and then a month passed

Alain went home. I was sad. Cait and her family visited! It was fun! We didn’t travel for the eclipse because the kids started school that day. So far school seems to be going okay. It turns out that being a full-time working-out-of-the-home mother of school age children? Is very difficult. Working a few hours a week is much more compatible with actually, you know. Showing up for your own kids.

Julia and I did a wheel class at Pinckney Clay. We’d already done hand building, which I liked fine, but the wheel is magical. It was like riding, or doing yoga. When the clay centered itself, I could feel the rightness of it. You lean into the vortex of the numinous.

I suppose for the sake of completeness I should add that a newish horse at McIntosh launched me into orbit and I landed on my head and neck hard enough to see stars. I went straight from the barn to the doctor: no concussion, no spinal injury. It did a number on my confidence, though. I’m doing lots of yoga and eating healthy and going for lots of calm, positive rides, all of which I should’ve been doing all along. I also had a glorious massage with a dude whose hands were so big he could hold my entire head in his palm. (The offending horse, by the way, turns out to be an utter sweetheart. I can only assume I jabbed him awkwardly with a spur. Just one of those things.)

I’ve been doing another 50 Books by POC challenge. Best discoveries: Deborah A. Miranda, Hilton Als, Sherman Alexie (I know, I know), Frederick Douglass, and Alice Walker (I KNOW.) Right now, I am listening to Walker read her own The Color Purple on audiobook and it’s so good, so funny and wise and wrenching, I look forward to traffic jams. Best rediscoveries: Samantha Irby, Aziz Ansari, Nnedi Okorafor.

The big world continues to burn. I donate, I yell at my representatives, I march in the streets. It’s been filthy hot and today got more and more humid until the sky went black and the light went strange and a thunderstorm broke over the city like the atmosphere bursting into tears.

arizona road trip

Meteor Crater. Exactly what it says on the tin. Super impressive.

Grand Canyon. The Coconino sandstone at the very bottom of the crater? Is the pale band right at the top of these cliffs. Nigh-unfathomable.

perspective

Alain’s going home next week and this distresses me, so we climbed Mount Tam about it.

I love that mountain. It’s a magical island above a sea of Karl the Fog. From up there you can see San Francisco as it really is: a city made of dreams.

We also took in the usual suspects: the Japanese Tea Gardens, Cal Academy, De Young, Japantown Mall and SF MOMA. Al had seen most (all?) of these before but it’s always nice to look at things from a different point of view.

The city is a spaceship, and a time machine.

goings on about town

Hashtag best summer ever continues. We went to the Berkeley Kite Festival, where Alain and I flew a kite in memory of our Dad. Dad made this particular kite for me – it must be nearly forty years old – and it ran up into the wind like it was impatient to fly again. Then we ate spicy spicy food at Vik’s Chaat House and ran over to the Oakland Museum of California. “It’s inside out,” Jeremy explained to the kids. “Inside the building is where you buy tickets, and outside is all of California.”

It’s a jewel of a place and we’ll be back, but y’all should hurry up and see the Dorothea Lange exhibit that closes on August 27. Migrant Mother is there, of course, but so are a dozen less-well-known images with the same power to cut you to the bone. Especially painful is the series on the Japanese internments, so humanizing of its subjects that despite being commissioned by the government, it was suppressed for the duration of the war. An accompanying film remarks on the behavior of the internees: “They were trying to be good citizens.”

Yesterday we visited the Cable Car Museum which, like La Brea, is a great big overdone metaphor for its hometown. To start with, there are the vast wheels turning underground, drawing citizens inexorably uphill. San Francisco, clockwork city. But it’s even worse than that. As in LA, auto, oil and rubber interests tried to get rid of urban transit systems after the war, but in SF this sparked a citizen’s revolt. Furious activism saved the cable cars and now they are protected in perpetuity, to be an overpriced tourist attraction.

Ridiculous city, how I love you. This was a Pyrrhic victory maybe, but one that paved the way for the future citizen activists who tore down freeways and helped find treatments for AIDS. They say it’s science fiction that’s the fantasy of political agency but it’s also true of the other SF.

socal road trip

Alain wanted to visit Legoland, so I plotted a route to Carlsbad that took in La Brea on the way. I was about 13 when Dad came home from a business trip to LA, overflowing with excitement about the tar pits, the dire wolves and the saber tooths, the bison, the sloths and oh my God, the mastodons.

I went looking for that Dad, of course. Young Dad, enthusiastic Dad, the Dad who brought the world to life for me. He isn’t there, what with being dead and all, but he was less not-there than usual. Having Alain with me was part of it. Another part was seeing Oscar Isaac in Hamlet a couple of weeks ago, sitting at his dead father’s feet with his head bowed. I cried for his grief as I’ve been unable to cry for my own.

It’s hard to make fossils, but in the tar pits, the conditions are just right. This display includes less than a tenth of the dire wolf skulls alone. La Brea’s full yield is in the hundreds of thousands. My own tar pits, the darknesses that pull me under, are likewise rich in ice age bone jumbles. My job is to uncover them with care, and to document the shit out of them.

seascapes with humpback plumes

fresh-caught artisanal comedy

Alain: “Why are cows amazing?”

Me: “I don’t know, why are cows amazing?”

Alain: “Because they’re outstanding in their field!”

(Chorus of groans)

Me: “Knock knock.”

Alain: “Who’s there?”

Me: “Interrupting cow!”

Alain and me in unison: “MOO!”

Claire: “See, you can’t tell each other jokes because you grew up together and you already know them all!”

Me: “So this horse walks into a bar.”

Alain: “And the barman says, Why the long face?”

Me: “And the horse says, Is this some kind of joke?”

Jeremy: “Knock knock.”

Me: “Who’s there?”

Jeremy: “Interrupting cow.”

Me: “Interrupting cow who?”

Jeremy: “Would you like to see my Nobel prize?”

Me: “Why do you have a Nobel prize?”

Jeremy: “Because I’m outstanding in my field.”

(CHORUS OF GROANS INTENSIFIES)

white girls, by hilton als

as an unreconstructed seventies lesbian, the commercial world of magazines and praise was corrupt, why would I want any part of that, why care, I don’t care.

bad indians, by deborah miranda

The original acts of colonization and violence broke the world, broke our hearts, broke the connection between soul and flesh. For many of us, this trauma happens again in each generation

reclaimed local comedy

Me: “Do you wanna see Philip Glass in concert?”

Jeremy: “Um.” Me (interrupting): “Do you wanna see Philip Glass in concert?”

Jeremy: “Um.” Me (interrupting): “Do you wanna see Philip Glass in concert?”

Jeremy: “Um.” Me (interrupting): “Do you wanna see Philip Glass in concert?”

(We high five.)

Later

Jeremy: “There’s some kind of shriveled, wizened, dead thing on the soap dish.”

Me: “It’s goat’s milk soap, from Wellstone.”

Jeremy: “It’s definitely dead.”

Me: “It’s artisanal.

Jeremy: “Maybe there’s some really great-looking soap out partying somewhere, and this is the soap of Dorian Gray?”

Me: “That joke never gets old.”

raven stratagem, by yoon ha lee

sin x2 had said, They’re our Kel. Someone should be with them at the end, even if they never know or understand. Then the others, realizing it would not be dissuaded, left it alone. sin x2 wasn’t under any illusions that the hive Kel cared about it except as an instrument for necessary chores, and sometimes unnecessary ones. It knew that the hivemind became less and less sane with each passing year. Nevertheless, it considered itself Kel. Someone from its enclave should honor Kel Command’s passing.

hashtag funemployed hashtag summer of love

In May, the tech industry and I parted ways under circumstances I am contractually obligated to describe as mutual. Ever since, I’ve been having the greatest summer of my life. The bestie and I drove out to the eastern Sierras to see the wild mustang herds that live up around the Montgomery Pass. The high desert was hock-deep in wildflowers, and we spent three hours one sunny afternoon sitting on a hillside watching the wild horses fight and fuck. Mono Lake looks like the surface of another, possibly better planet, and asks to be further explored.

Then I won a residency at a writer’s center down in Santa Cruz and spent a week alone in a cabin on the edge of the redwoods. There were hummingbirds and mule deer and quail. I’d wake at 6 or 7 as usual, then read for a couple of hours, then have coffee and maybe go for a hike. Then, with only short breaks for meals, I’d draft scenes or type them up until late in the evening. When I got stuck, I’d copy out poems by hand.

I realized that, for longer than I can remember, I have been in an antagonistic relationship with time: late for work, behind on deadlines, scrambling to make as many memories with my kids and parents as I possibly could. Suddenly the days roll out before me, not as ordeals to be endured, but as hours for creative work, hours to hang around with the girls and Jeremy (without whom none of this would be possible), hours to spend at the barn, hours to binge on books.

I always regretted not taking real bereavement leave after Mum and then Dad died. I guess I’m doing it now, just a couple of years late. A friend said: “Your voice sounds lighter.” Idleness becomes me.

slightly behind and to the left, by claire light

It seems sad, but when men leave, the more they leave, the less their leaving means. Some leave before they leave, and others absent themselves without ever leaving. Some were never there to begin with — markers of men who took up the space where a real man should be: Father, Uncle, Minister, Mentor

extracurricular activities, by yoon ha lee

Jedao had a standard method for dealing with new commanders, which was to research them as if he planned to assassinate them.

ninefox gambit, by yoon ha lee

Someday someone might come up with a better government, one in which brainwashing and the remembrances’ ritual torture weren’t an unremarkable fact of life. Until then, he did what he could.

ben, in the world, by doris lessing

The girl became a television star and was to be seen every day on the screens in Rio. This was a kind of happy ending, and the girl certainly thought so, at least at the beginning of her career: when she was older she was not so sure.

hunger, a memoir of (my) body, by roxane gay

She is still small and scared and ashamed, and perhaps I am writing my way back to her, trying to tell her everything she needs to hear.

all systems red, by martha wells

As a heartless killing machine, I was a terrible failure.

the secret place, by tana french

Mates mean you’ve settled, made your bargain: this, wherever you are together, this is as far as you’re going, ever. This is your stop; this is where you get off.

gray, by pete wentz

My happiness is not in the best interest of their stockholders. We are commodities now, we are the down payment on some CEO’s waterfront property. We are making another album.