Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Fine, Hot Sidewalk and a Refreshing, Cool Breeze

One night late in September, it rained and rained and rained. After however many years of drought it’s been, it was a generous, miraculous sound, especially as it continued: we’re getting even more? I thought, however, of the soup kitchen’s guests, and indeed, the next day I heard guests there asking each other, “Did you stay dry last night?” The executive director says those who are more experienced know how to stay dry, for instance by going under a freeway overpass. (The word “experienced” made me think for a moment of homelessness as something you can get a degree in, or at least a certificate.)

I have to say, being under a freeway overpass in a rainstorm sounds perfectly lousy, but those whose stuff gets wet have miserable hours or days ahead of them. B. reported that his only moisture-related mishap was that he accidentally kicked his own water bottles over. He then used a torch of some kind to dry the sidewalk, which also heated it up. Looking as pleased as if he was just back from being pampered at a desert spa, he said it’s really nice to sit on a warm sidewalk.

I also saw the particularly affable guest who had announced after his shower, “I’m clean—zestfully clean!” I told him how much I had liked that, and he seemed delighted that I had taken note of it. After I walked away from him, he stood up and yelled across the dining room, “It’s great that you remembered!”

A couple of days later, I took Tom out to dinner at Savor on 24th St. in Noe Valley for his birthday. He hadn’t been there before and liked it. I had a scrumptious, buttery rainbow trout dish, but later thought of how Dad used to take us to the Oden Fish Hatchery in Northern Michigan when we were children. They had vending machines where, for perhaps a nickel, you could get fish food to toss into the water, putting the beautiful spotted rainbow trout into a whirling frenzy. Seizing one of them and sinking my teeth into it would have seemed like a horrible thing to do. I might not eat another rainbow trout.

A couple of weeks ago, it was hot—95 degrees at the airport, a record, though inside my place it was never warmer than 84 degrees. It wasn’t that bad, mainly because it wasn’t humid. You have to try to open your heart to the heat. Nonetheless, it seemed like very good timing when one of the large fans I had ordered arrived Friday afternoon of that week, when I was working from home, fortunately.

Since hot flashes started two years ago, I’ve had little-bitty fans everywhere—next to my kitchen sink, next to my bed, next to my computers at home and at work—and they have kept me going until now. More fans just equals more use of energy which equals more climate change, and so I vowed not to acquire any large fans, but as the hot flashes show no sign of abating, and since we’re all going to die a horrible death of climate change, anyway—does that sound fatalistic?—I decided to fan up.

The fan that arrived is a Holmes 12” fan, and it is fantastic (no pun intended!). Even on the lowest setting of three, it makes the snapshots thumb-tacked to the wall flap in the breeze, and when I tried the second setting, some of my décor collapsed to the floor. I didn’t foresee this difficulty when, 16 years ago, I decided to decorate in that manner; frames seem like a waste of space. But if it’s a choice between a cool breeze and the photos remaining in place, the latter have to go.

I also ordered a 20” fan, so there would be a fan for the living room and one for the kitchen, but the larger one might be too much for this little place, judging from the performance of the smaller one. I might end up donating the larger one to the soup kitchen and just carrying the 12” fan around, using a long extension cord.

Saturday of that week, on a scorching hot afternoon, I participated in an anti-eviction march that started at 24th and York streets, where I saw Iris, Alfonso, Ana, Mario, Carolina and Elizabeth, every one of whom I met through Carlos, plus a woman from my meditation group whom I managed to meet on my own, but who turned out to be one of Carlos’s very closest friends. I saw the young woman housing activist who has been featured in stories in the Chronicle, and one of the young men who works at Modern Times bookstore. I also saw a guy with holes in his earlobes so big you could put your whole hand through one.

The sky was a deep, clear blue, a gorgeous backdrop for the big shade trees in that area, with their dense bright green leaves. There was an energetic Latin-flavored live band on a truck, and a cadre of drummers, and the mood was upbeat and determined, with a lot of dancing and chanting. I appreciated that people weren’t angry—I think it’s tricky to work for change and to confront people who are causing harm without demonizing them. I know from my own struggles how easy it is to do and how hard it is to remember that no one (or almost no one) has the conscious intention to hurt anyone.

It is a matter, for instance, of thinking that I would be secure and safe if I owned a building, or better yet, two or three or ten, and I’m not doing anything actually illegal, so what’s wrong with that? I worked hard to get where I am (in the hypothetical scenario where I’m a person who works hard) and I deserve what I’ve earned and if others haven’t worked as hard, that’s their problem.

Of course, this ignores the racism and brutality on which America was founded, from which came so much prosperity and security, but only for those of the right color. It also depends on not seeing or caring about the misery of others, or having enough rationalizations to outweigh the consciousness of other people’s difficulties.

One activist began to tell me what terrible people a certain family of landlords are, and I immediately felt a knot in my stomach. I don’t need the negative vibes, man. Or, more accurately, I have sufficient negative vibes of my own—I don’t need any more. Often people will ask Howie what will happen to their important work for social justice if they become peaceful meditators. He says you can work for justice without being angry, and that in fact, you are more effective without anger. He says tranquility does not equate to apathy
—that every single person he has ever seen become more awake has also become more concerned about the well-being of others.
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