Sunday, November 30, 2008

on the n-judah inbound (tableaux from a solitary weekend, 3 of 3)

Gazing through the window of the light rail car as we clickety-clack along the rails on Judah and Irving streets, I spy:
a little girl in a stroller, daddy walking behind her. they are wearing almost-matching hoodies. daddy's has horizontal stripes in turquoise and charcoal grey; the stripes on baby's are turquoise and white.

a black and white cat sitting on a windowsill, calmly licking its paws.

on a building face: surreal you hair design.

on a garage door: sortie de voitures / défense de stationner.
The car filled up at the last stop; now my eyes are entertained by the sights on this side of the window, and my thoughts turn to what my eyes cannot see.
What is in your little Wishbone shopping bag, woman with large rocks on your finger and consternation on your face?

What did you pack in your backpack today, earbud-wearing young man leaning on the doors?

And you, old man with a cottony white Santa-Claus beard, what do you carry in the pockets of your cargo shorts?
Perhaps those packages hide nothing very interesting, anyway. It is the baggage that we keep bundled up inside ourselves that makes us who we are, that alternately makes us suffer and allows us to experience joy, that colors our thoughts and informs our actions, that motivates our desires and, sometimes, is revealed when we share our love one with another.

So, what are your feet dragging along with them inside those chocolate-brown canvas shoes that you have tied up so tight?

What makes your feet bounce when you walk?

Why do you dance?

How do you dance?

on the way to san francisco on a sunday morning (tableaux from a solitary weekend, 2 of 3)

I was wearing the same skirt that I have on today. He was wearing pants of nearly the same color. I taught him the word sequin.

I left home later than usual today and had to run the last block and a half to catch the train. These aren't exactly running shoes on my feet this morning. The train is nearly empty when I board, which is not terribly unusual for a Sunday, at least not for a non-game-day Sunday. I sit down by myself, which is not at all unusual. I am used to having an empty seat next to me. But today it is different. Today it is not empty. Today it is full of loss.

Seven Sundays ago, I found myself, as I usually do, on the train to San Francisco on a sunny morning. That Sunday was different, though. That day I found next to me not an empty seat but a smiling face, a musical voice, a bright intellect, a beautiful, if enigmatic, soul. Cheerful conversation and warm company took the place of what can sometimes be a tedious hour-long train ride. The excitement of a new friendship and hope in the beginning of something great accompanied me for the rest of the day.

Now, all those things are gone, and today, here on the train, I feel the sting of loss. The warmth and excitement lasted for a while; the mystery and fascination only grew over time. But desires clashed one with another one too many times, and finally the hope was broken beyond repair.

I can only hope to hope again, to find hope embodied in someone new. Someday. When I am not even hoping for it.

on dining out alone on a saturday night (tableaux from a solitary weekend, 1 of 3)

After a delectable Thanksgiving feast and a day-after meal of scrumptious leftovers, on Saturday I am in the mood for something lighter. So I walk down the street to get a salad. Normally, I would get it to go, head back home to eat alone, maybe in the company of Ed Chigliak and Chris in the Morning.

But there are no gifts from Netflix waiting for me at home, and although retreating to a lonely corner is exactly what I want to do, somehow I feel that, today, it is also exactly what I should not do. So tonight I decide to stay in the restaurant, to eat alone, in the detached company of strangers.

I do not know that it did any good for my psyche; merely being in the same room with other people does not necessarily lessen one's feeling of loneliness (in fact, it has been known to have the opposite effect). At least I saved some takeout packaging. And I got to pay plenty of attention to my salad, which happened to be delicious.

I am no stranger to dining alone, to being alone. But this particular experience is poignant. Suddenly I feel like I'm starting over, from scratch, and I don't even know what the ingredients are. Applewood smoked bacon, matchstick-cut apples, toasted sliced almonds: they make for a tasty salad, but, even as a team, their powers are limited. Comfort food is only food, after all. We humans, as reluctant to admit it as we sometimes are, we need each other.

Friday, November 28, 2008

skywatch friday, week 16

[chinchero, peru, june 2007]

How embarrassing: here I am posting on Skywatch Friday, and my last post was... last Friday. A whole week has gone by and my poor little blog has no writing to show for it. Worse still, today's photo is not even recent; it's from my archives, nearly a year and a half old. Oh well, at least it's a cool-looking sky, right? At the very least, you can surely find a cool-looking sky at skywatch.

Friday, November 21, 2008

skywatch friday, week 15

[judah & 22nd ave, san francisco]

sunset in the sunset district
with muni lines overhead

happy skywatching

Thursday, November 20, 2008

what do you listen to at work?

I work in a charming historic house situated between two student residences. 

About an hour ago I started hearing the sweet sounds of the marching band coming from somewhere outside and very nearby. 

I assumed that they were making their way down Campus Drive, just on the other side of the house next door. It is the week of the Big Game, after all.

Ran outside with my coworkers to see them and, turns out, they are practicing ON THE ROOF OF THE FRAT HOUSE next door.

How fabulous is that?

They're still playing. And making me feel all cheerful and nostalgic.

I love this place.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

well that's great

In my readings lately (in blogs, emails, newspapers, and what have you), I have frequently come across the word grateful

Probably not abnormally frequently, but for some reason the word has stood out to me. 

It is not because I am particularly aware of the gratitude that I personally feel at this time in my life. I do, and I suppose that I am, but, at least consciously, that is not the reason behind all these gratefuls jumping out at me.

No, but rather because of some odd dance of neurons in my head it keeps occurring to me that grateful must mean full of grates. And yet I don't even picture grates. I picture graters.

That doesn't even make sense. The word is not graterful, after all.

The human brain can be so weird. You can expect more from me on this theme (meaning the brain's weirdnesses, and not necessarily graters, but perhaps grates) in the future.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

what did you learn in school today?

It is difficult to find consolation in pleasing someone while disappointing another.

Especially when the one you disappoint does not believe in the first one.

Friday, November 14, 2008

skywatch friday, week 14

[caltrain station, 4th & king, san francisco]

visit skywatch to see more views of the sky
from hundreds of places on this planet

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

we're better blacksmiths than you are!

[embarcadero between brannan & bryant, san francisco]

Does anybody else get the sense that must be their official slogan?

Saturday, November 8, 2008


Thanks to Anna-Lisa, for offering the material for the following, um, allusion.

Feel free to plagiarize--er, I mean allude to--this theme, should you desire a break from something more serious.

(Why do we find these exercises so enjoyable? Why do we feel the need or the desire to encapsulate our lives and personalities in a series of lists? Is anyone else reminded of the early email days when these 'about-me' quizzes were all the rage? "Twenty questions: Copy and Paste and change my answers to yours" "Everything you want to know about me (and more)" "Fill out this survey and send it to all your friends!" "Because I'm bored..." Maybe it's a bit of nostalgia that keeps us coming back?)

Enough philosophizing already, Skylark. On to the meaningless(?) -ologies.


What is your salad dressing of choice? depends on the salad, but usually a balsamic vinaigrette is nice

What is your favorite sit-down restaurant? does La Taquería count? I mean it's not sit-down fancy, but I often sit down to eat there

What food could you eat every day for two weeks and not get sick of? as Jack would say, TACOS!

What are your pizza toppings of choice? lots of veggies

What do you like to put on your toast? peanut butter & honey


What is your wallpaper on your computer? a photo of a "lime zone" two-hour parking sign against a bright blue sky. I take weird pictures.

How many televisions are in your house? zero

What color cell phone do you have? rrred. and shiny.


Are you right-handed or left-handed? right

Have you ever had anything removed from your body? hair. clothing. four baby teeth.

What is the last heavy item you lifted? a computer (desktop PCs are heavy)

Have you ever been knocked unconscious? only by the powerful need for sleep


If it were possible, would you want to know the day you were going to die? no, not really

If you could change your name, what would you change it to? Marion Cotesworth Hay

Would you drink an entire bottle of hot sauce for $1,000? tempting, but only momentarily. I don't think that $1000 would make up for the burning sensation and related ill physiological effects, such as but not limited to the likelihood of not being able to taste anything for the next couple of weeks. I am assuming here a time limit, though, and perhaps there isn't one. In which case, I would probably reconsider. Oh dear, I fear I may be over-analyzing this. It's not like anyone is really going to make me such an offer, anyway.


How many pairs of flip flops do you own? two

Last time you had a run-in with the cops? there was this one time a few years ago when Claire and I called the cops because we saw what looked like a distress light on Y mountain. it wasn't exactly a "run-in," but we did meet and talk with them and one of them was very large and intimidating.

What do you want to be when you grow up? wise but not proud; childlike but not childish; warm and well-fed; loved and full of love; thoughtful and happy

Last person you talked to? Nikolai Ivanovich (ok so that's just an alias, inspired by a great scene in The West Wing. I tried to find the clip, but without success. read the dialogue here; watch the whole episode here.)

Last person you hugged? Nikolai Ivanovich


Season? spring

Holiday? I like Easter

Day of the week? Sunday

Month? it's a tie between Febanuarchil and Jutembegusty


Missing someone? no, not at the moment

Mood? somewhat contemplative, a bit scattered, mostly content

Listening to? Camille

Watching? these letters popping up on the screen

Worrying about? why I am putting so much mental energy into this mundane task

*RANDOMOLOGY* (doesn't this name applies to most of the items on this entire list? while we're on the topic, isn't it funny how the word "random" has come to be so common in the speech of youth in recent years? well, isn't it?)

First place you went this morning? down to the basement to see if the washing machine was being used (it was)

What can you not wait to do? board a plane to South America (as a figure of speech, of course. it's not like I will explode if I have to wait for that experience. I do. and I will not.)

What's the last movie you saw? Driving Miss Daisy

Do you smile often? yes! I find there is a lot to smile about (and it's nice to smile about nothing, too).

Thursday, November 6, 2008

skywatch friday, week 13

[4th & king, san francisco]

browse hundreds of celestial vistas at

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

some thoughts for the next (first) day

November 5, 2008: yesterday was a pretty important day here in the United States of America. Today is a brand new day; today I, along with millions of fellow citizens, residents, visitors, as well as onlookers in other countries, rejoice in the naming of the new President-Elect, Barack Obama. This is the start of a period of healing and renewal and progress. Watching Obama's speech last night, I had to keep reminding myself that it was real, that it wasn't just a fairy tale playing on the screen.

The result of the presidential election, however comforting and awe-inspiring, did not come as a surprise to me. What does surprise me is the result of the vote on California Proposition 8. I really did not expect it to pass. I noticed the extra push by the No on Prop 8 campaigners in the last few days leading up to the election, but I couldn't imagine that their efforts were anything more than a security buffer.

You may remember that I had a hard time with Proposition 8 when I first moved to California in August. Well, I still do. Either way I look at it, it makes me upset. I don't fully understand it, and I cannot tell what will happen in the future as regards this issue. Ultimately, my vote on Prop 8 came down to a matter of trust in the prophet and apostles of the Church, trust that they are blessed with greater foresight than I, trust that they know what they are doing, trust that they would not endorse a particular position on a particular political issue if it were not very important for some reason(s) that I do not yet understand.

Am I happy that Prop 8 passed? No, decidedly not. Would I be happy if Prop 8 had not passed? I'm not sure. Maybe, at least in the short term. The good that I see coming from the passage of Prop 8 is that it will not last. I know it won't. Too many people are upset and hurt (and can you blame them?) and they will not sit back and say 'oh well, we tried.' We will be called to vote again, we will be called to act, we will be called to enact a change that is really functional. I don't yet know what it will be, but I believe that after several incarnations of prop 8's and counter-prop 8's, we may eventually hit upon something that everyone can agree on. Call me a foolish idealist if you will. All I know is that it's not working now. But that doesn't mean that we should give up hope. Hasn't the Obama campaign taught us anything, after all?

What follows is a text that I originally wrote in an email to a friend, since we had earlier begun a conversation on the topic. When I came to the end (which is far from an end to the discussion), I realized and commented that perhaps it was a little silly to be writing this in an email. While my primary intent was to renew our dialogue, the primary effect was that, even before receiving a response and yet ignorant of whether my friend would even read what I had written, I felt better (if ever so slightly) just having gotten my thoughts out on paper, so to speak. Writing is mostly narcissistic. But every once in a while it transcends. And our stubborn hope in that once-in-a-while, I suppose, is what propels us humans to continue sharing our writing, somehow or another.
To be sure, I do not feel "vindicated" or even, more mildly, "justified" by the outcome of the prop 8 vote, nor do I feel any sense of relief. I do stand by my decision to follow my church leaders' counsel in voting on the issue, but I never did feel comfortable asking others to vote as I would (and therefore I did not). To be honest, the whole issue makes me feel sick, literally sick to my stomach. Part of me wants to run away from it, but mostly that tells me that it is important and must be dealt with somehow.

Regardless of which way the vote went, the very fact that it was so close tells me that this is not a simple black-or-white issue. Though others who voted "yes" may rejoice that we "won," I know that's simply foolish. I know very well that this is not the last we will hear of it, nor is it the last time it will come up on a ballot. Besides, the way I see it, democracy ought not to be about winning or losing. Something's wrong if we're fighting. If an issue is so starkly divided, that to me means that neither side is wholly right. There must be some other resolution that will make everybody better off.

Frankly, I think that we are in need of major reforms, more revolutionary perhaps than legalizing same-sex marriages. Under the law, take away the right to marry from everyone. Let any two people establish a civil union and enjoy the legal (and equal) rights that come along with that, and leave marriage entirely up to the churches. It's a semantic issue, perhaps, a matter of names. But what's in a name? For me (the phrase "the Word was God" comes to mind, not to mention my linguistic/literary background), words, names, are very important and far from empty; it seems, too, that I am not alone: a lot of the emotion surrounding the prop 8 issue, I believe, stems from the meaning(s) we attribute to the word "marriage" itself.

This is just the beginning. I do not know what will happen next, but we will continue to live in the struggle.

La vida es lucha, y la solidaridad para la vida es lucha y se hace en la lucha. No me cansaré de repetir que lo que más nos une a los hombres unos con otros son nuestras discordias. Y lo que más le une a cada uno consigo mismo, lo que hace la unidad íntima de nuestra vida, son nuestras discordias íntimas, las contradicciones interiores de nuestras discordias.

Miguel de Unamuno, La agonía del cristianismo

Saturday, November 1, 2008

etxerantz has a new sibling

That's right, I am the proud new parent of a bouncing baby blog!

Join me on a photographic exploration of my new neighborhood, day by day at Palo Alto Daily Photo.

Inspired by, and pending acceptance into, the City Daily Photo blog network.