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To read my current
journal, please go to: windchime walker's
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2000
Today's drenching downpours--through which my scooter and I traveled to and from the motel and Mom's nursing facility--offered the first opportunity to try out La Lucha's rain abilities. And this was more than just rain; there were pretty significant puddles to go through as well. She did great! So did my rain gear--a plastic rain jacket covered by a plastic poncho with hood and wide-brimmed rain hat over that. Another dimension of this trial was that a mile of it occurred after dark. That was where my new halogen headlight and red flashing rear light got their test. The headlight truly illuminates the sidewalk in front of me, giving me necessary information about puddles, poorly graded sidewalks and such. I felt visible to others, with good vision myself. I'd wondered how La Lucha would handle these conditions; winter in San Francisco will certainly give us many such opportunities! We're going to do just fine, thank you very much.
Tomorrow morning I return home to Detroit. The visit with my mother here in Maryland was wonderful; we never even rubbed one another the wrong way. That's a good sign that the amount of time I stayed was just right. And tonight my older sister and I got together for dinner; that also went very well. We even had a chance to do something we haven't done in years: we went shopping together. C. helped me find the perfect rain hat...that then got a good workout on the way home! What fun to try on hats and examine ourselves in mirrors as if we were teens again.
A successful trip in every
way. And I trust tomorrow's final in the Air Travel with Scooter
(Round Trip) team event will bring home the gold.
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2000
It is so good to be home! I left cold wet Baltimore at 12:45 PM and arrived to warm sunny Detroit by 2 PM. Had E.D. unpack my scooter--that weathered her air travel debut with flying colors--at his office and I hopped right on her willing back. Didn't want to miss a minute of this beautiful day! Scooted over to the juice cafe to pick up an avocado/cucumber lavash sandwich and a delicious drink called "Peaches 'N Dream" (vanilla soy milk, peaches and bananas). I then returned to E.D.'s office, sat outside in his courtyard and enjoyed my late lunch. The demands of this day of travel drew me to the down-filled analytic couch--his father's legacy--for a quick catnap. About 5:30 PM I awoke refreshed, and started on my way home.
How I appreciate this community and its scooter-friendly terrain! Wide sidewalks everywhere--along the lake and through quiet residential neighborhoods--in contrast to Maryland's 8-lane highways and mall parking lots. It would be hard to imagine a better place to live with a scooter. When we moved here 29 years ago, we were interested in running, boating, swimming, biking and walking. This community has certainly adapted itself to our changing needs.
Again, I was fortunate to sit next to a most interesting person on the plane. T.N. is a man probably around 50, who was born in Vietnam. His experiences in the navy during the war with the United States still cause him pain to remember; but his life since then has been rich and satisfying. He's been married 23 years to an American woman, S., who "loved me so much" she became an expert and exceptionally creative cook in the Vietnamese tradition. Until 3 years ago they ran a Vietnamese restaurant in the midwestern city where they live with their 3 children (ages 22, 19 and 13). For 22 years T.N. has also worked for a large American corporation; a job that keeps him traveling a lot. When on the road, he does all his own cooking in his motel room using a rice cooker and small electric skillet--"American food is too heavy for me!" In addition, he's a sculptor who carves in stone and wood, casts concrete and "works in any substance that will stay together." Our conversation included: ancient health-enhancing traditions of Asian cultures (like diet, tai chi, acupuncture and chi kung), his father who died 3 years ago and only rode a bicycle all his life, T.'s simple beginnings in a straw and mud-thatched country dwelling that was still standing when he returned after 22 years away, the perils of globalization, Gandhi's use of non-violence and Thich Nhat Hanh's unique blend of politics and Buddhism. The one hour flight passed in a flash.
Travel is like a kaleidoscope:
the elements don't change, but in the turning, come together in
new and unexpected ways.
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2000
I've not been surprised to encounter fall weather of late--after all, it is fall--but tonight it felt more like winter. For the first time I wished I'd thought to carry gloves and a knit hat in my backpack: they would have felt good. I guess the temperature wasn't really that cold--55° F--but scooting into the wind down by the lake felt colder than that. Shades of what's to come. Makes me think it's time to buy a nice warm jacket. Even in San Francisco those January and February rainy nights can get pretty darn chilly. Now that I'll be truly out there on La Lucha, I'd best be prepared.
While talking to a San Francisco friend on the phone today, I realized that folks who have not been here don't really have a picture of what I mean when I talk about "our lake". Seems my California friends imagine a small body of water that one can see across. Not so! This lake is so large that all I see at its edge is the horizon. To the south lights twinkle at night off the coast of Ontario, but that's the only land that is visible. When I say I'm "scooting along the lake", that generally means I am traveling south about two miles along the shoreline road toward the center of our town. This is a 4-lane boulevard that runs a total of four miles along open water near our house: the sidewalk is on one side of the street and on the other is a narrow strip of grass along the water. I don't know how far the lake extends north but my guess is 20-25 miles.
This lake connects two of the Great Lakes: Lake Huron to the north and Lake Erie to the south. As part of the inland waterway, there is lively shipping here--both lakers and freighters from around the world--except during winter months when the lake is apt to freeze, at least close to shore. Sailing, power boating, fishing and now kayaking are popular summer sports; ice fishing and ice skating replace them in the winter.
This residential community
is quiet, family-oriented and very traditional in its ways of
looking at things. Neither E.D. nor I grew up here, but we meet
lots of folks who have spent their lives here and are only now
moving south for retirement. I've never particularly identified
with the city in which we live, preferring to say I'm from Detroit.
Except for a number of years teaching art and creative expression
in our community center, I've pursued most of my work opportunities
and volunteer activites in Detroit, often in the inner city. For
me, this city is alive and profoundly real; her people--the
African-American community, especially--are some of the most committed
and socially conscious of any I've met in the United States. It
is these people who taught me to translate my beliefs into action,
both as artist and as activist. Without them I can't imagine who
I would now be.
OOPS!! I just received the following email from a dear friend:
Watch it about denigrating Maryland to 8-lane highways and mall parking lots. We Marylanders are proud of our rolling hills and waterways and Inner Harbors and lovely beauty spots for scooters and walkers and bikers alike. Wanna start a competition between Maryland and Michigan?
My apologies to a truly
beautiful state. Hey, Maryland is where I spent my childhood summers!
I guess 8-lane highways and mall parking lots can happen anyplace...
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2000
I take my weekly house duty at the women's shelter this afternoon. Two perfect pumpkins sit beside green peppers and cherry tomatoes on the dining room counter. I compliment P.K. on her gardening skills: she laughs. "Those pumpkins grew in the compost heap!"
In July they moved the compost bin from one location to another. Some stuff was left behind, so they raked it up and started a new compost heap out by the alley. Since she would be fertilizing her garden with compost from the bin, she didn't want weeds added there; they could go in the heap instead. By August she saw a large green vine emerging from the heap. She tried to figure what it might be, but was stymied. In early September 2 small orange pumpkins appeared.
Everyone in the house has taken a great interest in this unexpected harvest; R. asked if she could carve one of the pumpkins for Halloween. The longer they stayed outside, the more P.K. worried they might disappear. She didn't want R. to be disappointed; it's the first time she's expressed interest in anything since moving into the house 2 months ago. So Halloween is going to come early this year--at least at the shelter!
I'm sure there's a profound
learning here, but anything I write sounds like a bumper sticker.
Ah well, you know what I mean.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2000
I just had my 4th voice lesson in as many weeks, and am in awe of this instrument I've owned my whole life. T.W., my teacher, articulates the intricate workings of the voice in such a way that I can "see" how it is operating. Her use of hand motions to ease vocal movement sends me places I didn't imagine I could go. Of course, I may end up being the only member of my chorus in San Francisco whose hands describe circles and rising lines when we perform this winter!
This is the second time I've taken lessons from her; the first was for 6 months in the fall/winter of 1998-9. During that time my range increased simply through exercise and T.W.'s belief in my voice and its capabilities. After years as a confirmed alto, I now had the option of singing 2nd soprano which I did last winter with the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco.
Today I learned what a tender instrument it is. Before I was properly warmed up, we tried an exercise that demanded too much of my head (high) voice. As if I'd crashed into the nest of a small animal, my voice skittered away and hid; it wouldn't come out again until I'd backed off and let it settle down. It was a bit shy the rest of class, as if it didn't trust me anymore. T.W. was apologetic, but it was a learning for us both. Gentle warm-ups allow my voice to expand at its own pace.
And now it's time to enjoy
the beauty of another glorious fall day. Where will La Lucha and
I scoot to now?
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2000
If I were to bottle a day, it would be this one. The weather is perfect--sunny, mild, blue skies overhead. The trees, still full of leaves, are mostly green with splashes of gold, purple and red. Black, brown and gray squirrels scurry across lawns, up and down trees, and across streets in their annual pre-winter frenzy.
Around noon we ride our tandem bike to the grocery store. E.D. shops while I sit outside at Starbucks and sip cold Tazo tea and nibble a danish. Excellent division of labor! I'm pleased that I can still bike; we didn't use the tandem very much this summer because of my scooter. It feels good to be back on a 2-wheeler (my scooter has 3).
After putting away the groceries, E.D. walks and I scoot over to our neighbors' to let out their dog (the whole family plus three girlfriends went to an amusement park near Cleveland for the day). It's my first time in the backyard "eden" they've created with flowers, ornamental trees, bushes and sculpture.
E.D. leaves for his office and I stay behind to soak up the beauty. Purple chrysanthemums, pink and red impatiens, white daisies, yellow gloriosa daisies. The fragrance of herbs. Tomatoes ripening. A white butterfly kissing flower after flower. A woodpecker bobbing its head on a tree trunk. Sparrows chirping. The sun on my back. I sing of my delight--making up words and melody to fit the moment. I pet their black and white rabbit in its cage, discover its water bottle is dry, and fill it from my own. That is one thirsty rabbit!
Off to the library through quiet neighborhoods. Our roads are still "iffy" because of the never-ending sewer replacement project, but I'm learning which ones are passable and which are not. At the library I rent two award-winning documentary films and then scoot the two blocks to E.D.'s office. After a quick visit, I stop by our local market to pick up six Odwalla juices, cheese and crackers, hummous and grapeleaves, and my longtime favorite, Jordan Almonds. I scoot home through the neighborhoods. The lake is inaccessible because of newly dumped sandy gravel covering one of the curbs. I plan to call the contractor on Monday to see how they will remedy this situation.
A half hour after I return home, my goddess daughter, E.K., stops by with a CD I loaned her mother. She ends up staying for dinner. E.D. and I enjoy her company immensely. At 16, she is again the delightful person I knew before adolescence kicked in with a vengeance--only more interesting and mature. She leaves after dinner, E.D. goes off for his nightly walk and I come upstairs to check my email. Later I watch the Olympics, my unexpected addiction these past weeks.
Now this journal entry
is complete; it is 1 AM and time for bed.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2000
In what ways is having a web site like performance art? I ask myself this question after a conversation with an old friend this afternoon.
Scooting along the lake--going north for a change--I pass runners, bikers and walkers on this absolutely glorious October day. It's so warm I'm again riding La Lucha barefooted. I meet a woman walker who smiles and says, "Beautiful day, isn't it!" I answer, "It certainly is!" She turns and exclaims, "Patty, is that you?"
M.G. and I first met in the '70s when E.D. and I were invited to join a local tennis group. For years we played and partied together once a month. I remember talking with M.G. about her experiences in the world of art and modern dance, especially as a single woman living in NYC. At the time I was following my dream of attending art school and becoming an exhibiting artist. My last contact with M.G. was the summer of 1983 when she and her daughter came to an art performance I gave at a funky C.A.I.D. (Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit) show at an empty fur salon in downtown Detroit.
In a flyer to my mailing list, I introduced my work, "Identification with the Aggressor, or How to Handle Rejection in Art", in the following art-speak way: The artist orchestrates the systematic destruction, defacement, obliteration of selected examples of her recently rejected works of art through performance events involving multi-disciplinary artists and non-artists. Photo-documentation captures the natural outgrowth of destruction--rebirth in a new form.
At the opening reception, my hairdresser who was also a symphony oboist, gave me a punk haircut in front of 5 formerly rejected images that I'd painted on the salon's wall. I then pasted my hair clippings onto image #1, adding my (at-that-time) red hair and a mustache as she played a dirge on the oboe--"Concerto for Haircut and Oboe."
The second performance--which M.G. and her daughter attended--was my signature piece. My own E.D. introduced Dr. Cath Arsis (a performance artist named Cathy Lear) who was to present the paper "Identification with the Aggressor: a Case History" at an important psychiatric convention. In the middle of her presentation, a deranged artist (me) came in the door and pelted image #2 with rotten tomatoes.
The third performance--"The Legion of Courage"--involved Kate Kern, a multi-media artist who worked in textiles, altering image #3 into a work of her own.
The fourth performance--"Narcissism"--was a dance with masks performed by Laurie Margot Ross, a corporeal mime artist with whom I performed during those years. She centered her mask performance on image #4, which was a painting I'd done of her.
The fifth and final performance--"Destruction at $15 an Hour"--was by a professional woman housepainter who sanded the wall with my 5 images on it, then painted over everything with white paint. The show ended that day.
I've never had more fun as an artist!
During our conversation
today, I told M.G. about my web site and this 7-month-old daily
online journal. Her response? "Why you're still doing performance
art, aren't you!" She's right. Whether "performing"
online or in-person, you must be willing to put yourself out there
with little protection. It helps to see life itself as a creative
act: whatever happens is there to be used. Don't take yourself
too seriously. It is the process not the product that counts.
Whether one person or 10,000 see your work, give it all you've
got. When it's done it's done; go on to the next idea without
looking back. Give your audience good doses of variety and humor.
Performance art is all about being authentically yourself. Let
go of the need to control and allow the work to show you where
it wants to go. Even when improvising, don't forget your craft.
MONDAY, OCTOBER 2, 2000
There are many forms of activism. Tonight's panel discussion at the University of Windsor (Ontario) brought together 6 young women and men from Canada and Mexico who organize, support and do direct action in the Americas for social and political change. Their commitment is strong; the risks they take, significant. 4 of the 6 were among the activists who spearheaded the excellent protest demonstrations and teach-ins I attended last June when the OAS (Organization of American States) met in Windsor. Except for E.V. of the Windsor Peace Committee, the panelists were part of the "Montreal Caravan" at the start of their tour of SE Ontario to raise awareness of the FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas) and its threat to the people of this hemisphere. Everything they said pointed toward the importance of the Summit of the Americas to be held in Quebec City next April where the FTAA--which would extend the Free Trade Agreement to the entire hemisphere--is in danger of being passed. Protest demonstration/teach-in plans are in full swing.
That is what I normally think of when I hear the word activism. But earlier today I exercised another, more hidden form of activism: I took on the Goliath, America Online.
A few weeks ago I accidentally discovered that AOL--my ISP--had put advertising banners on my web site without my authorization. When I first put my site up on AOL in February 1999, I had 2 choices: 1) to have it go under "members.aol.com" with space for fewer megabytes of material and no advertising; or 2) to put it up on "AOL Hometown" with more megabytes available and advertising banners across the top of every page. I went with the former because I felt strongly against having advertising on my site. In January 2000, I transferred to my own domain name and a paid web host. At that time I added certain tech HTML to each members.aol.com page, so it would automatically transfer to my new address.
As soon as I found my site on AOL Hometown with advertising on every page, I called AOL to complain: but 2 calls brought no satisfaction. The tech support persons could find no email address or way for me to contact AOL Hometown staff to see about removing my site from their turf. Angry as I was about this unauthorized use of my site, I could think of no recourse except to remove my site completely from AOL. If I did that I would lose visitors whose search might bring them to the AOL address rather than the one with my domain name: I'd registered both URLs with numerous search engines. I was reluctant to close that door, so I did nothing.
After lunch today, I started reading a book loaned me by an activist friend--Naomi Klein's No Logos, a well researched look at global corporations, how they use brand names to control their markets, and the grassroots student-run activist resistance that is springing up worldwide. Ten pages into the book I received a wake-up call: this ad campaign is just what AOL has put forth on my site. If I sit back and allow them to do this, I'll be part of the problem rather than part of the solution. So I created a web page I call "No Ads!" that says:
Without my permission, AOL put my web site up on their "AOL Hometown" advertising-banner-ridden FTP space. After several unsuccessful attempts to contact someone from AOL who could remedy this situation, I decided to take care of it in this way. As an activist committed to the struggle against corporate control, I strongly object to AOL using my web site to push their own advertisements!
If you wish to visit my AD-FREE web site, click on Windchime Walker. Please change your bookmarks to reflect either of my new URLs: www.windchimewalker.net or www.windchimewalker.com
I am still completing the time-consuming project of transferring each page of my members.aol.com web site to this "No Ads!" page. America Online, which has a reputation for being like Orwell's "Big-Brother-is-watching-you", may well discover my manuver and kick me off their service...but I'm OK with that. I refuse to continue letting them use me as one of their billboards.
A small action perhaps,
but one that reflects my sense of integrity and commitment to
right; the older I get the more important that connection becomes.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 3, 2000
Has there ever been a more beautiful autumn? Each day bursts forth as if competing to be proclaimed the most dazzling day of the year. And every day I say, "Now this is it! This is the day I'll bottle and save for winter."
I set out on La Lucha about 2:30 PM after taking my voice lesson and attending to emails. My destination is the 6-lane commercial boulevard a mile away where I have errands to run. As usual, my mind tries to keep up with my scooter...spin, spinning thoughts and questions.
I mull over the different ways each disabled person chooses to "do" his/her disability. One may be more physically impaired than another but appear more free. Another may use her/his disability to demand special treatment, perhaps trying to receive that which had been lacking all along. Yet another may become more daring with a disability than he/she had been before. I focus more on what it's like to become disabled after being able-bodied than what it's like to be born with a disability--it's what I know.
I ask myself why disabled persons who place unnecessary limits on themselves irritate me so. Is it because that's who I am and don't know it? Or is it because I do everything in my power not to choose that path. It's tempting to use a disability as a way to get special attention and make others feel sorry for you. I fall into that trap occasionally myself. But nothing irks me more than a pity-faced person saying, "Oh, you poor thing! You're so brave!" There's nothing brave about being disabled--you deal with whatever comes like everyone else.
I think of K.S. who committed
suicide last winter at age 35. Five years of a virulent form of
MS wore her down. My unexpected response to the news was intense
anger. How dare she give up when I'm trying so hard to make the
best of it! Intellectually I know we each have different capacities
and ways of handling tough situations--I just didn't want a young
woman with K.S.'s vitality to close the door on life. It scared
me. Would I choose suicide if my MS went bad? But the life force
that comsumed me after her death showed me otherwise. I now know
life is not something I would easily relinquish.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 4, 2000
My decision to read William Zinsser's book, On Writing Well: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction (4th edition) is bearing fruit. I revise yesterday's journal entry using his suggestions. Only one exclamation mark remains. Dashes replace semi-colons. I remove most adjectives. This book is too good--it makes me wonder where I got the nerve to keep an online journal in the first place (please note all my verbs are henceforth active).
In discussing inclusive language, Zinsser excuses his use of "he" and "his" by saying, "In the places where the male pronoun remains, I felt it was the only clean solution." He then reports on what he calls some "pedants' solutions."
One of their typical candidates is 'thon', a third-person pronoun that applies to either gender and has a handy possessive ('thons') and reflexive ('thonself'). Maybe I don't speak for the average American, but I doubt that thon wants that word in thons language or that thon would use it thonself.
E.D. and I discuss--argue is more apt--inclusive language frequently. He says, "But the male pronoun embraces the female." I say, "That's what Clarence Thomas said to Anita Hill." We've reached a stalemate--E.D. continues to use "he" and "his", while I choose "she/he" and "his/hers". My usage is awkward and his is clean, but sensitivity is often messy.
Use of language is so personal. There are rules to follow, but each writer interpretes the rules differently. When there are two writers in a family--as with us--sparks can fly over significant issues like split infinitives, the use of "I", ending sentences with prepositions, jargon vs. new usage, and punctuation.
But it beats arguing about
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2000
Ruth Ellis died this morning at 6:30 AM. Maybe you've never heard of her. If not, you've missed out on someone special. Ruth, at 101, was the oldest living African-American lesbian--"out" lesbian, that is. When asked when she came out of the closet, she replied, "I never was in one!"
Ruth maintained she was no one special; she just happened to live a long time. But how many women--much less women of color--started their own printing shop in the 1930s? How many women offered the only safe gathering place for gay and lesbian folks in a big city (Detroit) in the 1930s, '40s and '50s? How many women attended their first Michigan Womyn's Music Festival at age 94, a weeklong event that required sleeping in tents? How many 100 year-old women traveled to Provincetown, Muncie, Los Angeles and Chicago, gave talks and interviews, then led the Dykes on Bikes in the San Francisco Pride Parade? How many women born in 1899 still danced the socks off younger folks in 1999? How many women had a documentary movie made about their lives, a film that won awards in Paris, Toronto, Los Angeles, Seattle, Washington DC, San Francisco, New York and Chicago? How many women stood 4'8" and had a smile that reached to the moon? Ms. Ruth, you will be missed!
After hearing about Ruth's death this morning, I drove to the women's shelter in chilly rain this afternoon. At the door, I heard that F. had moved out, M. had moved in, and we had a woman and her 9 year-old son temporarily sleeping in the TV room until they could find another shelter to move into. I got settled in my usual chair at the table--telephone and pager at my elbow. R., one of the guests, came and sat across from me. We talked and sipped the herbal tea she made for us both. I'd forgotten how good a hot cup of tea can taste on a cold rainy day.
B.--the woman looking for a shelter--came into the room to continue her search by phone. After 4 calls, she put her head in her hands and said, "I'm not getting anywhere with this. I don't know what to do." R. said, "Would you like to talk to the homeless resource team that helped me?" B. smiled and nodded her head. R. went upstairs to get the phone number, came back down and made the call. She spoke with the worker who had helped her and asked if she would be willing to help B. Within one hour B. and her son had been picked up and were on their way to another shelter--happily one close to the boy's school.
B. was so grateful to R.--as was I--and even more grateful for something she'd learned about her son in their overnight visit at our shelter. In a voice of wonder, she said, "Yesterday I heard someone playing the piano and thought it was P.K. (a member of the staff), but it wasn't--it was my son. I never knew he could play the piano!" She intends to pursue his interest in music by seeing about lessons and saving to buy a piano once she gets settled. By now he'd come into the room. I asked if he'd play the piano for me too. That boy does have a gift! He improvised 3 pieces with such lyrical, gentle-spirited placement of notes I was reminded of 1980s Windham Hill recordings. I kept thinking I may someday say I knew him when.
My stay was capped off by P.K. making fried green tomatoes just like my mommy used to make. The secret is to dip the sliced tomatoes in stirred raw egg, then in flour seasoned liberally with salt, pepper and paprika. Fry them on both sides in sizzling butter-flavored Crisco oil. When done, pat them dry with paper towels. Sweet stuff!
This was my last day at
the shelter until I get back from San Francisco the end of October.
I'll miss them.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 6, 2000
Today was a perfect trial-run for San Francisco's rainy season--temperatures in the low 50s and high 40s, intermittent rain, breezy conditions. La Lucha and I set out under overcast skies with me wearing a sweater and dress covered by a short purple rain slicker and my red felt hat. Within a half mile, drops began to fall. I stopped, removed my rain poncho from the scooter's backpack, slipped it over my head and continued on my way. I was quite comfortable except for two things--my hands got cold and my feet (in socks and Birkenstock sandals) got wet. I'll add gloves and closed-toe shoes next time, maybe even plastic overshoes for extra protection. Otherwise I feel ready for San Francisco's wet January and February conditions.
Next week at this time I'll be in M.R. and E.S.'s garden cottage apartment in San Francisco's Mission District--my home away from home. I'll be there from October 13-30 so I should have plenty of time to see friends and check out changes in the neighborhood. After 6 months away there are always changes. Actually, I suspect that having La Lucha will be the most significant change I find. She is going to extend my territorial boundaries considerably. I'm already working out non-hilly routes to go where I want to go, such as the Castro, Noe Valley, downtown and the East Bay on BART (the mostly underground rapid transit system that connects the city with Oakland and beyond). It'll be interesting to see how many miles I actually get per charge in hilly San Francisco. E.D. recommends I carry 2 extra batteries on the scooter when riding out there--I'll find out if that is necessary. I see this visit as an excellent opportunity to discover what I'll want to bring when I return for 4 months in January.
Life is definitely going to be different as a scooter person--for one thing, many places I've enjoyed going will no longer be accessible. It's amazing how many San Francisco stores, restaurants and apartments have one or more steps leading up to the front door. Even though the Bay Area has a strong disability activist community, the architecture and geography make it tough to implement ADA laws--many establishments are "grandfathered" in.
There's one more fly in
my San Francisco journey ointment--I'm really going to miss my
sweetie. As a traveler married to a non-traveler, it's not easy
to go off on my own like this. But it seems to be something I
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 7, 2000
Tomorrow E.D. and celebrate our 34th anniversary! Such a l-o-n-g time and so many changes...
How does anyone have the nerve to marry in the first place? E.D. was 36 when we married and I was 24. It was the first marriage for us both. We hardly knew one another, having dated a grand total of 7 months--4 of which we lived in different states. Yet I had a deep knowing that this was the person with whom I could spend the rest of my life. I wonder how I knew that? Because it has certainly proven to be true.
We were quite different persons in our younger years, especially me. I was less a product of the '60s than of the '50s--eager to be considered "good" and "right" even as I imagined myself a non-conformist. Ed was a product of the '40s--conscientious, traditional and gentlemanly. But there was always a wonderful quirkiness to him. From the first moment we met at a common friend's dinner party, we argued ideas and theories--much as we do today. And he always teased me with a twinkle that I have finally learned to see and appreciate (usually).
We wanted children but I never got pregnant. The neighborhood kids became our family. What a grace-filled time were those years in the 1970s and early '80s--chocolate chip oatmeal cookies cooking in the oven, laughter in the living room, card games and ping pong on the porch.
Each of us has become more ourselves as we've aged. E.D.'s journey was like a seamless garment, while mine ran some pretty rocky mid-life rapids. What helped our marriage survive was a mixture of respect, tolerance and a house big enough to take time apart. Though I once considered separation, I soon realized that E.D. and I were too deeply connected for that to be an option. During the months I go out to San Francisco we talk on the phone and email daily. I sometimes think we communicate more when living 1000s of miles apart than when sharing the same home!
I celebrate this man I
married on October 8, 1966, and offer gratitude to whatever forces
of the Universe brought us together. He is the touchstone of my
life and I love him deeply.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 8, 2000
Besides our 34th wedding anniversary today, I celebrate another anniversary tomorrow--it is 2 years since I bought this laptop, my first (and only) computer. For some, the purchase of a computer ranks with buying a microwave or cell phone. It is something they use regularly but don't see as particularly integral to their lives. My computer, on the other hand, is core to who I am and what brings meaning to my life.
I am a communicator. I've used different media over the years--words in print, images in paint and pen-and-ink, 3-dimensional works in mixed media and clay, my voice in speech and song, my body in drama and performance art. All gave me access to a limited number of people; most offered little possibility of dialogue with viewers/readers. The computer erases those limits. Through this web site I connect with persons the world over, even if we do not share a common language (aren't translation programs amazing?). We write back and forth--within seconds--across time zones, continents and vast experiential divides. I can do what I believe I was born to do--live life and share my stories.
I've always felt someday I would publish a book. Yet how could I have imagined my words and images would float in cyberspace rather than be printed on a page?
Ever since I've seriously pursued art and writing, I've been disappointed with the static nature of the finished product. Once the painting was hanging on a gallery wall, or a column was printed in the newspaper, that was it. No opportunity to change or adapt it to reflect my evolving skills and ideas. Of course I could paint another painting or write another column--which I did--but the original work was dead, to my way of thinking. Dead=no longer undergoing change. Not so with web-words and images! Nothing is set in stone. I can change this web site every day--which I do. Now that excites me.
I remember a conversation with a journalist at a bookstore where we both worked in 1995. He said, "You know, Patricia, you would love computers! Why don't you look into buying one?" At that time my only experience with computers was in the bookstore--at the cash-out desk and working in information. I'd never had a mouse in my hand. But, for some reason, I was really resisting this "new" technology. Yes, I wrote with a word processor, but that was as far as I was ready to go.
Then I visited my mother at our childhood home in September 1998. My daunting task was to try to convince her that it was time--past time--for her to move into assisted living. For the past year her living alone had become progressively more dangerous. Frequent falls--and her inability to get up again--were the worst of it. For the better part of a week I batted my head against the brick wall of her resistance.
I returned home exhausted...and changed. Mother's unwillingness to adapt to changing circumstances had pushed a button in me. I finally saw my resistance to computers as a sign of my unwillingness to change with the times. Within two hours of getting off the plane, I'd called and signed up for the last spot in a "Computers Made Simple I" class at our community education center. It was love at first sight.
By my second series of classes, I knew I wanted to put up my own web site. When that series ended, I talked with the instructor about taking Introduction to Windows I. "Don't bother!", he said, "Just keep doing what you're doing. Get a couple of books, but the main thing is to try things out for yourself." I did as he recommended and played on my computer for hours every day. It was no effort--that's all I wanted to do!
With the timely help of computer-savy friends and family members, I designed and put up my web site 6 months after my first computer class. Since then, whenever I've needed information or expertise, someone has been there to offer it--whether a support techie on the phone or a person at my side.
For instance, after almost a year of using AOL's free webhosting service, I bought my own domain name and contracted with an independent web host to put up my site. But--and it was a BIG but--I could not for the life of me figure out how to use the File Protocol Transfer (FTP) software needed to send the files from my computer to the web. At a friend's San Francisco dinner party, I met his new roommate--a web designer by profession. B.T. offered to come to my apartment and show me how to transfer my files...and he would not accept any payment except a shared dinner from my favorite carry-out Indian restaurant. That's what I mean about help appearing when I need it.
By now, my primary work is keeping up this site, especially writing a new journal entry every day. I don't know who sees it or what it means to them, but that's not the point. My part is to send it out and then let it go. Sometimes I hear back from visitors--that is deeply gratifying--but more often I don't.
One of these days I hope
to run into my former co-worker so I can tell him that he knew
me better than I knew myself!
MONDAY, OCTOBER 9, 2000
Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian visitors. May this time of harvest fill you with gratitude for life's abundance--sunrises, autumn leaves, northern breezes, orange pumpkins, fuzzy kittens and friends.
Here in the States it was business as usual. Oh, I guess not as usual for those lucky folks off work to celebrate Columbus's imperialistic explorations of this continent--excuse my minor rant!
For me it was a day of preparations. On Friday I'm off to San Francisco for 2? weeks. Since I'll be staying in the garden apartment I rent from friends, my preparations included reinstalling my phone service--local and long distance--and seeing to arrangements for La Lucha, my scooter. After contacting a number of long distance carriers, I decided to stay with Working Assets. I appreciate their social conscience and competitive rates--besides I like to avoid using large corporations. As to La Lucha, my friend and I have sent a flurry of emails back and forth about my using her enclosed shed as an overnight recharging station. It seems perfect.
I printed 40 new business cards. When traveling, I often invite aquaintances to visit my web site--cards make it easy for them to remember the URL . I also printed the sticky labels--"Lift here", "Do not lift here"--with which I cover my scooter before traveling by air. After my positive experience with Northwest Airlines a couple weeks back, I feel confident things will go well with them again.
On the futon is a pile
of assorted items--San Francisco MUNI and BART maps, my address
book and We'Moon calendar, postcards and stamps, 4 books of paratransit
taxi vouchers, my WoMaMu (Women Making Music) songbook, 3 concert
tickets to see Lou Rawls and Etta James at the SF Jazz Festival,
and my NW airlines E-ticket. I guess one can tell what is most
important by the priority it receives when packing. My clothing
always comes last.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2000
Two more days of autumn--for me, anyway. When I return to Michigan October 30, trees will be mostly bare and unraked leaves, brown. Winter will be nipping at our heels. Yet today, everywhere I look there's color--crimson maples against a crystal-blue sky, golden aspens chattering in the breeze, a crazy quilt of yellow, red, orange and green leaves spread underfoot, deep aqua water playing host to a lone white-sailed boat. My eyes hold fast to these sights as if a hand is poised to yank them away.
My voice lesson today
is wonderful. I discover an open chamber behind my eyes in which
my voice resonates clear and bright. Instead of following the
piano, T.W. encourages me to sing the exercises accapella, following
my own ear. It is the difference between freeform skiing down
a snowy hill and waterskiing behind a boat--I am untethered to
anything outside of myself, yet true to the natural slope of the
sound. What is being educated is my ear, and where my ear
goes, my voice follows, without effort or strength of will. Such
a different instrument than the one I've played most of my life.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 11, 2000
There are special awards for feats of endurance, others for creative inspiration, and still more for inventive genius. What about second grade teachers??
After teaching two classes of 7-year olds in a Detroit school today, I would like to propose a special award for those unsung heroines and heroes--the Exceptional Energy award. After 2 hours with 60 fresh-faced little ones, I crawled home and into bed at 3 PM--and I'm not normally a napping-type person. But fun? You can't beat them for fun.
I was acting in my occasional capacity as a volunteer teacher of a disability awareness program for grades 1 and 2. I love doing it and the kids always respond with enthusiasm and openness. How many adults jump all over each other to be the one chosen to ride in a wheelchair? Wish I thought it was such fun!
Just getting to know some of the kids--like my eighth grade wheelchair and crutches carriers, B. and C.--is a treat. How many opportunities do I have to talk with 13-year old African-American boys about school, their dreams for the future, and what they enjoy doing with their time? I learned B. is a gifted artist who is interested in exploring a career in computers. He recently passed a citywide exam that allows him to choose which high school he wants to attend next year. He told me this school was built in the 1800s. Believe it or not, they have a working elevator that dates back that far! Mr. O, the building custodian, operated it for us to go to the second floor classrooms. B. and C. said the only time kids usually get to ride in it is when they're in trouble and being taken downstairs to the office. Both of them were delighted to be my designated helpers as it got them out of morning math and afternoon home room (literature). Nice kids.
When I'm around this generation
of kids who could be my grandchildren, I long to embrace them
all until they can safely grow up. They are so alive...and so
vulnerable. Choices appear before they're ready to make them.
And things happen to them over which they have no control. The
African saying--"It takes a village to raise a child"--is
too true. And how is our village--in media, advertising
and games--raising our children? Are we really teaching what we
want them to learn? If not, what one thing can each of us--myself
included--do to help create the world this young generation deserves?
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 12, 2000
I wake to the chirping of a bird outside my bedroom window. Gold-tinged leafy trees sparkle in the sun. Even before I leave Michigan for California, I feel nostalgic. Not that I'm complaining about going to San Francisco tomorrow. Hardly. It's just the leafy trees and green grass I want to hold onto. As I've said before, when I return home the end of October, the color green will be in short supply. Even when I get to San Francisco tomorrow, it'll be hard to find much green. This is Northern California's brown season. Until the rains come in January, Golden Gate Park will be the main holder of the color green.
Why do I love that color so much?
It reminds me of summers spent along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. The endless summers of childhood. Green grassy lawn dipping down to two wooden docks--one for crabbing and tying up the rowboats and Dr. T.'s and our waterskiing boats; the other for diving and swimming. Waking to the smell of fresh-mowed grass, with the whole day spread out before me to play, read, swim, explore. The beach's two huge holly trees beside the water--trees we carefully skirted in our bare feet, not always successfully avoiding the prickly leaves that surrounded its base. The heavy-leafed tree that shaded our front porch--the porch where we ate, read, visited and sat every day and night. The wooded land across the water, seemingly unpeopled but actually a YMCA boys' camp. Its sandy beach was perfect for digging clay to make sculptures--that is if we didn't get caught. The "No trespassing" signs made it a wonderfully scary place to explore.
No wonder I love green!
They say each person reflects a particular season--summer must
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 13, 2000
All is well after an extremely full day. I am cosy in my San Francisco garden apartment, listening to classical music on the radio, all unpacked and feeling settled in.
Dear friend P.O. picked me up at the SFO airport. My experience of scooter-handling there was a disappointment. Offering lame excuses, an SFO official said they could not deliver my scooter to the door of the plane--as they are supposed to do and did both in Detroit and at the Baltimore-Washington International airport--while I waited 25 minutes for it to appear from baggage. I made the appropriate complaint to the CRO (Conflict Resolution Officer) and will follow up with a phone call to her manager, as she recommended. All my homework regarding the Air Carriers Act of 1990 paid off.
The city looks beautiful--brown hills, yes, but also the green of cypress, eucalyptus and junipers, and the startling magenta of bougainvillea. We were greeted by my dear friends M.R. and E.S., the creators/owners of this idyllic cottage. And after P.O.'s hard work, the shed is now a perfect garage for La Lucha.
I suddenly felt light-headed from hunger--guess it was 9:30 PM my time--so we walked/scooted 3 blocks to my favorite Vietnamese restaurant where we had a wonderful meal--seafood rolls, papaya and seafood salad, spinach noodles with vegetables and seafood stuffed eggplant. Happily, I was left with a good supply of leftovers--for a non-cook such things are important!
We checked the mileage from the middle of the Castro to my apartment and found it's only 1? miles--the same distance that I regularly scoot to see E.D. at his office and to go to the juice cafe at home. My route is even flat in this city of hills. Not only that, it goes by the Women's Building, the New College and countless coffee houses and restaurants. It's going to be hard to find me home with La Lucha as a companion!
A sweet end to the day was visiting my neighborhood deli/organic grocery store. J. and his brother G. greeted me as they always do--like family. Since I first sublet an apartment in this neighborhood back in 1996, these fellows have been like brothers to me--delivering food (they don't normally deliver), storing things like my wheelchair and shower chair, giving me food (today's gift included a large Odwalla orange juice, homemade hummous, pita bread, baklava, a spinach and a vegetable pie!), and offering any help I need (changing light bulbs--you name it). It's because of them that this is a true neighborhood. I've met more folks in their store--folks I've come to care about, who care about me. We had lots of catching up to do--the biggest news being J.'s engagement to a woman from his home country, Jordan. He joked, saying, "I took a fall and landed on my head!", but I could tell he's pleased.
And now--as my husband
says Samuel Pepys's diary entries always concluded--it's off to
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 14, 2000
Mellow jazz on the radio, a candle burning, balsam incense sending forth a smoky spiral, a good book...the quiet of an evening by myself in San Francisco. I think of my sweetie in Michigan--if I were there tonight we'd likely be in the den watching a video. Our time together means the world to me...yet I also feel grateful to be able to balance it with some time on my own.
In January 1996 I came to San Francisco for my first extended stay--I lived in Emeryville across the Bay Bridge. Since then I've rented apartments in the same neighborhood in San Francisco's Mission district. My stays have been from 10 weeks to 6 months, with 3-4 months my current preference. I've always lived by myself...and television-free, by choice. An important part of my San Francisco time is making a place for quiet. Not that I don't see a lot of friends and get out and about a great deal--I do. But I always come home to a tiny oasis of quiet in the middle of this city's high energy and creative exuberance. It restores me.
Speaking of getting "out and about", La Lucha really took me places today. We scooted a mile along Valencia, a street lined with small businesses, coffee houses, community centers, churches, garages and neighborhood groceries. Very different sights and sounds from my usual mile-long scoot along the lake at home! It was a sunny warm day and everyone and their dogs were out enjoying it. My destination was a cafe across from beautiful green Dolores Park (I was wrong--there's a lot of green in the city, even in October). My friend D.W. and I had a lunch date at 11:30 AM.
As always we picked up as if we'd seen each another last week instead of last April. After a leisurely lunch, we walked/scooted over to the Castro. The boys were out in full force today, muscles showing to advantage in this glorious t-shirt weather. We went to a favorite store where I bought a candle and incense (SF necessities!), and D.W. bought a couple of pendants and books. Then after dropping D.W. off at her house, I stopped at a bicycle store and got a reflective vest for nightime scooter-riding. Anything to help protect myself in this pedestrian-endangered city.
And even though it's only
9 PM, I feel ready for bed. Last night I did not sleep well or
long enough after all the excitement of travelling and settling
in. Tonight I intend to catch up. Tomorrow is a full day!
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2000
Morning fog mists the Marin Headlands and the Golden Gate Bridge. A few boats sail in the bay. A gentle-spirited waitperson takes our order. I devour a bowl of cream of pureed mushroom soup, fresh-squeezed ruby grapefruit juice and raspberry nut bread with whipped cream cheese. My dear friends, M.R. and E.S.--from whom I rent my garden studio apartment in the Mission--treat me to Sunday brunch at Green's Restaurant on the San Francisco bay.
Six women meet in my now-sunny garden to share about travels to Tibet, blissing out at a workshop in Bolinas (CA), a daughter currently in Vietnam to pick up her 4-month old adopted baby, the joys and challenge of a successful counseling practice, letting go of a house that represented a former chapter of life, and a mobility aid named La Lucha.
In my apartment, we take turns sitting in the center of the circle to receive healing. I blow the digjeridoo close to each woman's heart as the others tone with their voices and heal with their hands. We are all healed by our time together.
For the third night in a row I enjoy eating spinach noodles and vegetables, this time adding rainbow trout. My friend, D.W. and I go out to dinner at my neighborhood Vietnamese restaurant. When done, I walk (scoot) her home. Until now, she always walked the five blocks over to my place--this is the first time I've been able to reciprocate.
With my front halogen
light on high, my red rear strobe light blinking and a new orange
and yellow reflective vest over my sweater, I feel comfortable
exploring the city after dark. I scoot to the street on which
I sublet an apartment for two months in spring 1998--it's the
first time I've "walked" it at night since then. I follow
it up to Noe Valley's 24th Street and scoot down this busy stretch
of restaurants, upscale shops, laundromats, bars and hair salons
until I reach Castro. I cross the street, turn around and come
home. People greet me with smiles when they see La Lucha. Am I
always smiling when on her back? Or is it the purple ballons my
neighborhood friend, J., tied on her backpack this morning?
MONDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2000
I heard this twice today, each time accompanied by broad smiles. While scooting around the city, I encountered two sets of friends from the free dinner program where I volunteered last winter. I've been looking forward to being back with my Simply Supper friends the two Wednesdays during this visit. It's hard to care about folks you can't keep up with by email or telephone. Happily, both G. and J. looked well.
I left my apartment this morning at 10:30 AM and didn't return until 4:30 PM! After lunch at the Dolores Park Cafe, my friend K.K. and I walked/scooted up to Market Street, San Francisco's main drag. We stopped in a large art supply store where we both had business--mine was buying paint-markers to decorate La Lucha's new orange flag. I was surprised when a clerk looked at me and said, "I know you--don't you sing with the Lesbain-Gay chorus?" Small town San Francisco!
I continued east toward the center of town, passing folks pushing grocery carts piled high with their belongings, business-types with cell phones applied to their ears, tourists with dazed expressions and maps in hand and a surprising number of disabled brothers and sisters using wheelchairs, walkers, crutches and canes (where are the scooters?). My destination was Powell and Market.
Once there, I called E.D. on my cell phone. He knows Powell and Market because we went there when he visited me a couple years back. He enjoyed the life and energy of the place--street musicians busking for $$, venders selling jewelry and crystals, the cable car turn-around, lines of tourists waiting so they can go home and say, "I rode the cable car to Fisherman's Wharf!", chess games designed to entice betters, and city workers with purposeful strides. It used to be my favorite part of the city, but now I find it rather sad and unreal. If this is all tourists see of San Francisco, they're certainly not experiencing the city I know and love. You have to go into the neighborhoods to find its heart.
After buying disabled BART tickets at Walgreens ($16 worth for $4), I returned to my neighborhood via BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). I'd been anxious to see how my scooter would handle this mode of transportation--I'm happy to report she managed it without a problem. Actually the only difficulty I anticipate with BART this winter is an ongoing elevator-renovation program that means certain stations will be inaccessible for 2 months at a time. Luckily my neighborhood BART station's elevator has already been overhauled.
After disembarking, I started up the street toward my apartment. A man was sitting on his front steps with a green and yellow parrot on his shoulder. I stopped, we got to talking, and Sampson slid down the banister to check me out. Very shortly he decided I was OK and hopped on my arm. We spent a lovely half hour together with him "kissing" my mouth, nibbling my earring, trying to remove my glasses, chortling and generally being a big fat flirt!
I then stopped at my local deli/organic grocery and visited P., one of the brothers who runs it, and J., a fellow who juggles, makes balloon animals, does magic tricks and is a storehouse of interesting information. We ate ice cream cones outside--there are 2 benches, and for me, La Lucha's comfy seat--while J. taught me some elementary music theory. On Saturday he'd told me about the Community Music School, an accessible center within blocks of my apartment where they give concerts and classes. I'd intend to see about taking classes when I return in January.
Once home, I painted my
orange scooter flag with lavender spirals, gold and black amoeba-like
designs and silver stars. All in all, a truly wonderful day.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 17, 2000
It's not only that my Amigo scooter takes me where I want when I want, it's that I can spontaneously take off on my own if I want. The more disabled I became--especially here in San Francisco--the less able I was to follow my free-spirited inclinations. Arrangements needed to be made ahead for transportation, or at the very least, I needed to count the cost to my limited energy reserves of getting from point A to point B. This former spontaneous creature became a serious planner of future events. And my wonderful community of friends graciously saw to it that I had rides whenever I needed them. I am deeply grateful to them for their kindness. But what about my lifelong need to fly off and "do my own thing?" That was among the losses I experienced as a woman with a disability. And now I am back to my original way of being in the world...and it feels fabulous!
Today was a perfect example. My only commitment was a dinner date with D.W. at 5:30 PM, followed by a panel discussion--"Why Vote? Social Change and Election 2000"--at the New College. I sat in my warm sunny garden reading until noon. It was the first time my new neighbor's dog, Bags, let me pet him--he actually became quite friendly, wandering in and out of my cottage and even giving my hand a big lick. I then called E.D. for our daily chat. It was a particularly good conversation. About 2 PM, I took off on La Lucha. Except for a brief stop at Starbucks for a cold brambleberry Tazo tea and cinnamon twist, I was on the road until 5 PM, exploring neighborhoods and streets I'd never seen except by car.
One of the advantages of city scooting is the opportunity to meet and talk with people along the way. As I was scooting down a street today I heard a voice say, "I know you!" It was C. from the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. We sang in the chorus there together. Later in the afternoon I met S., a woman who is currently homeless. I couldn't do much for her except take the time to sit and be with her for awhile. As we sat her story poured out, accompanied by tears of sadness and despair. It was a privileged time for us both. I hope to see her at Simply Supper tomorrow.
As D.W. and I waited on the sidewalk for the restaurant to open, a man came up to me and said, "You look so much like a friend of mine that when I saw you, I double parked to come say hi. Even though I see you aren't who I thought, I still wanted you to know. My friend is very spiritual--not religious, spiritual." My friend D.W. nodded her head and said, "You've got the right woman here." There was such sweetness in the encounter.
Dinner was wonderful and
the panel discussion stimulating. But for me the greatest joy
of the day was again being free to be truly myself. Muchos gratias,
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2000
The day starts at 11 AM in my sunny garden with a visit from H.G., a sister-singer I first met at WoMaMu, the music camp I'll attend again this weekend. We share stories of the six months since we were last together, she sings two beautiful songs she's recently composed, we walk/scoot to a local Mexican restaurant for lunch (grilled vegie burritos), and return to the garden where I give her a digjeridoo healing. After saying good bye at 2:30 PM, I lie down for a short rest.
An hour later, S.W. picks me up to go help out at Simply Supper. It is such a gift to see M., drunk as usual, but alive and seemingly well. When I was last here in April, she had just come out of an 11-day coma after being hit by a truck. Her partner, A., was distressed because he was only allowed to visit her briefly once a day in Intensive Care. We did not know if she'd survive. Yet here she is today, much as I remember her before the accident. And there's G., grinning and saying, "Hey, here she is! I visit your site every so often to see what's going on. That's great about your scooter!"
After four warm days and nights, San Francisco finally does what it does best--fog! On our way to Simply Supper we see sheets of thick gray gauze rolling down off Twin Peaks. By 6 PM, it's hard to see two blocks ahead. But it doesn't stop S.W. and me from going out to dinner at a favorite Korean restaurant in Noe Valley. Once there, I see the smiling face of L.R., a friend from the Lesbian-Gay Chorus of SF. "You're back?", she asks and invites us to join her and her friend S. at their table.
After dinner, S.W. comes back to my cottage where I make cups of hot herbal tea to warm this chilly night. By 9 PM, it's time for Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz program on NPR (National Public Radio)--a Wednesday night SF tradition with me. As always, I light a candle and incense, sit happily by myself in my darkened cottage and listen with total attention.
How strange it is to pick
up the strands of my San Francisco life after a six month absence
and feel like no more than a week or two has passed.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2000
Remember the song that began, "Dream the impossible dream..." from the musical, Man Of La Mancha? I feel I'm living in the middle of that song these days.
Ever since I first came to San Francisco, I've been enthralled with the parade of walkers, runners, bikers, roller bladers making their way through Golden Gate Park. I would try to imagine what it must feel like to be out there among them. I've enjoyed the park in many other ways--on countless drives from my neighborhood to the ocean, on picnics by Stowe Lake with friends, going to the Japanese Tea Garden by myself back when I used a cane, sitting on a bench watching folks do tai chi outside the museums in the music pavilion, being pushed by a friend in my wheelchair through the Botanical Gardens/Arboretum, riding with Detroiters P.K. and E.K. in the back of a rented side-by-side (plus passenger) bicycle, even paddling a rental boat around Stowe Lake on one of E.D.'s visits to the city. But I'd never even considered the possiblity of getting around the park on my own. That was an impossible dream.
But today La Lucha created a new reality! With the help of my friend, K.S.--who graciously disassembled/assembled and transported my scooter in his car--I explored a paved path around a small lake, trails beside the golf course, and roads to and from the ocean. We saw bushy-tailed grey squirrels, a white egret, ducks, hidden wildflower gardens, massive-trunked euchalyptus trees, twisted cypress and junipers, one white calla lily and bushes so colorful they set off vibrations.
We ate our picnic lunch on the promenade beside the ocean. The day was thick with fog--making the surf more ominous-looking than usual--but that did not deter San Franciscans from walking and jogging on wet sands by the water, and surfers from being out there waiting for the perfect wave.
Is there nothing
this scooter cannot do? Well, maybe walking on the beach might
be beyond her, but I can live with that. After all, I have
now been through the park under my own power.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2000
In an hour my friend K.C. will pick me up and we'll travel about 1? hours northeast into the California wine country and a weekend of music. This is my 5th WoMaMu, a music camp for women started over 10 years ago by Judy Fjell, singer/songwriter/social activist/music empowerer. It is held in October and April at a retreat center on a hill overlooking vineyards with mountains in the distance. Quite an idyllic spot. But for me the main beauty is in the women and the music we make together--with sound and spirit. By now there is a WoMaMu (Women Making Music) community that looks forward to reconnecting twice a year and welcoming new sisters to join the fun. Because WoMaMu is all about fun! Yes, the water energy of tears often blesses us as we claim our voices and musical gifts, but they are usually tears of release rather than sadness. It's amazing how song cuts through our defenses and "heady" way of being in the world--it touches our core, essence, soul...however you call that which is most totally ourselves. Especially as we are within a circle of women, it becomes safe to let down barriers and explore uncharted territory. I always learn something new about myself, other people and the world during these weekends, something surprising in its simplicity.
So I will return to this
journal on Monday, October 23 eager to share some word "snapshots"
of the weekend. May your own weekend be full of joyful learnings!
MONDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2000
Seventy women make music
together atop a California hill.
This long October weekend spreads
before us like a patchwork
quilt. The sun shines. Winds
blow. Golden russet vineyards gleam
in the valley below.
Morning mist defines ridges
the distance. Brown clouds crown
mountaintops at dusk--forest fires
sending smoke signals to the
unaware. Nightime stars dazzle
city dwellers, painting constellations
unseen till now.
Friends embrace. New lovers
share looks and sighs. Old
partners speak in wordless
smiles. Former partners stand
apart, severed strands lying
limp at their feet. Aspiring
jugglers try to keep more than
one ball in the air at a
time. New campers look for
someone to tell them the words to
this song called WoMaMu.
Laughter, tears, hurt,
Some feel lost; others, found.
Guitars are tuned. Accordians
strapped onto unsuspecting
backs. Mexican songs tell tales
of passion and pain. Theater
improv unearths surprising
stars. Blue notes bend as
harmonicas wrap themselves
around original songs. Talents
are shared and hidden. Healings
occur in circles and on unmarked
paths--wherever women come
together or dance alone. Chapel
regains a sense of the sacred.
I enter a familiar and
stranger...to feelings within
myself. From one who comes to
life in the center of women's
circles, I move to the edge by
choice. Time alone--or in conversation
with one sister at a time--replaces my
former need to be in the middle of
the pack. Relational air often feels
too dense for me to breathe.
La Lucha invites me to
sit on her
back enjoying the refound wonder of
time alone in nature. The birds' song
becomes my own. Cow dung, such sweet
perfume. Sun on the back of my neck
as tender as my sweet one's hand. Stars
spark memories of riding the Milky Way
as a child. I applaud the cicadas' rousing
rendition of their signature tune,
"We Are the Night".
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2000
Every time I break down another barrier with the help of my scooter La Lucha, I feel empowered and free. Today it was taking the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) to the East Bay and back again. I was to meet a friend, M.R., at Oakland's McArthur BART station at 5:30 PM, have dinner at a local restaurant, go see her apartment in Berkeley, then return home by BART. She's lived there for two years and has tried innumerable times to get me over to visit her "nest", as she calls it. Using windchime walker, the effort required always put me off. I've not been comfortable taking BART on my own to the East Bay since 1998. Even though my apartment is only three blocks--long blocks--to a BART station, that distance was more than I could walk. Taking a cab to the station was possible but not something I liked to do. So I usually asked East Bay friends to come into the city and visit me, which they graciously did. But no longer will I need to ask such favors! After today I am happy to make the trip to visit them.
Luckily I allowed plenty of time going over there today. As it happened, the McArthur station elevator from the platform to the street did not respond when I pressed the call button. After five minutes, I pushed the "agent call" button. Nothing. So I took out my cell phone and called the paratransit number posted to call in case of problems. No, she had no way to contact the station agent. "You'll need to call non-emergency 911." That seemed a bit much to me. When the next train pulled up, I asked the conductor to please contact the agent for me. He said he would. Within a few minutes, I pushed the elevator call button again and heard the taped voice saying, "Elevator coming!" A bicycle rider I met at the street level said this elevator was often slow, but to just keep pushing the button. I spoke with the agent and she said she'd not heard the call button sound at all. "So what should I do if this happens again? Is there another way to reach you?" "Yes", she said,"just pick up one of the white courtesy phones on the platform level--it's connected directly to my booth." Learnings all...
Dinner was delicious. We ate at a small crowded Indian restaurant in Berkeley, and by chance both of us ran into friends. Mine was a woman I'd gotten to know this August at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival--a friend of a friend from Oakland. She was with a woman whom M.R. had worked with over 12 years ago when they were both skilled craftswomen in the construction business. Another San Francisco "small world" moment.
M.R.'s nest felt very familiar to me. In the winter of 1997, I'd sublet her apartment in Noe Valley, so her furniture and pictures were things I'd lived with for two months...and had loved. I still do.
About 8:30 PM she took me back to the McArthur BART station, removed La Lucha's five pieces from her car, easily assembled them, and sent me on my way home. Everything went smoothly. In fact I walked into my cottage at 9:40 PM, only 45 minutes after I'd gotten on the train in Oakland.
This will open new worlds
for me when I return to San Francisco for the winter. Jazz at
Yoshi's in Oakland, folk music at Berkeley's Freight and Salvage
(where I used to work), the Cal Performance series at UC Berkeley
campus, exhibits at the Oakland Museum...all on my own if I so
desire. I do love being independent again!
©2000 Patricia Lay-Dorsey.
Please use with attribution.