Saturday, January 27, 2007

Father-in-law Fable

Desire is the master of ghosts,
desire turns us into ghosts.
We are vines of air on trees of wind,
a cape of flames
invented and devoured by flame.

--excerpt from "A draft of shadows" by Octavio Paz

My father-in-law told me a story from his childhood as part of an admonition never to leave Gumbo and Gumba unsupervised together. When he was just another eight-year old scallywag soaking up the swelter of Valley Center in Southern California he came across an abandoned outboard motor. He managed to lug it home, find some gasoline, and get it started. The rusty old propeller spun freely in the open air, nothing between it and the several other kids he had with him who were all running around it, screaming, laughing, shoving, and making a terrible racket. The racket got worse as the motor started to burn up and exude large quantities of smoke from lack of the resistance it would have had in the water. That brought his upset father out of the house, who gave him a good old fashioned yelling at, and orders to clean up the mess he had made. His dad went back in the house. The next part is where the lesson in the story supposedly lies: he saw that not all the gasoline that he had put into the old outboard had been used, so he dumped it out nearby, then, even though the memory of having just gotten in trouble staid fast in his head, he watched himself whip out a pack of matches and spark the puddle up. Apparently it was no small fire, and when his dad came back out he was not only pissed, but completely non-plussed, and just kept shaking his head. My father-in-law says that to this day he still couldn't tell you how he arrived at the spark it up decision, but that this type of thing runs in boys. Of course, I think I know why he did it. He did it for the same reason that I as a child lit every liquid I could lay my hands on that had a label that read FLAMMABLE or EXTREMELY FLAMMABLE, and for similar reasons to those that draw us to Burning Man. All the same, good fable Pops.

Photo courtesy of Laura

Friday, January 26, 2007

Hungry For Mossy Trails

Once I owned the key
to an umbrageous trail
thickened with mosses
where flickering presences
gave me right of passage
as I followed in the steps
of straight-backed Massassoit
soundlessly heel-and-toe
practicing my Indian walk.

--excerpt from The Testing-Tree by Stanley Kunitz

Feeling hungry for mossy trails and deep ferned canyons. A bit too thoughtful for a Friday for my tastes, but I'll take what my spinal electrical surges zap my way.

Had a great time with Gumbo over at Little Farm in Berzerkeley's Tilden Park last Sunday. I got to give a giant cow a back rub and her response impressed everyone - she loved it. Some guy took a bunch of photos and Gumbo got to try it too. The rams were really into the massage too. Their horns impressed Gumbo. The goats, the rabbits, the sheep it was all more fun than you're probably thinking right now. You're only allowed to feed the animals celery or lettuce, and I had a nice big bag of lettuce, which most parents/kids didn't have, so we got to share a bunch of that with the other kids too, simply delightful. Simple pleasures rock, go figure.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Holiday Massage

i've hung out with my dad a few more times since our first meeting last Summer. Here you see us at Matt's new house in Sebastopol, the weekend before Christmas. Life reveals it's depth to those receptive to extra levels. The shit's complex, rewarding, and painful. I give thanks that my dad turned out to be cool.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Blinding Brilliantine

"Sometimes, I sit in a lonely place,
on a slope at the margin of the lake,
that is wreathed with silent plants.
There, as noon wheels in the sky, the sun
paints his tranquil image, the grass
and leaves are unbending in the breeze,
and no wave wrinkles, no cicada ticks,
no bird lifts a feather on the branch,
no butterfly flickers, no voice or movement
can be heard or seen, near or far.
The deepest quiet grips the banks:
then I sit so motionless I almost lose myself,
and forget the world: and it seems to me
my limbs are so still, no spirit or feeling
can ever stir them again, and their primal calm
is merged with the silence of the place."

--Excerpt from "The Solitary Life" taken from Giacomo Leopardi's "Canti"

Saw one of those crazy sunsets on the drive home last Friday evening, one of those pinkish gray jobs that defies depth perception. It seemed to hover ever distant as a dusk painting might, but at the same time envelop me. The enveloping part got a hold of me, gave way to a baker's dozen cherubs scrubbing down my aura like those lovely folks with the spray bottles do at Burning Man when it's real hot & hung over. Good way to start a weekend, fingers on pulses of blessings believed impossible prior to that very moment.

Romeo & Juliet Fire Ballet at The Crucible that night kicked ass. Dueling break dancers stole the show, although the ladies that hung from the spinning chandelier that shot flames will also always retain a special place in my memory.

Broke in a new road bike Sunday morning. Met Quintan at Orinda BART, flew down San Pablo Dam Road past the reservoir, up Castro Ranch, out Alhambra Valley where the wild west still yodels, up Bear Creek to harvest the three bears, far enough to still feel it as I type. There were some sections on Bear Creek where the heat of the sun kicked in and the vixen voices of my youth's springtimes whispered my name, unlocked forgotten points of view. The outstretched limbs of the trees rained greetings down upon me of a most sensual and caring variety, polished my fresh scrubbed aura to a blinding brilliantine. From the snarling faces of the roadkill racoons to the rich motorcycle exhaust, I savored every pain wracked revolution. Let's do it again.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Joy of Chase

Tag must tap some deep instincts. I got chased by some dogs while riding my mountain bike in steep, slippery wet conditions towards dusk. The dogs' young owner called after them to little avail. One stopped after I gave it a quick bark and backwards glance, but the other kept a snarling and a barking and a bounding towards my exposed lower extremities. I found that the trail demanded strict attention to avoid a muddy fall, leaving little attention left to fend off Dog No. 2. Sometime in this tricky and heart racing section I became aware that a part of me enjoyed this chase on a very deep level. The trail leveled off and I turned to yell some unintelligible baritone challenge to the hell hound on my heels. It worked perfectly and the dog ran back to his frantic teenager. I disappeared into the shadows of the forested valley below, feeling ecstatic and remembering the thrill of tag I played for hours as a youth. The thrill of chasing and of being chased, so primal and excellent, something towards the adrenal jumbo that comes with kicking the shit out of someone, or having the shit kicked out of you.

I can see the sea gulls past my monitor, wheeling and circling, inviting me to join them. They shriek that they can take me to my forgotten dolphin family, sing me songs that tranform and heal. My neck gets the same tension our German Sheperd's neck gets when we drive past a park and he sees the other dogs playing from our backseat. Must try hang gliding.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

JGB Band Delivers

Took the wife to the Great American Music Hall last night to see the JGB (Jerry Garcia Band) Band. Jerry of course remains gratefully dead, but organist Melvin Seales, those two angelic gospel singers, and the rest of the rippers hit the stage on fire with the life force. My feet and legs ache in a quite soothing ebb fashion. Those notes & voices continue to ride giant guitar skateboards back & forth, up & down and along the edge of the smooth empty pool that dominates the landscape where my massive intellect once took up needless cubic footage. We set up shop toward the back of the dance floor, which worked fine for awhile, but at some point I decided that I had to see Melvin's fingers work that organ, so I snaked my way up to the corner of the stage where he played. I dance pretty fun & well if I do say so myself, but up there I got a shore nuff JGB dance lesson that had me howling with laughter and delight. I'm telling you those folks knew how. You see, one must laugh while dancing, jumping, stretching and pouring love out fingers, toes, eyes, and the top of one's head, leaving self consciousness and pre-conceived notions piled up with all the coats. Not wanting to provoke feelings of abandonment, I returned to the back of the dance floor spot after a couple songs, but the lure of the crazies at the front drew me back when the beat got thumping. Poured my heart and soul into those moves. A lovely young lady promptly rewarded me with a "Shucks, you're the best dancer here." That's a tall compliment to live up to, but I tried, with as much humility as I could muster wearing my unstoppable perma-grin. Shit was fun, crowd was excited, rocked my world, and the wife had a good time too, what more to say.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Truly Rich

If you realize that you have enough,
you are truly rich.
If you stay in the center
and embrace death with your whole heart,
you will endure forever.

--Tao Te Ching by Lao-tzu, translated by Stephen Mitchell

I think that means we should enjoy just a little more centered sliding around life's curves; mountain curves, underwater cave curves, rocket parablas, rounded furniture, high stress work days that get worse, and of course the natural curves that need no name.

Darling daughter on the verge of crawling, rolling to and fro, lunging, and occasionally crawling backwards, an exciting time. She talks too, calls me by name.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Children at Play

The other day we got into one of those laughing fits where you can't look at the other person without laughing. It went on for several minutes, about to the point of tears. That kind of thing doesn't happen every day, or even every month, and the ensuing gratitude about knocked the wind out of me. Her sense of humor cracks me up and she thinks I'm funny too.

The boy invokes laughter too, of course. We went for a walk down the hill on new year's eve, and the waxing moon presented itself to us plain and unassuming. It had just caught my eye when he said, "Yeah, I like that moon." A few more steps. "It's got eyes! Can you see the eyes?"

"Well, I suppose I can see the eyes. Sure, I see 'em." A few more steps.

"But... the moon is sad."

"Why do you think the moon is sad?"

"Because it doesn't have anything to eat."

I pondered that one for a spell while the boy lagged further and further behind, as some people are want to do. As he lagged he began emitting a variety of loud and high-pitched vocalisations, with an ever increasing tone of insistence to them, until I felt obliged to ask him, "What are you making all that noise for Gumbo?". The lady of the house and I have taken to calling the children Gumbo and Gumba in an attempt to Mardi Gras up the party season (now until 2/20, Fat Tuesday). It's working, try it at your house.

"Because I'm not sure if the moon can hear me." Good one Gumbo. We laughed like school chums on a long bus ride. Yes, the moon heard us, and no, the moon is not sad, unless you want it to be, and then it's lowest level of hell of move you to tears sad.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Mother Knows Best

You know a car's seen better days when everything starts to break. Sometime in my twenties the truth that not all wounds heal sank in good, and I became at least somewhat safer in my athletic endeavors, etc. Even if you sit in a cube your whole life though, age happens, and these fancy tents for our souls start sagging, leaking, and becoming difficult to unzip. What I'm leading up to here is the doleful confession that these words hail from Self-pity City, USA, Population: 1, and that I lost another molar, last one on the bottom right. That valiant tooth held up half of an expensive but rickety bridge for the last few years, so it took the bridge with it, leaving me with just a bloody, aching, and sad looking socket. Lots of people have fucked up teeth, so my story's not remarkable I know, but self-expression takes many forms. I plan on replacing this pain & worry with another any moment, so must strike while the fever sweats.

Marquez writes from the perspective of a 90-year old man in his most recent (2005) novel Memories of My Melancholy Whores:

I became accustomed to waking every day with a different pain that kept changing location and form as the years passed. At times it seemed to be the clawing of death, and the next day it would is a triumph of life that old people lose their memories of inessential things, though memory does not often fail with regard to things that are of real interest to us. Cicero illustrated this with the stroke of a pen: "No old man forgets where he has hidden his treasure."

Marquez suits me well, because he'll say about any fucking thing, without apology. I read the man's personal growth and regression in his works, feel connected not only to him but to the distant lands of which he writes. I have adopted the deliberate practice of stealing other people's memories, ecspecially childhood memories, for my own. It makes for a much more fascinating and uplifting biography, and I'll be stealing memories from Marquez if I live long enough, so I'm not just pissing in the wind when I read these fantastical introspections. Keep telling myself that.

Oh yes, and that photo's of my dear mother enjoying a sweltering July day in her elf hat outside Bohemian Grove near the rural, economically depressed Russian River town of Monte Rio. She had one of her teeth out the day before I had mine out - what are the odds?

Monday, January 01, 2007

Sand Through Fingers

Took the family to nearby Kennedy Grove Regional Park today. The girl does not crawl yet, and had always stayed in the sling or stroller on previous trips to the playground, but today seemed a good day to expose her to the sand. She sits up well, so I slipped her out of the sling and sat her up next to me at the edge of the playground, with a view of mumma pushing brother on the swings. Then the sand feeling lesson began, not just sand of course, but eucaylptus leaves, twigs, bark, berries, little bits of shell, etc. My soon to be 8-month old darling would do most of the teaching. My teaching consisted of redirecting items that headed mouthward. Her teaching took me through a review of every time the ancestors in my nervous system played in the sand since the first vertebrates strayed from ocean depths sandy shores, from flippers to feet, very Piscean. She reached forward as far as she could with both arms extended, to grasp whatever she could with both hands, and examine it as it it slipped through her tiny fingers, then feel the texture of any items that remain. She got real excited, tried to eat some eucalyptus leaves, ended up eating a few tasty grains of sand, mostly quartz. Sand will speak to me in a clearer voice for the rest of my days, after my magic daughter's mini-workshop on sand enjoyment. We all had a delightful time, and got a reasonably far hike in too, just a bit muddy, only the boy fell.

She's jumping out of her skin to type something here so:

. nf≈ ≈ 

Whoa there Nelly! Too many commands.

Got a quick bike ride in earlier in the day, and somewhere along the line smelled fresh cut grass, felt the wolf inside me pump canine impulses all through my extremities and incisors, rode faster. That wolf grows wilder every year, fantasizing about loping Jack London novel endings, ordering his meat ever rarer, practicing that bloodlust bay, hoping for spiritual solutions.

Rode past a marble in the gutter when almost home, thought to myself "Don't pick it up, you don't need it." But I wanted it, heard it calling me, so I circled back and put in in my pocket, christened it a talisman of the joy of youth. I love my marbles as a kid, some of which I got from my grandmother, including a clear one with a lioness inside it, my favorite. I would imagine life inside that spherical solid glass cage. The lioness radiated gratitude when I played with that marble, because that was the only time she got to move and see different vistas. Sometimes I'd even roll her around the pages of my book that showed pictures of lion habitat in Africa. I hereby declare it cool to walk around with a scratched up marble or two in your pocket, for the purpose of invoking how life felt through the senses of a six year old.