Sunday, December 20, 2015

Days of innocence, of family secrets; being beautiful; mostly good days

Annual cover, Thomas Jefferson High School
Except for the yearbook cover and the last photo, the pictures here are from Leslie’s iPhone… the world through her eyes.
Days of innocence; days of family secrets.
Everything was perfect back then and it was of utmost importance to maintain that myth – within individuals, families, communities, cultures…
Of course there were true good parts too, sweet things, beautiful things. Leslie and I fell in love during these days – when we all really did look kind of like the photo on the annual cover. We fell in love in that environment, that consciousness.
Then along came youth culture, the consciousness revolution, the sexual revolution, civil rights, women’s liberation, the war, the peace movement, all of that – we were the first rock & roll generation. It was a decade like no other before or since in the history of the world!
Now, there are still family secrets, but now there are places to go for help. Now it is a crime for teachers, doctors, nurses, etc. to not report suspected child abuse. Now there is awareness. Now the interview with the child and the police is not a bleeding nightmare for the victim (Respect and Love to Det. Lt. Walsh and Asst. DA Karnutsis – sorry about the spelling. They made it happen in Dallas). For the times they are a’changing.
A photograph of love
Now I know what a Majestic Feeling is.
1967… I would hear someone say, “_______ is so beautiful.” I’d think, “She’s not so beautiful.” Or someone would say, “He’s a beautiful person,” and I’d think, “What! He’s a guy. A guy can’t be beautiful.” But then my mind opened and I realized she is beautiful; he is beautiful; and most incredible of all, I am beautiful!”
When you find out who you are,
David in our Noe apartment, fall 2014
Beautiful, beyond your dreams
If someone had asked me if I ever dreamed myself as beautiful, I’d have thought they were crazy. Yet somewhere deep inside, from the beginning, deeper than consciousness, deeper than words I did dream of being beautiful. I awakened and became beautiful (you know, now and again).
At the same time, Leslie was showing me, loving me how to do beautiful… and I was reaching out, reaching beyond my misperceptions about myself and thus my misperceptions about others.
Another factor in the awakening was war. I came out of that war wounded, sick, soul-sick, skinny, tense, with violence barely below the surface – yet in all that, committed to somehow never lose track of the war, never lose track of being alive.
For the ones who had a notion,
A notion deep inside,
That it ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive.
One of our hangouts - patio at Thorough Breads
These things worked together in the creation of who and what I might be: the war-driven drive to be fully alive, Leslie’s love and the example of her life, and the changes in my consciousness.
How could anyone ever tell you, you were anything less than beautiful.
How could anyone ever tell you, you were less than whole.
People say things. Sometimes I’m staggered at what people have endured and how some things resonate all through people’s lives. Sometimes it’s extraordinarily difficult, even impossible to “choose to be happy.” Here’s to the ones who have endured – and to those who didn’t endure. And a Curse on those who cause such pain.
On Market Street
I wrote this in 2008: I was in the Parkland Psychiatric Emergency Room, in one of the little interview rooms with a woman, her daughter, her granddaughter, and one of my students. Their story was that the grandmother had learned that her husband was molesting her granddaughter – just as he had molested her daughter. “He’s not going to get away with it again, God-damn him.” There is a curse – the real thing.  
Two hard days the past few days. Otherwise I’m doing pretty well. There have been days in the past few weeks that I’ve actually not been more than ready for the day to be over(!).
Today I finished cleaning the house for Christmas. Part of the cleaning was moving everything off Leslie’s shrine so I could dust and rub the wood with oil, then put everything back. Of course everything in/on the shrine is of the greatest significance and I was sad and grateful and lonely for some hours.
I’ll be out shopping or whatever and see so many couples. It’s like that’s our natural state – in relationship.

Monday, December 7, 2015

On the street, drugs, AIDS, nine months, park party

I write different things on different days and sometimes rearrange things, so who knows what day something is really written on.
Walking along upper Market/Castro/Noe/Church…
David and Charles on Castro... all those people
  • Super pretty young woman zipping along on a Razor scooter – Wow!
  • Man alternately raving and begging.
  • The man who sells flowers two blocks from my apartment, Guy, walking up the sidewalk carrying a bouquet. “Are you doing a home delivery?” “No, I’m starting my second career, singing in the studio.”
  • Lovers walking, embracing (this is a town full of lovers).
  • Two men shouting at each other, “m-f this, m-f that, g-d m-f the other.” They weren’t upset or anything, just shouting at each other.
  • Old man wearing a black leather jacket walking an old dog. “There’s a couple of old dogs,” I said. We both laughed and the dog just stood there, glad for a rest, I’m sure.
  • Many of the people with babies carry them in a harness so the baby is facing forward, little legs kind of flopping along. Wouldn’t it be grand to be able to see the world like those babies!

Harvey Milk shrine in the Castro.
He was assassinated in 1978. 
I already knew that drugs like enalapril, omeprazole, levaquin, and so on can do wonderful things (and also can be dangerous). But it really came home to me when about 20 years ago I started prescribing them and following people over time. The first serious illness I cured was pneumonia – in a woman who wasn’t responding to treatment through a public hospital. I gave her Biaxin XL 1 gm qd for 10 days and I forget what else and she got well. I went to her apartment on Gaston several times working on getting the dosing right. Always a few gangsters around. For the rest of our time at Agape the woman would come in every few months mostly just to kind of say hello.
Yesterday evening, David, Charles, and I walked to the Castro for a farewell dinner at Eureka!, one of my favorite places. When we turned on to Castro, I realized that the sidewalks were covered in chalked names. It was World AIDS Day and the names were a memorial to the many, many thousands who died from this terrible disease. I was stunned. There were little buckets of chalk for anyone who wanted to add a name or idea. After I got home I decided to walk back to Castro and add Rueben’s name. Little known fact about Leslie: she helped take care of Rueben when he was sick.
Sidewalk memorials. Rueben.
Today marked nine months since Leslie passed away. What a ride we had and what (a different kind of) a ride this grief and mourning have been. Looking back on this time – and really it’s been hard since last November when Leslie began having difficulties – I realize I’ve gone about as deep into grief as I can go (famous last words!) and I realize I’m afraid of more pain. God almighty, it’s been hard. The first 6 months I was I don’t know what I was. I was going, Leslie, oh my sweet Leslie. I was in awe of her everything. I was so sad for her, for us, our beautiful life together. I spent a lot of time being grateful, too. The next two months I was feeling sorry for myself. The last 3 weeks I’m not as sad.
It was a perfect day to get a Christmas tree. I can hardly believe I did it. It would have been easy to think never mind and not have a tree. I bet nobody would be surprised. But there it is.
Hippie Hill drum circle on a Sunday afternoon.
Here comes the didgeridoo!
Saturday: Breakfast at Taco Joint with Ron. Home. Go to used stuff store looking for ceramic pie pans, thinking wouldn’t it be nice to give people pecan or apple pies in nice pans. On the way, I saw a farmers market and knew Don would be there, so stopped and hung out with Don and Tia for awhile. On to used things store but no pie pans. Got a tree. Patched a hole in the side of the house where a squirrel had chewed its way in (Thanks for telling me, Jay!). Went to Whole Foods and ran into someone I’ve known a long time and had a disturbing interaction with him. Got lights on tree. Started with decos and John came by and hung out for awhile while I put decos on. Dinner at Whole Foods. I’m sure I would never bring my own Cajun chicken grilled in John’s “Big Green Egg” and my own bread from Acme Bakery and get $.78 worth of lettuce to enjoy the sometimes convivial atmosphere of WF (saw Stephen from psytrance scene, so that was nice). The front of the house smells like a Christmas tree.

Atrium Obscurum park party. Sarah Spirals
doing the opening dance/flagging
Sunday: Park party in Fort Worth with Atrium Obscurum. Brought cookies (chocolate chip with extra chocolate and nuts). Helped with set-up. Spent the afternoon talking with people – a lot of nice people who I like a lot. Good music throughout. It was a beautiful day.

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)