Tuesday, July 5, 2011

the san francisco chronicles, day four

on the last day of may, i flew into san francisco for a few days of r&r before my stint crewing on the aids lifecycle. i stayed at a b&b in the castro district from tuesday through sunday morning, and i took no netbook with me...instead, i took an old fashioned composition book and a pen. i found myself writing--a lot! this series of posts are my transcriptions of the writing i did in the foggy city. below is the fourth day in the city, friday, right before "orientation day" for the ride, and the week long trip back to los angeles.

it was important for me to visit the east bay during this stay in the city. i had a couple of reasons for this. as you know, i am looking primarily at the east bay as a destination for re-location. i feel that if i am at all close by, i should make an effort to spend some time there. the more i visit the more familiar i get with the area, and the more i get a sense of whether or not it could work for me. fortunately, i had a friend who was willing to not only accompany me, but also to drive us there, so i took advantage of the company and the ride.

we drove into Berkeley, our goal being the cheese board pizza collective. the collective is made up of two storefronts: the cheese shop, and the pizza shop. during my last visit here my friend dave and i came to the cheese board twice, once to gawk, and once to get fresh pastries. we didn't buy and cheese, but if we were going to, this would be the place to do it. the cheese is displayed rather plainly in a case, and is then cut to order. nothing fancy, just a big case full of amazing cheeses. the idea behind the collective is that there is no main owner--the place is run and co-owned by the workers, who, i think, all benefit equally from the sales. in other words, every worker holds a stake in the business. and it shows in the service they provide. the pizza store is similar in concept, except that they just offer one kind of pizza and salad each day. on this day, the selection was incredible: roasted potato, feta, mozzarella, garlic oil, onion, cilantro, chilies, and key limes!
we bought a half pizza (four slices), and i am here to tell you that i have never had anything like it! it was, simply said, fantastic! we did not leave a single bit uneaten. i love the idea of good food being served (and made!) in a context of community.

afterwards, we stopped into philz for coffee. i have not seen these shops outside of san francisco, but let me tell you what i know of them: they serve AMAZING coffee, and they make it fresh, by the cup, to order. i had stopped into another one in the castro that very morning while doing some laundry at the sit and spin. that time, i ordered a cup of the "tantalizing turkish", and for lack of better words, it was like coffee soup! they are that serious about coffee up here. this time i ordered a cup of the "arabic", which is what the clerk suggested. i was no less disappointed.

properly fed and caffeinated, we drove to piedmont ave. in oakland to check out the store of the woman i met on the plane. erica's place. it is called "the rare bird". she was so surprised to see me! and i was glad to be there. the store is fun, and full of unique handmade and vintage clothing and jewelry and knickknacks.
i didn't have to buy anything, but i did--a chain necklace with a bullet casing filled with smoky quartz. there is something rewarding about buying something handmade locally at a friend's store. it is not about spending money there, it is about support. and i love the chain!

that evening i met my friend rolando and a few of the people i know doing the ride at the lookout, a bar near where i am staying. it was lively and crowded, and once again, i was aware of the fact that i "fit" into this environment.

good to know.


thoughts on san francisco:

here is the thing about "getting older", at least in the way that i see it. i am not sure, but i do think, that i become less convinced that i am capable of undergoing major change. now let me see if i can explain exactly what i mean. change, as i have discussed in earlier posts, is complicated. first, it is necessary to understand what we have the ability to change. nutshell: attitudes, opinions, perspective, ways of thinking, goals, and the like. then we need to understand what we cannot change, and these things i have listed before. finally, we need to consider what it is in our behavior, relationships, and primarily in our environment that can have an effect on those things we want to, and are able to, change.

i have been in a "different environment" for nearly five days now--not so long. yet it has been long enough for me to have an inkling, just an inkling, of what might be possible for me were my environment change for a longer period of time. and what i can report to you is that in this amount of time, i believe that i have budged, perhaps, and inch. i have budged and inch. i have budged and inch. not much to report, but then in my defense i must say that it has a) only been five days, and; b) the environment change was not drastic. and yet, even given these restrictions, i expected more. how much more? i don't know, just more. at least enough more so that i could feel it.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

the san francisco chronicles, day three, part two

this is the second part of my day three post...

today i did alot of walking: down 18th into potrero hill, then up potrero to 24th, then down 24th into the mission district, up mission back to 18th, and back to the castro. my goal was to check out the area my plane buddy erica had suggested to me--potrero hill. not sure if i found the right area though...there was not much of a main street area there. it was somewhat dreary, and there was a big hospital, the that is all i saw, at least until i hit 24th st. on 24th there were tons of shops, primarily latin themed, and i found the area to be very colorful--lots of murals.

i was told later that i was walking through noe hill, but i would have to verify that. it felt like the mission district. i stopped for coffee in a place called "sugarcube", and i wrote a bit while sipping a vietnamese iced coffee. most of the patrons at this coffee shop were on laptops (just like los angeles). i was a bit surprised by that.

once refreshed, i continued on 24th until i hit mission, then i turned onto that street and really got a sampling of the latin flavor of this area. it reminds me of the jewelry district in downtown los angeles--just shops and shops and shops. i decided to have papusas for lunch: three for three dollars! this would be a colorful area to live in for sure--but not inexpensive i'm afraid, at least not for a nice place. i can understand the culture clash between the mission district and the castro, as they bump right up against each other and are so completely different in populations. even with gentrification, the castro is still pretty dfamn gay.

when i turned on 18th and headed back into the castro, i stopped to shop for picnic items at bi-rite, a remarkable local market that, though much smaller, kinda outs whole foods to shame. the selection appears to be all natural, and ALL prepared foods are made in house. their prepack salads looked delicious, and i had a hard time deciding on just two of them. i went with the curry chickpea salad and the quinoa fennel heirloom salad to go with the mini turkey mearloaf i had for a main dish. appetizer was rosemary crackers with triple cream brie, and dessert was chocolate truffle pudding with dark chocolate shavings. ALL amazing and delicious. i liked the feel of this market: small and friendly and local, with knowledgeable and caring staff. it's a place i would want to shop.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

the san francisco chronicles, day three, part one

on the last day of may, i flew into san francisco for a few days of r&r before my stint crewing on the aids lifecycle. i stayed at a b&b in the castro district from tuesday through sunday morning, and i took no netbook with me...instead, i took an old fashioned composition book and a pen. i found myself writing--a lot! this series of posts are my transcriptions of the writing i did in the foggy city. below is day three in the city.

sleep is wonderful. i think about how often, as biological creatures, we need something in order to thrive: sleep, water, oxygen, touch, food. i might add "vacation" to that list. oddly though, it is often when on vacation that i don't sleep. or sleep enough. but not last night--the melatonin did its work. this morning at breakfast i met a whole table full of fellow travelers: saulo and phillipe from brazil, marcus from germany, and my friends from wednesday's breakfast, ann and helen from england. saulo and phillipe are beautiful men--makes me want to book a flight to brazil immediately. but that's another story. the amazing thing about this breakfast is that we got to talking about our respective countries: cell phone etiquette, biking, vacations. and as it so often happens when discussing other countries, i found myself wistful for a place where people know how to relate, interact, eat, drink, and love. since i am not planning on moving outside of the country, i have to go where the best of these options may occur relative to how they are displayed in american terms. to that extent, it is my observation that san francisco trumps los angeles in all of those categories. in fact, i will go out on a limb here and state that i don't even think there is a competition. in los angeles, i think people are forgetting how to eat, or at least they soon will. that is because they are systematically removing everything from their food: dairy, gluten, wheat, carbs, calories, meat, oil, salt, flavor. i mean, seriously!! angelinos, IF they drink, are trying to remove the sulfites from their wine. IF they interact, they are removing, as much as possible, the face to face part of that. they have certainly succeeded in removing voice from interaction--in fact, i know some people in los angeles who boast of never answering their phones--they only respond to text or email!

and love? well. hmmm. that;s a tough one. i have been in los angeles for so many years that i don't know if i have enough of a comparative context to address that one. with food and drink, it is fairly easy to compare geographic experiences--all i need to do is go to a couple of restaurants in another city. but with love, not so easy. what i do know is that in los angeles, from what i have seen, people tend to love publicly, conditionally, conveniently, and temporarily. love is treated as something to "check off" a list, like going to the dentist or getting a job, but i don't know if it is on many people's regular maintenance schedules. it has not been on mine for a while, that's for sure. i think that in los angeles, people are trying to remove stuff from love like they are doing with their food and wine, except with love they are removing tension, commitment, time, empathy, and curiosity, and relying on sex to fill the cup to the brim. and it takes a lot of sex to fill that cup.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

the san francisco chronicles, day two

on the last day of may, i flew into san francisco for a few days of r&r before my stint crewing on the aids lifecycle. i stayed at a b&b in the castro district from tuesday through sunday morning, and i took no netbook with me...instead, i took an old fashioned composition book and a pen. i found myself writing--a lot! this series of posts are my transcriptions of the writing i did in the foggy city. below is day two in the city.

woke late today because i got to sleep late...frustrating, and not how i preferred to spend my first night and morning in san francisco. but what was i to do now? the day, and the city, was waiting for me. i treated myself to breakfast at the b&b: poached eggs on sauteed kale with shaved parmesan--delicious. then i did what any angelino does first day off when abroad (at least the gay ones)--i went to find a gym. i walked to a 24 hour fitness and did the best i could, given the lack of sleep and the continuing recovery from my cold of last week (how long do those things last, anyway?) it felt good to work out, but i also, at times, felt like throwing up. an odd mix of sensations, to say the least. i felt off, an unusual and unpleasant feeling, especially when in another city on vacation. but then, as asked before, what was i to do? i am fully aware that my mood depended less on how i felt and more on how much time i spent wishing i felt otherwise. feeling otherwise, as it were, would happen in good time, i was sure, and i knew that while i could contribute to its arrival, i could not control its timing. so after my workout, i did the one thing i thought might help: i went back to the inn to take a nap. my b&b: inn on the castro

it helped. so did the pair of shoes i bought on the way back...


after my nap, i ended up meeting one of my clinical supervisors, richard, for tea at peet's coffee. he happened to be staying in the castro this same week,. and we both agreed that it would not be unethical to meet for a beverage. we had a wonderful conversation, and we both learned things about each other that we otherwise would never have known, in all probability. i very much enjoyed it. we each had dinner plans, but before we went to our respective plans there was still time to meet his hosts and take a look at their home.
joel and sam own and operate the castro suites, and richard has known them for many years. as a couple, they are approaching fifty years together. unbelievable!! joel is a painter, and sam makes ceramics, and their home is awash in art, color, and collectibles. both of these men, and richard as well, have long histories with san francisco, and the castro, and were able to both revel in, and survive, the time before and during the appearance of aids in the city. it was a different time, to be sure.

this year marks thirty years of aids, and to acknowledge this there is a huge red aids "ribbon" installed on twin peaks hill.
thirty years. that's a hell of a long time. i am old enough to remember what it was like back then, when i was barely an adult and living in san diego. i remember how terrified i was, like everyone else. that terror, and the effect it had on my behavior, is most likely the reason i am alive today. i am grateful for that. i like being alive, even when i feel off.


that evening i had dinner at a great restaurant called absinthe,
in the hayes valley area of the city. i was told that the restaurant had been there for years, and on a wednesday night, it was full. fortunately for us (me and my date), we got there early enough to get a table without reservations. dinner was fantastic, as was the company. we ended up getting four different "share plates", which is the most fun, because we each got some of everything we ordered. here are a couple of the dishes we ordered...

and, in homage to my friend dave's way of being in restaurants, we chatted a bit with our table neighbors. as a gay man, i love being able to share a dinner with another man openly amidst straight couples, and feeling as if it were perfectly natural. and it was. the young couple next to us were charming and personable, and responded to me and my date, and the affection we were displaying towards each other, with utter ease. for me, this is infinitely more interesting and satisfying than ensconcing myself in a "gay restaurant" in a "gay neighborhood". perhaps that is because i identify as a human being who is attracted to men, which is subtly yet distinctively different than identifying as a "gay man". discuss.

later that night, after my date, i fell under the spell of the melatonin i took--i wasn't going to screw around with sleeplessness another might, and i dozed off into a deep and refreshing sleep.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

the san francisco chronicles, day one, part two

on the last day of may, i flew into san francisco for a few days of r&r before my stint crewing on the aids lifecycle. i stayed at a b&b in the castro district from tuesday through sunday morning, and i took no netbook with me...instead, i took an old fashioned composition book and a pen. i found myself writing--a lot! the next series of posts will be my transcriptions of the writing i did in the foggy city. below is part two of the first day in the city.

once i was settled in my b&b, i decided to take a walk down into the castro and look around before getting something to eat. i loved the idea that i had nowhere i had to be, nothing i had to do, and nobody i had to meet. i rarely get to indulge that type of freedom. the castro is still the castro, and i confess that i did my best to not look like a tourist. i believe i succeeded on some levels. i mean, i am told that i look like a san franciscan, especially with the beard. but i tend to "fit" into wherever i go--i make that effort. i notice what is going on and i adopt some of it into my manner. the reason for this is so that i can more easily become the observer and not the observed.

i ended up going into "harvey's", a popular bar and restaurant on 18th and castro. it is named after harvey milk. i almost left though, because the bartender seemed to be so busy (i sat at the bar) that i was starting to feel nervous myself. you know how it is so hard to relax in a restaurant if it appears that your server is about to drop dead? well, i stayed, and he provided good service, and i had a very good chicken sandwich. the place was really really crowded, and i found out from the woman next to me at the bar that is was "comedy night", and she knew this because she was going to be doing some comedy herself. naturally, we talked about my history with doing stand-up, and then she commented that she was surprised that i ate the huge sandwich they brought me. believe me, i was just as surprised. i did not stay for the comedy night though--it was late and crowded and i wanted to continue to walk around.

i ended up at a bar, 440, and i ordered a beer and sat at the bar to drink it. it was crowded as well (what is it about tuesday nights in the castro?) i wasn't really in the mood to "meet" anyone, but i enjoyed being out in a fun place. the dj was playing a big variety of music, and at one point he shocked everyone by playing leo sayer's "you make me feel like dancing". not what you usually hear in a gay bar in the castro! i could hear some comments around me from guys old enough to remember the song when i was a hit in the 70's. ended up speaking to one guy when he came up to the bar to get a beer. he told me that the dj was his friend. my "look" didn't fool him, he guessed that i was an out-of-towner, but primarily because he didn't recognize me. he was nice, and i was again surprised at finding myself talking to someone. while i didn't feel like jumping into the middle of things, i enjoyed this conversation. his name was marc.


as i lay in my bed later that night, strangely unable to get to sleep, i began to think about being here, in san francisco, and being out of los angeles, more specifically. i started thinking about my conversations with erica, and with justin, and with the female comic (did not get her name), and with marc. i began thinking about how, in all of these conversations, i was different than i am in los angeles, but also still very much the same. i can't expect my guardedness to disappear and melt away in one evening, but i think i did warm up a bit. i wondered if that was the limit--if i would ever not feel "odd" engaging in a conversation with a friendly stranger, and i wondered if i would move up here and find out that, in the worst sense, "wherever i go, there i am". i thought a lot about it, in these wee hours of the morning, and i finally drifted off to sleep around 3:30 am, having not reached any conclusion.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

the san francisco chronicles, day one, part one

on the last day of may, i flew into san francisco for a few days of r&r before my stint crewing on the aids lifecycle. i stayed at a b&b in the castro district from tuesday through sunday morning, and i took no netbook with me...instead, i took an old fashioned composition book and a pen. i found myself writing--alot! the next series of posts will be my trascriptions of the writing i did in the foggy city.


day two of vacation. day one was uneventful, even though it was a holiday. to me, it was just the day i had to finish preparing for my trip. even so, i didn't have to work, and i did make a nice holiday dinner that i shared with my neighbor rolando: baked mango-jalapeno chicken and coleslaw with bacon-parmesan dressing. for dessert, we had chocolate chip brownies with vanilla ice cream. scrumptuous!

anyway, back to day two. i am sitting on a plane, about to depart for san francisco. we were delayed by an hour, so i bought a sandwich and a book in the airport. the sandwich was turkey with cheddar--good--but not worth $8.50! the book is a novel called "the solitude of prime numbers", and it cost $15.00. it is too soon to comment on the worth of the book, but after three chapters, i am already hooked. besides, to me, books are priceless, so i probably am not qualified to assess its worth.

i am sitting next to a nice young woman, and she is friendly and sweet. could be worse. she is with a male friend.

i hope that we do not crash and die. first off, that would be a shitty way to start (and end) a vacation; and secondly, i have not made any provisions for what would happen to all my stuff at home if i were to die suddenly. i would not want either the state or my brother to get my paintings and my books. at some point i will have to make some sort of a living trust so these things are taken care of, but until then, i just hope we do not crash and die.


we did not crash and die. we made it safely, albeit one hour late, to san francisco. and to my utter surprise (at myself!), i ended up having a whole conversation with the young woman seated next to me, who by the way is named erica. she was flying with her friend justin, and they had just come back from attending a wedding in mexico. erica owns a store in the oakland area, the rare bird, that sells clothing and art and jewelry, and justin plays guitar for a living, and he does not own a cell phone! (my new hero)

i started chatting with erica because i noticed that she was reading "catcher in the rye", and i was rather shocked. i don't see many people in their twenties reading this book on their own. what impressed my even more is that she told me this was her second time! now can you understand why i broke my own "no talking to people on planes" rule? she told me about her store, and she told me about san francisco, and she suggested that i check out the potrero hill area. i think i will to that--it is not too far from the castro district. before i left the airport, i took a chance and asked if i could snap a photo of my "new friends", and they agreed. i am glad i did, and i hope i get a chance to visit erica's store.

erica and justin, "vogueing" at the baggage claim

Saturday, May 21, 2011


there are those of us, who, i suspect, find a "groove" in life and just stick with it. think of liza minnelli and her never-changing haircut. i think the reasoning is: it works, so why change it? i think that personality can be described in this way as well--at least aspects of personality. i subscribe to the theory that personality is never set--there is not a fixed "self"--and yet this same theory also proposes the idea of an innate "temperament": qualities of ourselves that do not change because they are part of our genetics. examples of this would be our intelligence level, sociality (introversion or extroversion), adaptability, sensitivity, and irritability. of course, all of these qualities are also affected by our environment, but what i am saying here is that despite these effects, our temperaments pretty much remain constant throughout our entire lives.

but some things change.

i believe that the things that cannot be categorized as "temperament" change more often in artists than they do in people who are not artists. why? i am not sure, as my conclusion is based primarily on personal experience, as well as observation. but i suspect that i came to this by noticing that certain aspects of innate temperament, for instance, sensitivity and sociality, even intelligence, are heightened in artists. in my way of thinking, these heightened "fixed" characteristics have an effect on some of the changeable aspects of our personalities: perspective, empathy, mindfulness, compassion, ambition, and self expression.


last night, during a self-imposed quarantine due to a nasty cold, i watched the film motorcycle diaries, which is the story of che guevara's youthful travels through south america with his best friend.

it was a wonderful movie--i can't believe it took me so long to watch it! but i bring the film into the conversation here because it was during the course of his travels through the continent that che changed, primarily due to the amount of poverty and injustice he witnessed amongst the indigenous people of chile and peru. and as a result of this change, the seeds of a revolutinary were planted. the point of interest for this blog post is that the change occurred during his travels. and from what i saw in the film and have read online about him since, the changes were not to his temperament, but to the changeable aspects of personality.

this is not surprising! theories of personality state that change is often observed as a result of a "feeling process", and usually occurs in the context of a personal relationship. well, both of these were certainly present during che's journey through south america!

why are so many movies made about road trips? my guess is that it is during travels that change occurs with the highest frequency. additionally, in most of these films, people are travelling with someone, setting into motion the two prerequisites for change mentioned above. think "thelma and louise", "easy rider", "it happened one night", even "the wizard of oz".

and this is why, when people ask me why i have to leave los angeles, i tell them that i am interested in the change that will occur. in order to maximize the change potential, i will have to make sure that there is both a feeling process and a context of personal relationship happening during my moving adventure. of course, for me, settling into a place will not end the "road trip", since it may take a year or so to "travel" through my new neighborhood and discover places and people. but i will welcome the change--change that i don't think will happen if i stay here in los angeles (perhaps due to the lack of the requisite feeling process and relationship context). i think that perhaps there is something that happens when we go somewhere else that facilitates feeling processes and relationships. in fact i am pretty sure of this.

so what would i like to change? good question. i would certainly like to change perspective. perspective on what, you ask? well, perspective on people, primarily, but also perspective on myself and on relationships. perspective on friendships. perspective on love. perspective on engagement, interdependency, and aging. i would be happy to start with these areas of change.


when i travel up to san francisco next month for vacation, i will be going up with only my cheapie cell phone (it makes and takes calls and texts--no web)--no smartphone, no laptop, no netbook, nothing else. i intend to be "disconnected" from the internet for two whole weeks. i will have to rely on my ability and willingness to engage with others in order to establish any context of personal relationship. in a way, you could say that i am disconnecting in order to reconnect. i am "travelling" away from the safety and security of the internet, and back to the way things used to be done--in person, through personal engagement. i am excited! i intend to take a notebook and a couple of pens so that i can journal in coffee shops and write down future blog post ideas. (when was the last time you saw anyone writing in a notebook in a coffee shop??) i will return to los angeles via the coast, and it will take a week. i will be crew member (for the 4th time!) with the aids life/cycle, and let me tell you, if anything could be called a "road trip", this would certainly qualify! a road trip with incredible and guaranteed potential for feeling processes and personal relationships! along the way, i hope to be reminded of what people (including myself) are capable of: kindness, generosity, caring, creativity, and fun. all along the way i hope to encounter examples of this, and if things go well, i will offer examples of the same.

los angeles is a shitty city (there, i said it!). people here are mean, lonely, needy, and self-involved. and i am tired of being one of them.

i need a change.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

a place for mom

today was mother's day here in los angeles. that is silly to write, because it was mother's day all over the country, but the way i wrote it is exactly how i want to say it. now that i think about it, i don't even know if other countries celebrate mother's day. how country-centric of me. i remember how shocking it was to realize that the united states is the only country that celebrates thanksgiving! i guess i thought that thanksgiving ranked on the same level as christmas, which apparently is celebrated pretty much all over the world, but this is not the case, as you know. neither is it the case with mother's day. but it should be. it should be celebrated all over the world. maybe i will start that movement.

here in los angeles, mother's day seems to mean lots of flowers sold, and lots of brunches. i am not so sure how thrilled these mothers are with flowers and brunches, but if they are not, they sure aren't telling any of these kids, because the flowers and brunches just go on all day long. at the whole foods market where i work, the floral department is running like nuts on mother's day, making arrangements for impatient adult children who, for one reason or another, have waited until sunday afternoon to pick up flowers for their mothers. of course, in l.a., everyone works all day every day, it seems, so sunday afternoon may be the first time that adult children have to shop for anything. (i wonder if they learned their non-stop work ethic from their mothers?)

i did not buy any flowers today, nor did i go to any brunches. i worked. i did make myself a nice breakfast beforehand, though: french toast, hickory smoked bacon, and hash browns. but i ate alone, as i usually do on sunday mornings, and read the sunday paper. my mother was not there, as she is not alive. i am sure that if she were alive, she would have been there, and there would have been fresh flowers on the table. i am assuming that she would have loved both gestures. but mind you, i would have made the brunch myself and arranged the flowers myself!

my mother died over two years ago. she had alzheimers disease, but they say that nobody ever dies of alzheimers disease. i would beg to differ, because boy, did she age as the disease progressed. you see, the body follows the brain, so...if the brain no longer knows for sure where it is going, well, you get the picture. my mother's sister, edith, is over 90 years of age, and still of stout mind, and her body is aging appropriately.

anyway, one night, over two years ago, on a february early morning, around 2am to be exact, my mother's body just stopped functioning, and she died. she was in a nursing home in montana at the time, close to my sister's house in kalispell. my mother never would have permitted us to put her into a home, but by the time we had to do just that, she was beyond knowing where she was at any given time. i will never forget the day that we admitted her. it was winter, and my sister had recently broken her arm slipping on the ice outside her home. i had flown up immediately to help her, since she was now no longer able to care for our mother, and fortunately we had everything set up in advance, so all we had to do was call the home and let them know that it was time. the afternoon that we dropped her, they were doing an activity in the main room, an activity that basically consisted of the residents sitting in chairs in a circle, and kicking or tossing a large beach ball around. the nurse suggested that we have our mother join in the activity as a way to integrate her into the home right away, and this is just what we did. i still remember watching my mom in the chair, kicking valiantly when the ball came near her. there she was, this woman who was extremely private and somewhat guarded, now sitting in a circle of strange people trying to kick a beach ball. oh, the path that our lives take! a year and some months later, she would die in a single bed in that very same home, her days of kicking beach balls long past, a shell of the woman i remember.


in a few weeks i will be traveling to san francisco for the first time since last year around this same time. i will be spending a week in the castro district, at a bed and breakfast, before making a week's journey down the coast of california with the aids life/cycle as a member of the bike parking crew. i plan to take an additional two weeks off work upon my return (they don't know yet), for a total of a whole month off of work. you heard me right. a whole month.

i don't know if my mother ever visited san francisco, but i am sure she would have loved it. when she was alive and well, i used to drive down to san diego and take her into downtown for shopping and lunch (such a good gay son!). she loved these afternoons, as did i. there was a sophistication to my mother, and it showed in her comments about the high-rise condominiums and gleaming towers of downtown. she was a glamour gal, and was so attractive as a young woman that during her time in los angeles, back in the 50's, she was once asked to do a screen test. she never did (to my chagrin--i could have been a celebrity child!). anyway, i am sure she would have loved san francisco and all its sophistication. i know that i do, and i can't wait to be there again. as i get closer to the actual possibility of moving to the bay area, i can't help but wish mom were alive, so i could have her visit me and we could go roaming in the city during lazy afternoons. maybe i would have had her up for mother's day weekend, and i would have made a fantastic brunch spread for the two of us, and i would have filled the apartment with flowers in her honor. in fact, i am sure i would have done this.

but that won't happen, because she is gone, and i am never more reminded of that than on mother's day, when everyone in the city is going to brunch with their mothers and coming into the store to buy flowers.

i don't believe that there is any part of my mother that is around--i am an atheist, you remember. well, there is the lock of hair that i have, which i asked for before they cremated her (i will never be comfortable with the idea of her being burned). i also have the dress that she not only wore, but that she made, for her wedding to my father (do i need to remind you that i am a gay son?). it is a beautiful dress, and i could not bear to throw it out after she died (what becomes of our stuff?). her absence from the world and my life is not a comforting concept, but it is just one of many uncomfortable concepts that our world throws us without a single suggestion on how to deal. well, i am hoping that during my visit to san francisco, and the following trip back down to los angeles, that i will experience the one thing that ensures that i can deal: community. community is something that my mother lacked as she aged, but i will not let that happen to me. this, above all else, is the main reason that i am planning to leave los angeles. as i have said before, the only way it seems that one can be in a community here is to either be involved in a church, or a 12-step program; neither is an option for me. so i must go to a place where community is organic.

my mother would have loved san francisco, and the east bay, where i plan to re-locate. but i am not going up there for her--i am doing it for myself--so that i don't end up like her, alone at the end of my life, in a single bed in a care home, having lost my mind. even so, i will never get used to her being gone.

me and mom at the home, with her "baby doll"

Friday, March 25, 2011

what people are saying, part three

last weekend i took pictures of the l.a. marathon--it was rainy, but of course that didn't stop anyone...


so in my last post i began to talk about how my blog friend jim wrote to me that it might be easier to either stay in los angeles, or leave it, if i had a partner to share the ups and downs of decision making with, among other things. this is not the first time it has been suggested to me that life might be easier if had someone to "share" it with. and believe me, i know that these comments come from a place of caring, and they have caused me to give a lot of thought to the reason that i seem to like being alone.

every so often, i see couples as part of my internship. as you can imagine, by the time they come into the counseling center for therapy, the "sheen" has usually worn off of their relationship, in a manner of speaking. in other words, i get to see what happens to couples who turn on each other, or who are about to. much like what happened in the excellent film from this year, "blue valentine", with ryan gosling and michelle williams. and as you can further imagine, the exercise of seeing love tarnish in front of me has a certain, uh, effect on me from time to time.
for a while, in fact, i decided that i did not want to see any couples, because i did not want to be negatively affected by what they were going through. (for some reason, i am not similarly vulnerable to what my individual clients are sharing with me.) mind you, it was also during a time when i was having some "difficulty" negotiating my own dating experiences. but i think i see things somewhat differently now--thanks to some time passing and the information i have gleaned from a few well written books on the topic of relationship. (these are not of the "self-help" variety, which i generally scorn; rather they are based on psychological theory and brain research--the real nuts and bolts, instead of "feel good" machinations by authors trying to sell quick fix books.) the nutshell: relationship is about "attachment", and when things go wrong in a bad way, it is often because the attachment bond is ruptured, or at the very least badly damaged, and the potential for repair depends on the state of trust, safety, and response-ability already existing between the two partners. super distilled nutshell: if you don't build a strong base, the slightest wind will blow your house down.

when i read jim's posts, i get the strong sense that his relationship with his husband is built on a very strong base--there is an ease in the descriptions that actually make me smile when i think about how they must support, comfort, and provide companionship for each other. i don't think i am making this up--jim has a way of talking about his husband ron that clearly demonstrates respect, care, and enjoyment. i even feel that when he talks about his dog sophie! i suspect that this is because jim is a respectful, caring and nice man, and i hope to meet him someday. but beyond that, i marvel at the opportunity to read about a relationship that appears to work, easily. (granted, they probably have their "stuff", but who doesn't? it is not the stuff that knocks us down, but how we deal with it.)

anyway, before i go on about jim to the point where he gets concerned and stops following my blog, i will explain that the reason i use his relationship as an example is to let you know that for me, when it comes to being with a partner, i have never had what i suspect jim has. don't cry for me, blogentina, because i have had some decent relationships, but i have never felt safe in any of them. never. so...when it comes to feeling safe in the world, i have found that i have gotten really good at doing that for myself.therefore, in a strange way, the idea of a relationship, to me, is not all that comforting.

sometimes i wish it were.

two runners, apparently supporting each other

but we all have to play with the hand we are dealt, to a greater or lesser degree. i have come a far distance from where i was, relationally, five, ten, twenty years ago, and i will travel further still. but right now, where i am right now, is still pretty close to where i have been all my life, which is being able to take really good care of myself and my needs.

so as much as i value jim's comments, i also recognize that they are coming from his point of view, and that this does not exactly match mine. (but keep 'em coming, jim!) for me, decisions are not more easily made with someone--i can do that myself. it's not so bad, really. and i am open to having that change a bit.

a slick hollywood walk of fame on marathon sunday

and until that changes, i suspect that i will continue to attract, and be attracted to, similarly self-caring individuals who, on one hand, connect very easily and willingly, and on the other, only go so far with that. at least that is how it goes for me here in los angeles.

a rather lonely, but beautiful walk

Sunday, March 20, 2011

what people are saying, part two

today the city hosted the los angeles marathon, and it is always quite an event. but then any event where you actually block major streets for hours and keep l.a. drivers from using them is a major event here. l.a. drivers go nuts when things like this happen, and i have to say that i get a guilty pleasure out of it all and just chuckle to myself as i whizz by on my bicycle, unaffected by road closures.

this year, it has been raining like the dickens all day long, so the spectator crowds were thinner, but as far as i know, runners like rain even better than they like sun, so i guess all was well. i rode my bike up to hollywood blvd to have a look and take some pictures, and yes, i got a bit wet; but as you know from a previous post, not only do i not mind that, it is pretty much the point of doing it!

runners, running, on hollywood blvd.

in my last post i talked a bit about what some "experts" have said about things related to the way i experience los angeles. but i also want to give air time to what some of my readers have said in their comments, because i find that it is a) astonishing that i have readers, and; b) very valuable, helpful, and appreciated feedback for me. it has contributed to a deepening in the way i think about leaving here, all of which will stand in good stead at the time that i actually leave.

my new blogger friend ron commented on how he did quite a bit of research before deciding to move to delaware from pennsylvania, and yet he also mentions that it was important for him to trust his instincts. i bring this up because i feel that this approach is a collaboration of what we as humans do best--think and feel. i have even been talking with some clients about this approach--how do we know when to trust how we feel about something? how do we know when we have enough "information" on something to proceed?

this guy knows about rain like i do, i totally get the no shirt thing

since i have no answer to give my clients, i know that there is no answer for myself to this question. but that is okay--as an existentialist i am comfortable with a little anxiety in life--especially when changing things up. but nevertheless, since i am such a smarty pants, i will offer an answer to the question. we have enough information to proceed when our feeling about proceeding no longer conjures a level of anxiety high enough to keep us from proceeding. in other words, i will know that it is time to leave when i find myself gone(emotionally).

the street was full of runners, here in front of the famous pantages theateron a side trip to the hlwd farmer's market, i noticed it was pretty empty...no line for papusa today!

one comment that has been particularly thought-raising for me is the one made by my very first reader, jim, who lives in nova scotia with his husband of many years. jim writes a wonderful blog, and i love reading it, in fact, this very post is inspired by his posting style (words and pictures)! anyway, he comments a lot about how my experience of living in los angeles, and even my experience of moving away, might be different were i to have a partner while doing these things. hmmm, a partner...

to be continued

Saturday, March 12, 2011

what people are saying, part one

one of the main reasons i created this blog was to practice writing more often. but the other main reason is that i have an interest in others' experiences of living in the cities in which they live. as i may have mentioned before, if i am going to give up near perfect weather and a rent-free two bedroom apartment, i want to be a sure as i can about what i am giving it up for. fortunately, i am a man who knows a bit about how the brain works, so this is a crucial advantage in the process of decision making about the future. you see, what i happen to know is that we generally don't make great decisions about how we will experience something in the future. we just don't! it is not a flaw or a weakness, but rather a quirk in the evolutionary biology of the brain (one of many!). in the fantastically entertaining and informative book stumbling on happiness, by daniel gilbert, he writes: "research suggests that when people make predictions about their reactions to future events, they end to neglect the fact that their brains have performed the fillin-in trick as an integral part of the act of imagination."

what he means by this is that if, for example, i imagine how i would like living in the east bay, i will naturally pull from my experience as a tourist there, which as we all know is quite different than living in a place. my brain will "fill-in" details from what i have read and what i have experienced for an imaginary future experience so that i have something to reference. the problem is that the reference point then becomes inaccurate. now, we do this all the time! how many times have you anticipated something only to have the experience be something completely different that what you imagined?

to clarify further, gilbert writes:
"if you'd been given your choice of brains at the moment of conception, you probably wouldn't have chosen the tricky one. good thing no one asked you. without the filling-in trick you would have sketchy memories, an empty imagination, and a small black hole following you whereever you went."
"we see things that aren't really there and we remember things that didn't really happen, and while these may sound like symptoms of mercury poisoning, they are actually critical ingredients in the recipe for a seamlessly smooth and blessedly normal reality. but that smoothness and normality come at a price. even though we are aware in some vaguely academic sense that our brains are doing the filling-in trick, we can't help but expect the future to unfold with the details we imagine."

my goodness!! in a nutshell, we SUCK at predicting our future happiness. if you doubt me, just look at the divorce rate. therefore, you cannot possibly fault me for proceeding cautiously when it comes to thinking about giving up my rent-free two bedroom apartment in the land of perfect weather!

now...here is some info about los angeles that i think you should know, because i think it is VERY IMPORTANT! in Travel & Leisure magazine's survey on America's favorite cities, los angeles pretty much sits at the bottom. as the article's author christopher reynolds writes: "when it comes to public transportation, pedestrian-friendliness and friendliness generally, los angeles ranked dead last (italics mine) among 35 major u.s cities. the affordabilithy of los angeles and the intelligence of its residents were ranked 34th of 35. (!!) on the positive side, l.a. ranked no. 4 for shopping."

SHOPPING!!!! that is what los angeles is noted for!!!

so it is NOT just me. los angeles...sucks. kinda. sometimes. unless you like shopping.

to be continued...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

changing perspectives, part two

it rained in los angeles a few weekends ago, and i was in it and all over it. it doesn't rain that often here, so when it does, it is something of a "happening". it presents a challenge to me, as a bikerider, but as they say in portland: "there is no bad weather, only bad clothing".

unless i have somewhere to go where i have to be presentable, i love riding in the rain. for those who live in this city, let me remind you of what rain feels like. it is cool and clean and when it hits your skin it is like the mildest electric spark. it is a wake up call to your skin, and i feel sad for those people who dodge it as if it were nuclear fallout.

on a bike, you get wet pretty quickly. and the thing is that once you are wet, you are wet! it is not as if you can get wetter once you are wet. so yesterday as i was riding home from the counseling center, i got caught in it. and i got wet. and it felt remarkable. at one point a bus spashed water on my and i didn't even get upset, because i was already wet and the additional water was cool and electric all at the same time. there was a feeling of just not caring if i got wet, because it was raining, and that is what happens when it rains.

i am writing about this because it does not rain here very much, and because i was able to notice how my thinking about the rain is so different than most of the people who live here--the ones who dash from shelter to shelter and see rain as an inconvenience.

Friday, January 28, 2011

changing perspectives, part one

last year when madonna was on david letterman's show, she was asked by the host if she thought she would ever fall in love again. the 52-year old icon paused, then answered, "oh, i don't know. i think maybe i have lost perspective". this was a brilliant moment of television for me, folks. it reminded me of the scene in "truth or dare" where sandra bernhard is asking her who she would like to meet in the world, and madonna responds, "i think i have already met everybody". well! if madonna is losing perspective, then we all better just hide in our caves! since her appearance on letterman, i have thought a lot about what she has said, and wondered exactly what it might mean for someone like her to lose perspective (on love). is it possible to have so many lovers in one's life that love, at some point, simply cries wolf at the door?

like madonna, i have had my fair share of lovers--and perhaps others' fair share as well, truth be told, and i consider myself very fortunate to be able to attract a variety of experiences to my life. believe it or not, it has become easier to do as i have gotten older, and nobody is more surprised at this than i. and yet, wouldn't ya know it, with ease of attraction comes the existential dilemma of diminishing returns in the Meaning department. simply put, once the mystery of acquisition is solved, a commodity often loses desirability--not a rule, but a theory--and soon to follow is the requisite loss of perspective. see, with enough patience the madonna story finally figured in nicely!

so my guess is that madonna finds herself at the beck and call of yet another gorgeous 21 year old south american model, let's say, and in the middle of the whole thing wonders to herself: is that all there is? or maybe this is just me i'm talking about, but not quite yet. and to be honest, i have no idea what madonna is thinking, so let's just bring it back to me.

the whole perspective thing is coming up because i am beginning to wonder if it is my perspective, rather than my experience, that is getting me into trouble here in los angeles. this wondering did not fall from the sky, i have in fact been reading a book that is leading me to look at how i look at things, or more correctly, how i think about things. the book is an old one, well, old in that it was written in 1980. it is called "feeling good", and the author is david d. burns, m.d. i decided to read it because there are a lot of my fellow counselors who have found it valuable when working with depressed clients. i am, in fact, beginning to use it with some of my clients, but for the sake of this blog, i can report that i have also been using it on myself. nutshell: the way we feel is a result of how we think about things--adjust the dominant thought and change the way you feel about something. (it's a nutshell, folks. read the book.) if i were to look at, say, the way i think about los angeles, could there be something in there that could be negatively affecting my experience here? survey says...YES!

this is basic cognitive therapy, some of which i have used in the past on both myself and with clients. so why does it seem so radical as i read it now? i think that it may be that i am applying the logic to how i think about this city and its people, and perhaps these are subjects that are challenging for me to tamper with. and yet, and yet, i feel rather urgently that i must indeed tamper! this is because i want to avoid, if at all possible, making a mistake about leaving los angeles. how would i know that i had made a mistake? simple--i would have exactly the same experience with people in another city that i do here. and unless everyone is the same everywhere (something i doubt, concerning friendliness and approachability), then it may be mostly my thinking about people that is leading the proposed exodus.

i have explored how i think about angelinos in previous blogs, but for this post's sake, let's review here:
-angelinos are all obsessed with only youth and money
-angelinos HATE bikers and think they are lower class and have no place on the road
-angelinos have complete disregard for anyone other than themselves and those they know and like
-angelinos suffer from excess entitlement
-angelinos are angry at me because i am gay and loud and beginning to suffer less in life
-angelinos carry around too much narcissism to ever really care about another person
okay, so that's the short list!

wonder if there might be a distortion or two in my thinking???

to be continued...