Happy New Year's!

December 29, 2012

Hope it's a beautiful celebration and a great 2013!

Oakland Night

December 27, 2012

Straight-line view into the grey future

Dec. 23 2012

Mundane evening bus ride

December 13, 2012

Got on the bus in West Oakland with a pink-haired girl carrying an IKEA bag, yellow and blue. Once on the bus, I walk to the back, loaded down with a dress shirt, and a full backpack. "Look at that," says a woman in a purple pullover reading a book to herself about a nearby woman's grey, elaborate knitting. "It's really beautiful."


"I just admire people like you," she says. The other woman holds up her creation for a moment in the admiring glow.


There's a Pete's Coffee disposable cup holder on the floor of the bus, cardboard, and a berry-red Phillies blunt package lies, semi-crumpled, underneath the two-toned blue, hard plastic seat across the way from me. I'm sitting back right.


The blue-marbled floor offers an extremely mundane background, like a dull ocean viewed from 2,000 feet above, white streaks, windblown whitecaps, moving in the light-blue surf, the water not deep enough for an unfathomable outer-space indigo, but bright, an uncomfortable light blue.


The bus is packed now after rolling through downtown heading south on Grand Ave. A woman, big belly pouring over her pants in a tan shirt reads "Living" magazine in the bus's back left corner. A man in a black-and-white checkered scarf, the design you see on those weird jackets in the Midwest mainly is checking Facebook on his iPhone; I can see that now-nauseating blue peak in spurts from behind and to his right as he faces forward.


The back window of the bus is recessed like a deep-water sub, supplying a Life Aquatic feel to the drippy, late-fall, dark, dark evening. The engine, humming, runs like it's been maintained by a sharp, easy-going mechanic, a cigarette dangling from his lips. There's no smell.


The Facebook dude gets up and gives a look over this way as the bus passes the up-and-coming Grand Lake neighborhood stop. He's wearing a plastic-like rain jacket, charcoal grey, carrying an Adidas bag, the bus sighing a hydraulic sigh as it dips to let more people on while he drops away from the bus's back door.


Dude across from me is staring at his iPhone 4 that sports a lime-green plastic protective cover. The night is dark outside. It's 6:28 p.m. "How long would it take to go from MacArthur to downtown?" asked a dreadlocked dude at the front of the bus to the bus driver moments before he got off and walked toward a purple-glowing Taco Bell in the Laurel District.

Lunch time in San Francisco

December 12, 2012

Had a lunch meeting with someone at a Dim Sum place located near the Embarcadero BART station in the city. It's a crystal-clear day. Leave work at 11am in Alameda and get to the West Oakland BART station, the last stop in the East Bay before reaching the city. There's a seven-mile-ish long tunnel under the bay between Oakland and SF that the trains go through. Somewhere midway (I imagine) on trips under the water, I sometimes (used to always) imagine the tunnel cracking and beginning to fill with water. Which way would I swim? Etc.


A guy with a beat-up bike but a put-together mien got on with me in West Oakland. I don't pay him too much mind, but then something alerts me to him, maybe I overhear him talking drugtalk on a burner-like cell phone. One look says dude's going for a mid-day heroin ride. (From Trainspotting: heroin's a thousand times better than sex. That always blew my mind. "My God! Then that's some amazing sh!%." Reminds of the time, one time, when I was helping a friend in Humboldt County, that Wild West, huge Northern California county on her 40-acre mountainside property. We were cleaning out her greenhouse; black widows had decided to set up shop in the white elbows of the structure inside. She was cleaning up the property from a previous owner, who had left rotting structures (full of rotting, silverfish-eaten books, and Playboys! and I remember a defunct, full-size school bus? I'd pound the back of an axe into the crumbling studs of the half-down structure, rat sh$% pouring down on me, decades-old raccoon dander, decaying possum hair, filling the air, coating my skin and my lungs? Anyhow, we found a jar of poppy seeds in one of the structures, literally poppy seeds. How do they differ from the bagel kind? The previous owner grew poppies, she said; they would grow the plants, let them grow flowerbuds and then take a razorblade and carve an X in them at night and let the sap ooze out overnight and then collect it in the morning, balling it up into a gummy, tacky ball of opium. They did that until the government helicopters rose over the hillside one day and spotted the plants and busted them.).


Got to lunch, quiet, early. Dim Sum ladies passing every few minutes with tacky-noodles filled with spinach, pork, other stuff.


Over at 12:30. The place absolutely packed now, walked a block to Embarcadero BART station and back to West Oakland and then Alameda at 1:00, after a drug-pulling stop at Blue Bottle, which was on the way (I swear!).

San Francisco on a rainy night

November 29, 2012

Field Guide - Mt. Tam

November 13, 2012


Upper left: color = golden green of the moss


Upper right: color = deep blue of the water


Bottom right: color = golden, light (pale) yellow of the sunlight


Upper left: color = blue of the sky


Saturday, a good day

November 03, 2012

Woke up a little later than I wanted to on Saturday in a blue-striped comforter-covered bed in the foothills of the East Bay hills, the bracelet charm-like Mormon Temple of Oakland, a flat image in the southeast distance out the sliding glass door on the third-story balcony. (That's in my mind; actually woke up at my place in the ghetto of West Oakland).


The week was a long one, made longer by 9- and 10-hour workdays, arriving each day at 6:30am, leaving at around 4pm, and then Friday wrapped it up by having to try to save Thanksgiving, by negotiating the split-up drama of a divided family - who's in control, who wants to be together? who sacrifices what for whom? what's more important blood family or marriage or partners? All with the heaviness of the big C and the extreme effort it took to make Austin happen this year. So, that took up almost all emotional energy left, drained already from the week, as soon as I got off on Friday. Was basically shell-shocked. Was in bed by 8:30pm, but watched the first episode of season 3 of The Walking Dead - O M G! The bomb.


So, woke up at about 7:15am instead of 6:00am on Saturday, which would have made for a relaxed beginning to the best day of the week, a relaxed beginning I always strive for. We crawled out of bed and did an abbreviated yoga session - knees to chest, mountain pose, warrior I, downward dog, forward fold - and were on the road by about 8:00am to one of the chillest, best breakfast spots in the East Bay - Elmwood Cafe in Berkeley.


It's European style, they make the best hot chocolate in the Bay Area (I bet) from homemade ganache and homemade whipped cream. Had one of those and a pumpkin waffle (the bomb). Read a little of Murakami's 1Q84 as I waited for food and sipped on that ridiculous chocolate drink, the sun and the East Bay Hills showing themselves to my left out the big windows and all those College Ave. boutiques, and the upscale street, offering its rarefied peace, no eroding as families started to show up at the cafe and the place becoming busy. That's why early is better.


The plan was for a Mount Tamalpais hike in the foothills surrounding San Anselmo. Drove there, found a not-so-cute cafe in San Anselmo, ordered a dry Blue Bottle cappuccino, and got prepped for the hike. It was about 10:30am.


Had just a Mount Tam map I bought from REI to guide us. Was picking routes way off the beaten path. We chose Redwood Rd. and followed the grey maplines up into the hills on narrow streets past $2 million homes. Passed one stretch that was a little park with path going straight up into the hills. Parked there. It was about 11:00am.


Hiked up. May or may not have gotten busy in the woods on the secluded trail up to one of the fireroads intersecting Mt. Tam's more single-track trails.

Reached the top of that quarter-mile uphill. What a stunning area. We're on the northeast side of Mt. Tam's east peak, the highest point of the mountain. We climbed to the top the previous Saturday; we can see the fire tower perched on the peak we visited then (met an open, cool ranger woman in the doorway of that tower who talked about winter being her favorite time on the mountain - can roam the forests, unmolested by many hikers or tourists and hunt for chantarelle mushrooms) high up above.


We started the hike, in chill mode. Last week we power-walked it, but this time we started out slow, rolling with the early-ish, crystal clear sunlight, filtering coolly, sky blue-filled down onto the mountain path in the cool air. Glorious, quiet, just rolling hills and a few other serious hikers, doing their contemplative Saturday morning hikes. This was my favorite part of the whole 2-hour hike, which dipped down into north side of the mountain and curved back around to just on its northeast base on the banks of Phoenix Lake (more like pond) and back up and around back to our original uphill launch - about 5.5 miles in all. 1:45pm.


Partner was demanding food and a shower. Somehow we settled on baby wipes and a natural food store :). When in doubt, go with baby wipes. Ha.


We arrived at the food store, grabbed baby wipes and each grabbed a bathroom. I was done in a couple of minutes. Partner was there for a while. Bathroom line backed up - there were only two bathrooms. But she emerged so fresh and so clean, deep-sky blue silk-cotton top and mustard jean bottom and smiling. Baby wipes are a good thing. Then we ravaged the store, a little. Barbara's jalapeno cheese chips were part of that, so was a coconut water and a root beer and a beet-base veggie burger on good whole wheat bread (wasn't as good as it sounds - does it sound good? :)) eaten in the sunlight-filled eating area of the store underneath a Bay Leaf-ish tree's thin limbs that anchored the flower area of the store.


We gathered up our items, paid for them and then got to the car to head into S.F. 3:00pm.


S.F. is a serious city and there are few city entrances more glorious than the Golden Gate bridge on a gold-clear day. Before entering the final tunnel before the bridge, you get a glimpse of the sexy city and the Bay Bridge and then emerge on the other side in full splendor of the beginning of the GG Bridge, which interestingly fits the road askance, requires a right curving turn to enter. Upon the entrance, the full splendor of the glowing orange, deep blue sky and expansive blue water, comforting and safe, intriguing on the Bay side, dozens of sail boats, ringing mountains and Alcatraz anchoring the scene and the Pacific side on the right providing a deep blue wild feeling, some boats leaving wakes as they speed out into the distance deeper leaving the Golden Gate. Partner asks semi-rhetorically "Isn't the Pacific side the one that all the jumpers go off of?" An interesting thought. If you decide to go that way, do you go to the side of the wild blue yonder or to the comforting safety of mountains and civilization? Answers might shine a golden gate light on the last moments of life and what you might be thinking. I prefer deep-blue golden wild myself, I think. Sinking through the air, thinking of the crystal-clarity of interstellar space and all the diamonds the ocean may hold.

We arrived at the Legion of Honor fine art museum, gloriously perched on S.F.'s northwest peak, overlooking the Marin Headlands, the Golden Gate bridge, windswept cypress trees and their deep, deep green filtering the view all around, including the Golden Gate's mouth, the Pacific deep blue. The museum needs to do nothing else but bring you there. 3:45pm.


Museum actually is not that interesting and we're between exhibits, but partner is a member, so no big loss. We see one of the poorer Monet Water Lilies and some Classical "high" art oil paintings and exit shortly back into the dazzling view and all the brides getting their picture taken, including an 18-year-old looking one. Partner suggests Mormon, because they can't wait. Boys in tuxes are lining up to take their picture with her - so young, babies in the world.


Now it's on to Hayes Valley for Blue Bottle, reading, walking, dinner, and (we think) birthday drinks with my sister.


Driving down Geary, realize we will pass right by Japan Town, so decide to make a brief detour to pick some of the Frankincense incense at Asakichi my friend introduced to me last weekend. There's a reason why Jesus was greeted with Frankincense (and Myrrh). Yet to really smell Myrrh - Frankincense is burning now in my room and it does the J. Takes five minutes, double park on the street. Partner parks and waits.

Arrive above Hayes Valley at the huge Catholic Cathedral on the hill at Geary and Gough. Park there and decide to walk the mile or so to Hayes Valley and glorious, glorious Blue Bottle (the best coffee in the Bay Area, handsdown) at its Alley-side spot on Linden St. We get gibraltars, I buy my sister some Blue Bottle chocolate they're selling for her birthday and we sit on the manicured outdoor area and (I) sip the gibraltar and contemplate life (sort of - really just decompress-ish from the day). It's 5pm.


Walk to the Hayes Valley park and then go to Nancy Boy, a home-furnishing, gay-run boutique nearby for partner to get some gifts for her best friend's partner's birthday. 5:35pm.


Find a coffee shop around the corner and sit down and read 1Q84 for a few minutes, partner gets mint tea, I take a sip and read till just before 6-oclock closing.


Walk up and down boutique-laden street with bomb-a$$ stores with super-expensive looking items. Don't go in. Pass a cozy-looking sushi spot, Domo, nearby and decide to hit it up for dinner.


Walk back to Hayes Valley square where I read a couple of chapters of 1Q84, in the dying light on the last day before daylight savings time ends.

Go to dinner. Sit in front of sushi bar. Place is cozier than you can imagine. 7pm. Get text that sister drinks cancelled b/c of her food poisoning (secretely relieved - kind-of mellow and just want to cruise the rest of the night in).

Left: Smitten, instant-made ice cream, turned into a glorious affogato with espresso purchased at corner cafe. OMG affogato moment on the corner of the street. Walk to car. Drive home across the Bay Bridge. Pick up things from my house, go to partner's hill-side apartment. Watch next two episodes of Walking Dead. Episode 2 is the bomb. Sh$% just got real. Then sleep. An almost-perfect day.

The Ranch

October 30, 2012

Went to a friend's ranch a few miles north of Reno, Nev. last weekend.

Went on a hike into the mountains there. The leaves just changing on the oaks, the bare ground visible, accentuating barren desert feel of the land on the east side of the Sierra.


We followed a bear up the hillside, who was eating nothing but acorns. His scat was pure. Marco said it doesn't smell and it doesn't. He had gathered a whole bag of it previously to make incense out of - apparently it burns slow and easy. Sounds gross, but it really doesn't smell, think that has to do with the pure acorn diet.

Jerry Brown is out there

October 20, 2012

Went to the California State Capitol today. Jerry Brown, current governor, and former governor, has his portrait up on the third floor of the building right next to Ronald Reagan's and a few others. The governors pick their own artists. Ronald's and the others are typical, conventional portraits. Jerry's is straight crazy. He chose an expressionist? artist friend from the L.A. area. It's half-finished looking and Jerry's expression is frozen somewhere between sadness and surprise. But you have to love the originality. Just became a dude on my list of whose biographies I want to/need to read. Holla.

Yo, it was my birthday

October 15, 1978

Went to Farley's Coffee, the O.G. version, in Portrero Hill in S.F.

And to Dolores Park in the Mission, cruised down Valencia, and went to one of the best shops (anything) in all of the Bay Area, my favorite.

Aliens from the best d@m* store in the Bay.

GG Bridge

September 22, 2012

Turning this into a poster to help work out.

Oaktown M#%@er$*&#er

September 9, 2012

Lake Tahoe

September 03, 2012

I had no idea you were so blue, so three shades of blue, so mountain-ringing and stunning. And had no idea you were so clear, crystal clear. Body underwater and eyes open to the crystal-brilliance, you glow a thousand times brighter than the surface - like swimming in a jewel. One of the most stunning aesthetic experiences of my life.

Golden Gate

September 1, 2012

The thing I want to say about evening is that it lasts a long time. And that I'm tired and it's been a long day.


You smell like seaweed and fresh fish, arrayed near a tall, big glass of Kirin, golden, light.


Your ears flap out. You have a large smile and a golden-haired laugh, eyes that sparkle, a booty that pops and pouty lips.


The day goes down green, comes up bleached white. Incongruent lines, black, then grey, then impossible silver, drift forward and back in a sea of haze and stupidity. A grace, not felt, a truth, not written down, a day, not lived.

Dear Cancer

August 20, 2012

You stood in the rain. And shocked in ruby reds and burning whites. The dripping rain and green leaves, bone-thin bodies. The sadness. The sadness burns into eyes like some napalm-burn dripping nuclear, hydrogen bomb. Burns like the day flames, like the night cries, like the morning moans. Like death. Like light dies.


You brought the smooth caress of French eternal pools, offering sliding, creek-like water and reflecting, bisected, mirror image-like, by crows pretending to be ducks.


The obelisk standing at the far end declaring, "I am still here." "I am still here," among the ruins, phallic to the end. "We have survived."


You brought the flourishing bronze statue of a down-south General, who lived two years with Cherokees in his late teens, and founded Texas. He stood there in the dripping, gray rain, like an immortal dying soldier. Saluting the hopes of a past race and the failures of a current one.


You brought a slow, catching limp, talk of ballfields and girls, sweetness and love, babies and cohabitation, darkness and light, wills and femurs, the future and past, kings and mothers.


You brought food straight to the stomach, burning a slight hole into me, too, each time. It's red. Clean with alcohol. "I gave you a healthy dosing of tape then." A mix of shakes. Cleaning the plastic. You brought that casually.


You brought Eddie Murphy finding God, again. You brought care to a careless world. You brought son to father and father to son, one of each. Both at the same time.


You brought Aloe Vera to a burned neck. You brought mucous and coughing, and throwing up.


You brought all of this.


You brought late, late nights, you brought a nothing-on-TV boring baseball game.


Most importantly, you brought dusk, immortality, the neverending, field of dreams dusk, the sky streaked with quiet, red, rose.


You brought the reassuring churn of cicadas, you brought the mossy, high-browed, smooth, peonied style of East Texas high society, of mirror concrete jealousies, of golf-shirt certainties.


You brought moments, moment upon moments. You brought Greek yogurt and bananas and raisins together.


You brought a deep-set leather couch, you brought sitting side by side, like side by side hasn’t been done in years, you brought hope, you brought life.


You brought the circle of death, you brought two birds of paradise, you brought a bushy plant.


You brought abstract paintings of a little boy.


You brought slippers of an eldest son, you brought hope. You brought love. You brought a wife, a daughter, a mother, you brought daughters.


You brought reading, you brought poems, you brought novels.


You brought hope, you brought love.


You brought push-ups.


You brought bad coffee, twice.


You brought rain like full buckets emptied from the heavens by a happy God, a God tossing water by the bucketsful from his back porch over the fig, rose gardens of his back lawn, over the peonies, over the twisting, mossy, live oaks, over the lush paradise of an endless yard.


You brought alligators and bayous, you brought baseball, you brought shoes, you brought love, you brought bones, you brought hands, you brought the afterlife, you brought something like prayer, you brought misplaced lives, you brought hope.


You brought the end of debt, you brought the middle of hope, you brought families together, you brought Christmas week skitowns, you brought Thanksgiving housefuls, you brought kids: thinking, feeling, walking uncertain grounds, battling through, looking for life in everything they encounter, trying to find a meaning that will last, that will take them to the ends of the earth and back, in one piece, up-held strong.


You brought money, clothes, the ideas of, you brought wanting to be better, you brought hope, you brought life, you brought love.


You brought burned skin, you brought ionization breaking apart and coming together, you brought electric-orange liquid, you brought coughing, you brought bagfulls of Kleenex, you brought a table three-times clean. You brought hope, you brought all there is.


The days, you brought. Ten more days, you brought 10 more. You brought hope, you brought life, you brought love.


You brought little painted toes, you brought a little girl playing piano and clapping, you brought a little girl wandering a sunny pool looking for spouts of water, you brought hope.


You brought sweetness, you brought life.


You brought a jungle, you brought a man standing in a jungle, you brought a look of shared under-arching misery, bringing life and hope and love.


You brought each day to an end and each morning, each morning a big hope.


You brought a midnight hello.


You brought hunger and its opposite. You brought the world together.


You brought photos of waterfall wives, you brought pictures of little loved ones, you brought life, you brought love, you brought hope.

Hi

August 06, 2012

It never looks like it does in real life

July 26, 2012


From a couple months ago.


Night

July 22, 2012

Hunting White Oaks

July 20, 2012

Roaming Pioneer Forest with a forest master - an Ozarks memory.


In 2010, Terry Cunningham, in his mid-60s, a forester of the 150,000-acre Pioneer Forest, a privately held timberland in the rolling Ozark hills just northeast of Eminence, Mo., gave me a tour one day of the forest he’s known for 38 years.


“The Current River watershed is known for its white oak,” Cunningham says upon welcoming me to Pioneer Forest headquarters in Salem, Mo., site of a former National Distillers bourbon barrel plant.



“Anything with ‘Old’ in front of it is National Distillers,” Cunningham says, while giving a brief tour of the old plant before we headed off into the forest. Stacks of old, blackened wood stood their ground and time in a lean-to, quarter-way collapsed. A corrugated metal roof, bent, rusted, in the midst of a years-long collapse, sheltered them.


“White oak was king in the Ozarks,” Cunningham says.


Cunningham said he was a forester in the German forest meister (master) tradition, those who knew the forest like the back of their hand. “You literally remember hillsides,” he says. You know its folds and proclivities and watch individual trees grow up like children, some moving away unexpectedly from tornado-force winds that sweep up the hollows at times.


The timber business is about regeneration. And Pioneer Forest, Cunningham says, shows that a timberland can be sustained and profitable without flooding the forest with wide swaths of vegetation-stimulating sunlight as in clear-cutting, aka even-aged forest management. Even-age, because all the re-growth is the same age.


“The recent research showed that acorns aren’t the main factor in regeneration,” Cunningham says. Those germs, those fathers of great oaks, were not as critical as once thought. Stump sprouts, those shoots that grow out of a cut-tree’s stump and bloom into a tree from its predecessor’s rootstock, were significant in re-growth.


A mature forest also has an army of seedlings in the undergrowth, their sizes betraying their ages, ready to pounce on sunlight like a gold-starved golem. “A knee-high ‘seedling’ can be 20 to 30 years old,” Cunningham says.


Pioneer Forest was one of the first forests in the area to do uneven-aged management, where trees are selected, not only to maximize their timber value, but for the health of the remaining forest. Which nearby trees are the healthiest and could grow straighter and fuller and generate an exponential amount of grade lumber and income and would flourish without weaker sycophants sucking up valuable resources like sun and water?


“We’re trying to adapt species to each site by the way we mark the trees,” Cunningham says. White oak, red oak and black oak like the wetter, cooler northern sides of hills, which are shaded from the west-setting sun.


A forest is not just cropland like a sea of corn or wheat or soy beans that cover the Missouri River valley further to the north. “There’s more to a forest than just raising trees,” Cunningham says.



“My favorite piece of the forest was near Shannondale,” Cunningham says. “You can lay down at night and there’ll be a hillside in your head.” That Shannondale hillside, I can picture, is the one appearing like an overcast, big-treed, hillside ghost in Cunningham’s head at night as he’s beginning to sleep.


It’s gone now. “It was stunning. It was so beautiful,” he said. “Now it just makes you sick.” A windstorm took it down a few years ago. The north hillside took the brunt of the wind, Cunningham says. The forest was more open than usual then. It was just five years after a select harvest; some trees were taken out, the stand thinned, making the wind’s entry more thorough, more forceful.


We drive out into the land toward Bunker. “There’s a cemetery tucked up into that draw,” Cunningham pointing to a small creek coursing straight into the hills north of the road. “There’s a handful of gravestones there.”


We arrive at Current River Natural Area, site of the first natural area in the state of Missouri, established 1955. Huge white oaks tower above, their curled dry leaves providing uneven footing below and a slight woody smell and crunch that adds to the forlorn feel of the gray, overcast late-winter day.

Chinatown, Big Buddha

July 17, 2012

Did a quick hit in SF on Sunday. From my door in central West Oakland to Union Square, Westfield's, Nordstrom, Goormin Hats, Macy's Union Square, Chinatown and back to my door: 2 hours - 12p.m. to 2p.m.

And it wasn't that frantic.

Needed a Buddha to make my cube a happier place. Went to the colorful chaos of Chinatown.

Found 'im - chillin, ok with a matcha can, at work

Walk

July 12, 2012

Went on a walk in my hood to shave these 15 pounds I put on. Walked past a dude, heavyset somewhat shady, who couldn't help but mutter under his breath to himself and semi-me as I walked, intense and tired, by: "You ain't got to worry about a motherfucker trying to hit YOU."

View of the massive statues that are near the end of my West Oakland hood walk.

Holding my niece Jolie in Central Park

July 9, 2012

Got this pic texted to me semi-anonymously


Of my niece and me in New York City, just after her birth, and before I left (I thought) America for good.

A little ghostly

T G I F

June 8, 2012

Fun as hell





via @cristinadaglas

C O L O R

June 3, 2012

The day comes and goes with the greenswept orange, dusty sky, quiet as starvation, brilliant like a dagger to the stomach.


Welcome to the world little one

June 1, 2012

Welcome to the world

Point Reyes emerald emptiness

May 28, 2012

Sun pours in off the emerald green water, dark and then light with the horizon speeding away and the gentle long-shored waves pouring in. The crisp image of beach, cliffs, emerald green water, the wind (whipping the sand in mini snow-dustings underfoot), whipping your hair this way and that, and your skirt, and the imaginary trees not on the sand 100s of yards in the distance.


The thick cheese, the bright song of an unamed small bird

Mount Tam - View from the top

May 26, 2012

Washington, D.C.

May 18, 2012

National Gallery East ground level




The Dupont Circle metro escalator always strikes hard. Was in D.C. covering the National Association of Realtors midyear meeting for Inman News and stayed near Dupont Circle, so I had the pleasure of riding the looooooooooong escalator up a lot. It's a sharp aesthetic experience each time, believe it or not. The blue sky pours hued light and its incessant feeling of freedom down into the slanting tunnel to all the tunnel-dwellers as it peaks above the oval rim of concrete wall that frames the entrance.


Etched in the concrete a few feet below the silo-like rim of entrance-concrete-wall is an ill-chosen quote from Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. The first six words promises an imagery that matches the glorious ride up: "Thus in silence in dreams' projections," but the incongruous rest leaves you feeling doubly empty: 1. you miss an idea to match the elation that comes with the ride up and 2. the sensation of opportunity lost, is almost overwhelming.


AUSTIN!!!!!

April 15, 2012

Velvet night

Crickets

Night air thick as water







Touching down, the dilapidated, peeled Mexican bars show their face like boys’ town border bordellos, and the loose desert straggle of blackland prairie vegetation, overgrown, weedy, uncut, unkempt, welcomes you to a land, warm, the air as thick as water and skin temperature and heavy with spring season potential.


Austin is weirdly provincial. You slowly get into downtown from one of the stuttering neighborhoods, and it pulses with life right away as you course along its wide section of river, built from the dam that you passed on the way into town from the east on the river-bordering First Street, changed to Cesar Chavez a decade or more ago. Below the dam, the river is more true to its name, a willow-draped, living thing with sand bars and channels; above, it's a ribbon of lank, over-flooded river. You feel overstuffed, as you do with most flooded valleys of the earth’s waterlogged watersheds.


The night, velvet, comes on very slow, starting with a smattering of crickets, the sound wafting with the day's heavy wind, the air, as heavy, rich, potent as springwater, lends a swimming feel. The sky, wider than you think it would be, framed by a massive live oak, the tops of farther-off sycamores, a taller box elder and some pecan trees, has a full, muted palette of blue with grey-white clouds, shading a bleached light pink. They fill the sky, wide, between that framing of rich green, the massive, full-bodied limbs of the 500-year-old Live Oak tree, painting strong, compelling, sculpted, full lines across the full sky.


The hundreds of tree species stand out, bugs flying around - you are in the south now, and not just any south, a south where several ecosystems mix and creates a burst-forth of life, like shaking a can of jelly beans, each different and letting them loose in your mouth, a hundred flavors on your tongue, crickets, a thousand humming sounds in your ears, seeming to emanate, in their now fast, now slow, languorous rhythms, like the heartbeat of the land itself, its breath, inundating your senses, all of a sudden made permeable by the velvet, silk-like feel of the air, the under-ghost smell, rich, of a certain unbelievable potency of the air, the sex of trees, or the humming insects, the full, rain-gorged creeks and over-abundant plants, wildflowers, bringing your body to a humming high-tuned pitch, ears almost ringing, mind definitely dazed, in a smooth way, with the hip-hop mix, the swimming-day feel, the plenipotency of a land on fire, unburnt and soaked to dripping with a power unharnessed, never used, but there floating around like the impenetrable, inscrutable gaze of a young girl in (the safe cage of the mind) love.


The energy peaks at 6th and Lamar; you can almost feel the Gulf Stream-like channels of water underneath, the famous Edward's Aquifer; all bets, even though this is the north side of the river, and the hill country at a perpendicular X with the Colorado River, flowing just 100 yards away (you can feel its cypress-blooded pulse there, too), on the south side, basically ending that West Texas high, lonesome, sparser-as-you-head west desert, high-plains and rolling as the Hill Country, dissected and carved, ends like the edge of a never-ending pool, the river that edge, the Colorado.


Downtown’s in that transition zone, in the flatland in the never-ending's disbelieving aura of impossiblity staring you in the face, or, more accurately, bathing you in an air-bath of life-filled energy, a never-to-exist land, a fairie land, there in the flesh, a million-colored mirage, two or three for-sure degrees unreal, as you walk around and stare at the limestone-sculpted buildings, the two-story bars, the clean plate-glass windows, the warm firelight of a night, and the spangle of night gone wild, surreal, and magic like it never should happen, can't-believe-it's happening. And a constant is-this-for-real? doubt’s there that excites you up to your eyes, and gives you a slight, strong, sincere smile, even if not registered on the face, your brain, reptilian, smiles its own, superseding any stupid thoughts. An ease despite itself.


And 6th and Lamar that swirling chaos meets a peak of sorts at that intersection. A sharp, real point, that hits you somewhere just above your stomach below your ribs and spreads from there to your whole body, until it feels like you can't take it anymore; the flagship Whole Foods store, sitting in all its marketed-to-the-hilt inept glory, Anthropologie, Amy's Ice Cream, Waterloo Records. It reaches a peak here, which is diffuse, though strong, too, everywhere else.


Riding bikes through this is ultimate, the energy raw, and the unimpeded flow as you lane-split traffic that always bunches here. Riding to Bacon, which specializes in bacon …

Birthday

April 12, 2012



The wasteland of experience

a cactus-strewn day


rain dripping from the sunny mountains


the trees stark and moving


striations of barely-existing love

a strong, loud wind


clouds coming and going

mountains and the sea going nowhere


a rock-hard, clear reality

cotton-soft below,

echoing all over

Right and Wrong

March 31, 2012

I once asked you the difference between right and wrong


And you said it was in those fir-covered mountains, shaded rose at sunset


Then you flipped me off


The world answered, too, in its sadness-way


The rain dripping, a grey day at noon


The slow drip of gravity and its sluggish sound a constant reminder of the slow


Stripped-to-the-body reality of breathing, nothing-moments and the permanent impermanence of it all


And the brain, physically, echoing the sound, pulsing slightly, melting in staccato striated vibrations


And then I looked into your eyes; all the hope of the world in the white corners, shining like the blazing fire of a mountain in flames, a dancing, flying, unending, pure hope, unadorned, pearly, flashing its wet brilliance in all corners of the room


And then you flicked me off again


And brought the mountain’s dancing trees into movement, made them more distinct from the land, floating, disembodied, separate, comforting and made the bone-stark fear of a day more real, stone-sharp in taste, metal-hard in touch, indigo-black with a raw kaleidoscope of sound

Gunfire

March 23, 2012

The sharp crack of gunfire edged the pre-dawn this morning. Fifteen or so high-intensity rounds echoed off the apartment alleyway just across the street from my bedroom. It was about 5:30; I had been up for a few minutes. Estimated distance, within 50 yards, maybe 60. Really close. Have heard it farther; farther away it sounds muffled, like popcorn popping in a saucepan on a stove with the lid covering the oiled, jumping kernals. Not like gunfire at all, the power ebbed from it; not menacing, a little soft, a little sweet, even. Close it sounds sharp, distinct staccato, feel the metal flying through the air.


And this morning it was not play gunfire. In the rapidity and intensity of it you could feel the burst of hatred and violence. This has been the third or forth time I've heard close, menacing gunfire, and each time it's been eerily silent. I keep expecting shouting, screeching car tires, revving engines. In fact, it's the direct opposite; seems to be a vacuum of sound, enhanced by the expectation. If it's a death, such an anti-climactic way to go out. I picture somebody bleeding, alone, in the dark, blood leaking from bullet holes in his body, the street absorbing another anonymous life, an absorption that these streets seem so ready, capable and used to doing, with their chaos of electric wires, semi-blighted houses, weedy, semi-abondoned lots, car-choked streets, potholes, mismatching, randomly patched asphalt, not to mention the human ghosts appearing, disappearing in the great texture and nooks that all this entropy allows.

Baller

March 22, 2012

Somebody smile please.

Spring

March 20, 2012

A helter-skelter mish-mash.

A springtime reverie.


The color strokes of flamingos in flight

Their wings daubing the sky all colors


Buildings opening and closing, a dog canyon

A howling afternoon


Thought like the jumbled-up sky, quiet steel

Whipped-up wind

Silent bus-roaring, waterfalling, feet falls, in-love murmurs, grass-stepping,

a day safe, ok, in line with what is and what you want it to be ...

Happiness

March 14, 2012

Skateboarding

March 12, 2012

This hill's nearby:



Bombing downhill took a while to master. It’s all in the forward standing foot, the micro-balancing act it must make continuously. And only time, trial, and error establish it. At first, I’d always drift right as I kicked with my back, right, leg, pushing the pavement behind me as my leg swung from front to back and continuously having to stop short and re-adjust straight. One stretch in front of a mysterious U.S. Post Office building on W. Grand Ave., just west of Telegraph Ave., right before you run into the east edge of Downtown Oakland marked by the intersection of West Grand Ave. and Broadway Ave., the area known as Uptown, where an end-burst of cool businesses flame before Auto Row takes over and a stretch of smaller dives and various KFC-like franchises take over east all the way to the commercial end of Broadway at 51st St. The intersection glows with Plum Bar, much-touted, Farley’s East, of course, Pican, an interesting Oakland bougie black deep-South upscale joint with some fancy-ass hotdogs they serve at the bar with some South-staple relish, Ozumo, an imposing sushi bar with decorative, full 64-ounce bottles of sake lining the windows and handmade, wall-sized, ocean-sweep-feeling artwork by an American, white, Kyoto-based friend of mine, I’ve never dared set foot into, a nondescript, never-visited-by-me (maybe twice) Starbucks, and the anchor of them all Luka’s, whose West Grand-facing windows throw its always jacked-seeming, loud bar crowd scene into the Broadway/Grand intersection all night, where the bartenders anchor the Oakland bar world, seeming to be the most grounded of all the floating, ephemeral cocktail culture that is invading the “Brooklyn of the Bay.”


--


A few blocks west of that ill-defined Post Office, my friend Nar was walking home one night with a big friend of his and got mugged at gunpoint. Saw him earlier in the night, and hearing him recount it later, a gunmetal slight acidic taste hit the roof of my mouth.


--


Anyhow, that stretch, that passes by the non-public U.S. Postal Service outpost – Asian postal employees, in uniform, coming and going all day and night present minor obstacles. The road has road-direction-parallel grooves here, periodically, and a lot of kicked up gravel, that jumps the board’s wheels microsegments to the right and to the left and sometimes just halts a front wheel altogether in a temporary guttural-sound-producing stall-drag.


The realizations of boardwork come in stages, like learning to lean back and semi-jump when you come across cracks in the pavement, which are many in Oakland. The board gives a deep crack as the wheels temporarily lodge, hit the grooves hard, but the jump and lean keep the board moving, instead of stopping short. It’s this jarring, the rattling crunch of the rough road underwheel, that loosens all eight of the lock nuts holding the trucks in place.


Turning the board over at the commercial headwaters of Claremont Ave. (exactly where the guys in the video above end up on their crazy-ass ride) left one of the bolts in the curbside grass growing in the soil built from tangled, backed-up and now composted eucalyptus leaves that had collected there. Found the bolt, put it in and then bombed downhill, listening to, and feeling, the teeth-chattering rattle of the loose bolt and the other seven loosening ones.


It was a four-mile ride home and was rough going until MacArthur Blvd. (which passes by Mosswood Park, fyi) and its smooth road, ready for riding. It turned into smooth West Ave., which turned into smooth Market St., after a brief wiggle on San Pablo Ave. That whole path took about 30 minutes. Ok, enough of the nothing-minutiae.

A just-cuz playlist

March 8, 2012



Want that hat!


--


Youtube doesn't have Mississippi mystery musician David Michael Moore or his "Take me to Coahama." (Track 2 after the jump)


--







He got laid that night




Ignore the idiotic laughter and the faked accent




Listened to this over and over as a freshman in college at St. Edward's University. The chorus was haunting, cast a hazy depth over the day.

"Did an angel whisper in your ear

and hold you close and take away your fear

in those long last moments."

Lucinda lived a few houses down from my childhood home in Austin, Texas, for a few years.




Played, live, during the best scene of Rachel Getting Married




I like how Thom Yorke moves from mic to piano in the video




Put this on and crank out some work!




Heroin-shooting music




Balling




What can you say?




and on and on

Life's calculus

March 7, 2012



The Don Draper-like copy to this spring season Coldwell Banker Real Estate campaign, released a couple of days ago, was written by Rob Siltanen, who was behind Apple's late-1990's ad campaign "Think Different."


Anyhow, had to write up a short on the new campaign for work, and went poetic. A small whiff of what days should be filled with.


My favorite part is the kid doing a nuts trampoline 960-twist flip. And then, "The square root of a grandmother [pause, pause] kissing her grandchild."

Everywhere With You

March 1, 2012



I think the lead singers might be on acid in this take - maybe every take - but the elation's there


I scream into the nothingness ...


Well, hot and heavy pumpkin pie

chocolate, candy, Jesus Christ

nothing pleases me more than you

Texture

February 25, 2012

Hair

February 24, 2012

The way you push your hair back behind your ears makes me think of magic.


Of long mornings, of eggs, of sunshine, of red pepper popping in a skillet of olive oil, of green trees bathed in golden light, vines, red wine sipped very slowly by the glass, of night paused in the way it can be so languorous, grey, timeless magic, of a nice watch ticking, of a young dog running outside in its yard below an oak tree, a mocking bird twirling the light into cascades of mind-bathing, bittersweet never-to-be, of bathing, gentle, the light from the tub's window glancing the droplets on your hair, little diamonds of happiness and pleasure, of a river opening into never-ending green, of the pink-smudged riverbanks when the redbuds just start to bloom, of running into somebody with your whole body and, in overwhelming joy and happiness, hugging him.


Heart, color, what?

February 20, 2012

West Oakland Incident

February 17, 2012

Submitted a photo to the new photo-feature website pullfoc.us this week, and it was selected for last week's themed prompt "an incident." Not the best photo, but the text, and a lack of other quality submissions I think, pushed it into selection.


An explosive, chaotic incident. I live in West Oakland, in the shadow of downtown. Along with being a notorious food desert, it’s crime- and drug-ridden, and you periodically see inexplicable things spilled on the street, like a bag of children’s clothes. I always wonder, “What the fuck happened here?”

Early Spring

West Oakland

February 10, 2012

Early Spring Looking Orange Soothing

Champion Joy

February 7, 2012

Joy of a champion. Hard not to smile at this. New York Giants returning from the Super Bowl 46 victory celebrate on their plane:


Oak-dotted hills

February 4, 2012

Most articles about the East Bay outdoors have the phrase "oak-dotted hills." It's hard not to use it. Photos from Sunol. Sunol oak-dotted hills Sunol oak-dotted hills Sunol oak-dotted hills And one of an electric green cauliflower variety from the Oakland Grand Lake Farmer's Market Sunol oak-dotted hills

Beautiful

February 3, 2012



Teach me how to use the love people say you make.

...

Last night I dreamt the whole night long,

I woke with a head full of songs.

I spent the whole day, I wrote 'em down.

But it's a shame,

tonight I'll burn the lyrics,

because every chorus was your name.

What's Up?

February 2, 2012

Hi

Blue Green

A Tale of Two Lives

January 31, 2012

A bike one ... and a skateboard one


Ever since discovering that I fractured the base of my right pinkie finger, and did something about it by getting a huge blue cast and curving metal finger-splint, about a week ago, I can't ride my bike. Which, as a car-less person, means I'm relegated to skateboarding, which is actually kind of nice. Life has shifted to another time and geographic dimension. There's something about heavily circumscribed parameters that is freeing, not to mention the after-work joy of barreling down the right-middle of one-way Franklin St. through downtown Oakland. The day is gray and cold, but after sitting at work for so long, it's nice to roll through space, traffic lights and cars, the light blue cotton hood of my light blue cotton jacket keeping my head warm and keeping just enough of the city chaos out and just enough of the rolling asphalt and echoing crunch of skateboard wheels in to create a semi kid-out-of-school, penniless joy.


The bus is being used a lot now, too, which is quite luxurious. With a tad bit of walking and rolling, it's like having a chauffeur. And it's not that cheap: $2.10 each way. That adds up. Went to get my hand doctor to sign a medical form for a reduced-fare pass on the bus, and his office assistant, the same one who said, "I don't know, where do homeless people go?" when I asked her what hospital emergency room she'd recommend after she said, as a health insurance-less peon, my out-of-pocket costs were likely to be thousands of dollars to fix my little finger, simply said she was the person that filled out such forms in the office and she would not fill this one out, because "we normally don't fill those out." Damn. Cold to the bone. I mean, that's some light-year high coldness; as Leopold Bloom ruminated, that was "the cold of interstellar space."


It's alright. Forgot about my chiropractic basketball friend doctor. But still. The world started spinning a little slower with that interaction. Let's go speed it up!


The bus tales continue today. Took my skis in to be sharpened and waxed for this pathetic ski "season" we're having in Northern California. It's a long ride - from downtown Oakland to North Berkeley, almost to El Cerrito. After work, I set off on my skateboard from home, red, white and blue K2 skis underarm, and roll to the bus stop, which sits near one of the crack hotspots of West Oakland. A cute young-ish Hispanic girl, with a big piece of luggage was sitting in the plastic-enclosed weather-mitigating waiting area. The bench was only big enough for two; a guy, right after I arrive and lean on the bus stop pole, reeking of piss, bleary-eyed, hobbling, sits next to her. She perks up, visibly uncomfortable; the bus is just a block away. He wants to ask for money but hesitates until just as the bus door opens. Damn, the desperation; it's all over.


I stumble onboard, one useless right hand, tall, lumbering skis under? an arm and my longboard skateboard in the other, good hand. I lumber to a seat, and the herky-jerkiness of the bus lurches me forward to the ragged-ish woman at the next seat. She puts her hand on my arm to help stabilize me; it was actually a nice, natural gesture, but she was in crazy land, and the incident brought that land to earth. She said, crazy eyes glowing, hands coming up slightly, head tilting a nudge, "Don't sue me for sexual harassment." I told her, "Of course not, it was nice; I actually needed the help." She looks at me for a half-beat, a young couple I can't see behind me beginning to make look-at-the-crazy-lady noises, and then says, "Young guys like old pussy." I said, "I don't think I've reached that age yet." She asks me how old I am. I say 33, and she gives a brief prurient look and says, "I'm 62; you can't see my white hair [actually I can see it, close-cropped, peaking from beneath the dirty, faded black bandana she's wearing]." Then, quickly, says, "You don't have to worry about me, I like girls." And then says something about guys not even wanting to pay $100 for pussy, and then quickly, "But I'm not a whore." This begins a loud rumination on sex, which the college-aged couple behind me giggle at in the uncomfortable way youth, naivete, ingenues can be around such subjects and cold, hard truth. "If guys weren't so bad to me, I might still like guys." I say, "Guys can be assholes," and then amend that, "People can be assholes." She says, "That's true, some girls have been mean to me, too. What guys don't understand is if they just did foreplay right, the vagina would open and not care, even welcome, what happened next. You could be terrible, and it'd be alright." I take that in a moment, make a mental note, perhaps for later use, and say, fairly genuinely, "Thanks for the insight." She says, that's why sex with yourself is best. This, I vigorously oppose, saying, "No way." She gets on a roll and talks loudly, rocking side to side the whole time, about "auto-eroticism" and its virtues. I steadfastly oppose, and the college-aged couple behind me are now giggling uncontrollably, in know-nothing discomfort. Crazy lady asks if we've passed 30th St., and I say we have. And she says, "Damn. I'm going to get me some crack," which, spontaneously, saddens me deeply, as I watch outside of the back bus window perhaps Oakland's pre-eminent crack square, at San Pablo Ave. and 32nd St., recede from view. She stands up, wobbles with the jerking bus, and says, "Now I have to go backwards." As she's getting off, she tells the young couple that the girl portion is very pretty, beautiful, and that the guy should understand how lucky he is. He mumbles something, and she ambles off the bus.


The couple get off at the next stop; the girl is indeed beautiful with Run Lola Run black cherry-red hair (dyed) and a comfortable thickness. As the bus pulls away, the guy, sheepishly and ineffectually, bends down to kiss/hug her on the afternoon sun-streaked sidewalk in Emeryville and ensure her he knows how lucky he is. She's flattered at the attempt, her body language says and her innocent, slight smile, but the half-longing left in her eyes indicates the gesture's fallen flat.

Cracktown at 30th and San Pablo in West Oakland

B marks the spot. Welcome to cracktown.


On the return home from North Berkeley, on the same ride-up bus route, the one that runs the length of San Pablo Ave., which is probably the most significant East Bay north-south car route north of Oakland. From its terminus in downtown Oakland's City Center, San Pablo Ave., named for one of the massive Spanish/Mexican ranches that made up the East Bay, and indeed all SF-surrounding locales, stretches all the way north, unbroken, to the East Bay's northern terminus near the Sacramento River in the Bay Area oil refinery mecca that is Richmond.

Richmond oil refinery

Chevron oil refinery in Richmond, Calif. Photo via Richmond Confidential.


I rode my road bike, on the tail-end of a long Contra Costa County country ride, along its length, north to south, once. Was imagining it would be a glorious run, but the stoplights got to be oppressive, especially once the Avenue hit Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland.


On that return bus trip, I noticed an older black guy with a cane get on. The bus was fairly full, some young hip-ish, dressed stylishly, black kids, with a bit of that internal strength and power borne from life in the ghetto, in back, and some middle-aged people in the middle, a young Asian girl and her mom, both with large purple suitcases, seated across from me, their suitcases and the edge of my skateboard making the passage narrow there on the bus; toward the front, there was a young black guy and a put-together older black woman he was semi-flirting with (she was flirting back), and the older black guy with a cane sitting in the aisle-facing seat just behind the driver, who was glancing every now and then at the older, though younger than him, black woman just to his right. You could read his thoughts in the brief intermittent glances he would give her, "I wonder if I could bed her." At moments his energy was excited by the real possibility and then an awareness of reality quickly stepped in and snuffed that flame, as he glanced away, cutting off his thoughts on it, again.


He had on worn sweats, but his energy was not disheveled; he had a regal air. On his wrist, a thick, textured gold band, cold, cool and elegant in that gold way, accentuated stunningly his dark skin and contrasted, compellingly, his attire, and harmonized with the openness, sincerity and semi-dignified history of his face.


Just south of cracktown, I decided to get off the bus. It was the older black dude's stop, too. When he stood up, and started shuffling, it was clear he was more feeble than his woman-glances suggested. It seemed clear he was making a brave foray into the world, beyond his ability, testing the world, challenging God and age. This bus ride was probably the big adventure of the day, if not the week. A fuck-it-I-need-to-get-out moment, rage at the bone-marrow suck of father time. He was barely making it. Skateboard draped over my right forearm, I was just behind him. He descended the bus steps, as the bus driver, attentively, and I looked on. He reached the bottom and slowly started leaning left and started looking for a support there, the bikes on the bike rack in the front of the bus missing his searching left hand, his right hand, holding his cane, drifted skyward. He slowly, slowly loses his balance, falls and cracks his head on the sidewalk. The younger (once-flirting) black guy on the bus is off in a second, with the care of a would-be grandson embraces him from behind and stabilizes him, and then he, the bus driver and I help turn him over and lift him up, and we see the bright red blood dribble on the sidewalk leaking from his head, a glazed, passive, though aware, look on his face, and, dotting the teartrack grooves along his nose, tears of blood.

Golden Eagles

January 29, 2012

Sibley Regional Park

Went on a hike @ Sibley yesterday, and came across some people in a remote portion of the trail with some cameras and telephoto lenses. We passed by one of their wives, who was nearer us on the trail, and she said there are some golden eagles mating on top of the hill about 150 yards in the distance. The eagles looked like buzzards from that distance, but walking up closer, there were two huge golden eagles. Pretty cool.

Day in the Life

January 27, 2012

5:30 a.m. up: (Overslept by an hour). The intense 11-hour day at the office the day before had fried me a little, even with the blue-gold mountain photo I printed out and taped to the glass partition of my cubicle, which I looked at several times an hour to pretend I was in wide-open space.


5:30-5:40: made bed, meditation. Usually do a lot more, but overslept.


5:40-5:55: dressed, did not shave, thankful that I had packed my lunch and ironed my blue jeans and shirt the night before.


5:58: left on skateboard for the bus, after "tying" my Timberlands with a knot instead of a bow (this cast leaves me mostly one-handed)


6:06: arrive at the bus stop. Ran over a couple of large twigs, almost throwing me off the board, in the dark, streetlight-less portions of Market St. on the way.


6:08: bus comes, get on, and read some of the semi-current (Jan. 23) New Yorker I brought with me. Think about the article I had read the day before in the magazine from an 83-year-old poet (Donald Hall), poetry drained from him, not poetic prose, however, about the reality of old age. It's coming for most of us, and wow:


After a life of loving the old, by natural law I turned old myself. Decades followed each other – thirty was terrifying, forty I never noticed because I was drunk, fifty was best with the total change of life, sixty extended the bliss of fifty – and then came my cancers, Jane's death, and over the years I traveled to another universe. However alert we are, however much we think we know what will happen, antiquity remains an unknown, unanticipated galaxy. It is alien, and old people are a separate form of life. They have green skin, with two heads that sprout antennae. They can be pleasant, they can be annoying – in the supermarket, these oldies won't get out of my way – but most important they are permanently other. When we turn eighty, we understand that we are extraterrestrial. If we forget for a moment that we are old, we are reminded when we try to stand up, or when we encounter someone young, who appears to observe green skin, extra heads, and protuberances.


6:23 - 6:28: arrive in Alameda, get off the bus, and skate the 100 yards to work over smooth good-skating asphalt parking lot. Get there and my boss, the managing editor, is arriving, too, and he says, "What are you doing here?" Then I remind him I'm making up hours because of time missed on Tuesday on account of a fractured finger.


6:30 - 11:30: work. Prepare a report by mindlessly copying and pasting info in and making sure it's correct, and edit a 1200-word feature I finished, in one long draft, the day before on reptile-friendly homes. Nothing like editing. Wrote a new, much-better lead. Wish I had time to do some rewriting - that's when the real writing comes out.


11:30-11:34: skate to bus stop.


11:34: catch bus to downtown Oakland. Write an email to a source for a Bay Nature story published earlier in the week expressing my disappointment at the mind-numbing editing job by the editor of the story.


11:44: arrive downtown, where a friend's waiting for me in his car to go to lunch in North Berkeley at Tacubaya, near the site of another friend's restaurant-in-the-making.


noon-ish: wander around the shell of our friend's restaurant. He points out where the tables will be, the bar, the kitchen, the rental places, the stripper poles (j/k). The lot is huge, right on San Pablo Ave. A lot of work for him as the contractor. When we pullup, he's sketching some designs on graph paper sitting in the back of his Honda Element.

Mondo at Stella Nonna

12:30: we eat at Tacubaya. Get the vegetarian tortas. A thin swath of black beans, some avocado, and fried chiles fit, thinly, between a big bun: $8 for 80-percent bun. Not so cool.


1:15-sh: go by the beer/wine-maker supply store near the restaurant site for my friend to get some bottles for some bottling he's doing tonight for a Belgian-style that's ready. See all the variety of hops, a copper cooling helix.


2:00: home. Wiped. Take a 30-minute nap, then read some Dark Sun, apply for jobs and delete some emails.

Canada geese at Lowell Park

Resident Canada geese at Lowell Park


3:45: take a West Oakland walk to Lowell Park. Some cops are milling at an intersection chatting casually with some neighbors, a smattering of residents are on the sidewalk, milling. Something's happened, but not quite sure what. Ignore it, and finish the walk around the cops at the intersection to the park and turn around and come right back. Pass the cops again. On the next block, a young-ish Asian guy is standing in the sidewalk, and I ask him what's up. He points to the ground at his feet - a smattering of 9mm bullet casings are on the street. Thirteen of them in a chaos of directions. It looks like someone had ran around in a circle firing a gun. The Asian guy says you usually see bullet holes but there were none. Apparently, the shots were less than 30-minutes old. The cops drive over while I'm standing there. I ask the cop what's up with all the violence on our block recently, and he says he's been on this beat for 10 years, and this is the worst it's been. I ask to take a casing; he says maybe. They want to leave them there as they wait for a few minutes to find out if anybody shows up at the hospital or morgue from gunshot wounds. Then, they'd take them for evidence. I walk by later that night; they're all gone. Maybe the neighborhood rugrats picked them up, or somebody showed up with the casings' bullets in him/her.


Bullet casings

Four of the bullet casings that scattered the street near 16th and Linden


4:30: two phone calls


5:00: skate to the gym and then dress and run around Lake Merritt. Pretty exhausted now, for some reason.


7:00: home. Bake some tilapia with onions, carrots and red pepper and place that over stir-fried kale, all topped with paprika and turmeric and watch the Indiana basketball team get manhandled by Wisconsin on ESPN2.


8:00: Room. Delete some emails. Do something I'm forgetting, exhausted.


9:00: sleep!

It doesn't stop

January 24, 2012

Hand in cast

Fractured the lowest digit of my pinkie finger. Wasn't sure it was serious until the fifth day when it was still swollen and black and blue and sensitive as hell. And you guessed it: came in a basketball game. I don't know what's happening. Another injury? Might be time to retire.

Soul Food

January 22, 2012

Soul Food

Nothing like soul food. Ribs, some baked potatoes, some other honey-glazed meat, spinach dried-cranberry salad, bomb black beans, purple onion-infused guacamole, unsalted tortilla chips. Damn. South Berkeley represent. Too bad the Niners didn't. Kyle Williams, WTF?

Balling

January 19, 2012

My brother sent a link to our father's University of Texas intramural men's basketball championship photos - "Short Shorts and Odd Dudes."

Champs Champs Champs Champs Champs Champs Champs

All those pictures are from Gregory Gym, before it was renovated and before there was a separate rec center on UT's campus. We lived about 2 miles from campus growing up, and my dad was a big-time gymrat. And the old Gregory Gym was the perfect place to be a rat. Gyms just aren't made like that anymore. It smelled like leather and sweat throughout. It had tunnels, back stairways, Soviet-style basement freeweight rooms.

3906 to Gregory

My dad used to take me, frequently, with him while he played pick-up basketball when I was 7 or 8, maybe 6. I never really watched him play, don't even have one memory of him in a game. But I roamed the building, which comes back in my memory now as leather-dark and slightly acrid-smelling. I never remember being bored and I don't know how he found me when it was time to go, because I just roamed; it was so maze-y and convoluted, I never mapped it in my head; every time I went, it was like exploring a strange, dark, thousand-doored planet for the first time.


Sometimes I would go to some special back stairwell, I could never remember exactly where it was, where there was a room with ping-pong tables and soda/snack machines. People, usually Asians, were sometimes playing games. I would watch for a few minutes and go on. On some ground floor, I could never map this either, there was a concrete, dark, dungeon-like area that had little cave-entrances lining the walls that led to squash rooms. But it was all smooth, dark-grey concrete down there, the ceilings were high, concrete in my memory. There were steam rooms, but never went in there, thankfully.


I remember, one day when I was in the squash-dungeon and just roaming around and trying all the doors I came across, I exited the gym accidentally from one of those metal whirling gates that only let you go one way. I remember standing there, locked out of my planet, tossed out onto the unsafe blaring-white plain of normal life. I stared at the exit and tried to get in, and just kept trying. Then I started crying and roaming around, I didn't know where I was. I was just below from the main entrance, but didn't figure that out for a while. I just cried and had a lost-planet feel and sat outside the welcome entrance. Finally one of the greeters noticed a despondent world-wrecked child, crying, near her entrance, and she, figuring out what happened, waived me through. I was surprised; I felt I had been forsaken by the world. It was too easy just to walk back in. But walk back in I did, a little, probably a lot, of the magic shaken out of me.


I was pretty relentless about checking all the doors in the place. There were nooks and crannies all over the place and two or three doors at each. The Longhorns used to play their basketball games there, before they moved to the wretched Frank Erwin Center.


One of the most amazing parts of the gym, in my memory, was the entrance to the basketball courts. I remember walking with my dad - we would go to the underground, dungeon, convoluted, huge locker room first, where he must have changed and stuff, but I never remember what we did, I was in the oblivion of childhood. I remember walking with my dad to the courts up some wide open-aired concrete stairway, that stood at the heart of the building. It wasn't too open-aired, but open-aired enough, and central enough, to hear the metal clanging of the free weights in the weightroom on the bottom floor and some lifting-grunts, some distance squash echoing sounds from those caves somewhere far off in the belly of the beast, and the squeak, yells and pounding-ball sound of the courts up top on the third floor. There was a thin black metal railing framing the inside of the double-backing stairway. I remember always being really excited on the ascent, I don't know why. Maybe because the entrance was so classic and cool. Once at the top of the stairway, there was a high-ceilinged concrete hallway with two double-doored (always wide open) entrances to two sets of basketball courts. It was awesome, very dramatic. You couldn't totally see what was through the doorways, which each had about a 20-feet lead narrow hallway, lined with old-time porcelain water fountains, that lead up to the courts. The pick-up ball side (renovated now, in the bright, airy, modern style; hard to believe this is the same space. Seems impossible.) had three (maybe four?) full courts side by side, separated by huge, draping, white-mesh see-through dividers, with heavy blue plastic lining the bottom 3 feet or so.


The other side was a wide-open ancient-ceilinged arena, with elevated bleachers, 14 feet above the court - you could look up and see the jutting concrete base about 10 feet above your head as you walked the court's baseline – encircling it. It had concrete steps between each bleacher section that led, on the street side, to a spider-webbery set of dusty windows, that let in a soft, old light, near an old enclosed press box. Inertia felt doubled here as you looked way down on the court below, all the smooth, concrete, dark grey steps leading the way down to the court's overlook, your mind spun a little, and it took some effort, it seemed, to not just slowly tip head-forward and fall-roll downstairs into the concrete overlook and then onto the court. A little nose-bleedish, a little vertigo.


This and more ...

One long old-man game

January 17, 2012

Hi. Just played a lot of basketball at my heaviest weight ever. Blisters on the feet and ankles hurting, but have a pizza coming and no basketball on the tube, but maybe some Justified.

For the dogs?

January 15, 2012

Did a dog-friendly home story for work. Must admit this was stressful. We have this weird relationship with Yahoo. We do stories they think will be hot and they might or might not put them on their landing page for a while. This one had a lot of pageviews. Let's just say over 100,000.


Don't want to say too much, but will say, that I think you could've made this story all pictures and it might have gotten more hits.

Twin Peaks

January 12, 2012

View from Twin Peaks

View from Twin Peaks. Road the bike straight up Clipper from the Mission. Had dinner at a friend's two-story apartment with this view lighting up his picture window. The little lights on the East Bay Hills are big picture windows of all those Bay-facing mansions tucked all over the hills. As the setting sun hit each area minutely differently in time, the lights randomly shifted, always remaining only a handful. Can imagine what it's like if the setting sun's rays hit just right and powerfully enough and fired most of the hills' windows at once. Must be stunning.

Land's End, SF

January 8, 2012

Shaky video, and blabbery talk, and sundown at Land's End:

Not putting this one up. Pathetic video footage.

Tired Thursday night, So what?

January 5, 2012

Fighting a cold, blah, blah, blah.


Grapefruit seed extract is in my near future. So is bed.


Gnight.

Sierra montes

John Muir's Mountains of California brightens life:


From the chapter (what a chapter title!) "A wind-storm in the Forests:"


It was still early morning when I found myself fairly adrift. Delicious sunshine came pouring over the hills, lighting the tops of the pines, and setting free a stream of summery fragrance that contrasted strangely with the wild tones of the storm. The air was mottled with pine-tassels and bright green plumes, that went flashing past in the sunlight like birds pursued. But there was not the slightest dustiness, nothing less pure than leaves, and ripe pollen, and flecks of withered bracken and moss. ... Young Sugar Pines, light and feathery as squirrel-tails, were bowing almost to the ground; while the grand old patriarchs, whose massive boles had been tried in a hundred storms, waved solemnly above them, their long, arching branches streaming fluently on the gale, and every needle thrilling and ringing and shedding off keen lances of light like a diamond. ... Nature was holding a high festival, and every fiber of the most rigid giants thrilled with glad excitement.


...


Oftentimes these waves of reflected light would break up suddenly into a kind of beaten foam, and again, after chasing one another in regular order, they would seem to bend forward in concentric curves, and disappear on some hillside, like sea-waves on a shelving shore. The quantity of light reflected from the bent needles was so great as to make whole groves appear as if covered with snow, while the black shadows beneath the trees greatly enhanced the effect of the silvery splendor.


---


He was in love!!!

OaklanDrinks comes out at Era Art Bar

January 3, 2012

Era Art Bar

Photos from OaklanDrinks's break out night at Era Art Bar.

OaklanDrinks OaklanDrinks OaklanDrinks OaklanDrinks OaklanDrinks OaklanDrinks OaklanDrinks OaklanDrinks

West Oakland

January 1, 2012

West Oakland

Went on a run in West Oakland, the bulging rectangle bordered by the yellow highways in the image above, and ran into a couple of neighbors. I live in West Oakland's dead center, the Ralph Bunche micro-neighborhood. Our subsection of that is bordered by 18th St. on the south, West Grand Ave. on the north, Adeline Ave. on the west and Market St. on the east.


Last week, just outside my place, there was an AK-57 shootout. My neighbor said it sounded like firecrackers and didn't take it seriously, but he did when he stepped outside and saw the car with blown-out windows on his street corner. Another neighbor had a bullet land just below her kitchen window. There's a Ford Fairlane, one of Linden Street's (my street) hallmark cars, now with a bullet hole in the windshield. Two weeks before this, my neighbor, a dude in the know, said, his neighbor behind him was murdered at 18th St. and Linden St. Didn't even know about that. The cops do their work and get out - no big deal here. A couple of months ago there was a murder just two blocks north at West Grand Ave. and Linden St., one that I semi-witnessed.


The in-the-know neighbor, who spends all day, most everyday, outside on the corner selling bootleg CDs and DVDs and random food items, says the hood is going bad, obviously. He's the one that outlined the micro-neighborhood, delineated above, as the bad area. "In all the time that I've lived here, it's never been this bad." Didn't ask him how long he's lived here, but I think a while. I told him to be careful. And he said, "Don't worry about me, I have my self protected." Let me just say - NOTED.


Mas luego. Am planning on going to the Oakland Police Department and getting all the recent activity in my neighborhood. Not that that's the tell all, but I'm willing to guess that crime's showing a marked ramp-up in the last few months.


On another note, here's a pretty New Year's photo:

Mountain-clouds