Thursday, November 26, 2015

Days into days...

Days rolling into days, into nights, into days. 37 Bus to the Haight, hang out on the street for awhile, walk to Hippie Hill, nap in the sun…
Apple Pie!
After months of drought, it’s raining in San Francisco. Cold and rainy, so fine. The front door is open and it’s cold and the pumpkin pie just came out of the oven and yesterday it was a pecan pie and chocolate chip cookies – the apartment is smelling very good. Pecan pie to neighbors: ½ to Chuck and Stephanie and ½ to Sean and Emily and Leon; cookies to Tony on the third floor, to Chuck and Stephanie, to Lance and Spence, to David and Charles.
David came by yesterday evening late, on a walk with Jake. This is how it is, wonderful, having an apartment 3 blocks from David and Charles. I was thinking about their wedding rings – I gave them Leslie’s wedding ring and they had their rings made from that 18k gold layered into platinum from a goldsmith in the Castro. Perfect.

Better late than never: I started reading the Chronicles of Narnia a few days ago. I’m a few pages away from finishing the second book in the series, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. I surprised myself with tears when Father Christmas said… “’The time to use them is perhaps near at hand. Bear them well.’ With these words he handed Peter a shield and a sword…” And again tears at the end of the book… “But don’t go trying to use the same route twice. Indeed, don’t try to get there at all. It’ll happen when you’re not looking for it.”
David and Charles took me to Chez Panisse in Berkeley last Saturday. Chez Panisse is “ground zero” for California cuisine. Local, organic, sustainable – here is where these concepts first found voice. It’s one thing that happened out of the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley. Thank you again, 1960s.
Wait, what is this about free speech and food? The Free Speech Movement wasn’t really about saying “fuck” – it was about freedom, freedom from mindlessness, freedom from repression, from prejudice, from the gods of corporate, from being told what to eat, drink, smoke, feel, want, desire, dream...
Chocolate chip cookies (extra chocolate and nuts) and
Pecan pie with a layer of chocolate. Alright!
Baked an apple pie from New York Times recipe. Used tart apples, a little extra sugar and cinnamon. This is the second or third apple pie I’ve baked. I’m very happy with how it turned out – or at least how it looks.
All these pies are for Thanksgiving, which, thankfully, wasn’t a deeply emotional time for our family. On the other hand, Christmas was a very special time. So far, plans are David and Charles in Texas for Christmas Eve and part of Christmas day; John for Christmas dinner.
Guy and some of his flowers
This a photograph of Guy, the man who sells flowers at the corner of Noe and 15th. He's been selling flowers here since the bad old days of AIDS out of control. He's a story-teller, and he has some stories about people wasting away and dying, one after another, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. So many casualties...

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Day in the Life

Monday, 11/16/2015 (A post not about grief!)
View from the UCSF Fitness Center
Coffee in the early morning – fixed the night before, so ready to go from refrigerator – home-made café sua da. Then rustic sourdough with almond butter and an apple for breakfast – apple from the Courtney’s Market up the hill, on the corner at 14th and Castro.
Caught the N Judah train for a 10 minute ride to the fitness center in UCSF Parnassus campus I spent 25 minutes on an elliptical machine watching the hawks soar over Golden Gate Park and Golden Gate Bridge in the distance and the University of San Francisco’s white rococo spires off to the right (not in photo above). And I did resistance things for almost 10 minutes. Two guys talking in the locker room: “The secret to a long life is to marry well.” This place is overrun with scientists, doctors, and the like. I’m thinking these two are probably geneticists. I’m thinking they’re right, too.
UCSF hallway - flashback to countless
halls just like this one over the years 
N Judah back the apartment. Shower. Look at news.
or terrified or anything along those lines. I am more determined, hardened by the awful carnage in Paris. Paris, Beirut, Mumbai, London, Madrid, Jerusalem, Bali, New York…
Walked to the 22 Fillmore outbound stop at Duboce and Church. Rode 22 to the Mission (16th at Valencia) where David’s SF office is. I got there early, so walked to 18th to Tartine Bakery (popular enough that there is no sign), but there was a long line, so moved on. I stopped in at Faye’s Video, a nice, hippie-ish coffee house/video rental place. The coffee smelled really good, maybe at a Blue Bottle level. We’ll just have to find out how good it is. At the corner of the next block, the city smells were well-scented with cannabis. Half a block from the police station – no problem.
In the Mission. I thought of Sisyphus
It brings me pleasure to think about and name – not to mention, ride – all these MUNI routes and street names.
David and I had a nice lunch at the Little Chihuahua on Valencia in the Mission, relaxed, passing the time – a huge blessing to have these lunches so often with my son. I told David about my realization that within this mourning a series of happy thoughts is followed by unhappy thoughts, like I’ll be thinking for awhile (hours or days) about Leslie and traveling or working together and be happy that it ever happened and then the sadness that it won’t happen again… The trick, I said, is somehow to not cycle into the sadness. He was somewhat amused – you mean be happy all the time? Hmmm, well, that would be a good trick, wouldn’t it. 
Took the 22 back to Church and Market, where a woman in a motorized wheelchair was having trouble getting on the bus because the ramp was blocked by a trash receptacle. The driver wouldn’t move the bus. So I got off to see if I could help her, but couldn’t get her and the WC onto the ramp – another guy joined in and we still couldn’t do it. I kept saying to the driver, “Just move forward a little and she’ll be able to get on,” but the driver still wouldn’t move the bus 3 feet either way to accommodate her. “To hell with it,” she says and motors off to another bus stop. I say to the driver, “You really were just fucking with her, weren’t you,” and I left as well. Ha, he is the proud recipient of my first phone-in complaint to a government agency in my life. Asshole.
La Boulange - happy days
Went home for a few minutes, then caught the N Judah to Cole Street, where I’m sitting, writing, in front of La Boulange. Cole and Carl, where Leslie and I passed many happy hours. I was thinking I would walk to the Haight, but on a whim, jumped back on the N to 9th and Irving (where there are four coffee shops in one block – it’s that kind of a block).
I stopped in at a women’s clothing store called Ambiance to hopefully find the young woman, who, a month ago, when I was at the corner with someone throwing up (chemotherapy) into the gutter, ran across the street to bring two bottles of water. And there she was – the same young woman. She said, “Yes, I remember that.” I said, “We all remember. It was the sweetest thing” (especially in San Francisco where one sees all sorts of body functions, parts, eliminations, etc.). 
Jug band at corner Castro and Market
I forgot that Arizmendi Bakery (my destination) is closed on Mondays, so back on N to Duboce and walk to the Castro. There is a traveling kids/hippie jug band playing at the corner of Castro and Market and a guy comes by and drops some cookies into the open guitar case. Lot of cannabis being smoked on this corner – jug band, dogs, packs, guitars, crystals strewn around. Rainbow Gathering people.
Walked back to my apartment where I ran into Sean, one of my neighbors, who says kind of out of nowhere, “Do you have any idea how lucky you are” (to be living on this street in these days). “Yes, I think about that a lot.” Walked to Whole Foods for dinner, where I shared a table with a wonderfully interactive baby and mother. Good times.
Back home, thinking that today I was in Duboce Triangle, the Mission, Upper Market, the Castro, Cole Valley, and Inner Sunset. Thinking how fortunate I am.
Copied this from a web site: Charles Baudelaire developed a derived meaning of flâneur—that of “a person who walks the city in order to experience it.” 
Duboce Park Cafe - two blocks from home
There was nothing in the world
That I ever wanted more
Than to feel you deep in my heart
There was nothing in the world
That I ever wanted more
Than to never feel the breaking apart
(Pictures of You)

Friday, November 6, 2015

All Saints ceremony, a picture of a picture of a thought, I'm functional

Country sourdough (Thom Leonard recipe)
The associate pastor at First Presbyterian sent a letter early last week inviting me to the All Saints Day service. She noted that the names of church members who had passed away in the past 12 months would be read. I went. Thank you, Wendy.
Let me stop to note that several years ago I stopped going to church (though I continued in weekly Bible study). And years before that, Leslie and I quit giving to the church because of a huge difference between us and the denomination. How did the church and clergy respond when Leslie passed away? They reached out – not unlike turning the other cheek.
The service was an All-Saints service, oriented to people who have passed on and those who mourn, including hymns, prayer, and sermon (there was a lovely thought about the “great cloud of saints” – you know, like Leslie and all the others through time). The names of members who passed away in the past 12 months were read. People in the congregation could then call out names of others, so I called out Tom's name – Tom, whose body I found a few weeks before Leslie passed away. And, we took communion (always, to me, the highest Christian ceremony I know of).
I don’t mean anything related to “high church” or high in the sense of high on a substance like alcohol or cannabis or whatever. I mean high as in exalted… numinous… elevated… unifying… beyond…
I don’t ordinarily associate the Presbyterian Church with high ceremony, but there it was, unmistakably so.
Welcome lights in front of our home
A thought
On the right is a photo of a picture of a thought – the person who gave the picture to me thought of giving it to me and then made the picture of that thought and gave it to me. That’s him at the bottom and me at the top. It’s on some book shelves in the front room.
From the rocking of the cradle
To the rolling of the hearse
The going up
Was worth the coming down
I’ve been baking, pruning roses, going places, hanging out, putting up welcome lights, being by doing (busy hands are happy hands), and doing better. Now, at eight months (yesterday), I’m not functioning at a high level, but I’m functioning. Ha! I’m a functional mourner.

Someone was saying that in some cultures they have shrines to people who have passed away, and that person thought it seems morbid or something like that. I showed her a photo of my shrine for/to Leslie (It’s for me, obviously.)
Shrine in front room (in left lower quadrant) 

Monday, October 19, 2015

More on grief, bereavement, war, bread, randomness

(Some of these photo are unrelated to the words. They're just pictures I took.)
Part of my problem is that I had it so good for so long.
Baked October 2015. Rustic sourdough
with pecans, currants, cinnamon (part of my therapeutic work)
Let us be kind to one another, for most of us are fighting a hard battle. Ian MacLaren
One of the things I taught in hospice training and courses on hospice and palliative care was that each of us goes through the processes of dying, grief, etc. in different ways, at different speeds, in different cycles – and different at different times for the same person. It’s yet another example of the truth of, “It varies.”
Seven months into this bereavement I looked at some of what I’ve written in the past about grief. I haven’t looked before now because I thought it best to experience whatever/however it is, without being influenced by external things, such as my own and other people’s previous thoughts about grief.
1967, a beautiful little town in Vietnam
Overall, I seem to have done a good job writing. So far, I like most the grief and bereavement chapter in my first book (1995). How can I “like” what I’ve written about grief? Mainly I like it because it’s accurate and helpful, at least for me. There are a few things I would change in what I wrote, but overall, pretty good. Grief WORK includes the following “tasks of bereavement” – each and all to be worked through again and again and again and...
  • Telling the “death story” and recounting the story of the illness (It’s not that you want to…)
  • Expressing and accepting the sadness
  • Expressing and accepting guilt, anger, and other feelings perceived as negative
  • Reviewing the relationship with the deceased (the really good part for me, usually)
  • Exploring possibilities in life after the death
  • Understanding common processes and problems in grief
  • Being understood or accepted by others

Baby playing by Carroll Street, 1982
I like that in that chapter I wrote about the potential for grief to “precipitate great personal or spiritual growth.”
I see myself working slowly through all of these tasks, but I’m not seeing much in the way of “growth” LOL. It’s a hopeful thing to see that I’m somewhere along the road in each “task.”
I get to easier places of not so much sadness and I get a little strength and kind of take on the next thing. Like today, writing to Dr. Lichliter (first draft). This was the first time I wrote about that last night.
Phana (age 3 or 4) and me, 1985 or 86
I was in New Mexico to see Jim and Elisabeth a few weeks ago. The day I left, Katy had us over for breakfast (Thank You!). As we left her home, she was talking about attending a ceremony in the next weeks. The last thing I remember her saying was something like “… figuring out what to do with the rest of my life.” Good question!
I’ve baked bread twice in about the past week. The second time was mainly for gifts. Both times I baked rustic sourdough – plain, with cheese, and with pecans, currants, sugar, and cinnamon.
la rue sans joie, civilian bus blown up by VC mine
In the last post I wrote about war. A little bit more now – about places. I was at the DMZ (Deckhouse/Prairie), Dodge City (Thuy Bo), Con Thien (outside the wire, but I’m counting it), Gio Linh, Highway 1 (named by the French, the Street Without Joy), Khe Sanh, Lang Vei (How about that! I have several non-violent stories about being there.), Hue (before the bad time), Quang Tri (before the bad). I also spent a total of about four weeks in the rear at Danang and Phu Bai, also a few weeks at Dong Ha in the semi-rear.
One thing I do is get out every day – usually twice/day. My main places to go are Central
Never too young to start smoking, I guess
Market and Whole Foods. Places with people around. More days than not I spend time with a friend or John (Thank You, Everybody!). Yesterday I went to WF twice – the first time was really good – I ran into someone I think highly of (hospice and mental health social worker from San Francisco). Also a friend from the festival scene, and there was a cute baby who gave me all kinds of smiles and a ~12 year old girl who had such a sweet smile I literally laughed out loud. The second time at WF was also good. I realized today that I could hang out in the café area inside or out and read. So I read for about an hour on the patio.
At Hill Fights, 1967 - wounded waiting for medevac
Look at how dirty their shirts are - that's not just sweat
I thought going to church today would be a nice opportunity to connect. The sermon was on the Song of Ruth, which was one of the last things I said to Leslie – wherever you go, I will go… So I connected to the grief, my grief. It was a tough one. At least we didn’t also sing In the Garden or That Old Rugged Cross. I went to Open Ring and spent some time with Dan Foster, so that was wonderful
Things happen, like the Song of Ruth sermon or when I finally started on income tax, couldn’t find everything, and called Social Security re how to get papers related to Leslie and was told to bring our marriage license to the SSA office. Oh. So I’ll be going through things like birth certificates, marriage license, photos, other things from a sweet past life… 
Leslie in Yoeun's apartment on Carroll Street

Photo: Leslie in Yoeun's apartment on Carroll Street. Leslie went places not many people went. People would wait on her, knowing that whatever it was, Leslie would fix it.