The ChuckleHut

[ Friday, November 29, 2002 ]

 
THANKFUL DAN
Ten weeks to the day since I broke my wrist. I can now look on the experience pretty much in hindsight and see it, with certain qualifications, as a blessing. Maybe it's just this Thanksgiving season, holdover that it is from pagan and pre-semitic harvest rituals and other less elevating sources, and maybe I'm a little emotional because we got to host thanksgiving and have my mom and sister and her husband, and Jon and his wife, two kids (one just ten days old) and his mom as well - a consumatory orgy with five kids under three years old and seventeen adults and nine pies plus four other complete desserts, two turkeys, spiced toasted almonds and crisp sweet persimmon slices and we've still got four bottles of the nouveaux left over... yea, it was an evening of indulgences and intergenerational communion, and that made me feel all warm and gooey inside, perhaps more inclined than usual to be thankful for my great friends, wonderful job and life, cool apartment, awesome dog and loving cat, all that stuff that I usually give thanks for...

But it's ten weeks to the day since I broke my wrist and I do actually feel thankful for several aspects of that experience. These items of thankfulness vary from things that could have gone worse, to things that just worked out really well, into things that the experience brought to me, elicited from me or something that I think I learned. So despite further ado, here are 24 Things About My Broken Wrist That I'm Thankful For (in random order):
* I just broke my wrist, not anything that required me to be immobilized or even on crutches
* I didn't hit my face, lose any teeth, get a big disfiguring scar like I so easily could have
* No brain damage (honestly, this is about how I was when I started)
* Only broke one of my arms - I've done both at once before, and I did have a nice heavy five point landing
* Didn't break my glasses and have to resort to wearing spares and paying for a new primary pair
* Didn't damage my bike, which I'm so ready to start riding again
* Happened where I could get help fast - cops were there immediately, and a pro bike team, and an ambulence
* My stalwart wife and friends were with me, stuck by me for hours in the hospital, brought me clothes and kept me comfortable
* Another guy with the same injury was in the bed next to me and he was definitely having a lot more trouble with pain than I was; I'm thankful that I was able to take it
* Happened in an area where medical care is good, not in the third world
* Happened in 2002, not 100 years prior when the hand would have been as good as lost for the rest of my life
* Made me slow down and see a lot more of what was going on around me
* My colleagues and supervisors at work really accomodated me
* I had an excellent surgeon
* My wonderful friend Dr. Andy cared for me post-surgery for a long time and made sure I was thorougly attended to
* I'm recovering very quickly
* I have some cool scars on my arm
* When I couldn't shave, the scruffy beard wound up looking pretty cool
* Wonderful friends cooked and ran errands for us, let us lean on them and helped us through the toughest days
* Learned ambidexterity and now am able to do a lot more important things with my left hand, which is very useful
* Wonderful wife cared for me, bathed me, cooked for me, and cleaned our house while I was immobilized
* Wonderful family members coast to coast sent good wishes and baked goods
* Got free beers at happy hour from more wonderful friends and the cool bartender
* Leftover pain medicine

thats just the way it seems to me at [4:57 PM]

[ Wednesday, November 27, 2002 ]

 
Now I've seen everything, and I think I'm a better man for it. And by "everything," I mean major life events. Weddings have been unavoidable, and generally I've enjoyed them. But they always struck me as somewhat fabricated. People choose, plan, spend years sometimes on the preparations, usually while living together. By the big day it's sometimes hard for me to mark the real significance of the event through the tuille and buttercream and personalized napkin rings. Same with b'nai mitzvahs and confirmations, which come off as even less relevant due to their toploaded elaborateness balanced on a purportedly spiritual - or at least religious - base. But those are the facile ones. Earlier this year I finally went to a funeral. Maybe my essays on that trip will make it to the 'hut someday, but here and now let it suffice to say that, despite years - decades - of planning and a clear spiritual focus, it was a moving and profound experience. I've sat with the dead and kept their bodies company. And I've held newborns, tiny balls of life, poppin' fresh so to speak.

And now I've done a bris. (I mean, other than my own.) For the uninitiated, it's the ceremony of covenant, in which an eight-day-old male child is consecrated into a tradition and future of judaic monotheism, receiving a share of the blessing of adonai in exchange for the foreskin off his penis. I've never been to one before. Till yesterday. Many good things came together for this auspicious and life-affirming event, not the least of which was getting to see many people I dearly love who should be spending Thanksgiving with me but who, for various reasons, won't. Then came the honor of being asked to assist in the ceremony with a critical task: to sanctify and lubricate the event by giving the baby wine. At the appointed time Jon thrust little Aaron into my arms - Aaron is 3 weeks premature, barely five pounds and still unfolding his face after months crushed in the womb; he's tiny and light and it was a joy to support him. I took him into a quiet bedroom with a special pouched pillow covered in satin and pasmanteri, and spoke quietly with him as I set him into the throne of honor in which he would be carried out into the ceremonial space (a kitchen table, in this case). His eyes opened and wandered over my face and I knew better to think that he was in communion with me, but I knew that I was in communion with him and that was good in its own right.

During the ceremony I stood at Aaron's head and dipped my pinky finger into sweet wine, slipped the wet finger into Aaron's mouth and tickled his palate to make him suck it down. I kept feeding him drops this way as he was held in position and prepared for the incision. There was no stone knife; all the equipment was sterile and modern. I tried to watch while it happened, I didn't turn away - but it was too quick, I missed it somehow. First it was there, then it wasn't. Just like that. The child cried, I fed him more wine, and he quieted and sucked it down and kept sucking like a champ. After it was all over and the crowd was dispersing to the tables of delictables laid out for our enjoyment, I looked again at the moiel's tools, still on their sterile sheet. One instrument looked like a hemostat and a tiny spot of crimson had spread beneath it. Hanging from it was an even tinier strip of pink skin, looking more than anything else like the lox on the platters in the dining room that the others were hungrily scooping onto their bagels. The child slept. My pinky finger tingled from the warmth and suction of his tiny mouth.

Later Charles started vaunting the ribs at Rendezvous Ribs, where you can have the best bbq in Memphis sent to your home for $25 a meal. The discussion centered on whether that was economically feasible for everybody there, and I suggested that poor people could sleep with a clean conscience but might not be able to eat like Charles does all the time... Charles admitted that his life was one of "pork-filled self-loathing." That's a phrase that belongs at every bris, I think.

Finally, on my way back to the city with Dave, we drove up past SFO where the jets and prop planes approach to land. There must have been a lot of wind aloft, though where we were the trees were motionless. Still, two airplanes, a little one and a huge one, were hanging in the sky as if suspended from a hook, not moving forward or down, just dangling in the crisp fall air. I watched them as we drove beneath them, and wondered what it looked like to be aloft and still. The world is a strange place sometimes. And now I've seen everything.
thats just the way it seems to me at [5:57 PM]

 
CONTRAST BATHS

My therapy now consists of a variety of uncomfortable gestures designed to increase my range of motion, and twice-daily contrast baths. I fill one bucket with hot water and one with cold, and I plunge my wrist into each one for a minute, alternating ten times. After 10 mintues I'm supposed to pull out and massage my scar in a circular motion. According to my instructional sheet this process forces out "stubborn, stale fluids" from my swollen wrist and into the rest of my ostensibly comparatively svelte self. Blood and lymph, trapped in congested tissues since my injury and surgery, are literally pumped away by the cycles of heat and cold, dilation and constriction, yin and yang. I feel a tingle in my hand and arm as I move from the cold bucket to the hot bucket, the heat permeating chilled flesh and amplifying my energy, drawing it down, pulling it to my drowned skin; I feel a sting as I switch back to the cold water, an outrush, an expulsion of stagnant humors as the vessels seize and clench against the chill, each finger leaching warmth, the coolness creeping up to my elbow... I find this process strangely comforting and relaxing. I don't multitask while I do it; I stand quietly and experience it for one-sixth of an hour. I don't know how much it helps my arm but I am starting to think it's doing my head some good.
thats just the way it seems to me at [4:10 PM]

[ Monday, November 25, 2002 ]

 
It was a short night at Happy Hour last week for ol' Chuckles - two quick beers, a fistful of provocative conversations, and then time to bolt for the Music Hall where I will admit to getting myself deeply funky. We scored the key seats (front row balcony right over the corner of the stage) and watched the place fill up and then explode in a rumbling, staggering conflagration of bootyshaking at the big-ticket conclusion of the SF Funk Fest: the Funk All Stars concert. I can't remember another show in which members of the performing troupe ran off stage, grabbed a joint, and ran back to toss it to the audience, where it was joyfully and promptly ignited and consumed. I entered the fray with a disability, having the tiniest booty known to man - a bootini, so to speak. But I shook what I had from when the opening band kicked off at 9 pm till the end of the encores at 1:50 am. Maybe I'd have had more booty if it wasn't shaking so much but there was nothing I could do about it. As I sit here in my beige cubicle under neon lights listening to the occasional click of nearby computers and the muttering of colleagues strolling around, I think back to the depth and thickness of the funk that rocked my pale person and I can almost smell the carpet burning... good times....
thats just the way it seems to me at [4:03 PM]

 
FOOTBALL RUMINATIONS

1. Kel took one look at Jimmy Johnson on TV and asked if everybody else knew he was gay yet. I guess I can see what she meant but I'd never thought of it before. I suppose I'm just suppressing a natural reaction. And I'm okay with that.

2. The 280 "Junipero Serra" Freeway is deemed America's most beautiful freeway, and I'll admit it's got some nice stretches, but the honorific seems unduly adulatory. At one point not far south of the City, on a bluff jsut east of the road, stands a pretty big statue of the landgrabbing, culturekilling bead massager, Fr. Serra himself. He did chart the road, after all, or the El Camino anyway (which is not redundant in this context TYVM). But these days, the fall and early winter, every year, I can't help seeing that enormous sculpture and and thinking, "first down." Way to go, big guy.
thats just the way it seems to me at [12:58 PM]

[ Friday, November 22, 2002 ]

 
This one is making the rounds but I love it so... check yerself out, see who the web thinks you are here:
My top 15 attributes:
* daniel is no threat
* daniel is good at not dying
* daniel is wee suck
* daniel is a zoophile
* daniel is back in business
* daniel is scragged by barbarians' braam van straaten
* daniel is pulling our collective legs
* daniel is butt ugly
* daniel is the person who is 100% responsible for your satisfaction as a bootcamp participant
* daniel is now standing upright when attempting to walk with his crutches
* daniel is going to slide down the pole and get into his gear
* daniel is still pure
* daniel is pseudepigraphical
* daniel is losing it
* daniel is too sexy for his shirt

Dang I get a lot done before 10 am....
thats just the way it seems to me at [9:59 AM]

[ Thursday, November 21, 2002 ]

 
Stow Lake is one of those park lakes that lie so green and murky it's easy to forget how shallow they are. Maybe five feet, ten at the most. But the virulent green of the water masks that lack of depth and implies a mystery residing below the surface, a mystery inpenetrable by human faculties. I could probaby wade across the damn thing but I'd expect with every step to plunge into a bottomless pit of stagnant biomass.

I'd substantially gotten over this impression of bottomlessness when I saw the old asian guy peel back the surface just a little. He was squatting by the water's edge, a beatific smile on his ageless face, a wide straw hat tied beneath his chin, a bag of bread in his hand, and a three-foot twig beside him. He began by feeding the seagulls that flocked loudly around him, catching morsels in midair. After a few minutes he took the stick and waved the gulls away so he could feed the ducks. Incredibly, the rapacious, screaming gulls flew off while the muscovies and teals and widgeons paddled up for a snack.

A few more minutes passed as he fed the serene fowl, and then used the stick gently to dismiss them. The empty water boiled and soon a clutch of turtles surfaced, brown in the green of the lake. They, too, took their nourishment from his hand, gracefully diving with crumbs and crusts in their beaked craws, their thin delicate legs describing heartbreaking patterns as they danced among each other.

The stick quietly sent them away. Fish replaced the turtles, larger than I'd have expected, over a foot long in many cases, dorsals and gills caressing the water, eyes wide and active, maws gaping as they sucked down large chunks of soggy bread. I was entranced by their beauty; moreso by their activity; even more than that by their mere presence - but most of all by the nearly tame way they approached the old man for their share of his bounty. Yet after a few minutes they too acceeded to the stick and went away. What was left? I wondered, as the man held out his provender over the water, grinning calmly into the shallow lake.

The water writhed. A long face emerged from it, wide eyed and wide jawed, nostrilless, on a neck that stretched below the surface. The mouth hissed roughly and the neck articulated smoothly, vigorously, very deeply... The bread was held suspended over the water, the man squatted among willows and rocks. The eel took the bread in its mouth and retracted into the depths; another taking its place, the bread replenished, the man smiling...

For several minutes the eels fed from his hand, whispering to him, gazing deep into his eyes. Then they ceased to appear, stopped being there, returned to some poseidal haunt far beneath the pea-green surface and paddleboats and pagoda and towering artificial waterfall. The man, still smiling, stood easily and strolled away. I stared at the shore of the small lake, watching feral wavelets lap the fabricated shore. There was more there than I'd ever known, but depth was the only dimension I could articulate. Now I know better; I know that lake gets deeper all the time.
thats just the way it seems to me at [2:04 PM]

[ Wednesday, November 20, 2002 ]

 
I'd been having trouble with my bowtie, which is no surprise because they are inventions of a malicious demon. My elbows ached and my hands throbbed from holding an unnatural position as I repeatedly folded, flipped, tucked, straightened, tightened, yanked and restarted. My fourth try was less pathetic than prior efforts and I stepped out for a critique from my host and his friend, both men of sophistication and style.

I trusted their fashion sense. They worked in high level positions in the entertainment industry in Manhattan and paid attention to matters of couture (if I even spelled it right). They were very supportive of my enformalization and tuxulositude, but as for the bowtie, they frankly advised me to submit to their ministrations. They would retie me, make me - well, not beautiful, but less a prospective object of derision. (In my 24 hours in the city to that point I'd already seen more tuxedos than I see in San Francisco in a year, and even more bowties than that. My errors would not have gone unnoticed.) They looked over my tie and informed me, gently, that it was rather floppy and wide - my host kindly offered to lend me his, more slim and au courant. I gratefully accepted this from his magnanimous hand.

Now, bowties are adjustable to neck size, and I was therefore duly asked for mine. "Sixteen and a half." The two of them shot a glance at each other - one began to let a smile play over his lips; the other quietly made a small satisfied sound. They looked back to me. I was embarassed. "That's okay, right?" "Oh yes, great, don't worry about it." "I guess I was blessed with girth," I said apologetically.

The tie looked great once they were finished with it. It was tied really really tight, and perfectly balanced. That meant I could be invisible, could not stand out among all the other penguins and butlers roaming the streets that night. Thanks, guys. I couldn't have done it without you. And on further reflection, there's absolutely nothing remarkable about 16-1/2.
thats just the way it seems to me at [9:51 PM]

[ Tuesday, November 19, 2002 ]

 
I'm feeling like another trip to the Recipe Corner:
We had a feast a few nights ago with carnitas and plantain soup and those tasty lime yams, baked apple raspberry cobbler for dessert... but there was one totally improvisational dish on the board that turned out so damn well that I had to give it its own special place here in the hut. With the hot, rich porky goodness of carnitas seared in olive oil and baked ten hours in a slow oven, and the creamy sweetness of steaming yams with a surprising tang that keeps ya coming back, we needed a cool, tart counterpoint. Enter Chuckles, and his brand new

HAUTE SLAW

- because cole slaw is so gauche... Getcherself 1/4 cup of rice vinegar and 1/4 cup of Jinro Soju (48 proof!), and mix them with the juice of about 1 lime (I use bottled key lime juice cuz I'm just that cool). Add in 1 tablespoon soy sauce. Stir in about 1/4 teaspoon each of cayenne, celery seed, and ground ginger, and about 3 teaspoons of my favorite granulated white sugar. Taste it - should be tart and pretty spicy. Now, shred a small beautiful napa cabbage (discard outer leaves when they are mainly stalky), and julienne a medium carrot, half a medium jicama, and half a green papaya. Mix well, let sit for an hour stirring occasionally. Consume joyfully.

(Julienning: get a mandoline slicer for your kitchen. It's the only way to go.)

thats just the way it seems to me at [1:28 PM]

 
Frangelico and orange juice
A coconut filled with sorbet
A bar of chocolate stuck in pudding
(don't you see where this is going)
Hot pastrami rolled in pepper
Ice cream natating in root beer
Unagi hot and darkly frosted
Raspberries in Bird's Dessert Sauce
Beer and lots of good beef jerky
Sweet potatoes baked with lime
Triumphant brisket and carnitas
Yogart mixed with pomegranete
Mushrooms grilled with fine balsamic
Potato chips enrobed in chocolate
Spicy peanut sauce with noodles
Fejoada over rice
Authentic stuffed Chicago pizza
Cheesesteak (Amoroso roll)
Pillsbury foodsticks for the spacemen
Croissant amandine and joe
Mussels with chipotle pilsner
Whole fried trout with pepper flakes
A cupboard of euphoric candies
-- that will have to do for starters
thats just the way it seems to me at [11:59 AM]

 
We'd been talking about her friend all through dinner. I'd met her once or twice, a striking woman in every respect, articulate, intelligent, highly educated, very easy on the eyes. I learned during supper that she had gotten into an unhealthy relationship. This woman and the guy in her life are both musicians and had made music together - nothing more. But he had no car, lost his job, did a lot of crank... and he would rant, hours on end, cursing the world and the impediments with which it had strewn his path. She was having trouble seeing her old friends - even their mutual friends. She'd bought all the instruments for their sessions and paid all the rent on the rehearsal space. He was starting to get possessive. Of the stuff, the space - of her.

We finished supper and got back in the car on streets littered with old Wayne Newton albums and shredded spanish fly boxes, had just started driving when her phone rang. It was the friend we'd been discussing. "Dan had some great advice for you." I was put on the line - on the spot. First, I thanked her again for a lovely party I'd been lucky enough to attend at her house, and then admitted that I didn't know her well enough tto have any advice for her, and didn't know this other guy at all, so I was disqualified from holding any opinion about him. But I could offer a few reflections.

I mentioned that men on speed, without job or car, who are selfish emotionally and materially, could put even an intelligent and capable woman into a bad situation. She agreed, and we concluded together that she had to get out of the relationship. The decision was irrevocable and salubrious. The question was her exit strategy, and she'd already done some good thinking on that score - but to put her plan into effect she had to wait a few more days. Meanwhile, he was still calling her, getting antsy; she wanted it over, needed to move on. The delay was excruciating.

I mentioned my broken wrist, how it didn't hurt right at first but soon grew to be ferociously painful, and how I had to wait a few long hours before it could be reset - had to wait with my fingers in wire net traps, my wrist bulging and misshapen, a 20 pound weight dangling from my elbow as the orthopod waited for the muscles to relax enough for him to be able to reset the bone. I was uncomfortable, wishing it were over, and when the time was ripe for action it hurt like nothing I've ever experienced. But then I felt my joints snap into place and started feeling better right away; I went from injury to recovery in a single searing moment. She was still waiting for that perfect moment to endure the pain of facing a shattered part of her life, but the wait was important and the recovery would begin forthwith.
thats just the way it seems to me at [11:53 AM]

[ Sunday, November 17, 2002 ]

 
Your eyes gape hungry with desire,
curiosity and hope;
you lose yourself inside their fire,
spinning like an isotope.
Ochre walls embrace your person,
but you know you're more than that -
Your tired heart contracts, so terse and
taciturn beneath your hat.

I ask you what you want. You wonder
why your answer isn't there.
If you are prey, who is the hunter?
If you would pray, would something care?
Mere honesty has never mattered;
now it is your currency.
I hope you see that I am flattered.
Now the rest is up to me.
thats just the way it seems to me at [6:56 PM]

 
MOTTOS by which I occasionally live:

* I always never know.
* Moderation in all things, including moderation.
* Luck favors the prepared mind/Disaster is best avoided by preparing for it.
* Perception may be regarded as primarily the modification of an anticipation. (This one really is a big favorite of mine.)
* If you can't do it all, pick one thing and do it to the hilt.
* Watch the gap.
* Time and location are everything, and time is just an aspect of location.
* Proper hydration is the key to successful partying.
* If you can't take the heat, go someplace cooler.
* Food isn't properly seasoned unless it's painful to eat.
thats just the way it seems to me at [6:52 PM]

 
I found it curious the first time, and nearly inexplicable the second. I don't know if it's a common occurrance, or if it's only me who is being confronted with this query. But for the second time in five months I've found myself at a party of some distinction where I was fortunate to meet a new acquaintence who, in both these cases, was a young woman of wit, charm and indisputable beauty.

These gatherings I attended bore no relation to each other - different friends, different styles, different states. At one I wore a tuxedo; at the other I wound up hot tubbing in the raw. These women I met - again, very little beyond the summary description I gave did they seem to share in common: one was blonde, french, a photographer of the boudoir school; the other an american brunette, a practitioner of the healing arts with a french boyfriend. One was married; one was cohabitating and considering an nuptual engagement.

Thus the viscissitudes of fate brought me through very different paths into conversation with each of them. A few minutes into each of these conversations I was asked with frankness but no trace of self-consciousness for my opinion - as a man, representative of my gender, or at least one who was willing to promise to respond with candor, having no motivation to fabricate or embellish.

Under such circumstances I was, on both occasions, only too happy to acquiesce. In both cases my agreement drew my interlocutor to me with conspiratorial intimacy. The wording differed but the inquiry was the same both times: Are men faithful; what is the connection, if any, between such fidelity and acutal love; and to the extent such connection was, or proved to be, tenuous, what was to keep a woman physically faithful to a man who had demonstrated his inability to reciprocate in kind?

Of course, I could not speak for my gender, and only haltingly for myself, but I'd let myself be put on the spot and had to say something. The further content and resolution of these conversations I will not set down; they involved confidences shared with me with the understanding that I would respect them, and I intend to do so. Suffice to say, they were both memorable and remarkable.

What lingers in my mind now like a veil over a bookshelf is the curiosity of coincidence, the thematic recurrance in the midst of so many differences in the situations in which these conversations occurred. It seems most likely to me that I was just a convenient source for information on a matter that must trouble many women, and that I was invited to offer my view because of an earnest, open conversational style that encourages total strangers to chat me up remarkably regularly. I like to draw people out and get them talking, and maybe that's how I would up twice where I wound up, talking to women about their relationships, their loves, their choices and opportunities, their regrets and frustrations and desires.

Yet there is a question in my mind, arising out of the possibility that I was more than merely a blank canvas, a sympathetic ear, a not-yet-discredited stranger willing to reflect and express an opinion. Maybe something inherent and unique to me elicited these parallel lines of questioning. What that was, or what it might mean, are further questions I prefer not even to examine yet.
thats just the way it seems to me at [6:49 PM]

[ Saturday, November 16, 2002 ]

 
TWENTY LESSER HAZARDS OF AIR TRAVEL in random order:
* Getting pinched when someone lowers the armrest onto you
* Hidden crud stuck to the traytable, and then to your book or pad
* Elbow meets beverage cart - score: one - zip cart
* Turbulence during coffee service = nurtscald
* Mystery virus that dwells on the musty blankets
* Weird greasy smear on window you accidentally get on your face
* Stressful conversation with neurotic in neighboring seat
* PA announcements so loud you get freaking tinnitis
* Someone has used your seat cushion for something other than flotation
* Dank trash in the seat pocket in front of you
* Skull crushed when person in front of you reclines as you rummage in the bag you stowed beneath his seat
* Concussion from being struck by falling oxygen masks
* Bladder cramps from being stuck in an inside seat
* Nosebleed from dry recirculated air
* Buttchafe from sliding down rubberized inflated escape chutes
* Buying shit from SkyMall
* Neck cramp from straining to see out a window on the other side of the airplane
* Decent movie ruined by your seeing it first on a plane's tiny poor resolution screen
* Bad $4 wine
AND FINALLY:
* Contents of overhead bins may shift during flight
thats just the way it seems to me at [12:01 PM]

 
I've heard it said that life is like a circle, a wheel, a ring in which the end is the beginning and the cycle rotates through the same worn path, age without end. At one time this idea infuriated me. The thought that my rigorous rectitude would lead me only to my playpen, crib, the womb made my exertions seem superfluous. Why should I endure the aggravation of existence if all I could anticipate was to endure it all again? I wanted life to be a highway, broad and straight and true, or at the very least a line, extending outward from my birth until I'm blown out into inky vastness, never to repeate a step.

But I eventually sort of reconciled to the notion that the line I wished to walk was actually part of some great cycle I was not adept enough to recognize, a cosmic ebb and flow ceaselessly washing the same sandy shore, reordering the pebbles and eddies without altering the essence of the landscape, every permutation but a reoccurrance of some prior state that only the enlightened can recall or divine.

But still this theory troubled me. I sought a sense of purpose, of the value of accumulated action, a justification to believe some sort of progress had been made even as the same old wave curled up to strike the same old beach. I needed a model to reflect both cyclical and linear action, repeated verities mapped against a past behind me and a future yet to come.

It was DNA that gave me my solution, DNA and Archimedes. I have chosen the spiral helix as my philosophical geometry. It circles, yes, returning ever to a spot it previously occupied - but moving inevitably outward, the old places constantly transformed by virtue of new distance, experience, perspective, the ring a twisting pointer and the path returning ever home, a home evolving but inherently unchanged, a pointer reaching out I know not where with reinforced regularities.

Now that I've chosen my geometry I don't expect my life to change, but I indulge the hope that my appreciation of it will, and that the things I start to recognize, repeated from a prior epoch, will guide me to an understanding more evolved and elementary than a two-dimensional model could ever inspire.
thats just the way it seems to me at [11:34 AM]

[ Wednesday, November 13, 2002 ]

 
I don't recall where I saw this but somewhere I ran across the following four lists. But I filled in the contents for myself.

THINGS I NEVER LIKED AND NEVER WILL
Organ meats
Embarassment
Self-marketing
Criticism
Waste and inefficiency

THINGS I LIKED IN HIGH SCHOOL BUT DON'T LIKE ANYMORE
Show tunes
Game shows
the Funnies
Cheap wine
Fantasy/sci-fi literature

THINGS I DIDN'T LIKE IN HIGH SCHOOL BUT DO LIKE NOW
Eggs
Grateful Dead
Talking to my parents
Exercise
Myself

THINGS I HAVE ALWAYS LIKED AND ALWAYS WILL LIKE
Cold cereal
Writing
Driving
Cooking
Architecture and space-use analysis
thats just the way it seems to me at [9:56 PM]

 
I was in high school at the time, skinny and pale and probably clumsy, unsure of myself physically, nervous around girls and naieve of intergender relations. On the other hand I was not short, I was comfortable with myself intellectually, I had some stage training and a deep voice; I had to shave regularly and my years of bicycling had build up my legs pretty well. It was around 1980, the Fourth of July, and I was at Valley College with a friend for a concert of patriotic music. Yes, that is the sort of person I was, one who'd go to a Richard Rogers and J.P. Souza concert unabashedly and on purpose. My friend and I wore t-shirts and shorts and we reclined on the lawns, basking and shmoozing as the crowd milled around us. A voice separated itself from the hubbub and buzz. It was speaking to me. A woman, older, out of college even, probably in her 30s - at the time, an unfamiliar subgroup of the mysterious and potentially dangerous female species. I had no chance even to get flustered in the face of her bold inquiry to me: 'Are you a runner?' she asked without preface or equivocation. 'No, I'm not. I ride a bicycle,' I admitted, somewhat ashamed for some reason but without hesitation or stammer. 'Oh,' she replied, 'you have a perfect runner's body.' I didn't know what to say in response so I guess I shut down, probably thanked her but retreated to the comfort of my interior life. It was weeks later that I realized how badly I'd dropped the ball. That fourth of July could have been my day of independence. Instead, I still sometimes wonder if I've freed myself from whatever held me back that day. My sur-response to her is ready, but I begin to doubt if I'll ever get the chance to use it.
thats just the way it seems to me at [9:33 PM]

 
New York Snippets:
Adjective to describe Manhattan: intendensity; where the intensity is dense...
For such a tall city, they sure pour a short orange juice...
A toast to the best man, a gentleman of high reputation...

Mezzuzahs: I found it strangely comforting as I peregrinated to see the profusion of mezzuzahs on doorways everywhere I went. I've lived on my own for half my life and never put one up for myself, so I was surprised that I should take solace in this. But there you have it. It put me in mind more than anything else of my dry cleaner in San Francisco, Ken of Blue Bird Laundry, proud of his Korean heritage and birth... His shop is small and, as typical, is decorated with displays of collar stays and lint brushes and faded posters of women in no-longer-fashionable and overly-pleated - but impeccably clean - clothes... At the doorpost to his shop I noticed a small oblong lozenge buried under thick layers of paint; inspected closely I could see it was a mezzuzah, the sacred reminder of the supernal order to be hung on all doors by observant Jews. I asked Ken about it; he said, 'I know, it is the prayer for the Jews. Not long after I moved in, a customer showed it to me and explained. I decided to leave it. I like it. Anyway, what could it hurt?' What, indeed. For a Korean, it was a very Jewish answer.
thats just the way it seems to me at [7:46 PM]

 
Listing badly a-lee (falling over to the side the wind's not blowing from):
THINGS I DIDN'T DO IN NEW YORK
Go to a museum
Ride a subway
Sightsee from observation decks atop skyscrapers
Shop
See a celebrity
Get lost
Wander in Central Park
Get below 22nd Street
Wear Headphones
Tie my own bow tie

THINGS I DID IN NEW YORK:
See fine art in a cathedral
Shave my stinger (even if I'm the only one who calls it that)
Eat a famous hot dog at a famous hot dog stand
Visit Times Square
Went with a friend to check out his new office space 34 stories above midtown with stunning 360-degree views
Drank late with friends in formal attire
Renewed old friendships
Made new friends
Saw Sandra Bernhardt's loft space (or her window anyway)
Slept well

My conclusion: despite rumors to the contrary, there appears to be a fair amount with which to keep onesself occupied in Manhattan. I hope to test this theory with further experimentation soon. But not too soon. Tomorrow I'm going back to LA again for another overnighter. Maybe I can get a hot dog there too and do a comparison.
thats just the way it seems to me at [8:16 AM]

[ Tuesday, November 12, 2002 ]

 
Coming into LaGuardia:

He looked appraisingly at my arm. 'That's gonna hurt when the weather turns,' he remarked gravely. His eyes locked with mine. I got the feeling he kenw what he was talking about in terms of orthopedics - and more so in terms of pain.
thats just the way it seems to me at [5:52 PM]

 
Two airport stories that others lived and I heard about:

Bob's brother is a lawyer with an eccentric look and practice. He was on his way from somwehere to somewhere, approaching the security checkpoint in the airport when he realized that his baggage wasn't clean. The outside was fine but inside he had a bunch of pot and a metal pipe wherewith to smoke it. He looked around - with cops everywhere he felt it inadvisable to leave the queue and rearrange his belongings. Rather, he put his faith in incompetent staff and a smooth attitude. He passed the metal detector without incident, but a technician called him over for a bag search. 'Is this your bag?' 'Yes it is.' The tech held up the pipe; it was unmistakeably an inappropriate item. 'What is this?' Bob's brother gathered his wits and savoir faire and replied, 'It's not a weapon.' The tech looked at the pipe, and then at Bob's brother. 'You're right. It's not. You may proceed to the gate.' He did so. A happy ending.

Tanja is one of my closest friends; I've known her since 1980 or maybe '79. In that time we've had a few occasional nicknames for each other, but over the past several years many people in her wide circle of fascinating friends know her as 'Da Bomb.' Not everyone could carry off that moniker, but she does so quite nicely. Many people know her only by that name. She was flying from LA to SF to meet several of them at a party, but her flight was delayed. Someone had been sent to pick her up; he was waiting at the baggage claim when she arrived and he pulled out his cell phone to tell the others. 'It's me; she's here.' 'Who?' 'Tanja.' 'Who?' At this point, he started trying alternate nicknames, descriptions, anything but her main appellation. The one that worked, that finally got the message across, was, 'She whose name cannot be spoken in airports or federal facilities.' After a moment's pause, the voice on the other end of the line exclaimed, 'Oh, Da Bomb! Bring her up!' The poor girl may need a new nickname. You can't use it if you can't say it.
thats just the way it seems to me at [5:50 PM]

 
In my never-ending quest for things to feel superior about, I've done humankind the favor of memorializing my ten least favorite behaviors of bus riders, whose antics and foibles start and end so many of my days.

In no special order:

Don't stand in the aisle when people need to get past you to find some breathing room further back in the bus. Lean out of the way or move back. Dummy.

Don't put your backpack on the seat next to you when the bus is crowded. Put it on the floor. Idiot.

Don't get on the bus with a friend and choose non-contiguous seats when seats next to each other are available, and then lean way out shouting to continue a conversation that, had you sat next to your friend, would have been private and would not have impeded the passage of others. Bastard.

Don't leave your enormous mountain-climber's/snow boarder's backpack, laden thick and heavy, strapped to your back on a crowded bus. It pokes people and takes up too much room. Put it between your feet. Chowderhead.

Don't just loiter in front of a door or in the doorwell. That's for people who need to leave the bus, don't make it harder for them to get out of my air supply. Stand in the aisle with everybody else and keep the doorway clear. Fuckwit.

Don't fight to get on through the back doors while people are properly trying to exit the bus from the same door. As a sage friend lately reiterated, getting off has first dibs. Yes, *especially* on public conveyances. Jerkoff.

Don't play your personal audio device so loudly that you can't tell that people need you to get out of the way. You have to pay some modicum of attention to the rest of us when you are on the bus, so if your new brittany-christina mix engages your attention too intensely, you need to adjust your volume or your priorities. Cretin.

If you have to carry prepared food on the bus, you have my sympathy. But for god's sake don't eat your stinky supper there in front of me. It smells, makes a mess, and your greasy fingers will smear the poles that innocents like me have to grab when the bus lurches suddenly. Eat on the street, not on the bus. Clodhopper.

Don't leave a mess. Of any kind. Newspapers can be neatly folded if you want them to be available to other riders, but the bus is no place to leave your old tissues, cracker crumbs, plucked eyebrows and clipped cuticles, all that crap you've gotten rid of. It stinks and takes up room. Shatterpate.

Don't engage the loonies in conversation on purpose. They ride the bus, you ride the bus - that's not enough of a nexus to justify such an irritation to the rest of the riders. If they're singing or mumbling to themselves, don't interrupt them. If they're talking to you, try ignoring it for a while - often, it just looks like they're talking to you but it's their 8th grade gym teacher or a character from Super Friends. Loonies can make a lot of noise and be very disruptive, and if they think people want to talk to them it can be hard to discourage them. So don't give them false expectations about our desire for conversation with the schitzophrenic wearing garbage bags. Rube.

Of course these ten represent only the primary concerns that have occurred to me in the past week or so. Your amendations are warmly invited. (Add to the list if you'd like.) But now I'd better get back to the office...
thats just the way it seems to me at [8:31 AM]

[ Monday, November 11, 2002 ]

 
I'm glad I got to work early on Thursday and that I worked through lunch and focused on my burgeoning duties and obligations. By doing so I justified departing for home one hour early, time enough to ride the bus through the first real storm of the season, high winds and hard rain, to get a haircut (Dick's International, number 1 blade, hot foam and a backrub), hit the bank, get a burrito (Gordo's regular carnitas with pintos, salsa fresca, guac, red and green sauces and jalapenos), get the dry cleaning, and get home to walk the (reluctant) dog - and then to enjoy said burrito as I channel-fanned - following which I injected the cat with insulin and started packing - pulled out my clothes and tux and studs and grip and all - all laid out on the bed. Then the power went out. I stood in the dark, confused and blind. It was clear what had happened - the wind was so furious boughs were being torn off trees all up and down the street. It had happened back in '95 when a similar storm blew out the huge glass Conservatory of Flowers a few blocks from my home - only now reaching the final phases of reconstruction. That blackout lasted three days. I hoped this one wouldn't but who knew. I dug up some tealights to provide a little illumination, and packed by candlelight. It took longer than it would have ordinarily; I had to handle every item carefully, touching where it touched the other items, sensitive to tiny adjustments and economies. The dog seemed nervous; I went with him up front and we comforted each other as rain lashed the windows and sirens howled insistently against the wind. Our 65 cm balance ball kept rolling over to us as we moved about the room, cuddling up with us as if in need of warmth it could not feel or impart. Kel's class in Marin was cancelled when their lights went out as well and she drove home through screaming gales, accidents and tree litter everywhere - and noticed that, despite her own experience, all the other lights in other towns and neighborhoods along her twenty mile drive were working fine, except until she got back home and saw that our blackout was limited to one side each of two blocks - our and the one just to the north, extrordinary specificity. We talked and drank (a rum for her and scotch for me, as we are at present out of bourbon) by candlelight and I set my wristwatch alarm for 4 am. At midnight the power came back on; the bedroom was flooded with lights not turned off, cd player still spinning... I got up and shut down, got back into bed, woke up when my wristwatch started chirping. The power was still working and I made my flight without further incident -- but it felt as if the trip had started before I even left my home.
thats just the way it seems to me at [11:00 AM]

 
Air travel is now a part of my regularized life more than it's ever been before. Back when I'd only fly every few years, the airport was a semi-magical portal for me. And by the airport, I mean all airports - LAX and Dayton and Charles De Gaulle, all of them different in their details but each sharing critical similarities - broad expanses of concrete gussied up with mystical designs in paint and colored light, and impenetrable but exceptionally legible signage ([H]19R - 1L is one actual example); and that tower, straining skwyard in earthbound imitation of the flights it oversees - the terminals, their downtrodden industrial carpet stained with the grime and tension of travellers from everywhere except exactly there. If you drop your cookie, keep in mind the five-second rule does not apply.

And then there's the smell - aviation fuel and tired sighs, thermal printed forms and sandwiches and sweat - and in the older terminals, a residue of cigarettes smoked anxiously and calmly and incessently for years, those years and smokes and idle anxious thoughts long gone but lingering - in combination , a smell that somehow takes up residence at every airport, crossing lines of politics and climate - all this together heightened in my mind an overarching sense that airports were places of mystery and significance, even when I wasn't flying, only picking up arriving travellers or delivering them for a trip away from my reality.

Lately I've been flying lots, a couple times a month on average. Some of these were one-day jaunts just down the coast, a little business, come right home, the other passengers primarily like me, no luggage save a brief or attache case, tired eyes and routinized behaviors. No magic in the air, just pre-meeting tension or post-conference sour stomachs and weary temples. But even as the flights became common, the airport still retained some kind of special quality for me. Je ne sais quoi.

This special quality becomes most tangible and omnipresent in the jetway. What a name - implying transience and speed, where human feet are almost interlopers. Even as the airport is a waystation, a pseudo-space on the way to other places, a gateway rather than a destination, the jetway extends out from it into naked empty air, jutting from the terminal like a dash after a semicolon. I present ID and a boarding pass, and pass into surreality - a tube to a tube to a tube to a whole other world. The jetway smells more like an airport than anywhere else, the whine of engines audible, the grime and naked face of machinery coexisting with the veneer of industrial decor, flight crew and attendants hovering in readiness, the weatherized canvas accordion of the collar pressed lewdly against the puckered little door of the enormous jet's riveted fusilage -- the jetway is a chamber into which one passes from an almost real place and from which one emerges into a zone removed altogether from space and time, where my wristwatch misleads me and the world rotates beneath my seated ass, deserts and praries and thriving lakes and deadly mountains rolling past my passive gaze... impossibly aloft, disconnected, pressurized but expansive, bestowed with perspective but cheek by jowl with unnumbered strangers, trusting physics and pilot's acumen and luck to bring me to a destination that still seems imaginary, less real up here than it was in my home though I'm closer by far to it in miles and time - concepts I must for the moment put away beneath the seat in front of me....

And when at last we approach to land, the landscape growing and resolving beneath me, unfamiliar buildings and architecture, landmarks and landforms, highways and neighborhoods and inexplicable emptinesses, my ears filling with thickly pumped air invisibly crushing against the tiniest bones in my body, forcing me to yawn compulsively to escape my own internal pressure... and then we rejoin the earth itself in a rush of wind and flaps and squealing rubber, adding our mark to the black stained runway, each skid a souvenier of hundreds of travellers who shared an embarcation and a destination and nothing else..... we taxi through the same labrinth of concrete and lines and signs and men with cones, and and then the cattle drive to reverse the effects of the jetway, to pass again through to a place that was almost a place, where time stood still as I proceed through it... My watch and gaze reset to an new place and hour, I emerge hoping that I'm oriented but regardless, there I am, still me perhaps but somewhere new and therefore maybe not the me I thought I was or that I was before - a new reality to embrace or to defend myself against - but surreality still haunts my nose and ears, and as the passengers disperse, another airport shunts me through itself, and that which those around me think is life starts daring me to act as if it's real.
thats just the way it seems to me at [10:16 AM]

 
Despite my best intentions, circumstances have intervened to keep me from my blogging for nearly a week. I don't know how you feel about that, but it rankles the hell out of me. I didn't even get a chance to post an au revoir because of a power outage the night before I left for my weekend of revelry. But the cool thing is that while I was stewing in these particular juices I was able to get a lot of writing done. So, with apologies for a dry spell, let's get huttin'.
thats just the way it seems to me at [9:28 AM]

[ Wednesday, November 06, 2002 ]

 
I guess I pander to a wide audience: search strings include this as well as this. I had no idea I was being so helpful. Too bad I lost the link to the string search that had something to do with "mens basketball pouch underware shame" - it was from an asian site where basketball may be played differently....
thats just the way it seems to me at [3:40 PM]

 
here's a resource that sometimes provides just the word you didn't know you needed - and sometimes not...
thats just the way it seems to me at [3:17 PM]

 
Hey guess what? I'VE DUMPED ENETATION. It's not bad enough that they go down, but now I can't even access them directly. By moving on to Haloscan I'm losing a lot of great comments from wonderful people, and for that I mourn, but I have to learn to suck it up and get on with my life. If Haloscan comments choke on me too, I'm gonna ask for my money back. Now if you'll excuse me, I need a moment to reconcile myself to the inevitably transient nature of this medium, and the idea of life still being fulfilling after losing my beloved old comments.... if any of you have a violin, this is a good time to play it....
thats just the way it seems to me at [2:49 PM]

 
I was going to be named David. My maternal uncle Dick (yes that's right, maternal dick, he has ovaries and an inviting bosom, don't make this more difficult for him than it already is) and his wife, my inestimable aunt Bunny, had their first-born just three months before I was due to make my debut and they named him David. Not wanting to get everything remonogrammed (I guess), my folks opted for a name as little different from David's as it could be without being a crass homage to his newly mewling self. So they picked Daniel. All my life it's been a milquetoast kind of name for me, Dan Danny Daniel Dannyboy all these names have seemed to me to lack any implication, any subtext that might suggest some character trait. My sister Eve (now Evi) always had a name with some panache. "John/Jon" suggests stability to me. "David", nobility. "Brian," althleticism. I don't know where I came up with these associations, but many names have been linked in my feverish mind to some kind of personal quality or condition - sometimes positive, sometimes neutral, sometimes best left unstated (Hey Shmuel, your name sounds like stuff I scrape off my mudflaps!). But the two weird things for me are: 1) all my life, people I don't know well have called me David. They don't know the story of my purloined name (I said loin), they just make a natural association which I find inexplicable but can't deny. Then again, 2) lately people have been saying my name in a way that seems to bear some kind of implication. I can't tell what kind, but it doesn't seem to be negative. Nicknames that always seemed fey or insincere or just to be clumsy fabrications are now sometimes employed in a way that seems normal and natural, even complimentary. Maybe I'm finally taking possession of my own name. But people are still calling me David on an amusingly regular basis.
thats just the way it seems to me at [8:00 AM]

[ Monday, November 04, 2002 ]

 
CABLE CARS
These are claimed to be America's (or the U.S's) only moving national historic landmark. Or something. I know that it may be moving to see some of the other ones, you get all choked up and verklempt and such, but this one, even if you are phlegmatic when you see it, the damn things squirrel around all over the streets. My very intelligent - um - what do you call your wife's sister's husband? - that guy, on a visit here a few years ago, was wondering what made them run. "Must be electricity," he mused. No, mr smartypants (names changed to protect privacy), it's actually a fat wire cable that zips around underground. The cars have a clamp that reaches into a slot in the street and seizes on, dragging the old puppies around at a steady rate, up some ugly hills and down some even uglier ones. When they're going down these monstrosities (and that's why they were invented in the first place, so the nastiest hills are the ones that still have working lines), you might smell a homey campfire smell. Like wood burning. Just like wood burning. Cuz it's made by wood that's being heated up pretty hot. The brakes on these large, heavy, often overladen monstrosities are composed of a block of pine and some sand. You want to slow down? Pull a lever and a block of pine wood is pressed into the street. Still out of control? Grab a handful of sand out of the bucket and throw it in front of the wood block for more friction. (You must know how I like the friction.) Seems pretty sketchy but it still works. So when I took my whole lunch hour to try to run a fruitless errand, I got a chance to sit on those aging victorian seats, to feel the old car catch the cable and jerk to life, and of course, got a snootful of pine smoke from the brakes. Even though I didn't get anything done, I enjoyed myself. And it smelled good too.
thats just the way it seems to me at [5:00 PM]

[ Saturday, November 02, 2002 ]

 
- Would you please speak up?
- You don't need to snap at me.
- I get tired of asking. You know I can never understand you when you talk like that.
- You mean in my normal voice?
- Yes, I guess so - if your normal voice is mumbling at your feet while you're facing away from me.
- That's an unfair exaggeration. I just have a quiet voice. There's no reason to be nasty about it. It's not like I'm doing it to hurt you.
- No, it's like you don't care enough to make sure I can hear you. So okay, you have a quiet voice. I know it. You know it. But you always talk down. Down and away. It's like you don't want me to hear you.
- It's hard to get a word in edgewise with you sometimes.
- You're changing the subject. You just don't make any effort to make yourself heard.
- It would take a lot of effort to be heard over you.
- What's that supposed to mean? That I speak up when there's something to say? Is that some kind of dig at me? No wonder you mumble. So what was it you were trying to say, anyway?
- That's okay. It wasn't important.
thats just the way it seems to me at [12:37 PM]

[ Friday, November 01, 2002 ]

 
it was 1:30 am and I wasn't yet ready to sleep, so I wrote it up and it looked like this.

Tonight I watched the hordes walk past, then Tanja came and drove away with me - I'd helped a carload of tourists recognize the tow-away zone, and had a strange pretty woman come up to me twice, smiling ambiguously. But Tanja arrived, after 40 minutes fighting Paul McCartney traffic at the Staples Center, and finally off we went. Judd was MIA; pressed, I chose to dine at Versailles and ordered Cuban ground beef (beens rice plantain) and a side of yuca. Tanja went right for the yuca, yum it's good - I reached for a slab and burned my fingers but fast; Tanja works all day with hot rocks and has a professional inurement. Dinner done, we drove the streets for hours. What divinity. Hollywood and Sunset were grandiose garish abuses of plaster and neon and glass... then up to Mulholland where we just talked for an hour or more, a real conversation, unhurried, unburdened.... it was so reminiscent to barrel up Laurel and park on a turnout, the valley spread out at our windows like sprinkles on a chocolate sheetcake... the streetlight cut the fog obliquely, trees presented hairy profiles - all was as it had been 20 years ago I kid you not. The other changes notwithstanding, this was as it ever was. And I was grateful.

The drive back was exhillirating. Tanja drives aggressively, the center line occasionally overlooked and overdriven, the road to Lake Hollywood taken with the headlights dark, the blacktop curving wildly to and fro between the wall of the hill and the lake dark below us... a tour up Woodrow Wilson, along Wonderview Drive, into Franklin Heights - the stately homes unrolling past us with gratifying regularity and sophistication... SIlver Lake, Echo Lake, coalblack diamonds hidden in the megalopolis... then out through historic Filipino Town and into downtown with a generous loop, through Little Tokyo and the Flowermart District, the Gorky sign still hanging without referent on a cut stems storefront; then right, and through the Industrial District, officially named, with hollow dark warehouses peeling and bleached, filling block after block, each a little bit sadder and darker and emptier, till we turned right again and came through upper south central, three-story gabled residences and riverrock chimneys and broad inviting porches by the dozens, the hundreds - the homes that no one thinks of when they think of LA - and finally back to the Fig, where I savored a fat shot of Jack on the verandah overgrown with bouganvilla, by a fountain with a lantern in it... and then to sleep in a richly textured room, in a richly textured night...
thats just the way it seems to me at [3:07 PM]