FORMERLY KNOWS AS SAN FRANCISCO

My friend Ken is getting evicted. He calls me to ask if I want any of his plants. On the deck are a motley of potted plants: geraniums, gerberas, bird of paradise, cacti, bougainvillea, etc. I feel dismay on several levels. Primarily because he is losing his home of over thirty years. Secondarily, I don’t have homes for more than a few of the plants. (If anyone has a spot for well-loved potted plants, raise your hand.) He hates the idea of them being trampled in the construction crush to ensue. He has been given a choice: a buyout and evacuation by the end of June, or get Ellis- Acted, which means a pittance for moving expenses and a year to scram.

Where will he go? “I have no idea,” he says. He tells me he is not sleeping, he is so anxious.

Last weekend I got into a conversation about the transformation of the city, a conversation ever more frequent and futile. “Most cities would kill to have the kind of problems San Francisco has,” a woman from out of town said. The problems of too much money, I supposed she meant and I saw her point, in the abstract. In the specific, Ken is losing his home, his community his garden, his friends the bluejays who come for the peanuts he puts in the crooks of the myoporum tree. He asks if I can find a home for the lilac. A beloved friend gave it to him before he died.

The lilac is almost ten feet tall. I tell him I’ll take it, knowing it will be mauled in the process of digging it up and transporting it to the street and then into someone’s back garden, knowing also that lilacs are resilient and with some luck will survive the brutality.

I pray the same can be said for Ken.

FARO SPRINGS TO LIFE

http://www.themonthly.com/faro1604.html

ONLY DISCONNECT

The next to last thing you need to hear (next to The Donald) is how the city has changed. More dogs and black SUV’s than you can shake a stick at. People walking talking into their phones. Weirdos are the ones saying “good morning.” Congestion of the streets, congestion of the spirit. I got honked at yesterday for being in the crosswalk by a woman in a red car. I could forgive her since, having come from a muddy garden, I probably looked like one of the homeless, ergo, an affront to the sensibilities of the entrepreneurial stratum. I had more trouble forgiving the twit in the car who gave me the finger after he cut me off and I honked, a mild civilized honk at that.

IMG_0001

where have you gone joe dimaggio

Hang ‘im by his thumbs, I say.

TEN THOUSAND HOURS

How long does it take to get this? one of the students asks. She is dubious. She has made progress the first three classes in ways that seemed remarkable to her but in the last class all her doubt came back. It was immensely deflating. She couldn’t get the backfloat. She kept getting water in her nose. Despite my suggesting otherwise, she wanted it to do it without a nose clip. To prove something, I guess.

I respond, it takes as long as it takes. This remark is a clunker. I take another tack: I refer to the cultural meme given much currency: it takes ten thousand hours to master something.

Her face falls.  Oh god.

But what if they’re ten thousand hours of fun?

Her expression changes.  Is it possible?

So I ask myself practicing accordion this morning, entertaining images of defenestration.  Not myself, the accordion.  Maybe myself.

 

BEGINNING CLASS, THE BORDER

8 students, 7 women

Shirl, Becky, Naomi, Saradha, Traci, Bridget, Geeta, and Robert

1 African-American, 3 Asian-American (one bleach-blond) 2 Indians, 1 Irish-American (guess which), 1 Asian-Latino-American (O hyphenly days!)

We meet at the cafe. It’s reasonably quiet until a herd of drunk Broncos fans comes in. Oh the barbarians!  Secure the borders!

Miracle Swimming. It’s a miracle I can hear a thing.

They want to know, as all students do, where is this class going to take me?

Last night in my dream I came to a river. I swam across.  That’s all I know.

THE THESAURUS IS MY FAVORITE DINOSAUR

Roget’s International Thesaurus Fifth Edition

Now Completely Revised and Updated

Isn’t that “Now” reassuring? It’s the eternal present.

My guide.  Sometimes I open it dreading that this time

it will fail me. Disillusionment is a synonym of enlightenment.

It has never failed me. Today, I’m sure it’s a sign

I found a mistake. Facing pages had the same

two-word heading (there must be a word for this)

granular-greenhorn.

The right hand page should have read

greenhouse-ground.

I venerate these conjoined words like oracles.

The mistake is no accident, that I stumbled upon it.

It has to do with all the rain we’ve been having

all the weeding I’ve been postponing while writing nonsense.

Last week Roget was in an electioneering spirit

channeling Republican candidates according to polls:

ersatz-evangelical

guide dog-Hades

defy-demagogue

flaunting-flocculent

Yesterday Roget was feeling roger-ish

sodomy-somewhere

personable-phlegmatic

mirth-misrepresentation

What is today’s runic wisdom? crabbed-cream

Before I put it into my coffee I’ll sniff the half-and-half.

ALMIGHTY BIG BALL OF WAX

CJ, as part of the advertisment for her traditional Sunday walk into Glen Canyon, says it’s possible to see coyotes. This Sunday she sent me an pre-8 AM email, wondering if I wanted to join her. When I saw the email, I debated. A definite maybe. It would be nice to go, and nice to stay home. I picked up the phone, started to punch in her number, put the phone down. Maybe. Picked up the phone two minutes later.  “I suppose you’re on your way by now,” I said.

“Just to the corner. I’ll come back.”

CJ has a route and from what I gathered, it doesn’t vary. This side of the street on the way up, that side the way down. And up is the operative word. The hill you just climbed is just to get you to the steeper one ahead.

We make our way up Diamond Heights, talking about various shades of spiritual practice. The phrase “ball of wax” comes into play, refering to the stuff that accretes to dogma. It sticks to my mind too. The ball of wax as the god itself, the object of veneration. Augmented by candle stubs. Is that pure? Multiplicity of attibutes. Plasticity. Hardness and softness. The god of gob. Handfuls are taken and venerated, heresy for the monotheists.

Unserious mindplay, and verbal play, between huffings. We round a corner at the base of a green grassy hill and CJ exclaims, “Look a coyote” and there it is near the summit, leaping and sprinting back and forth. It is a large animal. It seems so, anyway. A couple walking ahead of us turns around. “It looks stressed out,” the man says. “Better keep away.”

“I hope it’s not lost,” CJ says.

In the few seconds of watching the coyote I’ve interpreted its behavior as a kind of high-spirited gamboling. Now I see it as desperation. Possibly. But who knows? It trots back and forth, occasionally leaping into the air. At one point it is silhouetted on the line of the hill, one degree west of the sun, invisible unless you block out the sun with your palm. The perfect vantage point for an attack, using the sun the way the Comanches did during their raids.

We survive, thank you great ball of wax, and begin the downward portion of the walk, into Glen Canyon. Oh beauty. A trickle of a creek. And before I can settle into my inherent sloth we are heading back up, and Diamond Heights is just as high as it was on our initial ascent. CJ points out the small street where, soaked with rain, she knocked on a door for shelter and the couple took her in and treated her with great hospitality. There is no sign of a coyote.

On the way back CJ mentions how so many people she knows in our age bracket are asking the question, “Shouldn’t I be doing more with my life? Taking more risks?”

And I, ball of wax, have a perfect solution to sidestep that self-nagging “is that all there is?” nonsense. When you meet a maybe, say yes.