Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Childhood Ambitions and My Shadow Side

Spiritual Dimensions of Healing Addictions Spiritual Dimensions of Healing Addictions by Donna Cunningham

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
It is my belief that various levels of addiction comprise major parts of most people's lives, whether they realize it or not. This book was a valuable read for me, and I think that would be true for most open-minded adults, struggling with addiction[s:] or not. The approach runs deep, dealing with parts of ourselves we often fail to acknowledge, the socially or morally unacceptable & shameful thoughts and desires Cunningham refers to as our shadow sides. Cunningham then directs us to embrace ourselves, shadow-sides & all, which felt just awesome when I tried it.

The book also leads the reader back in time to childhood ambitions in an attempt to help people hear their own calling with more than just their ears, no small or idle task. Cunningham presents many guided visualizations, that, if one tries them in earnest, are quite potent and freeing. Due to the New Age bent of the book, mentions of past lives, etc., most readers will find something to disagree with or disbelieve, but as long as one tries the exercises with focus, variant paradigms should be irrelevant.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Dharma Bummin' Hard

The Dharma Bums The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
I thought that I read this whole book long ago, but it turned out that I had read all but the last 20-pages or so, which were stunning and grand. The whole book seemed to be about me and a certain set of my friends at a certain time in our lives, which I think is part of it's genius. It helped that I knew most of the places he wrote about, made me have goosebumps more than once.

"During the night I had a vivid dream, one of the most distinct dreams I ever had, I clearly saw a crowded dirty smoky..."

From the mountain climbing to the hitchhiking to the suicides & orgies, Kerouac paints complex pictures of their idyllic lives that cyclically became painful. I like the way he tries to extricate himself from pursuing sex, and warmth, the whole time feeling a nagging desire for a little smooch in a heated bungalow, classic theme.

What I liked the most though, were the demonstrations of manifestation. Kerouac hears about stuff, gets excited, and is able to make or let the stuff happen, with a little help from his friends & family. Sometimes it's little stuff like food & booze & transportation, while other times it's life itself, fulfillment & bliss & loving friendship.

One night in a meditation vision Avalokitesvara the Hearer and Answerer of Prayer said to me "You are empowered to remind people that they are utterly free" so I laid my hand on myself to remind myself first and then felt gay, yelled "Ta," opened my eyes, and a shooting star shot.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Gwar at the Grand Ballroom at the Regency

Gwar! Gwar, Gwar, Gwar, Gwar, Gwar! Shirt soaked, pants quite wet, sticky with Gwar blood. Rocked the pit almost the whole time, saving folks from being crushed to death, booted in the face, etc. All of the five men in my group, most of them quite a bit younger than me, claimed to be too old for the pit, and it was too crazy for my lovely spouse, but Ann held her own and came out blood soaked too, love that woman. The crowd wild and drunk with testosterone, heat, blood (real and Gwar), and lack of air, looked fabulous & raw, jagged. Women laughed as they crowd surfed, wowed the fans & band with the tried & true method of baring their tastefully pierced breasts while sitting on someone's shoulders, although Odorous did say "Unfortunately, I prefer the breasts of dogs." Shortly thereafter they brought out the dead dog to squeeze blood out of.

My G.G. Allin & The Murder Junkies shirt shows the blood real well. It dries quietly at home now waiting for the photo shoot, smelling manly. What a great time. Most psychedelic Gwar show ever. The blood would shoot straight for my eyes in rows of streams such that I was able to observed the rounded tips of the bright red streams right up until my eyes snapped shut 0.1-seconds before impact, such crazy fun. Turns out that bloodlust is more than just a pretty word for repeating when out of earshot of others.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Enclose Me In Your Gentle Rain

"The days are bright and filled with pain
Enclose me in your gentle rain" -- from Crystal Ship by The Doors

Good rain today. Went outside and felt it on my freshly shaved scalp, stuck out my tongue to taste it, smelled it, felt it with my face, saw the pigeons lined up on the wire, dripping, happy.

Leaning back in my chair I balance a small piece of Mount Everest on my forehead, imagine myself the mountain, peacefully cold in late October, neutral.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I Feel Numb

"The numbness started in her fingertips. She felt it flow up through her hands, into her wrists and on along her arms to her shoulders and through her shoulders to her heart and up her neck to her head. She was a numbness, a thing of nettles and ice and prickles and a hollow thundering nothingness. Her lips were dry petals, her eyelids were a thousand times heavier than iron, and each part of her body was now iron and lead and copper and platinum. Her body weighed ten tons, each part of it was so incredibly heavy, and, in that heaviness, crushed and beating to survive, was her crippled heart, throbbing and tearing about like a headless chicken. And buried in the limestone and steel of her robot body was her terror and crying out, walled in, with someone tapping the trowel on the exterior wall, the job finished, and, ironically, it was her own hand she saw before her that had wielded the trowel, set the final brick in place, frothed on the thick slush of mortar and pushed everything into a tightness and self-finished prison." --from Ray Bradbury's short story Interval in Sunlight, published in his Long After Midnight collection.

Almost out of the October Country, for better or for worse. It's been an amazing month. Hard to believe how much got packed into it, but now, like the girl in the story, I feel numb, and more than a little trapped. Just my subconcious telling me get more exercise and meditate deeper, because when push comes to shove, I am as free as the wind, and can send the numbness away at will.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Know Her Quiet Love

Racing round & round the hills & valleys of these beautiful Bay Area counties I have gradually come to realize that, deep within, my true search is always & only for the Goddess. She etches figure eights around Twin Peaks, ambles enlessly around the peaks of Mount Diablo, sits in silent meditation on lonely beaches from Alameda to Tennessee Valley, suns herself by the shores of Lake Merrit, whispers through my open windows, lays waste to ego & self-consciousness when the inevitable tears of joy storm from my eyes. When I find her I receive whatever gifts she bestows with loving reverence & grace, and request nothing more for all eternity except to know her quiet love.

"…I waited on a bench for my next bus trying to sleep on my arms on my rucksack but kept waking up to see the pale ghosts of American bus stations wandering around: in fact one woman streamed by like a wisp of smoke, I was definitely certain she didn't exist for sure. On her face the phantasmal belief in what she was doing...on my face, for that matter, too." --from Kerouac's The Dharma Bums

Monday, October 13, 2008

Pig Butcher Chen

The Butcher's Wife The Butcher's Wife by Li Ang

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
Lin Shi's mother was all dressed in red. Her legs were bound with several coils of a long, thick rope. Stretching her arms out toward her daughter, she said over and over: "Ah-shi, I'm hungry, I'm hungry, I'm hungry...go beg some food for me, I'm hungry, I'm hungry."

Lin Shi discovered that she couldn't move a muscle, but she didn't know why. Momentary confusion followed. Unable to wait any longer, Lin Shi's mother plunger her hands into her own abdomen, fished out a mass of bloody entrails, and hungrily shoved them into her mouth, giggling as she said: "I've got nothing to eat, just this sweet-potato mash."

--excerpt from The Butcher's Wife

This is one of my wife's women's studies books that I just happened upon and found readable. Based on a true story, it's deeply sad but also oddly neutral. This book, maybe because it is Chinese, seems quite distant from the other women's studies type books I've started, most of which I could not make it through. I have to wonder about what's lost in translation, perhaps quite a bit. Even though the man is of course an evil fucker, the author manages to practically force the reader to empathize with him. One aquires an acute sense of being trapped in relationships: marriage, family, societal, and the world of pain & sickness to which those feelings lead. Tom Waits sings about in that song where "Frank hung his wild years on a nail that he drove through his wife's forehead...bought himself a couple of Mickey Bigmouths, then he parked across the street, watching the thing burn all Christmas orange, and laughing; turned on the top 40 station", or something like that, folks losing their minds because of persistent belief in limits & measures in a limitless & measureless universe. It's the goddess forsaken dark ages in homes around the world, unfortunately.

Trapped as you agree to, trapped as you want to be, is how I figure it. Do whatchalike Kid.

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Fantasy Beach Cottage

A weathered ghost of a stainless steel kettle on an antique stove prepares to
whistle for our tea in my fantastic daydream, a small vase with three
small geranium blossoms in it graces a table carved for two. The ancient hardwood table waits with unimaginably vast patience & poise. This is a voracious & recurring dream that cyles deep, corkscrewing itself from one end of my mind the the other, and back again without rest.

When I wake into yet another dream I sit cross-legged on dry sand, near waves, with a few symbolic pieces of driftwood forming five sides around me. The wind calls coldly & the ocean wears a gray cloak. I hitch hiked there, and now wonder about my ride home, because dusk has come and soon will go, but I am so very happy.

Much thanks to Matthew Lichau for the picture.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

EPMD @ Club 6 in October Rain

Wowie zowie this night sparkles in the rain. What a great night, for all the right reasons. Met one of my brothers and his girlfriend at Club 6 to see EPMD, the legendary rappers. I got a call from my dear friend Anjeni while parking my car, and it turned out that her plan with her couple friends wasn't working out, so spontaneously, at the last minute, she shows up with her buddy Manjou and her osteopath mentor/boss. It was shaping up to be a fine fun night anyway, but when those lovely osteopaths and Manjou, who compliments them well because he's an acupunturist, showed up the dance party blew up bigger than life. We were wild, we were crazy, we knocked into people, Anjeni and I bumped knees as hard as I've ever bumped knees with anyone. We danced upstairs, downstairs, I danced in the rain in the smoking pen, we watched the too-cool-for-words break dancers upstairs, they went off. I had so much fun that I gave a homeless guy paper money when he asked me for it after the show, which I don't do except when in full celebration mode.

Anjeni & her entourage split, which left me to join my brother & his girl for a tasty breakfast of waffles, eggs, and bacon at Mel's Diner at Mission & 5th St. And I'm still in a good mood, so thankful for the unexpected night of dancing with some crazy good dancers. It rocked, way-way-sha-nay-nay-way-hay-eh.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Not To Be Confused With Heartburn

Fire in the Belly: On Being a Man Fire in the Belly: On Being a Man by Sam Keen

My review

rating: 1 of 5 stars
Keen writes way too preachy, and although he dug up a few clever quotes, the book disappointed me to the point that I could not finish it. That surprised me because it came highly recommended and the title sounded quite promising. The title thing was big for me due to my extended romance with the concept of having a fire in one's belly. One bright San Francisco morning warped by a twenty-something hangover my friends & I came across a raspy wino sitting on a steep street outside a liquor store that happened to be in a fair to middling mood. We gave him some dough for booze and he explained to us about the fire in the belly. The grizzled little man had a way of yelling "fire, fire in your belly", with a very strong accent on the fire part, that my friends & I would take turns bellowing to each other when we were drunk for the next ten years. You see, said the wizened wino, "a 40-oz malt liquor in the morning won't give you that fire, you need wine, or perhaps whiskey, to give that wondrous burn we call the fire in the belly." We roared with laughter, overstanding, and devil-may-care alcoholic bonding before setting off to chase that flickering flame across ten-thousand twilights, and again tomorrow. Cannot count the times I have cried for that fire, done violence for it, gone hungry, pushed my body to collapse, and still I would swear by it's unassailable greatness without hesitation. Keen does not this concept justice, in my admittedly arrogant & condescending opinion.

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Launch To Crater

We missed the fun in the desert with rockets this year, but Seth turned me on to this wonderful series of the Maveriks 2 rocket that he worked on. The parachute plan did not work out. Recovered the electronics about a mile away.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Death By Work

John Henry, the Steel-Driving Man John Henry, the Steel-Driving Man by Corinne J. Naden

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
Not many children's stories tell about a guy that works himself to death, but this one is different. There is, of course, more to it than that, but sure enough, at the end the big loot dies with with a hammer in his hand, and his baby in the other. I remember reading a different version of the story as a child, which I recall as having had better art than this version. Loved how John Henry kicked that steam engine's sorry ass, but then somewhat dreaded the pain & mystery of his death that I always knew was coming (after the first shocking time reading it, that is). Our cat Henry is named after him. John Henry was bad ass, and I still race cars, scooters, and motorcycles on my bicycle in the spirit of such. I totally kick their ass off the line, even the muscle car guys sweating the light turning green, and it hasn't killed me yet.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Flirting With The Snow Queen

The Snow Queen The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
"Old memories mean nothing to me" --Hazel Dickens

This book stimulated shadowy memories of a teacher reading all or part of this book during classroom storytime, or maybe it was just a similar story. Whatever the case, at various points I sensed myself sitting on the floor of my pale yellow 1st grade classroom in the Petaluma hills, the blinds drawn to dim the room, feeling the resonance of the woman's enthusiastic voice, think it my have been Mrs. Geotzinger with her dark hair, during a string of cloudy & rainy days in 1976.

It took a number of tries to get my son & daughter interested, but once we got going with a real book mark & all it was on. I enjoyed it quite, as did the wee ones. The thing that got me the best turned out to be the cold, illustrated with snow & ice & wind & bare feet with forgotten jackets. Hans wrote a cut above for this one, in my opinion, seemed to take more than his typical degree of care with the sentence composition, with very balanced and complementary themes - men & women, heat & cold, animals & humans, kindness & cruelty, heaven & hell, reality & illusion, old age & youth, all the deep topics to which humans perpetually return. A part of my soul dwells in the Snow Queen's palace evermore, in a vast hall of ice & pain, layered illusions entwined intimately with razor shard frosted edges of eternal death. One could think of it as how I might remodel A Clean Well Lighted Place For Books.

At the end Hans goes uberChristian on us, but I forgive him this, chalking it up to the time & place in which the dear boy dreamed up his darling little masterpiece.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Nobody Knows

"I was not capable of discussing this with anyone because I felt, though I could not explain why, that my reasons might be valid only to me" -- excerpt from Living to Tell the Tale, written by my flirtatious Columbian gold, my oh-so dear, getting-on-in-his-years Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Master of Macondo

The world's been getting bold, messing with me, taunting me, warning me sharp. Love this dangerous Autumn, gently blind warmth breezes invoking romantic embraces of perilous cliffs I've barely met. Tea will be my last companion, so I pay attention to her, tend the moods of her spirits, inhale as deep as can be that timeless love.

Three Stigmata meet Fourth Musketeer

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K. Dick

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
ha ha ha ha ha, this crap runs deep, but it's fabulous. Perhaps because I read forearmed with the insights found in Carrère's biography of Mr. Dick, perhaps because I taste the undeniable truth in my sharpened steel teeth, regardless of how or why, this book spoke bleeding volumes to me. I know what you're thinking - always comes back to the drugs. At least I'm consistent. You see, there are some that believe that Jesus was part of a sect that grew psychedelic mushrooms in caves near the Dead Sea, and that the whole holy sacrament thing is about chowing down on some serious boomers, opening z-mind, getting in touch with the real deal Holyfield reality the human consciousness typically avoids so as to keep things complicated for fledgling beings, so they don't all flip out and stop going to work. Chew a little Can-D and melt that ego, to love humanity, like everybody coming at once, or dying at once, tempered by agape, not for the weak, but it'll open your luxury robotic video eye-slits right on up, plus it feels terrific.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Feels Like Autumn 2008

I stepped out onto our rear deck late yesterday afternoon, just in time to watch our table with the umbrella blow slow across the lawn. The brisk air had a particular vigorous energy to it that really could wake a fellow up. I turned my face into it, sniffed & smiled, felt the October Country calling early, time for walks in graveyards, those last cheap nectarines. Cold but not too cold, the kids shrieked with glee as they ran around with the wind in the fog.

The boy started kindergarten. He loves it. Feels like a sure enough new era.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Downieville 2008, Brakes-Free

Downieville, and all the trails that lead to it, exert a force on me and all that know about the magic in the rocks & roots. So tall you can't ride over it, so wide you can't ride around it, it will eat your bicycle along with your body & soul; it ate mine. I write now as a shell of a human, the real me endlessly looping those trails, swimming those lakes & creeks, falling rain on mossy rocks, that's me, sunshine leaping across distant peaks.

I arrived in town late last Saturday, after the last shuttle for the day had left, so against the setting sun I raced for Packer Saddle along Fire Road 93 up from Union Flat campground on Highway 49. No matter how hard I raced though, the sun set too fast and I could not lose an ever-growing highly infuriating cloud of gnats. The daylight factor meant that, after climbing from 2,835' to 6,719' I had to ride down the dark fire road instead of bombing the blessed single-tracks. That route presented itself as the only non-suicidal option available given the lights I had with me. It was a long, cold, stressful descent marked by one true fall and one quick unintentional dismount. You see, I could only see the drop-off edge of the trail with my teeny-tiny light, and that only intermittently. The miles past slowly, and I cursed my over-eagerness to just ride rather than pay attention to small details like night and day, warm and cold. I wore only a short-sleeved jersey with no under-shirt, brought no jacket with me, and ran out of food. The running out of food part was particularly smart, since that left me to dine on a tin of mango-flavored Altoid sours and a sack of low-sodium sunflower seeds, in the shell after I rolled into town at 9:45PM, drove 5-miles to my campground, and set up my tent. I awoke to a sore stomach, but happy to know that I had a reservation on the 10:30 AM shuttle to Packer Saddle (7,200'). The thought that I should have my brakes checked/adjusted crossed my mind a couple of times, but 10:30 arrived in no time, so up I went. My rear brakes went out on Sunrise Trail, the first 1/2-mile stretch of single track. I spent awhile trying to fix them, but ended up stripping the little bolt/nut that holds the cable in place, so that was done. Did not take long to decide to limp down with only my lovely 8" front rotor helping me control my velocity on these near-vertical piles of loose baby-head sized cobbles that pass for trails here. The front brake did wonderfully for a few miles, and then I had wee crash that ended up hosing my front brakes completely. I worked on them for some time before sitting down to whimper and snivel, realizing that, with more than 3,000' of wickedly technical trail left to descend, my vehicle could only be ridden by a madman, so I laughed at the water in the corners of my eyes, said hello to the tree friends gathered all around, told my racing heart to calm down, and hopped on my fast fast bicycle. I had already navigated all of Big Boulder Trail at that point, which is the longest way down the mountain from Packer Saddle, and so was near the top of Third Divide. I had to call on my ancient experience as a pre-teen, riding BMX bikes with no brakes - you just stand on the rear wheel with your right foot. Three problems with that: 1) the rear suspension allowed my extremely sharp seat post to gouge my ankle if I bounced my ass on the seat at all, which happened a lot, 2) if you don't pay attention to your left foot, and just let it rest at the bottom of it's range it hits rocks & roots that cause your left ankle to bang your frame (ouch), so you must ride with your foot & pedal half-way up a good part of the time, 3) a rear brake alone is not sufficient to control your speed on the steep parts, so you must be ready to bail off at any time. The ride harrowed me, hurt me, taught me lessons about many things far beyond bicycle mechanics and innovative trail riding methods. It convinced me that these brakes are history; time to move on to hydraulic disc brakes from mechanical disc brakes, seriously. They're Laurent's anyway, long-term loaned to me when he & Quintan built this bike up for me a few year ago.

Pain and cold and hassles aside, Downieville still loves me. When I fall and those big fir roots and stout granite rocks reach up and pound the blood out me, it's with such deep love that I don't even mind it a bit. It's like the mountain she's massaging me, in a very rough way. I could be happy forever with her. The trails demand such utter and devoted attention to avoid death or dismemberment that riding them becomes a meditation, an inevitable concentration spurning speech without action in rocky red dust. Age, gender, & race lose meaning rapidly, along with all those other labels that once defined me, confining boxes that never met Saddleback Mountain, or felt the Milky Way grind their bones to gleaming white, the better to dance you with.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Lychees & Longans Change My Life

My co-worker brought me a handful of chilled lychees & a handfull of chilled longans, so delicious. We've worked together for a few years now, and I guess that it's a tradition by now, a delicious & sweet one. Her handfulls inspired me to buy some lychees of my own and take 'em on home to my impressionable darlings. The darlings were impressed, and the afternoon took on a fresh & lovely hue, fruit & clouds blended by fate & good will. Thank Goddess for times like these.

Flowers planted in my fecund mind earlier this month have taken over the place, my nostalgia scented jungle cubicle by the bay; jasmine, tiger lily, gardenia, roses, pineapple sage, yum. Summer breezes play kid's games with me, lending grist to exceptional afternoons. I work hard, with no small price of pain, to unlock worlds beyond the pale of pavement & trail, skyways & constellations obscured by storms electric. I sense that I am onto something, and so am starting a new life without reserve, chock full of vim.

Friday, August 22, 2008

A Crack in the Edge of the World

A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906 (P.S.) A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906 by Simon Winchester

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
My knowledge as a Professional Geologist registered in the deliciously golden state of California not withstanding, this was a fun read for me, if you don't count the lengthy and detailed appendices. Winchester has great talent for breaking complicated stuff down, but not in a concise way. The science of the book was not the main attraction for me. Rather, the excerpts of writings from the time, and the anecdotes about famous people were what evoked the most time-travelly feelings in me, and those feelings are what I hope to experience while reading a historical novel like this.

The astutely concluded connections to the rest of the world that the 1906 earthquake has were fun too, but take me back to Ansel Adams on the actual morning of the quake. That was my favorite part.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tour of Napa Valley 2008

The Tour of Napa Valley rocked my world in a fabolous way, quite inspiring. Rode up a road called Ink Grade, and I daresay it changed my life. Felt like a Faulkner novel, perhaps As I Lay Dying, with the landscape reflecting people I know, changing perceptions of time & pain. Quintan was a super team player, above & beyond the call of good sportsmanship. Looking at the elevation profile from his GPS unit, shown above, you can see where he rode back down at the top of each of the two major summits to see what was taking me so long. The first big climb was Mount Veeder, and the second one was Ink Grade. Very awesome ride overall. They had a bagpipe player at the top of Mount Veeder, a violin player at the 2nd rest stop, and a Cajun band at the end. Also, the food was right on and delicious.

My computer hasn't had batteries all this riding season, but ever since I did a training ride in the White Mountains last July I have a new way of judging my velocity. During that training ride, where I'd started in Big Pine (3,500' above MSL) and rode to Grand View Campground in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest (~9,000), the ride down got tremulous as all get out, and somewhere half-way down the descent I thought to myself "wow, these rocks & bushes are moving by at an astounding rate", after which I got a small case of the giggles. When that happens I'm going about 40-mph or so, and it happened again during this ride, and was no less hilarious.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Robot Rescue Visions

Got dreams, unfadeable visions. Got dreams to hold onto. I've got power dreams, to live by. Big, bright, happy dreams with calypso melodies dancing across elaborate partially shaded jungle forest backgrounds, fun dreams twice the size of Texas delivering ten thousand twisters per rapid eye movement. Magnetic dreams that draw all good people towards them, even the worst good folks, fiery, unashamed, modular shareware dreams used to save dying robots in remote galaxies. Toots feels me, inspires me with 400-watts of sub-woofin' amplification.

Riding the 32nd Annual Tour of Napa Valley Sunday with Quintan & my pops this Sunday, 100-miles, 5000' of climbing, it's going to be killer. Starts & ends in Yountville, yum. Shana may meet me there after for some Bistro Jeanty or Ad Hoc. Now my mouth is watering.

Rode the Tour de Max out of Palo Alto last Sunday, also with Quintan & my pops, 75-miles, 7,000' of climbing. Quintan demonstrated extreme team sportmanship by letting me wear his only gloves because I had forgotten mine and am prone to numb hands. He rode gloveless, and both he and my pops took turns letting me draft them such that I felt super-stoked with the teaam feeling of the whole deal, brotherly love, agape, less pain by any other name. Truly surreal climb from the beach at Highway One up Tunitas Creek Road to Skyline. Tunitas Creek Road is a redwood butterfly paradise road frought with potholes that seems like it won't ever end. I had conversations with three cyclists and two butterlies on the way up the steeper section of the creek edge, which almost took my mind off the agony & visions of death. It's a tough 10-miles, but it does end, after which you get to descend the giant laughing devil head of a road know as King's Mountain Road. My dad had said "After King's Mountain Road it's all over but the cheering", his exact words, so I pushed it fierce down that lucipher asphalt, passed a shiny silver BMW that was stuck behind some other cyclists, passed everybody in a skeletal final exertion fit verging on convulsions. We then arrived at the bottom of Sand Hill, and it turned out that it was not actually all over but the cheering. We still had to ride from Woodside to Palo Alto. Many hot, tortured miles ensued, and my face wore that deeply repulsive mask of mega-pain, mainly lower back, right on into the finish line. They had no massage tent at the end, so my poor pops had to hit my back himself, which helped much, thanks Pops. I had forgotten the pain and was feeling like King Dick within about an hour.

I then promptly drove to San Jose to visit my good old friend Jennifer. Our college highlights include seeing AC/DC (what a show) and Neil Young (1991) at the Cow Palace, and I once got a speeding ticket driving her light blue Colt 100-miles an hour coming into Eureka. Her mom had laid out an amazing assortment of snacks, including two kinds of chips with two kinds of dip (carefully covered with Seran wrap), Reese's peanut butter cups, Cheetos, pretzels, and four kinds of cookies, too much. I also availed myself of a 20-oz grape soda and a slightly effervescent mango smoothee. What a sweet mom Jennifer has, although she did not come downstairs to say hi, and what a relaxing pad, complete with a sunken living room covered in orange shag carpet and knick-knacks from the 1970s, including those cool little metal sea gulls on pieces of drift wood that I always liked so much as a kid. We had a great visit, real nice in the San Jose afternoon heat, letting those post-ride endorphins do their shadow thang.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Pink Flowers Smell After All

When we inherited our yard it was sprinkled happily with a drought resistant and prolific soft pink flowered annual, pretty little things with lots of green leaves and pert yellow triple-stamens. At some point in my life I decided that most pink flowers don't smell, and always have thought that of these pink flowers. So, as my darling daughter picked one while lounging on her plastic future-vehicle last dusk, and then went to smell it, I looked down and said "Oh, those pink flowers don't have a smell Darling".

"Yes they do smell." she whispered, and handed me the blossom, which had a most divine fragrance. Never too late to discover this type of thing, so packed with delight and simplicity. Right when I'm reading a book on using flower essences for transformation too, my aromatic allies rippling through summer, breathing life into the almost dead, cutting out old wormy wood, communing with the water spirits at dawn with goony grins. I take the form of a lion-man, massive mane, my tail whips, now that's living.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Patented Burrito Therapy

Little Loola has begun to show more than a little motherly love, and you know, forget about that brotherly and otherly love (sang Zappa), come on and give me some of that good old motherly love. We had just washed Mabel's (all the baby dolls are named Mabel, don't ask me why) hair with real shampoo with built-in conditioner, and you see her here receiving our patented burrito therapy. Taking this photo, I really did almost feel like a grandparent for a vague minute, eery time travelin'.

Been drinking some darn fine cups of tea lately, but it turns out that sometimes nothing beats chamomile, Peter Rabbit.

Tour de Max 2008

Whelp, I avoide the sag wagon and rode the whole 75-miles and 7000+ feet of climbing. Very beautiful ride with friendly people, right past my old Stanford stomping grounds, all the way to my sacred Pacific & back, glorious, but painful for me, undertrained as I found myself.

By the time I finally made it home the pain had worn off just a bit though, and the super-stoked to have finished endorphins were swimming happily down my worn out rivers of blood. I acturally felt and appeared (to my wife) taller. What a wicked ride. Someday I hope to be in good enough shape that that course doesn't hurts so bad, and I can power through it less than the 7.5 hours it took me.

Don't know if I could have pulled it off without my team too. Quintan & my dad took turns letting me draft them and just hanging near my slow ass in general, very encouraging. Also, I had forgotten to bring gloves, and Quintan was nice enough to let me use his while he rode barehanded - killer team member to have.

This Sunday is the 32nd Annual Tour of Napa Valley, 100-miles, 4,300' of climbing, should be easier. Starts & ends in Yountville, yum.

Monday, July 07, 2008

O Death, O Death, Won't You Spare Me Over Til Another Year

The world is a sacred vessel, which must
not be tampered with or grabbed
To tamper with it is to spoil it, and to
grasp it is to lose it.
In fact, for all things there is a time for
going ahead, and a time for following
A time for slow-breathing and a time for
A time to grow in strength and a time to
A time to be up and a time to be down.

--excerpted from Lao Tzu's Tao Teh Ching, translated by John C.H. Wu

Back in March 2007, late on an El Sobrante winter afternoon, my mobile phone sent a series of emotionless vibrations into my left thigh. Bret's girlfriend Suzie said hello when I picked up the line. I could tell right away that something serious had taken hold of her mind. A jovial mood was busy echoing through our house at the time. We were nearing the end of a birthday party I'd thrown for myself, so before I heard her voice I figured that Bret was calling to wish me a happy birthday, but that wasn't it. Rhabdomyosarcoma, a sinus tumor, behind the left eye, a sizable mass of cells gone wrong that had his left eye bulging half-way out of his aching head. Bret had been asking me for advice with regards to a persistent sinus infection that he and his physician had thought he had for the couple months prior to that. The alleged sinus infection had been puzzling me because the treatments that I prescribed had no effect, and I'm somewhat of an expert on sinus infections due to my own painful experiences. The "infection" did not respond, of course, because it was cancer, scary, kills-you-dead cancer.

I kept my party face on for the rest of the afternoon, but afterwards the malignant enormity stunned me deep. My only other friend that had shown up with a giant cancerous tumor, Paul, his was in his thigh, a grapefruit-sized melanoma, died within about a year. Bret was scared and full of pride, didn't want to tell anyone, which is why Suzie called. They had moved to New Mexico from Oakland a few months previous, and had a son in December 2006. Bret & Suzie got married in a New Mexico hospital later that March. They moved back to California, got a place near Suzie's mom's house in Merced, and started treatment at UCSF, arguably the most advanced cancer treatment center around. The doctors told Suzie early on that Bret's cancer was in stage four of four, and that their goal was to improve the quality of the remainder of his life rather than provide a cure. They advised her not to tell Bret any of this, lest it freak him out, which I thought was weird, but I'm not an oncologist, so who's to say. Just like the doctors said it would, the sickness got worse, worse, and more worse. The sinus tumor shrank, but a hot spot in his pancreas flared up, and then it strangled his spinal cord, paralyzing him from the waist down, which is where the salt water refuses to stay in my eyes, very painful even to contemplate. Bret was a strong athlete and profoundly graceful capoeira artist. I recall a time that the police arrested him but could not get his hands behind his back. He had his arms out like Jesus on the cross, and two burly San Francisco police officers, boots & knees dug into his back, muscles straining, sweating profusely, could not bend those big tattooed arms, not even a little bit. That damned rhabdomyosarcoma, usually a childhood cancer (it accounts for more than half of the soft tissue sarcomas in children), sucked the strength out of him like no cop ever could, like a vampire from hell.

Suzie called me yesterday afternoon. Bret had not woken up for more than 24-hours, and had been unable to speak for at least a day before he lost consciousness. His breathing became rapid and stressed early yesterday morning, so she pulled him onto her lap and held him close. The fast breathing gradually changed to slow breathing, and the slow breathing got slower, and slower, and even slower, until stillness settled into that space. Suzie kept holding him, cradling him, and loving him with all her might, for another three-hours. By that time all the warmth had left his body, death hovered in the Central Valley air, and morning was on it's way to an afternoon overflowing with tears.

One time I loaned Bret a bicycle, my old Fuji Special Road Racer, and we rode from my old flat on 29th Street near Noe, right across the Golden Gate bridge, through Sausalito, and out to the beach at Tennessee Valley. Bret complained about the long distance, but we had a rollicking time. When we were having fun we flew like kids, laughed like hyperactive teenagers, drank hard (back when I drank), told each other stories like long lost brothers fresh home from the war. Bless those good times.

We discussed death and the dying process a good amount, when Suzie wasn't around to get upset about it. Bret & I shared huge love & respect for death & dying, talked freely about how the final time might be. We decided that the best thing would be to instill as much grace and charisma into his dying as he could, to set an example, and to feel that we'd each done what we could. It worked out swell in that regard. Bret made me feel proud and happy the way he died, cool as a cucumber, exuding much love, that's my brother, my friend, my blood. You did it Bret! You stayed strong and kind, ever true. I hope to be cool like that when my time comes.

O, Death
O, Death
Won't you spare
me over til
another year
Well what is this
that I can't see
With ice cold
hands takin' hold
of me
Well I am death,
none can excel
I'll open the
door to heaven
or hell
Whoa, death
someone would
Could you wait
to call me
another day
The children
prayed, the

Time and mercy
is out of your
I'll fix your feet
til you can't walk
I'll lock your jaw
til you can't talk
I'll close your
eyes so you
can't see
This very air,
come and go
with me
I'm death I
come to take
the soul
Leave the body
and leave it cold
To draw up the
flesh off of the
Dirt and worm
both have a
O, Death
O, Death
Won't you spare
me over til
another year
My mother came
to my bed
Placed a cold
towel upon my
My head is warm
my feet are cold
Death is a-movin
upon my soul
Oh, death how
you're treatin' me
You've closed my
eyes so I can't
Well you're
hurtin' my body
You make me cold
You run my life
right outta my
Oh death please
consider my age
Please don't
take me at this
My wealth is all
at your
If you will move
your icy hand
Oh the young,
the rich or poor
Hunger like me
you know
No wealth, no
ruin, no silver no
Nothing satifies
me but your
O, death
O, death
Won't you spare
me over til
another year
Won't you spare
me over til
another year
Won't you spare
me over til
another year"

--Ralph Stanley's O Death

Thursday, July 03, 2008

RZA at 1015

Dragged myself to the city on a recent Saturday night that happened to be the summer solstice to see RZA rap with his live band Stone Mecca. The show was spot on rockstar shit, way good. I love the way hip-hop shows have improved the sound such that one can even hear the lyrics now, which was not the usual case 10-year ago. Pretty much a sausage-fest, although there were a few females representing, shaking what their blessed mother's gave them, thank Goddess. Even with a generally sedate and non-dancing crowd I had a great time, which tells one how ripping the show was. Mr. Digital (RZA=Bobby Digital from Wu-Tang) laid down those rhymes as good as any I've seen, way sick.

I do have a bone to pick with the door workers at 1015 Folsom however. I showed up in shorts and was turned away at the front door due to a dress code. My friend Mike and I then drove all over San Francisco after 11PM looking for pants. Found a shop on 18th Street near Castro called Chaps that sold more than pants, stuff like electric enema kits, S&M toys, giant black dildos - you name it. The operator was very helpful, and I purchased a motorcycle-chain choker in addition to a $40 pair of camouflage pants that I very well may never wear again. We made it back in time to see the start of RZA, but found out upon our return that the door people that refused me were for another event that was happening in the front part of 1015. The genius club operators had divided it into two sections with zero signage, and us lowly RZA fans were forced to go around to the side door, like we were the wrong color or something, where there was of course no dress code. The RZA bus (the Wuchess, cute) was parked right there in front of the front door, so the door guy might have guessed that we weren't there for his bullshit dress-code party, and it was natural for us to assume that was the door, but the whole situation made for copious laughter for Mike & I, so I almost forgive him & his ditsy assistant waving the metal-detector wand. Fuck clubs that search you; I'd rather be stabbed.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Time Waits for Me

Time, time, time to sit and drink tea, dream great dreams. I like to play The Doors' Summer's Almost Gone around now, crushing the future into the past before it can beat me to it. Got me a mean face to prove that I'm an angry man, looking for fights and raring to road rage (you get out your golf clubs, I'll get out my baseball bat). Not enough time on the bicycle, that's part of the problem, and I'm the other part, incorrigifuckingble, hard-headed and forgetful.

Bless Summer. Bless her roiling clouds and 55F days. Bless her dew, and her potent dearth of rain.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Dad, Go Team!

Darling daugter has taken to writing cards for folks unprompted. Last night she brought me three cards before dinner, but the one you see here was the first self-initiated card. No matter how many I get they all blow my mind in the best way. The lines that look like a series of cursive "m"s are her version of writing, not bad for barely 25-months old. Summer blossoms in my soul, and mother of god it's hot.

"Summer's here and the time is right for dancing in the streets."


Siobahn's heel came within about an inch of the tail of this precious baby rattlesnake in Kennedy Grove Regional Recreation Area, about five minutes from my house. It lay right in the main walking part of a fairly well used trail, apparently digesting a recent rodent snack. I grabbed a stick and proceeded to convince the snake that the bushes off the trail were a better spot to hang out. Mr. Rattlesnake's response was to quickly coil up and begin to rattle. As soon as my boy heard that rattle rattle he dropped Siobahn's hand and lit out as fast as ever I've heard him run (I wasn't about to take my eyes off that snake!). The snake uncoiled and slithered snakily away, with a pattern and motion that would send shivers down the backs of innocent men, if such a phenomenon were to exist.

Oddly enough, my dad also saw a rattlesnake that day, near Sonora, while riding the Sierra Century (12,000' of climbing, go Pops!). His was a big old thing, four feet or so, while ours was but a ~15" babe, with a wee little baby tongue that tasted the air for what seemed like very long times. Omens & auspices, snakes & eagles, I lead a goddess blessed charmed miracle life wonderful beyond my wildest dreams. One afternoon I watched a rainbow from the pool. A few nights later bats gave a stunning performance above the pool with a magnificent crescent sinking through the pines, wheelies on motorcycles, swimming from Alcatraz to San Francisco, life feels me caressing.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Play Johnny

The other night a short time after I came home from work I found myself selecting some music to play on my .mp3 player. At the same time little Sister cried and tugged at my shirt tails wanting me to pick her up. Since selecting music takes two hands, I sat down and invited her, now barely two-years old, to help me pick the tunes. She watched attentively as I scrolled through the inscrutable rows of text, for a few seconds anyway, before boldly stating "Johnny, play Johnny."

"Johnny Cash?" I asked, somewhat surprised.

"Yes, Johnny Cash, play Johnny Cash." So I did, marvelling the whole time at how naturally she had selected the artist, a born DJ. We danced, laughed, carried on, tasty slices of musketeer life.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Too Much Fun Again, Again

"Like a girl too pretty or a car too fast, I ain't never had too much fun."

Found myself downing ibuprofen caplets with great intensity of purpose last Friday afternoon, recovering from dancing my back into spasm at the M.I.A. concert the Wednesday before. M.I.A. rocked the crowd of twenty-something women wearing short shorts and fishnet stockings, rocked them silly with crazy good beats, crazy good. The acoustics at the Concourse at the San Francisco Design Center are crap however, so the bass response was pretty messed up. Would be cool to see her at Burning Man, or maybe The Greek.

The Jerry Garcia Band with Melvin Seales on organ Friday night at the Great American Music Hall thumped the spasm right out of my back, but I pulled a hamstring dancing like a hyperactive superball. Hippies kept strolling through my dancespace, so much so that at one point I had the distinct feeling of playing hippy Frogger. My dear friend Anjeni joined our happy-go-lucky party that night, which excited us both to no end. The first show she saw after moving to California from Vermont in 1989 was a Jerry show. She went with me, and it was our first show together, such that last Friday night, a good 18 years later, we felt like we had arrived home after epic travels. When the wife & I arrived Anjeni ran right up and jumped into my arms. I must have carried her for the better part of a minute, just to show how happy we were to be blessed with this magic music, and to perch with Cheshire smiles at the top of our dancing evening, dressed so fun, eyes lit up like stars over the Sierras. We danced wild. We danced free, like tomorrow & yesterday forgot about us. The sweat poured off of me and the whoops & hollers proved uncontainable. Such a fun night, hell of, hamstring healing.

Took the family to ride the steam trains in Sacramento Saturday, very nice, along the river. The kids loved it, especially in concert with the over-priced antique candy store. Cross that one off the list.

Sunday loved the bicycles, loved them to revolution. Rode from Newark to Sky Londa & back, right across the Dumbarton Bridge, through Stanford, and up, up, up to the spine of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Siobahn & Ruxana joined me, and I daresay that they had heck of fun. Lunch at Alice's Restaraunt, racing butterflies up Old La Honda Road, Rodin's Gates of Hell sculpture, peeing at the Stanford Art Museum, zimming down Highway 84 at a white-knuckled deathclip, all added up to a stellar ride. That kind of ride shows what killer bikes and feeling radiantly great are all about.

Dad gave us a new fancy charcoal grill, so I tested it out yesterday with some lamb chops, lamb steaks, and lamb ribs, mmmmmmmm, lamb.

That concludes my documentation of what them jealous spoil-sports keep calling too much fun.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Boy Sings Prine

The boy has taken to singing various Prine Songs, but the one you see below was his first. So strange to hear him try it, alone in the kitchen, unprompted, in his skinny 4-year old child's voice, especially the first time. John Prine is one of the artists that the wife & I share the most love for, so the 59 Prine songs in our collection get a lot of play. Gumbo appears to be using my award-winning karoake strategy of starting with slow songs without too many words.

The heat wave feels plenty hot, burn the tar out of you feet Jamaican sand hot, and I do love it so.

If You Don't Want My Love ©John Prine & Phil Spector

If you don't want my love
If you don't want my love
If you don't want my love
I know who
I'll give it to
If you don't want my love
If you don't want my love
If you don't want my love

If you don't want the thrill
If you don't want the thrill
If you don't want the thrill
I know who
I know who will
If you don't want my love
If you don't want my love
If you don't want my love

If that's the way that the world goes round
then that's the way
that it all comes down
and when you want me
I won't be around
If you don't want my love
If you don't want my love
If you don't want my love
I know who
I'll give it to
If you don't want my love
If you don't want my love
If you don't want my love

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Blaze Of The Sun

"The strife of doubt all passed. He found his sight again. And there rushed over him a tide of emotion unutterably sweet and full, strong like an intoxicating wine, deep as his nature, something glorious and terrible as the blaze of the sun to one long in darkness. He had become an outcast, a wanderer, a gunman, a victim of circumstances; he had lost and suffered worse than death in that loss; he had gone down the endless bloody trail, a killer of men, a fugitive whose mind slowly and inevitably closed to all except the instinct to survive and a black despair; and now, with this woman in his arms, her swelling breast against his, in this moment almost of resurrection, he bent under the storm of passion and joy possible only to him who had endured so much."

--from The Lone Star Ranger by Zane Grey

the night bird across the street has been singing all night, singing in the heat wave that's coming down. the moon gets restless, hazy, hiding behind trees, while mother earth she warms, in time with me. still I'm lost though, and wonder terrible about the long forgotten path home.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Chico Wildflower Century

The course as measured on my dad's bicycle computer ran only 97-miles, but because I'm a spaz I inadvertently rode the wrong direction for four miles, for a total of eight extra miles, which turned out perfect because I would have been pissed to not be able to say I'd ridden 100+ miles. You see us here at Christian Michael's fine establishment in Chico. Food was good but the service was weird, but what does one expect from the number one party college town in the country, and what's a little (ha ha) coke between waitstaff anyway?

Temperature ran into the low 90s(F), such that when I reached the top of Table Mountain my dad and Quintan were ready to send me to the medical technicians, not realizing that I look like that at regular weekday intervals. The riders were mostly friendly, and the 100-miles blew by quick enough (9 long hours). Home stretch down frat row, always good for a smile. So let's ride, or die, to hell and back, with goofy grins and devil-may-care attitudes.

"Dark as the night
You're still by my side
Shining side

Gone are the days we stopped to decide
Where we should go
We just ride

Gone are the broken eyes we saw through in dreams
Gone - both dream and lie

Life may be sweeter for this I don't know
Feels like it might be alright."

--from Crazy Fingers, Words by Robert Hunter; music by Jerry Garcia

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Fun With Water at Night

Oh sure, we're all familiar with hose fun in the day when it's nice and warm, but what about that underexplored world of fun with water on fifty-something degree nights? I said no at first, but the looks on their faces proved too much for me to argue with. Glad I did, because they had a veritable boatload of fun together. I watched in amazement, my wool trenchcoat wrapped snug around.

Took Gumbo for a haircut the next day. After the cut we checked out the Bone Room in Albany, where they have many bones, fossils, and taxidermied fauna. Bought him a sucker with a cricket in it. Even though the sucker turned out to be mint flavored, one of his least favorite flavors, he ate it steady until able to bite off the head of the cricket, at which point he said that I could have the rest. It's in a bag waiting to be discarded, on top of the fridge.

"He who knows does not speak.
He who speaks does not know.

Block all the passages!
Shut all the doors!
Blunt all edges!
Untie all tangles!
Harmonize all lights!
Unite the world into one whole!
This is called the Mystical Whole,
Which you cannot court after nor shun,
Benefit nor harm, honour nor humble."

from Lao Tzu's Tao Teh Ching, translated by John C. H. Wu

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Fishing Marlin in Our Minds

This piece, by the boy of course, now almost 5-years old, captured me with great immediacy and depth, my soul flew into the Marlin on the line, felt the hook in my cheek, bright contrast between air & seawater. Then, as my eyes traced to the boat I felt the ache in my arms from wrestling the formidable fish so many hours, bathed in fat warm Cuban breezes. Having had a recent read of Hemingway's "Selected Letters: 1917-61", the imaginings remained current in my mind, and played a major role in my appreciation of this priceless array of crayon & pastel markings on torn construction paper. The fact that my own son sees what I see, to some degree, and can draw it so expressively, washes me with good feelings & Carribean melodies. "It's A Reggae Christmas" is one of his favorite recordings.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Long Live Anna Nicole!

Turns out that we get to keep this lovely pink poodle about a third of the time, since her owner's new husband doesn't believe in allowing canines indoors, and Anna Nicole's truly a house dog, especially during the colder months. The kids call her Anna Banana, and adore her without reserve. Anna's hair seemed to obscure her vision, so my mom had the zippity idea of tying it up. So much more punk rock now. But really, dogs do rule, this world as well as all other worlds.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Dogs Rule

Dogs show their six years each of living, fatter, limpier, and more rheumy in the eyes. Love them doggies, yes I do. The black dog is mine, funny that way, love them both, but feel much more deeply reflected in the shining ripples of chocolate fur, devourer of souls, loyal to her priceless wild side. Time, always winding up, irrelevant to true enjoyment.

Monday, April 21, 2008


The boy has become quite a dogsleeper, practicing for his upcoming raising by wolves. We have evaluated several boarding schools as well as a few packs of wolves, and it looks like wolves are the best choice all around. But seriously, who did "let the dogs out"?

Friday, April 18, 2008

After a Hard Night

You see her now, almost 2 years old, come home after her first night on the town with Poppy, like father like daughter.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Berkeley Steam Trains March 2008

The children have managed to retain their enthusiasm for the steam trains. That is the boy's "trying to be good, hands together" pose. The whole thing is just unimaginably exciting for them. Bubba & I had fun too.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Whale Watching Adventure

Sometime in the late 1990s a dream cast me groggy, staring out a porthole at San Francisco, shrinking . A cabinmate told me that I had been kidnapped, Shang-hai style, and should plan on being gone for at least one full year, maybe longer. The sun shone with sparkling brilliance on fluffy white clouds tumbling low on the horizon, endless ocean stretching lifetimes, and my beloved home city carrying on without me. Heart felt vague fear, unassignable resentments, but mostly excitement for the ocean, the ports, the sailor's life. Figured that I might as well accept my fate and make the most of my new Pacific life. Our whale watching expedition revived that dream as if it had only been napping, drove me wild with hunger for a new life drenched in salty water. The city shrank, just like in the dream, and the icy spray whispered her eternal love & devotion, if I only I'd turn myself over without reservation to her strong currents, depths beyond light.

From age 8 to about age 12 I wanted to be a merchant marine, then a family friend told me how much it sucked so I gave up on the idea, but it still drifts around in there, asking "What if?". Carol, our docent, gave us a little pep talk before we boarded, told us about a similar trip 20 years ago, when she, all at once, while passing under the Golden Gate bridge, decided that this was her life's calling. I feel the ocean all around me, running through my arteries, roaring in my ears, tasting salty, teaming with life.

The trip was a rousing success, although I did get soaked, and several people puked. We saw Gray Whales, an Elephant Seal, two kinds of jellyfish, and some harbor seals and sea lions. Carol told me about spending nights on the islands, in those houses you can see in the middle of the photo. Haunted she says, and I believe her.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

High On Fire at the Uptown

High On Fire at the Uptown went off like salt rock in a shotgun, loud and painful but a ton of fun. All of our party and most of the crowd agreed that the show was excellent. That custom 9-string sounded more magic than ever. Sweated until blind and delirious, short of breath and full of pain, plenty of grins to go around. Got knocked down in the pit a couple times, knocked some people down, helped some people to their feet, met some very fun folks, exhuberant roaring, laughing, classic venue. Julia estimated the ratio of men to women to be 5:1, but I don't know if it was really that much of a sausage festival, although there was an awful long line for us guys to piss, while the ladies just waltzed in and out of theirs.

Monday, February 25, 2008

San Francisco Chinese New Year Parade 2008

"I am become death, the shatterer of worlds."

--passage from the Bhagavad Gita that flashed through Robert Oppenheimer's mind following detonation of the first atomic bomb. The same thought visited my mind at age six, shortly after lighting my first firecracker.

In all my firecracker loving years I had never attended the Chinese New Year Parade & Festival in San Francisco. For someone that loves firecrackers as much as me, to have stayed away for so long, even during seven years of living in San Francisco, was duh, buh, duh, dumb. The drums, the firecrackers, the street food, the half-wild kids, politicians smiling from hopped up mustangs, music & light washed over me, fired up my old explosion craving cycle, eyes wide for concussion colors.

When I was a kid I believed my drug of choice to be the ringing in my ears, and it may still be. We used to cruise along on our BMX bikes, lighting firecrackers as we rode, throwing them at each others wheels, laughing and laughing and laughing. Those were my pre-teen summer suburban halcyon days. Gunpowder in our nostrils, fingers numb and discolored from short fuses, law leering with suspicion from air conditioned squad cars. We ruled the cul-de-sacs and dry creek beds, slinging Black Cats and Thunder Bombs, for as much as $1/firecracker, if we didn't like you.

The crowds were not heavy due to forecasts that called for rain and 60+ mph winds, but the streets were far from empty. I of course love storms and proceeded undeterred. An air of fun and burnt gunpowder danced rainy figure eights up and down the drizzled streets, to the tune of yelling kids. Next year I will drag the kids along for sure, typhoon or not.

Dined at San Francisco's oldest Chinese restaurant afterwards, The Four Seas, pleasant enough, very classic. My mother has said for years that hunger is the best spice, and we were quite famished, so the fare satisfied fabulous. The leek & shrimp dumplings were extra good with lots of leek, and the rest hit the spot.

Woke up the next morning with my pockets full of fireworks, much to the children's delight. When we were done lighting them off I started mixing some unsweetened aloe vera juice into a shake. Gumbo wanted to try some, so I mixed up a little apple juice with a couple ounces of it and let him try it. "Tastes like kid alcohol." he says, right away. Yes, um, kid alcohol, we all know what he means, but, at age 4, how does he know?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Kayaking and Fishing on Tomales Bay

Live in that land of impossible bliss, intense like childhood,
storybook, enchanted. Everything works out pissing perfect, for now.

Tomales Bay took me in without batting an eye, soul cleanser. Left lines in the water
all night but no sharks, rays, or other yummy vertebrates managed to hook themselves, but I tried kayaking
for the first time and loved it. Paddled all around Marshall Marina, saw
a magnificent fire rainbow, an otter, several seals, schools of live jellyfish, hawks buzzing within a paddles distance, and a hundred other kinds of birds.

Moon set one of the best of all time, Li Po joined us in spirit, perfect crescent. Sky so clear the Milky
Way stood out. Could hear the waves crashing on the coast just over the hill,
across the bay.

I got to drive my AWD but not really meant to be taken off-road sedan down the beach without incident (hee-haw). Slept with no tent or tarp, on a very misty night, with my head a long arm's length from high tide. Even though I woke up a few times in the night cold, my good mood shone through so happy that I did not mind, even thought my shivery plight rang funny in the steady wind blowing jets of cold air on my feet. That laughter in the face of an uncomfortable sleeping arrangement indicates an exceptional good mood. Keep that ball bouncing.

So warm the next morning I did pilates in my t-shirt, and kayaked some more in fair rough windy
conditions, which tickled me dayglow with that intimation of mortality, especially once I found myself smack in the middle of the bay having a hard time turning around without capsizing. Kept me grinning ear
to ear, considering how the swim to shore would feel. Spent time paddling around a darling hippy dream ship named Just
Imagine, which I went ahead and did, delicious.

Drove home a way I'd never cruised before that blew my mind with it's scenic folds & rocks, grass & trees. Marshall-Petaluma Road to Lucas Valley Road to Novato. Must try them on bicycle. So pretty they could cause Chuck Norris to bust out with power tears.

Wonderful time with my kids all afternoon, filling their new sandbox together,
cooperating, playing, no shirt, no shoes, shorts, running, napping. Then I took
4-year old Gumbo to a BBQ at Maira's house in West Oakland, where some excellently insane
artists live. We checked the fire sculptures, electric motorcycle, robots, got
a personal blacksmithing lesson complete with souvenir, met some cool folks, and then raced home to rock us all
gently to sleep.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Portrait of An Artist as My Sweet Daughter

Sweet daughter stays focused on the art supplies, wherever they crop up. She typically insists on pens or play-clay, but you see her here working on a "sour cream on blue plastic plate" piece. All the wooden toys have been marked up magic bus style, and her own skin has served as a canvas many times. From early in the morning until bedtime the girl wants to create, and much prefers it if I sit next to her during the process. "Sit! Daddy, sit down! Please." Hard to walk on by that request, just a minute Papa. Her specialties are fish and cats.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

First bicycle ride of the year

"...we are not endowed with real life, and all that seems most real about us is but the thinnest substance of a dream - till the heart be touched. That touch creates us." --Nathaniel Hawthorne, from his notebooks

First bicycle ride of the year yesterday. Mustard flowering, pine smells wafting, birds blue. San Pablo Dam Road to Bear Creek Road (The Bears) to Alhambra Valley Road (looks like the way wild west ~100 years ago) to Castro Ranch Road to San Pablo Dam Road, full circle. Road late in the day, shadows grew long, felt my spirits grow with them, joyous whooping in the canyons, echoes & grins followed along. Bicycle became invisible, a part of me, turned riding to flying, flying ecstasy inches above blood hungry asphalt. Flew by a charming brown horse so close I could have kissed her, and then, while physically embracing a sharp rural curve, did kiss her, in the bright sun comfort of my mischievous mind. Still more altitude to attack, legs screamed for mercy, burned, ached, threatened to stop revolution, but I flogged them straight to the gasping brink of their limits, a salt skilled pain/play partner having an excellent afternoon. A tolerance, if not a love, for pain goes for many a switchback bicycle mile. Now that that 90 minutes in the saddle has given up the ghost, the phrase "Let's do it again, do it again." sings itself in drunken laughter rounds to all that will listen. Ride with passion.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Merry-Go-Rounds Across Centuries

"A really fast car gives more intimations of mortality than a sack full of certified cancers." -- Ernest Hemingway writes to Harvey Breit from Paris, 9/16/56

"Has she used Serpasil? It is very good. Also DIURIL. If the Serpasil depresses her she can counter-act it with RITALIN. Have her ask her doctor about these." -- Ernest Hemingway writes to General Charles T. Lanham from Ketchum, Idaho 1/12/60

"I had meant to write long ago but the work has been continuous and difficult and all the news sad." -- Ernest Hemingway writes to Gianfranco Ivancich from La Finca Vigia (Italy) 5/30/60

They say that last line shows the mental change that preceded the last hurrah.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Fulfillment Permeates Now

"...when wildness is not included within the life and definition of man, something crucial is missing from manhood. Zorba said it best: "A man needs a touch of madness, otherwise he will never be free." The shamans of every tribe have always known that man has a dream-body, or what Freud called the libido. If we lose touch with the outrageous, contradictory, excessive life of our dreams we easily become too domesticated by the social order. The playful child and the wise old man live side by side in the psyche. Impose the tyranny of seriousness and both die." --from Fire In The Belly: On Being A Man, by Sam Keen

As you can tell from the quote above, Mr. Keen tends to talk like a doof, but sometimes makes sense. I take great comfort in knowing that fulfillment permeates now, rather than face cruel imprisonment by ghosts that insist on being addressed as future. My innermost senses reach out to this moment, feel it hum, glow, wash through me and all around planet. Electric arcs flow from north pole to south pole, passing from the tips of my toes out the top of my head, and then reversing so that lightning shoots from my flaming feet to the core of the earth, so warm, with roses raining all around, smells terrific. Waxing sharp crescent moon speaks with me, and in a language all our own we explore the other side, senses sing and play ornate hand made instruments, a few of my favorite things.

Theodore Roosevelt once stated that Mother Jones was the most dangerous woman in the United States. She was 83-years old at the time. Happy tears danced from my eyes when I heard Utah Phillips tell that anecdote this morning. Most folks, especially women, get tricked into relinquishing their "dangerous" status at a younger age. Mother Jones rocked a loose cannon, a strength respected, reminiscent of my own dear mum. Aspire to "most dangerous person in the world", no age or gender restrictions, going to revolutionize the present.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Best Mardi Gras Ever, Again

Every year gets better. I remember this year's festivities as one huge unforgettable Kodak moment, each and every second.

Waterfalls careening over the edge of the world, you know how I feel

Falcons on the wind under a big yellow moon, you know how I feel

Tigers leaping 12-foot walls become me

Sequoia yelled out to me as I danced fantastic leaps backwards while holding the parade banner, "You'll never grow old." Feel that too.

Monday, February 04, 2008

13 More Hours Until Mardi Gras Dawn

Last Mardi Gras lifted me so high that I could never finish the post about it. My Fat Tuesdays have only been better and better since I quit drinking (2004); more than just your garden variety fun, truly wild times. We had the second to last King Cake party last Friday at sunset up near the headwaters for Derby Creek, in Berzerkeley. The photo shows the tasty view from our chill party spot, ever new and powerful, rife with inspiration. Expectations are delusions, so I keep my hopes in check, while working steady setting up my fun dominoes to wash over me in way fun second line time.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Boy Loses Afro

Gumbo had been asking for a haircut, not a head shaving, for a long while, so Mama took him down to Snippety Crickets in Albany for a new 'do. Some say that the cowlicks you see correspond to his wildness. Shit, I'm so wild that most of my hair took a permanent vacation, so go figure; apple, tree.

Maria pointed out last Sunday night that the boy reflects my id with uncanny accuracy, and while I'm not quite ready to explain that statement in essay form, the innate truth of it resonates with my myriad moonlit visions of our Sinbad-style sailing future seasoned with hilarious inside jokes.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Vitrine at St. Regis

To celebrate a little engineer certification hurdle I recently cleared, my officemates took me to lunch at Vitrine, inside the St. Regis Hotel, next to the SFMOMA, posh deal. The art, the staff, the elevators, all pointed to awake relaxation, I liked the fire you see in the photo a lot. Carol and I got excited enough about the food that our cheeks flushed and we got all giddy, while Al, 40+ years my senior, got less worked up. Truly a delightful lunch that concluded with a butterscotch pot de creme that invoked my dear departed maternal grandmother's presence in such a precious way that lucky stars a million light years out felt my loving gratitude raise their core temperatures ~1,000 C.

After lunch we strolled out onto 3rd Street, and at the corner of Mission & 3rd, just after the light changed I caught a fat raindrop on my tongue just as I had opened my mouth hoping to catch one. I grinned wide, feeling like Mama Natural had just dosed me, let me connect with all my faraway friends, my near friends, and the real deal electric tangerine fun-loving me. Got to get me back in my groove, and this kind of stuff points the way, as did Schoggi Chocolates, which we hit hard before cruising back to lofty office.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Colorado Elk Turns Me Into Wolf

Mikey went to grab us some bush meat as the family & I prepared to depart he & Nay's enchanted Guerneville homestead. Christmas Eve day shade covered missions had us all in somewhat of a hurry, so Mikey lacked sufficent time and patience to dig for the pile of meat he usually gives from. That means we got a pack of the high-end Colorado elk steaks, which generated unnamed fears and reservation in my wife's appetite, while offering me the promise of edible adventure. I broiled them, both kids loved it, took me a minute to get used to, but then I felt the sinewy strength of the elk rise up within me. As my hair and nails grew my incisors swelled and pulsed to twinkling dog star waves of canine brilliance. I called Nay, told her that each steak ate like an Italian poem harvested with grace from the heyday of Italian poetry. Now I'm the new, post-elk me, the me that always lay within, waiting for the right revolution minute.

Swim in night netherworlds much more of late, since we joined a club with a picture perfect outdoor saltwater pool. Every sixth stroke I glance up at the moon and trees, then take the energy from that powerglance, dig a little faster, kick more like practicing Tae Kwon Do, terrific races for breath in howling winter wind. The moon takes me deeper within her transformative rays, caresses away whatever forgotten teardrop worries that placed these creases in my brow. The deep end of the pool stays warmer.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Pink Poodle & Silver Needle

We had this fabulous pink poodle named Emma on loan from our dog groomer. Her shop just happens to be named Deseree's Pink Poodle. Deseree also has a Clydesdale that the kids have both ridden, eternal gratitude for that. The dog wanted to live with us forever, but mommy came to get her, maybe to visit again after a minute. That dog was heck of trippy.

Just finished up a nifty half-ounce of Silver Needle, a rolled white tea. My good friend that hails from Canton showed me how each leaf dives to the bottom and then floats back up to the top three neat times. Memories of my toy submarine from a 1975 box of Cheerio's, that did the same trick powered by baking soda tablets that were apparently difficult for my parents to procure, because that worked like once, and then remained forever without fuel but with me always hoping. The tea leaves from this mega-high quality tea I picked up at Far Leaves did the trick perfect though, and then lay ever so mesmerizing with their stems sides down and the tips risen, like heck of good whole tea leaves should. The color brought memories of dawns that made me cry with joy, like dear Emerson crossing his field of snow, self-reliant. It'll heal all time when you drink it right, laying waste to both future and past, along with their seventy-seven billion legions of demonic ghostriders. Blessed are the tea growers.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Waxing Winter Moon

Took this photo of the waxing moon on the solstice. Now almost a month has passed, and the moon moves colder, growing again.

Easy to indulge in feeling bad what with all the "bad" poking sharp sticks at me, but little blessings distract me from that ancient pasttime with poised regularity. Smiles hide in vain, laughter erupts star gazer faith through tired eyes. What would my health coach say? Make a goal, follow through, feel good. Mardi Gras season has arrived. Who has time for all this life? Just a few more laps, another minute in the sauna, one more story before bed, a final fifth of 12-year old single-malt, unplanned delights, stolen afternoons, missed oppurtunities, devoured by thick coastal fog and falling temperatures, salty water and sand.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Train To A Castle

"I have seen where the wolf has slept by the silver stream.
I can tell by the mark he left you were in his dream.
Ah, child of countless trees.
Ah, child of boundless seas.
What you are, what you're meant to be
Speaks his name, though you were born to me,
Born to me..."

--from The Grateful Dead's Cassidy, words by John Perry Barlow

Gumbo explained that the reason for the semi-precious colored stones were used as base material for the railroad tracks involves the fact that this particular track leads to a castle. If you have the means, go to the extremes, like the bottom of the deep blue sea, or mountains on high, to push luck, first time's free.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Master Engineer Preparing to Put His Socks On

Notice how he used regular blocks as column supports for the elevated section of track and platform. Who would not love a giant rain stick with a stair bridge over it running through their town, who? His track designs of late have blown me away with their elegance and color schemes. My mom got him an old "how-to" video about the world's fastest growing family hobby - garden trains, and the obscession grips him with no mercy. It does look fun. Look how much fun Mr. Roger's had.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Big Storms Love Me

Big storms all lined up to take their turns with California, just like in my life. Sixty-plus mile per hour winds expected on the flats, which means we can expect gusts past 75-mph at my house, lucky enough to have been constructed along the centerline of a ancient laughing demon wind tunnel. I can hear the howling souls rip by already, going to get my head shaved in a few. This lovely grandmother off downtown Oakland wields a straight razor and bottle of sting juice with charm reminiscent of my adolescent fantasy image of Dr. Feelgood, for a reasonable price, winter be damned.