Friday, August 24, 2007

Mundane Journeys are worth every step

When you go away, to a place that holds so much emotion and ties, it's a nice idea, when you return to wherever it is you went away from in the first place, to renew your sense of love for the place you're in.

So, with lots of love for LA this week, I know I wanna give props to the city I'm in. An easy way to do that is to hop on your bike or get on your feet and start riding, start walking and start looking: at EVERYTHING around you. The smallest, goofiest, clever-est thing can make my heart race and think, 'dang, that is a reason to live here!'

I bought the book, Mundane Journeys, when I first moved to SF a few years ago, but have peeked into it every once in awhile over the years. It's a simple little book, with simple yet profound observations & advice. Here's a good one, this bookstore is a great reason to appreciate this little city...
Walk, bike or public transit to 227 Church at the intersection of Market. Enter Aardvark Books. Immediately to the right is the cash register. I like to ask independent book store cashiers if the store has any books behind the counter that are not for sale. Tell the person behind the counter that you are looking for the book Dou Dou Flies Away. This book is not for sale. Next, venture down the middle aisle until you come to the gardening section on the right. A friend pointed out to me that most of the book covers in the section are appropriately colored green. Look up and to the left and take note of the dried puffer fish hanging above you.

I appropriately flipped to the bookstore journey because I recently took my own, invented, mundane journey. I was in the paint store buying two tins of my favorite colors, and I noticed a little lobby out the back door. I asked the cashier what it was (their lunch room? emergency exit?) and she told me that was the way to the bookstores up stairs. Well, hello! I wasn't going to pass that, I finally found myself in Vallhalla books (which has absolutely NO links or information on line, that I can find, except for a google map--not good.). Joe, the owner, surrounded by a stack of books on every side of his comfortable chair (you'd expect nothing less) and later, moving over to the couch to have some coffee--the couch, also surrounded on all sides with books. But used book owners are my favorite carnys of all. I could spend HOURS talking to them about the state of the world today! How kids don't read anymore! How first editions just feel and smell different. As do signed copies. And books that have dedications written in them by, not even the author, but someone random. In pencil. Yeah, Joe and I had some gooooood conversation. I've gone back there now two times in as many days. Both days, I found books (you know how you "find" things you don't really need?) for other people. Really fantastic gifts, actually.
Anyway, I stood in this bookstore, two floors up from one of the more intense streets in SF, and listened to the smacking, slapping spastic sound of the floor to ceiling metal blinds over the open window....and, Joe? Well, he didn't even seem to notice.
It truly was my own mundane journey.
Good ole San Francisco. I'm back.

kitty cool cats

A while back, I posted about an old cat of ours, Kitty Calahan. And my mom dug up an old photo of that old cat! KITTY******CALAHAN!!!!

The writing on the bottom of the photo says, "kitty callahan Posessed by the devil". That's right! And we call that move he's doing, the drunken sailor.

And then, on this trip to LA, we hung out with two of the coolest cats around: Johnny, lounging in the background and, upfront, it's none other than Boots!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

For each era, there is a love

“I learned to drive in order to read Los Angeles in the original” -Reyner Banham, Architecture of Four Ecologies

Reyner Banham(1922-1988) was a prolific architectural critic best known for "Theory and Design in the First Machine Age" (1960) and "Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies" (1971). Professor Banham taught at the University of London, SUNY Buffalo and the University of California,Santa Cruz, where he was Chair of the Art History Department.

Reyner Banham was the first critic who loved Los Angeles for what she was. In the course of the love affair he had to let go of nearly everything he brought with him—his academic training, his English upbringing, the ideas of his peers—so that he could accept his beloved for herself: a city of freeways, foothills, beaches and smoggy suburbs, built on mobility and flux by a series of invaders and innovators and populated by the armies they brought in their wake.

In this city on the edge of the western dream, nothing was like what came before. Status was no longer communicated through the construction of stone palaces that looked like they fought every step of the journey over the Rocky Mountains, but rather by freeway access and wacky drive-thrus, light, ventilation, organic design and a sensitivity to a built environment— commercial and architectural innovations which would have been unthinkable anywhere and anytime else.

Gone was the unified vision of a city, and yet there was a method to L.A.'s madness. What Reyner saw was something far more complicated: behind this urban sprawl was a pattern, almost a language, which could not be understood through old modes of architectural and urban criticism, but which had to be viewed through the organic facts of its own ecologies.

Esotouric guides Richard Schave, Nathan Marsak and Kim Cooper all studied under Banham as undergraduates at UCSC, and each was deeply influenced by his work. In Fall 2007, [they] launch "Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles" in tribute to [their] late professor, who showed [them their] native Southern California through fresh eyes.

--Taken From Esotouric's Website.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

You CAN go home again, my mom says so!

I'm just back from a week in LA. I go to LA to hang with family. It's really hard to capture in words how much I revere my family (i've started this post, in my head, on paper, and scratched it out and started again...i want to do it justice).
This was an especially groovy time 'cuz it was Camp G&G: That stands for Camp Gramma and Grampa. My nieces stay at Camp G&G for two weeks. On their own. It's pretty big--on all counts.
So I got to hang with siblings and spouses, mom and dad and nieces. And my Uncle P. He's like this wonderful sage and I love thinking about how he's my mom's brother-- like the way I have these brothers--and they're good friends and their choice of time spent is time spent together.

Whenever my family is around each other, we get melancholy, we know it's gonna have to have an end. Someone will have to get back in their car, or get on a all amounts to the same thing: leaving each other.

One of the greatest things that went down while I was there: My brother J. built our nieces an amazing fort.

Uncle J. (my brother, as he is to the nieces) brought home tons of cardboard boxes one day and announced, "these are to build a fort!" And a fort was built.

It had separate entrance and exitways, windows cut at the requested height for each niece, and a multitude of items velcroed to the walls (sofia's room had a pack of cards--cuz, it's true, you never know when you might wanna break into a game of old maid or gin-again. And, we did, actually, two or three times) Did I mention how much time we spent hanging out in there? Yes, all of us, at one time or another, got down on all fours and crawled into the cardboard comfort that only a fort can bring. I think it's why my mom agreed to get on in there and play SkipBo with us. Uncle J. had made it so there was so much room, and so much head room, that four of us could get in there at a time. One day SkipBo, the next a nap. Syra decided she'd better keep a schedule of comings and goings. She likes to run a tight ship! So, one pleasant evening I strolled out there with my glass of wine to see whats doing in the fort and that's when I got talked into making a future date at the fort.

"What do you want to come the fort for?" Um, drinks
"And what time did you want to come by?" Um, 6:00pm
"Name?" Molly
"And, finally, who are you bringing with you? You're allowed to bring people." Um, everybody?

During the early mornings, when the sun was just warming up the cardboard, that's when I liked it best. Although, the night both girls decided to sleep outside in the fort (simple but comfortable "beds" were set up in the fort--and the "floors" were carpeted. Uncle J, he's a good finder!), I read them a book until they fell asleep. I turned off the flashlight and listened to them both breathing. It was a really warm night, the doors to the house were open, and I listened to my parents and brother and Uncle P. talking around the kitchen table. Just barely. And I took my time leaving the fort that night. I breathed in the cardboard and I closed my eyes and imagined I was little again...and my parents were young bucks and we're all back before life seemed so complicated and yet so simple it was crazy.

So, while life seems to be passing by like a speeding car, it's good to be able to experience not only the company of kids, but to grab the opportunity to experience being the kid again. But, this time, with all the nostalgia and all the beauty that it holds experiencing it with three generations of family.

This is L.A.

This is the story...
of one girl's view
in a big, sprawling city
with a lot of nooks
and crannies.
truly original repetition
and bright inspiration
it's like going back in time
rising to the hills
a pause where you can take it
all the while, hot, white sun coming down
while you pray to your own kind of god

Monday, August 6, 2007

Sometimes I feel like I'm flying with my eyes closed

People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. When you figure out which it is, you know exactly what to do.

When someone is in your life for a reason, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed outwardly or inwardly. They have come to assist you through a difficulty, to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically, emotionally or spiritually. They may seem like a godsend, and they are. They are there for the reason you need them to be.

Then, without any wrong doing on your part or at an inconvenient time, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end. Sometimes they die. Sometimes they walk away. Sometimes they act up or out and force you to take a stand. What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled; their work is done. The prayer you sent up has been answered and it is now time to move on.

When people come into your life for a season, it is because your turn has come to share, grow, or learn. They may bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh. They may teach you something you have never done. They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy. Believe it! It is real! But only for a season.

Lifetime relationships teach you lifetime lessons; those things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation. Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person/people (anyway); and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life. It is said that love is blind but friendship is clairvoyant.

Though it's been in my possession for years, I don't know who wrote the above quote, so if you do, please feel free to let me know so I can give credit where credit is due. (my sis found this, perhaps it explains it all...)

And speaking of someplace credit is due: Andrew Bird.

If I knew how to just post a song for you to listen to, I would. I don't think video is really necessary, in fact, it often takes away from the beauty of sweet songs. Since I don't know how to do that yet, I give you this...and I would say, in this case, it's worth it.
RK and I saw Andrew Bird play with Dosh last year, as a gift from RK's brother, and it was one of the best gifts I got all year. I may have mentioned this before, but just before they came on stage together, the crowd got royally excited and sorta rushed the stage. Well, I sorta freaked out and scurried to the side of the theatre to get out of the way when a security guy saw me and asked if I was okay. I told him I get a little claustro when I'm in big crowds and nowhere near the exit. So, he told me to come under the rope and sit in a chair by the side of the stage to relax and get my breath. I proceeded to stay there for the entire concert with a perfect view of Dosh and Bird, tears streaming down my face because the whole thing was just so dang moving.
I ended up writing an email to the theatre praising the dude that saved me that night. It felt good to be able to do so.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

What a difference 8 days made, 192 little hours

Tis true! Just one week later and I have the summer school kids from heaven! Well, mostly... But the main thing is this week is making up for the last two weeks of begging, pleading and squeezing the writing out of kids.
This past Monday, a whole new crop landed in my classroom chairs. Interestingly, except for a couple boys, my students this week are girls. Girls rock. I mean, boys are great, but girls really know how to turn life upside down on its head in a weird and wonderful way. I have the fourth grade girls and then the sixth to eighth grade girls and they're all fantastic and unique and I look forward to seeing them every day. They're fantastic writers and they're dying to write! Some of them even bring their notebooks out to the playground. It's really beautiful. While they're swinging, they've got their comp books in their lap and with a slow swinging motion, they keep on writing. They're curious and talkative and really great writers. I decided we should make a book of all their stories and they agreed they'd love that. One of the girls today said, "We should really have a party on Friday. You know, like a publishing party!"
And, I agreed. I love that.
It's not meant to sound self-centered, but one of the greatest joys of this week is that it's like I'm looking back at myself at that age. I get to talk to myself in the fourth grade, struggling with all that is "friend" and what to do if others think you're different, and then I get to talk to myself when I've gone through a few more years of life, but still don't quite understand where it's all going; me, in middle school. I love that they are willing and wanting to share their thoughts and how much of what they don't say comes out in their writing. It's been a great feeling to encourage them on a daily basis, seeing their faces light up. (i did have one moment of classic-teacher-embarassment: i was out of the classroom for a bit and when i came back in, a few of the girls were up at the blackboard, giggling, and writing something. when i walked in the door, they ran back to their seat except for one. i made a comment that if she didn't get back to her story, she probably wouldn't have one to put in the book. when i went up to erase their scribbles from the board, one of the girls cried out, "..but...but you haven't even read it yet!" and i looked down to see the words: molly rulz, with all their names signed to the tag.)

The two journal/book photos above seemed totally appropriate for this particular post. Though, they actually come from this past Saturday: a great day that I spent with Danica. We went to Ambatalia Fabrics in Mill Valley and fell right into step with Molly, who owns the shop. During the course of our maybe...what?...two hours there, I spent a large part of my time pondering over the above journals made by Ashley Rose Helvey. Gorgeous productions that absolutely spill out all over with emotion. At one point, Danica went to get a coffee and came back to find me still standing there in the hot sun, just staring at Ashley's books. I was trying to soak them into my very core, to remember them as inspiration next time I'm feeling less than creative.
And these cloud photos I took seemed appropriate here, as well: They were the last clouds of those gorgeous, clear san francisco summer skies. We've now moved into the fog-filled, cold summer days that we're known quite well for, and I, for one, get fairly introspective when it comes to these kinds of days. (I don't have that big, blue open sky to get lost in...) So, that introspective-ness is perfect timing since I've been tagged once again: Once by Ashley and once by Deb. Indulge me once more, will you?
(That's a lot of "once's" for something I'm doing again--hee hee)

1. I can't go to bed at night with scissors, knives, a box cutter or even a hammer just casually laying around the house.

2. I took violin lessons as a kid, but used to hide in the bathroom stalls at school to ditch class with the flautist.

3. Two of my favorite words are: reticent and facade.

4. I once did a reality show for the O(prah) channel: it was 'single new york gal lookin for love'. It was long before I met RK and waaaaay before reality shows were a house-hold topic.

5. I talk to plants and animals on a daily basis. Outloud.

6. I collect anything to do with ears. And what I really, really want is a model ear from a Doctor's office.

7. I love Barbershop quartets. They make me cry, in a good way.

8. Some of the best dreams I've ever had (while sleeping) are the ones in which I fly.

I "tag" ellen, arkay, and meighan.