Thursday, April 26, 2007

Poetry Reading at Work

This month, as many of you know, is National Poetry Month. A co-worker of mine put together a Poetry Reading at work which many of us attended. It featured soft music, poems hanging on the walls of the conference room, poems strewn on the table, poetry books, pictures of poets, wine, cheese, crackers, grapes and chocolate.

Many of us who attended read poems we liked or read our own work. I read my favorite poem "Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carroll and two of my own.

First, I'd like to comment on Jabberwocky. The Alice books are my favorite books of all time and Jabberwocky is so sublimely perfect, it makes me shiver. It is one of two poems I've memorized in my life (the other was Green Eggs and Ham). I've always enjoyed reading it for it's playfulness and humor. And although I love reading out loud, especially my own stuff, I should have taken my brother's advice and practiced first. I didn't realize I was going to be as nervous as I was and Jabberwocky is a difficult poem to recite.

Still I had a great time. I enjoyed hearing other people's thoughts and feelings about poems near and dear to their heart. I loved hearing people read their own poetry, sharing themselves like that. For me it was all about putting myself out there even if I don't consider myself a poet. I learned that poetry is an expansion of self, like all writing is, but this form of writing goes straight to emotion, memory and to your body because it is rhythmic and visceral.

Good times. Kudos to Mr. S.M. setting it all up!!! Below are the poems I wrote and read for this event.

Three O'Clock in the Morning

We sit on opposite ends of the spectrum
He and I, watching the empty spaces
Sirens go off like errant smoke detectors
Startling and annoying these tender ears

The old ghosts from the Past slink by
I've taken to ignoring their empty wisps
They boo and hiss and puff up for attention
I swat them away like the gnats they are

Traffic reports blare in the the background
Lights flicker from almost dead televisions
At night the neighbor's car alarm goes off
The house dog barks, snarls at everything

Sometimes we send each other smoke signals
Sometimes I wave and yell "Hello! There!"
He cups his hands to his ears while it rains
While I toss and turn the night away

People in the High Tower

Back when we laid the ground with tracks
The hot sun and dusty smoke stinging eyes
We ran along those backbreaking roads
Just ahead of the train

I did not run the marathon of death
Nor would I settle for mere appointments
Or words stretched out across the page
Even at six minute intervals

Inside is the vast storage of imagination
Outside is everything else in the world
Here we have banker's boxes and .pdfs
Thoughts made visible

The days fan out like unnecessary copy jobs
The nights a banquet of leftover pasta dinners
They sit in their offices always one step ahead
Time to go home

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Dating Life: Don't. Touch. The. Pictures.

I met a guy a few months ago. It was our first meeting and I'd picked a fabulous venue for our first date, if you want to call it that: Stanford University's Cantor Arts Center. It was a beautiful day and I was going there to not only meet this guy, but to make small dream come true.

Richard Avedon's book of portraits In the American West is my favorite photography book of all time. I have it in my office at work, open and propped up on a shelf, and every week or so I change the pages so I can ponder and be amazed by yet another portrait. The photographs are uncompromising and challenging. I can look at them for hours. I even wrote a short story based on one of them.

Stanford's Cantor Arts Center was exhibiting half of the portraits from the original show shown in 1985. I couldn't wait to see them. Avedon had chosen to blow the portraits up to huge size so they were even more in your face.

As I met the guy, I managed to be fairly reserved, but I was jumping out of my skin with anticipation for this exhibit. When we got to the room with the portraits, I felt like I was going to pass out from giddiness.

Oh my God! They were all just as marvelous and moving and wonderful and disturbing as I thought they would be. They featured some of my favorites, including the one I based my short story on. We talked about each photograph, about the subject, about the details we could see in the pictures. Things were going well. I was really happy.

And then...he reached out to make a point about one of the portraits and he touched the photograph.

I flinched where I was standing. Then I kept flinching because he kept doing it as we moved around the room. I didn't know what to do. I knew I should tell him to knock it off, but I was worried he would think I was too uptight. Then I realized anybody who felt that way about something I said didn't deserve to spend time with me, especially in that place. I was about to tell him to stop when a security guard showed up and told him to back off. I breathed a sigh of relief. He made a snide comment about how he "broke the rules."

Now you should know I had a similar attitude about touching art when I was much younger. I worked at a children's museum where everything was interactive and had an arrogant view of "regular" art which you weren't supposed to touch. In fact, I almost got booted out of the San Jose Museum because I insisted upon sitting inside a 3-D piece of art. When the security guard came up and told me to remove myself or I would be asked to leave, I sneered much in the same way this guy did. I explained to the guard that the best way to experience the piece was clearly sitting inside it and it was his loss if he didn't see it that way.

I have since learned more about art, what makes art special and why I love it so much. I still like to get close to pieces, but I don't try to touch them anymore. Getting close is one thing (sometimes the guards still have to ask me to back off), but touching those pictures is quite another. For crying out loud they were from the original show and Avedon is dead!

The guy did give me a nice compliment. He said he hadn't been with someone as intellectual as me in a long time, and that I had a lot of depth. Still, it didn't work out. He wasn't into me either.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The 1941 First Edition Steinbeck

I'm into natural history, that is, wandering around, looking at plants and animals, making sketches and notes. Over the years, I've collected field guides and other books on the subject.

When I was much younger I heard about a book called "The Log from the Sea of Cortez" by John Steinbeck and Ed Ricketts. The Log (ship's log) is only the first half of a book they did together chronicling a marine collecting trip they took on a boat down the California coast to the Baja peninsula. The second half of the book are notes of the animals collected, all carefully made by Ed Ricketts (who provided Steinbeck with inspiration for characters like Doc in Cannery Row, among others). Both Ricketts and Steinbeck contributed to the Log.

A couple of weeks ago I was at a used bookstore in my neighborhood and saw a turquoise green book in the rare books section of the store. It said "The Sea of Cortez." I asked the bookstore clerk to take it down for me and I carefully opened it up. It was a First Edition, a little damaged on the spine and missing its dust cover, but the pages were all intact including the plates of the animals collected. Steinbeck and Ricketts published this book in 1941. Only 7900 copies of the first edition were made.

The book was $200. I bought it anyway.

Missing the dust jacket.

Here, you can see the damage to the spine.

This is one of two or three first edition books I have been casually looking for my entire adult life without hopes of ever finding one. When I opened the book up and saw that it was $200, I winced, but then I kept turning the pages and knew I had to have it even if it wasn't in pristine condition.

Title page. Isn't it beautiful?

This book has lots of photographs of the animals they collected and cataloged. What? You didn't know Steinbeck was interested in marine biology? We learn something new everyday.

Of course, I haven't read it yet. I've never read the Log from the Sea of Cortez, but will do so as soon as I find one in a used bookstore. I don't want to read this one. Need to keep it as clean as possible.

Here's a picture of one of the color plates.

There are only eight color plates, the rest of the species catalog is in black and white, but I assure you they are all splendid. Many of the pictures also have a ruler so you can see sizes of things.

One of my friends at the Aquarium, Biologist 4, was kind enough to give me a fourth edition of Between Pacific Tides by Ed Ricketts to go along side of The Sea of Cortez. Although this 4th edition is out of date by now, it's still a groundbreaking book by Ricketts and directly relates to one of my favorite activities, tide pooling.

Last time I checked, a pristine copy of the "Sea of Cortez", including the dustcover, was going for $1,500 on eBay not that I'm in it for the money. Still, it's nice to get an idea for how much these things might be worth. This book isn't worth $1,500 but it's probably worth more than $200.

Just thinking about that book sitting silently on its dark shelf where no sunlight can get to it makes me very happy.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Over the Door, Electrostatic and Cherry Pie

Time for another three beautiful things post:
  1. I finally got one of those ironing board over the door thingies. My bedroom was dominated by my California King size bed and my ironing board. Now there's all this lovely space where the board used to be. :-)
  2. I finally found one of those electrostatic brushes for taking dog hairs off my wonderful red couch. I'm soooo happy!
  3. Left over cherry pie from Baker's Square.

City Life: View From My Sliver of a Window, Looking West

I have a small slice of a side window that looks out on this view. I live in the Inner Sunset neighborhood. That bunch of trees there is Golden Gate Park. The area on the other side of the trees is The Richmond neighborhood. If you look closely past the trees you can see the grey/white of the Pacific Ocean. The big pink church is St. Anne of the Sunset Catholic Church.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Today I asked about the compartments scattered around here. They pulsate with light and color, gently changing in mood. They said the compartments were fine as long as they remained soft and easy to move around. Their walls are like squishy smooth well kneaded dough. They smile at me, wink sometimes.

I am usually surprised these days.

I spoke to a man earlier about our film reviews. While I'm merely reviewing Kurosawa or Weimar cinema, he's embarked on a years long review of every film that's won in every major category of the Academy Awards. This year he started on the Best Foreign Film category. I'm enthralled, amazed. Hell, I might even be turned on a little.

He says he sits in the darkened theater of his favorite places, eating fresh popcorn with real butter and salt. He gently sips Coca Cola out of a straw, no chewing straws for him. His eyes are big and very wide open. He loves Orson Wells.

My little workshop in my living room beckons. I was going to do some drawing tonight (I need a scanner so I can embarrass myself by sharing my drawings with you), but I lifted some weights and got entangled while doing clean and jerks. The lunges are what get me. I don't mind the endorphins, though.

Mr. Gryphon and I are here at my desk. He sits behind me on my lipstick red couch. I talk about my recurring psychic vision of a man driving up my hill late at night and parallel parking. The man calls me when the engine has been turned off, asking if he can come up.

"That vision is an overlay from a parallel universe," Mr. Gryphon suggests. The couch is big enough to be really comfortable for him and he's completely relaxed, leaning back with his eyes closed.

"No, it's not from another universe, " I say, "It's happening here and now. Everything is happening now."

I've realized this truth and I didn't have to smoke any illegal substances, listen to another math lecture or ingest any hallucinogens. Sometimes I expand my awareness far enough just so I can tell which direction the bus is going to come in the mornings. I've only been wrong once so far and my mind has only gotten larger with each foray I take it on.

The Middle Ground

It's the spaces that cause all the confusion for me. For in between the words, the rushes of emotions, the nucleus and the electrons is a world of emptiness.

It may seem empty, but it's not. It's full of secrets, HD radio stations, UFOs, real feelings, the real things you want to say to another person, the meaning of life, quantum leaps. Each space is pure potential and a Big Bang is about to occur.

I used to think that finding the manual for living a great life was what I needed, but now I know that it's reading between the lines that will get you there. It's the space between the ones you love and yourself that makes you feel it most acutely. It's the longing to say something when the words won't come.

It's the place of boundless energy and deepest silence. It's the place to come when you need to rest or rejuvenate. The middle ground will make you whole. It's not about not tipping the scales. There are no extremes.


Today I brooded and slumped by those elegant divas getting my courage up. Stomach churning, eyes dry, contacts like sand paper.

No Video Game Boss in sight.

I ran through all the scenarios in my mind and none of them were good.

"No, I don't want to be around you." That was the same conclusion I kept coming to. "It's not working, it's a style thing," I keep saying.

I get monosyllabic answers and slamming doors. Why should I be surprised? Now, no one is talking to me. I can only hope these conclusions will blow over.

I have a feeling that none of this will fade away. Sometimes standing up means standing alone. Perhaps forever. Then again, I could just be mistaken, full of myself or simply full of shit.

I'm sure it's all three, but the funny thing is I'm definitely not mistaken.

Choka Poem

Just posted the following poetic blurb on The Choka and I really like it so I'm reproducing it here.

Time crawls parallel to me
Where did you go, love?

Reach across the nothing void
Barely touch your hand

Other dimension splits us
Or just the cell phone

No matter what you're still there
Fading in and out

Flashes and glimpses of you
Somewhere in the world

I like how it reads. I like the time, reaching across and missing each other thing. It felt really good writing it. It feels like everything flows naturally, like it was already part of the landscape; I just happened to make it visible.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Like Sunday, Again

"Write whatever you want. Who gives a damn what anybody thinks?"

Mr. Gryphon and I are sitting on a vast greyed out beach. The sand is the color of slate with flecks of black, the ocean the color of cold steel. The sky hangs pewter above our heads. The red blanket we are sitting on looks like a pool of blood in all this grey.

"I worry too much. I reveal too much of my own stupidity in matters of love, Mr. Gryphon." I have just finished reciting a post I did called "Triangular." It's about, you guessed it, a love triangle.

"That post is real and true," he says not looking at me. His feathers ruffle elegantly in the wind. "The best writing is about truth even if it's fiction."

I sigh. "I know, I know." I examine my chewed up fingers.

He looks at me finally, his great yellow eyes a comfort. "That post is as real as The Coda, Miss Turtle, as real as the story you wrote about April where we all kill each other."

I trace my finger in the sand before replying. The sound of the sea rolling stones as it rushes up towards us on the shore is another comfort to me. "Yes, it is, but I didn't post any of The Coda or the story of April on this blog and I doubt I ever will."

"So why not be content with leaving 'Triangular' off this blog, Miss Turtle?"

"Because I love it so much. I went straight for the jugular on this one, holding nothing back. I was exhausted when I finished it and it still brings me to my knees when I read it."

"Then post it. Just do it and don't look back," he says.

He's right, but I get all worried. I shouldn't be saying these things here. I shouldn't be whining. I shouldn't be exposing my starting-to-heal broken heart like this all the time.

I worry that all of you, good folks who come here, will think I'm a nut case because God knows others feel that way about me.

Mr. Gryphon and I say nothing else. A blinding spotlight of white sunlight lands on the sea as the clouds open up. It looks like an angel is about to drop out of heaven carrying a divine horn. It better not be Gabriel. If it is, he better not blow that horn.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Portable DVD Player, Fourteen, Pieces

It's late but I still wanted to do a post. Three beautiful things:
  1. A portable DVD player with 10 inch screen. It's my luxury splurge since I got a refund on my taxes. At work during lunch I watched DVD commentary for "The Lower Depths," a film by Kurosawa. I prefer to watch the full length film at home, but I don't mind watching commentary or documentaries in pieces and now I can do it at lunchtime!
  2. Fourteen (14) men I'm communicating with on eHarmony. There's gotta be the potential for a couple of dates in there somewhere.
  3. Doing things I love in pieces. I have now learned that even writing a paragraph or for 10-15 minutes is better than not writing at all. The same thing with drawing a picture or taking a single picture. It all adds up in the end.
Hope everyone had a good Monday.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Dating Life: Online Dating Update

Since I came here four or so years ago, I've had some experience with online dating. I've been on,, and, plus some weird site where you and your dog are matched up with someone and their dog. I have to say I like Craigslist a lot because of its democratic nature, plus I can exercise my good writing skills there. That being said, I think the chances of finding a long-term relationship on Craigslist are only a little better than finding a long-term relationship on MUNI. I'm not knocking MUNI. I love our public transportation system, warts and all, and I've heard of people meeting on MUNI and getting into long-term relationships, but I still think the chances of that happening are very slim.

A friend of mine commented recently that she felt her choices for men were far better on BART than on any online service. I don't commute on BART so I wouldn't know.

Supposedly, your chances of finding a long-term relationship on Match, Chemistry and eHarmony are much better. I tried and it was a complete bust. Sure about 650 men looked at my profile (picture), but the only ones who contacted me lived in New York. somewhere in the Middle East (I forget where) and London. I terminated my account with Match because I thought finding someone who lives on the West Coast might be a good place to start.

Chemistry is similar to eHarmony in that you fill out a lengthy questionnaire, they come up with a personality profile then they "match" you with people. Like eHarmony, they have a "guided" process where you can send questions to the person, they respond, and you go from there. I didn't have much luck on Chemistry either. Several months of that yielded me the conversation I had below "All he could say was 'Oh.'"

In all fairness, a friend mine met her boyfriend on Chemistry. They are doing very well. Her success gives me hope that I might do just as well someday.

A couple of people I know are either on eHarmony or have had good luck there so I thought I'd give it a shot. Maybe I'm being too optimistic, but one thing I do know for sure is you will not meet anybody, least of all the love of your life, if you stay in your apartment and do nothing. Okay, there might be times when you call the repairman or the cable guy shows up and it's all flowers and stars, but I think those times are unexpected, few and far between.

At this juncture, I'm really trying to keep an open mind. I've decided that casting a wide net is best. As long as the guy's picture doesn't make me go "ARRRGGH" and his profile is reasonable, I'm going to start communicating with him. I would like to be in a long-term, healthy relationship (emphasis on the word healthy), but for now I think it would be best for me to take things one step at a time and just find someone interesting who lives in the Bay Area who would like to go to movie or museum or something else low key.

It's as good a place to start as any.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Dating Life: All He Said Was "Oh"

This past weekend I spoke to a guy I'd been communicating with via email for the first time. It was a strange conversation and I don't mean that in a good way. I can overlook the fact that the guy seemed nervous/socially inept even with his nervous, hyena-like laugh every couple of sentences. He seemed to relax only when talking about his work with lasers. I asked him a couple of questions about lasers, and was able to keep up with the conversation, but I was so bored.

He asked me about the spontaneous drive I took to Vancouver in the summer when I visited Seattle, then told me he used to live in Seattle and had never been to Vancouver. He couldn't think of any decent reason to go there except maybe to see the aquarium and that wasn't a good enough reason.


Vancouver is a beautiful city and clearly there's a ton of stuff to see there, but if it's not your scene so be it.

Things took a strange turn when he kept talking about aquariums. He said he'd been to world class Monterey Bay Aquarium, but didn't like it much. I mentioned that I volunteer at an aquarium. His reaction was silence. Usually someone says something like "Oh, do you take care the fish?" or "What do you do there?" Not knowing what else to say I said something like "Yeah, I work with the penguins. I've been doing that for a long time."

"Oh," he said. In the almost 20 years that I've been working with these animals, I have never gotten a reaction like that. The reaction is always one of amazement and curiosity. Questions usually range from: "What do you do with them?" to "What are they like?" or even "Is it cold in their tank?"

All he said was "Oh." He asked no questions about penguins or the aquarium. This was not a good sign. In fact, other than obvious signs of psychosis and violence, I would say this is the worst sign of all.

He ended our conversation with "I think I might want to call you on Sunday." He might want to call me? Perhaps I was being oversensitive, but it sounded really arrogant to me. Thankfully, I haven't heard from him again. Clearly he wasn't into me and I'm certainly not into him.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Aquarium Life: Introducing Howard

Now that sufficient time has passed, I can tell you all about Howard. Since a picture is a far better introduction, here he is:

Howard, Approx. 10 Weeks Old

Yes, that is a genuine (almost) baby penguin you are looking at there. Actually, Howard is on the verge of becoming a juvenile penguin (where they become old enough to lose their baby down and get their new feathers). You can see Howard still has a bit of his baby fuzz left, but only on the top of his head.

At this point Howard is just about adult size. Indeed, he is the largest (and fattest) juvenile penguin I have ever had the privilege of helping to raise. You can't tell in this picture, but Howard's flippers (wings) and feet are proportionally larger than his body. Penguins at this age always have some more growing to do. Howard is no exception.

Here's a picture of Howard at a little over five weeks:

Howard about to be weighed and fed for his afternoon feed

You can see Howard still has all his baby down in that picture. Also, to give you context about sizes: Howard is now just about adult size, that is he comes up to my knee.

Baby penguins are notoriously cute and smelly from birth to about five weeks because they have been fed regurgitated fish from their parents. As time goes on, they are given more whole fish which cuts down on the smell.

As you can see from the top picture Howard is a lovely shade of blue/grey. When juveniles lose their baby down, they start out with this coloration. After about a year and a half or so, they molt and get their adult coloration (tuxedos).

Howard is generally a sweet bird, but he's properly defensive and wary when he needs to be. He started out nervous around me and trying to bite me here and there. Last Saturday, I spent some time with him and we had a long talk. We're much friendlier now. Overall, his being defensive is a very good thing because when he finally gets introduced to the main display and the adults, they are going to kick the crap out him to be sure he knows his place in the pecking order. This is not something to worry about. Howard can bite really hard when he wants to and seems to be able to stand his ground with no problems.

We may or may not have more baby penguins in the hopper. Time will tell.