8. The Sylph and the Goldfish

Rain sweeps in from the ocean and drenches coastal California. The Penguin Dinghy, however, rests safe and dry in the Room of Requirement.

With the rain and all, we go to Los Angeles  It is Persian New Year.


Once upon a time there was a wisp girl who lived in the city of Los Angeles.  One evening she leapt from her bed and in doing so she ripped a toenail off. The little girl was far closer to the beginning premise of her life than we may be to our own demise. Hardly seven years old, her materiality was still fresh and barely set, hardly removed from that time in which she didn’t exist at all. What did she remember, if anything, from that world that preceded her? Maybe for this reason she couldn’t distinguish a wound from a fatal wound. Any injury might be a summons from death. She sat on the floor, cradled her toe and considered her own mortality. Baba, she wept. I don’t want to die. I am too young. I don’t want to die.

20120318-102427.jpgOnce upon a time on a living room table in Pasadena, the Nowruz goldfish swam in their small bowl. They had been brought into the house as a harbinger of the New Year. But did they know why they swam in the bowl? Or even that they were they and that they swam in a bowl at all? Did they know they had meaning? That they were living fire in a globe of water and the embodiment of spring?

20120318-102506.jpgOnce upon a time we drove to a shabby boulevard in Westwood in a heavy downpour to purchase saffron, halwa, flat bread, jordan almonds, pistachios, whole fish and tea. The rain was so heavy that the freeway traffic on the I-10 slowed to a crawl and it was as if the world had become cemented with water and we had returned to our amphibious selves.



Once upon a time there was a little girl in Tehran who so badly wanted a goldfish for Nowruz that she schemed with her brother and pestered her mother until the woman finally relented and handed over a 500 toman note. The little girl journeyed to the market and lost her money twice and was scared and sad and elated. She met snake charmers and merchants and a soldier who offered to help. The girl, trapped yet in her childhood felt for the first time a glimmer of the predation of men and of a looming world beyond.

But the girl never existed. And yet when the poor thing sat on the curb outside the market, staring through the sewer grate at her banknote just out of reach, future violations even further beyond her consciousness, she hardly thought to  consider our existence. In her world, none of us witnesses and sylphs existed as even a consideration. We were nothing at all.


This picture was taken at the Edible Schoolyard at the Martin Luther King School in Oakland. It’s the sort of place I would love for my daughter to go. In the picture you can see a handful of young human beings sitting in a garden surrounded by young plant beings. Vines curl their tendrils around the beams of the ramada, flowers break open their blossoms, canes send forth their berry.

Both the children and the plants are at school together. They are all learning. They are all peers.

The young human beings nurture the young plant beings. When it comes time for the children to eat, they take the body, the leaf, the fruit, the seed, the progeny from the plant beings and ingest it. Their own beings use the energy from the plant beings to grow and emerge.

Ideally, their own waste – the carbon dioxide they exhale and perhaps even their own shit – one day may become food for the plant beings.

That whole process is what we call life. It’s a verb: to be.

Quite tragic and beautiful, really.


Best Friends

Morning coffee and croissant off of Grant street. The city awakening. I’m feeling sad, though. Sad at excess. A little sad at wherever I am in my life.

I look down at the pavement. And I think of the guy.

Last month my friend Patrick was walking to work in San Francisco and he passed some commotion and an area cordoned off with police tape. A little bit earlier a guy had jumped from a building and his body was lying on the pavement.

He had committed the irrevocable act.

He had arrived at a moment where he felt sad / devalued / alone / ill – enough so that he no longer wanted to be alive.

Since arriving in San Francisco I’ve considered him most days. I never knew him. But by killing himself he’s given me a costly gift. Even worse, it probably pales to what he gave the world when he was alive.

What would he think to know that after his death, a complete stranger would continue to carry his shadow forward into life? And by implication, what of me is carried by him?

Sometimes we can count even a stranger as a friend.