Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Sunset at Parajo Dunes, California

I love how you can see the steady progress of the sun turning into a sliver. Taken the weekend after 4th of July while visiting some dear friends. Pajaro Dunes is less than two hours south of San Francisco.

Learning Life: How to Store Cheese

Since I've been eating artisan cheeses lately, I've learned some good tips for storing them.
  1. Wrap soft, medium and hard cheeses loosely in waxed paper, then wrap loosely in good quality plastic wrap. Change the wrappings every couple of days.
  2. Wrap blue cheeses loosely in plastic wrap and store in its own plastic container with some holes poked in the container. Change the wrappings every couple of days. Storing blues in this manner still allows them to breathe, but does not transfer mold to other cheeses.
  3. Store all cheeses in the veggie bin in your fridge where the humidity is higher.
Wrapping cheeses loosely is very important as cheese needs to breathe. Take them out at least an hour before serving (I put them in a small glass dome, the cheese-putter-in) and serve on a cheese board. Each cheese should have its own knife/slicing tool. Keep all your tools clean: board, knives, slicers, plastic containers, veggie bin, etc.

Saturday, July 28, 2007


The colors only got brighter with that expensive stuff. No feeling like I'd take on the world. No staying up all night. Smooth sailing, though. No choke.

"There's a limit," said the Cutter, "You can only get so tall before it bottoms out on you."

Who are these people, these Parents? At the time, the most frightening thing I'd ever seen were the scales all over the dining room table. The table was so large it could have been laid out for eight or even ten. I think about parents I know now, even knew then, and I'm convinced those people are all dead and buried. Crisp hundred dollar bills fluttered around the edges of the table in a gross parody of cliche.

Parents. Almost as lethal as the ones who fed the kids almond flavored Kool-Aid. We were lucky. They left us alone. They had blue velvet drapes hanging loose in the living room. It's 3:15 in the morning. You don't know where your children are because I'm one of them. I don't even know where I am.

I digress.

Burning sharp, cheap. Eyes water. Some kind of lift going on up there. Nervously, I talk of elephant tranquilizers and bodies of water. It's like a bad dream. A kid with a blond Moe haircut, who has just gotten to his growth spurt, is rouncing around. Everybody wants to be his friend. Everybody wants a smooth sailing. A Parent, male, glowers at me. He's used to seeing the likes of us, so stupid and useless.

A friend, one of the few I'm with, produces a Jay. I'm running wired and it's close to dawn now. I have to run down soon. Before we leave in a 70s crowded car, I catch a glimpse of Sabrina the Princess, her long dark hair and youth is waning at the tender age of 14. She's dead. It's only a matter of time. The Cutter glances over at her and shakes his head. It's a lost cause. Her big dark eyes see none of it.

Thankfully, I move on from all that. Thankfully, I only went with them to see the Parents and the Cutter once, my nerves having failed me. My best friend said I was unbrave, but at least I didn't make up imaginary boyfriends and tell elaborate tales about them.

The Tylenol stopped her short. And I was luckier than Hell for it. I didn't want to see those scales on the family dining room table ever again.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Writing Life: My Old Writing Group

I used to have a writing group I put together after my writing class ended. There were four or five of us who got together a few times. We would all struggle to write something to bring to each meeting. Oftentimes, they would only have a page or half a page of materials. It seems I was the only one who would bring entire first draft stories. Then all those good intentions dried up and real life took over. All of these people kept saying they were interested in writing, but none really wanted to keep it up. That's because writing novels, short stories and plays requires an enormous amount of time and focus.

One interesting thing I noticed about the good folks in my writing group is how most of them would strive to be clever and funny. Now, it's true they sometimes wrote funny things, but such a thing is difficult to maintain unless it comes naturally. And I mean so naturally that when you write something down, you don't really notice it unless someone mentions it to you. When someone tells you how funny you are, you sort of shrug it off because it's just what "comes out" sometimes.

I am not like that. I know one guy who truly inhabits that place. Everyone else I've ever known who wants to be in that place is trying way too hard.

Lately, probably because of this book on writing, I've been thinking of finding another group to join. Shouldn't be too difficult here in San Francisco, right? There have to be would be, struggling writers crawling all over the place. I can see that I am doing almost everything in my life in isolation. I need to join a pack of like-minded people.

I have mixed feelings about someone "critiquing" my work. I used to have people do that in my writing class. My writing was different from the funny, clever things they would write and the subject matter of my stories was usually dark. I'm not sure why, but they would find all kinds of motivations and symbolism in my writing too. It was interesting and gave my stories a life outside of me, but at the same time it would seem like some people were trying to psychoanalyze my characters' motivations.

I'm curious to see what kind of groups are out there and finding one I feel productive and comfortable in. It's a strange business. You write completely alone and yet you need people all along the way: to read your rough drafts, to help you find a publisher or agent, to help you edit and prepare for publication. I think I've spent way too much time alone lately. Time to see what groups will have me.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


"I believe you are in a better mood, Miss Turtle."

Mr. Gryphon is sitting on top of a high stone wall. I am leaning against the wall almost directly below him. The sky is bright blue with cottony white clouds. We are taking a break.

"It would seem so even with today's disturbing announcements," I say, "I read online that I'm just a little pipsqueak who can't possibly know the grand scheme of things so why worry? The article also said things never go the way you want them to because they can't. Things are simply the way they are. They aren't supposed to fit with your expectations."

"It is what it is." Mr. Gryphon echoes as he shades his eyes with his hand and looks around from his high perch.

I look up at him now and smile. He reminds me of the person whom he was originally supposed to represent. He seems to sense this, maybe, because he looks down at me and grins. We look at each other for a long time.

"Just get in the water and float," he says. We burst out laughing, then he goes back to looking around. A yellow meadowlark alights next to him on the wall and looks at him curiously before flying off again.

"Are you sure you want to continue as we are? I can fly us out of here in time to be home for dinner, " he says.

"Yes, I'm sure. I have cheese snacks here in my book bag in case we get hungry. Besides, aren't you having fun?"

"Sure, I'm having fun, but you've been in a dark state as of late."

"True, true." I can't deny this fact. My state has been so dark that I've actually been relishing a twisted exaggeration of it.

We are in a giant stone maze and have been for the last couple of days. I insisted upon this little adventure since finishing the last Harry Potter book. Mr. Gryphon hops down from the wall.

"I thought you liked hedge mazes best, Miss Turtle," he says as he fully opens his wings and stretches. His huge claws temporarily expand to their full intimidating length before retracting again.

"I do like hedge mazes, but I couldn't resist seeing you up on that wall. And don't tell me the way out, just point us in the general direction," I say. We start on our path again.

"I should talk to you more often, Mr. Gryphon, you know like in real life. Perhaps when I'm about to fall asleep."

"You do talk to me. Most of the time you're asking me questions about why this happened or what does that mean," he says. There is a pleasant breeze. The warm breeze and sunshine is a welcome change from the low, dripping fog in my real-life neighborhood.

"Must get tiresome," I say. He shrugs and we go round a bend in the maze. He reminds me of someone else and I burst out laughing again.

"What?" he says, but he knows anyway. He produces a paper airplane and flies it at me. It swoops around magically before I catch it. It says "Open Me."

I open the small airplane, read the message and laugh some more.

"I'm safe, Mr. Gryphon. And the reason why I'm safe is the person who might have an inkling about what's going on with the paper airplanes doesn't even know this blog exists. And even if he did, he still wouldn't know what to make of it all. So I'm safe."

"This post is far too cryptic, Miss Turtle. It's a disservice to whoever is reading it."

"Oh well. I guess I can afford to be a little cryptic now and then." We encounter a fork in the maze and I look left and right. I take aim and send the paper airplane off. It goes to the left. I pick it up and we move to the right fork. We round another bend and stop.

In front of us is the center of the maze, all lush green grass and hundreds of rose bushes all in bloom. The air is a riot of fragrance and color. We move forward slowly, taking it all in. Mr. Gryphon reaches out and plucks a snowy white rose and hands it to me.

"For your cryptic ways, Miss Turtle. And I might add that it would be fun to share some of your mysteries. There's plenty of roses to go around."

"I suppose you're right, Sir." Butterflies of all kinds are sailing by us in windy abandon. There's a luxuriously ornate white marble fountain with Posidon and his chariot, complete with diving dolphins, water nymphs, and flying fish in the center of the rose bushes. The water is not running now (to keep from harming the butterflies). We find a green painted iron bench on at the far side of the fountain and sit down.

"Things are never as bad as they seem especially if you focus on the good instead of the bad," muses Mr. Gryphon.

"Such as the paper airplanes?" I ask him.

"Well, they got us here, didn't they?" I smile at him. He produces a cold bottle of water, opens it and hands it to me. The butterflies seem to be flying around us in a bright dance, but that could just be my imagination.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Color of the Sky

Sky and Macy's Sign

Street light a few feet to my right in the same parking lot

While in the parking lot at the mall I became enthralled with the color of the sky. The blue was nowhere near sunset color or summer sky. Just the deepening dark you see in the first picture. I took many pictures and although none captures the color correctly, it's still close. If I had Photoshop I might digitally enhance the color, but I'm glad I don't. I prefer to take my pictures in real time and to keep them as close to real as possible (except when I'm playing with turning them gritty black and white).

While photographing the sky I took a picture of the parking lot light and got a couple of small smears, much like I get when I take my phone pictures at a concert. Intrigued, I started playing around with deliberately moving the camera. I like the second image a lot. It's weird in a jellyfish kind of way.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Rockets Red Glare

"Watch your step."

I stumble and slide as I make my way up the path. The people behind me are hankering to get ahead so I step aside to let them pass. It's almost dark and the narrow path we're on has us knee deep in ivy.

I can see dark shapes of people all around me. For some reason many of them have blankets wrapped around themselves.

"Shall we?"

I look up at Mr. Gryphon and then keep moving, but I don't say anything.

It's the 4th of July and other than a 7 foot tall golden imaginary gryphon, I don't have any other companions with me. I'm feeling a little excitement as I make my way up the hill, but at the same time my insides are churning. All day long I've been brooding, vacillating between anger and sadness. It wasn't a good day for me.

I reach a small area where many people are standing and sitting around. It's now almost dark and I'm thankful I have the key chain flashlight my brother insisted upon buying me. I see the dark shapes of people making their way to a still higher hill and follow them up.

It's a cold night. The day was glorious, clear and warm around 80 degrees. Weather like that spells paradise here in SF and I spent most of it indoors with the shades drawn. The wind is really blowing and I'm climbing steadily up the hill, Mr. Gryphon behind me. I reach a small path that skirts a concrete observation area. There are many people there, standing and milling around.

I make it to the top of the hill and move easily, anonymously among everyone. People are talking to each other and into their cell phones. I briefly consider making a phone call, but decide against it.

The view of nighttime San Francisco is wonderful. I can see the Bay Bridge, the lights of downtown. In the distance fireworks are going off in Sausalito to the northwest and Alameda to the east. Here and there are the bursts of fireworks all over the City particularly near City Hall and in the Mission. We are waiting for the main event and it's just about 9:30 pm. To the west, I can see our famous fog starting to roll in. Cold gusts of wind blow through us and I wish I had a hoodie on to keep my hair from blowing into my eyes.

"This was a good idea, Miss Turtle," says Mr. Gryphon. He doesn't look at me while he says this and again, I don't answer. People don't notice him as they move around and he manages, somehow, not to block anyone's view. We wait.

I try not to think too much, focusing instead on what a good idea it was to come up here. Wisps of fog float by us, but nothing that will obscure the view.

"There we go," says a male voice somewhere behind me. The fireworks have begun at Aquatic Park in the Marina and they are impressive. They have two sets going off at the same time. We oooh and ahhhh. Multicolored bursts fill the air to be followed by flashes of white, red and green. Then there's a blue flash and one that looks like a blue planet surrounded by a red ring appears. Then there's one that looks like a smiley face, heart shaped ones and green cube shapes, like a pair of neon dice. My favorites are the kind that look like big dandelions. They hang in the air for a long time afterwards.

We watch the fireworks. Occasionally a gasp escapes me or a little laugh. And even though Mr. Gryphon is standing there with me, I'll still all alone.

People start leaving, climbing over the concrete barrier in front of me, clutching their cell phones, each other, their blankets as the fireworks finale goes off. Then it's all over. People and the sounds of starting cars dominate. I slowly make my way back to the path that skirts the observation area and turn on my little flashlight. I walk slowly down, sliding a little.

I reach the road, crossing it to the next dark path, the one with the knee deep ivy.

"Dating is a discouraging business, Mr. Gryhon," I finally say. He nods at me and we continue on. I shine the flashlight behind me so he can see the path.