Monday, June 28, 2010

I’m Cross Dressing You with My Eyes

Friday after work I went to see B. and found her off morphine and relatively animated. Her son and daughter-in-law, both lovely folks, were there, too. We were able to talk with B. She told us she loved us, and drank almost a whole cup of water, almost on her own.

Afterward, I walked home and happened upon the Trans March leaving Dolores Park. It brought a tear to my eye—so brave, as it once was to be publicly identifiable as gay, and of course still is in too many places. One marcher carried a sign reading I’M CROSS DRESSING YOU WITH MY EYES.

I waited for the whole march to pass, which didn’t take long—I recognized one of Rainbow’s workers, a person who strikes me as being particularly sweet—and continued home. On my way, I encountered my new ace bike mechanic, Jason, who not long ago diagnosed and fixed a shifting problem that had plagued me for years; two people who live in my building; and a bumper sticker that said I WISH YOU WERE BEER.

On Saturday morning, I went to the Zen Center to meet my little meditation group for the dharma talk, which was given by Fu Schroeder and received rave reviews from members of my party. After the talk, we had lunch at the café at Page and Octavia. (Lemonade: extremely watery and $3. Skip next time. Avocado sandwich: very good.) We decided that instead of meeting every two Tuesday evenings, which wasn’t necessarily meeting everyone’s various needs, we will embark on a dharma tour of the Bay Area, dates to be determined one at a time, in effect as a kalyana mitta group. (Spiritual friends.)

Borrowed from

“At the start of the discourse in question Ananda approaches the Buddha, intent on sharing a thought. Something—perhaps the cumulative effect of day-to-day association with the Buddha—has suddenly made him realize that such 'lovely companionship' is far more crucial to spiritual progress than he had imagined. He enthusiastically declares, 'Lord, this spiritual friendship, spiritual companionship and spiritual intimacy is no less than half of the spiritual life.' 'Say not so, Ananda,' the Buddha replies. 'It is the whole, not the half of the spiritual life.'”

So, anyway, we’re going to go one night to Howard Cohn’s sitting group, and maybe to Eugene Cash’s on a Sunday night, and maybe to Green Gulch, and maybe to Spirit Rock for a Monday evening talk or daylong. I also am going to try to get to the Zen Center on Saturday mornings as often as possible, though I’ve been saying that for quite some number of months.

After lunch, I ran into another soul I'm particularly fond of in front of the Zen Center, and then rode to Rainbow and then home to make green split peas and buckwheat, and carrot bread.

In the evening, Tom and I watched Prince of the City on DVD, my mother’s recommendation. It’s based on the true story of a New York City police officer who becomes an informer to federal authorities on police corruption, leading to many unhappy results. Tom had seen it before and must have liked it, because he rarely sees a movie twice.

Sunday was absolutely beautiful, the day of the gay pride parade, which I did not attend. (Long ago, I heard someone say, "You can tell God loves gay people because the weather is always gorgeous on gay pride day." Back then it was just a day. Now it's a month.)

I considered marching with the Zen Center’s contingent—all were welcome—you didn’t have to be L, G, B, T, I or Q, though I happen to be B—but that would have entailed getting to the Zen Center by 9 a.m., and I barely made it to Marnee Thai by 2 p.m. for lunch with Kyle, with whom I was in a class taught by Paul Haller earlier this year.

We had corn cakes, and Kyle had chicken with coconut-peanut sauce, which he reported was very good, and I had the best version of pad see yew with tofu I’ve ever had, plus a Thai iced coffee. This was a belated birthday lunch for Kyle, who was born precisely 25 years and one day after I was, which may or may not explain why his company is so congenial.

We then walked up Irving St. to Tart to Tart for after-lunch refreshments and then on to the home of Kyle’s aunt and uncle, and then via Muni to Davies so I could see B. while Kyle did an errand. B. was back on morphine and slept the whole time I was there; she reached out once, and I was glad I was there to hold her dear precious hand. She looked sad part of the time, almost like she was trying to cry, which made me sad, too.

Then there was another walk, this time to the Mission, and Kyle went off to catch a train, and that was the end of a most enjoyable weekend. Oh, there was even some hablando en espanol.


The soon-to-be mentioned Kyle said I could post his picture (though I warned him it was not going to increase his fame; if anything, the reverse).

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Not Really Very Groovy

In recent years, I’ve been noticing a sort of annoying grinding sound when I apply the brakes on my bicycle, something that I know hasn’t been the case all the years I’ve been riding a bike. Coming up on two years ago, I was in a bike accident courtesy of the cyclist behind me that, among other things, wrecked my rear wheel, and Dan at Freewheel built me a new one, so I ended up with one rim that is smooth (the new one) while the wheel that came with the bike has a rim that has a little groove running all the way around both sides.

I discussed this with Carlos, and he said the grinding sound comes from having dirty rims or from having grit work its way into your brake pads. He said bikes with fenders almost always have dirty rims, because moisture and dirt get between the fender and the tire and drizzle onto the rims.

I don’t doubt that is true, but just as I had almost, but not quite, embarked on a program of cleaning my rims every weekend, and loosening my brakes to inspect and clean the surfaces of the brake pads—what a misuse of time that would have been!—it became clear that the wheel that almost always makes that sound, regardless of weather, is the one with the groove in the rim.

I told Carlos that and he said it didn’t sound like the likely cause of anything to him, but on a later visit, he said I might be on to something—that he’d had another customer report the exact same thing.

I am now going to have that wheel rebuilt by ace mechanic Jason (Dan has left Freewheel) to be groove-free, but here’s the thing: These grooved rims are now required in Europe, as a safety feature—when the rim is worn down enough that the groove is no longer present, it’s time for a new wheel. I sure hope this doesn’t become the standard worldwide, because I don’t really think it’s all that groovy.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Beset by Paparazzi on Michigan Avenue

The lucid dreaming project is underway again—the hiatus didn’t end up lasting long—albeit with no lucid dreams in a couple of months, the longest dry spell since this project began last July 29. That’s OK. I’m having and quite enjoying (non-lucid) dreams full of remarkable visions and enchanting spectacles—lots of bright colors and shiny things and people flying in the air (not me, yet) and artistic endeavors.

In late May, Tom and I took a trip to Sacramento for a birthday party and to see Ann and Mac, and by the time we were back in San Francisco via the train, we were both sick. I ended up being ill for two weeks, using up the rest of my unscheduled days off work for the year, and having to postpone my trip to Michigan, thus missing my own birthday dinner! I was really sick, too. By the end, I was starting to have problems breathing. It was kind of frightening.

My dear friend of 41 years, Amy, had offered to make me dinner AND bake me a birthday cake, which I was really looking forward to, but it didn’t work out on the rescheduled trip, because she was going out of town mid-week, but we got to have lunch at Seva in Ann Arbor, and my Uncle Rick and I had lunch at Haab’s in Ypsilanti, and Sally and I took a walk on a gorgeous afternoon, and my sister came over a couple of times, and my parents and I had a very nice visit.

We watched many DVDs, and my mother made her wonderful bread and a delectable deep-dish pizza, and my father cooked us several excellent dinners. My father has been trying to perfect a lasagna recipe, which my mother said is very lucky for her, because it means she has lasagna for dinner at least once a week. My father trimmed the long hedge in front of the house one warm afternoon, and I served as clean-up crew, wielding the rake and broom. (“Medic! I have a blister.”)

I finally tried the video feature on my little camera and was very impressed with the results. These little movies look great played on the Mac, and there’s sound. My father and I went looking one day for the former location of the bar his uncle owned in Ypsilanti once upon a time—we found it; of course, it’s hard to lose something for good in the diminutive town of Ypsi—and then I followed him into a fabulous, huge antiques store, Materials Unlimited, on Michigan Avenue.

Just inside the store, there are a lot of chandeliers, so the video becomes very bright and sparkly, and then abruptly ends, as that is the point at which my father told me to knock it off. My mother and I watched it several times together, and I commented that the end was my favorite part and my mother said, “Me, too!” I like it because a door opens into a magical new world and my mother likes it because of the moment of heightened drama.

(Of course, being my father, he didn’t say, “Knock it off!” He said, “Would you please cease to film?” or words to that effect. Later I asked if that was in deference to the proprietors of the store or because he was sick of being in a movie. He said, “Both.”)

What with one thing and another—being sick and going away—I hadn’t seen B. for several weeks, the person I started visiting as a hospice volunteer in November. Since then she has graduated from hospice not once but twice, meaning that she was no longer expected to die within six months. I was planning to visit her this weekend, and we had talked on the phone several times. At 93, she was also vowing to get the hang of email so she could send me a note.

One of her daughters called earlier this week and said B. had fallen and was in the hospital rather than the assisted care facility where she has been living. Last night, the same daughter called and said B. was in fact dying, so I took a cab over to say goodbye, fretting that I might never hear her voice again.

(No, she did not break her hip in the fall. She didn’t break anything. It is just the policy of her facility to send people to the emergency room in such cases, and in the ER, they gave her medication that conflicted with other medication she was taking, plus massive doses of anti-anxiety drugs and sedatives—it took three hours to knock her out enough to do a CAT scan, per an eyewitness.)

Indeed, when I walked into her room yesterday evening, B. looked vastly different and did appear to be at death’s very door. Her daughter was there, along with a friend. They kindly left me alone with B. for a while, and I rested my hand on her arm and told her she was not alone. A couple of times, she opened her eyes, but it was clear she wasn’t seeing anything, and then she began to thrash around, curling toward me and taking my hand.

Her daughter returned and said that was more than her mother had done all day, and soon thereafter, B. opened her eyes and said hello to her daughter. Her daughter, delighted, asked, “How are you, Mom?” and B. said casually, “Oh, fine.”

B.’s social worker arrived, followed by several other relatives and friends, and by then, B. was trying to sit up, had invited us to make ourselves at home, and had focused clearly on several people, including me, to whom she said, “You’re here!” We had one more moment alone later and I told her that wherever she is and wherever I am, we’ll always be friends, and she gripped my hand with surprising firmness and said, “Absolutely.”

If she is still alive tonight, I will visit again, but if not, thank goodness I got to see her and hear her voice and touch her one last time. On the other hand, I won’t be at all surprised if I’m sitting with her a week from now back at her assisted care facility, either, hearing her review of the hospital experience.