Recently my Latvian cousin visited San Francisco with his family. They were planning on celebrating his wife’s birthday, but the gift she received from this once charming city was unexpected.  After parking their car in Japantown, they returned a few minutes late to find their window smashed and all of their belongings taken. They were not alone. The entire street, it seemed, was a pavilion of broken glass.

Police dispatch hung up multiple times. While he waited, my cousin tracked their electronic devices as they were distributed in tent cities and fencing houses. Within hours my cousin’s laptop was in a suburban neighborhood in Stockton.

The police said they were powerless to do anything. He could file a report, but no action would be taken. When my cousin picked up his new rental car he was told that his was the fifth car returned that day with a smashed window. That night, dispirited, he drove through the  zombie-pocalypse that the city center has become.

The epidemic of smash and grabs plaguing the Bay Area may be driven by a finite number of actors. And the root causes are varied and complex. But is this who we’ve become? Is it really sufficient to say, “nothing can be done about it?”

San Francisco is the third wealthiest city on the planet. And the Bay Area as a whole prides itself on its culture of innovation. We are home to companies that have developed sophisticated data collection tools and to the highest-ranking health care delivery organization. We are the birthplace of the human potential movement and innovations in community policing. Really? There’s nothing we can do about it?

As San Francisco’s native son Inspector Harry Callahan once said, “A man has to know his limitations.”  But there’s a corollary to Dirty Harry’s words. A person, or a city, has to know it’s potential. For San Francisco not to, is unacceptable.

With a Perspective, this is Andrew Lewis.

Andrew Lewis lives in Sebastopol.

The New Colossus

hot-on-flag As broadcast on KQED.

On Saturday, Market Street overflowed with more than a hundred thousand undaunted people. That night, one thing above all became abundantly clear.

Both civil and profane, the sound encompassed both the lady’s diction and the withering honesty of the nasty woman. Yet it was far more than that. Around the country the air carried the voice of a manifold population gathered from all manner of lived experience.

This was not the voice of me above you. Nor was it the voice of “I”. Nor “Them” against “Those”. It was the voice of “Us” demarcated neither by gender, nor age, nor geography. It spoke to what America truly is. We are strong not because we are this thing or that thing. We are strong because we are Every Thing.

In 1883 the poet Emma Lazarus wrote the words now inscribed in New York Harbor, describing that New Colossus. She towers not like a brazen giant, but “a mighty woman whose flame is imprisoned lightening, and her name, the Mother of Exiles.”

We also know her as Liberty.

She shrinks neither from fear nor the immensity of her challenge.

Send these, the tempest-tost to me, she asks. And she embraces them with a mother’s arm. This act that might speak of weakness becomes our greatest strength and reveals a moral wealth that casts shame on any gilded tower.

It rests in the belief that there can exist a nation able to accommodate all manner of creed and idea. In this way, the many, so different, can become a resolute and indivisible One.

Game 4

A week ago we hunkered down in a standing room crowd in the Public House, the bar holding up the bleachers just behind home plate at AT&T Park.  The Giants were still battling it out with the Kansas City Royals and at that moment the Royals had just scored 4 runs at the top of the third inning.  The crowd had grown somber and quiet, folks clenching glasses of beer as we watched the wall to wall screens.

It’s not like I’ve ever followed baseball.  I shouldn’t have cared less, except for there was one person who cared a whole awful lot.


Howie Usher

Howie Usher, our friend river guide, had suffered a stroke two years earlier.  He was defined by the river – he’s probably been down the Colorado and in the Grand Canyon over a hundred times in the last thirty years.  And he was defined by the San Francisco Giants.  Despite having grown up in Southern California, he’s been a religious Giants fan for close to fifty years.  He suffered through the 56 year drought when the Giants had gone without winning the championship. He reveled in 2010 when they at last won the World Series.  And he sat at home post-stroke, his left side mostly frozen when they won again in 2012.

At that time, he told everyone that he was going to get back on the river, not just get back on, but actually row, taking trips down through those daunting rapids.  It was not a likely prospect.  That kind of work is mostly for younger men and requires both parts of your body to be working at full capacity.

But for two years he counted and arranged stacks of pennies for hours to build his fine motor skills.  He swam  to rebuild his mobility.  His friends took him out on a boat on a lake so his muscles could relearn how to row again.  Mazie returned his lucky penny to him because it seemed that he needed it most.  He took long hikes every Monday to rebuild his stamina.

At the end of this summer, a small envelope arrived postmarked from Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  It came from Howie and the envelope contained his lucky penny.  Earlier that summer he had rowed on two trips and once more had guided his boat through Lava.

A few days later, Howie emerged from the Canyon and on the long drive up from Diamond Creek to Seligman and on to Flag, he was able to hear fragments of the epic post-season game between the Giants and the Nationals.  He listened inning after inning all the way home to Clarkdale and walked in the door just in time to see Brandon Belt score the winning run in the 18 inning game, the longest in post season history.

And on this night of Game 4 in San Francisco, Howie had a chance to watch his first World Series game in AT&T Park.  He and his friend sat up high, just to the left of home plate, and cheered as the Giants crawled back from the third inning, scoring run by run by run until they upset the apple cart with an 11-4 lead.

In Game 5, Madison Bumgarner pitched a 5-0 shutout.  A few nights later the Giants were trounced in Kansas City.  And in the final moment of Game 7, Pablo Sandoval caught the foul ball at the bottom of the ninth and the Giants brought it home in a nail biter.

As Howie is always wont to remind: beware of calling the game too early.  The World Series is nine innings in each of seven games.  You can be way down and there’s always up.  There will always be a lot more baseball yet to play.

And one more equivalency for the river guide.   If it’s true that you’re always above Lava, then it’s converse must be equally true:  you’re forever below it as well.



Yes, Virginia….

ImageI’m kind of the Duke of Snark.

But I have to hold off on this one.

And I wish deeply that Herb Caen was still alive so he could have shared in today. I have no doubt that it would have made him proud of the city that he so loved.

What is it about Batkid (or #SFBatKid to be more accurate) that’s so captivating?

Like many others, I tuned it by chance late Friday morning. My wife said there was a picture of Batkid on the internet and when she saw him she began to cry. As did millions of others. Within hours the Twitter and Facebook and international news feeds were lit up with coverage of Batkid as he raced about the streets of San Francisco foiling one caper after another.  Workplaces ground to a halt as folks tuned in to the boy’s activities.

The chance to dress up in a bat cape and bound through San Francisco in a Lamborghini cum Batmobile dealing with the likes of The Riddler and the Penguin? I’d do it in a heartbeat. The reality is that little Batkid’s day is the day we all wish for. We all want to be battling the bad guys and saving Gotham, but typically it takes the form of correcting an expense report, or dealing with a call from the school, or recovering from a fight with a parent or child or sibling. Wasn’t there once a simpler time?

In this world, we got enough bad guys. Or maybe just sad guys. The ones who shoot up schools, or overcome by their own prejudices light other teenagers on fire. Or terrorize the city of Boston with mayhem and murder. Or engineer government shutdowns and hold our debt ceiling hostage.


It’s such a relief to have bad guys of the old fashioned stripe. The ones who tie up a Damsel on the Trolley Tracks or try to Rob a Bank or Kidnap Lou Seal the SF Giant mascot. The old timey kind of stuff. The kind of stuff that can be taken out by a 5 year old kid in a bat suit who believes.


Some may ask what 12,000 people could do if they applied themselves to other perhaps greater causes. But it’s not an either/or proposition. As my friend Al Azhderian once said, It’s a Big Tent. One good deed does not preclude another. Our world and our selves can accommodate as many good deeds as we can dream up. In fact, each act creates the space or possibility for even more.

And the thousands who turned out today didn’t do it for the kid. In the end, it’s not so much about Batkid, but about that thing people have been hungering for. It’s about what Batkid gave us. In this sour season, he and Make a Wish reminded us, if only for a moment, of our ability to believe. To believe in the power of caring and love. And in the power of a body of people who for many competing reasons all felt it important to come together. And in our ability to transform reality simply by choosing to make it so.

aptopix-boys-batmanIs San Francisco really Gotham? Did Police Chief Greg Suhr really go on TV and plea for Batkid to save the city? Did the Giants and the Raiders cheer Batkid on? Did the District Attorney really indict the evil doers? Does Batkid actually have his own parking space? Is it truly Batkid Day for now and forever? And did the President of the most powerful nation on earth (along with competing members of Congress) really give Batkid shouts of encouragement?

Of course not. We all know such things could never really happen. It’s impossible. Isn’t it?

6. The Story of the Wawona

The Wawona docked in Seattle

Why was timber being shipped all the way from Seattle to San Francisco?  Why not bring down wood from the Sierra Nevada which geographically was much closer?  The answer suggests what the Age of Carbon has robbed from us.

People couldn’t bring the wood from the Sierras because at the time there was no easy way to do it.  The railroad hadn’t been built yet.  Hauling timber down from the mountains by ox or cart wasn’t feasible.  And so, as it had been for thousands of years prior, the maritime ruled supreme.  For most of human time, river ways were in fact road ways.  You could cut vast territory quickly and efficiently by plying the rivers.  In the 1800’s the only way to move wood out of the Great North Woods was to float it, eventually to the mills and lumberyards of Chicago.  And in the 1850’s it was far easier to ship timber by schooner than muscle it down from the Sierras.  Even in the early years of the Gold Rush, timber was barqued 13,000 miles around Cape Horn from New England.

Which tells us something else.  You can’t cut big timber without a mill.  A mill requires blades.  And gear trains and  steam or water driven engines.  Little of that could be easily had on the West Coast of North America in the 1840’s.  So the first west coast mill built in Bodega Bay in 1843 by Stephen Smith was a big deal.  It meant that boards could be easily had.

Within a few decades nearly 800 mills lined the coast from the Bay up through the Pacific Northwest.  Their sole purpose in the early years was to mill the giant coastal timber stands and ship the cut wood to San Francisco.  Originally it was done by square riggers, but by the 1860’s special lumber vessels were being constructed, many coming out of the Bendixsen shipyard in Humboldt Bay.  The ships had simple rigging and deck arrangements to facilitate the loading of lumber.  Much like with modern container ships, the board cargo was all deck stored.

The three masted 165 foot Wawona came out of the Bendixsen yard in 1897 and ferried timber from Gray’s Harbor down to California for nearly 16 years, after which she was deployed as a cod fishing vessel in the Bering Sea.

The Wawona herself was built of Douglas Fir, fashioned from material that had once been matter parceled from the sea. So for the breadth of her lifetime, from 1897 to 1947, sea energy harvested sea energy to be consumed by humans, or bore sea energy across the ocean, so that it could be cut and planed and hammered and fastened and battened into gingerbread Victorian homes, carapaces for up and coming merchants and gold boom urbanites.  In this way ocean was borne onto the land once again.

After the Wawona retired in 1964, she took harbor in Seattle’s Lake Union where she was slated for restoration at the Center for Wooden Boats.  For years it was possible to visit and walk aboard her masted carcass.  A couple years ago, though, restoration efforts were halted, she was towed to dry dock in 2009, and she was dismantled.

The Deck of the Wawona

If you’re reading this, you will never in this lifetime or any other have the chance to walk aboard the deck of Wawona.  

But picture this:  The new millennium, 1900,  and the Wawona bucks and canters in heavy surf, her hull tethered to a doghole chute.  The sharp knock of called lines and pulleys against spars and mast on a gray afternoon and more to go of an already  long day as sailors wire sweet redwood and fir onto the sheltered deck.  The winter air reeks of sea lichen, and bladderwort, and the must and rusted pine tar oakum that caulks the decking.  Picture the moist grunge, that sludgy wort that grows in the nether space between land and water, crumbling chinked mortar between port cobbles and brick, the living grease of taupe and ambergris mold that slickens the surfaces of skid rows and harbors.   It’s 1991 and the spring maritime has wet and chilled the night streets of Pioneer Square and inside the OK Hotel, mud honey, floors sticky with beer and air with sweat and smoke stink and Novoselic and Grohl and Cobain – he’s just a boy yet – drive out Smells Like Teen Spirit.

Streets of San Francisco

A few nights ago my family and I raced through Chinatown on a Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt.  Amidst pandemonium, explosions, dancing dragons, strip clubs, smoke and disaster, we cut through the crowds and down darkened alleys trying to decipher small clues on historical placards and scrawled on concrete walls.  It’s the hottest ticket in town.

What I liked?  It twists your sense of geography as you gyrate up and down the streets from angles. It keeps telescoping your attention from the macro (what street do we go to?) to the micro (a tiny date on a sticker posted on a mirror in a small stairwell leading up to Grant Street.  It’s one of the ever fewer activities in this world that renders our devices largely useless.  It’s all about pun and metaphor and the deciphering of a physical environment that is best done by humans.  It leaves you racing against a surreal dragon.  And best of all it makes you feel like Karl Malden running through Chinatown trying to catch a kidnapper or short circuit a bomb plot.

A rare gift to even have the chance to pretend to be heroic.

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.


San Francisco Spring

Union Square, San Francisco

Yesterday I had my string of checkup appointments marking the two year anniversary of my initial diagnosis and recommendation.

Rounds of hugs with the receptionists as I checked in with each doctor.  Diane and Misty and Rosa have become good friends and shepherds along the way.  And embraces with my docs as well.  Dr. Eisele and Quivey and Orloff are as wonderful people as you will ever find.

And it all checked out.  The incision has healed wonderfully.  The remaining salivary glands are intact.  There’s nothing funny growing in there.  I should be cleaning my teeth more frequently.  I’ll start as soon as I get home.

So now, in whatever way, it’s time to say goodbye to it.  I still have my appointments every year or so.  Some regular imaging.  But for now I can let go of that part of my life.

It makes me a little sad.  Dr. Quivey is retiring in July.  And my trips to San Francisco have been a staple for two years.  It feels a little like graduating college or leaving home.

It should be a wonderful San Francisco morning and I hope to enjoy it as such.  And then get the hell out of here.

I won’t miss the experience.  Only some of what it summons.

The Garden

Running toward the Embarcadero.  On Battery, I believe.  Lost in my iTunes playlist, I cut through a swath of green.  I guess we call them parks.  But suddenly I stop, arrested.  I am in fact cutting through a Japanese Garden.  It really is just a swath of green.  A scattering of stones.  A splash of water.  But it is a Japanese garden in the truest sense.

A Japanese garden is not a swath of green.  Nor an arrangement of plants.  It’s a psychological experience.  A metaphysical state.  A state that opens up the boundary between self and the outside world.  We call this boundary “perception.”

A masterful garden will arrest, it will capture the attention in the way I have just serendipitously experienced.

A park, a swath of green, has no rules.  Or rather, the chaos of the self rules.  Parks are primed for the 21st century American.  We are free to experience it in whatever way we damn well please.  Throw a frisbee.  Loll on the grass.  Kick a ball. Read a book.

In a Japanese garden, the designer rules supreme.  We become subjugated to the designers intent.  His intent becomes our experience.  And if the designer is gifted, a new layer of reality becomes our experience.

In this garden, the path turns and breaks.  A runner must slow down to a trot.  And then a walk.  And as you walk, you see the stones.  The swath of grass is home to the stones.  A pool of water is laced with moonlike stepping stones.  The stones invite you to enter the pond.  But not on our terms.  Instead on the terms of the stones.  The stones suggest where we should walk.  We have some measure of choice.  But the stones dictate the range of choice.

We have to pay attention.  If we misstep, we fall in the water.  And when we reach the last stone, what do we find? Nothing.

But it’s not nothing.  It’s the oval of rock upon which we stand.  It’s our vantage.  And it’s enough.  From this perch we see a small tree ungainly enough to be unworthy of attention.  So we look down.  And our attention is drawn to the reflection of the tree shimmering in the water.

We return.  But this time we see the fallen cherry blossom petals speckling the ground.  The death that arrives in hand with incipient birth.

The asphalt walkway turns to rock turns to a grass path, turns once again the rock.  This part of the garden privileges our feet.  Not our eyes or other senses.  Instead it says, you oh lowly feet.  You the ones that carry.  This spot has been created just for you.

Roadtrip to Cavalry

Yesterday morning.

I race for two hours through the desert at 80-95 mph to make a flight in Flagstaff, only to learn it was cancelled due to maintenance; and then to learn that the connecting flight was leaving from Phoenix, (140 miles away) in three hours so I race at 90-100 mph to southern Arizona, throw my car in long term parking, hoof through TSA and to the gate to board with ten minutes to spare; land in San Francisco several hours later, make my way into town on BART, walk up California Street because no street cars or buses are in sight, attempted to check into my hotel only to learn my reservation had not gone through and they were fully booked; rebook another hotel across town, travelled there by bus, dropped off my bags, racd to the San Francisco International Film Festival offices 10 minutes before closing to grab my badge; eat a bowl of soba noodles; walk 100 feet to the Kabuki theatre to learn that the film they were showing was sold out and I had to wait in rush; but so many people showed they couldn’t let anyone in from the rush line; a fellow approaches and sells a spare ticket to the guy in front of me, but his friend fails to show, so two minutes before the curtain goes up, he turns and hands me his ticket to

The Mill and the Cross.

Some ponderings:

I may like the painting better than the movie.  But I like the movie because it gives us cause to consider the painting.

Which makes me consider that procession and mesh of life and intervening forces in which we’re embedded as we fulfill that life into which we’ve been born, or trace that road which we’ve chosen.

I wonder with whom of all those 500 characters in the procession we each choose to align.  Are we the miller, the horseman, the weeping mother, the man shouldering the fallen tree?

And I found it pleasant to be thrust into the stillness of Brueghel time.  Especially after a harrowing day of travel to arrive in this harrowing city.  I want that stillness, that repose from which to witness that tragedy we call being human.

This morning I feel disconnected in this most connected city.  I wonder a little about what the hell I’m doing here.  

I eat more soba.

I decide that I will just move through the day and try to be kind.  That’s all I will do today.  Just be kind.  

I’ve kind of failed at it.  But I’m still trying.  I have eight more hours to go.  And again tomorrow. Perhaps I will try.


I continue my love affair with San Francisco public transportation.  Last night I’m on the 1 California heading east talking with Patrick on the phone.  He asks what’s going on, it sounds like I’m in some kind of bomb shelter.

I’m on the bus, I tell him.  And boy does he need to get acquainted with the bus.  The 28 is sweet, I tell him.  And the 30 Stockton still has secret twists and corners yet to be discovered.

I tell him that in the morning I wanted to go to the Marina District – a straight shot down Divisidero from Mt. Zion.  But on Muni I walk 2 blocks in the opposite direction, catch the 38L Geary to Presidio, hop on the 28 north at Masonic and within 20 minutes (no longer than it would take to drive and find parking) I am swooped circuitously west then north, then east through the Presidio and dropped down right in the smack of Cow Hollow.  It was absolutely exquisite.

I have three responses, Patrick says.  One, that is perhaps the most boring thing I have ever heard.  Two, I feel compelled to transcribe it word for word.  And three, there is some clutch of men in some bar somewhere in this city, talking about exactly the same thing.

Such it is to be in love.

Brown Cake

I crossed Funston St. on the bus home today. I once stayed in a house near Funston and Haight. It was Christmas time, 1983 and the city was still irrepressably fresh and alive to me as if every possibility lay resident in this place waiting to be awakened. I was with my girlfriend Alison and we were with a girl Darcy and her boyfriend, Gierdon. I remember the cotton linens and the intense cold yellow light and the smell of incense and colorful fabrics, the warm morning caramel aroma of coffee, and hundreds of strange and exotic objects from faraway places.

I think of Gierdon pacing the rooms of the apartment madly, ravenously and then calling Darcy a fucking bitch, a fucking whore, again and again until she broke down crying. I think of his gaunt frame and hollowed out burning eyes and handsome unshaven face. He held up semi-precious stones between his fingers and twirled them in the light. Look at them, he said. Look at how beautiful they are. And I asked where they came from. Afghanistan, he said. I brought them with me from Afghanistan. I import gems from Afghanistan, he said.

On New Years Day we awoke to streets littered white with calendar pages and Gierdon he had been at the New Years show and at midnight Bill Graham’s gnarled face had appeared on a massive video screen above the stage intoning: THIS IS BIG BROTHER. AND YOU KNOW WHAT? I’M FUCKING TIRED OF WATCHING YOU GUYS. YOU’RE ON YOUR OWN, he said. And then father time descended in a spinning cloud of fireworks and the band broke into Big Boss Man and Gierdon was backstage, he said. How were you back there, I asked. I have friends, he muttered.

I think of the fight I had with my girlfriend and of how a friend’s mom drove me back to San Diego and of how this woman on several occasions saved my life. I think of how she saved my life and of how years later she was murdered by her husband.

I think of 1980 on the grass in San Diego stadium up front waiting for the Stones to come on pressed in a pack of people. I had lost my shoes and boots crushed my feet and I burned my soles on glowing cigarettes. It was so hot, burning crushing hot and Bill Graham strolled onto the stage in a cut off t shirt and sprayed us again and again. He sat on his haunches and sprayed us.

I think of the Simon and Garfunkel reunion concert in Oakland Coliseum and again being there with my friend’s mom and of how she wanted to talk to them and how the stadium had cleared out and a lone figure made his way down the rows of thousands of chairs cramming the field and how I raced down the steps and hopped the railing onto the field and how I moved down the rows in parallel with Bill Graham slicing the plastic bracelets linking the chairs and I asked him why are you down here doing this? I pay twenty fucking thousand dollars an hour for this place, he said. I want to get out of here as fast as I fucking can, he said. I cut the bracelets and we talked. I loved this man I admired this man and I asked this man where Paul Simon was staying and this man stood up and stared with such fury. Do you think I’m stupid? he shouted. DO YOU THINK I’M FUCKING STUPID? Get this kid out of here! he bellowed. Get this FUCKING KID out of here!

I think of when the Dead played the Warfield in spring 1983 and I had driven up from Irvine by myself and it was cold that night and I had no ticket and I pleaded at the door explaining that I’d been inside and that I’d gotten sick and my friend had my ticket stub and if they would just let me in I’d take them to my seat to my friend to my ticket and the bouncer escorted me in and I led him to the balcony to a stranger whom I implored to hand me a stub but he couldn’t understand me and the yellow jacketed bouncer dragged me through the lobby right past Bill Graham who glared and hissed to me, to the bouncer, to no one, get that FUCKING kid out of here.

I think of Walodja Grajonca 13 years old before he had even reinvented himself as Bill Graham and his sister younger yet and their parents burned in the ovens of Auschwitz and how they had walked across France hiding stealing until they eventually came to Spain and his sister died there and he came alone on a ship to America. And of how he came to study business in a Bronx community college.

I think of his offices decades later torched and burned to the ground by people who hated him. I think of those final moments when his own body was consumed by flames after his chopper hit powerlines as he surveyed the Oakland fires.

And I think of the kid in the Russian class I was failing. Three days a week I was bullied by the authoritarian Gospodin Hramov a bitter White Russian who hated shitheads like me and this kid a hippie kid who spoke better Russian than me and the kid told me how that weekend some cops had found Jerry parked in his limo in Golden Gate Park and he was shooting up, he was there with all his works and when the cops realized who he was they just let him go, the kid said. Isn’t that cool man, the kid said. They just let him go. Yeah, that’s cool, I said. But even as I said it I began to think it wasn’t.

And I think of that morning that Jerry died. He was in rehab in a private clinic and he was trying to make a go of it but it was too late by then and his heart could take it no more. That morning the news had run across the ticker of the New York Stock Exchange and I had been up all night on call at the San Francisco VA with Anna not yet my wife and Danny Feikin, the only one among us who was a doctor. But there we were all three of us in blue scrubs rounding on patients pretending that we knew what we were doing. Jerry had died and I made my way across the city to the spontaneous gathering in the park and his kids and recent wife stood on a stage and his daughter said to the mass of tweaked out kids: get a life, she said. And thank you. You put me and my siblings through college.

I think of those fields and fields of crimson poppies still growing in Afghanistan. And I think of now, of this once unimagined year, of our boys, our soldiers, of the pinch and the prick, their veins lighting up with gems of china cat, with cakes of Jesus’ Son.

I think of how horrible this world is, of how truly crippled we can be, and of how strange that we can find beauty in it yet. I think of how in this wide universe none of these stories have existed except in my own head, except they now exist perhaps in yours. And I wonder what’s left when even the ashes have burned. And as I find myself being burned each day in this she-goat chimera of a city, I wonder when ones stripes have finally been earned. Does it come with being incinerated?

Food on a Sunny Day

The day broke with sunlight this morning.  And warmth even.  Eating on the porch looking out over the Headlands, I actually felt pretty good.  If I chew on the left side of my mouth, Cowgirl cottage cheese tasted like cottage cheese.  A bit of tamale tasted tamale-like.  I can drink Pellegrino water (I wonder if the carbonation pushes it toward alkaline and so boosts the pH in my mouth…).

I ate piki.  I could taste that deep old corn taste.  The piki came from  Shungopovi.  I thought of a woman making the thin batter and of her prayers.  I thought of the man who grew the corn and the other man who burnt the salt bush to make the ash.  I thought of the saltbush and the corn and the springs.  I thought of the rock and the fire beneath the rock and the wood that fed the fire and the woman’s hand moving deftly across it.  I thought of layer after layer after layer of infinitely thin batter being spread, lifted and folded.  We call this food.

Afterwards I brushed and cleansed my mouth and still no mucusitis.  I’m tired, but I’m still without sores or sore throat and I don’t know whom or what to thank for that.  Perhaps the salt and bicarbonate of soda.  Or perhaps the piki.  Or perhaps all of you.

I think of all those things, sentient and otherwise, that create food, that create a community of health.