Friday, October 31, 2014

Two Chatty Pigeons

A couple of Friday nights ago was the quarterly open mic at the soup kitchen, which was short on both audience members and performers, and for unknown reasons, all the overhead lights were left on, so the ambience was more glaring high noon than cozy nightclub, but it was a dazzling evening, as the most amazing sounds issued from various poets, singers and musicians. The lack of inhibition seems astonishing, but I guess is not so odd, given that everyone is treated with love, admiration and respect.

A couple of folks from Howie’s were there, so I sat with them. I must digress to say that I said hello to the woman and introduced myself to the fellow she was with. He said he also goes to Howie’s, and in fact has been a fan of mine since my talk at Howie’s 60th birthday party last year. I was chagrined that I didn’t recognize him, especially since I’m the greeter! I asked how long he’s been coming, and he said, oh, for 20 years or so. He started when the group met at 20th and Dolores, which is where I also started. I was flabbergasted and embarrassed.

I later asked his wife, who comes maybe a third of the time, how often her husband comes, and she said about half as often as she does. She added that he sits in the back and is very quiet, so I joked, “I feel completely vindicated,” and she assured me that I shouldn’t feel bad, but, my goodness! I’m terrible with faces and maybe there’s nothing to be done about that, but I secretly suspect it’s partly due to lack of attentiveness.

During the open mic, the regular sound man got into a fight with one of the bands, and at the end of the evening, alas, one of my favorite guests—not B. or D. (neither of them was there) but someone I talk to very often—had a seizure. As we were leaving, we found him lying on the ground surrounded by paramedics. I asked the executive director to try to get his last name so we could potentially visit him in the hospital. That is a tricky thing with the soup kitchen’s guests. A lot of things happen to them, but what are their last names? We often don’t know.

(The executive director told me later that he went straight to the hospital after everyone else left, and visited our guest, and learned that he might be released from the hospital in the middle of the night, so he gave the guest his phone number. The guest did get released at 3:30 a.m., and called the executive director, who hopped in his car and went to fetch our guest and take him home.)

At the open mic, the guest who is a wonderful heavy metal guitarist did a thrilling three-song set with just a drummer accompanying, very loud and so exciting to one audience member that he ran up and started growling into the microphone in a style familiar to the metal fan.

The next day was a leisurely one of puttering around at home, taking a walk, doing my biweekly ironing. While I iron, I’m listening to all of my LPs again, needless to say in alphabetical order, starting with Aerosmith and ending with Neil Young, hitting all points in between, including Earth, Wind & Fire, the Isley Brothers, and the Sex Pistols. This has made ironing something to look forward to. Hearing all my LPs will take about a year, and then maybe I’ll listen to my cassette tapes. After that, I’m thinking of getting one of those newfangled communication devices I keep hearing about, where you have a pigeon and your friend has a pigeon, and the birds carry messages back and forth on little pieces of paper.

In the evening, Lisa M. and I had dinner at Esperpento, followed by a shared pot of peppermint tea at Borderlands Café.

On Sunday I made a pot of lentil soup with tarragon and thyme, and a pot of yellow split peas with lemon olive oil and garlic, and I washed and chopped a small mountain of dinosaur kale. I used to steam greens and put them in basically everything, but that didn’t end up being very many greens. Now I sautĂ© an entire bunch of greens with garlic and one low-sodium bouillon cube, as a side dish, and shortly after I eat this little bowl of greens, I feel a burst of magnificent well-being. They don’t take long to cook, either. Ten minutes or so.

I’m happy to report that the larger fan fortunately arrived scuffed, scratched and broken, so it could be returned, with Amazon paying for the shipping (and me paying for the cab I took it over to UPS in). The Holmes 12-Inch Blizzard Remote Control Power Fan, HAPF624R-UC, which arrived first, is perfect. I love this fan! On cooking day, I carry it into the kitchen.

Tuesday night at Howie’s, another volunteer suggested that we not take every single pillow out of the enormous zippered bags. Possibly they don’t all get used, and every one that is taken out must be stuffed back into a bag at the end of the evening. Consequently, my favorite pillow did not appear, and I rooted through the bags trying to spot it, and finally took more pillows out until I came upon it.

“Are you having an attachment issue?”, the other volunteer gently teased me, insistence on things being a certain way being a chief cause of suffering, per the Buddha.

Later I remembered something: “Hey, wait a minute—aren’t you the person who brings his zafu from home every single week?” (A zafu is a round pillow often used in sitting meditation.)

“Oh, are you calling me on my attachment issues? There’s no proper zafu here!”

Later Charlie was trying to explain the location of something to me:

“Where Bryant goes under the freeway?”


“You know where Costco is?”


Finally, Paul asked, “Do you two live in the same city?”

I explained, “We live in the same city, but not the same state.”

Afterward, Charlie and I walked along Mission St. together for a bit. He usually rides his bike to Howie’s, and sometimes drives, in which case he gives me a ride home. This was the first time he had walked there. We bumped into a mutual friend, and Charlie told him, somewhat imprecisely, “We just came from contemplating our navel.”

The friend asked, quite rightly, “Oh, do you two share a navel?”

Wednesday night the Giants won the World Series, which meant five hours of car horns blaring, people shrieking on Valencia St., explosives exploding, and, my least favorite of all, a helicopter hovering overhead, since it’s necessary to report on what is happening: “Car horns are blaring. People are shrieking. Explosives are exploding.” Though report it where, I have no idea, as has managed to take another giant step downward. They’ve largely eschewed the use of words, and it now mostly consists of photos—of a weird-looking dog in Australia, of a celebrity’s plastic surgery mishap, of a woman on whose porch a beer can was found.

I can listen to KQED to find out what is happening statewide, nationally and internationally, and Mission Local and El Tecolote give me neighborhood news
the first is online and the second arrives twice a month in the mailbut as for what else might be happening in San Francisco, if I don’t observe it with my own eyes, I have no idea. If the mayor says anything of interest at City Hall, Im not going to know about it unless he walks over to my place to tell me. Regarding the Giants winning the world series, I don’t see why people can’t stay in their own apartments and celebrate with a tasty morsel of marinated tofu, perhaps permitting themselves a half-smile of quiet enjoyment, emphasis on the quiet.
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