There is an Ohlone song, for example, from which only one evocative line survives: Dancing on the brink of the world. We know nothing more about this song, just that one haunting line.
Archive for the 'san francisco' Category
Marching in the cold rain, my END WHITE SUPREMACY sign sagging, my husband and children festooned with glowstick necklaces, my city jammed with peaceful protestors from Civic Center to the Ferry Building: Market Street one river of loving souls.
The next day, beyond exhausted, crashed out on the couch; shy Alice making her way up onto my chest, quietly as if I might not notice, then crashing out there with me for most of the afternoon. Her fur from which no light escapes. The soft floof that grows out between her toe beans.
Driving up Bernal Hill with Liz to enjoy the raggedy clouds and dramatic light and rainbows. Stopping in silence at Alex Nieto’s memorial, a landslide of flowers.
An emergency drill at NERT to teach us how to self-organize and keep records. Head down counting people in and out of Logistics as incident after incident came in to Planning and Operations; adrenaline and worry and focus and exhilaration. When we got through it, high-fives all round.
At the exquisitely restored Curran Theatre to see Fun Home with my wife and our kids (it’s great; you should go.) The audience filled with lesbians a generation older than us; the ones who cared for men dying of AIDS; my angels, the saints of our city. May I walk in their sacred footsteps.
Catching the night bus to Thoughtworks with Liz so that Danny and Jeremy would meet us at BATS, so that even though I bugged out early because overtired, the people who really needed to be there would be there. Seeing Maciej talk about resisting authoritarianism through solidarity and feeling the hairs rise on the back of my neck, because this is the moment he was born for.
Walking through bucketing rain to visit our neighborhood masjid with Jewish Voices for Peace, and drinking scaldingly hot, sweet chai while our hosts prayed to Allah.
Having a lesson on Sam in the covered arena right at Golden Hour of Barnhenge. The sunlight flooded in over the indigo mountains and spring-green pasture and red-gold autumn trees, and the cantering horses’ hooves reached down to kiss the hooves of their elongated shadows. In other lessons, I am pointing him at higher and higher fences and feeling no fear, just joy in his glad grace, the effortless delight of him. The new footing in both arenas, springy and inviting.
Getting rick-rolled by Nancy Pelosi at the rally to support the Affordable Care Act at City Hall. Never gonna give you up! The glare of bright sunshine, the edged bite of the winter wind.
That same evening, taking a yoga class with Julia and Annie Sprinkle.
Lots of them, in fact. Snow in Central Park. Laughing, giddy, with Leonard and Sumana and Brendan and Kat and Claire and Julia, saying “What do you wanna do now? Shall we go see that show, what’s it called, the one about Hamilton? Yeah, let’s go see Hamilton!” Sitting around the evening campfires on Diamond Beach, toasting Mum and Dad with gin and tonic and love. Walking into La Sagrada Familia and feeling my knees buckle. Christmas Eve, when we saw the Bernal coyote, her golden eyes, her wild face. And every single moment with Sam Horse, my wisest, kindest teacher since last January 1.
When I went back to church in November, I chose an Episcopalian (Anglican) church because of a dark wave of rage and grief and protest that rose inside me, to the effect that it was my mother’s church and her mother’s church before her, and terrible men tried to take it from me, and they can’t have it, because it’s mine. So too this year. So, too, my life.
1. Slow-dancing with Captain Calkins to White Christmas this afternoon, in a sunbeam, under the mistletoe
2. Taking a Lyft home from Erik’s memorial last night, weeping, and then talking heart-to-heart to my driver about his friend who died of cancer in El Salvador on Wednesday
3. Jeremy’s birthday dinner at Gary Danko on Wednesday, the highlights of which were the cheese cart, and the fact that we were so obviously enjoying one another’s company that when a cake with a candle appeared it read not “Happy Birthday” but “Happy Anniversary”
4. Hearing Mae Jemison talk about space: “I wasn’t scared. I loved it. If I could’ve stayed out there in a glass bubble with my cat, I’d still be there”
5. Learning how to use the indirect rein with Sam Horse, and feeling his movement flow into a more consistent contact and his pleased response: Huh. You’re leveling up.
It’s Embarrassing Sincerity Day in California (when isn’t it) so you should know that if you’re reading this I am grateful for you. I am grateful for Barack and Michelle Obama. I’m grateful for California and its badass Reps and Senators and state legislature. I’m grateful for San Francisco, my sanctuary city. Today and every day I am grateful for my queer and trans friends, my immigrant friends, my friends who are people of color, my disabled friends, my friends who teach, and my friends who care for the sick and dying. This is my America and it’s worth fighting for. Here is a pavlova.
It’s been a long year. The kid and I went to a concert. That was pretty great.
I was in the lobby of an office building when these quilts caught my eye.
The sun shines out of this city, if you ask me.
We did good.
Sorry for the radio silence, but we landed and instantly started or restarted new jobs (me and J), new schools (smaller J) and/or searches for new schools (C). It’s been busy!
We sure did miss our various critters. (Taking this adorable goober to a horse show in a coupla weeks; stay tuned.)
Europe definitely gave me new eyes for the beauty and fun of our home.
Feeling a zillion times cheerier and more energized than when I left. Mark of a proper vacation.
As a fan of sunbeams and meadows, I am very much in favor of Mt Tam.
Some of our short roommates share my enthusiasm for these landscapes.
Others find the whole California thing kind of tacky and overdone.
This is what the Stanford campus looks like in spring and it is completely unacceptable.
Look at this. It’s outrageous.
Something ought to be done.
With the rain after the drought, the hills are exuding mad chlorophyll with everything they’ve got. It’s wall to wall wildflowers around here. It rained again this afternoon and as I drove up 280 after riding Sam, the clouds and the fog in the valleys made the vivid green hills of Woodside look like Irish countryside.
The red-tailed hawks are very fat and happy.
The Week of All the Deathiversaries, which I have taken to calling Shark Week for short, ended with some kind of football game which I resolved to go to the far end of our metropolitan area in order to avoid.
Pretty safe to say that we have, as a family, grown fond of kayaking. Among the floating homes of Sausalito we discovered this round, glassy lagoon. Venice has nothin’ on us.
I would also like to call out this colony of harbor seals for some really fine achievements in lolling.
I like it here.
Claire is at Star Wars again, Jeremy and Julia are with Yoz and Dexter and I am sitting in the house alone with the kittens and the clothes dryer! Amazing scenes.
I have become the type of mother that keeps a To-do list of holiday activities in Evernote; Ian accuses me of being “improving.” Monday we finished off the Christmas shopping – Desigual had a sale so the children made out like bandits, as you shall see. Tuesday we went ice skating, Wednesday we visited the Winchester Mystery House, which was more interesting than I had expected, and the Tech Museum of Innovation, which was slightly less. God love my little wolf pack, though; they can kill hours in even the most dated of science museums.
Christmas Eve we had lasagne at Jack’s house, and I made a very ugly pavlova; Christmas morning we went out for Claire’s birthday dim sum and then to Ian and Lisa’s for Orphan’s Christmas, where I made a very pretty pavlova. It was all very delicious and satisfactory.
Yesterday we finally made it to MoAD, which has terrific shows by Alison Saar and Kenyatta A. C. Hinkle, all about black women’s bodies and the pressure of history and the thorns and glass and glitter beneath the surface; and to the Contemporary Jewish Museum which had a great show full of robotics and color and light, of which the below was my absolute favorite.
I lay there for a while pretending to be an astrophysicist studying a white dwarf from a ship in zero-G while Jeremy and Julia came and went around me at interesting angles. I’ve checked off not-quite-half the items on my To-do list, and it’s been a terrific holiday.
Yesterday I drove north, past a bonfire and through an almost Sydney-severe rainsquall, to where California State Route 16 West peels off from I-505 into Yolo County. There, the sun came out and shone on the dry Capay Hills, turning them lemon and gold in front of the smudged indigo mountains behind them.
I wanted so badly to go into those warm yellow hills! And then Highway 16 took me around a corner and into Rumsey Canyon, carved out of the stone by Cache Creek, all geology and cattle pasture and gnarled old oaks. I wanted so badly to get out and walk around! And then Google took me up a still narrower canyon through which Bear Creek was running and gently steaming, and I met Tina at Wilbur Hot Springs, a gorgeous place that smells in a very friendly way of eggy farts.
We soaked in the hot green sulfurous water, shared bread and cheese and salami and radishes and olives and champagne and a little chocolate, rode bikes through the nature preserve, past the geyser to the wind chime forest, and talked about books and politics and our children and our partners and the parties we used to throw in the 90s and her painting and my writing and her sister, my friend Jen. We were urged to leave our electronics behind, and I did, so I don’t have any pictures, sorry about that.
Tina and I don’t see each other often enough and this has to be changed. As I drove back, the near-full moon rose on my left through a pink band of sunset. It followed me home to the city.
Today I drove south to a stable in the redwoods, where Salome and I saddled up and rode two bright gold pony mares through the forest to a chain of meadows in the sun. We talked about work and education and our children and her painting and my writing and our plans for the future. I stuck my iPhone in my jacket pocket, so here are some pictures for you.
We saw five mule deer, the sun pink through their absurd ears. One gentle doe was napping under the trees, curled like a cat.
California is so impossibly motherfucking beautiful sometimes, it actually kind of hurts.
After a hot spell that seemed to last at least a couple of years, San Francisco finally woke up in late autumn the other day. All the women wore their knee high boots and sweaters and scarves, and everyone looked relieved and cozy. I remembered a moment in ’99 or 2000 when, unlocking the front door of our apartment building on Alabama Street, I felt a breath of chill in the twilight and for the first time ever, got excited for Halloween and the Day of the Dead and Thanksgiving, for pumpkin pie and hot apple cider. For winter in America.
Smells, like music, short-circuit the rational mind. Today I stood over a tray of cheap romance novels outside a thrift store on Valencia and breathed their binding glue and ached to be with Mum. I walked under the Moreton Bay fig in the grounds of St Lukes, and trod on the figs crushed into the pavement just as I always did on the way to Rick’s house. In Rainbow Grocery, I caught the scent of a just-opened tin of Cadbury’s Roses, and what it meant: the family Christmas.
It was hard enough to write about Mum’s death, which seemed to reduce me to a mental age of 12. Dad’s death seems to have left me almost pre-verbal. My appetite is picky and fugitive and my sleep fitful and unsatisfying. I am at most 5. I dreamed I was a mad old cat lady in France, and that I ended up spending my days rambling through the vineyards with the twin sons of the coke-snorting couple in the party chateau next door.
“Most of my dreams are obvious, but that one wasn’t,” I said to Jeremy, who rolled his eyes.
The parents were asleep on the job, but I sat by the river while the wild-haired, speechless little boys played in the dark water, and I made sure they didn’t drown.
I spent the week in Vegas for work, which is always deeply strange, like going to a habitat on Mars. You fly in over red wasteland and craters and then everything is under one roof and you never go outside. Except for one walk along the lobby of the convention center after the keynote, I had no direct sunlight for four days. Not good. How can I photosynthesize under these conditions.
It was an indescribable relief to be home, basking in a sun-drenched San-Francisco-in-October day, even if the Blue Angels were roaring overhead, reminding us that our space for progressive pacifism is provisional and may be revoked at any time. Claire spent the same four days at a school camp and I met her at the bus. She was filthy and cheerful. She demanded that I play Hamilton in the car, and she wanted Peruvian for lunch: “Camp food was too bland.” Definitely my kid, then. We had empanadas and lomo saltado and chicken and sweet potato fries and mango lemonade. She told me the camp gossip and I caught her up on our mutual fandoms. Mallory Ortberg discovered Steven Universe, which makes us both very happy.
I missed her in a new way during this separation, not only as my kid but as someone who makes me laugh in her own right, who makes me think. Someone I would want to be friends with anyway.
The city has had a series of almost tastelessly lurid sunsets lately and tonight’s was ablaze.
“The sky is weird colours,” I told Jeremy.
“You’ve been in Vegas,” he said. “You haven’t seen the sky.”
“The sky is colours!”
(I already used half these jokes on Twitter; sorry about that.)
Let’s say, for a moment, that the character of a city has an effect on its inhabitants, and that it sets the frequency on which it calls out to the migratory. People who are tuned a certain way will heed the call almost without knowing why. Thinking they’ve chosen this city, they’ll never know that the city chose them.
It’s a favorite myth in our culture that hardship makes you a better person, that it is merely the grindstone on which your essence is refined and polished. But the truth is that scarcity, depression, thwarted ambition, and suffering most often leave the person a little twisted.
We all occupy space on top of one atrocity or another, blood has coated every square inch of this earth.
My childhood was one of deprivation. Not deprivation in a material sense but a deprivation of beauty. Which might not sound like much, unless you live on beauty, unless it is your air and water and religion.
The south of France of today is what happens to a place when all the artists, the queers, and the misfits have been driven out by rising prices and improving “quality of life.” The rich are attracted to the places built by the freaks, the heat and the noise of places like Berlin, New York, San Francisco, and then they strip the cities down to their stumps like an insect swarm, driving off any biodiversity until all that is left is people with money.
You are not standing in the London of today but in the London of forever, its pasts and its futures, real and imagined.
What saves you is a new story to tell yourself about how things could be.