To read previous journal entries, please go to: Journal
1 archive 2/25-3/24/00, Journal
2 archive 3/25-4/24/00, Journal
3 archive 4/25-5/24/00, Journal
4 archive 5/25-6/24/00, Journal
5 archive 6/25-7/24/00, Journal
6 archive 7/25-8/24/00, Journal7
archive 8/25-9/24/00, Journal
8 archive 9/25-10/24/00, Journal
9 archive 10/25-11/24/00, Journal
10 archive 11/25-12/24/00, Journal
11 archive 12/25/00-1/24/01, Journal
12 archive 1/25-2/24/01, Journal
13 archive 2/25-3/24/01, Journal
14 archive 3/25-4/24/01, Journal
15 archive 4/25-5/24/01, Journal
16 archive 5/25-6/24/01, Journal
17 archive 6/25-7/24/01, Journal
18 archive 7/25-8/24/01, Journal
19 archive 8/25-9/24/01, Journal
20 archive 9/25-10/24/01, Journal
21 archive 10/25-11/24/01, Journal
22 archive 11/25-12/24/01, Journal
23 archive 12/25/01-1/24/02, Journal
24 archive 1/25-2/24/02, Journal
25 archive 2/25-3/24/02, Journal
26 archive 3/25-4/24/02, Journal
27 archive 4/25-5/24/02, Journal
28 archive 5/25-6/24/02, Journal
29 archive 6/25-7/24/02, Journal
30 archive 7/25-8/24/02, Journal
31 archive 8/25-9/24/02,Journal
32 archive 9/25-10/24/02, Journal
33 archive 10/25-11/24/02, Journal
34 archive 11/25-12/24/02, Journal
35 archive 12/25/02-1/24/03, Journal
36 archive 1/25-2/24/03, Journal
37 archive 2/25-3/25/03, Journal
38 archive 3/26-4/24/03, Journal
39 archive 4/25-5/24/03, Journal
40 archive 5/25-6-24/03, Journal
41 archive 6/25-7/24/03, Journal
42 archive 7/25-8/24/03, Journal
43 archive 8/25-9/24/03, Journal
44 archive 9/25-10/24/03, Journal
45 archive 10/25-11/24/03, Journal
46 archive 11/25-12/24/03, Journal
47 archive 12/25/03-1/24/04, Journal
48 archive 1/25-2/24/04, Journal
49 archive 2/25-3/24/04, Journal
50 archive 3/25-4/24/04, Journal
51 archive 4/25-5/24/04, Journal
52 archive 5/25-6/24/04, Journal
53 archive 6/25-7/24/04, Journal
54 archive 7/25-8/24/04, Journal
55 archive 8/25-9/24/04, Journal
56 archive 9/25-10/24/04, Journal
57 archive 10/25-11/24/04, Journal
58 archive 11/25-12/24/04, Journal
59 archive 12/25/04-1/24/05, Journal
60 archive 1/25-2/24/05, Journal 61 archive 2/25-3/24/05, Journal 62 archive 3/25-4/24/05, Journal 63 archive 4/25-5/24/05, Journal 64 archive 5/25-6/24/05, Journal 65 archive 6/25-7/24/05, Journal 66 archive 7/25-8/24/05, Journal 67 archive 8/25-9/24/05, Journal 68 archive 9/25-10/24/05, Journal 69 archive 10/25-11/24/05, Journal 70 archive 11/25-12/24/05, Journal 71 archive 12/25/05-1/24/06, Journal 72 archive 1/25-2/24/06, Journal 73 archive 2/25-3/24/06, Journal 74 archive 3/25-4/24/06, Journal 75 archive 4/25-5/24/06, Journal 76 archive 5/25-6/24/06
To read my current journal, please go to: windchime walker's journal
*Now that I have a digital camera, journal entries may be linked to related photos. Download time should be no more than 5 seconds. The easiest way to navigate going back and forth between photo links and journal text is to click on your "back" button at the left of your tool bar.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 25, 2001
I awoke to a grey blustery day. Gusty winds whipped the palm fronds next door, the bamboo and princess flower bushes in my garden and the large eucalyptus tree two yards away. I could tell it was going to be a humdinger of a storm, but I didn't expect it to pack thunder and hail! Rain spit on and off for about an hour before the deluge came. I was talking with E.D. on the phone at its peak and he said he could actually hear the raindrops pouring down.No wonder! That was when I started seeing hail the size of pennies bouncing off the patio stones. More like a Midwestern storm than a California coastal one. When we get thunder and lightning out here--not to mention hail--it's considered newsworthy.
But I didn't mind staying put. Today was the day to prepare my Journal 11 archive and update the links from previous archives. A perfect rainy day task. So after enjoying a lunch of hot organic tomato soup, stone wheat crackers spread with cream cheese and olives, and a glass of Odwalla tangerine juice, I sat down to the computer. When I'm doing this kind of work, time becomes an impossible entity to gauge. I sit down at 2 PM and it's 4:30 PM before I know it. Luckily, my tiny bladder forces me to get up every so often--my personal ergonomic protector.
Tonight I go to my weekly
Lesbian/Gay Chorus rehearsal. Then tomorrow around noon, a friend
from WoMaMu (Women Making Music) camp will pick me up and we'll
drive up to Napa for the night. Bright and early (8:30 AM) on
Saturday we're going to attend the 9th annual Canta Bella Women's
Chorus Invitational. About 100 women and perhaps 20 Northern California
women's choruses will gather for a day of sharing songs. I attended
last year and loved it. For many of us, it is also a reunion of
WoMaMu campers. I'll return to San Francisco Saturday night, so
it will probably be Sunday before I can add to the journal. But
I promise to take plenty of pictures to share. Have a good weekend!
SATURDAY, JANUARY 27, 2001
It's late now and I've just returned from my overnight and the Canta Bella Women's Chorus Invitational in Napa. As I promised, I took lots of pictures. Tonight I'll take you on the drive into Napa and on a walk/scoot through some lovely old neighborhoods. Tomorrow you'll see images from the all-day chorus invitational. Sorry I'm not yet adding audio to this journal as the sounds were the best part of today's event.
Yesterday, my friend K.C. picked me up at noon for the drive up to Napa. From San Francisco, we took the Bay Bridge and travelled north on Interstate 80. We then took 12 west to Highway 29 north. We arrived in the wine country around 2 PM. The vineyards looked like sticks at this time of the growing season. They're in the foreground of my picture, but are pretty hard to make out.
As we came into the city of Napa, at the epicenter of the wine country, we saw mountains to our right. The dark clouds that had clustered in the valley let loose with light rain as we checked into the motel. We decided it would be a perfect day for a movie. K.C. had heard of one of the films showing at the only movie theater in town--a Chinese women's martial arts film--but we were too late for the first matinee. The next show was at 5:15 PM. Plenty of time for a nice walk/scoot around town.
Napa is a tourist city with the usual boutiques, gentrified restaurants and self-conscious malls downtown. As that did not interest us, we chose to explore the residential neighborhoods instead. What a delight! Beautiful old wooden houses lined streets, some of them shaded by towering redwoods. The rain had happily stopped before our walk. By now the sun was low in the sky which lent a peculiar cast to houses and trees. On one corner was a cream-colored mansion with a large palm tree in the front yard. Napa's history was palpable in these neighborhoods, a history of wealth and elegance.
K.C. and I decided to make like tourists. She propped my camera on a garbage can and took a timed picture of us both.
As the light began to dim, we walked/scooted back to the car. It was time for our movie. Except for a few catnaps, the film kept my interest. It was visually beautiful--having been filmed in Beijing--and musically sophisticated, with cello solos by YoYo Ma. The actors were stunning looking and there was enough fantasy to overlook its thin plot line. I don't remember the title--something about crouching dragons.
After the movie, we drove on Highway 29 to the next town north, Yountville, for dinner at Cassandra Mitchell's--our WoMaMu (Women Making Music) camp friend's--restaurant called The Diner. If you go, be sure to order the orange buttermilk shake. Delectable!
And now I must take myself
to bed. It's been a long day...
SUNDAY, JANUARY 28, 2001
My reason for going up to the wine country was song not drink. Actually I haven't had a glass of wine in ten years. Good thing, as a friend told us about the $45 glass of wine that was on her menu at an upscale Napa restaurant on Friday night! Anyway, our purpose was to attend the 9th annual Canta Bella Women's Chorus Invitational. It was held in a church on the outskirts of town. The view as you walked out the front door of this circular modern building was stunning, with vineyards across the street and mountains in the distance.
The invitational, which I attended for the first time last year, is put on by Music Empowerment, Inc., the same group of women who sponsor the WoMaMu (Women Making Music) camps. Since I've now been part of five WoMaMu weekends, this community of women feels like family to me. There is much hugging and catching up to be done before we can even think about singing!
Twelve women's choruses from all over Northern California were part of the invitational this year. Some, like Melody & the Matriarchs, had only five members and others, like the Canta Bella Chorus, brought at least 30 women onstage. We began gathering at 8:30 AM for registration and bagels/smears, coffee/tea and juice. After a vocal/movement warm-up facilitated by Ellen Robinson and Judy Fjell, the program began about 10 AM.
Each chorus was asked to perform two songs and then teach at least one of them to the community. At the start of the day, we received copies of all the songs we'd be learning. Many women taped the whole event in order to bring new songs back to their choruses and song circles at home. Not everyone performed; there were many who came simply to enjoy a full day of music and to join with over 100 women in the process.
Around noon we broke for lunch. Many of us shared a delicious Moroccan vegetarian meal with salad, rolls and six choices of cake for dessert. During this time, some choruses found opportunities to rehearse. Other women used the time in more productive ways, like lying in the sun. After lunch, we continued the same program with five more choruses singing/teaching. At 3:30 PM there was a free concert open to the public. Most groups performed the same songs they had taught us during the day.
It was fun to see and hear such variety of music and the ways in which each group presented itself. Most were low-key, as if they were up there singing for friends. Some, like the Girlfriendz, dressed up and added the zest of choreography. I was especially touched by Kate Munger's Threshold Choir.
Last winter while in San Francisco, I'd heard that a women's song group was starting, one dedicated to singing at the bed sides of persons facing death, like AIDS or cancer patients, or individuals in chronic care facilities. I was so attracted to this way of using song to ease someone's passage. When I talked to the woman who was starting the group, she told me she was asking for members to make a six month commitment. With my migratory patterns, I was unable to make such a commitment. But a friend who has been singing with this group since the beginning, assured me that if the director and I ever met, she was sure something could be worked out. She was right.
Yesterday my heart melted as the Theshold Choir sang their simple meditative songs and then taught them to us. I felt such a strong connection! At the end of the day, I met and spoke with the director and, as H.G. had predicted, she was very open to my joining the group. Now all that needs to happen is for a ride to manifest between today and next Monday. I'm confident it will. I know I am meant to sing with this group. It feels like my friend J.P., who first introduced me to SF and who died of AIDS in November 1994, has a hand in this.
I was fortunate to be
able to sing yesterday both with the Canta
Bella Chorus and during the concert with Judy Fjell's pick-up
group of unaffliated singers. What a lifegiving day, and one with
the promise of even more heart-full singing opportunities to come.
Is there any activity I love more than singing? If so, I'd be
hard put to name it.
MONDAY, JANUARY 29, 2001
On this beautiful sunny day, La Lucha and I took off up the 24th Street hill into Noe Valley. We crossed Dolores Street with its boulevard of old growth palm trees, and scooted along the commercial part of 24th. Now when I say "commercial", I do not mean strip malls; we are talking five or six blocks of small shops and restaurants. The shop that interested me specialized in earrings from around the world. Such a selection! I ended up buying a pair of gold-toned drop earrings with turquoise and purple stones--I think peridot and amethists. When I left the store I asked a passerby to take my picture so you could see them. Kind of hard to make out, but you get the general idea.
After my splurge, I turned down a side street towards 25th and started exploring the neighborhoods. On every street there are imaginatively painted Victorian houses, flowering bushes and beautiful views. Looking west you see Twin Peaks, a favorite spot to take out-of-towners for what I think is the best view of San Francisco, the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, and on a clear day, Mt. Diablo out past Oakland.
One thing I love about this city is its residents' ever-present activism that shows up in unexpected places (the sign says, "Free Leonard Peltier"). For pure beauty, I was taken with this purple house and its huge fuchsia bush hanging over the front fence. I never get over seeing a plant that we coddle in Michigan--hoping to see it bloom to a height of a foot--running rampant here in San Francisco.
After exploring a number of streets, I scooted over to Church Street where there is a Chinese restaurant I like to go for lunch. For $4.50, you can get hot tea, soup and an entreé with rice. There's always enough left over for another meal at home. Besides being totally accessible, this restaurant has beauty every place you look, whether out the front windows, at the sideboard as you enter, or on a shelf above your head. And right next door is an exceptional flower shop. Their selections include the exotic and the familiar. Today I chose individual flowers--the most exotic being a purple water lily--that will stay fresh for the potluck brunch I'm giving on Sunday.
As I was taking my time with the choices, the woman who works there asked, "Aren't you a singer?" It turns out she and I were part of an amazing 24-hour New Year's Eve improvisational song circle two years ago at the Park Presidio chapel. We know many of the same people and had a high old time comparing notes. One of these weeks, I hope to go to a pub downtown where she and other musicians play Irish music on Tuesdays from 9-midnight. Her name is K.P. and she's an Irish fiddle player. San Francisco often surprises me with such "small town" encounters.
And so La Lucha and I
made our way home with a bouquet
of flowers gracing her basket.
TUESDAY, JANUARY 30, 2001
This morning two robins took turns drinking rainwater from the big glass ashtray out in the garden. I took a picture of them using the 2x zoom on my camera and found the result was OK but certainly not great. I think one probably needs a tripod to get good pictures using the zoom.
During the night I realized my new earrings were too heavy. So today I scooted back to the store and had the fun of going through their extensive selection again. Since I keep the same earrings in my ears for months on end--it's become impossible for me to manipulate such small objects with my stiff, numb fingers--I like to choose a pair that suits my purple-to-blue palette of clothing, is lightweight and comfortable. I found another beautiful pair; these are gold-covered silver set with a milky-white moonstone and a small green peridot, purple amythest and blue lolite. I think they look quite well with my white hair ;~)
Next stop was picking up my wash. After years of dealing with the hours and energy required to use the laundromat, last winter I started taking my clothes to Mr. W. up at the corner. For $6.25 every two weeks, I end up with exceptionally clean, freshly folded clothes. No more searching for quarters and hanging around an always-chilly laundromat for hours. Mr. W. is so gracious that he meets me at the door with my folded clothes (there's a step La Lucha my scooter can't handle). A neighborhood drive-through laundry!
My eyes have been feasting on the bouquet of flowers I bought yesterday. The purple water lily is slowly opening; it's golden yellow center reminds me of a sunburst. Why is it I must have fresh flowers when in SF but not necessarily in Michigan? Perhaps because they're so available here, standing in buckets outside the flower shops that dot almost every commercial block.
It's now 11:30 PM and I've just returned home from joining some chorus friends for dinner and a musical downtown. La Lucha my scooter made this evening a breeze! I scooted a few blocks down to the 24th Street BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station, scooted onto the subway, then got off at the second stop. I'd allowed 45 minutes, but was so early I had time to enjoy the mellow saxophone playing of B., who was busking in the Civic Center BART station. I then scooted two blocks west to the vegetarian restaurant where we'd arranged to meet. After a leisurely dinner, we walked/scooted one block to the beautiful old Orpheum Theater on Market Street.
We had tickets to see "Mama Mia", a musical showcasing '70s and '80s songs by the popular Swedish group, Abba. It has been sold out practically every night of its now-extended run, with a lottery held at the box office an hour before evening performances. J.S., our designated ticket-orderer, had wisely gotten the five of us seats in the disabled area--truly the best seats in the house! We were at the back center on the main floor in a raised area where we could stand and dance, a real plus for this show.
I was home a half hour
after it ended, feeling very pleased with La Lucha's way of getting
around the city like a native.
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 31, 2001
This would be a day I'd bottle to save for a rainy day.
I spent the midday hours sitting outside in my warm sunny garden. Everywhere I looked was beauty...in the lavender next to the compost heap, Princess flowers shining purple in the sun, the blossoming magnolia tree against a blue sky, golden flowers beside my chair, the trunk of the apple tree, flowering vines and flowers hanging over and growing up the fence, the unfurling palm fronds on my neighbor's tree.
After soaking up every image I could--and taking lots of pictures to share--I picked up the book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. A friend from chorus loaned it to me last week with a warning, "Watch out! This is addicting!" I'm finding it a delightful read thus far, and I can see why it's appealing to both children and adults. R.K. Rowling has tapped into a deep hunger in our technological, reality-based Western culture: what we want and need right now is bit of fantasy, magic and a sense of excitement beyond the ordinary. Harry Potter gives us that.
From 4-5 PM, I greeted the guests and gathered tickets at Simply Supper. We were very busy today--113 persons served. We're always hopping at the end of the month before the assistance checks arrive on the 1st. There was a particularly sweet energy there today--folks smiling, friendly to one another, patiently waiting their turn in line.
When I walk in the front door every Wednesday, pushing windchime walker with her chimes tinkling, I'm greeted like a queen. As I make my way down the hall lined with guests waiting in folding chairs, I hear, "Hi, Tinkerbell! There she is!" Then I come to the steep stairs I need to climb. There are always people who offer to carry my walker, give me an arm to hold onto, and walk behind me as backup in case I have problems. The ancient chair-lift died before I arrived back in the city and the church is looking into buying a new one, but in the meantime I see this as the equivalent of an hour at the gym. With all the help I receive, it's working out fine.
After our hour working at Simply Supper, S.W. said he was thirsty. I suggested we go over to the best ice cream parlor in the city. Mitchell's on San Jose has been serving homemade ice cream in the Mission since 1953. S.W. and I both chose caramel praline milkshakes. YUMMM!
Now I have to tell you that one of my faithful journal readers emailed me with an answer to my question in Sunday's entry, "Is there any activity I love more than singing?" She said, from reading my journal, there are two things I obviously love as much as singing--writing and food! It often takes an outside eye to see your own truth.
The final delight of the day was an unexpected phone call from a woman I know from WoMaMu (Women Making Music) camp and women's gatherings here in the Bay Area. I've liked and admired her since we first met a number of years ago, but we've not had much opportunity to talk in depth. Well, we took care of that tonight! Such a lifegiving, truthtelling, storysharing conversation. As it happens, she is a member of the Threshold Choir and has offered me a ride to rehearsals! That was the missing piece, and as so often happens when things are in sync, the Universe provided an answer without my having to search for it.
She also told me of a singing workshop with Dr. Ysaye Barnwell of Sweet Honey in the Rock (the exceptional African-American women's acappella singing group) being held in San Francisco this weekend. She's going and again has offered me a ride. Wow! In July 1998, I was privileged to be part of a singing workshop with Dr. Barnwell in Detroit. It was one of those transformational events. So I am saying an excited, "Yes!" to S.S.'s invitation.
There was one more magical encounter today. As I was waiting out front for S.W. to pick me up to go to Simply Supper, a man I've always liked came by and we started talking. We've smiled, greeted one another and even introduced ourselves over the four winters I've lived on this street, but have never before had the opportunity to talk at any length. There's just always been a sense of kindredness between us. Well, now I know why. He is a musician and storyteller who offers workshops and classes to children--often pre-school--where he uses African instruments he makes himself, and encourages the kids to write and act out their own stories. When I asked if he ever gives such workshops for adults, he said he had recently been considering doing just that. I've invited him to my potluck brunch this Sunday--my "yes's" now number about 30--so he and my friends can meet one another. I think it would be great to plan a musical workshop with him in my garden!
When I reread this entry,
I see that Harry Potter's life is not all that different from
mine in terms of magical occurrences and people. All I have to
do is keep my eyes, mind and heart open.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 2001
The magic continues.
When I called this morning to buy my tickets for Dr. Ysaye Barnwell's talk Friday evening and singing workshop all day Saturday, I discovered the sponsoring group is the SF Zen Hospice Center. My friend J.P., who introduced me to this city and left a legacy of wonderful friends, spent his last six months in Maitri Hospice in the Castro. It was run by the Zen Hospice Center. Not only that, one of the wonderful women in my monthly SF women's group is currently a dedicated volunteer with the center. But, for me, the greatest stroke of wizardry is Dr. Barnwell's focus for this weekend: Friday night is called, "Conversations with Dr. Ysaye Barnwell and the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir on Death and Dying"; Saturday's workshop is "Singing through Grief". What a perfect introduction to my joining the Threshold Choir, a choir that sings at the bedsides of individuals who are facing death. Such syncronicity!
A few minutes after hearing that bit of magic, I called the florist near my mother to order a spring bouquet for her 88th birthday this Saturday. As when I last called in December, I happened to talk with P. who volunteers once a week on my mother's floor at the nursing facility. She told me of being with Mom last Wednesday as she opened the box of special SF chocolates I'd sent for her birthday. She said Mom immediately popped a huge chocolate truffle in her mouth and finished it with a smile on her face. P. made me feel like I was there with her. Such a gift!
Well, the magic didn't
stop there. At 3 PM I was scheduled to attend a San Francisco
planning committee meeting for the 2nd annual Global Women's Strike
on March 8, International Women's Day. I'd been invited by R.
and S., two
women I'd met at the Bush Inaugural Protest Demonstration
on January 20. La Lucha and I set off about 2:30 PM on our mile-long
ride down Valencia Street. I took a couple of photos
of some of the sights
I saw on my way.
When I arrived at the building that houses their Crossroads Women's Center, we discovered the door to the ancient elevator was too narrow for La Lucha to fit through. So my new friends led me around back where the maintainence engineer brought us up on the mammoth freight elevator--a first for La Lucha and me.
The women in attendance today--S., R. L. and S.--filled me with hope and energy. In the five winters I've spent in San Francisco, I'd hungered for a connection with just such a group of women, those who are out there working for justice and a better world. And here they were! It was amazing to hear a bit of what they have done in their years together--working on injustices in the criminal system as they affect women, advocating for welfare reform, and their particular focus on equal pay for women in the work force and fair wages for women's currently unpaid labor like housework and caregiving. And S., a black woman, told of the video she is working on that will record the racial disenfranchishment of voters in Florida during Election 2000. I felt electrified with their activist energy!
We came to some consensus on plans for the San Francisco Women's Day Strike: we'll call for women to take a two hour lunch break that day and meet in front of City Hall at noon for a rally. I took a pile of leaflets to pass out among the folks I'll be seeing this week. Next Thursday, R. and L. will pick me up and we'll leaflet in front of a local supermarket. I feel so grateful to have met these women.
On my way home, I stopped at the Indian restaurant I went to a couple weeks ago. Mr. M., the owner, was as gracious as if I were returning to his private dining room. I tried their Indian pizza and found it to be delicious. Then I ordered a lassi (yoghurt-based) to drink and an order of samosas to go. When I pulled out my wallet to pay, Mr. M. shook his head vigorously, and said, "No, No! No pay!" The magic is contagious.
It was now dusk. As I passed an upscale restaurant I was tickled to see an unusually-decorated motorcycle parked on the sidewalk. Of course the "fur" covering it was not (heaven-forbid!) animal, rather fake fur (of course).
The final event of this rather busy day was my weekly Lesbian/Gay Chorus rehearsal. Our concert is February 11 and I've decided to perform with the chorus. I don't yet feel totally comfortable with a number of the songs, but our director is allowing those of us who need it to use music during the concert. We had an excellent rehearsal led by S., our accompanist. The tenors/baratones/basseslooked and sounded very good with their special song. We sopranos and altos have a bit more work to pull ours together. We're going to meet with our choreographer--a chorus member from Germany--an hour before rehearsal next Thursday. I think everything will be fine.
It's now almost 1 AM and
I'm beginning to run out of steam. Time for bed.
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 2001
The task today was to begin getting ready for Sunday's brunch. Since it's potluck, I have no food to prepare, but there are always a few things to buy. I've given so many of these potluck brunches over the years here in SF, that there's a well-oiled procedure in place. And my friend S.W. helps make it happen.
A couple days before the party, he drives me to the local grocery store where I pick up orange juice and champagne for folks to make themselves mimosas, freshly ground coffee, other juices, half & half for coffee, and today I also needed margarine and napkins. Since M.R. and E.S. use the cottage for large parties, it is well equipped with plates, cups, wine glasses, silverware and glasses. Actually, nothing could be easier than putting on this potluck brunch...besides I often end up with delicious leftovers!
A trip to the drug store allowed us to park in their lot and then walk next door to a favorite Korean restaurant. S.W. enjoyed his barbequed chicken and I was happy with my vegetable potstickers. Next stop was the grocery store, and then home. S.W. is one of those friends who does his friendship in truly tangible ways, even sweeping out my cottage. He is one of my friend J.P.'s most precious legacies.
As we opened the door to the garden, there was Ditch, M.R. and E.S.'s cat, sitting on her Daddy's motorcycle seat waiting for a ride. She's a wonderfully bizarre creature, very much her own kitty cat!
Soon I'll be off to the
evening "musical conversation" with Dr. Ysaye Barnwell
(Sweet Honey in the Rock) and the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir.
My dear neighbor, K. (Bag's Mom), has offered to drive me over
to USF (University of San Francisco) and other friends will drive
me home. I wasn't sure I could make it because of some difficulty
getting a ride, but trusted if I was meant to be there, I would.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 2001
I feel I have lived a lifetime since writing in this journal yesterday. Words are going to be hard to come by tonight.
Imagine yourself seated in the second row of an auditorium filled with sensitive, caring people. You are listening to a three-way conversation on death between Ysaye Barnwell of Sweet Honey in the Rock, Terrance Kelly, the director of the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, and moderated by Frank Ostaseski, the founding director of the Zen Hospice Project of San Francisco. Their words are interspersed with songs by this world-renowned choir and spontaneous solos by Ysaye and Terrance. It is being taped for a future broadcast of "New Dimensions" on NPR (National Public Radio).
The evening moves along in a gentle rather predictable way until the choir sings a spiritual lament led by a woman's voice that taps the deepest place of sorrow imaginable. At that moment the conversation/concert becomes what they have been trying to talk and sing about. We, as a community, drop to a wordless depth of soul. I cannot describe it. For me personally, it cracked open a closed door behind which sat a dear friend who had died 12 years ago and whom--for a number of self-protecting reasons--I had "forgotten". She has been with me ever since.
And that was just the first night.
Today's workshop with Ysaye Barnwell was called "Singing through Grief". And that's exactly what we did. We sang and sang and sang some more. Very few words were spoken; we didn't need them. Ysaye brought us African rhythms, black spirituals from the time of slavery, gospel songs relating to death and joyous songs of praise. We were encouraged to try singing in different sections and I took her up on the invitation. In the morning session I was a soprano and by afternoon I dropped to bass. It was there in the deepest registers that I was most profoundly moved. After singing "In the Valley of the Shadow of Death", I found myself locked into a ten minute meditation in solidarity with the people of India as they grieve and suffer from the earthquake. Song can do such things.
It was a day of celebrating life. I guess that's where one ends up after going through the darkness and the tears, of which there were many today. For me, it was a celebration of loved ones, both living and dead.
My friend Ramona from my years in a black Catholic church in Detroit, the place where I refound my voice and sang with the gospel choir. She died in 1988 at the age of 55 with her last thoughts and loving moments spent holding and comforting her five children and me, her white sister. My friend, Joel, who died on World AIDS Day eve 1994 in a hospice run by this loving community. Joel, my heart friend and train buddy, whose legacy to me is San Francisco, a number of my dearest friends, and singing with the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco. My Dad, who died in June 1987 after 9 years with Alzheimer's. My Dad whose last gift to me was a deeply loving gaze with his hazel-flecked green eyes, a gaze that transcended his body curled up in a fetal position at the Veterans Administration Hospital overlooking the Chesapeake Bay where he'd summered as a boy, husband and father.
My living friends were present as well. Dear D. from my monthly women's group. S.S., with whom I am developing a trusting friendship and who so graciously gave me a ride to today's workshop. H.G., whom I have grown to love and admire, the mother of an 8-year-old "old soul" named L. And a new friend, K.M., with whom I feel a heart connection after hearing her conduct her Threshold Choir--that I am joining on Monday--at last weekend's Canta Bella Women's Chorus Invitational in Napa.
A number of us enjoyed eating lunch together beside the bay on this sunny warm day at Ft. Mason, where the workshop was being held. Then S.S., H.G., K.M. and I treated ourselves to dinner at one of SF's most popular--with good reason!--Chinese restaurants.
I am full to overflowing
and grateful beyond words.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 2001
Today's potluck brunch was blessed by hot sunny weather. I can't remember such a spring-like day coming this early in February since I started coming to San Francisco for the winters in 1997. It was the kind of day that called for shorts, sandals with no socks and sun hats. Perfect day for a garden party!
Actually we were fortunate that the sun shone as 24 of us would have been a pretty tight fit in the cottage had it rained. As it was, folks could spread out as much as they pleased. Most stayed outside in the garden but a group sat inside the cottage having a high old time talking. Others stood close to the kitchen where a splendid array of goodies tempted everyone's palates. And of course, there was the cell phone or two--after all, this is 2001! Our youngest guest, L.G. and her buddy, K.O., used sidewalk chalk to create works of art and a hopscotch game. I sat through most of the party visiting with my friends and at the last, blowing the digjeridoo on anyone who wanted to feel its vibrational energy. We then had impromtu digjeridoo lessons. I found it interesting that D.'s girlfriend, K., who is from Australia, experienced her first digjeridoo healing today in California!
Oh, I forgot to count Bags among the number of guests, for he was one of the first to arrive and the last to leave. Such a polite and friendly addition to the party. After awhile, though, he decided to take a relational time out and soak up the sun.
I've been giving these potluck brunches since 1996 with a guestlist that only grows. So for many of my friends, these gatherings allow them to see one another at least twice a year. But it's always good to bring in new faces as happened today with the addition of my WoMaMu friend R.K.--one of my most faithful journal readers--and my new neighbors, K., L. and G. Each of these women is a gift in my life, with her generous-spirited help (of all kinds) and open-hearted sharings.
Tonight K. and L. dropped by about 7 PM and we had a deep conversation while dipping into an amazing variety of leftovers for dinner. We relate as peers but I am so aware that they would be the kind of women I'd love to have as daughters.
Another unexpected treat was J.G.'s willingness to go for a walk/scoot with La Lucha and me immediately following the party. We took advantage of the still-warm temperatures and late afternoon sun to go to Balmy Alley below Folsom on 24th and examine the murals there. As he said, it's the cheapest, easiest way to go to Mexico without having to exchange currency or fly anywhere on a plane. I adore this neighborhood.
Friendship. Is there anything
more precious? How grateful I am for each
person in my life. And what delight to see my friends enjoying
one another's company. That's what I bring to my potluck brunches--wonderful
people to mix and match with one another. The key is to set up
the environment, sit back and let it happen. That's why I'm never
tired after these parties, only energized. Of course it doesn't
hurt that my friends bring all the food, keep brewing coffee brewing
and mimosas mixed, wait on me hand and foot, and then clean up
all the food and dishes--as J.G. did at my last party and K. did
today! No wonder E.D. says I get spoiled rotten out here.
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2001
Today was gentle-spirited from beginning to end. After two alarm clock awakened mornings in a row, I allowed my body to sleep as long as it wanted. When I got up at 11 AM, I went out and sat in the garden still clad in my longsleeved flannel nightgown with slippers on my feet. It was already warm in the sun. After awhile I came inside and dressed, made out my rental check for M.R. to pick up, got an Odwalla Superfood juice from the refrigerator, put the Harry Potter book and my portable phone on windchime walker's seat and went back out into the garden. And there I sat for most of this extraordinary April-in-February day.
My friend Margaretha in Sweden sent me an email today with an attachment showing the snow dripping from trees and piled up around her home. She wrote, "Can you think of anything more different than Trollkullen and S.F. today. It is still very cold, and looks like this photo. If I had a choice, I'd stay with you for some days!" I would love to have her here with me today to enjoy this deliciously melting sun and balmy air. It is this capacity to exchange worlds that makes the internet such a magical tool.
Speaking of magic, I'm delighting in Harry Potter's adventures at the Hogwart School of Wizardry. What a perfect book to companion my restful day.
At 6 PM, S.S. picked me up to go to the Threshold Choir rehearsal here in the city. We meet in a neighborhood church hall in the Haight Asbury district. This room, I had been told, has amazing acoustics. How true! There were seven women in our circle tonight and we sounded like a choir of angels.
Singing with this group touched me in my deepest heart-space, as I somehow knew it would. Kate Munger, the Threshold Choir's founding director, radiates compassion, acceptance and love, not to mention her gift of making music accessible and easy to follow. I particularly appreciated the balance of singing, sharing and meditating during our three hours together.
The Threshold Choir sings
rounds intended to comfort and offer strength to individuals (and
their families) who are facing the possibility of death, whether
from illness, injuries or advanced age. Names come through referrals,
direct requests or from members of the choir itself. The San Francisco
group is apparently at a stage of readiness to start doing this
work at person's bedsides. I hope to have such a privileged opportunity
before returning to Michigan in April.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2001
The season reverted to normal today, still sunny but with a truly chilling wind. As I was out scooting on La Lucha much of the day, I really felt it. Brrrrr.
After a delightful lunch with D.W. at the Dolores Park Cafe, I scooted over to the Castro to do some Valentine's Day shopping for my sweetie. I knew exactly what I wanted but unfortunately the store that would surely carry it had a flight of stairs up to the entrance. I asked a man who was entering, to ask if there was an accessible entrance. He came back out shaking his head, "Sorry, they say no." I then asked him to please send a salesperson out to talk to me. Well, in the end I bought what I wanted thanks to the kind assistance of C. Drive-through shopping in the Castro!
My next stop was a store that has special cards, among a trillion of things. This store is accessible so La Lucha and I scooted in and found just the right card for my Valentine. R. waited on us with his usual bright smiling face.
And finally I scooted over to the Castro Post office to mail this precious package to Michigan. Their staff has got to be the most gracious of any post office in the country! It's actually fun to spend time there.
On my way back home, I passed the Women's Building. Remembering I'd only taken pictures of the murals on the side of the building before, today I took a few of the front. I just wish everyone could see this building in person. Photos can't begin to capture its scale and beauty, not to mention the marvelous paintings within the whole. When you come to San Francisco next time, forget Fisherman's Wharf and come to the Women's Building at 18th and Valencia. You won't be sorry.
Maybe it was the cold temperatures, but I saw more homeless people asleep in doorways along Valencia this morning than usual. That always makes me feel sad. But over in the Castro I enjoyed running into a good number of the people I know from Simply Supper. It's always nice to stop and chat with my friends on the street. Interestingly, not one of them has ever asked me for $$.
Today's most disturbing encounter was with a young woman who was selling the Street Sheet, the SF Homeless Coalition monthly newspaper, on Castro. I stopped as usual, introduced myself--"Hi, my name's Patricia. And you are...?"--then paid $1 to buy the February Street Sheet from her. She introduced herself as S. and the man beside her as her husband, D. I told them of Simply Supper just blocks away and the delicious dinners served from 4-5 PM every Wednesday and Friday. She said they'd been there before and might see me there tomorrow. That was the extent of our conversation and I went on my way.
About an hour later, I was scooting along 18th about four blocks east of Castro. A man strode by me, with his head down, walking fast. I then heard a woman's voice behind me saying something about how mean he is to her. I turned and saw it was S. talking to me. The man who had just passed was D. Well, S. and I walked together for about a block. During that time she told me of the abusive way D. treats her. She didn't mention physical abuse, rather verbal and emotional abuse. "He makes me feel like I'm nothing." In that short time we spoke of her options, of whether his protection of her on the street was worth receiving such treatment. She said it was not...not anymore. After a block, she said, "I've got to run now to catch up with him. He's getting too far ahead." And off she ran. In another block I saw--more like heard--them across the street from me. He was yelling and cursing her. She was walking behind him and slowly caught up. Last I saw them, they were walking down the street beside one another, her body language telling the whole story.
How can I have any idea what S.'s life is like and what has brought her out on the streets with this abusive man? My guess is if I were a homeless woman, I'd be tempted to stay with such a man rather than try to go it alone. I don't feel any sense of judgement of her, merely sadness that she is living in a way that does not make her feel strong or deserving of respect.
San Francisco is such
a strange city. Magical one moment and deathly real the next.
I feel fortunate to be able to see both sides.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 2001
By this morning the winds had diminished and the arctic blasts were gone. I sat in the garden in my new morning sun spot under the Princess flower bushes. Each position in this garden offers slightly different visions of beauty. To my right were shining purple flowers against lime green bamboo; to my left was the chair I sit in from noon until 3 PM as I follow the path of the sun. Harry Potter and I continued to make our magical way through his first year at the Hogwart's School of Wizardry. I expect to complete this first book tonight and have emailed my chorus friend asking him to please bring the second book to rehearsal tomorrow. I can see how readers get hooked!
I had a lovely telephone visit with an old friend, N.M., in Vermont. Harry's life of magic brought her strongly to mind. N. is a woman who believes in and radiates a supra-conscious world view. I've learned so much from her since we first met at a Detroit inner city church back in 1985. Of course she's read all the Harry Potter books and loved them as much as I. N. has now had two books published in the field of spirituality: Psalms for Praying (1997) and Meditations and Mandalas (1999), both by Continuum Press. She is currently preparing another manuscript to submit to a newly-formed publishing house that has told her, "We want to see anything you write." This is a collection of 14 parables she wrote many years ago. At her invitation back in the late '80s, I illustrated half of them using small pen-and-ink dot drawings. N. asked if I'd like to continue working on the project with her. I don't know if my gimpy hands can handle doing that kind of detailed drawing anymore, but I can try. It'll need to wait until I return to Michigan in April because my copy of the parables and completed drawings are there. Besides, at the pace I travel here in SF., such a meditative practice would surely get lost in the shuffle. N. doesn't mind waiting.
At 3:30 PM, S.W. picked me up to go to Simply Supper. I do love that work! "Work" is not the right word, but I can't think of one that fits. It's simply the gift of being with people you want to spend time with every week. Today G. and A. reported having read my whole journal and seen the related pictures on G.'s computer this week. I'd seen G.'s message in my Guest Book yesterday and had checked out his web site. What a gifted computer person he is! S. was also there today. She looked a lot better than yesterday and said things had definitely improved between her and D. I was happy to hear that he has never been physically abusive to her, even though we agreed emotional abuse is bad enough. Dinner today was huge pieces of baked chicken, rice and gravy, spinach salad, fresh peaches and vegan pizza for the vegetarians. I tried the pizza and found it delicious!
Shortly after I returned
home, my friends, the R.s, arrived from the East Bay for our dinner
date. We walked/scooted to Saigon Saigon, their favorite restaurant
in my neighborhood. I first met J.R. at a singing weekend with
Rhiannon in October 1994. Over the years our friendship has extended
to her daughters, H. and D., and her husband, G. Our gatherings
are times to check in with one another as to what's new and significant
in our lives. For them as a family, sharing centered on the newest
member of their family, Bailey, a beagle. As promised, G.R. sent
me this photo
attachment when he returned home from our dinner. Awwww! Isn't
Bailey cute? While at the restaurant, the flower
lady came around offering bouquets of lilies and roses. I
dearly love living in the Mission. Makes me feel like I'm in Mexico.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2001
When I woke up and looked at myself in the bathroom mirror this morning, I realized it was time for a haircut. Patches of hair were standing out in a different directions, especially in the back and on the sides. Now there's a subtle distinction between the way-cool look of gelled hair spiking out like porcupine quills, and slept-on cowlicks doing their unruly thing. I looked like I'd been on bedrest for about a month.
Though it would certainly have been easy to scoot up 24th Street to the salon I went to a month ago, something stopped me. And that something was remembering how it felt to run my hand over the white-feathers cut I'd received from J. last year. Granted, she's all the way across the city over on Clement at 8th Avenue, but what a haircut! Today was sunny and tomorrow they're predicting rain, so if I was going to do it, today was the day.
I called Yellow Cab for the first time this visit, and went outside to wait. Ten minutes later, up pulled the cab and a smiling driver got out to help me with windchime walker. That is always a plus. P. and I made a special connection during my $14.50 ride across town. I even sang him a round that seemed to fit his observation that life is too short to let yourself get stressed out about things. The song is by a WoMaMu (Women Making Music camp) friend named Mary Buckley. It goes:
What are you afraid
What do you desire?
Life is brief beyond belief.
Life is brief beyond belief.
Dive into the water,
Walk through the fire.
By the time we reached Clement, P. and I were chatting like old friends. And even the cost of the taxi didn't concern me because of my Disabled Taxi Vouchers. I get two books worth $60 for $6 through the Paratransit Authority in SF. So, it really cost me $1.45 plus tip.
And for the first time ever, I didn't have to wait. J. and her son, who run the shop together, were reading the paper and cuddling their spoiled little white dog. Now you have to understand that J. speaks and understands only a little English. She is of Vietnamese heritage but was raised in Hong Kong: Chinese is her primary language. But we always manage somehow. One of the things I appreciate is the amount of time and close attention she gives each customer. She's also the only person I've ever been to who washes your hair before she cuts it and then wets it again thoroughly in the sink afterwards. Seems she gets a better eye that way as to how it's going to lie on your head. It also removes a lot of the loose hairs that tickle your neck. And so I left the salon again addicted to rubbing my fuzzy head with my hand. It feels so good!
By then it was after noon and time for lunch. This part of Clement Street is San Francisco's true Chinatown. I guess the area that's called Chinatown downtown was originally the hub of Chinese culture and commerce in the city, but over the years many families and businesses have moved out here to the Avenues (also called the Richmond District). Clement Street is the main drag, crowded with markets, shops, restaurants, professional offices and everything that a close-knit community needs.
I'd last visited J. for a haircut before going back to Michigan in April 2000. While there, an English-speaking customer had told me about the superb dim sum carry-out restaurant next door. It was closed on Tuesdays--the day I usually came for a haircut--so I'd never tried it. Today being Thursday, I decided to go there. What a popular and tiny place! I waited in line and when it was my turn, I became so tongue-tied that all I got were three vegetable eggrolls. Ah well, I like eggrolls, so I sat down at one of the booths in the back to enjoy my purchase. The line stayed long enough that I managed to make a connection with a little girl and her littler brother who were there waiting with their grandma. We didn't speak but smiles can say a lot.
I went out on the street and sat in the sun. Don't I love it that windchime walker's seat gives me such opportunities! It was a perfect people-watching location. After awhile I was tempted by a $1.25 "flyer" in a bucket outside a discount store. What they called flyers were those old-fashioned wands with colorful plastic spinners at the tip. This one seemed especially made to celebrate the Chinese New Year--the year of the serpent--which was Monday, February 5. La Lucha now sports a new decoration attached to her basket. I've already tried it out and am delighted to report it spins quite nicely when we pick up speed.
I came back home for a few hours before going to my Lesbian/Gay Chorus of SF weekly rehearsal. We are performing a concert at the Palace of the Legion of Honor on Sunday, so tonight we did a couple run-throughs of the entire program. That included the women singing "Big Dogs, Music and Wild Wild Women" with our just-worked-out choreography, and the men with their pretty slick "Mr. Right Now." A number of chorus members like K. are doing solos that we'd not heard until tonight, and a barbershop quartet of the men is singing "Are You Half the Man Your Mother Thought". These are in addition to the seven songs we're singing as a full chorus, one of which is "Of Crows and Clusters" by Norman Dello Joio. His daughter is a friend of mine who lives in Oakland and will be attending our concert. Michael Carlson, our intrepid director, gave it all he's got tonight. I think the performance is going to be fine.
And now I must take this
sleepy white-feathered head to bed.
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2001
Have been feeling under the weather on this rainy day. Awoke with a headache that aspirin didn't seem to touch. Muscle-achy and just plain not feeling well. I've heard from three friends who attended my brunch that they too have been hit with the flu this week. Makes me wonder if someone shared more than a potluck dish with us on Sunday. Ah well, it is February, after all...time for the flu bugs annual convention!
I've slept on and off most of the day. Have pushed fluids with cold juices and cups of hot Echinacea tea. My command post has been on the couch with a pillow behind my back, afghan over my legs and the second Harry Potter book at my side.
When I awoke this morning to the sounds of rain drumming on the skylights, I called my friend R.K. and postponed today's lunch date downtown until February 23. Later I called S.W. and cancelled out of attending the ballet with him tonight. As he is one of my sickly friends, I think he's going to stay home too. Luckily I'd kept tomorrow free so I could rest up for Sunday's chorus concert. As I'm feeling better now (9 PM), I'm expecting to be OK for Sunday. A couple of days pampering myself should do the job. Isn't that how I always live???
Speaking of pampering
oneself, this cat
I saw earlier this week deserves an award for knowing how to take
one day at a time.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2001
After 14 hours sleep, I woke up feeling fine. Perhaps E.D. was right--it might have been less bug than my recent tendency to burn the candle at both ends. It's a challenge to slow down out here; there's so much to do and see. Especially now that I have wheels!
But I stayed in again today. Spent some time at the computer, and lots of time on the couch reading Harry Potter #2. We had sun during midday, but rain showers on either end. Actually the rain has been just what we needed, alternating buckets dropped with lulls so the earth can soak it up. Tomorrow's forecast mentions the possibility of a dusting of snow at the higher elevations like SF's Twin Peaks to the west of me, Contra Costa County's Mt. Diablo, and Marin County's Mt. Tamalpais. Let's hope this storm doesn't put off our concert-goers.
Our Lesbian/Gay Chorus of SF concert starts at 2:30 PM tomorrow at SF's beautiful Palace of the Legion of Honor museum/theater. My chorus friends will pick me up at 11:30 AM as our call is noon. I'm taking both La Lucha and windchime walker; the scooter for getting around before and after the concert, and the walker to use on stage while singing. I like to stand when I sing, though there will be a chair behind me if I need it.
I've been interested to note my laid-back approach to this concert. I don't really know the words to a few of the songs, but have not spent time learning them. I don't know what that's about. I used to be rather obsessive about such things. I'm not quite sure what I'll wear as my black bottom garment. Probably a black dress under my assigned red satin shirt with a rhinestone pin at the collar, but perhaps my black slacks will look better. I'll work it out in the morning.
Am I being irresponsible
or relaxed? Whichever it is, I am not inclined to change. Maybe
it's simply my recognition that "performing" per se
means very little to me. I'm just going to be up on stage singing
with my friends because I enjoy being with them and they want
me there. I know we'll have fun...and for that reason, so will
the audience. That's all that matters.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2001
The Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco's winter concert--"Holding Court at the Palace"--could not have been more fun! I feel very good about our singing, presentation and most importantly, the joy we experienced putting it on. And the weather goddess smiled on us with showers in the morning and sun when we arrived for our call at noon. The setting, as we knew, was spectacular. Before we went inside, we women had the special treat of practicing "Big Dogs, Music and Wild Wild Women" with the ocean at our backs!
The Florence Gould Theater in the Palace of the Legion of Honor Museum is an elegant, intimate space. It seats 375 and we had just under 300 in the house today. What a responsive audience! Of course, it didn't hurt that most of them had formerly sung with us, were friends, family members or lovers of members of our chorus.
I was so attentive to our director during the pre-show dress rehearsal that I did not take any pictures, as I'd hoped to do. But, believe me, we looked pretty spiffy in our purple, royal blue, deep aqua and red satin shirts with rhinestone pins at our collars.
After the performance, most of us gathered at an Italian restaurant for a much deserved buffet dinner of salads and assorted pasta dishes.That was where I pulled out my camera and tried--not totally successfully--to take pictures of all the chorus members and their guests. But at least I got five--1, 2, 3, 4, 5--pretty good shots. A friend even took a picture of me with Michael Carlson, our director, on my left and S.S., one of the chorus's most faithful supporters, on my right, with chorus member R.T. sitting behind Michael.
In keeping with the continuing magic of this day, it just started to rain...now that I'm cozy in my cottage.
I offer a special note
of thanks to my friend, Joel Payne, who sang with the chorus before
his death in 1994. It is another of the loving legacies he passed
on to me. This is my fourth winter singing with the L/GCSF and
I love them more every year.
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 2001
I can hear it now...the grizzled old ant telling her great-grandchildren about surviving the dreaded February 12, 2001 Massacre. "Yep, your great-aunt Flo was caught just as she crawled down the outside of the shiny flour tin that housed her favorite kind of shortbread and an almost-empty bag of oatmeal raisin cookies. At least she died happy."
San Franciso ants--the tiny black ones--do not like rain or cold. In February most homes and apartments undergo at least one serious ant infestation. My attack followed Friday and Saturday's storms. By this morning, there was an unending line of troopers entering at the gap between the bathtub and the floor, marching around the corner into the kitchen and climbing up the cabinets between the sink and stove onto the countertop. Up there, they scattered every which way foraging for food. Some, like Great-aunt Flo, made their way into the closed aluminum flour tin where I'd thought my opened cookies would be safe.
Now I'm non-violent by nature. At first I just watched their manuvers with interest. But when it came time for lunch, my commitment to non-violence wavered. I got out the paper towels and started squashing as fast as I could. For about an hour, the ants, fearing my mighty white paper weapon, laid low. But then the onslaught recurred with more vigor than ever. I realized it was time for me to get serious and visit my local "arms supplier".
La Lucha carried me over to the Scarlet Sage Herbal Store on Valencia. With expert advice from E., I bought an ecologically-friendly insect powder made from 100% natural pyrethrum flowers. While I was out, I took the opportunity to scoot down to Modern Times Bookstore where I bought a copy of Rebecca Walker's highly-praised memoir, Black, White and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self. Sorry to say, I'm getting tired of reading about Harry Potter's adventures as a second year student at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I need to spend some time with adults in the world of nonfiction. Alice Walker's daughter seems a good choice.
I must say being outside for an hour or so made me sympathetic to the ants' desire to come in from the cold, but sympathy was not enough to deter me from my plan of attack.
I returned home and began my work. After pouring the ochre-colored insect powder along the bathroom and kitchen baseboards, I finished off the countertop survivors with some more paper towels. Amazing how quickly things died down...literally.
I dislike killing any
creatures, but it seemed like it was them or me. That pyrethrum
must be some flower!
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2001
I know I need these quiet days at home, but I'm getting a bit lonely. This is my fourth by-myself day out of the last five. I read a lot, listen to jazz on the radio, talk to my sweetie on the phone, keep up with emails and update my journal on the computer.
This morning's peek-a-boo sun tempted me to sit outside for awhile. I was on the bathtub side of the apple tree and saw a glint of green sprouting from a knot-hole in its trunk. There was a small but hardy plant making its unlikely way toward the sun. As I stood taking the picture, our house cat, Ditch, hopped onto my chair and proceeded to scratch herself briefly before scurrying off on her morning rounds. Then I looked up and saw one purple Princess flower right in front of my eyes.
Do I see things around me more clearly when I'm a stay-at-home?
Tonight La Lucha and I are going to take the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) subway over to Oakland. I have a ticket to see--more significantly, to hear--Nancy Wilson at Yoshi's. She's been a favorite jazz vocalist of mine since the '60s. Last Labor Day weekend, I heard her perform at the Detroit International Jazz festival down by the river. She knocked our socks off with her finely-crafted style of singing and elegant presence. As soon as I read she would be at Yoshi's in February, I bought a ticket. I invited a number of friends to join me but no one could make it. Seems like I'm meant to enjoy tonight on my own. And that's fine.
One of La Lucha the scooter's greatest gifts has been my regaining the ability to go off and do things on my own. Much as I love being with people, there's something in my nature that appreciates being my own person. It's been that way since I was a child.
I remember the first time I walked the mile to our town library all by myself. Such a feeling of accomplishment! I think I was in second grade. It was almost as big a moment as the Sunday afternoon I first rode my two-wheeler without Daddy holding on and jogging along beside me.
Independence, that's what I crave. It was the loss of independence that had been the hardest part about my becoming disabled. I can stand the stumbly legs and iffy hands, but don't take away my freedom! And it was freedom that the scooter gave back to me.
Funny to recall one of
my greatest fears when first diagnosed with MS in 1988 was that
I might eventually have to use a wheelchair or scooter. How could
I have known when that time came, all I would feel was gratitude
and joy! That's why I shush folks up who go on and on about how
"courageous" I am, and how they couldn't possibly handle
becoming disabled. We have absolutely no idea what we can handle
until it comes. And often when it does, we respond in ways we
couldn't have imagined.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2001
What could be a better way to spend Valentine's Day than with my friends at Simply Supper? Especially since my true blue valentine--E.D.--was way across the country in Michigan.
I'd received a message on my machine yesterday from S.W. He's been trying to keep going in spite of a nasty flu bug for a week now, but it finally caught up with him. From what I've heard of the virus making the rounds this year, it is definitely not to be ignored.
So La Lucha and I were on our own to make it over to Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) in the Castro by 3:45 PM today. No big deal. I frequently ride the mile and a half over there. The difference today was that I needed to carry windchime walker with me. MCC has an accessible entrance, but Simply Supper is upstairs and I need windchime walker to get around.
The only times I've carried my walker on the scooter have been when traveling by plane or train. In those cases, I simply folded and placed her horizontally between my legs and the steering column. It's worked fine for short distances on smooth surfaces. However my trip over to the Castro is not exactly short nor is it smooth. Sometimes the sidewalks and curb gradings bump me around pretty good.
I've been trying to work this out in my mind for some time. If I could carry the walker on my scooter, I wouldn't be as dependent on places being accessible. I could use a bicycle lock and safely leave La Lucha on the street, then use windchime walker to go inside, even if there were steps. A few weeks ago, I'd seen a fellow riding by with his folded walker bungee-wrapped to the back of his scooter seat. Between my backpack with its straps that click open and closed around my scooter seat and the long bungee cord I'd brought from home, I felt confident something could be worked out. But I'd need help.
And where do I go when I need help in my SF neighborhood? Down to my friends at the corner deli/organic grocery. They've helped me more times than I can count. And so they did again today. P. came up with the idea of turning folded windchime walker upside down and resting her closed arms on the battery cover that sticks out an inch or two below my seat. Then I suggested we unclick the backpack, place the walker flush against the seat, and click it back on so windchime walker would be held in place. With the addition of a bungee cord strapped to the seat posts, we were cooking with gas.
As a Valentine's gift, I'd finally set up my printer and made copies of the photos I'd taken of some of my Simply Supper friends a month ago. Everyone was so pleased with the results that I was encouraged to take more pictures. A new group of women volunteers cooked today and helped some of the regulars serve. And many of my friends came for dinner, some of whom allowed me to take their pictures.
When I got home and looked at the photos, I was surprised to see unsmiling faces on a number of individuals whom I'm used to seeing with smiles. Isn't it funny how we act in front of a camera? Some pose and smile; others look serious. A usually grinning fellow from Ireland put up both his thumbs in a positive gesture, even though his left hand is now in a cast after he broke it in a fall a few days ago. One volunteer asked me to take her picture. "Make it look like I'm working." And a guest asked me to take his picture too. He grinned like he always does. A hard working volunteer/guest stopped sweeping long enough for me to get a picture of him during clean-up. He also kindly helped me re-attach windchime walker to La Lucha. I'll need help with this process, but that's never been a problem. Folks are generous-spirited.
The dinner today--fish, pasta with tomato meat sauce, mixed fresh vegetables, salad, parmesan rolls, and sweet rolls for dessert--was so popular, some guests stayed around hoping for seconds, and the volunteers took their turn at the table after we'd closed our doors at 5 PM.
But the most touching
moment was not captured in a photo. One of our regular guests
who carries his world with him in black plastic bags put a much-folded
dollar bill in my hand as he prepared to leave. "A small
donation", he whispered.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2001
A lovely day out with my friend, D.W. We met as planned at the 24th/Mission BART station at noon, I on La Lucha my scooter and she on her able-bodied feet. While D.W. bought her ticket, I enjoyed listening to some live music by a bluesy guitar-playing singer who was busking nearby. We then rode downtown and got off at the last San Francisco station, Embarcadero. It's always such a treat to get off the elevator from underground and see the lovely Ferry Building rising up at the end of Market Street. We were on our way to catch the first matinee ($5) of "You Can Count On Me" at the Embarcadero One.
The cinema is in one of three huge business/commercial complexes only about four blocks from BART. An easy walk/scoot. Once there we each bought a small bag of popcorn--non-buttered for me, buttered for D.W.--from a smiling woman at the concession stand. We were part of a small but appreciative audience for the movie. Both of us came away raving about the acting and authenticity of the story. It is a tiny jewel of a film.
Next on our agenda was food. As it was around 3:30 PM, we knew we might have a tough time finding a restaurant that was open for lunch, which was what we wanted. We walked/scooted toward the bay to check out a place D.W. remembered. It no longer existed. By then we were close to the Ferry Building. I suggested we cross The Embarcadero and try one of the two seafood restaurants near where the Sausalito ferry docks. Since they both cater to tourists, I figured they'd probably be open, even though most restaurants close between 3-5 PM.
We ended up at the smaller of the two--a place called Sinbads--and sat in a mostly-empty dining room overlooking the Bay Bridge and Treasure Island. Not only was it a lovely view, but the meal was delicious. We both ordered crab cakes with potatoes and mixed fresh vegetables. The waitress kindly gave us each a bag with their sliced sour dough bread to take home.
By the time we emerged onto the street, it was just after 5 PM. Good thing we were getting on BART heading west toward Daly City. If we'd been going toward the East Bay, our car would have been mobbed. As it was, I had plenty of room to back up into my usual parking space by the door so that I was facing forward, ready to scoot off at my stop. By Civic Center--two stations before ours--the train was packed. A gaggle of Leadership High School students got on there and had to stand in the aisles. One of the young women told me they'd just conducted a Moot Court downtown.
D.W. and I exited at 24th/Mission and walked/scooted up 24th toward home. On the way we saw this doggie--Sparky--in her yellow rainslicker with her owner and a friend in front of a cafe.
What a successful adventure!
I recall during my visit last October that D.W. and I had the
same idea but did it a bit differently. Instead of taking BART,
we drove her car to a matinee at the Embarcadero One. Not only
did parking cost a whopping $15--validated yet!--but I exhausted
myself walking with windchime walker from the garage to the theater
and back. Now we've got it down pat. And I say hurray for La Lucha
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2001
And so it begins again. The following quotes are from the AOL News report, "U.S., British Planes Attack Iraqi Targets" by Robert Burns, of the Associated Press:
WASHINGTON (Feb. 16) - Executing President Bush's first military attack order, American warplanes joined British fighters in bombing sites around Baghdad on Friday, hitting air defense radars and other targets that U.S. officials said posed a growing threat to allied air patrols.
The strike was the first outside the "no fly" zone over southern Iraq in more than two years, although Bush said it did not signal a change in his administration's policy.
"A routine mission was conducted to enforce the 'no fly' zone," Bush said at a news conference in Mexico with President Vicente Fox. "It was a mission about which I was informed and I authorized. But I repeat, it's a routine mission."
At the Pentagon, a U.S. general called the strike a "self defense measure" initiated by the commander of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf. The number of U.S. and British attack planes involved - 24 - was much larger than in previous missions over northern and southern Iraq in recent years.
Iraqi television said one person was killed and 11 others were injured in the attacks. Asked about the report, Pentagon spokesman Lt. David Gai said: "We're not in the business of verifying or refuting outside reports."
...The Bush administration recently released millions of dollars to Iraqi opposition groups to work inside the country. Those opposition leaders were meeting Friday with State Department officials when the attack occurred.
Ahmad Chalabi, a leader of the anti-Saddam Iraqi National Council, said he welcomed the U.S. action but '"air strikes alone will not solve the problem.'"
"Air strikes," he said, "must be within a comprehensive plan to get rid of Saddam."
How can a bombing attack be considered "routine" that involves more war planes and takes place within 5 miles of a population center like Baghdad for the first time since December 1998? And what is this nonsense about its being "self-defense"? Iraq is a broken country where the citizens are lucky to have access to clean drinking water and electricity. Iraq is hardly a threat.
The U.S. is the threat.
I first read about the bombings after going online around 11 AM. Within the hour, I'd received phone calls from two friends--one here in SF, one in Vermont--who were terribly upset and knew I would share their feelings.
I was not surprised that Bush had chosen to bomb Iraq. I'd figured it was just a matter of time. When I'd read a small article in the paper on January 21--the day after his inauguration--that said Saddam might be manufacturing weapons of mass destruction in a castor oil plant, I'd heard the beat of war drums in the distance. I just didn't know things would move quite this fast. But George Sr. has had a long eight years to plan a revenge strategy against his arch-enemy Saddam, and we all know who is the power behind Junior's throne.
As I said to my friends, I refuse to let George W. Bush--or any person whose attitudes and actions are so contrary to my own--get under my skin. I learned that much from his father. When George Sr. dropped the first bombs on Baghdad on January 17, 1991, I felt the explosions in the core of my being. I let him tell me that if I was a citizen of this country, I was responsible for all that was being done in my name. Never again. They can do what they will, and I will respond by openly standing up against their atrocities...but the atrocities are of their doing and sit on their shoulders, not on mine. They act in their own names, never in mine.
So today I did what I needed to do.
I called my Senators, Representative and the White House Comment Line to protest Bush's bombing of Iraq. I wrote a letter to the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. I talked with people wherever I went about this cruel act. At 5:15 PM I read an email about a San Francisco protest demonstration against the bombing that was to have started at 5 PM at Powell and Market. I immediately hopped on La Lucha and scooted over there by BART. I marched for 15 minutes before the demonstration ended, but it was enough to me that I was there. And I am now writing about everything in my online journal, which is read by persons around the world.
It is going to be a long four years. Every time Bush acts in such an unprincipled and inhumane way--whether toward nations, groups, individuals, creatures or the environment--I will do as I did today. And I invite others to do the same. Don't give your power away to a so-called leader who is undeserving of your support. Fight with every creative tool at your command.
It's simple to be an activist:
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 2001
I just finished reading Eve Ensler's "The Vagina Monologues" for the first time. WOW!!! It makes me feel so alive in myself, full to overflowing. Such a gift she's given to the girls and women of our time...the gift of reclaiming all of ourselves.
I remember my introduction to The Vagina Monologues. It was just before Valentine's Day 1998 and I was subletting S.K.'s apartment next door. My sweetie, E.D., mailed me an article from the New York Times describing an upcoming event in the Hammerstein Theater in downtown Manhattan: it was the first V-Day benefit performance of The Vagina Monologues with Eve Ensler and an amazing cast including Whoopi Goldberg, Susan Sarandon, Glen Close, Winona Ryder, Lily Tomlin, Margaret Cho, BETTY, Klezmer Women, Ulali, Gloria Steinem, Soraya Mire and Rosie Perez. At the top of the clipping, he wrote "Somehow, I thought this might interest you." I lapped it up! When he sent me the rave reviews a week or so later, I vowed somehow, some way, sometime to experience The Vagina Monologues in person.
If I'd been in Michigan this winter, I could have been part of the production/reading put on by women I know in Windsor, ONT and the Detroit area. My friends just celebrated the fourth anniversary of Notable Women, our chorus/song circle, by putting on The Vagina Monologues for their own enjoyment. They were even directed by P.N., the founder of the Windsor Feminist Theater. But San Francisco is offering me an opportunity to experience it tomorrow night.
There is a V-Day benefit performance of The Vagina Monologues at the Theater on the Square downtown, starring Vicki Lawrence, Rita Moreno and Marga Gomez. We'll have a reception at 6 PM before the show, and a conversation with Vicki Lawrence and Rita Moreno afterwards. I appreciate that--as always with V-Day events--the proceeds will go to local groups working to stop violence against women and girls. I plan to scoot over by BART and meet a couple of friends at the theater.
Speaking of scooting, La Lucha really did me a good deed today. I had a planning meeting of the Global Women's Strike Day committee at 1 PM. When I went to my scooter shed/garage at 12:30 PM, I was not happy to see La Lucha's red charging light glowing steadily--instead of blinking--on the steering column. That meant she was not totally recharged after yesterday's many miles of scooting. I must not have plugged the charger in properly after returning home from the protest rally last night. Though the manufacturers say my Amigo RT scooter should have a range of 17 miles, I don't count on anything near that in this city of hills. She has managed every hill so far, but they use up a lot of juice.
I figured I'd chance it and start out anyway.The Crossroads Women's Center where our meeting was to be held is a little over a mile away, so I thought I'd be OK. But if not, I always have my cell phone with me to call a cab, or in this case, the women at the center. It was steadily raining so I was covered head to toe in my red silk teflon poncho. And I got there, no problem.
Our meeting went well. We're planning to be in solidarity with women all over the world on March 8, International Women's Day, with a press conference around noon in front of City Hall and a celebration/Speak Out gathering at a downtown church hall that evening. I really appreciate getting to know these longtime workers for women's justice here in San Francisco. They are strong, dedicated women with good perspectives on issues and healthy senses of humor. An excellent mix.
About 3:30 PM, I left
to come home. It was still raining, but not heavily. Everything
was fine until I turned up 22nd from Valencia, which is a slight
incline. La Lucha's charging light started blinking. Not a good
sign. It means she is getting extremely low on battery power and
could kick out at any time. Well, that dear friend of mine did
not kick out. She limped all the way home, until we were
safe and sound in her shed/garage again. I owe her one for this!
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 2001
What a lovely way to spend a damp grey Sunday afternoon in San Francisco. Curled up on the couch with a comfy pillow behind my back and warm afghan over my legs, listening to jazz on the radio and reading Rebecca Walker's Black, White and Jewish. I'd originally expected to be down at the ocean with my friend, P.McD., but our plans changed when she heard about a rally she needed to attend.
Apparently a local right-wing preacher was intending to lead a protest of my friend's church in the Tenderloin district. Seems he didn't approve of their friendliness to gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered folks. So we shifted gears--she went off to the rally in support of her church and I stayed home. Happily content, I might add.
After finishing my book, I scooted down to the corner deli/organic grocery to buy a Sunday paper. My neighborhood friend, J., was there too. We hung out in front of the store and shared similar views about "little Bush", as the Iraqi newspaper calls him, and his almost-month in office. I told J. about the call I'd just received from the SF Chronicle saying that tomorrow they would be printing my letter to the editor about the Iraq bombings. I then picked out the few sections I like to read in the Sunday paper and gave J. the rest. P., who works the store, came outside and joined our conversation. Then his brother, J., who owns it, drove up and double parked in front to get out and say "Hi". Other neighbors, D. and L., walked by and waved hello. Such a neighborhood gathering place!
And now I'm back cozy in my "tiny urban cottage", getting ready to put on hot water for a cup of Earl Grey decaf tea and settle down to read the paper. In a couple hours, I'll get on La Lucha and scoot by BART over to the Theater on the Square to see "The Vagina Monologues".
As I was reading the paper, my neighbor K. came to the door to ask my opinion of her brand new hair-color and cut. I think it's fabulous, don't you?
It's now 11 PM and I'm back home after seeing "The Vagina Monologues". I adored it!!! What a difference to see and hear it live rather than reading it in a book. Of course it didn't hurt that this cast--Vicki Lawrence, Rita Moreno and Marga Gomez--was superb, and that it was a sold-out house of mainly women who adored it as much as I. How those three managed to be hilarious, touching and deep--often at the same time--is beyond me. I'd see it again in a minute.
On the way to the BART I saw my old friend, Samson, and his owner, F., sitting out on their front steps. I've been keeping an eye out for them since returning to the neighborhood in January, but this was our first meeting. I think Samson remembered my voice because when he heard it, he left F.'s arm and slid down the banister to greet me. As soon as I put out my hand, he hopped on and quirked his feathery head as if to say, "Now where have you been hiding?"
A perfect day.
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2001
"You're a warrior, aren't you!", said the bookseller with an admiring smile as I asked her to move the ladder and chair so I could scoot over to the fiction section in my favorite, always cramped, bookstore.
I've been called a lot of things since my disability became visible--courageous, inspiring, brave, etc.--but never before have I been called a warrior. I so much prefer that description to the others. And when I think about it, it's true...I have become a warrior. That is, one who is willing to fight for what she deserves. Freedom. Independence. Accessibility. Respect. Visibility. The same rights held by so-called able-bodied individuals.
I think of my encounter with the Northwest Airlines CRO (Complaints Resolution Officer) at San Francisco Airport last October when my scooter did not arrive until 45 minutes after everyone else had deplaned. How I had a copy of the 1990 Air Carriers' Act--with applicable passages highlighted--in hand. How she said to me, "You obviously have a mission to see that all disabled travelers receive the rights they deserve." How she asked for my copy of the Act after trying unsuccessfully to find one for herself.
I think of my way of being in the world with La Lucha my scooter. How, by using body language and words, I insist that drivers move back so I can use the graded curbs at crosswalks. How I radiate confidence and strength when scooting home from the BART station late at night. How comfortable I am asking for help when I need it (warriors need help too).
I think of the demonstrations La Lucha and I have participated in since I bought her in May 2000. Four days and nights of teach-ins/rallies/marches at the OAS (Organization of American States) General Assembly protests in Windsor, Ontario last June. The 15,000-strong San Francisco protest rally and march on the day Bush was inaugurated, January 20, 2001. Last Friday evening's quickly-assembled demonstration in downtown San Francisco protesting that day's US-led bombings just outside Baghdad, Iraq.
I am a warrior.
And I thank the Phoenix Bookstore bookseller for holding up a
mirror so I could see my reflection in her words.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2001
If a boss had sat me down at my office computer at 11 AM this morning and said, "You're to sit here by yourself and work until 7 PM with only a few bathroom breaks and a half hour off for dinner", I would have been outraged. I mean how ergononmically-incorrect can one be! But that is exactly what I expected of myself today. With no complaints at the end, only a deep sense of satisfaction.
Today I celebrated my online journal's upcoming first anniversary (February 25) by reregistering my site--specifically that page--on a long list of search engines. It had been almost a year since my last search engine registration frenzy using SelfPromotion.com, a very helpful site. This job certainly takes time but is well worth it. Seeing that folks can find one's site through search engines is the key to success on the web. Success--for me anyway--not being measured by money or fame, rather by knowing that those who might benefit from what I've put up here at www.windchimewalker.com will be able to find me whenever they want.
When I work on web business like this, it triggers memories of my site's beginnings and unexpected evolution. I am in awe that I even imagined I could design and put up my own web site after only a couple of months on computers back in the winter of 1999. But I did it, with lots of trial and error, some reading of the Dummies books, and just the right person to help at significant junctures during the way. On February 28, 1999, my "Windchime Walker's Home Page" first flickered online using the AOL free site hosting service. I could not have been more proud. I think there were nine pages to start, including the home page and links.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about this site is how little it's changed in two years: pages have been added but little has been revised and nothing deleted. My original intent was to demonstrate the power of choosing to be--what I call--creatively disabled. I told my story in the pages titled, "Creative Disability", using words and photos, and gave specific instructions on how to decorate canes and walkers as I had decorated mine. This was why I put up the site in the first place. Then I decided to add some of my art, poems and writings. I'd heard of someone creating a free bookmark for people to print out, so I did that as well. Soon, as so often happens with creative projects, the site developed a mind of its own and took its own turnings.
The most significant turning thus far has been the daily online journal. When I wrote my first entry February 25, 2000, I wasn't sure this way of writing would suit me. I'd kept personal handwritten journals for years, but those were for no one's eyes but my own. How would it be to keep a journal that anyone in the world could access? I didn't know, but I thought I'd try it and see. The idea to do this had come in response to a question I was hearing regularly from readers: "How do you stay so upbeat and positive in the face of a progressing disability?" I had no idea how to answer that question except to show them how I live day-to-day and let them come to their own conclusions. Somewhere along the way I got hooked on the process of journaling online.
Is it my ego that gets fed by spilling my beans every day? By knowing that untold numbers of persons around the world might read what I write? Is it my need to be heard? Or is it something else. A hunger to have my life benefit others in some small way. A desire to notice each day as something special, to hold it in my hand like a jewel every night, turning it this way and that, watching the fire of awareness sparkle in its different colors and facets. Or maybe it's a combination of all of the above.
Whatever its purpose, I've been surprised at the raw power of my commitment to keeping this journal day in and day out for a year. During that time, except for occasional trips out of town without my laptop, I've only missed three days of writing. When I'm sick or tired or discouraged or have had a nondescript day, I still write in my journal. Only once has someone I mentioned objected to what I wrote. I immediately changed that entry to make her feel more comfortable. I decided from the first to use initials for those who people my life; that seems to have worked fine.
And the latest turning occurred two months ago when I bought a digital camera and started using photo links to illustrate my journal. The response from readers has been quite enthusiastic, especially from my sweetie in Detroit who says he feels like he's at my side while I'm here in San Francisco for the winter. Actually, I've heard from readers all over the world who say the images of this beautiful city by the bay are bringing back fond memories.
Where it will go from
here, I cannot guess. By now, this site is running the show; I'm
just along for the ride. A delightful ride, I might add. One for
which I am most grateful.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2001
After yesterday's 10-hour computer marathon, today I was much more out there in the world. The day was mild with a mix of sun and clouds, with the sun winning in the end.
Around noon, I hopped on La Lucha and scooted up 24th Street to take care of some errands. I bought a birthday present for E.K., my goddess daughter back in Detroit, who will be turning 17 next Wednesday. I then scooted to the post office to mail it. On the way, I picked up some cash at a bank ATM machine. Next stop was the Noe Valley Bakery to buy fruit tarts to serve my friends, L.O'H., his wife B. and daughter M., who are coming over around 9:30 AM tomorrow so we can spend the day together. L. and B. still live in Falls Church, Virginia where L. and I graduated from the same small high school over 40 years ago. They're in town visiting their daughter M. who lives in Palo Alto. I'm looking forward to our mini-reunion.
While up in Noe Valley, I ran into--not literally, thank goodness!--J., a sister demonstrator whom I've met at protests of late, specifically the Bush inaugural rally/march and last Friday's protest of the bombing of Iraq. A most interesting woman whom I'd like to get to know better. I now have her phone number and will be calling her.
My last two errands were quick and easy. I wanted to replace a dying purple flower in my living room bouquet, so I chose a single purple gladiola from a sidewalk display up on 24th. The next bit of business was restocking my refrigerator with Odwalla juice, one of my few necessities. I stopped at the corner deli/organic grocery on the way home and, as always, P. graciously gave me sidewalk service.
I arrived home just before L.N. got here with some materials relating to the Global Women's Strike Day. After she left, I called my sweet E.D. in Detroit for our daily chat, then sat in the sun and nibbled a quick lunch, gathered trash and recyclables and put them out for tomorrow's pick-up, and finally came inside to sweep out the cottage. By then it was time to go out front and wait for S.W. to pick me up so we could go to Simply Supper. I was pleased to have a few minutes visit with I., one of my neighborhood friends, who was on his way to the produce store.
Simply Supper was very busy today--103 guests served--though it isn't even the end of the month yet. Wonder what it'll be like next Wednesday? I saw the kind gentleman who had given me a $1 donation for his meal last week. I was touched to see that he has tied plastic bags around his ankles to try to keep dry and warm. How much do you imagine a donation equivalent to his dollar bill would be if it came from a person of wealth? A million dollars? Perhaps more.
As he drove me home, S.W. asked if there were any jobs I needed help with. What a friend! I admitted I sure could use help changing my sheets. This captain's bed is lovely to sleep in--all cozy like a bug in a rug--but is it ever tough to change the sheets. So my faithful friend S.W. did that nasty job for me. And I took him to Papalote's, our local Mexican restaurant, for dinner as a thank you. It's an unassuming place that has good, reasonably priced food and friendly service.They've recently redecorated the dining room and it looks great! A real neighborhood treasure.
So now it's 9 PM, time
for my favorite radio program, Marian McPartland's "Piano
Jazz". My weekly tradition is to burn candles and incense,
illuminate the garden with my porch lights and turn off all the
lights inside the cottage. So much better than watching even the
best of television!
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2001
I am so proud of myself I'm practically twisting my arm out of its socket patting myself on the back. Today marked another instance of my recognizing my limits and sticking to them. Hurray!
After a very active day, I went out front in the pouring rain at 6:40 PM to wait for my friend P.McD. to pick me up to go to chorus rehearsal. Granted I was wearing my most wonderfully effective teflon-coated silk poncho, but my feet were unprotected and getting wetter by the minute. When I'd waited 20 minutes, I knew P. must have gotten caught in some nasty traffic--she was coming from San Mateo during rush hour--so I decided to go back inside the cottage. Of course, my doorbell rang a couple minutes later. I walked back out in the still-pouring rain, and met P. at the gate. By then I realized I'd be a silly goose to go off to rehearsal feeling so wet and chilled. I explained to P. that what I needed more than singing was to stay home and take a nice hot shower. Being the dear friend that she is, she understood and appreciated my good sense.
In the old days I probably would have gone full steam ahead and then been surprised when I ended up with a cold. And let me tell you, that hot shower felt mighty darn good!
This richly textured day started at 9:30 AM with my old high school classmate L. O'H. and his wife B. coming to my cottage for a visit. As I'd mentioned yesterday, they're in town visiting their daughter, M., who lives in Palo Alto and works in downtown San Francisco. We'd planned to spend the day together, catching up and maybe seeing some sights. I was delighted to see that last night's rain had passed and we had a sunny day with blue skies and beautiful clouds.
I've seen L. and B. at regular reunions--organized by L.--over the years, but this was the first time in decades that we'd had time to really sit down and talk. L. brought pictures from the last reunion--our 40th--that I'd missed, in addition to ones from earlier reunions that I'd attended. He and B. are like human databases in terms of the information and stories they remember about our classsmates. I feel wonderfully caught up with folks. It's truly because of L. and B. that our class of 150 has remained so closely connected to one another.
Around 11:30 AM, we hopped the BART--me on La Lucha, of course--and went down to the Embarcadero, the station closest to their daughter's office. We paid her a visit and found that some late-breaking deadlines would prevent her joining us for lunch. But, happily, D.W. and I had discovered that good seafood restaurant on the ferry pier last week, so I took my friends there. On the way, L. offered to take a picture of La Lucha and me with the Bay Bridge as a pretty impressive backdrop.
Our lunch was most pleasant. We even had the same waitperson D.W. and I had liked so much a week ago. After a leisurely meal, we walked/scooted down Mission and then back up Market until it was time for them to meet M. to take the CalTrain back to Palo Alto. Such a dear couple. They've even offered to gather a gang of our high school friends for dinner when I'm next in the Washington, DC area visiting my mother. I expect that will be late April. Something fun to look forward to.
On the way home, there was my buddy, Samson, on the steps outside where he lives with his owner, F. He and I have a "thing" going--not F., Samson! When he hears my voice, he slides down the railing to see me. That bird--a 4 year old Double Yellow Amazon--loves to pose, as well as flirt. He and I had a high old time together. He even let me pet him a little which F. says is very unusual. And then his kisses! Well, I guess I'd better not kiss and tell.
Once home, I spent time with two different friends--one in person and one by phone--who are making their way with grace and dignity through some profound life challenges. I admire each of them for their willingness to feel what they need to feel and ask for companionship when it can help.
So now I'm cozy and warm
in my jammies and ready to call it a day.
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2001
As is my habit, I arrived early for my lunch date with R.K. today. An hour and ten minutes early. There I was down by the Embarcadero on a lovely sunny morning with the luxury of free time. So I set out scooting north beside the piers.
One sees things on the back of an open three-wheeled vehicle that are missed while riding inside the four-wheeled ones we're used to. For instance, did you know there's a ferry building numbered 1?? And I'd never before noticed this view of the Trans Am building from the Embarcadero. But the biggest surprise was finding a long wooden wharf stretching out into the bay. I'd never even heard of such a thing.
What beautiful vistas! The Bay Bridge and Treasure Island as seen through the wharf's railings. Coit Tower and Telegraph Hill to the northwest behind the ferry buildings. At the end of the wharf there was a man fishing with the city skyline over his shoulder. I watched ferries coming and going between the city and Sausalito or Larkspur. The channel must be close to Treasure Island because they'd head straight out there before turning north.
It reminded me of summer days I've spent happily sitting in La Lucha beside Lake St.Clair back home in Michigan. The sun caressed my face and I found the stresses of living in a city--even one I love like SF--fading from my mind. A Zen moment. When I turned around and started scooting back down the wharf towards shore, this view of the Trans Am building greeted me. I'll never tire of the beauty in this city.
My friend R.K. took me to a large indoor plaza-type building for lunch. You can't see it, but behind her there is "rain" falling into a pond. We enjoyed our meals of chili (vegie for me) and our always interesting conversation. I love hearing her stories of having been raised by Jewish liberal activist parents in NYC. Today she told me of her first civil rights march in Washington DC back in 1958 when she was 14. I envy her being raised with such political consciousness from the womb.
After lunch, I scooted over to BART and then home. Once here, my sunny garden beckoned so I took the portable phone outside and called my sweetie. At 2:30 PM, an expected "gift" appeared at my door--J.U., a massage therapist with her folded table slung over her shoulder. Last week my dear friends who let me rent this magic cottage--M.R. and E.S.--gave me a gift certificate for an hour massage with their bodyworker, J.U. Can you imagine having a massage in your own home so you don't have to get up and go anyplace afterwards? Perfection. And J. is most gifted: she treats massage as an act of meditation, and her client's body as a sacred object.
I'm so glad I'd arranged
to stay home tonight. After a day of activity and massage, it
is good to let my body relax. Could I possibly be getting the
hang of living in balance? That would be nice.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 2001
It's taken me a couple of days to begin to assimilate a true story I heard this week about my hometown, a Virginia suburb of Washington DC. It is a chapter of that city's history that had been unknown to me until now.
In connection with a high school reunion a few years back, arrangements were made for a walking tour to be conducted by a local historian. One of the stops was outside the house of an African-American leader in the Civil Rights movement. He was a man whom Martin Luther King,Jr. had worked with closely and had frequently visited during the years of struggle. No one on the tour had ever heard of this man before. The historian then went on to talk about the education of this man's children, and of the other children of color in my hometown.
At that time--probably the 1940s and '50s--black children were not allowed to attend our city's schools. This man and a few other affluent black families formed a carpool to take their children into Washington, DC every school day. Apparently children of color from my town were allowed to go to the District of Columbia public schools if their parents could afford to take care of their transportation. The distance would have been at least ten miles each way.
And the rest of the black children in our town, those whose parents could not manage such carpools? These children were bussed to an outlying county school, 25 miles away from their homes. According to the historian, when our school buses got old and were retired from service, the city would remove the heaters and seats--for resale, I guess--and use those buses to carry the black children to and from school. That was 50 miles each day with no heater and no seats.
I have no words to describe how I feel about this. Part of my disgust is with myself, that I never really questioned the fact that my schools were all-white. I vaguely remember my mother saying there were only two black--in those days she called them "colored"--families in town. And since they lived in the poorer outskirts of town, their kids went to the county school because it was closer. Closer? Besides the man who was so active in civil rights lived on a "good" street in the middle of town.
My dad was on the school board for many years and must have known the truth. Though we never heard any prejudicial talk at home, and in fact were taught to respect everyone "regardless of color", why didn't we ask more questions? And why didn't we insist on better answers to the few we asked. Ignorance is no excuse.
When my friends of color and I talk about racism, I'm so aware that I can never divest myself of the white outlook with which I was raised. I can take anti-racism workshops until I'm blue in the face, and I'll still be saddled with racist views. It's in my blood. That is not to say I won't continue to do everything I can to become more and more aware of how I think, speak and act toward and about persons of color. I'm not giving up. But when I hear stories like this, stories that tell the truth about the climate in which I was raised, it's hard not to feel discouraged. If I were black, I'd have a hard time forgiving such abuses.
©2001 Patricia Lay-Dorsey.
Please use with attribution