Category Archives: San Francisco Daze

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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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

San Francisco Daze: September

Here’s 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. This one is actually sets off in Salinas, since I was there for my brother’s funeral. Hard to believe that was three years ago. It both seems like a numb million years ago and a piercing just yesterday. *************************************************

September 1

Mortuary in Salinas. Wood panels. Felt. Old furniture. Subdued lighting. Everything designed to keep hysterical people controlled and calmed. It’s both comforting and stifling. I depart in the backseat of my dad’s truck with a golden plastic casket on my lap. Inside are my brother’s ashes, which they transferred into the box, along with an inscribed Bible from dad and a note from me, before they sealed it. This is all such strange business.

September 2

We buried Josh
this liquid gray foggy morning
at the small cemetery in Moss Landing.
The minister from my Mom’s church
sang Amazing Grace
as a striped seabird squawked and alighted nearby.
A small black and white cat
watched
from the weeds of the windswept field
just one dune down
from the ocean.

September 3-5

Nothing but foggy day naps with cats.

September 6

Clement Street, between 11th & 12th
Police motorcycle, lights flashing blue-white-red
Parked next to Linen Outlet
12th Avenue, between Clement & Geary
Motorcycle cop, big and tough in black leather
Pulls over little gray Japanese car
Geary Avenue, corner with 12th
Two police bikes have pulled over two cars
Another hums up the street past me
Policeman suspiciously eyeing the green Perrier bottle
I drink from a brown paper bag
11th Avenue, just before it crosses Geary
Three police motorcycles pull up to the corner
Geary, on the bus now, passing 10th Avenue
Police bike, lights blazing, roars past us
Why do I fear this symmetry?

September 7

The square green park
between Jackson & Front Streets
was full of birds
Unseen squawks, chirps, twitters
all seethed from the dark green spaces
in the trees
A sea of sound
washed out
my thoughts of my brother
and brought me back to life
Which insists on going on
Brazenly
Urgently
Loudly
No matter how unwelcome it is

September 8

Whoever did the clouds today really outdid themselves. There were layers on liquid gray layers. Big puffy white cauliflower. Brooding gray that seemed ready to let loose with some serious rain. Yellow orange highlights on fast moving cumulus as the sun set. Well done, mystery cloud maker. Well done.

September 9

On the Way to My Brother’s Memorial

Cal Train slides past
Twisted scrap heap of junked cars
Rusted loading cranes
Graffitied warehouses and squat buildings
With chimneys smoking
Wooden piers rotting
In brackish waterways
Water in the distance
The color of steel
Weird scenes
On the leeward side of the Bay

September 10-11

Saturday was Memorial Day for Josh. Rain clouds scuttled across the underbelly of the vault of heaven, thick, gray and fast. The bright sunny day above and beyond the clouds drove shafts of sunlight down like the voice of God, intermittently lighting up the floor of the Salinas Valley.

September 12

At first glance, nothing seemed off. She wore jeans, and a fuzzy sweat-jacket, zipped all the way up. Her hair, black flecked with gray, was pulled back from her face, and neatly kept. It was the glare in her eyes that gave it away. By the time I spotted that, it was too late. I was sitting in the seat one over from hers.

“Don’t look over here bitch! Keep your damn eyes to yourself. Don’t look at me! It’s your own damn fault, living the life you been livin’. Don’t look at me, bitch! You won’t be laughing when he puts the rag around the barrel of the gun. I gotta get outta here. I can’t stand she keeps looking at me.”

I and two cute brown haired girls in jeans and brown jackets kept our eyes focused rigidly forward. But she didn’t seem to be addressing any of us. Her rant was directed deep into the distance of the bus, or even out the window. And then she was gone. “Did you record all that for posterity?” asked the tall blond guy in the white work shirt opposite me.

September 13

Written in my notebook, not in my handwriting:

Christy White Productions limelight products

Did it happen when I was out with my writing group at Trader Sam’s? If so, who wrote it? Someone in the bar? Someone from my writing group? Admittedly, my memory of the evening is somewhat fragmentary, as they were showering me in Zombies as a form of grief therapy. So it certainly is possible. But what does it mean?

September 14

I sat on the rocky outcropping at the northwest corner of Baker Beach. The waves advanced in rolls of green and gray and blue and billowing brown flung out into white foam that crept a little further forward with each surge. I shared the waves with three birds. One some kind of little sandpiper that ran forward as each wave retreated, and dabbed his long bill into the wet bubbling sand. Then a big gray and brown seagull would occasionally charge the sandpiper away from what must have been some particularly tasty morsels. Finally, in the surf itself, a black bird with slick wet feathers, splayed legs ending in big webbed feet, and a bright orange beak bobbed up, over, and down each wave crest, except when he would turn over and dive straight down, popping up again a few feet away from his previous location. I loved all three, but him best of all.

September 15-18

Sierra County Weekend Hot Springs Vacation Observations:

A silver rental Honda. Good brakes! A CD player!
Double Cheeseburger at Jack in the Box on the way there (for shame, budding vegetarian, for shame).
The Sierra Valley, a big flat plain, fifteen or twenty miles on a side, surrounded by wooded mountains.
Pine trees like fingers, pointed straight up against the impossible steel blue of the sky.
The pleasantly drinkable surprise of Ginseng Cola at the main lodge.
The check-in man’s deadpan delivering about there being a quicksand pit in our room.
Giant acrylic folding screen adorned with peacocks in our sweet small room in the Globe Hotel.
Sitting in the Temple Pool, moonlight glittering through pentagon-shaped windows in the domed roof.
The fat wooden Buddha with one hand broken off.
Old friendly self-described redneck telling us about the rebirthers who used to run the place, and could also sometimes be found running around downtown in diapers with pacifiers.
The tantric couple practicing breathing, and possibly coupling, in the pool.
The female half of that couple, lean, with long curly black hair, floating.
The man equally dark curly haired, blowing bubbles while exhaling underwater.
Pale beauty of a girl with long curly golden hair floating in moonlight.
Her older companion (Mother? Lover?) doing the same.
All women, when floating, display round breast and thick bushy pubic mounds, beautiful and natural.
Comparing myself to every guy. Therefore I liked the chubby ones with small dicks the best.
Talking in the main pool naked with a Spanish girl who lived in Oakland, her visiting friend from Spain, and a gentle bald computer programmer from Berkeley.
The Spanish girl was nicknamed La Facista because of how radically anti-smoking she became after she quit.
Being shushed and asked to whisper by the groundskeeper’s long curly black and white beard.
Dos Hermanos for dinner the best Mexican food found 500 miles from the border.
The Roundup for breakfast, evenly divided by old ranchers with their silver hair, and out-of-towners in long hair and tie-dye.
Tuttenstein a cartoon about a friendly reanimated mummified pharaoh, and other weird weekend morning TV at the Roundup.
The coy gray and white cat at the Phoenix Baths.
The brown striped frog perched in a little notch next to the meditation pool.
Nearby, I played with Jen in the tents they’d set up to house the green vinyl massage tables. She played with me too.
A couple in the pool, consisting of a bald man, a thin and muscular 45 or so, and a brown-haired nubile woman who could not have been as old as 30. That fucker.
The smell, always the fat rotten egg smell, of the water.
Last night in the main pool, bodybuilder with the blonde with fake breasts talking about seeing satellites in the pristine night sky.
Three other girls shared the pool that night:
– a one legged amputee with a perfect butt
– a girl too shy to ease into the smaller pool, belly and breasts blazing with pregnancy
– sweet brown haired girl, body soft and curved with real womanhood
Their friend arrived later, lithe and bald with cancer treatment.
Jen meditating on the pool deck in absolute stillness and silence for 45 minutes.
A mother deer and faun, delicately picking out steps through the brush, seen from the deck of the pool.
The tree frog in the shower room two nights in a row.
Searching for dinner later, we found that in Truckee, no restaurant is open after 9:00 PM.
You can, however, eat chicken tenders and Fritos in the Safeway parking lot no matter what hour it is.
Grim little hotel in Loyalton on the second night, single beds in an L-shaped room keeping Jen and I apart.
The sweet Calico rubbing against my leg while being petted on the last morning there.
On that last morning, the big hairy mustachioed guy in the Meditation Pool reading Dune radiated subtle menace.
Approaching San Francisco from the East Bay on the way back, only Sutro tower visible above a bank of fog.
Midnight wine and pizza with Jen upon returning.

September 19

Morning:
Fog and rising sun
Renders
The towers of downtown
Silhouettes
Seen through a milky sky

Evening:
Perfectly clear sky’s blue
fades to pink and white,
up on the hill
clustered around the spires of USF
huddled evergreens
lit in orange

September 20

Spiritual patterns of icy haze shown through the rippled gray and white sky today.

September 21

“He’s young, totally good, and sexy.”- overheard in the Front Room, corner of California and Larkin. Overhead from a gal who has that little bit too high, little bit too heliumed kind of voice. Short blond hair, professionally dressed in something cream or gray or taupe or something. Twirling the wine in her glass as she talks to a dude. Do I feel superior or am I green with envy? I see the chain of co-dependent origination rearing its ugly head. Thank Buddha I am sometimes in conscious contact with the process these days. Let Siddhartha be praised!

September 22

The clouds
skid across the city sky
this afternoon
like a solid sheet
of scalloped white

September 23

Never been so close to Sutro Tower.
All the homes stacked on each other, layer upon layer marching up the hill. Concentric circles of red, blue, yellow brown and white with windows glinty in the afternoon sun.
And at night they glow like clusters of sleeping fireflies. (Do fireflies glow when they sleep?) Atop them all, the tower, black outline sketched by moonlight, blinks its spires in regular patterns of red and white.

September 24

There’s something about the Love Parade.

The Love Parade is techno, techno, techno, a 90s that never ended.
The Love Parade is a woman in a giant vagina costume.
The Love Parade is cleavage showing midriff bearing girls, inscrutable in sunglasses.

The Love Parade walks on stilts.
The Love Parade wears leather.
The Love Parade dresses as a gladiator.

The Love Parade goes nude as a girl on a soundstage painted in silver.
The Love Parade goes nude by having its bountiful breasts visible under a fishnet top while playing drums.
The Love Parade goes nude as four old men stark naked in the hot sun.

Civic Center, swamped by the Love Parade this sunny Saturday, can no longer maintain its chastity.

September 25

Today, on the way there, I gazed at a telephone pole as I stood at the bus stop. It was thick from staples and pins from old flyers, rusted and painted over in light brown. On top of which were staples and pins from flyers, on which another layer of dark brown was painted. And then again. Layer on layer, month by month, year after year. Eras of rallies, bands, underground clubs, lost cats and art show openings leaving their sediment behind. What a beautiful city this is.

September 26

“I am a psychiatrist, and you both need serious medication!”- young woman exiting the 38BX this morning, after having chewed out a hapless young man who tried to keep her backpack from hitting him repeatedly in the face, and arguing with another woman until the word “bitch” erupted multiple times.

September 27-30
Four days vanished into the maw of overwork. Even though my birthday is one of them, there is no trace of the wonders they might have contained. On that day, I merely worked until 10:00 PM, came home and collapsed on the couch, and got up again for work the next morning.

San Francisco Daze: August

Here’s August! And for those of you who see this at the end and didn’t previously know, my younger brother Josh died in late August 2005, so that’s what I’m referring to there. I still think about him every day…

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August 1-4

Nothing.

August 5

Realizing at last that the demands of my job and being able to write like I need to were never going to co-exist, I gave notice today. And so was able to write:

fog lies on Twin Peaks
like white fleece
over broad dark shoulders

August 6

Saturday Afternoon Hanging With Baby Brother Blues

1:30 PM Riding in car to Salinas,
radio blasting NOFX
backseat choked with trash and books
2:00 PM Thai restaurant in Old Town
with my brother and his girlfriend
two beers and fried rice
4:15 PM Still here
time passes so slowly
even when you add water
5:10 PM Afternoon drags
in younger brother’s
fruitless phone quest
for a pot connection
5:30 PM Poolhall
jukebox not live
brother and girlfriend fighting
bad omens and foreboding
6:45 PM Jukebox finally in gear
and that makes me happy, but
her in tears
him drunk and sneering
is like an apocalypse
that no amount of Buddy Holly
can set right
7:20 PM Dropped off at Hartnell College
to meet my parents for a play
thank God, thank Jah,
Al’lah be praised
and please be with that little girl
I left back in the car with my brother
sobbing

August 7

Seen from the platform, San Jose Diridon Caltrain Station, waiting for the train to go back home to San Francisco:

Banner
Bright, new
Orange, yellow & green
“centex51.com”
Unfurled Against
Three-story
Huge rectangular building
Hardscrabble red bricks
Broken windows
Covered
With vague patina of dust

August 8-11

Four-day casualty to the work-week. But there are now a finite number of work weeks left, which makes all the difference.

August 12

Polk and Vallejo, biding time before meeting Jen for dinner at Pesce. Biding time at a Royal Grounds Coffee that I’ve never been to before. I’m so excited. It’s like visiting a new planet.

August 13

There is a giant concrete pier at the beach in Pacifica. Gray, it goes out into the ocean. Which is gray. Fading against a sky that is gray.

August 14

Punk Rock DJ at the 540 Club! Rock, rock, rock! Go daddy, go! I’m sitting here with an almost gone scotch on the rocks, nine days after giving notice. I’ve been sitting here grooving to the DJ in his yellow checkered Howdy Doody shirt and his oddly 50s wholesome sideburns and short wavy hair and updating the musical portions of the dream website that is one of the projects I can finally turn my attention to. Soon, America will be brought my favorite albums of all time, hardest rocking album of the year for each year since 1987, and 20 reasons that the 2000s might not suck. America needs these things. God bless the 540 Club, even with the smoke from the barbecue outside slightly stinging my eyes, for helping to bring this into being.

August 15-16

The record of life in the city on these days, she is not there.

August 17

The birthday party
at the art-hung Canvas Club
burst hard candy noise

August 18-24

Missing in hard labor and stay-at-home sniffles.

August 25

August eighteenth through twenty-fourth was lost in hard labor and stay-at-home sniffles. But it was worth it, as the date was set today. At the end of the first full week of October, I will walk into a new life.

August 26

Sneaking out of work early, I saw in the 4:30 PM sky a blue that was milky white and seemed to be hollow, a backdrop to glinting-window marble-bleached downtown.

August 27

I drove all over the East Bay with Jen today depositing the newspapers for her nonprofit’s annual Expo For The Artist & Musician in locales likely to be favored by the intelligent and arty. Wealthy wouldn’t hurt either, as the Expo is the main fundraiser for her organization. It was a crystal perfect day. The highlight of visiting oh so many venues was having lunch at a small café somewhere in the wild hinterlands between Emeryville and Oakland. They served us chili lathered cornbread waffles. Now I don’t want to eat anything else.

August 28

Having just heard the news about my brother, I lie on the rolled out futon in my living room, listening to the ringing jangly harmonies of the Byrds as birds and airplanes make trajectories across the sky visible from my balcony window.

August 29

I have rarely seen The Plough & The Stars so thoroughly depopulated. It was charming to find it so on this hot Monday afternoon, the slow turning of the ceiling fans just barely leavening the heat. Behind the counter, the ridiculously fresh-faced cute and curvy barmaid made quick jokes with a motley assortment of customers in her charming accent. On the chipped lacquered wood wall, a flyer announced the Friends of Sinn Fein Annual Golf Tournament. My neighborhood, I love her so.

August 30

One of the stops on the Cal Train line between San Francisco and Gilroy looks for all the world like a little mountain chalet. The buildings huddle together in a little dell, pointy roofs and brown shingles. A grove of dark green trees on the hill behind the village defines a horizon that is very near. I will, I think, get off there some day. The thought comforts me as I speed toward a meeting with my family prompted by bad news.

August 31

Waiting at Hollister airport today for my brother’s remains to come in from San Luis Obispo. Waiting in the fading early evening heat and dry rattling wind was the worst part. At last the small plane with its v-shaped tail landed. The handsome white haired man and his dog greeted us. He smiled sadly and shook my Dad’s hand and then mine before he handed it over. Despite my dread, which had been growing as we waited, it wasn’t like anything at all. Just a slightly heavy silvery tin box. That’s all. It could have been filled with gravel. It could have been anything.

San Francisco Daze: July

Catching up now with the July and August entries from San Francisco Daze, a series of daily vignettes on life in San Francisco that I wrote throughout 2005. Here’s July, with August following right on it’s heels…

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July 1

July arrived with humidity, blazing blue, and butterflies floating in pairs above the mountain of flowers that is the base of Telegraph Hill.

July 2-4

The holiday weekend. I celebrated my independence by listening to rockabilly and writing, accompanied by the booming sound of the Marina fireworks in the distance. I couldn’t quite see them from my place— the hills and trees of the Presidio were jut a little too high. I must be further above sea level than I realize.

July 5

In Trader Sam’s tonight after the Writing Group, we saw a Japanese guy engaged in heavy conversation with a black guy with gold teeth. Later the same Japanese guy was dancing to Louie Armstrong with a blonde girl. Trader Sam’s, bizarre outer-avenues tiki bar of doom, oh how I love you.

July 6

International Café on Haight and Fillmore. Led Zeppelin III. Jen. Her ex. A Chilean named Maritza. And some Polish guy. Writing. All writing.

July 7

I’d like to think UFOs
Or signal fires
The flashes of orange
Glinting
In late afternoon
On the brawny front of hills
Across the Bay to the east

July 8

Morning Commute Synchronicity Blues:

Guy cuts in front me
disheveled oily hair, with glasses
Homeless man dashes across the street
Shirtless smelly man in doorway,
belly overflowing,
shouts, “hey” to guy running across street
Mr. Disheveled looks back at me
just as my foot slips into rut
in sidewalk
I trip
Light changes
Right on cue
bus pulls up
O O

July 9

Valencia Street, in Ritual Coffee Roasters, nearing 11:00 PM. Deep in the café that itself goes deeper into the block than one would suspect. Right wall lined with framed stuffed animals combined with various objects to produce gruesome chimera. Left wall featuring a series of paintings in which huge women’s dresses with little mechanical heads in different colors manifest starkly different moods. Back wall red. An enormous potted plant in the back, doubtless fake, curves up towards the 15 (or is it 20?) foot ceilings. From self same ceiling, light bulbs hang down from 10 to 15 foot long black plastic cords, incandescent spirals lighting their interiors. Conversation ebbs and flows, a sonic surface upon which ripples are caused by running water, squeaking doors and clattering spoons. The Rocky Road cookie, its crumbly remains now dusting the table, sinks deeper into my stomach.

July 10

Sunday morning brunch in the diner that time forgot. Aka Hamburger Haven, situated at a hidden location somewhere in the environs of greater Clement Street. Here the walls are red tiles and wood panels, the breakfast special is $2.99 and ceiling fans sluggishly beat back the summer. A waitress whose name might as well be “Margie” except that she’s Chinese pours coffee into a chipped white cup at my table. Everything smells smoky, which makes sense, since the grill is directly behind the counter. The whole place is at least 30 years out of date, and I have rarely felt more at home.

July 11

7-11! The city could have used a giant slurpie today as it was SO FREAKING HOT. Still in the 70s now at nearly 10:30 PM as I sit on the couch in underwear and a tee-shirt, typing to the uncomfortable feeling of my bare legs sweating under the hot laptop.

July 12

Abbey Tavern Blue
Writing with Jodie late night
Not such bad news

July 13

Pizza Orgasmica.
sipping a beer to calm nerves rattled by a twelve-hour work day.
Watching a video on the history of Maverick’s.
(It’s Surf Night at Orgasmica.)
Such gray-green magnificence.
Damn.
I need to find a way to get in the water.

July 14

Second of two twelve-hour days
in the office
redeemed
by work crew on road at night
white lights so bright
they made day out of
the huge square hole
excavated in the street.

July 15-16

Overworkus
Agonistes

July 17

Leaning against a tree in the sunny day of Yerba Buena Gardens, in front of the Metreon (but in the shade of the tree, and thus sheltered from the sun). There’s a light breeze, making it almost chilly in the shade. Light filters through the leaves of the trees and refracts off the grass is diamonds of green and blue. People are sitting, lying, napping, laughing, and talking. Full of joy in this earthbound paradise.

* * *

Now on the upper deck, where I have decided to take in the sun in the few minutes before I depart for the theatre. Yerba Buena Gardens. Damn it was well laid out. This deck itself is some sort of marvel of symmetry. And it (the whole park, in fact) faces dead-center. Saint Patrick’s, the old fashioned red brick Catholic church is directly across the way. The Metreon is on one side in aluminum glass glory. And on the other, in its own gleaming majesty, is Yerba Buena Center. My eyes feel droopy in the sun.

July 18-22

Overworkus
Agonistes II:
The Revenge

No, really? I really got down nothing of my life in San Francisco over a five day period because of work? For shame, for shame. I have got to get out of there!

July 23

“If there is a God, it’s an algorithm.”— Overheard in Blue Danube Cafe, on a summer Sunday afternoon.

If there is a God, you have to think that She loves this day just as much as I do.

She loves the squealing hydraulic hiss of the 2 Clement as it thumps to a stop in front of the café.
She loves the blinding gleam off of the dyed platinum hair of the woman who just walked by.
She loves the backwards facing beer logos on the banner outside through which the sun glows.
She loves the smell of bacon wafting through the café from who knows where.
She loves the goof-pot post-punk band playing from the speakers in the corners.
She loves the impressionistic paintings of snails and penguins hanging on the wall.
She loves the little wooden Indians holding back the overflow of books within the wooden carte bookcase against the wall.
She loves the sticky gummy black patches on the old brown carpet.
She loves the potted palm.
She loves the white haired old man in batik shirt talking to the computer geek who issued the quote above.
She loves the guy next to me, discussing his favorite science fiction shows and movies with me.
She loves the ice, glittering and melting at the bottom of my latte.

She loves me.
Here.
Writing it down.

July 24

Sitting in Ritual Coffee Roasters on Valencia Street, writing while waiting for David and Penny’s plays to begin at the Marsh. This follows Amoebapolloza last night. You almost don’t have to write a follow-up sentence to that, but for the record, that’s an annual event where the usually sullen and condescending staff of Amoeba Records actually get on stage and play music in various combinations. My sanity was systematically destroyed by the John Fogerty cover band, the tribute to Dolly Party, a New Wave ensemble in which a thin bald black guy sang Cure songs, the Postmodern Lovers (guess who they covered) and the tribute to Suicidal Tendencies, “Suicidal: The Musical”. Friday night I went to a screening of Washington Interns Gone Bad, a full-length indie-film produced by a guy formerly of Washington, D.C., and now of San Francisco. Thursday was the reading at Alibi Books, which will now be a monthly event. This is the best city in the world. So much art and creativity. Soon I will join the chorus.

July 25

This day was absconded with from work. Yee-haw! Phat beats in the neighborhood café, cartoon painting of a mer-man wearing a shirt and tie, girl behind the counter with her magnificent poof of curly brown hair, clear gray eyes, intriguingly slightly asymmetrical face and ring in her nose. Allah u akbar.

July 26

Cab Driver Into Work:
Young, black. Short hair and clean-shaven. Listening to jazz and talking about art and music- he loves the Queens of the Stone Age. Smart and friendly and funny. I love the ride.

Cab Driver Back From Work:
Young, white. Bushy hair with goatee and sideburns. Listening to radio talk show about Clear Channel’s attempt to block free San Francisco wi-fi and talking about the collective social good— he’s not sure we’ll make it another 50 years. Smart and friendly and funny. I love the ride.

July 27

The man on top of Telegraph Hill working on the balcony of a house dropped his vacuum cleaner attachment. He later scuttled down the hill to retrieve it. We hung out the windows of our office on Sansome Street and shouted directions and encouragement.

July 28

This is my Mexico City Blues except it’s San Francisco instead of Mexico City and not all are blues, or even poems. Still:

Mist
rolling over Financial District
this summer PM
made liquid layers
split in two
as
Transamerica Pyramid
&
Bank of America Tower
caused
eddies in the stream
at 700 feet

July 28-31

These days stand blank in their mute nonwitness to what transpired therein.

Posted at 02:05 pm | | Leave a comme

San Francisco Daze: May and June

Here for your continued reading pleasure are the May and June entries from San Francisco Daze, a daily meditation on life in our fair city that I kept in 2005, now finally seeing the light of day.

May 1

Sitting with Gwen at an outdoor table at a café near Fisherman’s Wharf. Home cooked breakfast, the sign claimed, and it came out on paper plates, with plastic forks, coffee steaming in styrofoam cups, more home-style (for me) than they knew. Afterwards we strolled down to the Maritime Museum. She and I talked love and relationship (ours’ with other people, not with each other) while old boats creaked and ropes mooring them to the dock squealed like sea lions in the ebb and swell. An orange cat strolled by, momentarily pausing and turning towards us as we made clucking sounds and held out our hands, before he executed a haughty turn and continued on his way. The sky above blazed blue, and tourists (they must have been tourists- locals do not touch the Bay earlier than July) swam at the little beach in front of the amphitheatre where the fireworks are held each year. The spring sky brought out the brown and green in her eyes and highlit the fetching streaks of gray in her hair until they turned silver.

May 2

Television baseball, unnaturally brown and green field, rich orange-brown of wood panels brass gleam over at the bar, red shade on the lights over the pool table, olive all over, writing with Jen at the Plough and the Stars on Second & Clement, on a surprisingly busy Monday night.

May 3

Every day we are presented with signs and wonders. Today at the foot of Telegraph Hill I beheld a small ceramic cartoon figurine cartoon with long thick dreads holding a rolled up cigarette standing next to a pile of joints that had “Legalize” printed in big letters. It was seated on a cement wall, positioned for all the world like a figure of the Virgin that one might expect to lay flowers and other offerings before. Later, at lunch down on California Street, just across from Wells Fargo Bank, I saw two guys loading bags full of Chinese takeout onto one of those big steel elevators that go underground (to service the cable car lines?) and then descending into the depths with the food. I had visions of a massive feast for slaves of an underground kingdom. And tonight, on my way to this very café where I now write, tucked into the bushes on 4th Avenue I found a stuffed animal— a donkey on two legs, wearing a blue blazer and missing one ear. Further comment seems unnecessary.

May 4

Have I mentioned how fascinated I am with Skinny Writer Girl? She’s sitting across from me on the bus. Her face is serious, maybe even sad, but her gaze is steady and piercing. I know how she feels. Her notebook is bigger than mine and is turquoise, but otherwise very similar in its stretchy binda-thingy. Her handwriting is tons neater than mine, and incredibly straight up-and-down. Her long bony fingers and pursed lips are driving me wild. She’s writing in pencil, a lime-green push-pencil. Suede coat with fuzzy lining inside. Dark jeans, tennis shoes. No nonsense. Who is she? What does it all mean? I must leave off now, to ponder that in writing another day.

May 5

String of disasters one on my much-delayed night out with ex-girlfriend Leah: there was no showing of the movie we wanted to see at the Metreon at 6:30, even though we had each confirmed the time, on separate websites.

String of disasters two: when we hit the street to contemplate our next move, a passing car hit a puddle and splashed my pants with muddy water. Actually, I’ve been waiting my whole life for that scene to occur.

String of disasters three: deciding to take a taxi to the AMC 1000 on Van Ness, we waited in the rain, continually outbid by others, until we found one, only to have it refer us back to another. That one lurched forward three times just when she reached for the handle, finally tiring of the game and coming to a stop.

String of disasters four: safely at new theatre, with a showing at a fine time, tickets in hand, we went to Mel’s for a pre-show dinner. I knocked over my glass of water right when I reached for it, spilling it all over the table.

String of disasters five: just before the show, she got a cell-phone call from an old friend of her’s announcing cancer in his family.

Somehow, despite all this, we had a great evening.

May 6

First time to the South Bay this year. The eerie glow that lights up the 101 at night shone its light on the haunted wrecks of the dot com era. Empty office park next to Candlestick (I will not call it Monster Park) where Snowball.com once lived. Electronic billboards by the side of the road now touting car dealerships rather than operating systems. The empty glass palace where Excite@Home once stood. On and on, a roadside ghost town at 70 miles per hour.

May 7

Ikea

Is an asylum

Ikea

Rising like a Megalith form the Emeryville mall space

Ikea

Front door massive yellow awning dwarfing us mere humans

Ikea

Blue arrows sending you through a thousand living rooms

Ikea

Inspiring kitchen envy

Ikea

Making me consider whole new places to stick floor lamps

Ikea

Suggesting my need for cutesy things exceeds my expectation

Ikea

Terminating in a kingdom of hot apple pie and Swedish meatballs

May 8

Today I discovered something new in San Francisco- Louis’. A family-style diner perched on the side of the Pacific Highway, just up the hill from the Cliff House, established 1937 by a Greek-immigrant family. Inside are multicolored tile and booths and lacquered countertop and old carpets that show delightfully little sign of having changed in decades. The food holds no pretensions, but does feature some of the fattest hash browns ever. The food, the place, everything seems caught in the same time warp that once included the oceanside Funland. And outside, the headlands glowed in rain swept green, darkness peeked out from hedged cypress, seagulls floated in pools of rainwater collected in the ruins of the Sutro Baths and the angry sea foamed against the cliffs. I’ll be back.

May 9

Moon setting low over Pacific

tiniest sliver

facing upwards

a bronze boat

sinking below the horizon

May 10

After writing group last night, John, Jodie and I ambled over to Trader Sam’s for a drink. The rest of our compatriots had abandoned us, spouting inanities about long drives, work the next day and such. The three of us ended up, of all things, talking about business: John’s former consulting job for Siemens. Jodie’s interviewing with an IR agency as she attempted to escape from her biotech marketing job and my stint in IR when I first moved to the city, just before the bubble burst. All of it made me think of the unique tech work culture that we share here in San Francisco. Even itinerant writers, once you get a Sierra Nevada in them, have tales of IPOs, product launches and org chart disfunction.

May 11

The Canvas Café deserves to be written about. Because of the bright primary colors it’s painted in. Because of the massive height of the ceiling and the inverted wood pyramid of the skylight in the middle of it. Because of the TV screen mobile-construction sculpture hanging from the ceiling. Because of…

(to be continued?)

May 12

Single silver ear-

ring hanging from a tree branch

Near the ATM

May 13

Red haired bus girl,

in the flowing pink skirt your

calves were exquisite

May 14

Black Uhuru’s version of “Hey Joe” is going through my head right now. Or is it Jimi’s or Patti’s? I think they’re all mixed together in there. Such are the dangers of Green Apple bargain-CD diving.

May 15-17

Dispatches from an overcast rainy May: It is so freaking humid these last few days here in the city. Maybe global warming really is starting to bite.

May 18

Down on Mission tonight in the rainy evening a pair of brunettes walked past smiling me at me. As I stepped to one side to let them pass, a man carrying a long curvy mirror, its reflecting side facing me, passed on the other. Motion to my right and my left kindled with longing and reflection to open up a moment of clarity. It revealed the machinery of the universe, wheels turning out a moment of synchronicity whose meaning currently escapes me.

May 19

At Jupiter in Berkeley, on the upstairs level waiting with a beer before meeting friends for a movie. Swirls of fifteen year old college undergraduate depression surround me, apropos of nothing going on at the moment. Even so, the barking laughter of the guys at the table across the room pierces.

May 20-22

Weekend out of town vesting parents returning on Cal Train Blues:

You got your San Jose Diridon

Burning in the sun

You got the Palo Alto stop

Ain’t no damn fun

Slipped into Redwood City

Just about fixin’ to die

Memories of Burlingame

Can make a grown man cry

Millbrae

Got a tight connection to BART

South San Francisco warehouses

Set off an achin’ in your heart

Bayshore

Got the Candlestick-Monster blues

Pullin’ in to 4th and King

Sure is some powerful good news

May 23

cool sea air

caressed my face

this morning

before

the doldrums

of afternoon humidity

set in

May 24

Trader Sam’s was all but deserted on this the night that the Writing Group reviewed half my novel. Empty except for the punk chick in the corner mackin’ out with her boyfriend, and the heavyset guy from Atlanta who was shouting and on the edge of flying off his handle as his Asian friend tried, with limited success, to calm him down. Dimo gave me a break on the two Amstel Lights I ordered for Jodie and me, though, so all was well.

May 25

46th and Sloat, near 11 PM. The fog pinpricks through the air, nearly the only motion in the otherwise stillness. Across the four land road that ends at the ocean only a few blocks away, the stone gates of the zoo yawn open. No teeth in the blackness visible through their portals. What animals are stirring inside now that the nocturnal glory of their kingdom has come?

May 26

It is not clear why Pizza Orgasmica, which is a Brazilian-style pizza chain, has tribal African décor and safari pictures inside (have I mentioned this before?). It is even less clear why the area near the entrance is given over to little Arabian crash pad low tables, hanging tapestries and pillows everywhere, making it seem that a hookah should be close at hand. What is clear is that this little paradise was made for reclining with Jen and contemplating the mysteries of her scent while drinking beer and waiting for the “Aphrodite” pizza to arrive.

May 27

Sitting in a café near Valencia and 16th trying to catch up on San Francisco Daze, I gaze out the window to the faded avocado two-story across the street, and spy a pigeon-scaring fake owl on one corner of it’s roof trim, big as two footballs.

Weird Postscript- Getting on the train just now at 16th & Mission, there was a grizzled old man playing a medley of Beatles’ songs on a flute. An entirely different grizzled old man from the one who, when I got on the train on the way to the café at Montgomery, had been playing “Blackbird” on guitar. I look forward to seeing what happens when I get to the Berkeley BART station tonight.

May 28-30

Memorial Day weekend, writing from a sunlit meadow at Bass Lake, somewhere in the wilds of Point Reyes. A powder-blue dragonfly just buzzed the blanket, and a light breeze is ruffling up my shirt and tousling my hair. I can hear at least five kinds of birds in simultaneous calls. A moment ago I saw two white butterflies dancing around each other in the air. Speaking of which, Jen, gorgeous Valkyrie Jen, is laid out on the blanket beside me, lightly snoring in the sun.

May 31

King of Thai Noodle House is an empire. Its vast reaches enclose a downtown and Sunset branch, and at least three on Clement alone. My favorite is the Original King of Thai Noodle House, at 8th & Clement. It’s barely wider than a door-front, but extends back deep into the block. You make your way past the counter, which really only one person can do at a time, and then get to the realm of tables, each with a massive decanter of chopsticks and an assortment of hot sauces. The place is not as much fun since they got rid of the vintage Thai movie posters on the wall in favor of tasteful art prints. Unlike the King of Thai Noodle House on 4th & Celement, it doesn’t have its liquor license, so no Singha for you here. Still and all, the crowded ambiance and ability to see everything that happens in the kitchen (as it’s just behind the counter) does it for me every time.

June 1

arise from morning meditation

look out my balcony

on the shorn tree-stump

in my neighbor’s backyard

dog barks in the distance

June 2

Grumpy’s lies down a side street that I never knew about. Green maybe? Or some other street? Off of Battery. And thank God it does. A stocky jowly bulldog mascot (but really, do bulldogs come any other way than stocky and jowly?). Forest of dollar bills tacked to the ceiling. The whole place is bricky and woody and the walls are covered with framed pictures of sports stars and other local illuminati. Diner food par excellence. My fitfully employed companions had beer at lunch but I demurred and went for the diet coke. Margarita night is Thursday. How had I been working in this neighborhood for six months and not found this place yet?

June 3

From the backside of Telegraph Hill as seen from Pier 37 or 38 Coit Tower rises from the top of the hill. As it does from every other view of the hill. But from this direction, the tower is backed by the Transamerica Pyramid. The bleached white triangle and white bleached cylinder stand together like some bizarre set of siblings from this line of sight.

June 4

La Isla De Los Angeles. So the Spanish called it. And I knew about the Chinese, thousands of them held for years, carving poems into the stone walls of the building that housed them. But so much more I did not know. The Civil War garrison guarding the entrance to the Bay. The quarantine station loaded with Cholera, Plague and Smallpox victims. The Nike Missile batteries! Or the velvety black butterflies bouncing along in the sun near the top of the mountain, for that matter. And nothing of all I’d known before could have prepared me for lying on one of Angel Island’s picnic table-tops with Jen, staring up at the twisting branches of trees that formed a canopy overhead.

June 5

Blue Danube

Sunday Afternoon

Redhead reading

Hip-hop playing

Indian beauty

Day-glo paintings

Lesbian sportswomen

Espresso machine

Dreadlocked writer

Sunshine traffic

Newspaper reader

Summer breeze

Countergirls laughing

Refrigerator humming

Sunday Afternoon

Blue Danube

June 6

Tonight was my first public reading ever, at Lit at the Canvas. And I had two members of my writing group show up, as well as an old friend and a new one. Having an audience was both comforting and nerve wracking, but the place soothed my soul. So familiar, so dear. The latest display there, graffiti-style hip-hop urban DJ art, was a weird kind of complement to my reading on becoming (by surprise) a Heavy Metal fan over the last year. The low-key mic crackled and buzzed, and half the section of the café the reading was tuned in to their laptops and lattes. But I made it, with even a laugh or two from the audience. The hostess Melinda sparkled and shined with her mass of curly red hair. And the other reader, Pat Carey, kicked ass with his comedy tales of Irish-American family madness. Only us two writers, Melinda the MC and a small audience, but it felt real. So, one small step for a writer, maybe one giant leap for my literary kind.

June 7

Q on Clement Street at 11:30 on a Tuesday morning. The slight guilt of playing hooky from work is assuaged by the thick mustardy smell wafting out from the kitchen.

June 8

The building downtown

splits in two,

with mirrored wings

that end in

antenna-topped prongs

like some bizarre electric toothbrush

or rabbit-ear aerials gone awry

their tops lost

in the misting semi-rain

of morning

June 9

The crowd at ATA, a ramshackle little theatre at 21st & Valencia given to independent videography, is its own kind of riot. Flaming brown queen shouting, “last call for all-coo-halll!” just before the show closes, mixes with Zora, the little girl on stage in the Velvet dress who half the crowd is cooing to, and the frizzy-dark-haired wine sipping maven to my left to form a pastiche of hip and artistic San Francisco in this early 21st century moment.

June 10

Sometime you’re not sure you see the things you see:

Black man

not quite old enough

to have more than a slightly silver beard

wearing sweats

and tattered windbreaker

stands on the steps of

Star of the Sea Catholic church

facing a lit candle in the shape of a small scowling figure

perched on a piece of driftwood

before the doorway of the church.

June 11

One of the Twin Peaks

(the one capped with Sutro Tower)

reclines today

in the hazy summer morning

a green firry hill

leaning back

in the early heat of day

June 12

Ran all over the campus of USF today looking for the annual “Rock and Swap” sponsored by local outlaw radio extraordinaire KUSF. I finally found it, via two out-of-it bushy-haired twenty-somethings carrying a Scorpions album who gave me contradictory directions on how to get there. And while not the Tad or Soulwax I had come questing for; it was well worth the effort. Dead Letter Office, My Aim is True, Graceland, Let it Be, and the Wall later I left a rather happy camper.

June 13

The end of Clement Street

rises up

like a roller-coaster

just before the plunge

twin rows of streetlights

arching into the night

up by the Legion of Honor

and above

one solid end

of the half-moon

dissolves

into mist

June 14

The air was solid today, cold and warm at the same time.

June 15

A pair of handcuffs

Chained to pole on Sansome

How strange this city

June 16

Thursday night Bitter End writing blues. Jodie, Dave and I, nee of the Writing Group, are here. As is the Jukebox. The Stones, “Waiting on a Lady”. The following line: “The only time I ever had a guy touch me there, I was on vacation in Hawaii.” I was in the restroom when I heard that one, somewhere in the bar outside; I’ll never know who said it. Now “L.A. Woman” is playing. Jim had a guy touch him there at some point, I bet. I got a start on “Lust”, one of my Seven Deadly Sins series. But then hit a stopping point, right about when my writing group friends stopped. Thus this entry.

June 17-21

I have nothing to say for this five day period except:

Journey to the East Bay embarks at 10:15 AM, via the 38 Geary. The masses shuffle on board. It’s actually pretty packed for a Saturday. The weirdest scene is the little girl in the checkered cloth coat sitting next to her mother on one of the sideways seats in the accordion section. Nice coat, cute little shoes, that’s not what’s weird. What’s weird is how she sits, slumped against her mother, staring fixedly at me. What do I look like to her? Meanwhile, beside me, my traveling companion reads a local literary journal. More to follow.

* * *

11:00 AM (give or take a minute), boarding the Fremont-bound BART. My traveling companion has just shared her chicken-themed short story with me, which was a delight. In general, this car in the train is itself delightful. It is both beautifully and frightfully loud, the talk-talk-talkity-talk coming from all directions— From a gaggle of little girls in pink in the seat behind me. From a family surrounding a kid with a catcher’s mitt. From people on the side-seats talking about baseball trades. We’ve just broken above ground, to sun and massive gray-white piles of cloud, just in time to see Glad Tidings Church of Christ, which is in exterior a large broken-windowed concrete warehouse bereft of even a hint of gladness. Oh excellent— ramshackle two-story house a few hundred feet further on with “Jesus Saves From Hell” painted on the side. The word “Hell” consumed in garish painted flames. At the Coliseum stop the noise and joy and life of the car disembarks for an A’s game.

* * *

12:02 now, on the 180 Bus, theoretically on the way to the Great Mall in Milpitas. A really nice bus, although the cushions have that slight whiff of urine smell that mass-transit seats so often seem to have.

* * *

We are now deep in the bowels of the Great Mall. Actually, in Anderson bakery, which is rather near one of the main entrances. So, not quite a bowel. More like an esophagus. But still. The trip here took about two hours and ten minutes, all-told. We have now done one complete circuit of the mall on the way to ending up here. It’s impossible to reconcile and record all the sensory stimulation that the lap entailed. What pervades everything, like madness, is a slow mellow background beat, soft rock hissing out of innumerable speakers. The stores present, as my traveling companion notes, “So much choice, but no diversity.” This is crystallized in the Food Court. At first, it seems like Shangri-la. Chinese! Japanese! Hot Dog on a Stick! La Salsa! Khan’s Mongolian Fast Food! And yet, when you end up at, say, the Cajun place, the rice, noodles, lemon chicken and spicy fried shrimp there could as well be from the Chinese place, or the Japanese place, or…. And so it goes— clothes, gifts, shoes, you name it. The whole thing is bringing up great vibratory waves of fossil depression in me. Strata of blue laid down by how bored and trapped and unable to connect to another human soul I felt during almost weekly visits to the Northridge Mall while growing up. Heck, that’s how I felt anywhere while growing up. Fortunately, that’s not at all how my life is these days. I find freedom, hope and opportunity to connect almost everywhere I turn now. Witness, as one example, the gorgeous, mirthful hellcat I’m sharing this experience with now. Who’s muttering to herself while she writes, and has turned this trip into a hunting expedition for social and political insights. Yes indeed, my only real problem this afternoon is holding myself back because of intermittent fear that she’ll grow tired of me if I let out too much, when in fact holding back is the thing that makes others tired with one. And what is my life these days if not: not holding back. Thank you, Great Mall, thank you! For reminding me what it felt like then, and where I’m at now. And congratulations, by the way, on the two sports bar-restaurant-arcade-billiards room you have hidden in the true bowels of this maze of consumption. It beats like a great dark heart, surprisingly vital beneath the placid little wood-framed side-door that leads to it. Reminding us that, beneath every seemingly orderly and settled exterior, there are always chaotic irruptions of life.

* * *

Richmond-bound train, circa 6:45. The 180 left the Great Mall around 6:10. Which means we had about 5 ½ hours of direct mall contact— no wonder I feel so wiped out. Even with a plunge into the giant sack in the beanbag store for rest, that’s a lot of meeting with the merchandise meme. Now on the BART there is much less stimulation. Just open space, and sunlight, and East Bay hills burnished by the dusky sun.

* * *

Transfer point: Bayside Station. To make our way from the Richmond Line to the SF/Milbrae line, final stop, Embarcadero. There are rumors that seafood is in the offing. More to follow.

* * *

9:55! I can’t believe it’s 9:55. This has almost officially become a twelve hour journey. Well, it turns out we ended up at an excellent place on the Embarcadero called Montecristo with tuna tartar, and wine. And isn’t an epic journey supposed to finish with a feast? With that, I bid you adieu.

June 22

My Blue Period I (poem):

The sky behind Telegraph Hill

Blazed like blue fire

Through the morning air

June 23

My Blue Period II (prose poem):

Like fire I said, but not quite. Aflame, yes, but as hollow as the deep. Glow behind the glow enhances the empty space in front.

June 24

My Blue Period III (haiku):

Towers of downtown

bathed in clear blue that glows,

like a sea of glass.

June 25-26

I am the Froggie of Power!— The bearded hippie-punk checkout clerk at Whole Foods in Fairfax, repeating back a phrase from a little kid in line.

Jesu Maria, I spent the weekend soaking. Well perhaps not the whole weekend. Just much of Saturday afternoon. But what an afternoon it was, courtesy of Frogs, a low-key and low-cost spa in the town of Fairfax, barely a stone’s throw across the Golden Gate Bridge. Close though it is, the whole Universe seems different over there. Fairfax is a small town with an honest-to-God Main Street, replete with little shops. In any direction you look, hills and mountains wreathed in piney green rear their hilly, mountainy piney-green heads. The sun shines unabashedly, with only faint tendrils of mist around the top of Mount Tamalpais to remind you of the fog that will come with evening. Frogs itself is a small wood-paneled affair. A hot tub, two saunas, private hot-tub rooms, massage rooms, and the sun deck. All quite clothing optional. Sitting in the hot tub, caressed around the shoulders by a cool breeze, I looked up to see a square of blue, dappled with little white clouds. I breathed deep and sighed, believing I’d found paradise. Don’t get me wrong, I love living in the city. But part of maintaining that love is sometimes being able to change the channel.

June 27

Morning fog over Mountain Lake Park

sheets of mist

layered between pine trees

fading into distance

in the direction

of the Golden Gate

June 28

Express

Bus

Morning

Squashed

Between

Cigarette

Smoke

Jacket

Smell

June 29

The crime occurred with bracing swiftness. I was walking along Fisherman’s Wharf at lunch, reveling in the sunshine, light breeze and blue-gray choppiness of the bay without a care in the world. And then suddenly the shadow passed over me, followed by the pressure of its lowness in the air and dark impression of feathers outlined on the pavement in front of me. It swooped down literally on top of the pair of Korean tourists walking ahead of me. Screams, a tussle and commotion, and then the seagull that had knocked a hot dog out of one of the ladies’ hands proceeded to devour it on the ground in front of them. It’s chilling— I don’t know that I feel safe in this city anymore.

June 30

Sidewalk fat furry

Dead rat lying in red stain

Small mammal brother

San Francisco Daze: April

Continuing to bring San Francisco Daze, a series of daily observations of life in our fair city that I wrote in 2005, finally out into the light of day. With a little bit of non-SF contamination in this one from a trip to Seattle. The Soviettes, FYI, have since broken up. This is very sad, but my love for Sturgeon remains undiminished…

April 1

How Do You Write About A Place in Its Absence? (VII):

Last night in Seattle, and tonight I went to the Fun House to see a passel of punk bands, headlining in the Soviettes. Who advertise in Kitchen Sink, one of my favorite local journals, and Alyssa, my Yahoo! Personals contact who has her own music blog loves them, so I figured they must be worth checking out. And they were. The place, first of all, was spectacular. The juke box was all punk, metal and honky-tonk, which confirmed my suspicion that Seattle is full of kindred souls. The place had a long wooden bar, full of the tattooed and pierced and dyed. Not much seating, but a lot of standing room, especially near the back where the bands played. And the stage— an inch off the ground and a foot away from the crowd, well there’s no better way to see a band. The first few bands were fun, in the amped up but repetitive way that punk bands are fun. But the Soviettes were something else entirely. Three girls and one guy, with songs that bristled with energy and personality and an actual fun lyric or two. I was so enthralled that I bought both of their CDs, and embarrassingly gushed to the band members as they circulated through the crowd after the show. On top of that, I fell in love with their guitarist, Sturgeon. I am not fucking kidding— I would bear her children at the drop of a hat. Come to me, oh tall rock goddess with the pixie-cut and the alluring grin!

April 2

How Do You Write About A Place in Its Absence? (VIII):

In the airport now, headed back to San Francisco, after my week in Seattle. At last, the story can be told. These were the songs that were the first thing that popped into my head during each day of the trip:

Sunday- Hurricane (Bob Dylan)

Monday- Landspeed Record (Tanya Donneley)

Tuesday- Something in the Way (Nirvana)

Rock & Roll All Night (Kiss)

Wednesday- Could You be The One (Husker Du)

Thursday- Old Lady Behind the Counter in a Small Town (Pearl Jam)

Friday- Folsom Prison Blues (Johnny Cash)

Saturday- Iron Man (Black Sabbath)

April 3-10

Egad! What happened to this week? No daily observations at all. I guess in spring a young man’s fancy really does turn.

April 11

The pink blossoms in the brick courtyard near work were as big as buttercups today.

April 12

Yipes— final bus stop on the BX, and they are upon us. The Swarm. The Human Wave. The contingent that must stand because all the best seats are gone. My ride was guilt-free until now, the few spare empty seats that dotted the bus guaranteed expiation. But now, seats gone, standing room only, one must wonder— is some little old lady going seatless because of my ease and comfort? Perhaps a nun even. A nun leading a group of school children. With kittens. I’m probably clear on that one— I would hear the noise of the kids and kittens, even here in the back of the bus. Who I actually see standing in front of me is a tall young guy in jeans and a suede jacket, listening to his I-pod. Beyond him, fading into the hazy distance of the midsection of the bus, some vigorous looking young ladies. Still a twinge there, gentleman sitting while ladies stand and all, but modern bus etiquette is clear on this matter. And anyway, I don’t see any other men giving up their seats. So I’m off the hook for now. But still, I do so fear the onrush of the crowd each time it comes.

April 13

I live at the base of a mountain of parrots. Okay, actually, I work there. But it really is a mountain of parrots. And those parrots, the parrots of Telegraph Hill, scream like flighty feathered madness in the morning. They swarm like yellow and green lunacy at lunch time. They migrate like clucking tittering insanity in the evening. Pets, let loose on a lark a few decades ago. And now they are always with us.

April 14

The building says

“Beamis”

in gold letters

against

peeling salmon paint

on the way home

from my office

to the bus stop.

How

have I not seen it

before?

April 15

“Don’t judge.”

That’s what she said after she got on the bus. It was hard to take your eyes off of her, she was rail thin, clothes tight and yet somehow worn and loose, hair matted and dirty, eyes bloodshot and hollow with that kind of hollowness I’ve sometimes seen before in my own. Hard not to stare, but of course you don’t want to be rude. This leads to surreptitious glances, by their very furtiveness drawing attention to the fact that one is looking. Which no doubt is what led her to say, to noone in particular, while staring straight ahead from her seat by the window, “Don’t judge.”

She was silent for a while after that. Then, as she stood and made her way to the door several stops later, the torrent started.

“Don’t judge. You ain’t got no right. You don’t know. You don’t know a damn thing. So keep your judgments to your own damn self.” And on and on in a similar vein, loud but not angry, as her frame lurched in a jerky off-balance way.

Just before leaving the bus, she looked at us, smiled and laughed, raised one arm above her head in a move that somehow reminded me of a prima ballerina, and said, “Have a nice day. Gosh dang!”

And then she was gone.

April 16-17

A Lost Weekend. No writing, but clearly do I recall Jen’s lackadaisical voice, Valkyrie build and cute round face framed in curved blond hair. That and the puzzling African safari theme revealed in the flickering firelight of Piazza Orgasmica on Clement Street, which is, after all, a Brazilian-owned chain. Most curious.

April 18

A blustery spring wind blew through the city today, whipping leaves around, rattling newspapers and sending my hair flying in golden strands that I had to keep gathering together and tucking back behind my ears.

April 19

The back side of the fountain in Yerba Buena Gardens, cool marble corridor memorial to the Civil Rights movement, where the waterfall pelts you with cool mist, will always be the first place I kissed her.

April 20

Kincaid Room, Unitarian-Universalist Church on Franklin, setting up for a meeting. Defining features: hard plastic chairs, dirty chocolate milk brown and slightly Oreo-dipped white, in a circle. Concrete walls in prison gray. A cement inset in the ceiling, featuring six perfectly square Jackson Pollock-pattern asbestos spattered tiles in the middle. Simple standing lamp in the corner as befits Unitarians. Grade school black counter-top drawers in the back of the room. Tan carpet, square patterns in frayed disrepair. The pervasive smell of old couch cushions, though none are in sight. Dusky sun leaning through the slanted blinds, casting multiple dim shadows of my pen across the paper. Outside, cars roar past as Geary & O’Farrell split in two and flow around the church. Echoing voices, footsteps and creaking doors in the hall outside. Ten minutes to go.

April 21

There’s a little two-block stretch on the ride in to work (if you take the BX, that is). A little two-block stretch along Bush Street that takes in the mysterious stairway leading to the French Consulate, the glass front of the Goethe Institute German Cultural Center, the Taiwanese-run weekly-rate Hotel Astoria where I almost stayed one of the times LiAnne tried to kick me out and the red-gold-green gaudy magnificence of the Chinatown gate on Grant. All in two blocks, within a few blocks of the all-business no-nonsense Financial District. This city inspires such love in me.

April 22

Dusk came today with a green-blue fire over the Pacific.

April 23

South Van Ness is so unlike Mission, which again is unlike Valencia. Valencia is Roxie Theatre glowing on the corner, French crepe restaurant just up the street, well-heeled vintage stores and bars that straddle hip and dive. Mission the same, except it is also Pentecostal churches in Spanish, booming music from discount goods stores and the crack dealers and prostitutes that congregate around the BART stations at 16th and 24th. And then South Van Ness, and suddenly it’s auto supply stores, warehouses and gas stations. Three parallel streets that might as well be in different cities.

April 24

Three-tiered

Gray stone birdbath

In the green grass courtyard

Of red brick

Saint James’ Presbyterian

Is dry

Full of black soil

And planted

With seed that promises

A bright spring explosion

April 25

After getting through the whole day without incident, a half block from home, on the very corner where I live, I see a guy smoking a cigar, wearing pajama bottoms with horizontal stripes, a plaid blazer with vertical stripes, and a firemen’s hat loitering in the vicinity of the SF Weekly news box. San Francisco defends to the end her right to present you with the bizarre.

April 26

Telegraph Hill was awash this morning with hummingbirds, dragonflies and butterflies upon the face of the verdant emerald deep.

April 27

The bus ride home today was a festival of dialects. Big bountiful blond girl talking on the phone about the people at work with thick Russian English. Black girls reading out loud from the newspaper about “that guy who got shot in South City, and they killed his ass”. And a Chinese office ladies threesome engaged in nonstop Cantonese-Chinglish all the way home.

April 28

The sky was opaque white, pouring rain this morning on the way to the bus. But by lunch the clouds had piled up into big white and gray masses, scuttling across the baby blue sky as they skidded over the bay out of office window. And tonight, leaving work, the sky was transparent purple, with stars standing out in bright diamond relief.

April 29

The benches in the new Union Square have been designed to encourage the homeless not to loiter in this public space. Accordingly, they are cold hard steel, with straight backs, and left and right armrests dividing the bench into four person-sized seats. It’s impossible to do anything other than sit rigidly facing forward, unable to touch the person next to you, or turn and look in their eyes when you talk. Let’s hope that the whole city doesn’t end up this way.

April 30

I heard the most refreshing thing of the month today. Loitering around North Beach with time to kill before meeting somebody at the movies, I was directed by posters advertising “Art in the Alley” to Jack Kerouac Lane, tucked between Vesuvios and City Lights. The alley was packed with dyed hair, argyle socks, paintings and bass-string jazz notes. When I had my fill, I wandered into Vesuvios, thinking I might do some writing in Jack’s old haunt over a cup of coffee. When I ordered a latte (which, in my defense, had been suggested by the sign out front), the wiry white haired guy with a goatee behind the bar said, “If you want a latte, you should go to a café. I can’t make a good latte. I’m a bartender.”