Saturday, December 03, 2011

Dating Life: I Posted This Ad On Craigslist...Annotated

Note: I posted this ad on craigslist last Valentines Day. It was just an experiment. I was more interested in writing the ad itself and not at all interested in meeting anybody. I got something like 20 responses, none of them viable. I took the ad down after I kept receiving responses asking what kind of drugs I was using (none). Here for your reading pleasure is the ad, annotated.

Un Chien Andalou (n.1) or Warm and Heavy Like Old Friendship

[Once upon a time...] (n.2)

Those ancient and old symbols quiver in the bright sunlight. We don't feel as old as we are but time keeps marching on as soldiers in formation. While the phalanx formation was appropriate for angels (n.3), time has no such poetry. It's all just straight lines and measured beats.

Speaking of poetry, how about if I do a little waxing? Of moonlight and walks on the beach? Of the stars that twinkle like shattered windshield glass on nighttime asphalt (n.4)? On seashore while we walk, ignoring the flaring bonfires of hipsters and hippies in our midst, watching cloud-like clumps of sea foam sliding across dark wet sand (n.5). Sandpipers are just barely visible running over the shore, delicate shadows. I could go on but I think what makes this evening special is the easy silence between us, your arm around my shoulders, warm and heavy like old friendship.

[Eight years later...]

This past week it's all about the films. Independent ones. I've tried cramming as many films into this week and next that I'm about to collapse from the stories and images flying around my subconscious like sugared up screech owls (n.6). Sure, I stole those words from the title cards but I couldn't resist. This post is about time after all. Time together, time marching on, the time of our lives, good times, and the time is now. Time bending and twisting like my brain did while watch nun exploitation films at 1:00 am with bad editing and worse acting (n.7).

I like to do a lot of other stuff too. Writing, obviously, though I write fiction with coherent stories most of the time. I like looking at paintings and sculptures. I like notes and beats, instruments. The usual stuff, though I'd be lying if I didn't disclose that the main reason I indulge myself in such pursuits is to fuel my imagination for more writing. Speaking of more, let's talk about that. More excellent conversation, more sexy moments, more telling you how cool you are (n.8), more fun times, more exploration of the world and each other.

Not less. I'm tired of less. The biggest form of less in my life right now is the job situation, just so you know. Other forms of less that have proved tiring: less kindness, less warmth, less understanding, less lovely connections.

[Around three in the morning...]

We are not battleships passing each other in the night firing our guns at random. When we see each other, we defy the usual norms by actually staying and talking, then asking each other our names, then explaining that we'd like to meet for coffee or a dinner. We like each other and follow through. We listen to each other and want to know more stuff At least that's the hope. A good one, wouldn't you say? For hope is not the broken down, kicked-in-the-ass bird trying to fly around on one wing that I sometimes imagine it to be. No, hope is the real deal, the enduring idea, and the sweet clenching in my chest. Hope never goes away in spite of my best efforts (n.9).

[Sixteen years ago...]

About me:
Long dark hair, eyes like the night wind
A little on the chubby side (padded)
Beautiful but in an average, non-descript way (n.10)
A solar-like smile

Looking for single/divorced, educated man.

[In the Spring...]

My life is full of too many maybes and what ifs. You know what I mean. These things crowd around me like gnats with tiny bombs. The only what ifs worthy of my attention are the ones related to my stories. Time to walk out into this big world, barefoot and open. Time to take a look around. Time to see what's up. If you've made it this far in this post, I thank you for reading. If you're at all interested, please do write.

I've written some excellent ads on craiglist over the years but this was the weirdest one. I read a horoscope that stated I needed to keep experimenting and frolicking around in matters of love. Or rather I interpreted it as frolicking. This was one way I could think of doing just that. I have no idea if I'll get any responses but I wanted to share this strange piece of writing with you anyway. Besides, it's fucking Valentine's Day, right?

(n.1) "Un Chien Andalou" is the most famous surrealist film ever made. It was a French silent film made in 1929 and directed by Luis Bunuel. Here's a blog post I did on it.
(n.2) The comments in brackets follow the title cards in "Un Chien Andalou," hence the post title. A title card was used in silent films to set the time, note dialogue, or provide explanations. Luis used the title cards in this film to mess around with time and force people to shift their expectations of what was happening when.
(n.3) In Milton's "Paradise Lost," there's a war in Heaven and the angels use the Ancient Greek phalanx formation in their battles. If you've seen the movie "300," Gerard Butler goes into a short explanation of how it works.
(n.4) It occurred to me that this phrase "shattered windshield glass on nighttime asphalt" might be a bit too grim to include in a personal ad but I left it in because I really like it.
(n.5) I was walking on Ocean Beach by myself one night and there were these giant clumps of seafoam sliding across the dark wet sand. They looked like cumulus clouds and they were moving very steadily. I felt like a giant walking on the roof of the world.
(n.6) I was in the middle of attending the San Francisco Independent Film Festival (SF IndieFest) when I wrote this post.
(n.7) The name of this film was "Nude Nuns With Big Guns" and I really did watch at 1:00 am.
(n.8) In Miss Turtle's world, one of the biggest compliments I can give a guy is "You are so cool." The only one that's better is when I tell him he's my hero. Heroes in my life are few and far between, starting with my Dad. The guy has to be a knockout to reach that status.
(n.9) This part is painfully honest. I'm generally a cynic when it comes to matters of love but this little confession about how hope never goes away even though I try to beat the crap out of it is so true.
(n.10) I'm always brutally honest when I post dating ads but there's nothing average and non-descript about the way I look. I wrote that down because guys never seem to notice me.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Old Blog - Dating Life: Strange Comments From Guys I've Dated

(First posted 12/14/05)  A friend of mine asked me to put this post up along with its counterpart (see post below)

"I always sleep with the same hand towel on my head every night.  I've been doing that since I was three years old." (First Date)

"You really should check out the Power Exchange sometime but it's only interesting if you're really drunk or really stoned." (Second Date - The Power Exchange is a famous sex/fetish club here in SF.  I have not been there.)

"Don't you want to be loved, adored, and worshiped?  Don't you?" (Second Date)

"I guess you're kinda cute." (First Date)

"Since we have time before the movie starts, why don't we go to my car and stretch out in the back seat?  I have some CDs we can listen to." (First Date - the guy was particularly proud that he had an SUV and really wanted to get me in there)

"So what are your feelings about the toilet seat?  Should it be up or down?" (First Date)

"So when do we get to have sex?" (Fourth Date - This guy was not making any moves in that direction at all.  He wasn't trying to hold my hand nor did he try to kiss me.  Nothing.)

"Yes, I have a real Warhol.  I used to have a Chagall but I gave it to my lawyers to pay for attorney's fees." (Second Date)

"I can't watch movies with subtitles and eat at the same time." (Second Date)

Old Blog - Dating Life: Strange Comments I've Made To Guys I've Dated

(First posted on 12/22/05)  In all fairness, I've decided to include the list below.  I can be quirky and stupid, and I'm known for sticking my foot in my mouth.  At least I'm honest about it.

"So what is the point of being enlightened anyway?" (First Date - I said this after a guy was explaining with much enthusiasm how he had achieved a high level of spiritual awareness.  I also quoted Captain Kirk during this conversation.)

"It's time for you to shut the fuck up now."  (Third Date - The guy was going on and on about how hemp was going to save the world.)

"I can't spend the night with you.  My dog has serious separation anxiety and she will freak out if I don't come home." (Fourth Date - It has been suggested that I've used this as an excuse, maybe it's along the same lines as "You can't come up to my apartment, my dog hates men," but it's true; my dog can't handle being by herself all night long.)

"Wait, isn't your email handle the same name as the husband who killed his wife in 'Vertigo?'" (First Phone Call - It turned out of the true, believe it or not.  He never thought in a million years that anyone would figure that out.  This is why Google is so great.)

"This is just a one night stand.  I can't be your girlfriend." (The Day After - apparently it wasn't clear to the guy that this was the situation because he kept insisting that I really did want to be his girlfriend.)

"You've been evaluating and testing me all evening, trying to see if I fit into some preconceived notions of what a mate should be.  Knock it off." (First Date - this guy was clearly looking for a wife and I passed all his tests with flying colors.  Unfortunately I couldn't stand him.)

"What kind of person doesn't watch DVD commentaries?" (Third Date - Sometimes the movie snob in me comes out in full force.  The guy liked movies; I was floored when he told me he'd never watched a DVD commentary.  He said it was too much of a time commitment.)

"I'm sick of people making fun of me because I love Harry Potter.  You need to get out of my face with that shit." (First Date - I've made this comment, or a similar one, a couple of times now.)

"Are you going to talk to me or are you just going to stand there talking to your friend?" (First Meeting - I was sitting at a restaurant bar eating dinner and reading a book.  This older gentleman was standing nearby talking to his friend about the book I was reading but looking at me.  He did talk to me but was so thrown by what I said that it didn't last long.)

"Was that a joke?  Are you being funny?" (Fourth Date - This was a difficult one for me.  I really liked the guy but was self-conscious around him.  I couldn't tell if he liked me, I couldn't tell if he was joking most of the time, and he was very impatient about it.  He concluded that I had no sense of humor and we were not compatible.)

"Why did you bring that leather whip?" (First Time Sleeping Together - I think it's rude to bring your BDSM toys to bed the first time you're going to sleep with someone without checking to see if the other person is into it too.)

"What is up with the stem on this rose?" (First Date - This guy bought me a rose while we were having dinner in North Beach.  The stem was really thick.  I proceeded to suggest that the stem had been genetically engineered to be thick and went on about the possible reasons why.  He didn't know how to respond to my comments.  Poor guy.)

"Don't make me figure out the tip." (Nearly Every Date - said in the same tone of voice as "Don't make me hurt you.")

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Jittered, Capped, and Dead Weight

Below are three separate posts from my old blog.  When I first posted it, people told me Jittered was a strong piece of writing, the first compliment of its kind for me.  Fortunately, it wasn't the last one.  The other two posts, Capped and Dead Weight, are meant to follow Jittered.  I love all three.  Jittered accurately describes a stressful day at work where all the men found me insanely attractive for some reason.  Maybe it was because I was wearing a skirted suit.  I love Capped because it's an odd description of complete exhaustion vs. sexual longing.  Jittered might be the best written of the three but Dead Weight is my favorite, especially the end.

Jittered (First Posted Feb. 9, 2006)
At 7:20 am I stood outside City Hall looking for the way in. I ignored that replica Italian dome vying for my attention. The sun was warm, the sky beautiful and it was already a bad start to the day.

I walked briskly, trying to disguise the fact that I had the shakes. I was pulling a hand truck with important documents. Documents that could make or break things, but I didn't care. I still had to get into the building. Something popped in my head. Grove. Street. I walked passed a couple of guys who both said good morning. I've been looking good lately. I feel like hell, but I smile and flirt anyway. Part of the job.

I'm holding the one thing in my hand that I should not be carrying. The one thing that will make and break me: a cup of strong coffee with a little sugar. I haven't drank it yet. When I do, everything will go jittered. My thoughts will scattershot all over the place. Must wait for the right moment.

7:42 am and I'm arguing with security who keeps telling me to go to the door at the end. I try to stay calm, but that shaky inside feeling is getting worse. I finally find the right door. The sun blazes outside. The angry employees are leaving all that warm sunshine for the big dome.

I manage to make it through the metal detector without falling to pieces. The security guard chats away. I thank him and move on. Basement. Okay. Up the elevator now. The men are tripping over themselves to help me find my room. They try to talk to me as we ride up four floors. I long to ask someone what kind of wood is on the paneling, but I keep forgetting. The brain is jumping here and there. To and fro. When I get off on my floor, the men realize they forgot to press their floor number.

I make it to my room and the door is locked. I wait outside with the documents. The hallway is long and wide with gleaming white marble floors. More men in suits show up and they all smile, say good morning. One guy really likes me. He's a hyperactive little shit or maybe I'm just projecting.

I drink my coffee now. I breathe. It's the last breath of the day that will have any effect except to move the oxygen around. In about ten minutes, I can barely keep it together. The morning flies by, a blur of papers and people. I'm sitting for hours on a red velvet chair that's too small. I get cranky. I want to punch the only other chick here in the face. Bitch.

Later I'm wandering through the Controller's Office. Everyone ignores me. I smile and look around waiting for someone to ask me what the hell I'm doing there. No one does. I could steal anything from that place right now because all the employees are sitting around talking about what they watched on TV last night. There are too many exits here, too many side stairs.

Back to my velvet seat. I drank that cup of coffee as quickly as possible. I'm so wired, I can't feel sorry for myself anymore. I try to calm down, but it's not working. I'm still cranky, but I'm kicking ass. I don't know how I do it. The suit next to me keeps flirting. Giving me sideways glances. He smells good.

I wander into the hallway to make a phone call. I stare down to the main part of the building. I look up at the huge dome and then down four floors of white marble and concrete. Alarms are going off in my body, something about not falling and going splat. I'm having a perfectly ordinary conversation and then another one. Each lasts ten minutes. My voice has not started shaking, but I notice it's pitched to a slightly higher octave. Inside my head pounds and my eyeballs start to burn. Tears run down my left cheek. I manage to stop the tears and get off the phone. Now my eyes are burning so bad it feels like I've been blasted with tear gas. I stop and "drop" into the moment. It works, but now I'm in the "moment" eyeballs burning and inside shaking.

Back to my red velvet seat. I kick some more ass. I got everything. You want it now? I got it. I'm ready for ya, baby. Bring it on. I know what you want before you do.

I'm finally out of there. I have to go find a man about some equipment. I spend the next 30 minutes wandering around City Hall while he tells me I can have anything, I just have to ask him. He gives me his cell phone number. I thank him and leave. The security guard insists upon carrying my boxes for me down the front stairs.

Day is beautiful. So am I. Jittered.

Capped (First Posted Feb. 9, 2006)
Safe in my stripped down apartment, the shakes start to subside a little. I'm pushing the envelope with all the wrong combinations. The only thing that would make things more interesting is if I added some recreational drugs. No dice tonight.

I watch a very bad movie. The same message keeps showing up: "The disk is dirty." That's accurate. I have to turn it off after a few clicks of the remote. Brain overload. I need water.

I shake out my thick hair and smooth cream on my soft skin. Floss. Brush. Stretch. I have good, sensitive hands.

Almost time for bed. I'll curl up in my silky cool sheets and dream about all the things I need so badly. I want to whisper softly. I want to tumble and flourish. I couldn't even if I wanted to. The body wants much, but must drop into dreamland now.

Dead Weight (First Posted Feb. 10, 2006)
The trembly overlay stayed with me all day. At least I didn't feel like punching that bitch out. In fact, I didn't feel like punching anybody out. Progress. I had a glimpse, a murmur of what it must feel like when the gangster raps that it was a good day because no one died.

I keep drawing shivery breaths. I managed to stay off the caffeine. I went to my own funeral just now, but left because they were getting ready to put me in the ground. The box is not a good place for me; cremation is the only way to go. Heaven and Hell are two sides of the same coin, two turns in the wheel. My worst nightmare is about to come true: I'm going to be reincarnated as a creature at the bottom of the food chain. A krill, anchovy or zooplankton.

I keep telling myself I should be coming down now, but it's not happening. That's not unusual. I tell myself things all the time and the outside just ignores all my yapping. The brain bounces but then goes back to center and stays for a second. I can't hear anything anymore. A promising sign.

I sat in my car when I got home and closed my eyes. I'd found center again and wanted to stay there. So I stayed for a while. The world went dark and quiet. No dreams. No nothing.

A friend looked me over today and said I looked like I should be reporting the news. "I like it," he said. My arms are trembling a little and I don't want to think about my hands anymore. I am chagrined and sheepish. Nothing new there.

The usual confusion blasts through my head. I'm full of mysteries and cocksure of them all. Everything is complicated because I make it so. Deadweight it all. Need to channel all those stories out of my really really world and onto the page where they belong.

Then I stand up straight. I look around. The stories are overflowing. It's like the water pouring out of the dark apartment, taps turned up full. I'm so shrink wrapped that I can't even see them. I've been slogging through the water and not noticing them at all. Everything is right in front of me.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Writing Life: Class Progress - Part Two

I'm supposed to be writing now, you know, working on my novel but I've been screwing off this evening so I'll further indulge myself by writing this post.  I already frittered away the evening by getting the photos from my Zion trip ready for public viewing.  Who knows, I may email one of my classmates after this blog post is done if my brain continues to rebel.

Nah, I won't do that.  What I'm going to do after this post is published is write.  What I mean by that is I'm going to work on my class novel (this blog post doesn't really count towards my daily quota).  And the reason why is because I have been writing everyday (except this past Sunday when we were hiking the Narrows at Zion) and this habit has ingrained itself into my psyche.

Write everyday, man.  Produce.  It's becoming my new motto.  Write even if I'm sitting in the back of the car, as we scream down I-5 en route to Vegas and then onto Zion National Park.  Write even though I'm crammed in with all the camping gear, luggage, pillows, etc. and there's barely any elbow room.  Write even though it's night at the campsite and everyone else is sitting around the picnic table having a lovely dinner.  I'm eating too but I'm apart from everyone because I have to "work."  The stars are ablaze overhead and the moon has not yet come up.  And still I have my eyes fixed to my Galaxy Tab while they indulge in conversation.

Write no matter what.

We are little more than halfway through the class and my critiques are getting ever more detailed and elaborate.  I don't think this is a good thing though one of my classmates assures me that it is.  I just keep finding more and more things to suggest about sentence structure, first lines, story structure, transitions, characters, etc.  And if someone asks me to answer questions about the story, like one person did, then God help them I'm off on a whole new page of commentary.  I had to force myself to keep the comments to one page.  I think I moved the margins and went down a font size in an attempt to look like I wasn't babbling on.   So fucking embarrassing.

Thing is, going to such measures is a lot of work.  I have to be in the right frame of mind and ready to put pen to paper.  I have to have a large block of time because I do it all in one go so I can keep the story fresh in my mind.  And I have to think, and reach, and keep digging to find more stuff to pull out of myself that might have some use to the writer.

All this effort is making my own writing better.   And I know my long winded critiques are helping at least one student.  And my teacher tells me I'm getting good at picking apart stories.

Rest assured I'm not making all this effort for the other writers in my class.  I'm doing it for me.  I know that if I put an enormous amount of effort into this shit then the benefits will come back to me a thousand-fold.  Or at least ten-fold.  Something like that.

My ability to produce a story quickly out of thin air is getting easier.  Whether the story is any good is a whole other thing.  I'm getting the idea that the novel I'm working on for this class isn't going in the right direction and I'm going to have to completely rewrite it.  Though this can be disconcerting, it's actually huge progress on my part.  Most of the time I get through the entire first draft before I discover the story isn't right and then I sit there wringing my hands wondering what the hell to do next.

I can skip the wringing hands part this time because I know what I need to do.  Progress.

Though all of these things are good, I'm expected to make a contribution to our class anthology Portion Control and I have no idea what I'm going to contribute.  I'm inwardly balking at the idea of including an excerpt of my class novel.  It's going to have to be something else.  Christ, how am I going to pull that off?

Yeah, I did say I can produce quickly but...well, I guess we are going to see just how quickly in the next couple of weeks.
Even with all my bellyaching, this class is one of the best things to happen to me in my writing life.  I'm seeing myself getting better and better, hands getting dirty, ink stains everywhere.  And good habits being developed besides.

I jokingly told my instructor when he was done with me I was going to be carved out of wood.  I was kidding but now I'm sure that statement is true.

Time to work.  On my class novel.  Not on the email to my classmate.

P.S.  Wow, I barely had to edit this post.  I guess I am getting better.

Zion Road Trip 2011

Yes, it's that time of year again. A time to get into the car and drive for 13 hours on Friday, arrive at Zion for the weekend, then hop back in the car on Monday to drive another 13 hours home. Still, it was a lovely trip. The weather was amazing (but a bit too hot for my taste). Gourmet food, wine, and cocktails were brilliant as always. Camping in tents and no showering for a couple of days.

And, best of all, fantastic friends.   Click on the picture to enjoy the photo album.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Writing Life: Class Progress - Part One

I started a writing class.  It's only the second one I've taken in my entire life.  The first one I took at San Francisco City College when I got here seven years ago and it was pretty bad.  The instruction, if you want to call it that, was non-existent.

At the time I thought I could teach the class better even though I didn't have much writing experience.  Now I know I could teach it better and I haven't published anything.

This writing class is taught by Tony DuShane.  Check out the link there if you want to know more about him.  He's published a novel and has his own interview show, etc.  I decided to start a new novel for this class instead of working on one of my existing ones.  I have plans for them and don't want to show them to anyone right now.  I was feeling a bit cheeky about that, truth be told.  Sure, yeah!  A new class, new novel!  No problem.

However, last Tuesday I sat down at my Galaxy Tab and stared at the blank screen.  I realized I had to pull an entirely new novel out of thin air and I wasn't sure if I was up to the task.  To top it off, this novel will be critiqued so I can't write a new novel and allow it to be a major mess no one looks at.  There has to be something for people to work with and it has to be of reasonable quality so no one's time, especially mine, is wasted.  The only thing I had to work with is I decided it was going to be a haunted house story.  I knew I wanted the setting to be a huge, sprawling estate.  I had an idea for the opening sequence but no ideas for the characters, the story, or even what the house looks like.

Almost everyone else is working on novels/memoirs they've had for a while so they're all farther along than I am and (presumably) their stories are going to be more polished.  I stared at the blank screen of my Tab, place my fingers on the keyboard, and started pounding out a story.

The story isn't terrible so far.  I decided to completely go for it with this class.  If people are going to be critiquing my first draft I might as well push myself to produce something and not rely so much on the revision process before I do any polishing.  I'm uncomfortable with anybody looking at my first draft so this will be a valuable learning experience.

Tony's approach so far is spot on.  He requires that we work on our novels everyday for at least 20 minutes and that we critique our fellow students' work every week.  This is going to be a difficult thing to maintain for eight weeks but just these class requirements alone should seriously improve my writing, editing, and ability to produce quality material.

I'm going to have the first ten pages of my story reviewed during the second critique session.  I have to email everyone my draft this Monday.  I started this novel last Tuesday.  Tony asked for volunteers and once again, I just fucking went for it.  For myself, and this may not apply to other writers, I think the ability to pull a story out of thin air, write it down quickly, and make it into something good in a short period of time is a worthwhile skill to have.

Stay tuned for more on this class.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Short Term Stability

Lately I've been wondering what's going to become of me.

I have a good, stable temp job right now.  A six month gig in a nice company.  The job isn't too taxing. the commute is easy, and the people are nice.  This job could extend another six months but that would give me only a year of stable employment.

What happens after that?  I don't have any more savings.  I burned through it when I was unemployed the last time out.  Three jobs in four years.  Is there something wrong with me?  Am I too old?  Too expensive?

A rep from the recruiter who put me into this company called me this morning to ask if I wanted to go to an interview at a law firm.  I explained I was at this company and, therefore, committed to this six month job.  She said she understood and would update her records (!).   Then she asked me again if I would consider interviewing for this firm.  I told her no.  When they put me into this company, my other rep for this same recruiter said they expected me to work the entire six months and I said I would.  Besides, the firm who wanted to interview me gave me the runaround about six weeks ago.  Yes, no, yes, then a last minute, same day interview cancellation.  They can go fuck themselves.  Who wants to go interview for a bunch of arrogant attorneys who think it's all right to treat people like that?  Not me.

What companies/firms don't realize is how they treat the interviewees becomes a clear indication of how they treat their employees.  And maybe even how they treat their customers.  Sure, they're in the driver's seat right now but there's no reason to behave like arrogant fucks about it.

As for what will become of me, I don't know.  I might find a good, stable job by the end of six months or as this temp gig is coming to a close.  I may have to leave my beloved San Francisco and go home to my parents so I can get back on my feet again.  I may win the lottery or publish a bestseller.  Yeah, right.

For now, I'm happy to have this job.  It doesn't require a whole lot of energy and there's plenty of energy left over for writing.  For the next six months I'm going to enjoy myself and try to get some good fiction work done.  My job after this one may be some ballbreaker situation where I have to work tons of overtime and particularly sell my soul so I can pay the rent and some bills.  You never know.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

City Life: The San Francisco Bay

So this is interesting.  I took the photos below of the San Francisco Bay at high tide along the Embarcadero not too long ago.

This was was taken the my phone camera.  It turned out all right though it's a little dark.  The dark blue of the water works very well here even if it's not accurate.

This one was taken about two minutes earlier with my regular camera in the same spot.  It's a very accurate view of the color of the water.  I was lucky with the cormorant.  It had just surfaced when I took the shot.  A moment later it dove back down into the water.

Some pilings in the water.  I think that's what they're called.  The tan in the water is a reflection from one of the pillars of the Bay Bridge.  The light and reflection on the water was just right at that moment.  Less than a minute later the tan in the water was gone.

Sea Sugimoto

Hiroshi Sugimoto is a photographer known mostly for his seascapes and theater photos. This is my inept attempt to emulate one of his seascapes. This is the San Francisco Bay as seen from my new employer's lobby.  I took this picture with my phone camera. How the hell it came out so pink is beyond me. When I see the photo on my phone it looks gray. I'll take another one with my good camera later.

Note:  I posted the above photo and a variation of the accompanying paragraph on Facebook a little while ago.
And the experiments continue.  I started posting pictures along with a short blurb on Google+ rather than try to mimic my Facebook feed.  It seemed pointless post statuses there too.  I was kind of taken with the idea of having my Google+ account become a short form blog with just pictures and short blurbs to accompany them.  The problem is there's no one hanging out on Google+.  This is a shame because I really prefer that interface and I like how you can control who sees your posts.

I decided it would be a worthwhile experiment because I take hundreds of photos, sometimes in one session, and only share a fraction of them (the percentage has to be less than 25%).  I posted a photo yesterday on FB and this one today but I'm not feeling it.  I might just ditch that idea altogether and start posting them straight to this blog.  It's kind of where they belong anyway.

Shit.  I say to hell with FB.  Here's another one from the same session that I didn't add to my FB status feed.  What is UP with the pink in these photos?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Giant Teddy Bear on MUNI

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City Life: Elaborately Painted Door at 20th and Valencia

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City Life: Stow Lake and Strawberry Hill in Golden Gate Park

Stow Lake is a donut shaped man-made lake. It's located up the hill from the Japanese Tea Garden. Strawberry Hill is a small island in the center.

I spent some time there last Saturday. It was cold and quiet. Usually the boathouse is open and there are plenty of people in paddle boats and row boats but the day I was there, no one was on the water.

Stow Lake is a lovely little walk. You can walk all the way around the lake, cross the footbridges, and walk up the hill. I used to bring my dog here. I live about five blocks from this section of Golden Gate Park.

The photos highlight one of the realities of San Francisco: its cold, foggy summers. I'll never understand why people don't check the weather before they travel somewhere. San Francisco is located in the Sunshine state, it's true, but our overcast, cold summers are legendary. Not to say there aren't any nice, sunny days in the summer but they are few and far between and tend to be cool and breezy. As soon as you leave the City, however, and cross a bridge or go just a bit south, you leave the fog behind and temperature is in the 70s and 80s.

The best time to visit San Francisco is in the Fall. It's the warmest, loveliest time of year, usually (check the weather first!)

As I mentioned Stow Lake is located behind the Japanese Tea Garden. This is a picture of the front entrance of the Tea Garden just to give you some orientation.

This is the back exit of the Tea Garden and...

...directly behind the tea garden exit are these stairs. Take the stairs up to Stow Lake.

Ah yes, an idyllic scene. The quiet was nice but I have to say I missed seeing folks on the lake attempting to get their paddle boats to move faster. And watching people in a row boat on the lake is a nice romantic image. You can see the Peace Pavilion on the far right.

You know, I'm pretty good at identifying birds, water fowl in particular, but I can't find anything that tells me what this goose-like bird is. Either way, he's particularly splendid (I'm assuming it's a he because of the lovely plumage and red around his face).

If I'd been thinking about it, I would have brought my sketchbook and done some drawings. I'll have to go back there with my notepad soon. I also saw a Canada Goose, the usual assortment of Mallards, and a Red-eared Slider Turtle. The lake has quite of few formerly domestic turtles that have been "set free" by owners who don't want them anymore. There's also Koi in the lake. I wasn't looking very hard but there are plenty of other animals around here.

I made my way along the footpath and crossed the first footbridge I found. I went directly to the man-made waterfall. There was a fashion photo shoot going on.

The lovely couple. I love how her yellow dress provided a "pop" of color for the gray day.

The waterfall.

There's a staircase along side the waterfall. It's a nice climb.

A shot of the fashion photo shoot from above.

A view from the top of the waterfall.
As you can see, there are places to stop and sit on the way up.

The top of the Hill. There's a view but it's partly obscured by trees.

The view from Strawberry Hill looking west.
That's the Pacific Ocean and our legendary fog rolling in.

A pop of color from the various flowers planted around the top of the Hill.

There were a few people here and there. Locals with their dogs, solitary folks who regularly walk the hill as part of their day-to-day routine, tourists, and young couples. There are appeared to be quite a few young couples on getting-to-know-you dates. Having them around gave the atmosphere a kind of sweetness. It was rather ingenious. The young men were able to give their jackets to the young women because of the chill, a chivalrous gesture.

I made my way down the west side of the Hill. Because of the wind and fog, I could smell the sea and the nasturtiums that dot the path. I kept inhaling deeply. The scents in the air were almost therapeutic.

A view of the west side and one of the footbridges. In addition to boats, you can also rent a bicycle. A bicycle ride around the Lake and through the Park in general is a wonderful way to spend your time.

The forest and the trees. I'm almost at the bottom of the Hill at this point.

Yet another footbridge. A young couple were biking around the Lake on a date.
I offered to take a picture of them sitting on the bridge. They were adorable.

More water, more waterfowl.
I've come full circle. The Peace Pagoda from the other direction.
That's Strawberry Hill on the left.

Strawberry Hill. You can see the waterfall.
I didn't go to the Pagoda but it's a nice place to linger and take photos.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

My Dog's Grave

Looks like my dad planted a new bush there.
Published with Blogger-droid v1.7.2

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Wine Notes: Prager 2001 Aria White Port

Seriously good shit.

I've been meaning to open this bottle for long while now because of its age. It's a good thing I finally did because while the cork was intact, it was getting a bit soft. I bought this port on my first wine trip with my girlfriends but I was already familiar with Prager. My ex and I went there for our honeymoon in 1988. Prager is a small operation run by a single family. They are located right next to Sutter Home. If you're in Napa Valley, I highly recommend stopping by.

As you can see from the label, the alcohol content is 18%. This port is produced from Napa Valley Chardonnay grapes. As mentioned before I like reds and generally prefer whites that have been fermented in steel barrels so this was a departure for me. The label notes that this port can be served chilled and I have to say it tastes GREAT chilled.

The wine itself is a golden amber color. There's no mistaking the high alcohol content. With the nose, you're hit with alcohol fumes but with some patience and letting the port breathe a bit you can pick out just a hint of roasted marshmallows that have not yet been burned.

According to label, this port has "flavors of apples and pears with a pronounced nutty finish." Well, after 10 years it doesn't really taste like that anymore. The most striking thing about it is when it first hits your tongue, it has a long super smooth beginning. There's no syrupy mouth feel but there is floral honey and subtle flavors of very fresh caramel, like just cooked caramel. It seems like there might be a bit of spice on the sides but that could just be the high amount of alcohol. There's a hint of very juicy ripe pears before the swallow. The finish isn't long but I can taste caramel apples (the kind you get at the Boardwalk, not the gourmet kind) and I get just the barest taste of cashews but that's it for the "nutty finish." When it's warm you can taste cotton candy at the very end of the finish.

I definitely prefer this port chilled but it tastes great when it's a little warm. I'm drinking it with Ham and White Bean Soup with Spinach and it's friggin' awesome! Too bad I don't have any Rosemary Foccacia Bread to go with it.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Contents Of My Backpack

I have a lot of backpacks. Too many for my own good. Most of the time I carry the one below. It's beautiful, lightweight, cozy, and has a laptop sleeve. Since I carry a lot of stuff, I thought I'd make a list of the current contents. Just for fun.

Front zip pocket (clockwise from the Meetup sign):

  • Coffee splattered Meetup sign for my writing groups.
  • "Billy Elliot" theater ticket. A great musical, by the way.
  • Lighter. I don't smoke but you never know when you're going to be stuck in a med lab with an alien and you have to set off the fire alarm so the marines will come rescue you. Okay, maybe I've watched "Aliens" a few too many times but my excuse is I own the Alien Quadrilogy DVD box set.
  • Buttons from my favorite online comic: two "tops" and one "bottom."
  • Hemp Lip Conditioner from Body Shop and Vincent Longo Lip Stain Lipstick in Belle Etoile. Ms Anne, a regular reader of this blog, once asked me how my lipstick stays so perfect in my pictures. This is the lipstick I use for those photos and for nearly everything else. I also like Burt's Bees lip balm.
  • Mints
  • Stash's English Breakfast black tea bag.
  • A sample of Gun Oil, a silicone lubricant from Good Vibrations, a famous woman owned sex shop here in San Francisco.
  • Work badge, volunteer badge.
  • Moleskine Notebook: plain pages, soft cover, pocket size.
  • Various pens, including a green mechanical pencil and some Hello Kitty pens.
Main middle compartment (clockwise from purple scarf):

  • Purple tissue weight cashmere pashmina scarf bought on sale at Nordstroms and, other than my Raybans, ID case, and phone, my constant companion.
  • One hand knitted merino wool "Oliver Twist" style fingerless glove bought at an antique shop in the Mission. The other glove is around here somewhere.
  • Zip cosmetic bag with various sundry items: hair brush, contact lens case, compact, etc.
  • Super gory Korean military mystery/horror film "The Guard Post." The film is a bit confusing with the flashbacks but I really liked it. I should enjoy subsequent viewings. Not available here in the U.S., had to order it from the U.K.
  • Ear buds for phone.
  • Flash light in case I get stuck in the MUNI tunnel and the power goes out. Hmm. I better check those batteries.
  • Not shown: Motorola Droid phone and its power cord.
Laptop sleeve (clockwise from the keyboard):

  • Close to full size keyboard made specifically for my Galaxy Tab. It's very sturdy, has a good feel to the keys, and there's no typing lag time. It was pricey at the time and a little heavier than I would have liked but turned out to be a great buy.
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab, 7 inch screen. Tablets are typically thought of as "consumer" devices but I use mine primarily for writing. My favorite writing program, Scrivener for Mac, syncs folders and documents through Dropbox so I have my entire story on the Tab. When changes are made, it uploads the edited files to Dropbox and when I open Scrivener, the changes are sync'd inside the program. I can also upload new files from Scrivener to Dropbox to my Tab. No more cutting and pasting documents. It's beautiful! I also have Amazon Kindle on the Tab. I surf the internet, check Twitter and GReader, etc. but mostly I write on it. I often pull up my current story when I'm in the tunnel on MUNI and read and make edits with the onscreen keyboard.
  • Power and extension cords for Galaxy Tab.
Items I'm never without:

  • Raybans. I wear my Raybans all the time, even at night. I don't do it because it looks cool; I do it because they are very good at blocking the wind. Because I wear hard contact lenses, any little thing that gets into my eyes hurts like hell and I can't see. Raybans prevent stuff from being blown into my eyes. Sometimes I'll wear them on MUNI late at night when I take the bus because they're a kind of psychological barrier between you and bothersome/drunk/stoned passengers. For some reason, people tend to leave me alone if I'm wearing them.
  • Clipper card. This is my public transportation card for MUNI and BART. I use both all the time.
  • Zip ID case. I replaced my wallet with this wonderful little case. I have my drivers license, insurance and registration info, credit card, ATM card, Starbucks gold card, cash, and several different museum membership cards. Sometimes, like now, it gets a little full so I have to empty it out on a regular basis.
  • Not shown: Again, the Motorola Droid phone which I'm using to take these pictures.
And the main missing item? My camera and an extra charged battery. I should carry my camera everywhere but I don't because of the extra weight it adds. I need to get used to carrying it with me all the time, like before. When I first started this blog, the camera was another one of my constant companions.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Wine Notes: Kalyra 2004 Syrah Port

I haven't written much about wine but my wine fridge holds 50 bottles and I'm slowly drinking my way through it. I'd like to keep a record of what I drink somewhere. I figured this blog is as good a place as any.

As you can see, this is a 2004 Syrah Port, half bottle. I bought this bottle during one of my wine trips with my girlfriends. We go tasting 1-2 times a year and when we're flush we might go up to 3 times a year. I think I bought this bottle in 2005, maybe 2006. I believe it was our first trip to the Santa Ynez Valley which is about 350 miles from San Francisco near Santa Barbara. Kalyra Winery was a busy place with very friendly, down-to-earth wine servers. Also, I recall the prices for the wines were economical.

Though I don't know much about grape varietals, I do enjoy a good Syrah. In fact, I don't really know much about wine in general but I do have a good palate, as my girlfriends say. I know what tastes good and can pick out subtle flavors in wine. When I first started wine tasting, I was mostly into Cabs (big reds). Now I really like Pinot Noir and Syrah. I still love a good Cab but I don't automatically zero in on them anymore. I've also been interested in whites. I particularly enjoy white wines that have been aged in steel barrels.

Back to this Syrah Port. Since it's a 2004 you know it's been in my wine fridge for several years. When I first opened it there was an overwhelming smell and taste of alcohol. As you can see from the label, the alcohol content
is 19%. The thing is when I opened it up, the cork looked weird. I examined it and realized the cork is synthetic! It's made up of a kind of foam. In recent years we've seen wineries going to screw top and synthetic corks but I don't recall that happening in 2004-2005. I called my good friend and told her about it. We discussed the thinking behind using a screw top lid vs. synthetic cork. A screw top effectively arrests the wine in its current state; no more aging is possible with a screw top lid. Using a screw top lid is very effective with an already well-developed white wine. We've spoken to folks at wineries and they say a synthetic cork allows a little air in but the wine can't really age like it would with a regular cork. This means this Petite Syrah has been sitting in its own massive alcohol content for years.

I poured the wine into a wine glass with a big bowl and spent time swirling it around. If I had a decanter I would have definitely decanted it in an attempt to mellow out the alcohol fumes. When I first tasted it after swirling around it had a sweet port-y taste. I couldn't understand it. I enjoy port but not heavy sweet ports. I made no sense to me that I would have bought this bottle and I talked to my friend about this fact. I kept swirling and we kept talking. Eventually the wine had breathed long enough so I could get a better idea of the taste. Sometimes it can take a while for a wine flavor to really come out after it's been poured.

Decent to brilliant wines have three tasting stages: when it first hits your mouth, how it tastes after you've held it in your mouth (this is the stage where you can pick out any tastes on the side of your tongue), and the finish. By the way, this isn't anything I've read. It's just something I've learned while doing my own tasting. There's also "the nose," that is, what it smells like. And there's what the wine looks like: color, transparency, etc.

This Syrah port could definitely fall into the dessert wine category. It has an interesting mouth feel. Like some ports it has an almost syrupy feel but with some time to breathe it's not really sweet. When this Syrah first hits your mouth it tastes like very ripe strawberries that have been marinated in balsamic vinegar for several hours. It's taken me some time to figure this out. This explains the very fresh, ripe strawberries in the finish (after the swallow, it's very subtle), yet the syrupy mouth feel remains after the swallow and this has an almost maple-y flavor. There's a hint of box-just-opened brown sugar at the end but this is very subtle as well since this wine does not have a very long finish. Most of the time it doesn't take me that long time to figure out how a wine tastes but this was a tough one.

As for the nose, it's difficult to get an accurate scent because of the high alcohol content. Nah, I won't attempt to figure it out because I've already drank almost a full glass and since I'm a lightweight, I need to stop here.

I'll be enjoying this bottle for another couple of days and if memory serves, it was well worth the money I spent on it.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Writing Life: Stories on the Fly - An Explanation

I've been wanting to do something like this for a while. That is, give myself a scenario such as the one in the post below (a woman, locked in a room, with a deadline), write a story within a certain time, and allow myself less time to edit the story. Then post it on this blog immediately.

It's really a writing exercise to see what I can come up with. With enough practice I should get better at it (I hope). When I was with my ex, we tried a similar idea but we had to tell the stories out loud to each other without writing anything down. I took the scenario (two men in a car, arguing about a woman) and told a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end right off the top of my head. There was plenty of conflict and secrets that came out in that little story. There was no time limit. The idea was we had to verbally tell the story until it was finished.

I'm going to try this exercise from time to time. Feel free to leave a scenario and a time limit in the comments if you'd like. The minimum time for writing the story is 15 minutes. I promise I won't cheat! I can't guarantee that all the stories will be good or even decent but I'll never improve unless I challenge myself.

Thanks for reading.

Writing Life: Stories on the Fly - The Only Way Out

Total Writing Time: 15 Minutes; Total Editing Time: 8 minutes, 30 seconds

Scenario: A woman. Locked in a room. With a deadline.

The clock was ticking. She looked up at the window. Sheet metal had been welded over it. She checked her watch again. She knew it was two minutes fast. Yes, two minutes might be enough, she thought. Above her head near the top of the window, was a bomb. Just a handmade bomb but she could see there was enough explosives to destroy half the building, and certainly this entire room.

She was alone in a room about 500 square feet. The walls were painted black, featureless. The floor was made up of white shiny tiles. There were pools of bright lights concentrated in the center of the room, leaving the outer edges dark. There was only one window and one door. The door had bars of steel welded over the front of it on the other side. She knew this because there was a small screen hanging down from the ceiling in front of her showing the door and hallway outside. It was a little like one of those DVD screens that drop down inside a fancy, tricked out mini-van. No one was in the hallway. She had nothing but her clothes and her watch. She pounded the sheet metal over the window with her fist, testing it. There was no way to break through it.

After looking around the room, she walked around the outer edges quickly testing the walls for any weaknesses. She finished in the middle of the room and stared up at the DVD screen. It was attached to the ceiling but there seemed to be a seam in the ceiling. She jumped lightly, hitting the bottom of the DVD screen. There was the tiniest amount of give. She smiled.

She backed up and then ran towards the DVD screen and leaped up towards it. She grabbed the screen and held on, swinging her legs. The screen held and then her forward momentum pulled the screen's based too far and the screen ripped from the ceiling leaving a gaping hole that looked like it would just large enough for her to crawl through. She landed on her hip with a thud, pulling the screen and its cords with her. She checked her watch. There was only three minutes to go. She grabbed the cords and climbed up through the hole as quickly as she could. She was breathing hard but paid no attention. There was a long corridor of vents ahead of her. She had no idea if she was going to get far enough away in time but she had to try. She began crawling away from the room, barely able to get up on her knees. She went in the direction of the north side of the building near the river and kept going. She knew if she didn't reach the other end of the building, she would probably be killed in the blast or at least seriously injured.

She stayed focused. Kept moving, she thought. It was the only thing she could do. She could see the other end of the building in front of her. Just a little bit longer, she thought.

The building exploded.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Blog Housekeeping

I moved this blog post just to keep everyone in the loop about the changes made. I first posted it on 7/9/11.

Today I did some housekeeping. First, I moved all my posts from my Fainting in Coils blog to this blog and shut down Fainting in Coils. Anything that would be been posted there will now have a label titled "Mr. Gryphon."

You can see I've included buttons at the top of my blog. The top row of buttons are About pages for general information and the bottom row of buttons are label buttons. I chose some categories I like and created the buttons. If you click on a label button, all posts with that label will be displayed. If you have a suggestion for label button, feel free to leave a comment. The list of all the labels I've used on my blog posts is still located on the side bar.

I created a separate link list on the side bar for my strange story FailSafe. It shows all the chapters in chron order and includes the Asides I wrote. I originally did a label button for it but found it to be too unwieldy given the story's length. When I finally get around to posting another story I will create a separate link list for it.

Lastly, for those of you following this blog I sincerely apologize if you were inundated with notifications or emails when I transferred the Fainting in Coils posts to this blog. I'm still not sure if all the blog posts I moved were sent to you as new postings, and my attempts to find out (and prevent this from happening) were met with failure.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Old Blog - Posted on June 16, 2006: Fainting in Coils

This is the first post featuring Mr. Gryphon. At the time, he was only "Gryphon." I added the Mr. shortly after. As I've said before, I created him when I was breaking up with my ex as a way to keep him around a little while longer.

In this post you can clearly see his trademark qualities: seriousness, unsmiling, and slight crankiness. Plus, he never hesitates to call me on my shit.


Gryphon and I spent the evening together last week. It was a beautiful San Francisco night. The Universe was playing up its parallel nature to the hilt. I was running late as usual. Gryphon was annoyed.

"Can't you tell those work people to shove it?"

"I try to but I don't get anywhere with that and if I continue they won't ask me back. Who would pay for dinner then?" I say.

"Hmm. Good point."

We make our way into the MUNI underground. Since this is San Francisco, California, United States of America, no one seems to notice the Gryphon and his wings. As long as he's wearing his chaps, no one casts a second look.

I'm feeling stiff from residual work week stress but then again that could just be my turtle shell. We somehow manage to fit on the MUNI train. The Gryphon folds his wings away.

"What about what's-his-name?" he asks. There a crunching sound as Gryphon crushes the bar he's holding on to.

"What about him?" I ask.

"Thought so," says the Gryphon. He gazes up and down the train, apparently satisfied that the topic of conversation has been exhausted. I'm relieved myself. I'm happy to be alone with what's-his-name and my thoughts for a change.

We're only going two stops to Powell Station. The doors open and we disembark. We make our way up to Union Square. Gryphon insists upon taking a Cable Car two stops to our destination. After some pushing and shoving, I manage to hang off the side of the Car, Rice-a-Roni style, and he's content to perch on top. Tourists gape and take pictures.

We reach our dinner destination, The Cheesecake Factory. There's only an hour wait. We put our names in and wait in the bar. Gryphon watches the basketball game on TV, he's quite fond of games. I sip my alcohol laced milk shake.

"I'm having lobster," he announces, shaking his great head.

"They don't have lobster, you'll have to settle for shrimp," I'd been reading the menu.

He gives a little growl but says nothing. The first time I'd met Gryphon was during a dance at the beach. He'd been pretty much keeping to himself on the shingle, kicking a stone here and there. Most people think he's too taciturn and solemn but we managed to become friends somehow. Since he's going to keep watching the game, I give up on talking to him until we sit down for dinner.

A server named Mandy, all bright and fetching, bounds towards us.

"Drinks? Alcohol? Appetizers?"

"Now and Laters?" The Gryphon holds up a package of "classic" Now and Laters for her to see.

"Oooh, yes! Have any grape ones?" He tears open the package and gives her all the grape flavored ones. She is excited. He watches her but does not smile. He never smiles. She leaves us with more time to decide what we're eating.

"That's the kind of girl you need," I say, "Someone to offset your seriousness."

"Miss Turtle," he says leaning in, "it's better to be a little serious than to cause yourself all kinds of unnecessary sorrow."

"Are we getting on that subject again?"

"Of course, that's why I'm here. Why else would I be sitting here in chaps on a Thursday night at the damn Cheesecake Factory?"

"At least you got to ride on top of the Cable Car again," I say, glaring at the menu.

"Stop pouting and no crying this time," he says.

"I'm NOT pouting and crying," I snap.

"No raising your voice at me either."

I seethe and consider leaving the restaurant but some men at the next table start singing the Barry Manilow song "Mandy" to our server. I look down at the menu and smile a little.

"I used to love Barry Manilow," I say wistfully. The Gryphon just looks at me, that look of disdain on his brow.

"We need to get on with this dinner, Miss Turtle," he says briskly, "Now, you need to relax and stop worrying so much and be thankful for what you have. All this fancy about the end of the world and how bad things are getting just won't do. YOUR wasting a lot of time."

"You spelled YOU'RE wrong," I say stiffly.

"What of it? That adverb there is silly, by the way. You're always stiff on account of your shell. Stephen King would not approve of all these adverbs."

"What about what's-his-name?" I ask.

"YOU'RE pouting again. What about him? Why are you even asking that? Is he here right now at this moment? Then don't worry about him. He's fine where he's at, wherever he is."

"Is? At? Same thing?"

"Yes, sometimes." Gryphon picks up his Ultimate Margarita in his claws, thinks better of it and puts his glass down.

We order, the food comes and we eat in silence. The night is turning a little cool. I start to think the last dialog exchange was the whole point of the dinner but then Gryphon looks at me again.

"Just remember, you are fine where you are. Am I right?"

"Suppose so. What's going to happen next? How will this all turn out? Will anything happen?" I'm getting my trademark tears in my eyes.

"Don't know what's going to happen next. Don't know how it's all going to turn out and something will definitely happen," Gryphon says, "No crying, you heard what I said before about that."

"Piss off, "I say wiping my eyes.

He sighs and holds up a dinner menu. "Dessert?"

"No thank you. I'm going to throw up if I eat very much more. Why is everything so painful sometimes?"

"I've answered that already. You know how it goes. The answer is in front of you at all times. All the things you need to know now. Stuff like that.

"This has turned out to be a tiresome dialog, Mr. Gryphon. I think we need to end it now."

He agrees and we make our way out of the restaurant. I wipe my eyes. "No sorrow?" I ask.

"Not a one," he says, "you know it's true. You keep asking the same questions over and over. It's time to drop them. No answer is forthcoming, at least not in the form YOU'RE hoping for."

A Cable Car stops on our corner. He smiles a little, then I laugh as we run to the Car before it pulls away from the stop.

Saturday, July 09, 2011


The love of my life is obsessed with a married woman. We never could see each other clearly.

Every time I hear or even imagine him singing her praises: how beautiful she is, how brainy, the look of wonder and sliced pain on his face every time he talks about how glorious her poetry or paintings are, I feel spite rolling slowly from one side of my chest to the other, my heart providing security the way inflatable bumpers provide cushioning to bowling balls during children's tournaments.

I used to smile wanly at him, but he wouldn't notice my pained eyes because he was too busy staring off into space in the crowded restaurant as radiant pictures of his married love broadcast behind his darker than dark eyes.

One night I broke into the art studio where she paints and spent hours looking at her neatly lined up brushes, her carefully positioned canvases. Even her well used palettes along with works in progress look like they belong in a museum, full of cobalt and silver and orange and rust and mint and rain and summer and ashes and warm wood. I rarely talk to her, but when I do I try to stay with the conversation. It takes a lot of work. It takes a lot of big heartness not to scream and yell at the HAPPY bitch.

For she is happily married with her own family, she talks about cold autumn afternoons, spooning and snuggling. Warm blankets wrapping up precious children. All of that and still she takes the love of my life even if he's content to flit around the edges of her cozy world saying inappropriate things to other people like how he wishes he were married to her instead of her lucky husband. He doesn't care what anyone thinks. And long ago, he decided that I was unworthy of his love, unworthy of his attentions.

And although I was tempted to, I didn't sabotage her paintings or her supplies even though I wanted to very much. Instead, I crawled through the window I'd forced open, landing painfully on harsh concrete. I sprained my ankle and scrapped my left knee in the process. I sat pitifully on the hard, unforgiving ground crying from pain and love, the full moon washing down on my tears.

Two days later, he and I are sitting in the same diner and once again he is talking about how wonderful she is. He doesn't see me. I look hard at him, my tears forming shrink wrap over my eyes, blurring my vision. "Look at me," I think as hard as I can, as hard as when I wished for a pony when I was eight years old. I try to send the thought to him with all the force of a visionary. I try as hard as I can, but he just becomes more blurry.

"She's just so amazing," he's saying, shaking his wonderful blond head. His glasses are sliding slowly down his slightly pink nose. He pushes them up with his index finger, a completely unconscious gesture, then his eyes drop down to his half eaten burger with caramelized onions and cheddar cheese still not seeing anything. "I'm never going to find someone to love. It's been too long, I'm too set in stone," he says.

I think harder and then harder still until I realize the salt shaker on the table is trembling from my thoughts, "I'm here. In front of you. I love you. Look at me. Look at me." The tears spill from my eyes, not that he will ever notice.

I wrote this post on March 12, 2007 at 8:34 pm while in the middle of a personal relationship shitstorm. I think I posted it for a few hours before taking it down. I remember at the time being proud of the quality of writing but that it hit too close to home for me to feel comfortable with putting it out in the world. I'm still proud of the writing. Thankfully, the guy wasn't the love of my life though I sincerely believed it at the time. He never did see me properly. Oh well, it's his loss.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Movie Musings: My Approach to Film Surveys

Now that I've completed two film surveys and am working on a third, I thought it was time to write about how I go about doing them.

First, I'm not doing this for school. When I mention to people that I do film surveys and explain what I'm doing, they always ask if it's for a class. I do this because I get so much out of it and it's really fun. I think it's interesting that many people assume someone engaged in this kind of activity would do so only for school.

Second, I've never taken a film course so I have no idea how an instructor would approach a similar survey. The process I use grew out of my own efforts and I'm assuming an instructor's course would have much more depth, and certainly more information.

All that being said, here's how I go about it.


Sometimes the subject matter is easy. You decide you want to explore a particular director's body of work so that's where you start. Or you decide you want to concentrate on a particular time and place, or even a particular actor.

My first film survey was on Weimar Cinema, films made in Germany from 1920 (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) to 1933 (The Testament of Dr. Mabuse). I also watched The Triumph of Will (1935), the notorious Nazi propaganda film as a coda. Choosing my next subject was easy because I really wanted to learn more about Akira Kurosawa and his films. The subject matter for current survey was more difficult. I had the thought that I wanted to concentrate on a European director, perhaps someone who'd made films in the 1940s and 50s, possibly into the 60s, but I was also taken with the idea of focusing on an event or subject matter.

One of my friends did an impressive overview of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He read a bunch of books, watched films and documentaries, and even read a manga or two about it. I seriously thought of going this route and either following in his footsteps or picking another event. I also thought about other directors and even actors (one of the actors at the top of my list was Vincent Price). In the end, I settled on Spanish director Luis Buñuel. I was fascinated that he'd made so many films in different countries and languages and for his reputation as a surrealist.

I should note that I don't consider my continuing review of South Korean films to be a "survey." For me, film surveys are all about looking back at a particular time and place or a particular person, such as a director. South Korean films are still evolving and maturing. For now, I'm merely a collector.

Once the subject matter has been chosen, it's time to make a list.


A film survey must have a beginning and an end so it's important to make a list of films. I always start on Amazon, believe it or not. I run searches for Listmania! articles ("So you wanna..."). This is how I created my Kurosawa list of films. After reviewing Amazon, I'll run a general Google search and do some reading for recommendations. Yahoo! Answers is another good place to find film recommendations. After I have some idea of what films could be on the list, I'll start reading Wikipedia, Rotten Tomatoes, and IMDB articles about the films. Some films are are a no brainer such as Kurosawa's Seven Samurai or Buñuel's Belle du Jour. Others are less obvious and require some reading to ferret out.

My survey of Weimar Cinema topped out at 14 films. My Kurosawa survey encompassed 16 of his films. When I'm done with Buñuel, I'll have watched 23 of his films. None of these numbers include any "offshoot" or remake films (more on this later).

The next most important thing is to find a book of the films. I found my book on Weimar Cinema at the library. The Films of Akira Kurosawa by Donald Richie was a wonderful book to have on hand. Oddly enough, there isn't such a book for Buñuel's films so I had to do some poking around. I found a book called A Companion to Luis Buñuel which discusses his films and also his life but not film by film. In the end, the best resource I found was Luis' autobiography My Last Sigh. UPDATE: I found a splendid book titled Luis Buñuel: A Critical Biography by Francisco Aranda at a used bookstore in the Mission and paid $8 for it. It has a detailed bio, especially of his childhood, a film by film review, and many of his critical writings about art and films, and some of his surrealist writings. This book, along with My Last Sigh, are my best book companions.


If you're lucky, as with all of the Kurosawa films I watched, the film will have been released by the Criterion Collection. Criterion is a company that releases films that have been restored and include excellent extras. I suppose you could consider their approach to be more scholarly. Some of their releases are brilliant, such as my three-disc set of Seven Samurai. It has the best audio commentary I've heard so far along with documentaries, essays, and the like. On the other hand, I was somewhat disappointed to find out that the only Buñuel films released by Criterion were from his Second French period.

I watch the film, all commentaries, and all documentaries. After that, I'll look the film up on Wikipedia, Rotten Tomatoes, and IMDB and read more about it. If I have a book of the films I'll read the relevant section but only after I see the film first.

In the past, I've stopped there but now I log the films in my Master Notebook. Logging is tremendously satisfying. I'll take at least one screenshot, maybe more, give the film my own rating, add factual details, and write a review. In addition to logging, I'll make a note in the survey's diary section in my Master Notebook entitled The State Of My Obsession.

My current survey for Buñuel includes the film log, The State of My Obsession diary section, and a Reading Page. I've been doing a lot of reading related to Buñuel himself, his films, and his friends so I keep track of those activities there. As noted before, I also write articles relating with the survey but I've noticed the articles are slower in coming. I'll definitely do an article about Buñuel and his friends, and will likely do an article about recurring themes in his films: surrealism, his attitudes towards the Bourgeoisie, and religion at some point.


Many directors, Kurosawa is definitely one of them, inspire others and remakes of their films are made. Depending on the film, I'll sometimes watch a remake for comparison purposes. For the Kurosawa survey, I watched Magnificent Seven, a 1960 western remake of Seven Samurai, and A Fistful of Dollars, an iconic 1964 Spaghetti western remake of Yojimbo. An "offshoot" film is always one by a different director but might explore a similar genre, might even include actors my director likes to use. Or the "offshoot" film is about the director, usually fictionalized in some way. For my Kurosawa film survey, I watched The Sword of Doom, a 1966 Samurai film directed by Kihachi Okamoto and starred Kurosawa regulars Tatsuya Nakadai and Toshiro Mifune. For my Buñuel film survey, I've watched Little Ashes, a fictionalized account of Luis Buñuel, Salvador Dalí, and Federico García Lorca during their university days.


My Buñuel survey has taken me to new places I never anticipated. I've become interested in Paris in the 1920s and have been doing a little exploring in that area. I already have a bit of background from reading Buñuel's autobiography and learning about the Surrealists. It also helps that we have a number of wonderful art exhibits going on here in San Francisco that encourage this kind of exploration: a Picasso exhibit at the DeYoung Musuem, a Steins exhibit at SFMOMA, and an exhibit on Gertrude Stein at the Jewish Contemporary Museum. I might take a bit of time and read one of Hemingway's books (either A Movable Feast or The Sun Also Rises).


As you can see, my biggest problem is keeping the survey contained and focused. The other problem is completing the survey in a reasonable time. Both my Kurosawa and Weimar Cinema surveys took years to complete because I wasn't very focused on them. I've already seen 16 of Buñuel's films and am now focusing my efforts on his Second French Period. It's a bit overwhelming to go from doing a survey in a couple of years to doing one in a couple of months. I need to find the right balance for myself.

I'll definitely write a blog post here and there about the survey (here's one I did about Buñuel's First French Period), but these posts tend to be watered down, shortened versions of my Master Notebook log. I have toyed with the thought of starting a separate blog for writing about films and film surveys but I've got too much on my plate to focus on that right now. I may try it later.

This is really fun for me. It never feels like work. The added element of logging the survey and writing essays just makes it that much more wonderful. Plus, I get to flip through my Master Notebook to see the results. So satisfying.