Thursday, March 28, 2013

Oh Danny Boy, The Pipes Are Callin'

An interesting controversy going on in San Francisco while I was there dealt with Maxfield Parrish's painting, The Pied Piper of Hamelin...
It's been behind the bar at the Palace Hotel forever, but they decided to sell it, which some people thought was a good idea as it's being damaged sitting in a bar, exposed to lights and possible splashes (no more smoke at least!). Anyway, there was an outcry at its removal, and claiming you're doing what's best for art by selling it for millions is kind of disingenuous of the hotel (they could donate it to the Legion of Honor or de Young after all). Art belongs to everybody, and whats more accessible than a bar? Then again, shouldn't kids be able to see a work of art that deals with a rather interesting treatment of children, disappearing them into a mountain? I have my own take on the story...the pied piper saved the children, he returned them to the Wordsworthian paradise from which they came, delivering them en masse from the sad drama of human life and the burgers who do things like rip off pied pipers.

Having led my friends and readers into the mountain(s)[literally in Faun, and right over the mountains in Horse], I departed the always stunningly beautiful bay area, and flew off to Seattle to dwell below the volcanoes of the Cascades for a spell.

This is actually looking east from Seattle to Bellevue where I lived out my childhood years (the place has grown huge, mostly due to Microsoft, which was only a vague dream in some young nerd's fantasy world when I lived here. Could it be Faun and Horse and Microsoft all existed in some cosmic dreamtime waiting room, and if so, what waits there now?). Anyway, back to earth: It has been my good fortune (not to sound too 19th. c.) to have grown up in two of the most beautiful cities in America

Leslie veered up to the curb at SeaTac as I arrived, driving a beat-up old Nissan pickup (one of many things we have in common, though mine is the lesser vehicle being a '94 Ford Ranger, which I'd actually planned, in my setting-out enthusiasm, to drive here...fortunately, I disabused myself of such a plan, the 14 hr. drive being a deciding factor, not to mention the iffiness of  such a steed, and the fact that I am truly air-wealthy after flying to Argentina and still working through my pile of earned miles). 

Les and I met in Sacramento when we were both at the end of collapsing relationships with our doctor partners who were in the UC Davis residency program, and rarely ever seen, so taxing are such programs. Leslie and I spent many lovely days walking everywhere in Sacramento. She took me to a rockclimbing gym and taught me so much--it was a real peak experience for me to learn how to wall climb--the balance, the meditative mindfulness, the connection to one's body. I became a spider and I love spiders. 

We both headed in different directions, but have kept in touch. She went off to become a sheepherder in Montana (she's also a carpenter, a blacksmith, an artist, an of Jack Kerouac's exploding roman candles, mad to live, to learn, to female version of Neal Cassady :) 
Myself...I went back to LA to discover the good people of LAANE who have expanded my life enormously and who I already miss:
Miss you Stella!

Les and I went to her little cottage in the Seward Park neighborhood, drank wine and listened to her amazing voice. She's the lead singer of Empire Way...listen here:
...she used to sing with Whiskywater:
She also has a love interest who is just as creative and interesting. Meet Shelli Markee:

I especially love Shelli's installation of 100 wire birds in a nearby cafe. Sometimes something strikes you as just kind of perfect. So struck me, her birds.

Anyway, Leslie just passed her Occupational Therapy Board Exam and is ready to depart yet again...headed for the Navajo Reservation where she has worked previously. I plan to visit her there in the summer if there is any money left in my bank account after this long tour.

Les caused me to break my rule of no drinking before dark

Speaking of doctors who matriculated at UC Davis, there's Tin's name (Tin is pictured in a previous blog entry as I stayed with him in SF) which appears in the oddest places

Les and I once again walked all over...cherry blossoms everywhere...cloudy skies but no rain, and the peaceful feeling of cloudcover, the windlessness and quietness while moss and plants sprout up everywhere...always beautifully shocking to see the plant life here after being in good old dessicated California for so long

People share books via their front yards here

Les also does sculpture (what doesn't she do?) Unfortunately, her lady fell over and lost her head and feet. But I like it better this way actually. 

Les does not like my loud Uruguayan alarm clock! She disabled it. I sleep in the kitchen on a pad so it's close quarters in her little cottage. (That Rushdie book is good: The Jaguar's Smile, which is about Nicaragua under the Sandinistas...another lost opportunity like Vietnam where the US stupidly put fear before justice...same as it ever was. The hypocrisy of America is endless and depressing. Les says lots of American retirees are now moving to strange the neoliberal course of history runs....

Ar artful cottage we passed on our peregrinations

More beauty at the clay studio down the lake

In case you were wondering what 'blue ribbon' livin' was all about:

Vermillion Gallery where I read with Eric Andrews-Katz and Kristin Marra

Oddly, I immediately recognized this gallery as Tin and I had visited it when we went to a lesbian wedding a few years back. Gay marriage is now legal in Washington, and as most of you know, the Supreme Court is currently hearing the DOMA and Prop 8 cases, with rulings expected in June:
Eric has been married 4 times (to the same man! first as domestic partners, then in Canada, then back here before it was legal and finally for real here in WA when it was legalized)

Hugh Reilly appeared in a welder's cap. This is a long and wonderful story. Hugh is a friend of my friend Donn Tatum (in last blog entry) and Donn took a liking to his welder's cap when they were working on their sailboats together up here in Seattle. I sensed Donn was launching a new fad and went in search of said cap before everyone on the west coast started wearing them. But I was repeatedly stymied as welding shops closed as I ran toward them down the sidewalk in the flats of Berkeley (had to go to the East Bay as SF is basically a post-industrial city where nothing is manufactured but ideas and apps). Well, I gave up, but Donn reassured me that when I got to Seattle, Hugh would direct me to a welding shop. Instead, Hugh showed up at Vermillion and he had a welding cap hanging out of his back pocket just for me :) Hugh is also an alumni of the same Berkeley fraternity I was in (which is rare as it's a small fraternity as fraternities go. Even rarer are gay novelists who were once fraternity my poem Brotherhood for that long sad, but healing, tale). But what's even weirder was that Tom Biehl soon walked in. He's a surgeon here in Seattle and was also once a member of that fraternity concurrently with me. Here he sits with Les at the afterparty drinking Pear cider

Tom Biehl is the man who taught me how to backpack. I was a city boy and he was an Eagle Scout. All I had to give him in return was his first toke of weed. Perhaps a fair exchange, but I doubt it. Backpacking is among the chief passions of my life and every trail I trudge, Tom is walking somewhere alongside, in front of, or behind me. Like Tindo, I seem unable to say his name without running first and last name together, so he is, to me, tombiehl. Off to Whidby Island this weekend for a private book reading with a group of retired gay men I got to know through the Gay Men's Spiritual Retreat back in my SF days.

Monday, March 25, 2013

San Francisco Wraps

 Yes, that's a double entendre....meaning both completion and the burrito-ization of the sandwich that this city is slowly perfecting. My most recent was a falafel wrap generously proferred by Jim Provenzano (see his pic below) before seeing ODC at the Yerba Buena Center. They are one of the seminal modern dance companies in the bay area, and their work was inspiring and beautiful (I always want to write after seeing modern dance). Here are the dancers after the show with choreographers, taking questions

Books Inc was a great event. I read with Mark Abramson to a packed house of about 60 people and sold out all the books they had on hand (which I've never done before). Special thanks goes to Mark who delivered on every level, publicizing the event, reading from his memoir, setting up an afterparty across the street at Cafe Flor and feeding me tofu before the show (to make up for the beef stew of earlier blog). What a superb dude.

With David Robinson who I admire so much for his lifelong activism. He was my hero from those brutalest years of the AIDS epidemic when, along with his boyfriend, he created before me a picture of love and justice that has stuck with me ever since and inspired my own commitment to bettering the world. It was great to have him there as people discussed those harrowing and heart-rending times, which sadly, though much mitigated thanks to activist leaders like David, are still with us.

Maggie Ballard who I met in Chile and hung out with later in Buenos Aires, and who now lives in Berkeley

Quite a reunion here...left to right: my brother Terry, his friend and nurse from long ago, Carolyn (both were characterized in my first novel), my cousin Megan and me in one of those horrid closed-eyes photos that one gets stuck with now and again because they want to share a photo of the other people.

Kristine who does the Naked Girls Reading series

Below Joachim Mueller-Lance who I know from way back and who is a hugely talented graphic designer and artist from Freiburg Germany

Filmmaker Yuri Sivo (in hat), musician John Parsons (long hair) and the back of Kevin Drury's head

Kirk Read, performer and author, who tirelessly serves his community artistically and as an expert on public health. He co-hosts, with Larry-bob Roberts, the Magnet open mic where I was the featured reader the night before Books Inc. He is among the best emcees anywhere--a truly natural talent--and needs to become the queer alterna-Ellen.

Jack Davis (left), one of the most important queer witches here or anywhere, and a good friend to many, as well as caregiver to the late Harry Hay and John Burnside. I admire him a lot. At right, Linc Madison, who I have a torrid history with and who is the epitomy of good humor.

David Weissman, filmmaker...most recently, he made the excellent AIDS documentary, We Were Here

Luz y Patricia who work at the local coffeeshop near Tin's house, where I was staying. I got to know them over the week as they tirelessly teased me while practicing Spanish with me

Probably the most important gay bar of my generation, and still going strong. Everything happened here.

Around the corner are the offices of the Bay Area Reporter, where my friend author Jim Provenzano works (he also took me to ODC..see above). The offices are in what was once an trucker's hotel, so it's sort of laid out like a Motel 6. I am on the outdoor walkway in front of his door looking in.

Brother Horehound. We connected through poetry 25 years ago and have a heart bond that is timeless and sweet

The Baldwin Arms, where the character Vince lived in my first novel. I keep thinking it won't be there one day, but I always go by to check and see as someone I loved very much lived there once.

Grafitti in the alley next to the Baldwin Arms, which speaks pretty much for itself. 6th Street.

I collect Mona Lisa derivations...she's now in touch with aliens it appears 

I took a trip out to the Presidio, which was once a military fort, then became a national park, which it still is, but now you can actually live there as they have refurbished the formerly abandoned military housing. My friend Donn Tatum lives in one of these houses, and I journeyed out to see his sculpture of Queen Califia, mythic amazon queen that California is named for.
Donn is writing an immense and comprehensive tome on the discovery of California

Yet another painfully pretty view from a San Francisco cafe..I always take time to run off and read and write a little when in San Francisco--it has almost as many cafes as Buenos Aires.

Then it was off to see Dennis Turner, who has retired and put all his energy into his garden, which is a truly magical one. Here he's looking very Whitmanesque, relaxing among the blooms of his masterpiece.

What he sees when he wakes up each morning:

Finally, with my buddy Yuri (see above pic of him in hat), a filmmaker I met in LA, we visited the Eugene O'Neill House (, which is Danville, a suburb near where I went to high school. O'Neill wrote Long Days Journey into Night here, among other works. He lived here longer than anyplace else he ever lived (7 yrs) when Danville was just ranches and orchards. It's an idyllic spot still, and community theater is staged in the barn. 

My Dad may be 82, but his memory is as good and organized as ever. I would have forgotten this extra car key I left with him when I dumped off my '94 Ford in front of his house

Hiking in Redwood Canyon south of Moraga with Marty Doolin below

South America is never far. I stumbled off the BART Train, reading Tomas Eloy Martinez's Tango Singer and passing by this Andean musician

Later I ran into Che himself....the permutations of Che are he appears on a tote bag, the better to lug around your capitalist booty. San Francisco