Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A Pirates Halloween

(Dress Rehearsal, 35mm Fuji color) 

Okay, maybe reading Camus out loud to the walls after a semi-traumatic but ultimately meaningless brush with local forest fires causes more problems than it solves. How was I supposed to know?

Beauty is unbearable, drives us to despair, offering us for a minute the glimpse of an eternity that we should like to stretch out over the whole of time. - Camus

I'll likely have more Halloween pics by tomorrow. Shooting 35mm film with manual lenses is more difficult for me than it should be. I think I need to find a way of shooting that guarantees the image is in focus. I rely on my own eyes - myopic, requiring glasses to see distances clearly - and have not swapped out the viewfinder glass of the camera with a diopter, so many of my shots are out of focus. Also, my subjects move quite a bit and are accustomed to how quickly I can shoot with a semi-pro automatic body. When shooting black and white film I choose a grainy stock - Ilford HP5. 

Everything, it seems, is working against me, except my love for the thing itself.  

Today is a pretty big day for the boy. He has been preparing for this his whole life by dressing up in costumes and eating candy. 


Monday, October 30, 2017

Did you know the light from these stars...

I have a list being formed somewhere in my mind of all the major things that I need to do around the house, to get things cleaned up and organized once and for all. I have no idea where I'm going to find the time to do any of this. I haven't written my list out either, of course. It is purely imaginary with dusty corollaries lingering in the physical world.  

It doesn't make any sense, at least to me, that contemporary life is meant to provide any of the promised rewards for participating in it. We spend our time working, and too much of our time at home cleaning. For what? I mean, I get it. I want to live in a relatively orderly place, and can't stand when rooms are fouled in time by my presence. Somebody has to do something about it and I'm the only candidate in the running. But Jesus marimba thimbles... is there no end to the feeling that all of life is a useless and perpetual struggle?

Sorry, I've been reading Camus' Critical and Lyrical Essays. He was such a loving, hopeful young man. It is heartening. Though I remember his other works, also. 

I've been thinking about buying a new car. I want one. When I consider the cost of buying a car I am shocked at what a dent it means to my monthly income. That lost money represents a significant portion of my modest daily happiness. Many work only to pay for the place in which they sleep, and the vehicle which brings them to and from work. It makes no sense at all why anybody would do this, but neither does buying cameras. There is no end to swimming the paradoxical oceans of the absurd. It only takes a moment of reflection to arrive at the point of futility on almost any subject. Yet knowledge grows and shared observations of our universe continue. We are tasked with creating a sense purpose to a life that will end, either expectedly or with invitation, but always with certainty. The hint that our lives ever occurred will decrease over time until they are each mainly forgotten, erased from the universe, or until the Facebook servers cease transmitting data packets. 

Perhaps that is its allure - social media. Some are horrified that personal data and account activity are retained with the ominous threat of forever. Others maybe seek to touch the infinite through that dimly held belief, to somehow participate in tomorrow, without any intentional meaning attached to the behavior. Too few are willing to be absurd, even when cornered in absurd predicaments. They find and claim a quorum of meaning, or morality. Everyone wants there to be too much sense in the world. They insist upon theirs in the collective sense and I don't always fault them for this. I tire of the whims of my mind, also, and want only for musicians and writers to relay to me how the world can be structured differently, effortlessly and over a glass of wine.

Others seek the wisdom of the spiritually enlightened. What can one do? Hope is maybe the imagination's defense against rationale.

If wishes were horses then we would find a way to gamble on them, or shoot them when they stumbled and fell, and then call it mercy.

Some will meditate and suggest that "the moment" should be one of calm spiritual acceptance; others howl to the stars at their impossible distances, their maddening purposelessness and incomprehensibility, their eerie celestial twinkling. The night sky is always of an untouchable and amorphous past, yet it is famous for always seeming of the moment. I have never felt quite as in love as I have under the stars. As trite as that may sound to you, it is true. The love of others - its admissions and expressions among participants - seem vapid to a listener, emphasis without emotion. This happens perhaps in proportion to the hardening of one's heart. Why do we call it falling in love when it feels more like floating. It is the sudden relief of the weighty burdens of living that mark the shared joyful sensation, not an accidental slipping of your feet near an open well. I suppose it can be both. 

That anybody resorts to drugs and alcohol as a reaction to the mechanized world should surprise no one. It seems a reasonable enough response, unless of course you're in love and happy. Then, it makes no sense and you are maybe causing others pain. I have read that some believe now that addiction is sourced mostly in loneliness. They have conducted tests to confirm and advance this understanding. Yet only formal attention is then given to the lonely as an attempted social tincture, as if to heal a wound so that the patient can resume their otherwise productive and promising lives. When I was younger I believed, maybe wrongfully, that the only people who ever escaped loneliness were those too stupid to feel its presence. Now I can see that even the stupid deserve existential equality. I have become a moral man in my later years, you see.

We spend today preparing for tomorrow though each day brings us closer to death, yet we present ourselves and act towards one another as if it doesn't. There is nothing to do about it, so we all act accordingly no matter what we're doing. Life's meaning seems to exist elsewhere for many. Not only in some other place, but in some other time. We spend our lives preparing to put good memories behind us. We love to get together, to reminisce. For those who live too much in the moment, they suffer the critiques of those who would have them live otherwise. It is selfish to live in the moment, the past, or the future, especially while in the presence of others. It turns out that the charge of selfishness can only be made by others, especially if you retreat. What could be more selfish than solitude? 

For those who meditate, they prepare their lives to recognize and appreciate the moment. Yet the practice asks and reminds them not to do that, in a sense. How to avoid the paradox of the passing of time? Is meditating living in the moment, or is it a reduction of life's stimuli to a manageable state? Is one free when forcing oneself to quiet their own inner voice? Is all freedom simply a form of self-denial?

I don't know. I suppose that any answer may be subjective and malleable. We insist that faith in a thing makes it less so, though for whom? 

The idea that the moment is purely to be enjoyed is accomplished by some through adequate planning for the future, so that when the moment arrives it can be enjoyed without worry. Then there are others who do not complicate the present with the future. Yet the future arrives for each, regardless of how the present was spent, and no amount of money or having previously lived in the moment guarantees any success or happiness in the future. Life can not be practiced and it can not be saved for later. We are all bettors with our own sense of meaning, yet we insist that the meaning we have chosen for life is its sole and truest purpose.

Well, that is not quite fair. All of us do not do that. Some recognize the impossibility of deriving meaning from anything and find a way of laughing along about it. 

Can I use two prepositions in a row? Is it wrong or preposterous? 

I have tried to look at the issue of my apartment dispassionately, or disinterestedly. I've realized that if I gave up cycling, going to the gym, and writing here on this site that I just might have time left over to live a happy and orderly life. I could restructure my life such that I would have time to go through the years of collecting and really begin to clean things up a bit around here. I wonder what I would do with an orderly life. Maybe my life could be used as an example - a template for others engaged in living - once I tidied the place up a bit, of course, and effectively advertised my domestic makeover to others. Revamp the brand, if you will.

The human capacity and inclination towards order is an interesting one. We seem to need it and loathe it in almost equal measure. 

When my son was an infant we would play music for him to fall asleep. Once he was able to talk then we would read him stories and talk to him before bed. I think back to standing or lying in that dark room, with him just learning to saw toothpicks, listening to the mostly ambient compositions that we chose for him. I miss it. Like many, I want the world to be meaningful, to contain unspeakable beauty, and I wish to somehow participate in those wonders. 

Maybe I worry that one day I'll look back on my life and regret any time that I spent being tidy. 

I try to listen carefully to people, so that I might glimpse into the the lives of others, to consider what life's meaning is for them. I remember my mother, as she was dying, telling me the things that I would never regret doing - traveling, writing, learning to play a musical instrument, to speak another language. She then added to the list, having children

She must have had other things on her mind. It did seem to almost be an afterthought for her and my father. My brother and I were both conceived late in life. I say this without any ill-will whatsoever. It is just something for me to think out loud about.

I wonder what values Rhys might remember from my own life, potential safeguards against future regret - take lots of pictures of everything, more than you need; go swimming even some days when it's cold; avoid leftover chicken, use extra butter on noodles, and cheese, Froot Loops can be eaten without milk; always try to drive faster than the phone's predicted travel times; play music loudly, sing along in the car, mumble over the words you don't know or turn the volume down, acting as if the song has vaguely lost your interest; don't bother keeping your room clean, try to convince others to do so; avoid making eye contact with the stars. 


Sunday, October 29, 2017

The world's biggest water slide

(Manager, Napa DMV)

I'm sure that I have boasted here before about what an absolute natural Rhys was when he started riding a bike. Quite literally, from the moment he and the bike left my guiding hands, on his very first effort, he was riding as if by nature, doing circles surrounding in the parking lot, much to mine and his mother's amazement and joy. He had been practicing the peddling motion on a tricycle and the balance portion on a balancing bike, so everything just came together all at that single moment and he was unexpectedly able to ride. It seemed a miracle at that moment.

Over time he has become slowly emboldened at his riding powers. He is beginning to show resistance to mine and Rachel's parenting, doing things that the knows are a little bit dangerous. He is wanting, or perhaps needing, to show that he can do things of mild daring, while also providing some parental resistance. 

There are a few small hills in the area and we enjoy riding down them. We endure the walking up them (his legs are still young) because we know what pleasures they bring once coasting the other direction. Also, there is a place called La Michoacana at the top of the hill where they sell the most delicious Mexican vanilla and strawberry cheesecake ice creams, and coconut and pineapple, a strawberry and cream that's different than the cheesecake, and I also like the cookies and cream, and what seem like hundreds of other flavors.

We had gone there and were returning home with a pint of soft ice cream. 

There is one hill, just towards our houses where the bottom of the hill becomes a small intersection, where cars often turn to head back up the hill to leave the neighborhood. I have tried to emphasize that when riding down this hill we need to be on the right side of the road, otherwise cars can surprise us just by turning to leave the neighborhood, a perfectly normal thing for them to do. But without them knowing why not to turn they would confront us in a "head on" way. 

You know, the normal stuff you try to tell kids to keep them alive.

We were going down the hill yesterday when a car came up on us from behind. It was no emergency and the hill is relatively short, so this was all fine. But when I turned to look at him he was on the left side of the road. So I said, Over here, buddy. The next time I turned, only a couple seconds later, I saw the handlebars turned surprisingly outwards and  him going over the side of the bike and heading towards the pavement. I turned as quickly as I could and made my way back to him. He was on his feet already and the wails and tears had arrived before I did. I picked him up and brought him to the side of the road and pulled his bike out of the center. The guy drove by and gave a Sorry... look. I shook my head at him and mouthed that it wasn't his fault. I picked the boy up and held him, but like any parent my immediate interest was in assessing the damage as much as it was in consoling him.

He showed me a finger that was bleeding and indicated some pain on his back. I lifted his shirt. This would be his first case of real road rash. He had one abrasion that had already become the tell-tale red. The rest of his back had the signs of his 50 pound body scraping the pavement a bit, at what must have seemed like high speed to him. I held him for a bit, letting him know that he's okay, that he'll have a little bruise and soreness on his back for a few days, but that he'll be okay, that he was okay, that everybody has accidents on a bike every now and then.

By the time we got to mom's house, of course, the incident would require a team of neurosurgeons and a series of expensive MRIs and CT scans. For a mother there is no such thing as a mild external wound. Everything, it seems, bites and claws at the internal organs of their child. The only way to truly love your child is first to panic. Then, to sit in the emergency room for hours until they understand the lengths that you're willing to go through to orchestrate a medical response as a demonstration of your concern and love for them.

Well no, but there is some truth in that. Moms are famous for caring.

Competitive parenting is but one of the issues we now face as a society. You hear people talk of arrests being made because 12 year olds were playing at a public park unsupervised by their parents. Can you imagine the shock and horror and disgust one parent must experience at children playing safely and freely in their own neighborhoods. Some states have laws requiring an arrest any time they get these calls. Where would we be without regulations that empower the meddlesome tattle-tales of the cul-de-sac? These are people who are going to stomp out wrongs wherever they may find them. They are all universally against fascism, of course. They just happen to love the rules. 

Well, the boy just woke up and I tried to explain all of this to him. He said, No dad, my hair was in my way. I just couldn't see. 

So, there is that, also. 

Then he said, DaddyI had a dream where you owned the Golden Gate Bridge. Everybody wanted to buy it from you, but you wanted to move it closer to home so we could play on it. I would have the coolest birthday party ever on it. It would be the world's biggest water slide. 


Saturday, October 28, 2017

A small talk about the effects of stress

Yep, it's the stress. It does not qualify as a disorder, but there is some post-trauma stress going on with all of us. I can feel it in my sleeping patterns, in my wakeful thoughts, in falling back on familiar patterns without regard for success, being without immediate self-awareness. Everything seems clearer afterwards, but I'm seeing the signs of stress everywhere, in all of my actions and in my periods of inaction. I am struggling to relax and failing, even as the feeling of stress is lifting. 

It will pass soon. From what I understand of it, the short periods of experience of this kind are followed by a normal period of stress, but that passes as does the threat and the immediacy of danger. 

Yesterday, the gym and a bike ride helped. The road leading up to Lovall Valley had been opened. After what was already a longer ride than I expected to take - to check on Gundlach Bundschu, which was still standing - I rode up the hill which leads to the loop. I turned at the top of the hill where the county of Sonoma becomes that of Napa and retuned. The damage was tremendous. I knew it would be. More houses stood than I might have guessed. Though again, I did not ride the loop, where there may be more yet to report. I do not imagine this is of much, if any, interest to those outside of Sonoma. So, this will be the local portion of my post. We'll tackle international affairs at the top of the hour. 

I took Thornsberry road up behind Gundlach where it becomes a private drive owned by the winery. Everywhere there were the signs of where the fires had been, areas where it moved through and left carbon as its mark. 

I can not quite tell if taking in the extent of the damage in small doses the way that I have is the best way to deal with what has happened, or if I am extending the emotional responses by doing so. Either way, it is a lot to look at, a lot to see. There were vast swaths of forest burned down, creating views that were impossible before, charred sections running off and up into the hills, across creeks, over the crests. The fires must have been colossal. We already know them to have been, of course, but to see it is another thing. It structured some of my imagination of the damage differently. Facts will do that. But it engaged my imagination in another way, forcing it towards the moment of destruction and away from the lasting damage that I had believed to be everywhere and in all directions. 

Websites reporting on the size and scope of fires lack nuance, of course, they all tended to suggest complete and total destruction, but that is not the case everywhere. The fire seems to have moved right past some houses while stopping to knock at others, then taking the mass of some up into the smoke above, raining the pieces down for miles around, it seems. It is shocking how little of a thing is left after a fire - burnt emptinesses where once there was substance. 

How unfair it must seem for some houses to have been spared. Others must have been marked to be destroyed. I prefer to believe that only Christian homes were spared, but that's just me. They have mansions in heaven and teams of angels dispatched to protect them here on earth.  So, you know, prayer becomes sort of protection payout. The atheistic west coast liberals were hopefully given a taste of the eternal hell fires they will one day soon endure. Let this at least be an important lesson on Hades for those who will one day populate the place. 

Jesus, even joking about the many apocalyptic joys of the Book of Revelation somehow seems wrong now. I'll chalk that up to the stress. I feel like 'ol Jesus when he killed that fruitless fig tree, or maybe when he overturned the moneychangers tables in the temple. Angry, I guess, or hungry. It is still a mystery why he spat in people's eyes to heal them, but only when he felt like it. 

Did Jesus really kill a tree because it bore him no fruit? What a dickhead. He could have used a little more agricultural tutoring and maybe a little less cross-crafting carpentry.  

Ok, I refuse to turn my stress into a Jesus moment.

As for the international desk of our media operations center: things seem to be going pretty well over in Burundi.


Friday, October 27, 2017

Nervous Tension

The stress is getting to me. I'm eating compulsively. I've gained ten pounds in four weeks. I went for a long bike ride today and I could feel it eating at me. All of it. Since going to the eclipse - there was the natural stress of being around family for a week while traveling, then Rachel's father passing away the day he left us to go back home to LA, going to LA to help Rachel finish things up there, then there were the fires. This was all after a summer in which the boy's schedule has been all over the place. It's having a cumulative effect, a maddening one. 

I strained my elbow at the gym, the psychological results of which now seem disproportionate to the injury. I am eating everything I touch, and touching much. Sometime around this time last year I decided to do a triathlon. 

I wrote the first draft of a piece last night about the difficulty of perpetual confession. I neglected to publish. Here it is, you'll see:

Little matter, its metal splinters, aligned along poles as magnets or as ore. Semi-circled currents visible above, circuits searching their synapse. The attractions repel, it's said. The break in which neither side can win nor will. Seems eternal, the parts. That life exerting, it beats the senses out of most, but treats as special those with senses at all worth beating. 

Nobody bothers making an example of the crazed. Life conducts its comedy, its cruelties. I remember, numerousness now. So many sequiturs; nonplussed. A farrago of paragraphs. 

Writing will outlive anybody that it does or doesn't kill, though it claims no hurry for either. In the end, what is worth noticing announces itself to everyone unequally.  Solitude remains hidden, as do the preciousest moments of life. Music playing out through the open window; a book that almost wakes as it falls from the hands of the sleeping reader.

The idea, it seems, is to never let the love of sentences dry up the heart much. Love will kill the scent of love if you leave them together long enough. 

Try and try to write well, dare anybody; there is no end to the wanting; Solomon's eyes and ears, never full of the seeing, the hearing; paint a falling picture if you haven't; indulge in any sentiment-obscuring bit of stupidity that you just might have lying around, of course; preservation is for the rich, the finest of the dust. Use it all; lights dim to begin. 

Rage, rage, it has all been begged before. 

Don't love bums and addicts, you know I've told you that before. But there are a few things worth liking about them - they never talk of sex, sports, politics, or business. They never write of writing. 


Thursday, October 26, 2017

Gear Guy

I'm lying here in room 3010 at The Intercontinental in SF. We arrived last night with plans to go to dinner in Japantown, but by the time we arrived here at the hotel it was too late to have any external adventures, so we ordered room service and went to the swimming pool to keep the boy entertained. I will bring him into the office with me this morning for a couple hours. Everything is still such a struggle and will be until we can bring the boy back to school. The fire experience has made me think of single parents, how difficult life is for them, especially the necessitous.   

My birthday went well; a day spent caring for the boy. We lounged around the house and did nothing for most of the day, went to lunch at a local place, Hopmonk Tavern. There is a stage there where we have taken pictures before, so we went and took pictures again. I need a camera bag. I have become that guy that walks along with two camera bodies and three lenses to swap between them. I would post a picture here, but I left all of that back at home. I tend to be happiest when I leave the house with a single body and either a 35mm or a 50mm lens. I need two camera bags, one for the Nikons and one for the Fuji. I've become "gear guy." I've tried to avoid it, but love for anything like photography pretty much necessitates it.

That's two paragraphs in a row that end with the idea of necessity. I'll let you decide on their differing merits.


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

"220-221, whatever it takes"

I have taken the day off from work, to spend with the boy. It was partially out of need and partially out of convenience. It's my 49th birthday, so I took the opportunity. Why not? It all worked out for the best. His school will not re-open until next week; mom and I were not able to get all the days covered otherwise. So, a full day with my son. What more could a nearly 50 year old man want?

Well: tonight Rachel, the boy and I will go onto the city. Mom has prepared a dinner at a sushi place, one where the plates arrive on a conveyor belt. We ate at a place like that in St. Petersburg, Russia once, she and I. We held fond memories of it afterwards. I suffered the worse case of jet lag that I've ever had on that trip, but there were still plenty of good times as well - midnight runs to underground bars on back streets, day trips to the museums, reading passages from Pushkin, dinners on the Neva. We were there during the White Nights. 

We will have some sort of adventure today, the boy and I. Haven't yet put much thought into it, but there is plenty to do. Who knows, maybe I'll take him to a local kid's entertainment complex. And why not? I'd my birthday, what I enjoy most is watching him have fun. Though, that kid has an incredible memory. Next year he'll remind me of my own birthday tradition with him and expect to go again and again, in perpetuity.  

I'm lying in bed as I write this. I usually sit at my kitchen table, even though I have a desk. I work at the kitchen table, so it feels more natural to write there in the mornings, nearer to the coffee. 

As for a reflection on this day, I am more happy than I have been in quite a while, contented. After a few years of standard strife and then much heartbreak, Rachel and I have found a new way to love one another, against the odds and the unanimous urging from friends on all sides to not do so. Yet, the love works. It fits. I feel complete in a way that I have not in a long time before this, even in our previous life, perhaps there most of all. It feels good to see us functioning as a happy family, to see the effects of it in the lives of each other, to be at ease in it. 

It's interesting what treating each other as equals has done for us, an almost unexpected turnaround. A thing we were not quite able to accomplish on our own was thrust upon us by an exterior force. I think every child bearing or having couple should have a standard custody agreement in place before the child arrives. I know that sounds like any of my other crazed claims and advice, but I am being quite serious. It's very easy to feel that you are doing half, or even more than half, in that or most any other divided scenario. It's another to always understand exactly where the halfway point is, and when you're not meeting at it, or when someone is helping you when you need it. I think that it did something to Rachel and I, for us to see each other functioning as good parents and working towards a common goal. Love was the result.

I credit the success of mine and Rachel's custody agreement with two things: being the agreed upon framework defining how we conduct and enact the terms by which our son will be cared for, and with saving our love and affection for one another. And respect, it requires that also.

So, thanks divorce! We are guests in each other's lives again.  

Okay, the boy is calling from the other room, begging me to stop writing now. He has poured a bubble bath for us and wants to set up all of his bath toys on the tub ledge so that we can knock them over into the water all at once. It makes us giggle like children every time.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017


Damn it. 

Last night I thought of a good combination title and opening sentence for today's post, but didn't write either down. It's a good thing that I don't write for a living. How long would it take before detestation might set in, or take over. I wonder. Some of what I believe to be my best ideas arrive when I am cycling. The head clears, bad ideas start rolling in.

The picture was taken on Sunday at Terrapin Crossroads, a Grateful Dead themed restaurant in San Rafael, owned by the funny looking one. Laugh at me if you must, at my hippy sensibilities. I love that sort of thing. They have a playground for kids there which lets adults live and breath as such for a bit. You can listen to some music in the sun.

I haven't taken any photos of Raquel in quite a while. She is my favorite. 


It's funny that we've advanced a world that replaces the . behind a term with the # before. 

Just texting pretensions. #Love. - starts with a pound, ends with a period. 

The sun was out, heading towards setting. The boy and she were playing bocce. Camera with me. So she, so this. Asked her stand in front - between the sun and I, you and I

CS has spent some time on how to reflect loneliness, the singularnesses visible in each person. I do worry about him - he reads this blog, you know. He is an occasional skeptic of intentions. In that he is not wrong, arch vulnerabilities do exist. We project longings for reification, and find them where we wish. 

With Rachel, I didn't bother so much with that. I have seen it all in her, many times before and in advance. I wanted a picture of her, for her, to remember the day - beautiful bruised, so like most. I do ask her to fix her hair, or get dressed, in front of me. She is what I like to look at. 

We preferred the way we were that afternoon - easy with one another, having each of us together within the open skies. Who can possibly fault us. The evening slipped more quickly than it told; let on much, said so little.


Monday, October 23, 2017

What a company can do to the eye

(Fuji Standard)

Hidden in this last weekend were the first things that began to arrive as habit again. We naturally did things that people do, without some specter over us - we took naps, ran errands, told jokes, ate meals, etc. Our blessed return to the curse of normalcy.

I am exhausted, as is Rachel; we are lucky and tired. Rhys's school has not yet re-opened. We will juggle him around all week, a life lived as a fresh badminton shuttlecock. He will love this week, of course. His demeanor invites a level of unanticipated activity that ours now resists. 

Wednesday is my birthday - 49 - so I will take the day off to spend it together with him. I can do more pushups than him, but only when done by my own rules. That boy can fly at will. 

Later that same night we will all go into the city together. We have a hotel. There is a work event for Rachel that she wishes to attend in the early next morning. We will make a party out of what might have otherwise been a chore. I will bring the boy into the office with me on Thursday morning, truly amongst the proudest of fathers. I work for a very considerate and generous company; they have been fantastic through this, and well before. 

Sometimes it is the intangibles that separate happiness from misery, other times it all means less than nothing.  Preparing yourself for both or either runs one down. Families don't often like to gamble, but people do. 

Consequences put everything to a test. 

It is equal to nothing; why must we still feel so. 

Fall has arrived in full. We took snapshots in the backyard, playing around with the built-in filters on the Fuji camera. I was assessing Fuji's opinions of their own film stock, how those qualities can be simulated within the digits. 

Taking focus of the cared for - varying patterns of light and color, shade and event. 

We raked together a colored pile of the falling past to be jumped upon and into. 

That, the angelic tangibles, the leaves. 

(Fuji Velvia)


Sunday, October 22, 2017

A look around

Yesterday morning, I went to the gym and then stopped by Rachel's house to say good morning to her and the the boy. After a few minutes I decided that I may as well keep my heart rate up and go for a bike ride, my first since returning to Sonoma. 

Everywhere on the established bike paths and all along the roads people were unusually courteous and happy to offer their, Good Morning! It was similar to what New York was like upon returning after 9-11. This will, of course, wear off, but everyone seemed to enjoy being nice for the time being, which begs a basic question about humanity, but I'll leave that for another time. 

I hadn't yet seen most of the burned out sections of Sonoma, and I figured that I might as well take a look. I tried to do my regular/almost daily Lovall Valley ride. I had heard horrible things about what happened up that road, so the eyes want to see. The police had the road leading up the hill blocked off and I am too old to make up an on-the-spot lie for the cops that doesn't somehow involve my own self-preservation. I turned and rode the other way, recognizing a missed opportunity to trick a cop. They love the same game, so why not me? The only way to be good at something is to practice it. I know this, but I just didn't have it in me yesterday. Right now everybody is high on first responder catnip, and you can't really blame them when you look around. There is no point in being stupid when other options are available. 

What I saw on the way there was encouraging. I had been looking at the fire maps, with their bright red and burgundy circles getting nearer and nearer to many of the streets and houses and wineries that I know well, the path of some of my favorite valley rides. I never questioned the authority of those circles, nor did I question the stated assertions from Rachel about what we should expect as the fire moved closer. The evidence was grim and growing. From the distance to which we escaped, and seeing the fires burning along the hills all around Sonoma, it seemed perfectly plausible. In fact it seemed certain that many of the places we had known had burned to the ground. 

Now, I'm not so sure, at least for the city of Sonoma. I'll come to what happened up the valley in a few paragraphs. 

There were burned out areas all along the hills, delineated from the green trees by what seems to have been a purely random pattern where the fire stripped most everything, leaving the hills black. Though some of the surviving trees have already started to change colors and others have started to lose their leaves, so the lines were not as pronounced as I would have guessed in some places. I had to really look to see where the fire had been along the mountain lines. I had not worn my glasses, which mitigated a full visual appreciation of the spectacle. I imagine that the Spring will mark the affected areas more, when the new growth is everywhere but there. 

I rode to Buena Vista, the winery where Rachel and I vowed things, but the gates were locked. I could not see all the way up to the old building, but from my vantage point at the end of their drive all seemed well. I did not stop, I only did a turnaround loop at the gates. The fires had eaten up some of that property, apparently, and the adjoining Bartholomew Park, which was also closed. I rode on, and turned out towards Schellville to the south, though not taking Denmark Road over to Gundlach Bundschu, for reasons that I was uncertain of after my ride was over. I suppose I was out to ride as much to gawk. Perhaps Nietzsche was whispering in my ear about the effects of peering into darkness, or the abyss, and the chasm's gaze back towards you. Or rather, me.  

As I rode along 8th St. East the fires that had come down the hills from behind Gundlach were the most pronounced that I could see. They were and are visible from pretty much anywhere in the valley. The hills draped with a scorched blackness, the thin trees that remained standing stripped of the signs of life. Much has been written about the funereal nature of a forest after a fire, and yes, it is a very stark sight, trees seeming as small wooden crosses at a distance, made perhaps for buried pets in the depth of the backyard. The image of scorched stones appears in the mind, burned on one side, the bottom side untouched, once upturned. 

I knew that I was not out on this ride just to experience "fire porn," but the fascination should run at least as deep as the fear, or what is the point of feeling, of being alive.

At the intersection of 8th and Napa I turned back towards home and checked my watch. Not being able to ride up the Lovall incline had shortened the time of my ride substantially. I considered adding some new portion to the return journey but inwardly resisted, riding somewhere between Dorothy and Kansas, or Ulysses and home. 

No, it was not that. It was just a ride home. I do have a practice when riding out to a point, that upon making my return to go home I will attempt to question the premises I have thought of on the ride outwards. Particularly, I attempt to undermine or discredit anything vile I have thought on the first part of the ride. If I fail at that then I'll sing Horse With No Name in my mind. 

No, that part is of course bullshit. I just wanted to somehow include the word "journey" to this post, because I slipped and obliquely referenced Oz and the Odyssey and I had yet to find a way of calling myself a Hero, but wanted to plant the idea of the heroes journey in the piece somehow. 

Again, bullshit. Writers are always liars, sometimes looking for truths.

After that we all went over to Petaluma and ate In-N-Out Burger for lunch, followed by Coldstone ice cream. Yes, I know readers. I know. It is part of why there are no new self-portraits appearing here. We then went to Target to try and find things that will help us live more comfortably. 

We were just about to hit the turn to arrive home when Mom asked if we would mind driving up the valley to Kenwood, to see how far they'll let cars go. To our surprise, the roadblocks and evacuation areas had mostly been lifted. We were able to drive all the way there and back on the two lane highway. This is where my assessment of the damage changed. There were houses and farms and barns and rows of vines that had burned to completion. The smell of their demise was everywhere. The areas that were spared seemed equal in space to those that were gone. Every curve of the road was a revelation in destruction.

They would not let cars turn to go into Glen Ellen unless, I presume, you could prove you had a reason to be there. These roads were blocked by the National Guard, as were many entrances to some of the larger vineyards, or roads that led to away from the highway to them.  If I was looking to stare into devastation this was the place for it. Hemingway might have loved this sort of thing. From the edge of the road and high up into the hills the evidence of the fire could be seen. People wandered properties with teams of firemen or private contractors or other civil servants who had arrived in squads of official vehicles. There were large teams of P,G&E trucks along the sides of the roads, wherever there were spaces for trucks to congregate and orchestrate their recovery efforts. 

Rachel pointed at a cop along the side of the road checking speeds and he laughed as we passed, raising his notebook, the thing he was pretending to use as a speed gun. Even the cops were all smiles and laughs now, and why not?

Because this is an agricultural valley the heavy machinery used to clear land is in abundance. Most vineyards have tractors and things of that nature. They are accustomed to creating order from the chaos of nature. They have workers to do so. The cleanup was already well under way in some places. Piles of burned branches and wooden and metal structures were being made. Insurance adjustors, I presume, everywhere. There were so many people inspecting the ruin that it was pointless to try to separate the civil servants from the citizens. Everybody seemed happy, though that is not always an easy thing to assess when passing in a car. The postures of despondency or joy seem apparent enough, most all else becomes abstract or dull, meaningless. 

We passed one place that was all ash. A single horse stood in the distance behind it all, its rider wandering what was left dressed in yellow rubber boots that seemed designed for just such an activity. The horse's head dipped, the smell of ash and cinder filling its nostrils, I'm sure. There were few portions of the ride that did not offer that carbon scent. The stories of the horses needing evacuation some ten days ago or less still jumping out as horrific postcards in the mind. The images of horses in terror somehow embodying the sensation better than others, with more truth and urgency, though that is perhaps communicated by their size, their inability to escape their stables. The reports of farms needing help evacuating were among the most troubling that we heard. The idea of terror does not leave one quickly. Humans at least, it seems, have some luxury in reasoning these feelings away. The newspapers do not often headline the death of animals. 

We showed the boy that his school is still standing, that was part of the point of what we were doing. We assured him that he would return to it soon. Though more and more it is looking as if mom and dad will be making some changes to our daily/weekly schedule. The road, Trinity, that Rachel uses which allows passage from Sonoma to Napa, suffered tremendously. It was not in the best shape before the fires. Rains had washed out portions of it, leaving it one-way in a couple of places. The barricades and stop signs attempting to create order where the county commission could not. It is a frightening road for those not used to driving it, and for those passengers whose drivers try to do so too quickly. I do not suspect the fire has improved the experience at all. 

I didn't take any pictures. It would have required a wide angle lens to capture the scope of it, and I had only brought a 50mm with me. We never got out of the car, nor did we stop. It was just a casual drive up the valley to give our child a glimpse into death. He seemed okay with it. 

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Do aging androids fear electric creeps?

When did my cell phone become the courtesy line to my life? All of a sudden I started getting a lot of sales calls. I thought I was on that donotcall.gov list. Who knows, but they're pissing me off. Why don't they make a phone feature that any number that you don't know will be automatically routed to your voice mail, which will then automatically delete every message that's left there. 

Why readers? Why?

It might not bother me as much if they were honest about the nature of the call and apologized for it the moment they started talking, especially if they referred to the thing they're selling as either bullshit, an unapologetic scam, or complete and utter crap in the first sentence. That would make me listen to another sentence's worth before hanging up after responding with, All telemarketers die from syphilis. Who knows what might happen? Introducing the unwanted intrusion into my personal life as a "courtesy call" only makes it worse for them. I guess that suggesting that they'll get syphilis means that they might one day also have sex, so I'm unsure what effects my response have. They're like the slutty girl or a class clown in in high school - they get the wrong type of attention, but they never seem to learn. 

What the fuck is polite or considerate about calling somebody who doesn't want to be called to try to sell them something, then introducing it as a courtesy call?

Wait, am I the slutty girl in this scenario? 

Moving on. This post is not going to be a review of Bladerunner 2049, though I did go see it last night. I liked it quite a bit. They have installed large and reclining seats in the theater in Petaluma - the next town over, the one in the opposite direction from the miles of scorched earth - so I figured I would go have the full cinematic experience, and maybe take a nap. America's new bombing range: wine country!

I arrived, chose my plush seat from the computer touch screen that every disease carrier also touches, bought my ticket, made sure to scratch my eyeball, went to the theater and immediately got into an argument with two older women who were trying to sit in and near my seat. Looking around for reinforcement I noticed that I was surrounded by retirees and old ladies in pairs that seemed like romantic couples. After a comparison of seat locations they pointed out to me that I was in the theater for Victor and Abdul

I considered staying. They all seemed to have a much better idea of what was going on than me. Instead, I apologized to all of them for the indignities of being old and rushed off to my theater. Once there, I reclined my seat fully and began a series of gentle farts. My body at this point is little more than a replicant-shaped wave machine for intestinal gases. I moved over one additional seat from the one free space that I had already chosen, even though this is probably illegal. This would help separate me further from the strangers. I wanted to feel disconnected from humanity for this movie. I took my shoes off in case the aliens came to get me and then tried unsuccessfully to lie on my side with my head propped up. It seems the reclining seat thing might really turn things around for me at the cinema. If they ever install just a room full of mattresses with robust wifi and endless refills on popcorn then I might never leave.

The film started - my eyeball was itching. I considered taking my pants off. I should have brought a blanket. Next time.

Right away I felt the acting and outfit changes of Ana de Arma were perfect and that she was truly going to make this film a viewing experience. And I was right. It was if Ryan de Gosling wasn't even there. The initial scenes with Ana de Arma were better than the entire film, Her. What the republican right has been saying all along is true: Canadians and Cubans do make good sandwiches. 

Spoiler Oil...! In today's post I am going to demonstrate that I know many plot points of this film, which means that I am smarter than you. I wish to steal the only attribute of a film that seems to bring you any pleasure: its storyline. That is what makes me happy. It's known as cinemafreude. 

Again, moving on... and please stop interrupting.

So, Ryan the "skin job" lives a modest and joyless life as a cop that kills other replicants. His days end with him coming home to a holographic apparition that he talks to, listens to, and looks at. One must imagine the perpetual indignities of their intimacy. That being said, looking and listening were plenty for me also. I was happy there in that apartment with her, already thinking of ways to get rid of him. I wanted to experience this world of the future. 

Of course Ryan G meets a prostitute in the rain while eating noodles. Now, Mackenzie Davis - she has the type of sad and understanding eyes that make me want to watch her have sex. The director of this film seems to understand certain things about me in advance of having made the film, so that's what he intended to have happen also. So they wrote that stuff into the script. That's how these type things happen - scripted sex. Ana hires Mackenzie to come back to their shared industrial hovel and they proceed to do so in a series of threesome suggestions where presumably the pleasure is mainly derived from Ryan's character pretending one woman is another while both women pretend they are real and being loved. It takes very special filmmaking to make me feel so smart and so pubescent, but I think they've finally fucking nailed it. 

I swear to you, this sex scene happens, in a film in the year 2017... Truly, where is the liberal outrage, and how long will it take to include me? 

What I fail to understand is why everybody can go see Bladerunner 2049 and enjoy watching two replicants and a ghost have sex but I get in trouble any time somebody catches me fucking a pillow at an after-party. 

I am certain that the replicants have an answer for this age old mystery. That's the great thing about the original Bladerunner, and to a degree this new one: it makes you wish to be slightly less real, not more. I felt like a battery-less dildo lying there in the dark of the theater. But, there is a coolness to the replicant character that humans do not have - they yearn. 

I have assumed that sex with Daryl Hannah would be similar to the same with a silicone android. I'm reasonably certain that suggestion is the shared intention of the two filmmakers. Say whatever you want, but these films are as much about the impossibility of human affection as they are about personal identity. Everyone wants their masturbation to be real, yet projecting it towards others is not the way to get there. 

Bladerunner 2049 did not bother hiring any of the actresses from the original, but instead brought back Rachael's character as a newly made replicant. She has a scene in which the animated cadaver Harrison Ford gets to deny her love based on incorrect eye color, which results in an oddly timed sex killing. She seemed so antiquated here anyway. She still had her hair up in some forward facing Leia-esque bun. Because you know, sex and all of its isms. At least we now have men wearing their hair up in buns, finally. 

Or is it only that blondes really do have all the fun? Where is Rod Stewart when the world requires answers? I sometimes wonder what Mick Jagger thinks. That horny old goat must be inviting death by now. Does he just become a gargoyle in dying, or is there a process involved in transitioning from satyr to stone? 

Well, I do like films that question the recursive nature of identity and persona. Because I'm an art snob I prefer Bergman's meditations on the subject more than I do the musings of "disappointed androids wandering a future junkyard," but I do like how they have reflected again upon the idea that most behavior is a complicated series of preferred imitations and self embraced delusions. I see those same attributes in those that I know and love. They seem to take pleasure in that observation as it applies to me, especially when they can verbalize their epiphanies, usually in response to my own scripted behavior, etc.


This post was written as an imaginary one-way conversation designed to offend one particular person. She will love Bladerunner 2049, of course, and discuss it and Ryan Gosling in objectifying and sexist terms. She often does. So, in a sense, this script was all for her

There are times, however, and this is one of them, when even being right feels wrong. What do you say, for instance, about a generation that has been taught that rain is poison and sex is death? If making love might be fatal and if a cool spring breeze on any summer afternoon can turn a crystal blue lake into a puddle of black poison right in front of your eyes, there is not much left except TV and relentless masturbation. It's a strange world. - Hunter S. Thompson



Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Three Commandments

These came down from Mount SinaiMarket, as a covenant from Dad, on tablets of cardboard:

I. Stop That!

II. Don't Touch That!!

III. Put That Down!!!


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Pirates before a midnight run

(Better times)

What a week, or two; what a mess; what disaster in all directions. There is too much to tell, too many details now forgotten, almost of necessity. Too much stress. 

Once we left the house that we were staying in we were then lent a studio apartment in Berkeley. It would be just Rachel, Rhys, myself and Barkley the dog. We knew that once we had space to ourselves we would likely suffer some of the stress that we had each been repressing. Life is easier when you are distracted, when there are other people there to get along with, to help. People whose problems made ours seems less significant. Once those people were gone then we would confront our own difficulties, which were by comparison not nearly as severe, though experience of this kind is always cumulative. Everything was becoming too much for each of us. It could be felt even in the niceties. We needed new terms, the old ones were too much in flux.

So, the studio in Berkeley. 

Had the internet functioned at something beyond 90s up and down standards then it might have been passable. It wasn't. I couldn't even tether from my phone, the network signal too weak from within the closed doors on the second floor. The place was lovely, though. The 21 year home of an older woman who was clearly intelligent and well traveled. Her books alone made me want to stay - Japanese art books, various design books from diverse sources, Faulkner, European works, other classics. The place was decorated along those tastes, also. There was an Egyptian camel saddle as one piece, tables from Japan, China, maybe India. Everything was interesting to look at, everything unique, antiques collected over a lifetime of travel. A fascinating place with comfortable places to read, which is all that I wanted to do.

I retired to the bedroom early-ish, even for me, and began to do so. Trying to focus on the words, then the paragraphs, then the setting - NYC. It was the collection Up In The Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell. Familiar street names and even a few familiar places - McSorleys - all from a very different time than mine, decades previous. I was about halfway through the first essay on Joe Gould when Rachel walked into the room and very calmly said, I am only asking you this because I know that you love me very much, but can you come out here and tell me if you smell smoke?

It was the smell of smoke. I went barefoot downstairs to the street and it was everywhere. It could be seen between where I stood and the streetlight, moving quickly enough. I yelled up to the window for Rachel to call 9-1-1. Somebody from their window yelled down to me, asking if I smelled it also. I yelled back that I did. I did. I yelled again to Rachel, then maybe once more, louder. Nothing. As I started to run back upstairs a young woman there on the street with me asked if she should call 9-1-1. Yes and yes. Barefoot still, I ran back upstairs, not quite in a panic, but very uncomfortable with them still being on the second floor. The fire was close. This one was. Nearly terrified, I looked in the windows of the first floor for any sign, any flash of danger. 

Upstairs I grabbed my shoes, wallet. Rachel grabbed Barkley. We both gave terse instructions. No time to grab anything more, just get downstairs, all of us, now.

By the time we were all standing out on the sidewalk a single stretched minute later more people were outside, all agreeing with each other on the smell and sight of smoke. A few of us walked around a bit. I gave up looking quickly and first. My plan was to leave California and never again look back. I am not sure if that does not still represent my newly completed plan. 

The firefighters arrived in the big red truck with sirens and lights, a rectangular savior machine. They all looked around and agreed also. There was a fire, it was close. In truth the smoke and smell had lessened greatly by then. They said that was okay, that calling them was the right thing to do. This did nothing for my state of nerves standing out on the sidewalk, pushed out of one last place again by some blaze somewhere. I had had enough. I wanted an apartment in Atlantis, no matter the hurricanes that might pass through. The stress was overwhelming. Smell does a very strange thing to the mind. The adrenaline was rushing through my body, arriving in my words. With nothing to fight, flight felt natural and still does. 

Its effects are immediate and can be lasting, smell. We lack the ability to recall scents individually. I vaguely remember once reading why that is. There is some evolutionary advantage to its purpose. I hope that is what all of this is for, some increased chance of survival.


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Berkeley: Mandatory Faith In Unicorns

I do not wish to write too soon, again, but things seem to be returning to some sense of normalcy in Sonoma, near home. The most dangerous of the fires burning yesterday have been fought back into the woods where they continue to burn, but away from the houses on the valley floor and towards the homes of others.There is just no way to feel good about what has happened. It is all terrible, with much suffering. People are announcing their intentions to return soon, though. We will wait it out in Berkeley a bit still. We have access to a studio apartment whose owner leaves for Japan today. I like Berkeley, though some of the people here epitomize the attitudes and beliefs the most irk me about the west coast in general, particularly the Bay area.

To wit, this morning we went to get coffee and some breakfast stuffs. After placing our order there was a brightly dressed fellow sitting by himself at a table for four in the center of the seating area, doing his best to interact with everyone who came near. He was very nice and doing his best to send positive vibes out into the universe. I heard him telling another man who seemed to be listening only out of courtesy that he was going to meditate to help stop the fires, because we all have the power within us

That will come as quite a relief to the firefighters up in the hills, I thought, to know that the fire squelching power of meditation will soon be on its way. 

And yet, his heart is in the right place, I know that. But still... why must those most filled with the inner strength of spiritual nonsense always export that noise to the rest of us. For the most part I keep my mouth shut, now that I am older, and only let my craziness seep out here on this site. I beg no one to participate and I blame no one for avoiding it. I can hardly even stand reading my older posts. I am tremendously misguided at times when pursuing the illogic of my own opinions, and do not believe internally much of what I do express daily. I am just pushing back against the spirit of the times a bit. I am smart enough to recognize that. 

I enjoy meditation. A close friend owns a yoga studio and I wish that I went more often, because I recognize its health and well-being benefits. Of all the people you might know I likely need the healing and recuperative powers of meditation more than most, yet with so many things, I am skeptical of those who push it on others uninvited at coffee shops. It feels as if they are sharing a debt of their own rather than helping anything or anybody. It's like those who need to announce their liberalism online, it seems suspiciously self-serving in its affirmations. 

Then, I write about my feelings here for anyone to read... A very minor difference, I know, but one that matters to me, and since mine is the voice I am trying to transcend while meditating, that is the voice I'll focus on silencing - my own.

Until then.....


Saturday, October 14, 2017

To the gods who so love fire....

(The house of Gundlach Bundschu, now gone)

This is all becoming stressful as fuck. Being displaced and never quite knowing what is going on, and when we'll be able to go home, and whether home will still be there, is all taking its toll. It keeps seeming as if the fires are receding away from our house, then the winds will shift and we are re-threatened again. A large fire has come down from the hills above Sonoma from the north now. It si very threatening, and very close. I can only hope that the firefighters are able to keep it from consuming the vast majority of the houses down on the valley floor.

This morning I went to get some coffee. I was listening to a sad old Hank Williams song, one that just happened to be playing, and I started crying. I had to pull myself together a bit before going in to Starbucks, otherwise they would all know what an enormous pansy I am.

Is that toxic masculinity? That's what I am I guess, or rather what I represent - poison maleness. I don't seem to know how to talk about my feelings, overly self-reliant, when I play chess I prefer winning to losing, I like pussy, etc. This morning was the only time that I have ever cried and when I did I made sure to publicly remind myself that I'm a little bitch. 

I should be careful, admitting that you like sex is tantamount to the crime of ravishment now, or soon will be. Only transgender sex should be celebrated. I've been telling everyone that will listen that my scrotum is actually only a protective sac for somebody else's ovaries. I refuse to touch them because one of my hands is still male and I'm not entirely sure that they are developed enough to provide consent. They don't have mouths and it would be very wrong to speak for them. I've given myself a Brazilian from my navel all the way to the clitoral hood of my anus.

When having sex I insist on being on the bottom and laying face down with Rachel standing over me with one foot on my back like Captain Morgan, an eye patch on to protect her from the shame of my maleness. Anything more from me could constitute a form of assault. All the women I know are exclusively attracted to purely submissive men. No man should ever occupy a dominant position during the act of coitus, not for the first ten years or so, anyway. Everyone should make love like Hillary Clinton - fully clothed in the finest polyester. I always make sure to chastise myself for getting an erection. I'll read the thing passages from Simone de Beauvoir until it withers. I only let women see me naked in very, very cold water. The entire act of intercourse involves me begging for forgiveness for my clitoris being larger than theirs, which is sometimes true. 

Do you see what this fire has done to me? It has turned sex evil in my mind. I have been having impure, degenerate thoughts, where nothing but purity and beauty once freely roamed.

I don't have an anus, ignore that sentence. I had it removed because I didn't want any woman I loved to ever feel that it was competing with their vagina. 

Jesus, what is wrong with me? 

Why can't I laugh at the right things.


It is impossible to get good, reliable information. Everybody is doing their best but the area has been evacuated and those fighting the fires are not spending much time documenting their updated efforts on Facebook. So, I have been doing my best to add to the misinformation. Yesterday, I posted an image of what was claimed to be part of the fire rescue efforts:

It turns out that it was not real. Or rather, it is real but not from "our" fire.

This one is:

That was taken from the park near our house, yesterday or the day before. Not quite as dramatic as the one above it, but I suppose it might have been from a closer proximity. 

To think, a week ago my biggest dilemma was deciding whether or not to buy a new lens. 

The fire keeps moving in towards us. Here is the latest, the arrow pointing to our street:

All of this must be boring for those elsewhere. It is tiring for us also, though we have less choice to look away. The mind wishes to peer through the smoke, to see into the heart of the flames, to treat with a keen but tiring alertness the raging mortal darkness. The heart can hardly fathom the vast sea of cinders that remain. 

We will return, if all goes well soon, to a partial rather than complete wasteland.

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow 
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only 
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats, 
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief, 
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only 
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock), 
And I will show you something different from either 
Your shadow at morning striding behind you 
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you; 
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

- T.S. Eliot, exceprt from The Wasteland


Friday, October 13, 2017

Day 5, some signs of relief


I haven't taken a single picture of what I am seeing, and have seen, at home and on the way in and out of Sonoma. It somehow seems disrespectful, or something.

I don't wish to speak (or write) too soon, but it seems as if we were spared, at least for now. The winds helped push the fires north and east, which is much better than the south and west they were heading. 

Here was the closest the fire seems to have come:

That same map shows less activity near us today. The human reports are either horrible, heartbreaking, near-misses, or just boring old survival. 

Is it wrong that I am fascinated with fire's transformative capacity and possibilities? If my house burned down I thought that maybe I would move back to New York. Then I'll ask myself, Why wait for fire? I'm not quite sure. I can't quite answer that question. But complete and total destruction of place (not person) contains a liberating component. Some portions of your life you might only truly start over when absolutely required to do so, so there is an odd sense of invitation to the idea of it. It's not as if I get aroused thinking about it, but something happens; some floating sense of the excitement in possibilities.

Perhaps it is wrong to talk about this in that way while so many people's lives are going through such enforced uncertainties. I will write more about the dynamic of my mild case of pyromania some other time. 

The fires have taken their psychological toll. We are all emotionally drained, on edge at times throughout the day, sometimes unexpectedly. I am trying to focus on work, which has been helpful. I do not wish harm on anyone, of course, but am relieved that the fires seem to have moved elsewhere for now. It has been since early Monday morning that we have lived under these burning uncertainties. It feels as if everything everywhere is made of nothing but dry leaves.


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Fahrenheit for a ~50 one

Where we live is located at the red center of the image shown above, but so many of the maps and updates are unreliable and unconfirmed. This was taken from the most recent update from the government, but you know, they fuck lots of things up all of the time, so why not fire? There was no legend or key to this map and it does seem that the fires are designated with different symbols and other location information that is not like what seems to be where we live. Who knows until it is all over. 

Everything seems temporarily balanced between the very real and the entirely surreal. Yesterday, I went back to Sonoma once more, to recover a few things that my conscience would not let me relax without - my car, my bikes, my computer, a picture of  my mother when she was a girl, my wedding ring, boxes of other old pictures. I wanted to take my Weber grille, but I haven't owned a pickup truck since Florida. What I was not able to recover - the books I've read and many that I haven't, the remaining boxes of 12" records that survived the flood a couple years ago, what I would consider my absolute favorites, the ones I told myself that I must keep. 

The scene in Sonoma was from a dream, stretching in every direction. The outline of trees in the distance were as haunted apparitions of life, the fall leaves and branches awaiting a spark, to become fuel. The smoke was everywhere, coloring every vista with both its actual and existential menace. Wildfire haunts the mind in the way that nothing else does, or has for me, yet. Its barely predictable direction makes it a terror like few other events. Its destruction rarely partial, more likely complete.

I stopped at the pub and had two beers, the only people there had been evacuated from a few miles north of where we were. The fire was within two miles. 

As I was leaving the announcement was made that the mandatory evacuations were now in full effect and being strictly enforced. The things I looted from my home and had in the car would be all that I was sure to have saved until this is all over. I tried to look across my shelf of books but it was too much of an emotional effort to undertake after everything else. I tried to find examples that could not be easily replaced, but my eyes only made it about 20 or 30 in before I recognized that these can not be saved. 

Only Ray Bradbury's books are flammable anyway.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

"Once upon a time you dressed so fine"

Gundlach Bundschu, a winery that I wrote about yesterday. I read a statement from one of the family members that it burned to the ground. It was the oldest family owned vineyard in Sonoma, started in 1906. It was my favorite, pretty much the only one that I would ever bring people to when they would visit.

The loop road of estate houses up in the hills that I write about often and where I almost daily ride my bike,  Lovall Valley, also all burned to the ground. The reports said that there was nothing left standing. I'm not very good at estimating costs but based on just a handful of the homes up there my guess is that the damage was well over a hundred million dollars in loss. Maybe much more, very doubtfully any less. There were a number of homes up there worth at least $10 million, or much more. 

We will check which roads are open and possibly try to go back into the valley briefly today, if the police will let us in. There are blockades, many of the roads are closed. We hope to retrieve some things that we left behind in our rush. There is a home server I can't believe I left that contains all of my music and photos, maybe some more clothes, my birth certificate and social security card. I'd like to take my Martin acoustic guitar if it will fit in the car.

I tried to access the server remotely yesterday, but it was not available, which could mean something as simple as the power was out, or it could mean more than that. I do not yet suspect the place has burned down. It is hard to know, the reports are not detailed and the damage is widespread and still spreading.

I have my work computer with me now, which has some pictures on it. I might grow to cherish this site soon as being the only remaining repository for pictures of my previous life. Who knows, I am trying not to be morbid or maudlin, but loss ignites the imagination the same way that gain might for others. Fire of this kind is like losing a very big lottery without ever having bought a ticket, without ever having wanted to play.

Perhaps I will start life anew, wander off into another desert identity like Jack Nicholson's character in Antonioni's The Passenger. 

Many years ago, there was a woman that I had a crush on, the visionary type. I would often think of hugging her all day long on Sunday in bed, wearing only our underwear or less. None of that ever happened, but one day her house burned down while she had run to the store in only shorts, shirt, sandals, and presumably underwear. She came back to the house that she grew up in, the one that her parents had left her, and it was gone, or rather it was going. 

The firemen were there and trying to save the cinders, but it was too late. For months afterwards she would describe to me the feeling of suddenly not being sure who she was any more, or where she belonged. I tried to convince her that she was the type woman that belonged in her underwear with me, on any Sunday or Tuesday and all the days between, but it was not meant to be. Not even the complete loss of her house and all of her belongings was enough. I can understand how she might want to keep her shorts on after something like that. 

I remember her telling me the replacing and use of the smallest things became the most unsettling part of what had happened - a hair clip that wasn't the same as the one she had on her bathroom sink, the fresh note pad she now kept in her newly purchased backpack seeming as if she had just picked up someone else's life accidentally, feeling as if she was wearing somebody else's clothes. There were also the small things that could not be replaced, where no replacement was possible. She kept thinking about her shower, that she felt as if it was still out there and it was only her that was now somehow in the wrong place. Her bed, her sheets, her pillows.