Monday, April 07, 2014

Monstrous

I went a couple of weeks ago to Michigan because my mother was having more joint-related surgery, and just to visit. The night beforehand, a friend told me the place where he works was hosting a gathering of anarchists, if I was bored that evening and had nothing to do. Normally I wouldn’t go out the night before traveling—the flight was at 7 a.m. and SuperShuttle was therefore coming at 4:30 a.m.—but I was curious to see what these anarchists would look like.

I thought they’d all be older men, unshowered (that much we’d have in common), sporting scraggly beards, of grim demeanor, and spouting boring political rants. Not at all! The anarchists were of all ages, including many in their 20s and 30s, and a good percentage were positively sprightly in manner, smiling and happy. So that solves the mystery of what anarchists look like.

I made a point while in Michigan, as I’m trying to do all the time now, of doing what I do when I am seated in meditation practice: to return my attention as many times as needed to a chosen physical object (I use the area of my heart) and also to keep an eye (as it were) on my mind, noticing if thoughts are occurring or not, and if they are, what kind they are.

Basically, sitting practice consists of noticing some form of thinking, noting “thinking,” and returning my attention to the chosen objects, over and over and over. Quite a number of thoughts are planning thoughts, of what will happen when: “planning.” Thoughts of wording an email or something I plan to say to someone, another form of planning, get the note “drafting.” Thoughts of the (imaginary) future get the note “future.” Thoughts of random situations unlikely ever to occur get the note “imaginary,” or the all-purpose
“thinking.”  These are applied silently, just a whisper in the mind.

In the seconds between thoughts, there are glimpses of the spaciousness and peace that are always present, just usually obscured. At those moments, we are not lost in a story whose vividness makes it seem true when in fact it’s just an imagining that arose by itself and will depart by itself. Noting over and over what kinds of thoughts are arising provides a good look at customary preoccupations, which can have a big effect on our lives and happiness, for good or ill. As a teacher at the Zen Center said, “What we take to be real is real in its consequences.”

This is more challenging to do when walking around and doing things than when sitting quietly on a chair, but my intention is very strong at this point, and it’s proving to be very beneficial, eliminating lot of the stress and misery that come from all those zillions of thoughts taken to be the truth. I even suspect it’s going to help with lucid dreaming. I’ve already noticed dreams becoming longer, with storylines sustained over more twists and turns, and I really observed a difference on my recent trip to Michigan: many fewer excursions into the past or the future. Everything just seemed so simple. There’s just so much less going on when much of the imaginary exits the picture. Like, almost nothing.

In addition, instead of thinking, “One day my parents won’t be here, and that will be so sad,” as is my custom, I thought from time to time, “One day my parents won’t be here, and I’ll wish I could see them again even for just one moment, walking, talking, smiling. Well, right now, here they are! Walking, talking and smiling! How miraculous!” This does not constitute employing bare attention to notice chosen objects, but was wonderful nonetheless. I felt a strong sense of appreciating what is here, now.

I think it also helped that instead of bringing along a stack of novels and memoirs, I brought along An Unentangled Knowing, by Upasika Kee Nanayon (translated from the Thai by Thanissaro Bhikkhu), which I don’t necessarily recommend (it’s very repetitious), but it did keep my mind focused on my intention. She really hammers it in about observing the mind and body. She was a Thai woman born in 1901, the foremost Buddhist woman teacher of her era in her country. She started her own meditation center. Here are my two favorite sentences from the book: “The defilements [greed, hatred, delusion] have monstrous powers for burning the mind in the twinkling of an eye,” and “Sensory contact is our measuring stick for seeing how firm or weak our mindfulness is.” I like the first because of its lurid quality, and it certainly is true that a single thought or two can take us from peace to anguish in no time at all.

My mother was in the hospital from Monday morning to Wednesday afternoon, with my father and/or I present at all times (well, not in the operating room). I slept in my mother’s room Monday night on the fold-out chair, and my father did the same on Tuesday night. As before, the surgery seems to have gone really well, though my mother said this one was more painful than the first.

My sister came over a couple of times, and I had lunch with Ginny and Amy, separately. It was a really nice visit and I have a few more things to say about it when I post next, which should be middle of next week or so.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Complimentary Embrace with Medical Enhancements

A couple of weeks ago, I took BART to Berkeley to go on a walk with Lisa M. in Tilden Park, a vast and wild expanse. Our walk took us to the edge of Lake Anza via steep single-track paths deeply strewn in tree droppings and bordered by poison oak. We had to pick our way along carefully to avoid twisting an ankle, and because the track was only one person wide, I was mostly looking at Lisa’s extremely svelte posterior. One highlight was a very large rat tail attached to just a bit of the hind end of the former owner. I’m using to seeing every variety of squished pigeon, but this was a grisly sight. When we were back at BART, I told Lisa, “Very nice walk, except for the walk part.” Fortunately, there are many other options.

Several days later, I was listening to KQED before work and they said that a singer from San Francisco, the first openly gay contestant, was on American Idol: M. K. Nobilette. I thought, “Could that possibly be my friend L.’s kid?” I had to think to remember the child’s given name, and remembered it is a girl’s name that is very similar to M. K. Then I took a quick look on Wikipedia and saw data that confirmed it.

Not long before M. K. was born, I went with her mother to a huge rock concert, and M. K., in the uterus, heard Alice in Chains, etc. In the Wikipedia entry, M. K. is quoted as saying her first musical influence was The Little Mermaid, but it was actually Alice in Chains.

I remember that M. K. as a baby was notably expressive, making all kinds of exaggerated faces, very comical. Three anecdotes:

—She and L. and I were going somewhere when she was about two, and the toddler later to be known as M. K. announced to us, “I’m not going to drive the car.” (“Good!”, said L.)

—L. reported that M. K. had walked up to a stranger on the sidewalk at about that same age and announced gravely, “I don’t play with knives.”

—Once she was over at my house (again, about that same age) and she saw a thing she liked and asked me, “Is this yours or mine?”

When I got home from work, I watched a video online of M. K. singing on American Idol—with J. Lo reacting!—and it was very thrilling. A couple of times, they showed what appeared to be a lesbian couple in the audience, one sobbing her eyes out. At first I thought it was some random women, there to support the first openly gay contestant, but then I realized one of them looked vaguely familiar, and then—duh—I realized these were M. K.’s two mothers and that the reason one of them looked familiar was that she was my partner for about two years in the 1980s, namely L. So if you want to see Bugwalk’s idea of a fine figure of a gentlewoman in the 1980s, watch an M. K. Nobilette video, look for the woman next to the crying woman, and try to imagine what she looked like 30 years ago.

The whole thing made me smile very much.

That same day, I had lunch with a co-worker at Chipotle. As I neared the restaurant, I saw two grinning people with professional-looking signs offering free hugs. The bottoms of the signs said “The Happiness Project” or some such. I’m all for happiness and for giving people an opportunity to be generous, so I accepted a hug from a beaming young gentleman. Beyond the two official hug-givers stood another woman, also smiling, holding a torn piece of cardboard with “Free Hugs” scrawled on it. Obviously some kind of amateur, but since I was now established in the hug-receiving mood, I went up to her and found myself not only hugged but lifted clear off the ground.

I told my physical therapist later, “Free hug and free chiropractic adjustment!”

“Free spinal injury,” she grumbled.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Mind Bottle

Some ruminations herewith on sfgate.com, which is not precisely the website for the San Francisco Chronicle, or is it? There’s another website explicitly for the Chronicle, which, now that I look at it, seems to be more serious in tone than sfgate.com, which goes directly for the lowest common denominator: plenty of true crime, cruelty to animals, Courtney Love claims to have found missing plane, etc.

To get an idea of how far it has sunk, try to picture the same content at the website for The New York Times. You can’t. However, sfgate.com is the best source for certain kinds of local news, as well as breaking news, so I visit frequently and comment on articles fairly often. The editors there well know what topics inflame readers and lead to hundreds of comments: outrageous rents, lifestyles of the affluent, Google buses and techies, off-leash dogs, people riding bicycles. The comments on some articles can be very funny, occasionally charming: “How and why this confuses people is mind bottling.”

Several months ago, they rolled out a new comments tool that is terrible, for a few reasons—aesthetically displeasing, sometimes not responsive to clicks, makes you click a “more” link to see the end of longer comments—but most particularly because there is no “Dislike” button, which immediately led to many complaints, but has not yet been rectified and may never be.

It appears there is a direct correlation between the presence of a “Dislike” button and the overall tenor of the comments. Comments now are much more likely to be hateful, displaying values you would think people would be embarrassed to reveal, even under fake names. Articles about income inequality now result in comment after comment advising that those who can’t afford to live here should just leave, for instance, and the level of explicit vitriol has gone way up. When Safeway installed a piece of metal atop all its low walls to prevent homeless people from sitting down, this received near-universal approbation: Why do we have to have homeless people? Why do they have to sit down? Can’t they just stand up all the time?

Also, come to think of it, why do we have to have teachers, waiters, line cooks, artists, dancers, musicians, police officers, firefighters, janitors, gardeners, child care workers, handypersons, writers or medical personnel? Who cares if those people can’t live here?

Well, for starters, when the big one hits and you’re lying under several stories’ worth of rubble, do you really want to wait for help to arrive from Antioch? Are you positive you yourself, or your elderly parent, won’t ever fall down in the Safeway parking lot and need a place to sit other than the grease-dappled ground?

The lack of charity is stunning, and I’ve even seen it in myself, posting comments that depart from the civil tone I had formerly cultivated. Because there is no “Dislike” button! Before, if I saw a comment that seemed lacking in compassion or with which I didn’t agree, I simply clicked that button and experienced a warm glow of satisfaction: “I guess I told him!” But now it’s incumbent upon me to post something—lacking in compassion—to tell that person exactly why he or she is a selfish, clueless moron, and I assume the same mechanism is working in others.

It’s rather horrible at sfgate.com these days. I keep resolving not to look at the comments at all, and certainly not to comment myself, and one day this will take hold. I read recently yet another comment asking why people should remain here who really can’t afford it, and I felt like weeping. I’d love to avoid the entire website, but, as I say, certain kinds of local news are not to be had elsewhere.

This post was going to end here, but since I wrote it, I’ve started to make a heroic (if I may say so myself) effort to literally do all day what I do in formal practice, which is to notice my body and notice my mind. More on this later, but it’s already for the most part restored my civil commenting tone.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Tweety

A couple of the newcomers at Howie’s on a recent Tuesday night appeared to be in their 20s, with several others in their 30s, reminding me that one of the great things about our Mission Dharma meditation group is how people of all ages attend, our biggest success when it comes to diversity. At least one person in the group has been tweeting about our weekly gathering, and that’s probably why younger people are coming. Various genders are represented (primarily the conventional two), and there appear to be gay and straight people and who knows what else?, but the crowd is largely, though not entirely, white, so it’s good that we’ve got people from 20ish to 70+.

++

On a walk not long ago, I came upon a mother in her 30s carrying a small child and walking next to another of about four, both girls, charmingly attired in colorful old-fashioned dresses. The mother was evidently trying to explain to the four-year-old why her younger sister had received something while she had not. The mother finally said, loudly and firmly, “Let me tell you something. There are going to be many times in life when you don’t both get something.” I couldn’t hear any response at all, but the mother evidently picked up something that qualified as whining, and she roughly yanked the child’s arm to turn her around and nearly yelled, “You’re making a big fuss over nothing!”

It was awful. I don’t think a statement that a person three feet away can’t even detect qualifies as a big fuss, and couldn’t this mother understand how it might feel to have a sibling seemingly favored? I can assure you there is nothing more terrible.

I felt like I should say something, but what? My inclination was to say, “You know, when I see an adult touch a child in that way, it makes me wonder if I should call Child Protective Services.” This was right on the street, with many people around—what happens when no one is watching? It really put a knot in my gut, but I didn’t say anything, except that when I went past them, I looked at the mother and kind of went, “Whoa,” just to let her know someone had noticed. They happened to follow me into the post office and were behind me in line, and when I left, I smiled at the older girl, who looked pretty sad, as you might imagine.

I know there’s no excuse for domestic violence, but was this domestic violence? When I was a child, it was perfectly acceptable for an adult to administer a spanking, but beyond a handful of spankings with fair warning (“You’re going to get a spanking!”), I don’t remember any adult ever yanking my arm or doing anything to cause physical distress. Being thwacked on your butt with the back of a hairbrush is not going to injure you (not saying it
s enjoyable), but having your arm wrenched hard enough might.

++

I may have mentioned that in our neighborhood there’s an older man who shuffles slowly up and down the sidewalk, determined not to lose the ability to walk. Several weeks ago, he ended up in the hospital, and Joe at the corner store later reported that he’d gone on to a care facility in San Rafael, and probably would never return home. He lives with roommates, and if he is unable to get to the store and back, he would be unable to continue that arrangement.

But a few weeks later, Joe said Fidel would be coming home, after all, and one day not long ago, there he was! I was delighted to see him, looking a bit skinnier, but up on his pins, and now speaking only Spanish, whereas he used to also speak a bit of English. We conversed as best we could. I’ve given Joe my phone number in case Fidel needs help. I don’t have time for a lot of extra cooking, but I could certainly go to the store for him and carry things up to his place.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Intelligence Unguent

Over the decades, from time to time, I have woken up at night with a strong sense of having forgotten to do something. I may have forgotten to take my pills, for instance, and I might sit up and turn on the light to write myself a reminder. More than once I have sat there, Pentel P205 mechanical pencil in hand, wholeheartedly resolved to write this crucial note, but utterly unable to formulate the words, until it finally dawns on me that I don’t actually take any pills. Even once I’m quite awake, it’s hard to convince myself that no pills have gone untaken.

This happened recently and I did succeed in writing myself a note, which, in the morning, proved to say this: 



(Click photo to enlarge.)

Friday, March 21, 2014

Any Time

The day after it had been a year since Carlos died, I felt a noticeable relief, the sense of a weight lifting. This means either that it really does take a year for a major loss to become somewhat metabolized, or, more likely, that my therapist jinxed me by saying it was “just going to be an effing hard year.”

When I was at Rainbow last Sunday, as always, I looked at each cashier, hoping my favorite might be back. More than a year ago, she switched to a different area of the store, and then she fell ill and was not seen for months, until, all of a sudden, I saw her at the cash register one Sunday last November. But her return to work was premature and I looked for her in vain until last week. I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw her beloved face. We had a joyful reunion, with hugs.

It had been all the worse not to see her again after that one time in November because I knew it meant she was suffering, and therefore it was all the more wonderful to see her, knowing she must feel better, and indeed she looked reassuringly well. She told me her news and I told mine, including my rather tongue-in-cheek hypothesis that my therapist had jinxed me by predicting a hard year, but my friend said perhaps it is just that such rituals (perhaps she meant the traditional year of mourning) are important, and I suppose she’s right.

A couple of days after the anniversary, Charlie accompanied me to the weekly poetry event at the Sacred Grounds café, for an evening of remembering Carlos. The last time I was there was right after he died, and it was packed, but on this evening, there were only about 12 people there. One of the regulars told me that after Carlos died, two other members of their group followed suit; she speculated that it just makes people too sad to attend. I brought along a lot of photos of Carlos for people to look at and take away, plus the framed photo of him to put on the wall.

When I spoke, I told the story of how we got together, and reflected on what a great last year he had: his book was published, he traveled to his homeland of El Salvador once again, he had a 25-years-younger new girlfriend and also reconnected with a longtime partner who was very important to him. Excellent final year! And I read a few selections from his journal, including a lyrical rumination about a sunny morning. The beautiful words he left behind are a treasured gift.

This was probably not done; he might have revisited and refined, but here is the piece. Also I will note that, despite the “God,” he was not a believer in the traditional sense.

A Meeting of Minds 

Morning Play

God, bird chirp
cool winds
born breeze
rising from the East
circle solar beast
soaring up and up
above a linear line
appears and disappears
a patch of yellow scene
it swoops about
there’s shades of pink
yellow countries in the sky
airplane noises roaring by
tweeter tickles for the ears
yellow splotches dance about
solar panel dance floor
solar signal rising high
airplane signal written out
celestial buzz comes in and out
take a breath
for the ride you’re on
man made earth made
phenomena song


—Carlos Ramirez, 4/7/12

One person I’d been looking forward to seeing at Sacred Grounds was Don Brennan, Carlos’s closest male friend, but Clara told me that he’d had pneumonia and, after leaving the hospital, had been ordered by his doctor to rest at home for two months.

So I was quite shocked this past Tuesday when someone at Howie’s told me that Don had died the day before, a year and a week after Carlos. I thought Don, who was near 80, was going to rest up and be better! But, no, he relapsed and went back to the hospital and passed away.

Anything can happen at any time.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Freesias


Tidying up in the kitchen yesterday, I tilted the plastic mat under the dish drainer to empty the accumulated water into the sink and, too late, remembered that I had seen the beetle standing on the edge of the dish drainer earlier. I have just one beetle—small, round, handsome black markings—and I never see him in motion, yet he is everywhere. I’m doing my physical therapy exercises on the living room floor, and there he is, six inches from my head. It’s bedtime and there’s a speck clinging to the side of the bed: the beetle. I looked in the sink and spied a forlorn creature in the sink, but when I scooped it out with a piece of paper, it turned out to be a waterlogged tiny spider, no doubt dead. Alas. I located the beetle as well and used a second piece of paper to set him next to the spider.

As the minutes passed, the spider began to look a bit more distinct in form, and just as I returned from fetching my camera to take a picture of the two patients near a charming display of freesias—I was going to call it “Bugs in Sick Bay near Freesias”—the spider raced to the far end of the piece of paper and hid underneath it. You could say the beetle saved the spider’s life, because I only noticed the spider in looking for the beetle. When I went out for a walk, the beetle was still sitting near the flowers, but when I came back, he was gone. When next seen, he was definitely dead, floating in the container of dish soap. However, due to the properties of this particular beetle, I expect to see him again soon.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

House of Jerks

A couple of weekends ago, I went to Maria’s place for an afternoon of singing folk songs and Beatles tunes, with Noel accompanying on guitar. The company is congenial and it’s a satisfying way to spend an afternoon. Maria and I had a cup of tea after the others were gone and chatted about Carlos. She knew him for decades, as so many people did.

The following Saturday, I took BART to Walnut Creek to have lunch with C., a former co-worker. She was my team lead, a role in which two or three of her outstanding qualities made a big difference, one being that she is a natural-born peacemaker. When I would call her grumbling that someone had done such-and-such—and we did have an out-and-out bully in that group who made life miserable for years—C. would propose other ways of looking at the matter, until I could feel the upset ebbing away and had to say, “Well, maybe you’re right.”

And she has a very strong practice of gratitude, thanking everyone for their slightest contribution. Sometimes she would email the group asking for a minor piece of assistance, and one of my co-workers would make fun of her, telling the rest of us, “I sent the answer, and now she’s going to say, ‘Thank you, Bill!’” And indeed she always did, and if she hadn’t, I think he would have been slightly crushed. Trying to follow her excellent example, I make it a point to thank everyone for everything, particularly at work, and to applaud any success I observe.

This was the first time we’ve ever gotten together outside of work, and we had a great time. We had tons to talk about. We had lunch at Lark Creek downtown—I had a superb veggie burger and fries—and then we had additional refreshments at the Peet’s across the street, and later C. drove me back to BART.

I’ve finished watching the second and final season of House of Cards. It was hard to get into, seemingly about nothing but people manipulating and mistreating each other, and it was also hard to keep track of the many subplots and characters who came and went with lightning speed. At times it was enjoyable, even dazzling, but—spoiler alert—in the end, it was about nothing but people behaving very poorly, and the ending was profoundly unsatisfying—I’d hoped to see the two main characters marched off to prison. Now that it’s done, I’m kind of sorry I spent time watching it.

A meditation friend asked if I could fill in for her ushering at The Marsh, which is three blocks from where I live. I think of it as being a theater, but they don’t put on plays there. They stage one-person shows and offer classes in developing solo performance. Once or twice, someone has suggested I should go take such a class, and for some number of years, I’ve been meaning to. I was going to say no to the ushering request, per my automatic reaction to most new ideas, but remembered my intention to get more involved at The Marsh, so I said yes, and went over there Thursday evening of last week to usher for Marga Gomez’s show Lovebirds. The work itself was very easy—I took tickets at the front door and got to say hello to everyone who attended, as I do on Tuesday nights at Howie’s—and Marga Gomez’s various characters really made me laugh. Before I left that evening, I told them I’d be happy to usher in the future. In fact, I’d like to see this very show one more time.

Last Sunday, Ann and Tom and I saw Oakland native Marcus Gardley’s play The House that Will Not Stand, at the Berkeley Rep, about four free women of color in New Orleans in 1836. The poetic language and the very strong performances were marvelous.

Howie, my meditation teacher, didn’t react a few weeks ago when I was carrying on about Google’s misuse of mindfulness—he’s low drama, as he recently mentioned, which does seem to be true—so I was gratified when he said a week or two ago that mindfulness is everywhere these days, which is great, but it misses the point if we’re not aware of the effects of our actions on others.

And if you don’t believe Howie, the Dalai Lama, speaking recently at Santa Clara University, said, as quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle,  “If you forget about others’ happiness, you will suffer more.” And, “Compassion brings mental peace, mental comfort.” While business may bring “physical comfort ... we need both.”

Tuesday evening this week was our monthly Happyness Hour, formerly known as Bring Your Own Burrito, when people are invited to come early and have dinner together. This week we had ten or 12 newcomers. There is a fancy new housing development just around the corner, and I’m guessing many of the new people were from there, which is good, because once “new rich neighbors” become “my fellow practitioners of mindfulness,” it will be hard not to feel friendly toward them.

Truly, every single soul I ever see has a sincere wish to be happy and is trying his or her best to achieve that, often by means that can bring only the reverse (including myself, when I entertain judgmental, unkind thoughts). When I remember that, it’s easy to feel openhearted, but, unfortunately, it’s a very easy thing to forget.

Monday, March 10, 2014

One Year Ago Today

Carlos died, at about ten minutes after midnight.

Late in February, I received an email saying, “I’ve been thinking of you a lot, knowing you must be revisiting the many anniversaries associated with Carlos’s passing.” The writer, a meditation friend of Carlos’s, was exactly correct. It’s surprising how acute the feelings were as these anniversaries rolled around, in some ways worse than when the events actually occurred, when I didn’t know what was going to happen and was just plodding through it moment by moment.

One evening, I thought: at this exact moment last year, Carlos was sitting right where I’m sitting now, and it was the last time he was ever at my house. The next day he ended up in the hospital and never went home. That was the day he held my hand and pleaded, “Ayudame.” Help me. (He wasn’t in pain. He was just grumpy and hungry and ready to go home. I think it was dawning on him that someone else was in charge.)

The evening after that was when I sat in a restaurant near the hospital in tears, thinking of all the meals in the future I would eat alone, knowing I should go home but unable to bear thinking of Carlos just across the street, lying in his hospital room. Charlie saved the evening by agreeing to give me a ride home at the end of visiting hours, so I was able to go back and spend a bit more time with Carlos, knowing someone would be there to fetch me, that I wouldn’t just be walking out into the dark to stand alone at the bus stop. Charlie was tremendously helpful throughout this whole time.

Another afternoon I recalled that one year to the minute earlier, I had been with Carlos at the hospital, and after I left him that evening, we never again spoke in person, because the next day, after we talked on the phone but before I arrived to visit, he had the seizures that put him in the ICU in a medically induced coma. Then he was taken off life support, then he was in palliative care, and then he was gone.

A friend of his was lately lamenting that the biopsy that caused the seizures had occurred at all, and I think there’s something to that. If he hadn’t had the biopsy, he might have gone on for months. During this hypothetical time, he’d have had many visitors and would have been enveloped in love. But he’d either have been in a care facility, which he would have hated, or I’d have had to quit my job to care for him full-time, so the way it happened was probably best. He never knew he was ill. He wasn’t in pain. He was only in the hospital and conscious for ten days. (He was in the hospital for three weeks total, but not conscious all of that time.) Everyone he knew came to see him.

For nearly a year, it had been just us two, seeing each other seven days a week at first, and then at least several days a week, and all of a sudden, moments where we were alone were in short supply, which was difficult for me, but it was only ten days. Even if it had been just us two, it would have been only a week and a half before he was, for most intents and purposes, gone.

Around the time I had that memory of speaking with Carlos in person for the last time, I’d been consulting my Carlos-related calendar for a couple of weeks, conscientiously recalling what had happened precisely one year prior and being miserable over it. But shortly after that, on a particularly gloomy day, rainy and dark, the desolation became overwhelming and I tore up the calendar, which was a good thing to do. Sorrow over his loss will probably arise from time to time in the normal course of things forever. I don’t need to drum it up.

For decades, Carlos often attended a poetry event on Wednesday evenings at the Sacred Grounds café on Hayes St. I’m going to go this week so that his friends and I can remember him together.

A year ago there was talk of having a portrait of him painted to hang on the café wall. More recently, that morphed into the idea of putting up a framed photo. Pursuant to that, a friend of his and I chose a photo of him in Golden Gate Park. I ordered a print of it, and bought a frame in a glowing reddish wood. I was going to print out his name, birth and death dates, and a few words about him to put in the frame with the photo, and even found a font that was rather like his handwriting, but it looked sterile and I knew he wouldn’t have liked it at all. He wouldn’t have liked the bland white paper, nor the repressed perfection of it, so I cut a circle out of a purple Post-It note and wrote on that instead. The finished product I think he would have liked—the red frame, the purple handwritten note, the bright blue sky, the green grass behind him. It’s cheerful and colorful.

His absence seems worst of all on lovely sunny afternoons. How can he not be here, holding my hand, moving in his always leisurely way, pointing out the beautiful shadows on the ground, stopping to admire the subtle colors of bark on a tree, smiling so sweetly?


(Click photo to enlarge.)