Monthly Archives: April 2014

why i want to go on a walk

I would rather be ashes than dust!

I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot.

I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.

The function of man is to live, not to exist.

I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them.

I shall use my time. Continue reading

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Sine Francosine

yes, San Francisco is hilly.

Rincon Hill, Alamo Heights, Telegraph Hill, Russian Hill, Potrero Hill, Presidio Heights, Pacific Heights, Nob Hill, Candlestick Point, Forest Hill, Twin Peaks, Mount Sutro, and–good god–Mount Davidson… and that’s not the half of them!

a longtime Bay Area resident will know that all those hills have been known to stress out potential tourists and residents alike. the former wondering how they’ll explore the city without busting a knee and the latter pondering how they’ll make weekly visits to the grocery store without hating their lives. in spite of all that stress, everyone flocks here all the time and somehow survives.

as someone who regularly bikes about 13 miles through the city commuting to work, not to mention other random lengthy rides that may arise, i believe the secret balm to our hilly ailment resides in one curious little characteristic of hills: they create valleys. riding up a hill on my bike, especially on a round trip ride, means exactly this: i need to work a little harder right now to have a helluva lot of fun later. the only time New Yorkers build up that kind of potential energy is when they ride elevators up to the hundredth floor. and the only way they can transform it into (the much more fun) kinetic energy is by hopping out the window.

it’s not just the landscape. it’s everything.

many people believe that San Francisco has no seasons, but these people–no matter how many years they have or haven’t spent in the city–are thinking on the wrong timescale. in a single day, i have experienced the springtime delight of an Ingleside morning followed by the simmering summer sunshine of the Mission followed by the gusty autumn melancholy flowing down Market and up Geary followed by the cruel winter wind of our lovely Ocean Beach. “the day is an epitome of the year,” what with its hills and valleys.

a city as large as New York has ample room for San Francisco-sized boroughs, each of which is substantial enough for entire peoples and cultures to burrow themselves in, away from anybody too different. in San Francisco, business and political titans like Jack Dorsey and Ed Lee need to step over Vietnam vets and avoid crackheads in order to reach their offices. the homeless sleep at the feet of the rich like valleys at the bottom of hills.

one more notion. i have often heard the argument that 150-year-old San Francisco has no history. no pyramids, no pantheon, no colosseum, nor cathedrals. no storied battlefields and no great halls where declarations, constitutions, and proclamations were signed. nothing to speak of but a little gold, a little Christianity, and a ton of fools. and yet, San Francisco is the living stuff of legends. this seven-by-seven mile stretch of land–and its wonderful neighbors–is changing the world. with a mind melding psychedelic trips, digital invention, and a pioneering sense that we can still go west in our own imaginations, we are changing the world. whether this change is ultimately for the better or worse remains to be seen, but significant change it is. valleys of youth, hills of the future.

perhaps i am only making poor, poetic excuses for why i love this stupid clump of concrete and sand, but there it is. i do love it.

it is like a beautiful song with deep, low bass notes and high, fancy melodies swirling around each other in the most unusual way. after all, what is a song without lows and highs? what is a sound wave but going up and coming down? Continue reading

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Read My Lips

what would the world look like if it were run by women?

it’s a question that’s been pestering me for the past few months, the latest development in the slow evolution of feminist thought unfurling in my brain over the past several years. it takes so many different forms (e.g. what would the world look like if women had run it from the beginning? what would the world look like if women start to run it in the future?) and each form flowers so many different answers, that i often find myself resolving on “who knows.”

the next smartest step, obviously, is to read something on the topic. but that would make too much sense.

instead, as i always do, i selected the book at the top of my “to read” stack and started reading that: “El nicaragüense,” by Pablo Antonio Cuadra. “El nicaragüense” es en libro de ensayos sobre el espíritu del ser nicaragüense. Cuadra describe todos los dualidades que existen en este espíritu. por ejemplo, el dualidad de los modernos y los antiguos… de los españoles y los indios… del océano Pacífico y el océano Atlántico… de la américa del norte y la américa del sur… de los violentos y los pacíficos. curiously enough, not only every Nicaraguan is a half, but i also am only half Nicaraguan. weird.

the point is that Cuadra set me on a journey with this quote:

Los arqueologos tal vez algun dia descrifen la incognita. Yo solamente tomaba de aquella dualidad el punto de partida. Y ante mis ojos antonitos de poeta, el “YO SOY OTRO” de Rimbaud se mehacia estatua dos mil anos antes por obra de los primitivos nicaragüenses.

Rimbaud. now i know i’ve seen that name before a bunch–you really can’t avoid the best French poets at a liberal arts college–but i’d never read anything by him. so i googled “i am other rimbaud,” and Google asked me if i meant “i am another rimbaud.” of course that’s what i meant.

this brought me to a page that included some of Rimbaud’s poems, in addition to a letter he had sent to Paul Demeny (a Frenchman that only earned his own page on the French Wikipedia, not on the English one):

Romanticism has never been properly judged. Who could judge it? The Critics! The Romantics! Who prove so clearly that the singer is so seldom the work, that’s to say the idea sung and intended by the singer.

For I is another. If the brass wakes the trumpet, it’s not its fault. That’s obvious to me: I witness the unfolding of my own thought: I watch it, I hear it: I make a stroke with the bow: the symphony begins in the depths, or springs with a bound onto the stage.

If the old imbeciles hadn’t discovered only the false significance of Self, we wouldn’t have to now sweep away those millions of skeletons which have been piling up the products of their one-eyed intellect since time immemorial, and claiming themselves to be their authors!

In Greece, as I say, verse and lyre took rhythm from Action. Afterwards, music and rhyme are a game, a pastime. The study of the past charms the curious: many of them delight in reviving these antiquities: – that’s up to them. The universal intelligence has always thrown out its ideas naturally: men gathered a part of these fruits of the mind: they acted them out, they wrote books by means of them: so it progressed, men not working on themselves, either not being awake, or not yet in the fullness of the great dream. Civil-servants – writers: author; creator, poet: that man has never existed!

very interesting stuff. kinda whisks away all those ancient poesies i love so much. you may not completely agree w him, but you can certainly appreciate and understand his passion for progressing the arts and inventions. he later writes, however, that “the poet is truly the thief of fire,” thus beautifully and brilliantly alluding to the myth of Prometheus. so he’s got one squishy fin in the ocean and the other foot planted firmly on land. typical man of the moment. but i liked his way of thinking and writing so i read on until i found this:

These poets will exist! When woman’s endless servitude is broken, when she lives for and through herself, when man – previously abominable – has granted her freedom, she too will be a poet! Women will discover the unknown! Will her world of ideas differ from ours? – She will discover strange things, unfathomable; repulsive, delicious: we will take them to us, we will understand them.

wow! the year was 1871, the month was the fifth, the date was the fifteenth, and 16-year-old Arthur Rimbaud, who hadn’t even been to Paris yet, was saying some extraordinarily inspiring things about la femme.

sure, there are issues here. if her “servitude” is “endless,” how can it be broken? who said she’s a servant anyway? a man? will it be man that “grants her freedom,” instead of her taking it for herself? does she even want to be a poet? perhaps she was already a poet? perhaps she was a poet before man was ever poet? somebody far more intelligent and far more steeped in queer studies could point out far more of the issues.

nevertheless–and maybe this is because, despite the century and a half between us, we’re both young white males–something in it speaks to me. not because it answers the question with which i opened this post, but because it shows that the question pained another in precisely the same way. when somebody describes a discovery as “strange” and “unfathomable” and “repulsive” AND “delicious,” you know that somebody has no idea what he’s talking about. that’s just Rimbaud being a poet.

what would the world look like if it were run by women? who knows. Continue reading

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Baby, Let Me Follow You Down

what is San Francisco?

where is it? why is it? who is it?

well, it’s named after St. Francis of Assisi, popularly known as the Italian dude with a weird haircut and lots of animal friends. it is probably not coincidence that today’s Italians, dudes with weird haircuts, and animal friends are all welcome in the little loving boundaries of San Francisco.

i like San Francisco because it’s so walkable. if you really want to, you can walk pretty much anywhere you’re going–just plan an hour or two for the really long distances. but most won’t even take that long.

maybe i’m just antsy, or maybe it’s because this city’s so walkable, but i can’t wait for buses. (don’t talk to me about taxes; nobody has that kind of money, i just bought a summer flight to Europe.) if the bus ain’t coming this very minute, i just start walking. now, the funny thing is that i walk along the bus route, so eventually i hop on the very same bus that i would have hopped on had i just waited at the first stop. i guess i’m just antsy.

after leaving my girlfriend’s house this afternoon, i made it as far as the Fillmore before my bus came. the 31 picked me up, along with a girl/woman i could not even remotely guess the age of (15? 30? 45?) and a father with his little five-year-old sunshine.

i wasn’t even settled onto the bus before this older woman started chatting me up.

“you know, you have very beautiful hair.”

“why, thank you. that’s very sweet.”

“are you married?”

“no… are you?”

“i was. 17 years.”

“that’s a long time.”

“it is. a long time… what’s your name?”

“ronny.”

“i’m Cat, but call me ‘Miss Kitty.'”

i didn’t get much of a chance to call her anything, what with the bus rattling to a stop and shuffling passengers in, out, and all around. the father pursued his daughter as she squeezed past me and a few others. when Miss Kitty saw her, our conversation was over: “well hello there little sunshine!”

a few steps forward and i had a bar to lean on. another older woman started talking to me.

“you such have beautiful, brown hair.”

“why tha–”

“i’ve always wanted brown hair.”

“how c–”

“beautiful, brown hair. so long too. i have dark hair, almost jet black. not as nice as brown hair. i’ve always wanted brown hair but you can’t really dye it yourself. you never really do it right when you dye it yourself. suppose you could go get it done but i just don’t know, my eyes are brown so it would probably look nice having brown hair. it’s amazing how brown hair looks.”

eyes glazed over, staring directly out the window, and endlessly chatting… she didn’t need me to respond or even acknowledge anything she was saying. good thing too, considering i could only hear half of her thoughts and words as they enmeshed themselves in the overall sonic landscape of the windy, clunky, wheezy, chatty hell of a bus.

who is San Francisco?

why, where, what? Continue reading

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selections from East of Eden by John Steinbeck

“Timshel!” (602) Continue reading

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