled against the blackness.

November 24

A kind of homecoming:

I took a walk
Tonight
Down country roads
In darkness and the smell of manure,
With the distant sound
Of barking dogs and Mexican music
Floating
On cool evening air

November 25

More scenes from the home front:

The morning after rain, chimney of small grayish-brown house sending billows of smoke and steam up against green tree hills.
Pacific Grove theatre on a street that smells green and piney.
Ocean a green black and gray irregular swell glimpsed through gaps in the dunes on the drive home.
Dribbled white of Milky Way spilled across the length of the purple-black sky.

November 26

“This is CalTrain 119 departing San Jose, bound for the greatest city in the world, San Francisco!”— heard over PA from conductor on CalTrain 119, departing San Jose, bound for the greatest city in the world, San Francisco

November 27

Bay so clear today
Mt. Diablo looms behind
Transamerica

November 28

Day spent in rainfall
Pitter-pat on the window
White mist in distance


November 29-30

No record survives of the last two days of November. One can only imagine that some catastrophe of laziness and oversleep consumed them.

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Project Dylan: Blonde on Blonde (1966)



I’ve been (slowly) blogging an album-by album review of my favorite Bob Dylan albums. So far we’ve had Bob Dylan, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, The Times They Are A’ Changin, Another Side of Bob Dylan</em>, and Bringing It All Back Home, and Highway 61 Revisited. Which brings us now to what many regard as the jewel in the crown, Blonde on Blonde.

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Blonde on Blonde is where the rubber hits the road. It’s the third album of the transcendent trio that includes Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited. It decidedly ups the ante on the album that came before it, as each of those two albums did. And it’s the last album before the motorcycle accident that marked a decisive break in both his music and his public person.

So, all that myth and legend aside, how well does it actually stand up? Really freaking well! The 14 tracks here have a lyrical richness and stunning musical diversity that by and large immunizes the whole from sounding dated even after 43 years.

I often think of the opener, “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” as kind of a one-joke novelty that loses its appeal after the shock of “everybody must get stoned” fades, and it’s surely pretty faded by now. That being said, it has a kind of driving stomping rhythm that won me over on this latest listen. This feeling flows into the thick rumbling blues of the next track “Pledging my Time”. “Visions of Johanna” then takes you somewhere entirely beyond, with it’s poetic paean delivered with a world-weary voice and slowly rising tempo of its ringing electric background. Here we the true flowering of an artistic vision, with Dylan adding self-reflection of his own part in the mess and a lovelorn vulnerability to the kind of bitter love song he had long ago mastered.

This song gets inside you and lingers, which could just be a lucky accident, except that it happens again on the next track “One of Us Must Know”. He tries to take himself off the hook by noting that he didn’t mean to do (her?) any harm, and that he was just doing what he was supposed to do, but the underlying melancholy of the song leavens the argument. Similarly, on “I Want You” he’s proud of being put down for not thinking about love, except the line is delivered in the midst of three minutes of yearning wooing of the object of his affection.

And then for something completely different there’s the next two songs… “Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again” is one of several songs on the album that is called surrealist in its streaming imagery. And so it is on one level, but I think it’s plain enough on another as a portrayal of the derangement of being on the overboard train of fame in the mid-60s, a world where after mixing Texas medicine and railroad gin: It strangled up my mind/ An’ now people just get uglier/An’ I have no sense of time Followed by the ultimate reincarnation blues: Here I sit so patiently/ Waiting to find out what price/ You have to pay to get out of/ Going through all these things twice

“Leopard-skin Pill Box Hat” takes us on an equally bizarre romp, accompanied by ringing electric blues. We’re then back to a familiar misogynist and snide Dylan on “Just Like a Woman” and “Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine”, but you have to wonder if both aren’t symbols of a larger disillusionment, foreshadowing the break he was about to take from music. Witness: your long-time curse hurts/ But what’s worse/ Is this pain in here/ I can’t stay in here/ Ain’t it clear that–/ I just can’t fit/ Yes, I believe it’s time for us to quit And: I’m gonna let you pass/ And I’ll go last./ Then time will tell just who fell/ And who’s been left behind/ When you go your way and I go mine

Following this, “Temporary Like Achilles” slows us down and “Absolutely Sweet Marie” speeds us up in territory more obviously surreal and less obviously personal, but both continue a theme of wanting to drop out of a game the protagonist no longer feels like playing. “4th Time Around” then veers into territory where music and vocals almost achingly melancholy and romantic back lyrics that are alternately tongue-in-cheek and vulnerable. As if to shake the mood, “Obviously 5 Believers” launches into rapid blues rock, but this proves to be kind of a ringer, because the album’s finale “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” is the most disarmed and unabashed love song that Dylan had written up to this point. It’s slow saunter and profusion of cowboy and western imagery is also a prequel of the musical and lyrical space Dylan will be in a year and a half later when John Wesley Harding is released.

Whatever the truth or not of the seriousness of the motorcycle accident that sidelined him for this period, if nothing else he’d earned a break. From his eponymous debut in 1962 through Blonde on Blonde, Dylan had released 7 albums in a roughly four-year space, progressing from largely-derivative eager young folkie to massively talented pop-rock icon. To paraphrase Passover, if he had stopped there, it would have been enough. But as we’ll see next, how bountiful that he did not…

Facecation had to get away…

I’ve just finished a one week Facecation. I got the idea (and the term) from my friend Roz, who did her own Facecation recently. I don’t know what her exact motivation was, but in my case, I thought that Facebook and I needed a little time apart to get our relationship back in balance. The form of our relationship was roughly this:

Chris- Checking it first thing in the morning, struggling to keep up with friend’s postings, continually trying to think of witty things to post for my status or in response to others postings, struggling to clear out the constant stream of alerts in my inbox, continually clicking on Facebook throughout the day to refresh a brief feeling of excited contact with the rest of the world, being unable to get to bed at night because I needed to check Facebook one more time in case anything new had happened.

Facebook- Accepting all my attention while otherwise practicing complete disinterest toward me.

You can see what the problem was.

I’m no stranger to compulsive behavior and online addiction, so I could see it too. I also had the feeling that I was increasingly getting cut by the other edge of the double-edged sword that is social networking: it can make you feel connected to a lot of people, but it also prompts shallow and fleeting connections that masquerade as real intimacy. So I decided on a one week break, just to let the dust settle. From midnight Wednesday last week through midnight yesterday, I did not visit Facebook, deleted all e-mail alerts from it unread and even, when I was fast enough to zap them, tried to delete the messages without even looking at their titles.

What can I tell you about that experience? Well, for starters, like most any break from something compulsive, it was pretty much an immediate relief. The withdrawal was fairly light, too. I did have the weird lurching feeling of continually composing status updates in my head about things I saw or felt, and then realizing that if I had thoughts I wanted to express, I had to find a real live person to express them too. That seemed unreasonable! But that went away after a few days, and I had very little of the “what do I do with spare moments?” feeling that I thought I might have. Instead I almost immediately felt more alert and appreciated the free time and free head-space. I also appreciated seeing people at various points throughout my week more, since I couldn’t “cyber-see” them in-between. The other thing I noticed is that, after a day or two, the daily 20+ e-mail alerts I was receiving dwindled down to one or two. When you don’t constantly feed the beast, it doesn’t spontaneously come looking for you too often.

There were a few things I genuinely missed. When I finish reading a book, as I did with a behemoth 515 page tome this past week, I like posting the review. I also use Facebook to pimp my writing, so when I had new things come out here and there, it was a little frustrating to not be able to make use of this practical tool to let people know. And I missed the ability to send quick messages to people following up on things we’d done together over the weekend, which is not profound but is something that online networking lends itself well too. I also found myself with an ongoing strange yearning, when I got a real e-mail from someone, to go to their profile and see their pictures. Maybe not so strange- visual contact is very important to human socializing.

And now that I’m back? I am decidedly ambivalent. It’s nice to “see” everyone again and to have the often convenient tools for staying in touch that Facebook provides. But I liked the peace and quiet, the increased time and energy, and the added impetus to make real contact with people that my break provided me. What I think I’m going to do is turn off all e-mail alerts (except maybe for events and pictures, because events need timely response and pictures are fun!), so that I’ll only see stuff from the site if and when I go to the site. And I’m going to put myself on an every other day regimen for visiting Facebook. Maybe this will reintroduce a little balance into the relationship, and make my contact with it a more deliberate and conscious.

And so I return…

San Francisco Daze: October

For whatever reason, it recently struck me that I’d never gotten around to finishing blog publishing the next installment of San Francisco Daze, a series of (aspirationaly, at least) daily sketches of life in our fair city that I wrote in 2005. I posted September right at the beginning of October 2008, and then no October, November or December. Here is October, and I’ll get out November in a week or two.

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October 1-2

What happened to these three days? Unfortunately, I have all too clear an idea what the answer to that question is. All too clear— this particular form of mass-mayhem has been entirely work related. A week’s worth of twelve-hour days. Desperate attempts to mellow out by having a drink or two in the evening. And then asleep on the bus or rushed in a taxi to work. All to be repeated the next morning…

October 3

Madrone on a Monday, and damn but I should do this every Monday. It’s their “living room”, in which people are encouraged to come out and bring games, art projects, etc. that they can work on together. There’s great music, and the atmosphere is very chill— not unlike hanging out in a friend’s living room. Except with a bartender, and cuter girls.

October 4

Why was the door open? Why was there no light coming from inside the apartment? Did the big bushy black and white cat on the doorstep, sinister pudgy Persian face, have to have its eyes glowing yellow? What was this a harbinger of? By such things is the feeling of the uncanny strongly evoked, even on 11th Avenue in the usually bland and safe Richmond District.

October 5-11

What happened to these seven days? Unfortunately, I have all too clear an idea what the answer to that question is. All too clear— this particular form of mass-mayhem has been entirely work related. A week’s worth of twelve-hour days. Desperate attempts to mellow out by having a drink or two in the evening. And then asleep on the bus or rushed in a taxi to work. All to be repeated the next morning…

October 12

To the Snow White Pigeon I Saw On 11th Avenue While Walking Home From the Bar Tonight

Snow white pigeon
I have never seen a pigeon
As snowy
And white
As you
Were it not for your size
And the distinctive bob of your head
When you walked
I might have thought you a dove
I loved
How you jumped up on the curb
And walked quickly toward me
Was saddened
When you veered over in the direction
Of the apartment instead
But delighted
When you perched on its step
And the girl coming down to get laundry
And I
Exchanged bemused glances
I know
Our love can never be
(the inter-species gap is too wide for that)
But I do hope
That I see you
Again

October 13-15

What happened to these three days? Unfortunately, I have all too clear an idea what the answer to that question is. All too clear— this particular form of mass-mayhem has been entirely work related. A week’s worth of twelve-hour days. Desperate attempts to mellow out by having a drink or two in the evening. And then asleep on the bus or rushed in a taxi to work. All to be repeated the next morning…

October 16

Eleven stops today in the Richmond District’s Open Galleries weekend, bright blue cloudless sky mercilessly transmitting hot sun onto skin and pavement, only respite in the shady side of the street and the disquieting magic of entering strangers’ homes and looking at their art.

October 17-19

What happened to these three days? Unfortunately, I have all too clear an idea what the answer to that question is. All too clear— this particular form of mass-mayhem has been entirely work related. A week’s worth of twelve-hour days. Desperate attempts to mellow out by having a drink or two in the evening. And then asleep on the bus or rushed in a taxi to work. All to be repeated the next morning…

October 20

Weird scenes at the third Tuesday’s at the Academy of Science. Apparently, at their temporary location at 5th and Howard, they have a monthly event in which a full bar, caterer and DJ are set up in the Academy. So, you can cruise around and meet the fish and reptiles and amphibians and see the science exhibits while sipping wine and grooving to Techno. Trippy. And the crowd is mostly well-to-do 20 and 30-somethings. It reminds me of the heyday of the dotcom boom.

October 21

First time in Gaspare’s, despite six years of living in the Richmond District. The Margherita pizza was divine, the Chianti insisted on its purple-reddishness, small wicker flaks hung from the ceiling and the darkness inside the restaurant soothed the soul.

October 22

Crunched coke can, rattling down Market Street, past the US Mint building. Each gust of passing car caught it up and set it rattling a few feet further, even though the road was level. I kept expecting it to get crushed under wheel, but it continued in its merry way. I wished that I had a video camera.

October 23

Land’s End Beach today was foam shooting up over the big offshore rocks and the clattering sound of the smooth rounded rocks as the tide retreated through them.

October 24-30

The last week of my working life is so harried that it leaves very little record. I mean, I certainly may work again. But it will be different from here, I think. Time off for writing here in my lovely city of San Francisco. I will commit to do six months, and then we shall see what’s next.

October 31

While sitting in my parents’ living room
Last night
During weekend visit
Synchronicity
Of sound of
Tapping on the wall
Owl screeching
And train passing in the distance
Tells me
My brother is visiting

November Writing News

I didn’t think enough had happened since the last one for me to put out an update last month. That still may be the case. But the show must go on! Accordingly, here is my November Writing News for your reading enjoyment:

Film– “Deaf, Dumb and Blind Date”, one section of the three-part short film I wrote and produced, “Triptych”, screened at the Victoria Theatre on October 4th. For the upcoming round of Scary Cow, the independent film co-op that I’m a part of, I’ll be directing a film based on a short story I wrote last year, “Ave Maria”. It’s my first time as director, which should be interesting for everyone… While we wait for that, “Deaf, Dumb and Blind Date” isn’t up on the Scary Cow website yet, but you can check out the previous installment of “Triptych” that screened in June, “Geek Wars” (it’s listed as project #33): http://www.scarycow.com/videos/round0008/round008.html

Publication– I’ve cooked up a few things since last time, including a run-down on fall arts events and musings on freedom and responsibility in DIY culture for LEGENDmag: http://legendmag.net/thelegendonline/2009/09/22/independent-arts-high-holy-days/ , http://legendmag.net/thelegendonline/2009/10/20/what-are-we-diying-for/ . I’ve also become a regular contributor to a website named “Song O’ The Day”, you can check out my song reviews so far here: http://www.songotheday.com/?cat=352

Performance– At the beginning of the year I challenged myself to read in public once a month. I won’t quite make that pace, but I have read several times. The latest was something I’ve done before, performing tragic poetry I wrote as a teenager onstage at Mortified (http://www.getmortified.com/ ) on October 23rd and 24th. I’m not sure yet what I’ll get up to in November, but I’ll let you know…

Novel– I’m contemplating revision suggestions I got from a manuscript evaluation I had done by a freelance editor earlier this year. They would mean some major structural overhauls, which I may or may not be up for. While I ponder, you can read the first chapter of my novel, Out in the Neon Night, on my blog: http://chris-west.blogspot.com/2009/02/first-chapter-of-my-novel-in-neon-night.html

Blog– One of the biggest traffic generators on my blog the past month has been a piece I did on the increase in right wing violence in the past year. You can see it here, along with other bloggy doings: http://chris-west.blogspot.com/2009/09/rising-tide-of-right-wing-chris.html

November out, stay tuned for December!