Thursday, July 26, 2012

Art Post: My First Canvas!

My department had a work-related event put on by Art Uncorked which involved all of us going out and learning how to paint a picture.  The medium was acrylic on canvas.  I've never painted before with the exception of adding a touch of color with a watercolor pencil to some of my sketches.  We started with a literal blank canvas and the instructor taught us how to find measure it out and find the horizon line.  From there we followed him as he explained how to do each part of the picture.

What a blast!

The group had picked Morning on the Seine Near Giverny by Claude Monet.  I'd wanted to do Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh but I was glad we did this picture because it was fun to play with the effects of water, sky, shadow, and light.

My version of Monet's masterpiece.
The instructor asked me if I'd painted before as he watched me paint the background trees.  I told him no, but I do sketch and I have looked at a lot of art and enjoy learning about it.  He kept saying I had to have watching a painting show on tv because I was using some good brush techniques.  I haven't since I don't watch television.

We learned to mix and layer colors and learned how to overlay the picture with some white to give it that misty, impression-y look.  He taught us about how to paint reflections in the water and how to paint trees.  I struggled to some degree with painting the right shapes but I found the acrylic to be easy to work with as long as it's still wet.  It also helps that Impressionism is inherently forgiving since nothing really has to be that precise.

Here's Monet's original so you can see what we were going for.  I'm no artist but at least it kind of looks like it.
One of the coolest things was seeing everyone's interpretations.  One guy's painting was darker than the others and he added a white blob in the sky so it looks like the moon on the water at night.  Another painting was more dashes and dots so the entire picture was alive with movement and color.  Still another painting was completely different. She'd used the same color palette and there were some trees and some blue for the sky and water but hers looks like a massive storm with 75 mile an hour winds.  It's a wonderful picture!

Of course as soon as I got it home I could see places where I wanted to do more work.  The water reflections need better blending.  I need to add more pink to the sky.  And I wish I could do the trees over again.  Oh well.

I'm thinking I might take an oil painting class later or at least do another Art Uncorked event though I can just see myself filling my apartment with all these canvases.  Might not be a bad thing, actually.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

City Life: 2012 LGBT Pride Weekend

LGBT Pride Weekend is a major deal in San Francisco as you might imagine.  June is Pride month which culminates in the two day celebration Pink Saturday/Pride Parade on the last full weekend in June.  The Parade takes place on Sunday morning/early afternoon.

Usually I only have time to attend Pink Saturday but this year I was able to attend both.  I went with a couple of friends who moved here not too long ago.  I don't think they had any idea of the scale of the festivities even though I told them it would be really crowded.

Dolores Park (that's Mission Dolores in the background)

For me, Pride Weekend starts at the Dyke March in Dolores Park in the Mission.  As you can see many, many people gather here until we line up at 18th and Dolores for a nice stroll to The Castro.  Usually there's a stage in the park but there wasn't one this year.  Lots of people watch us from the sidelines and cheer us on.

Pink Saturday in the Castro.  It's still early so the crowds really haven't begun to arrive.

I look pretty damn happy, don't I?  I always feel that way when "in community."

My friends made these lovely shirts for us to wear which said "Pink Saturday" and had a rainbow on them.  They also made a white shirt for Parade day.  We ended up in a wine bar (to my left in the picture) for most of the evening.  It was a nice way to spend the celebration though I'm usually jumping around to all the thumping DJ music and fighting my way through the vast crowds on street.

Parade Day!  I managed to secure a front row vantage point at Market and Jones.  A good portion of Market Street is closed off, from the Financial District to Civic Center.

The Dyke March, Pink Saturday, and the Parade allow for outstanding people watching including some scantily clad men and women and amazing costumes.  Tutus on both men and women figure prominently as do wings.  And bright colors, of course.

Don't ask me what contingent these guys are from.  There was a long delay between contingents so these guys took a nice stroll down the entire parade route

Every local politician and many corporations and non-profits take part in the parade.  From Willie Brown to our Public Defender's office and their infamous "Getting you off since 1921" t-shirts to Dykes on Bikes (who always lead the parade) to Genentech, Google, Safeway, many elementary schools, PFLAG, churches, banks (and their protestors), animal rescue groups, dance groups, and the Leather Contingent with its iconic flag, all of them have a place in the Parade line-up.

Marvelous dancing and costumes are expected.

The Glide Memorial Church float (preceded by the Rev. Cecil Williams in a separate car).  Glide is one of the most prominent liberal churches in the country, considers itself "radically inclusive," and is known for its wonderful Gospel Choir.  Attending a church service there can be moving experience.

I managed to get a decent shot of Celebrity Grand Marshal Sarah Silverman

It was a cool day in San Francisco which was nice if you're standing for hours in the sun.  By the time I left at 2:30 pm, the parade was still going on.  After the Parade everyone convenes at Civic Center for a massive festival/party.  There are stages, music, booths, demonstrations, food, etc.

It was good to see the Parade after many years of not being able to go.  Hopefully, I'll be able to go again next year.

Monday, July 09, 2012

A Note about "Lucky"

I put up this post then took it down again.  I can't exactly remember why but it had something to do with sharing it on FaceBook.  I think I was afraid some people would be offended by it.

As it is, I don't think many friends on FaceBook read my blog anyway unless I post pictures.  I re-read it just now and I'm still pleased with this post so it's going back up.  Apologies to those of you who have already read it.


Lately, when I look back at my life I'm struck by how different I seem to be. I feel like I'm a different person altogether, not that I've turned into someone different but maybe I've grown into something else. Would people from my past who haven't seen me in a long time notice the difference?

My old friends assure me I haven't changed much over the years.

I'm standing in the library staring at a bunch of Federal Reporters. It's late at night, probably sometime after 10:00 pm and I have to pull some cases for the attorneys. We have been working night after night, weekend after weekend on this case, our lives a flurry of document productions, depositions, seemingly endless ex parte motions, and the intricate court rules of the Central District of California. The library light is warm and friendly, the rest of the hallways are dark. I like it here in the quiet. No one else is around except my team and the occasional patent prosecutor. I like this place, this job, and the attorneys. I'm young, naive, and believe completely in the goodness of these people who are all so much better educated than me. In the end, they didn't let me down at least not in the ways where it counted.

I still like working with attorneys so I guess in that way I haven't changed. The people I used to work with have all scattered and I am still trying to find a place for myself. The process of working on litigation cases is so intense that sometimes you bond with people. If you're lucky those bonds will stick.

I wanted to say that I'm so much more in touch with my inner life than I've ever been but that's not true. I'm just more in touch with my writing life and have made it a priority.

I'm sitting at the kitchen table in the dining room. It's late and I don't remember what I was doing at the time. Reading something? I don't know. It's just me and the dogs. All at once I look up from what I'm doing staring into the lovely kitchen then I look to my right into the darkened living room. The two dogs are lounging on the denim couch, looking back at me. Behind me is the sliding glass door. I hear the sounds of the water from the huge turtle tank we own. Something inside is nudging at me and it's so strong that I have to stand up and walk around. I open the sliding glass door to the big deck that runs the length of the back of the house, leaving the door open. The dogs follow me out. I don't look out at dark, instead I'm looking down the deck into the other rooms. I can smell our wonderful redwood trees and the darkness and quiet are heavy like a cozy blanket. I realize everything as it is now can't possibly last, that everything is going to change, and it's not going to be something I'll be able to control. I'm terrified by this thought. I have no idea what it means. Then I think if that were to happen what would I really, truly want to do then? And I think: I want to live and work in San Francisco, become a writer, and be left alone. I got my wish with all the wonders and heartbreaks associated with it. My wish came at very high price.

I don't think I'll ever live in a house with a kitchen as wonderful as that one.

My wish was a terrible source of guilt, a little secret of mine I refused to admit even to myself. It seemed to me that though I wasn't the cause of this upheaval in my life, I made it happen just the same with this one selfish thought. It took me years to come to terms with that little moment and I'm still grappling with the feeling that it was all my fault, even though it clearly wasn't.

I still can't shake this feeling that I'm different. When I was younger I felt so much more relaxed and easy. I was very externally oriented and people focused. Now I feel I've withdrawn inside my own world and I feel much more closed off than I used to be. I have difficulty talking to strangers though when I do it's almost always rewarding. Sometimes they even stick, making that rolling, shifting transition to friends.

I'm working a little late at the office and there's a party going on for the attorneys. An office friend of mine and I are supposed to see some gallery openings but he's frantically trying to finish a last minute project. We manage to leave at a reasonable hour. This is the first time I've been out with him. He announces that he needs to call another friend and that he'll meet us at the first gallery. He talks about this guy all the time. I see him down the street and we wave at each other. The new guy is a little shy but he asks me if I live in the City. That starts the ball rolling. Next thing I know the three of us are on a crazy adventure. We crash an art gallery opening for a famous ballplayer where no one is allowed in unless you're on the guest list but somehow we get in. My new friend stays with me amidst the crowd of other famous ballplayers, the press, managers, city officials, and minor celebrities. He tells me who everyone is. We lose our friend in the crowd, something that's very difficult since he's so tall. Somehow I lose both of them and wander on my own. Later, my new friend finds me and says we have to leave. The two of them have a show to go to (but in the end I went instead!). He's standing on some steps at the back of the gallery which is being used as a dance floor, smiling, and holds his hand out to me. I take it and thus begins our real friendship. There are plays and musicals to go to, crowds to navigate as we wander through the crush of people in the Castro, there are parties to attend, long, lovely conversations, and the occasional nutty adventure. How did I get this lucky?

A fair question. I did get my wish to live here and write but even though I tried I was never left alone. When I first arrived here, broken and starting over, I thought I deserved to be left alone, that nobody would ever want to be around me again but my friends proved to me that my assumptions about that aren't true. So maybe I haven't changed except to have grown into myself, perhaps. Maybe the only thing that's really changed are my thoughts about what I think I deserve.
You never know what you're going to find out. I read somewhere that another person, especially someone you love, functions as a kind of mirror so you can actually see yourself. This is true. No matter how self-aware you think you are it's still difficult to get away from your own view of the world, the lens through which you look at yourself. And if you have a lot of baggage it becomes almost impossible.

I'm sitting with my new friend at Ti Couz, a rather well-known crepe restaurant in the Mission. It's later in the evening, perhaps after 10:00 pm, and there are plenty of people. We met when my tall friend started talking to her while we were having lunch. I'm trying to explain something to her about the writing, something really important, and she knows it. She is patient and lets me stumble around trying to put this important thing into words. Finally, I tell her I don't think my writing is all that good but I love my characters and story so much, so very much, that I can't help but think that love has to be communicated to the reader in some way, on some level. As I'm saying this to her, tears come to my eyes and I can see she is moved. At that moment, I finally see what it means to be a writer. It's not about technique, brilliance, or even talent, all things which which I don't seem to have much of. No, it's all about love and my job is to try to convey that love to you, the reader, as clearly and as simply as possible. I'm lacking in a lot of things that other writers have but love is something inside me that never runs out.

My friend's recognition that I was struggling to say something important and her patience was the most important thing about that exchange. One of my biggest stumbling blocks is the belief that I have to do everything by myself. I don't know where this attitude comes from. Some misguided, twisted childhood belief, no doubt. And yet through my own actions I know I can't do everything by myself. I have all these wonderful people who love and support me and if that weren't enough I have a whole tribe of characters I've created. Looks like I've called my own bluff.
It's strange but when I was kid I was lucky. Good things would fall into my lap and sometimes my life seemed to be an endless parade of all's well that ends well. I've lost touch with that feeling. I seem to have retreated from it in favor of hobbling myself so I can go through life with my arms clenched around me. Maybe if I hang onto myself tight enough all these true, real things will finally leave me alone. Maybe my luck will finally run out but...I know that's not going to happen even with my best efforts to make it so.

So I suppose I haven't really changed all that much. The essential part of my nature remains intact. I guess I feel different because I've been able to maintain that lucky core even with all the ups and downs of my life. My focus is different and I've grown more into myself but I'm still the same.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

24th and Mission

This time, for the first time, he says nothing.

We are walking.  It's very cold in the Mission tonight.  Something like 45 degrees.  I would say I'm alone and it would look like it but in weird way I'm never alone.  Especially now.

I'm wearing my Raybans.  The people are dark and shadowy particularly where there are no street lights.  I'm grateful for it.  It's about 9:45 pm.

"I want to die," I say.  I don't expect an answer and I don't get one.  I keep walking forward glad to be wearing the ankle bandage on my left foot.  Helps me walk normally.  I'm staring straight ahead, like a horse with blinders on.  I'm moving down Valencia towards the BART station.

"I was unfriended.  I think it's to be expected," I say.  This statement seems to come out of left field.

"You hate FaceBook anyway."

I turn to him.  "Mr. Gryphon, how about if I create an identity for you on FaceBook.  I could give you status updates, post pictures of us, things like that."  He turns to me and barely smiles.  It's been a long time since we've been together.

"All of us...we all miss you, Miss Turtle."

I ignore this comment.  I've made a left on 24th street and am about to pass an alleyway to my right.  The pain wrenches through my heart like dull knife.   I turn towards him to keep my tears from spilling.  "Happy endings, and not those sexual kind either."

"What about them?"

"Think of the concept of living happily ever after.  Certain people can and will do so.  It's inevitable but since I can't."  I stop and lay my hands on my upper chest.  "Since there are no happy endings for Miss Turtle and there never will be then it makes sense that all my characters are guaranteed happy endings.  Don't you think that a fair bit of compromise."  It takes a huge effort to say this and my voice starts cracking.

Mr. Gryphon just stares at me.  ""

I turn away from him and continue to walk towards the BART station.  I am reminded of that time when I was waiting for a BART train at Glen Park years ago and was standing on the platform crying.  Really crying.  Leaning against a pole and how nobody asked me if I was okay.  I wrote about that here.

I get to the BART stairs and pause.

"No, Miss Turtle, you are not going to trip and fall down the stairs."

"I think about it a lot.  I think how tragic it would be if I fell down these stairs and broke my neck.  My ankles are weak anyway."  I smile up at him.  "Just think, you and I will be together forever with all our friends and the other characters.  The stories will continue."  I smile up at him but real tears are streaking down my face.

"You're not going to break your neck," he says.  "Not now.  You're not going to die for a very long time."

"There are no happy endings for me, Mr. Gryphon.  Only the ones I make up for myself."


"I'm surprised you agree with me."

"That's just it, Miss Turtle.  There will be happy endings and they will be the ones you make up for yourself.  A happy ending doesn't happen like some random event.  It's something you choose for yourself and your ability to imagine and choose is the most powerful thing about you."

"What are you?  My guru?"  I am carefully stepping down the long flight of stairs.  It seems like the damn escalator has been broken for months.

He sighs but doesn't reply.  I press my Clipper card against the sensor and walk through the gate.  He merely leaps over the barrier.  No one notices him though a homeless man does a double take then turns away, shaking his head.

"Did he see you?"

"Not sure.  Sometimes they catch a glimpse, it seems, but only your other imaginary friends and characters can see me."

I look up at him.  He's still human.  I wonder what the hell I'm doing to do about that but decide the solution or resolution, as it were, will come in time.

*Note:  This was written several months ago.