The War for Evermore

Finally …

voyager-popupDifferent things hit us different ways. Today has been a biggie. I’ve been reading sci-fi for … well … probably longer than most of you have been alive. I watched the space race from its inception, watched primitive probes live on TV as they were intentionally crashed into the moon, paid attention as we flew by the inner planets and out to Mars, was listening and watching as we first orbited the earth, performed the space walks,  and then orbited the moon. And then we landed people on the moon – and brought them back! I gathered with friends to watch the Jupiter flybys in color, and then the swings past Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, followed the Viking landing on Mars … all the while reading sci-fi and dreaming galactic empires and interstellar adventures.

Today it’s official: Voyager 1 entered interstellar space.
Voyager Bubble

We’re so jaded, I think, spoiled by technologies that are universally beholden to the science that made the moon landings and robot explorers possible. It seems quaint, old school … a by-our-standards hopelessly obsolete spacecraft that is doing things no one dreamed.
voyager-1024x791

I dunno if we’ll ever get a second act, given the way we are treating our planet and environment, but it remains amazing that we went from a time when chiseling an axe-head with stone was considered high-tech, to reaching the realm of deep space, leaving there an artifact that will wander the ink black night between stars far past even the memory of our species.

As long as Voyager survives, something of us will, too.

I think that is pretty amazing. Haunting, maybe a little sad, but amazing nonetheless.
Animation of Voyager 1

September 13, 2013 Posted by | Hodgepodge, Telling Stories | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Quotes

“Ordinary life does not interest me.” ~ Anaïs Nin

“I want to do with you what Spring does with the cherry trees.” ~Pablo Neruda 

“Let us leave the beautiful women to men with no imagination.” ~Marcel Proust

“Men are more sentimental than women. It blurs their thinking.” ~R.A. Heinlein

“I grew up without the internet, and in that world, where literal truth could not be readily verified, emotion and imagination was often all I had. I want to get back to that feeling, to a place where there are gaping holes in my understanding which do not hunger for literal fact.” ~ Ta-Nehisi Coates

“… and I’m not a very good American because I like to form my own opinions.” ~George Carlin

“The conversations of men too often are concerned with things as they should be and not with things as they might be…” ~ spoken in a dream …

“The dead want you to know: There will always be those who do not, will not, can not understand — much less celebrate — the wayward flow of evolution and love. Ignore them. After all, we all end up the same. It’s just that some of us go down smiling.” ~Mark Morford

“Silence is golden but duct tape is silver.” ~ Anonymous

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” ~ The quote is attributed to Plato, or Philo of Alexandria – no one seems to be 100% sure.

“If we deny love that is given to us, if we refuse to give love because we fear pain or loss, then our lives will be empty, our loss greater.” ~ Anonymous

“The difference between a moral man and a man of honor is that the latter regrets a discreditable act, even when it has worked and he has not been caught.” ~ H L MenckenBookPath

“Sometimes I’m terrified
of my heart; of its constant
hunger for whatever it is
it wants. The way it stops and starts.”
~Edgar Allan Poe

“I had a farm in Africa…”
~ Isak Dineson

You do not have to be good. 
You do not have to walk on your knees 
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. 
You only have to let the soft animal of your body 
love what it loves. 
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. 
Meanwhile the world goes on. 
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes, 
over the prairies and the deep trees, 
the mountains and the rivers. 
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, 
are heading home again. 
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, 
the world offers itself to your imagination, 
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place 
in the family of things.
~ Wild Geese, Mary Oliver.

Definition of ‘Bromance’: “When you’re in jail, a good friend will be trying to bail you out. A best friend will be in the cell next to you saying, ‘Damn, that was fun.'” ~ Unknown

I want to tell you something.
At a certain point in your life, 
Probably when too much of it has gone by,
You will open your eyes,
And see yourself for who you are
Especially for everything that made you so different
From all the awful normals…
~ Phoebe in Wonderland

“I should like to lie at your feet and die in your arms…” ~Voltaire

“Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don’t know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of withering, of tarnishing.” ~ Anaïs Nin

‎”I don’t want you to see me. I want to be your favorite dream.” ~ Kinky Casey

“… in the end, the rage of Achilles is stilled only in the bed of Penelope.” ~ Thomas Cahill

“Sing like no one can hear you. Dance like no one is watching. Love like you’ve never been hurt.” ~ Unknown

‎”A writer controlled by what “has to” figure in a book is actually accepting a perverse, unofficial censorship, and this tells against the writerly soul at least as surely as it would if the requirement being met were praise to some ideology or regime.” ~ Marilynne Robinson

“Great moments in our lives do not return.” ~Margaret Gehrke 

“Okay, Dad. Let’s do it. Let’s go get the shit kicked out of us by love.” ~Sam, ‘Love, Actually’

“If you happen to be one of the fretful minority who can do creative work, never force an idea; you’ll abort it if you do. Be patient and you’ll give birth to it when the time is ripe. Learn to wait.” ~R.A. Heinlein

Be happy. It’s not that hard. You have a million things to be happy about: you’re bright and young and enormously good-looking … you have your whole life ahead of you. But here’s the thing to remember: you will always have your whole life ahead of you. That never stops, and you shouldn’t forget it. ~ Bill Bryson

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” ~Roald Dahl

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” ~Theodor Giesel (Dr. Seuss)

“The answer is never the answer. What’s really interesting is the mystery. If you seek the mystery instead of the answer, you’ll always be seeking. I’ve never seen anybody really find the answer. They think they have, so they stop thinking. But the job is to seek mystery, evoke mystery, plant a garden in which strange plants grow and mysteries bloom. The need for mystery is greater than the need for an answer.” ~Ken Kesey

I could— and I did— and you would too, if given half a chance! ~ Susie Bright

The album you never heard ...

The album you never heard …

January 29, 2013 Posted by | Hodgepodge | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Scheme of Things …

“It is a natural human impulse to think of evolution as a long chain of improvements; of a never-ending advance towards largeness and complexity – in a word, towards us.

“We flatter ourselves.” ~Bill Bryson

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Stephen Jay Gould and friend …

I was listening to the audio edition of Bill Bryson’s “A Short History of Nearly Everything” wherein the author discusses how one of the more common occurrences in the history of  life is that of species extinction. Very few species last a very long time. If fact, he points out, it is shown that the more complex a species, the quicker they go extinct.  That, in turn, got me thinking of something related.

Sometime back I was listening to Terry Gross’ “Fresh Air” on NPR. They were replaying an interview with evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould, who had recently passed after a long struggle with cancer. During that interview, Gould discussed varying aspects of the Theory of Punctuated Equilibrium, which he developed with Niles Eldredge (as well as talking a little about his love of baseball, as I recall – he was quite the knowledgeable fan, and his books of essays are peppered with thoughtful observations of the game).

During the interview he got around to talking about where homo sapiens fits into the grand scheme of Evolution. Essentially, one of the interesting conceits of science in regard to Evolution in general, and Darwin’s proposals for its functioning in particular, is the perception that Man represents some sort of pinnacle of evolutionary development. (One can’t help note the parallel with the religious concept/projection of man being “created” in God’s image, a rather anthropomorphic element of the psychology of religion.) The idea of Gradualism, Gould felt, completely misrepresented what Darwin had observed. (For gradualism, think of those progressive illustrations that portray the evolution of man from a slouching, shambling creature to the upright, handsome devil he thinks he has become, and you see the idea in its most simplistic presentation.)

Gould offered that evolution was a development of fits and starts, a reaction to sudden changes in the biological status quo. (In keeping with Darwin’s observation’s of the variety of evolutionary changes witnessed on the Galapogos in the same species.) He pointed out that the most powerful evolutionary stories were not those of the singular complex flora or fauna that we mistakenly perceive as the height of evolutionary development of a species, but instead tales of diverse creatures like bats and rodents that blossomed into multiple evolutionary variations on the original theme. He felt that the most successful species were the ones that continued to adapt and diversify, not rarify into a few or even one branch of flora or fuana, like man and his simian cousins.

He suggested that homo sapiens and his cousins are not pinnacles of evolutionary development but, at best, twigs on the tree of life – not just man, but primates in general. Happy accidents (for us) of evolutionary change, that for all intents and purposes are in a perilous position from an evolutionarily perspective, particularly when compared to “lesser” animals like beetles and rats and even cockroaches in all their diversity.

Rather humbling, that…

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Postscript

Bacteria ‘R’ Us, by Valerie Brown

Killer summation:

… it is clear that bacteria are not what the general run of humans thought they were, and neither are humans. Bacteria are the sine qua non for life, and the architects of the complexity humans claim for a throne. The grand story of human exceptionalism — the idea that humans are separate from and superior to everything else in the biosphere — has taken a terminal blow from the new knowledge about bacteria. Whether humanity decides to sanctify them in some way or merely admire them and learn what they’re really doing, there’s no going back. And if there’s any hope of rebalancing the chemistry of a biosphere deranged in two short centuries by humans, it very likely lies in peaceful coexistence with the seemingly brilliant, deceptively simple life-forms comprising the domain Bacteria.

November 7, 2012 Posted by | Hodgepodge | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Starter Library of the Fantastic

This is one of those lists where you can be author specific, or title specific. We’ll have a little of both, I think. We’ll be adding to it from time to time. Also, this is just me. These aren’t reviews, aren’t even recommendations. They’re just the books that come to mind when I think of this.

These are big sci-fi/fantasy movers and shakers in terms of my life … no particular order.

We’ll start with the kid:

Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth.
Milo, Tock, the Humbug, Rhyme & Reason, the Awful DYNNE, the orchestra that plays all the world’s colors, the Soundkeeper, the Senses Taker … It really wasn’t sic-fi, or fantasy, but – for me – an allegory for realizing the wonder of imagination. Feiffer’s illustrations are beautiful, magic. From Wikipedia: In episode 13 of New Girl, Schmidt states that The Phantom Tollbooth is one of his desert-island books. Cece says that she also loves the book, to which Schmidt replies, “Of course you do. You’re a human being.” Captured my heart the first time I read it and remains the most remembered – and cherished – book of my childhood.

Dandelion Wine– My grandfather. This book makes me think of my grandfather. Of his world, a world I know of only in history and story, but which he knew with the immediacy of being there, watching it unfold. This books conjures that world for me, and a sense of a time lost to us in a way that seems, corny as it might sound, American in the way it speaks to us.Dandelion Wine is a story of imagination, giving substance to the waking dreams of childhood, the perspective of wonder and amazement that color a child’s view of his or her world.

Robert A. Heinlein, Starship Troopers – Total military, reeking of testosterone … yeah, maybe not so politically correct to some ears, but a story well told, creating its world and staying true to it. A story of honor, duty, obligation. And Bugs. Lots of Bugs. Big, smart ones.

The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings… all of a piece: the Hobbit, different in style and substance, is the child’s prelude to the War of the Rings. The former makes possible the latter … and the latter ruined fantasy forever for me, as nothing touches it. Nothing.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress– more Heinlein … A world more special than most I’ve read, immediate, dry, wry, and laced with practical, in-the-moment views of the human animal.

The Illiad and the Odyssey* – What can I say? These books are the core of the soul of Western Civilization. No other characterization is possible. Here, at the end of the day, is the home to which we return, the lost dreams of myth that still stir us, 2700 years later … Preferred translation: Robert Fagles.  “… in the end, the rage of Achilles is stilled only in the bed of Penelope.” – Thomas Cahill

The Hyperion Cantos.Dan Simmons is known to many for his deft touch with terror. And this series … and to a degree its sequel duology … channels a good deal of it. But these two books are more than that, perhaps one of the best SciFi stories ever told… Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion – if you love SciFi, it’s hard to believe you’d be disappointed.

The Mote in God’s Eye is hard sci-fi at its absolute hardest. Larry Niven and David Pournelle created what might be the most perfect First Contact story imagined. Interesting anecdote: edited by Robert A. Heinlein…

Men, Martians and Machines … more than any SciFi I have read, the four novellas collected in MM&M communicated the pure fun possible in the genre, In the years since, I’ve always looked for the fun in the narrative, that the writer is having a party in the middle of their creation. Eric Frank Russell had a gift for dry, self-effacing machismo unparalleled in SciFi story-telling. (Heinlein does pull it off in Glory Road.)

The Last Planet – Andre Norton. In a sense, you could point to any of the stories this prolific sci-fi writer wrote over the years. Her books always delivered, providing incredible adventures for stimulating young imaginations. But this story was special, almost heartbreaking, in an odd way bringing home the concept of loss in a way I could never of imagined….

Cosmos – This is the non-fiction piece. Carl Sagan at his most brilliant and poignant. This book (and companion PBS series) remain current, immediate, making difficult science concepts accessible. An examination of the history of human discovery, this is one of the most optimistic discussions of science – and the human animal – you will ever read.

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More:

Heinlein. Yeah, he’s got two up there, and I could throw in more without having to think about it. Seriously, almost 50% of his library of writings qualifies, even works as late as Friday and Job. He simply understood. No other way to put it.

John Varley’s complete works. Probably the most important sci-fi writer the mainstream has never heard of (or, at least, seems to have forgotten). His Eight Planets short stories are simply outstanding fun, and the Cirrocco Jones trilogy – Titan, Wizard & Demon – was one of the strongest stories written in the era of its publication, featuring probably one of the greatest, if not THE greatest female heroine in SciFi.

Neil Gaiman’s Sandman 75-issue series of comic books – graphic art and storytelling unparalleled. Brilliant writing, a gallery of different artists of varying style and substance, all made perfect by the story being told …

Notable:

Phillip Jose Farmer’s “Riverworld” series, absolutely mind-bending: everyone who ever lived is reborn on the banks of a river that literally covers a planet. Adventure with Sir Richard Francis Burton, Alive Hargreaves, Samuel Clemens, Herrman Goering, Cyrano de Bergerac, King John and a cast of billions…

Ditto Anne McCafferey and her Dragonriders of Pern stories. The first decade was amazing, and the second was not bad, but after it seemed someone went to the same well too often …

Yes, I know I left out Assimov and Clarke and Silverberg … sorry … More to come…

September 12, 2012 Posted by | Hodgepodge, Tastes, Telling Stories | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Running

After a five month hiatus of somewhere in the neighborhood of 140,000 words, we’re back, sort of, having downshifted into editing mode for the release of Siren later this year. More on that later. 

In the next few weeks there’s going to be a bit of housecleaning, some updates to old posts, like the Best Erotica piece, some fun new stuff, some chat about the gentleman doing the cover art for Siren, as well as the art of orgasm and who knows what else. In the meantime, stay tuned …

Now, an older piece from our sister site, which is undergoing changes of its own since editors Stu and Reg were reported lost on their trip to Antarctica last February. More on that later, as well …

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With one breath, with one flow
You will know synchronicity…
~Synchronicity, The Police

Heat Wave …

I stepped out of the garage Monday morning, took a moment and inhaled the city.

It’s an odd scent for this odd, crazy season of weather.

A scent of warmth.

We’re not used to that here, this year, around the City by the Bay, or the entire Bay Area for that matter. We been under a gray haze and unseasonably cool temperatures for months now, with occasional short periods of clear skies and even shorter blink-and-you’ll-miss-it heat waves … or what passes for heat waves in my magical metropolis. Truly a summer without sun.

A lost summer …

We’re having a heat wave.
A tropical heat wave.
The temperature’s rising
It isn’t surprising…

~Heat Wave, Irving Berlin

I dreamt of running last week.

Funny, that. I haven’t dreamt of running in all the time since my spine and knees finally told me “Enough!” long years ago. And now I’m reminded of that dream on this new, warm morning as I breathe in the fresh day. Synchronicity at play. Lots and lots of synchronicity this day, this odd, disconnected, want-to-throw-it-all-away day. Right now, in this moment within the dream of a moment, I think of running, of reasons for running. I long for running with an ache that eclipses the sadness I felt when I woke from that odd, wonderful dream of a run.

A little while later I’m listening to the Police on the drive to work, scent of fresh coffee filling the cab of the Buddhamobile. The sun is rising, emerging blood red from behind the San Bruno mountains as I head south on 280, thoughts roaming another time, remembering similar feelings of hurt and loss, of steady orbits thrown out of kilter …

… dreams of running.

Blue

Joni Mitchell sings a beautiful song on a sometimes melancholy album called, simply, Blue. This was my real introduction to Ms. Mitchell, whom I’d heard many times over the preceeding years but first really listened to while I was stationed in Germany back in the day, 18 years young and lonely and cut off from the familiar, but that is a tale for another time. Suffice to say she has since supplied a significant portion of the soundtrack of my adult life.

Blue came together after Mitchell’s breakup with Graham Nash and, if the content of the album is any indication, the split was deep and painful. And as the album illustrates, this is also one of the side benefits of this kind of angst – if you want to refer to it them as ‘benefits’ – of having creative talent: the ability to focus your anguish into a creation.

I digress. This song I’m talking about is called River. And as I’m writing this and thinking about that song I experience another of those moments, one of those soundtrack events from the unfilmed movie of my life. River is the song we were listening to when it became apparent that my first wife and I were going to go our separate ways, and in the remembrance of that instant the echo of its sad melody provides a nice … no, not nice … the word… phrase … I’m looking for is … a synchronically poignant … counterpoint to how I felt as the realization sunk in that our life together was drawing to a close. Of course, that was before the insanity set in and things really went to hell and the moment’s memory lost all of its resonance but that, too, is another story.

River is about getting away from pain. It’s also about causing it.

I’m so hard to handle,
I’m selfish and I’m sad,
Now I’ve gone and lost the best baby
That I ever had
Oh I wish I had a river
I could skate away on
I wish I had a river so long
I would teach my feet to fly
Oh I wish I had a river
I could skate away on
I made my baby say goodbye

More important – at least, from this Monday morning perspective – River addresses the complexity of living life, how the choices we make, conscious and unconscious, can often cause as much pain as joy, for ourselves and for those we love. And with that understanding comes the underlying need to escape, to throw off all the associated angst and skate away …

Problem here is skating away on a frozen river in these parts, even in the winter, is out of the question, and a downright insane concept in the summer.

But, then, insane is one of those things I do so well …

Walking in Your Footsteps …

But I’m not listening to Joni as I think on dreams, these dreams of running.

Soundtracks.

I had a several soundtracks I ran to, back in that lost time before the steady accumulation of age, motorcycle mishaps and long falls from heights worked their inexorably dark magic on my body. In this bygone era the Walkman was still a relatively new contraption, and I had mine, the small, hand-sized hunk of metal and plastic providing a rhythm and pattern for my runs while muting the sounds of the city, allowing insulation from the outside world. (Now, my good friend, Bob, who is still a runner at his *cough* advanced *cough* age would scoff at the idea of the music while running, I’m sure; but, then, he has the wide open spaces where city sounds do not intrude.) There were different soundtracks for different courses I ran, but the best all-around running music for a run anywhere, any time, was the Police’s Synchronicity.

I remember all of this … not from the dream but, instead, from its wake … and in the subsequent days I move through the here-and-now with this faint ghost of a past keeping pace with my life. Of course, memory is a fickle repository. What happened and what you actually remember of what happened are often two different things. So, too, likely  the immediacy of what is happening to me now shall change and reshape itself …

Synchronicity I through Synchronicity II. A continuity, a flow. The first song would kick in and I’d take off, working out a good stride, a sudden shock to the system and the heart rate goes up and the blood and oxygen flow and I’d lose myself to the next 25 minutes or so. And by the time the run was over it was always good, even when I had to work for it.

I’d like to be able to work for it right now …

Dreams

… there’s a (running) joke about runners that asks: “Why are you in such a hurry not to go anywhere?” ...

I miss the running … there’s the cathartic effect, for one thing, the ability to take yourself out of your life for a little while and just focus on the intimate immediacy of the biological machine that is your body as you go through the experience of exertion. There’s no time for thinking about crap on the run, stupid or otherwise … at least, not right away, not until you settle into your stride and stop thinking about what it is you are doing: running. That varied, of course. Some runs were tough – you never got in sync, never found a happy place where the run takes care of itself and instead it seems you’re constantly working it, searching for that happy spot where you hit your personal cruise control.

Other times you settle into a groove without even realizing … you’re just there and suddenly it’s just you in that random state of mind, a place of free-association and ADD, playing things out in the landscape of memory and imagination.

1983 was a pretty messed up year. Lot of stuff went on I’d just as soon not think about … and rarely do. But then come days like today, where I’m feeling the way I’m feeling, and it’s hard to keep the memories – good and bad – at bay. Even more interesting to me in an odd, almost detached way: I find I don’t want to shut these things out, that I’m almost embracing this odd, recurring empty feeling in my gut, like there is something there telling me I am alive with a forceful immediacy .

So I let the memory of that time wash over me this Monday morning, let myself rekindle the experience of me nearly 30 years gone – has it really been that long? – and feel my breath catch. It’s a big “Wow!” moment all over again, just like the night before. And then it’s on, and I hop in the Buddhamobile and head on out to greet my day, the first good weather day since I can recall for weeks, and I’m thinking and remembering and it is all good. Momentum: for all the negatives I noted in an earlier posting, it can be your friend, keeping your mind off things you don’t want to deal with, still another reason to long for the run. By the time I stop at the coffee shop in Daly City I’m living in two realities, and the longing for the one I can’t step into is surprisingly compelling and almost urgent.

Everything comes and goes
Marked by lovers
And styles of clothes
Things that you held high
And told yourself were true
Lost or changing
As the days come down to you…

~Down to You, Joni Mitchell

1983. I found a place on 10th Avenue, in the Inner Sunset, at the tail end of a nomadic summer of loss and homelessness, a near-death experience, borrowed couches and patches of rug to lay out my sleeping bag. This, of course, garnered a deep appreciation for good friends in hard times that remains in my heart to this day. By the end of that beautiful, terrible season I landed a job that paid me enough to get by and settled into pursuing a career in the theatre I was already having second thoughts about. And I eased into the process of gestating the new bits and pieces acquired, the knowledge of things I’d garnered about myself that I’d been long overdue in discovering.

Bittersweet growth and revelations, aches and pains and joys and laughter …

Life.

It’s a process.

I started running that fall. Geographically, I was perfectly set up for it – I lived a block from Golden Gate Park, near the the (old) Academy of Sciences and the (older) De Young that didn’t look like the grounded starship … … that rests upon the site in these modern times. That part of the Park was/is special to me, a recurring local in my life story. And as I recall these things on this Monday morning, within my waking dream of memory I delve deeper, almost another quarter of a century, remembering a child, wandering, rapturous and amazed through these places with his granddad, falling in love with planets and stars and dinosaurs. Being in this place again, living so close: in some respects it was like coming home. And back in 1983, running through the fresh, early morning light, breathing in the crisp, cool air that carried with it the hint of the warmth of the day to come, there came a healing comfort that worked its way inside my wounded heart and settled deep in the hidden house of my spirit.

Thats my soul up there …

Everyone runs, even when they don’t.

Running is something we are geared to do, an evolutionary, protective function built into our DNA.

Fight/flight.

Fear.

Fear is a biggie: when fear takes us we run, even when we’re standing still, ’cause when that fear of something, anything, becomes so great, we have no choice but to flee, to leave it behind, to save ourselves. We run from predators, from responsibilities, from strangers and friends, from anger, from rejection, from pain, from grief … from love.

It’s like that so often with a lost or broken love, this running, this longing for a river upon which one can skate away upon, away from owning up to the commitment of giving and taking hearts. The slipping on of the running shoes of the heart, leaving the wounded affection behind.

The reasoning –  why we run – can be confused and muddled – and maybe the runner doesn’t even understand why it was they ran. Oh, there are surface “reasons” we all can come up with, like the understanding that few couples love each other with equal intensity and suddenly, one day, the lover of lesser heart awakens and understands it’s time to go and before you know it the shoes are on and they are gone with barely the whisper of a breeze to mark their passing. But to the person left behind, this perception is often magnified, because they are left with nothing but the memory, with their heart in their hands, with the rain in their eyes, to paraphrase a favorite poet.

So why are we in such a hurry not to go anywhere?

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Many miles away there’s a shadow on the door
Of a cottage on the shore
Of a dark Scottish Lake…

~Synchronicity II, The Police

Sabotage...

There was a girl.

There is always a girl in these stories of lost love. Or a boy. Someone. Someone you cared about, often more then you realized.

You gave your heart to them, and they to you and, one day, they return it. Or you do. Something ends. Gets mangled. Dies. In that discordant summer of ’83, I was never sure which happened. Amidst all the other crazy things in my life that year, the loss of family, the end of school, friends disappearing down the varied pathways of their lives, the home I’d loved like no other lost forever … details got lost in the ebb and flow and I guess now, decades later, the specifics really don’t matter.

Suffice to say there were a lot of endings. A lot of loss. After a while, they tend to roll over you, becoming obscured in the actuality of the experience.

And the loss lived on … for a long, thoughtful, aching time …

I don’t pretend to know what motivates people to do some of the things they do. Heck, I’m not sure half the time why I do some of the things I do. But there are clues, stuff I’ve watched as I witnessed people dance a certain dance during the journey of my own existence. Most of the time the dancers aren’t even aware they are dancing. But they are. Maybe it’s about survival, an innate need for self-preservation of something. Much like the running DNA, this is probably an offshoot of that fight/flight gene our ancestors developed in the distant past, that special instinct that kicked in when impending change loomed on the event horizons of their lives.

An avoidance gene.

Or, as I’m thinking of it in the here and now, the sabotage gene.

It works like this: we undermine things when we want out of something we’re afraid of committing ourselves to, situations where we don’t trust our feelings. We just do. Often without even being aware we are doing so, let alone understanding why. Other times, maybe not so much. Something takes hold of us, a momentum (there’s that word again), and we’re carried along until we find ourselves standing alone in a cold and empty place, half-wondering how the hell we got there.

But the wondering does us no good. There are no answers because of the two people that can answer the questions one is gone … and the other stares back at the mirror with nothing to say.

That’s when we really run, if we’re not running already. We feel that pain and the loss and the end result of the fears that informed us … and we run. We run, trying to put what we feel or think we feel or thought we felt behind us, try to leave the pain and the uncertainty on and beyond the increasingly distant horizon. The farther we run, as the reasoning goes, the further behind we leave the wreckage and ruin of that sabotage.

The good part of all this is also the bittersweet part:

Eventually, we succeed.

(Originally published on Dark Puppy, August, 2010.)

September 12, 2012 Posted by | Hodgepodge | , , , , | Leave a comment

Advice


The thing with a Muse is she can be a fickle bitch, here one moment, gone the rest and there you are, all alone and void of inspiration. And waiting for her to come back is only asking for more sorrow – she’ll make you wait as long as she damn well pleases, and fuck you very much if you don’t like it.

But you know how to get her attention?

Edit.

The last thing, the VERY LAST THING your Muse will stand for is you fucking with all this good shit she gave you. Edit, and she’ll come running and help you along. Every time. And the next thing you know, it’s like a friggin’ honeymoon all over again … until the next time …

December 29, 2011 Posted by | Hodgepodge, Telling Stories | , , , | Leave a comment

Natalia Avseenko

A Russian diver – not a scientist, as first reported – decided to test a theory that artificial materials used for wetsuits were repellant to Beluga Whales … the problem was that to test this theory, you needed to get naked with the mammals – in the freezing waters of the Arctic 

Her name is Natalia Avseenko.

She decided to work with at whales sans wetsuit, relying upon (as reported) her expertise in yoga and meditation to help her survive in an environment that can be lethal to a human body within five minutes …

… she remained in the water over ten minutes …

… pretty amazing … and pretty cool, pun notwithstanding …

A semi-informative video found here.

Of course, there is a downside to the story. From wikileaks:

“An area of the sea is enclosed  to stop whales and dolphins getting out and instructors tame the mammals before they are transported to dolphinariums around the world — a practice many animal conservationists consider cruel.” 

That’s right. These are animals that are eventually going to end up in captivity. And so, then, perhaps the photos of her swimming in freezing, instant-hypothemic water lose a touch of their magic and – for lack of a better term – purity.

It is interesting how the romance and imagination of an image can be reduced by the awareness of context.

Yet this remains: the photos are beautiful.

And the storyteller in me thrills of the thought of her adventure, and the very unique tale she brings back to tell …

October 22, 2011 Posted by | Hodgepodge | , , , , | Leave a comment

The 10,000-Hour Rule Explained …

October 2, 2011 Posted by | Hodgepodge | , , , , | Leave a comment

Perspective

Originally seen here.

August 18, 2011 Posted by | Hodgepodge, Imagery | , , , , | Leave a comment

Rust and Ruins …

Once Upon A Dream

… and the journey starts with a vague imagining of what the day will be … what remains is to see what those dreams end up becoming in the real world  … I’m looking out over the reservoirs, northwest toward Twin Peaks … clear skies with only the hint of haze … Saturday morning, Fourth of July weekend … 2010 …

Sunrise - rivers of fog flow through San Francisco's valleys and canyons ...

… here I are … here we is … me and she, 7:00 AM, coffee brewed, dinner prepped … hop into the Buddhamobile, go larking … up O’Shaunessey, quick right and left at the top, then up the winding, bumpy track to the summit of Twin Peaks … sun’s rising, city waking up … we can see the Marin Headlands, the tips of the Golden Gate Bridge’s towers over the hills of the Presidio …

…birds flitting about in the crisp air, scattered people milling in small clumps … I yawn, take a sip of coffee … then we’re off, gliding down the other side, first north, then west … into the Inner Sunset, through the Park and the Richmond and we’re on the Bridge and across and we’re dropping again, descending into Sausalito, cruising along, sea level now, sunlight sparkling off the gentle waters …

Mill Valley – climbing again … then over and down, skirting Muir Woods , descending into Muir Beach, and then climbing yet again and we’re off, swerving north along the coast, Hwy 1, hugging the coastline of slowly disintegrating rock, the cold, deep blue color of the Pacific a framing contrast to the mix of stone and dirt and vegetation. In the distance the horizon is thinly veiled by the sea mist, and we breath in the fresh scent of the sea through the open windows.

A view of the Marin Headlands on another, stormier day...

We’re descending again, winding our way into Stinson Beach. We turn left at the market, into the parking area. It’s still early, around 9:00, and there’s plenty of open spaces. We walk out on the beach, to the waterline. The ocean is calm, its energy muted, the wet, flat sand seeming to stretch out in the distance, maybe a quarter mile, the tide is so low. The beach is empty; the lifeguard towers shut. I try to imagine this place in another few hours and then stop: if I want to think about crowds of people, I can go back to the city …

“Time to go.”

She smiles and nods and we’re gone.

Where Dogs Rule…

“Dogtown.”

“Huh?” I say after narrowly missing a bicyclist. They’re all over the place, and I really wish the roads could be a little wider.

“Dogtown.”

She points. I see the sign.

Dogtown
Pop: 30

Stu’s not going to be very happy when he finds out.”

“Don’t tell him, then.”

“You know I will,” she grins.

We cruise by a number of residences.

“It would be a bad idea. He would insist on stopping at every house, wanting to meet the mayor.”

“Yes,” she nods, her expression thoughtful. “A recipe for trouble.”

“Indeed. It would not end well, I’m sure.”

We drive on, leaving Dogtown in the rear-view mirror.

Olema is found where Sir Francis Drake Blvd intersects Hwy. 1. The impression is a comfy clump of buildings built around the intersection, with Earthquake-inspired names seen here and there on establishments.

The Buddhamobile passes through the place almost as quickly as Dogtown.

We’re on Sir Francis Drake Blvd now, and we pull into the parking lot for the Point Reyes National Seashore’s Visitor Center, found in, appropriately, the community of Point Reyes Station. Large barn, information center, gift shop and small, well-done museum. I linger by the skull of a whale and she mentions it probably is a good thing we didn’t bring the boys. I nod in agreement.

“Dogs and large bones never go well together. Likely catastrophic fail.”

“Yeah.”

We pass on the short hike out to where the 1906 Earthquake left a scar, electing to move on.

Skirting the northeast shore of the peninsula, along Tomales Bay and into Inverness and I see it. We stop again, behind a grocery store, near the shore, where the large boat lies abandoned, tilted about 25 degrees.

“Rust and ruins.”

She smiles, grabs the camera, heads out without a word, already caught up in what she’s doing. I lock up the Buddhamobile and follow, finding her roaming about a number of boats resting on trailers, focused, finding bright colors of decay, taking shot after shot.

Lots of rust.

I watch her and wonder – if Heaven were real, would it be like this moment for her?

And we’re off again and headed inland, leaving behind the shores of Tomales Bay … trees and residences thinning as we make our way west, soon giving way to wind-swept fields of scrub and grass … under the magnificent blue of the sky the world of muted browns and greens seems almost gray. The scent of the sea is more intense than earlier, fed by strong winds coming out of the north and west.

It’s a lonely land, dotted here and there by weathered structures, homes, barns, utility buildings.

“Cows,” she says. There they are, behind fences, along the roads. We discover there is a lot of bovine life residing here. We come over a rise and then down, taking in the artificial lake and the crowded set of buildings sheltered by the surrounding hills to the west, north and east. We slow, examining the quiet, wind-swept cluster of structures huddled about the road.

To the right she spies balloons.

“A party. How come we never get invited?”

“Table manners,” I offer and she nods and we accelerate, climbing up and over the next rise to see the road wind on in the distance.

At the End of the World

Finally, we arrive. In my imperfect memory, I recall my last trip here, a quarter century earlier with my not-yet-first wife, on the small 250 cc Suzuki, driving up from the city. All in all it seems the increasingly saddle-sore trip home stands out in the murky theatre of my memory. I also have a hazy recollection of being able to drive the motorcycle all the way in to the lighthouse, but maybe I’m mistaken and now I’m reminded of perspectives, of how we see the world, more specifically how we relate to and reshape the past. In my twenties, trips anywhere were to places I’d probably seen before, just a few months or years earlier. Everything usually looked the same, just as I remembered. Now, after having been absent for so long, approaching the end of another decade of life, I’m momentarily taken aback by the sense of time, the space between visits, a quick, momentary collage of what happened between,a separate, almost alien-life, all left behind just as that 25-year-ago day fades in time and memory …

We park and get out. The wind is strong and constant; we grab sweat-shirts. The temperature isn’t too bad, around mid-50s. We, being seasoned coastal residents, understand the value of wearing layers in the world of Bay Area microclimates. You can tell the tourists: they’re the ones shivering in T-shirts … we see one woman wrapped in a baby blanket; some guy cocooned in a sliver space-blanket.

The view to the east.

I look back the way we came. We’re high up here, presented with a panoramic view of the peninsula: the long, straight beach, empty, disappearing in the distance; the land, a combination of sand and soil and sparse, wind-swept vegetation, looking blasted and empty and gray; beyond and to the south the lighter blue of Drake’s Bay, hazed over with the vaguest of ocean mists, turning the distant shores to the south into a product of mirage, leaving Bolinas a shadowed rumor of land.

Looking South

Something about this is unsettling, oddly compelling. The feeling sits outside perceived things, in the shadow of unconscious awareness.

There’s a road that hugs the right side of the hills, a worn stretch of narrow, pocked asphalt; to the right of that graduating fields of shrubbery and scrub that end at a uniformly sharp drop. The ocean is far, far below us. There is no path on the south side – everything is steeper here, the drops much more shear and sudden, ending in broken rock hundreds of feet below.

The Spine

Being sensible sorts, we elected to climb the spine of the hill, up past the antenna tower with covered dishes pointed everywhere north, east and south. Toward a second series of rises we intersect the road and join the rest of the visitors as they trudge their way to the edge of the world.We make our way under cypress trees, bent by the constant winds, then past the Ranger residences until we’re at the lighthouse buildings.

The Stairs

From text borrowed from the California Lighthouse website

Point Reyes:

A Coast Guard public information pamphlet published in March, 1962 noted that “Point Reyes Light Station was established in 1870 at Point Reyes, Calif., 19 miles from the nearest town of Inverness. It is a family station with a complement of four men who maintain a first order light, fog signal and radio beacon. The light tower itself is a sixteen-sided structure of forged iron plate (the original tower) bolted to solid rock. The top of the lantern is 37 feet above the ground and focal plane of the light is 294 feet above sea level. To reach the light, men assigned must descend 304 steps on the headland from the plateau above the station where the family quarters are situated. The quarters are new, two-story, four-family units (four-plex) built in 1960. The four-plex contains two 2-bedroom and two 3-bedroom units. Buildings maintained on the property, in addition to the family quarters, are the fog signal building, engine room, pump house, paint locker, double garage and a four-car carport with adjoining office and work shop. Point Reyes is, by official records, the windiest and foggiest on the Pacific Coast. The station is frequently blanketed by week-long periods of fog and few years pass that do not see violent gales of 75 to 100 mph strike the area. Point Reyes Light Station is one of the District’s outstanding tourist attractions. On fair summer weekends we often have several hundred visitors logged aboard. Escorting visitors has become a major portion of the duties of men assigned. Dependent children on the station travel three miles by station vehicle to school. Commissary and post exchange privileges are available at Hamilton Air Force Base (the nearest armed forces installation), or in the San Francisco area.”

We climb all the way down to the lighthouse, 309 steps (there are five more than the source above mentioned – and, no, we didn’t count – the stairs are numbered every tenth step, like they want to really torture you on the way back up). They – the Park Service – claim the descent is equivalent to the height of a 30-story building, but I think it is closer to 20. We spend a lot of time, all over the place, checking out the sights, the buildings, the rust.

Rust and ruins.

We’re at the edge of the continent, thrusting out into the Pacific. I try to imagine the significance of this place for someone living 150 years ago. The universe was a lot smaller then for the human species … experiments with electricity and magnetism were primative; the light bulb was years off … men (and women) had yet to visit the poles, summit Everest … travel was by steam trains, and sailing ships still graced the oceans; Clipper ships had recently astounded the world with their record 90 day trips from New York to San Francisco via the tip of South America during the California Gold Rush … Mark Twain had yet to write Adventures of Huckleberry Finn … Jules Verne was dreaming of glass towers and calculators and trips to the moon … It is difficult to touch that time, to imagine a world void of what we think of as even the simplest things …

In that world, 150 years gone, this place, much more difficult to reach for them than for we happy travelers, must have seemed bigger than life.

Now, it’s just a place to visit.

Shadowland

This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man’s hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.
~ T.S. Eliot

We’re walking back on the path, descending the last slope to the circular parking lot. We got here at a good time; there are many more cars parked on the road leading to the lot, and beyond them the long ocean beach and near-empty desolation beyond.

“Purgatory,” I say in sudden recognition.

“What?”

“That.”

I gesture out at the peninsula.

The land is barren, looking inhospitable, lonely, desolate.

“Purgatory … a visualization of an idea, a concept. This looks like it would make a good purgatory, what with the wind and the emptiness.”

And the land is empty, the waters before the steep cliffs and sandy beaches heavy with whitecaps, the whole mass disappearing in the distance – the mist washes everything over … and I’m feeling time with a little more awareness, sensing the idea of the finite. I’m not a geologist, but I ‘get’ erosion. I ‘know’ I’m watching things play out in slow motion … very slow motion … and some time in a distant future wind and water and earthquake will win the battle, cutting and clawing their way across and into the land, until everything I see below me fades or slips beneath the waves, and the peninsula is replaced by a set of islands that in turn fade from geologic history, leaving open water in its wake.

Everything ends. All of it.

I end.

Indelible

We’re driving again.

Talking…

“My big memory of the Space Program is Challenger blowing up,” she says. “One moment it’s climbing and the next I’m asking myself: ‘Did the Shuttle just blow up?’”

We’re cruising through Limboland. I can’t shake the image that caught me on the way back to the Buddhamobile … the idea takes up residence in my imagination, hanging a creative ‘no-vacancy’ sign in my consciousness. I’m not depressed; just feeling out-of-sync with things.

It’s still cold outside, and my free hand touches hers in absent caress as we move along the road, finding soft, warm comfort in this small intimacy.

We are talking as we make our way along the hilly, windswept landscape of the peninsula. The desolation is all so cold, yet oddly reassuring, touching a place I visit more often these years …

“I cut school and I watched.”

I look sideways at her.

“More cows,” she adds, pointing.

I grunt and focus on the road, muttering something inappropriate about cows under my breath.

I never got that,” I say.

“Got what?”

“The whole indelible image thing.”

She looks at me, her expression curious. “Indelible image?”

“Yeah. The idea of the indelible image. The Challenger explosion was an indelible image etched in the collective consciousness. The concept never occurred to me. Like I said, we – my generation – we grew up with space. It was all about getting there. We’d had set-backs, like Apollo 1 – but it wasn’t something that lingered in the public imagination; there were no images, no visuals to pop up in your memory. And the Russian accidents were more rumor than conformed reality, though I doubt it would matter to the American public – they were the Soviets, after all.

“We – my generation, the Baby Boomers – we never had that: the indelible image – negative – burned into our minds when we were young that lingered with us about the Space Program – not even Apollo 1. Instead, we got the realization of the dream – photos of Armstrong on the Moon, the American Flag planted in Lunar soil, earthrise from the orbiting Apollo – all positive stuff, our indelible images, in concert with the realization of one of the oldest dreams of mankind – to get to the moon.

“And Apollo 13 making it back – that was huge. Apollo 13 washed away the lingering taint of the Apollo 1 fire, gave the sense the program was too strong to fail.

“Oh, I’m sure we knew eventually something bad would happen, but by then we understood there were going to be setbacks and loss of life – Apollo 1, again – but it was from a perspective of success.

“That understanding carried on for a long time, the sense of success.”

I’m silent a moment, smiling tightly.

“Then Challenger blew up.”

“Yeah,” she says. “And everybody was watching. It was a big thing, a teacher going into space. Everyone wanted to see.”

We slow down: some cows have gotten out of the fields and are wandering about the road edge, munching on grass, oblivious to the wind, dully regarding us as we glide past. I wonder if Hitchcock could have done something with this … after all, he’d filmed ‘The Birds’ just north of here, in Bodega Bay.

Why not ‘The Cows?’

Sick.

“Yeah,” I echo. “The teacher.” I experience that feeling where I suddenly “get” something at a core level, excited with the switch of perspective even while experiencing the sinking sense of what that understanding tells me of the current resident of the White House’s perspective of the importance of space exploration and manned missions to orbit and beyond.

And on another, unrelated ADD level I remind myself we do this all the time, forgetting the difficulty of perceiving change.

“More cows,” she observes.

“Yeah, yeah,” I reply and on the disc player Morrison sings of Riders of the Storm …

Olema

We’re hungry.

Been that way for a while, but we had things we wanted to see before the crowds got there.

In Olema, at the crossroads of Hwy 1 and Sir Francis Drake Blvd, we find the Farm House Restaurant (& Bar) (The Point Reyes Seashore Lodge) that looks more respectable than the two of us on a good day, so, of course, we check it out. We sit in the bar, order drinks, kick back and enjoy each other’s company as we’re watching the tourists lining up to sit and the help trying to seat them, young girls, looking busy and bored all rolled into one package. I sip my ale, with wistful regret remembering a time when pretty young things such as these fetching fems seemed desirable … now they’re pleasant to look at, but way too young to be all that interesting and I distantly wonder at that change even though I know what it is, then look across the table at my lovely traveling companion and stop thinking about it; I am more than lucky.

I just am.

The temperatures are a bit higher here – high 70s as opposed to mid-50s with a wind chill we were experiencing earlier. I feel comfy, sort of wishing for some place to stretch out, take a nap. The Mt. Tam Light Ale goes down, cold and refreshing, and she sips on her lemonade thoughtfully as we talk about stuff. Her BLT arrives and she attacks it with dainty gusto, while I savor me a very tasty grass-fed burger (… and how the heck do you feed grass to a burger, anyway?).

Loves me some Olema …

HIPPIE FROM OLEMA
Jessie Colin Young
Jessie Colin Young / Youngbloods

Well i’m proud to be a hippie from Olema
Where we’re friendly to the squares and all the straights
We still take in strangers if they’re ragged
We can’t think of anyone to hate

We don’t watch commercials in Olema
We don’t buy the plastic crap they sell
We still wear our hair long like folks used to
And we bathe often, therefore we don’t smell

Well i’m proud to be a hippie from olema
Where we’re friendly to the squares and all the straights
We still take in strangers if they’re ragged
We can’t think of anyone to hate

We don’t throw our beer cans on the highway
We don’t slight a man because he’s black
We don’t spill our oil out in the ocean
’Cause we love birds and fish too much for that

And i’m proud to be a hippie from Olema
Where we’re friendly to the squares and all the straights
We still take in strangers if they’re Haggard
In Olema, california, planet earth.

North Beach

Finished, we jump back in the Buddhamobile and zip up Sir Francis Drake, a half-hour east through steadily rising heat until we reach San Rafael and 90 degrees, then south on 101 and back across the bridge past all those cars leaving the City crowded bumper-to-bumper and then we’re in the Richmond District for fresh sourdough french bread from Boudin’s on Geary and whatever, and then downtown where we park the transportation and hoof it into North Beach. Temps are lower, high 60s with wind. Comfortable in the sun, not so much in the shade. The streets are alive with people. Drinks in Vesuvio’s while sitting in the upper section, looking down on Jack Kerouac Alley and at City Lights Bookstore and the mural painted on the side.

There’s a street vendor selling ‘North Beach Art’, a slim woman in her 50s or 60s, pretty, tall and thin, wearing the living of her life in her features, gray shocks of hair above her forehead, gray-blonde everywhere else, like Rogue later in life. She sucks on a cigarette, the cancer stick seeming a perfect and appropriate prop, chatting with an older street musician, who absently picks and strums at his guitar while talking with her.

Vesuvio

My companion suggests she’s probably got her act together, and I nod in agreement. Something about the woman looks strong and determined. But I wonder what lives beneath the shell we see. A younger woman appears, turning the corner, headed up JK Alley, looking self-assured.

“She looks like she has it together, as well,” I remark.

“Not as much as the older one.”

I nod, looking at the older woman, then back to the blond with the sleeveless t-shirt and jeans with shredded knees who has stopped and now is lighting a cigarette. “No. But she could be a younger version of the vendor.”

My companion sticks her head out the window, scrutinizing both women. “Yes,” she says after a moment. “But the older one has got more going on.”

“Yeah,” I nod. “Living a while does that. Sometimes.”

We watch a while longer as the vendor packs up and leaves, a short lesson in compressing what looks to be a lot of stuff into a manageable, movable package. We finish our drinks, settle up and cross the alley and enter City Lights and exit a little later and a little poorer and happier. We walk northwest on Columbus on crowded, table-lined sidewalks, passing restaurants, mostly Italian, emitting rich, garlic-laden scents, warm and sweet and mouth-watering enticing. At Union we turn right and walk east to Grant, then turn right and south. More window shopping, past drinking establishments, loud with late-afternoon inebriation.

There’s a blues band playing in one, and we take a moment to sample.

Very sweet.

And we meander back to the Buddhamobile and head home to BBQ, salad and thick, tart San Francisco sourdough bread …

I should probably close with an “And it’s all good,” but you already know that … after all, I live in a region of dreams, on the faultline at the edge of the world …

~Originally published July 6, 2010 at Dark Puppy.

August 10, 2011 Posted by | Hodgepodge | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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