Thursday, December 31, 2009

Peace Comes Falling Slow

The familiar strange quietude descended on Berkeley as soon as the students decamp for elsewhere.

Today the poignant skies are calling me--solid violet-gray to the north, the evocative light of broken Southern skies. Trees reveal their skeletal complexity, the beauty of organic design. I sit and savor a particular art nouveau tree, a favorite roost of the now-abundant crows. It's behind a stop-light and it goes largely unnoticed by the heedless traffic.
In Peoples Park people sleep in broad daylight, covers pulled over their eyes. Damp ground perhaps but the absence of rain keeps them from more dire straits.
I move along to Willard Park and rest on a bench where a fellow slightly older than myself plays airs from an old Joni Mitchell song quietly on his acoustic guitar. we talk and soon learn we have Massachusetts roots in common, going back to Canada as well.
The Beat generation comes up and he turns out to be a fellow child of beatitude. He mentions a film on a Beat poet he'd recently seen. How he shared the philosophy of his poem he half recalls. I paraphrase it for him: all that matters is to do the work, to lessen suffering, the rest is drunken dumb-show.
He tells me he is living in his car again. He had been taking care of a disable person in Marin but had to quit due to the person's crazy roommate.
I clue him into the network of free meals available to the needy hereabouts.
Off we go, I'm bound for a hospital visit but somehow don't find my friend Faye who has respiratory difficulties. En route I sent off a flock of cards to my late-arriving Christmas correspondents. Afterward, I join the avid consumers at the natural foods supermarket, I'm one of the more careful, frugal ones as I observe conspicuous purchases of all the delights available by those heading for New Year's celebrations. I'm headed there too in my own discrete way.
But I can't help but notice those souls whiling away the afternoon at bus stops and innocuous perches along the way. One bearded young fellow with soulful eyes lingers in my mind.
May God bless us all. May peace and the other necessities of life remain in reach for us all.

An oddly moving documentary on the band Flaming Lips, "Fearless Freaks," ends with a outtake/deleted scene of a new Year's Eve countdown. It leads to a version of "Seven nation Army" by the Lips combined with the White Stripes. Just as it finishes the bells of the campanile begin to strike new Year's midnight. They never toll ordinary midnight.
So I dress and go outside with a mug of Raven's eye organic imperial stout (an Xmas gift from Joe). I have time to prop open the outside door and step out just as last bells are tolled. They continue on in a carillon concert commencing naturally with "Auld Lang Syne."
Another nearby church begins striking midnight as the carillon chimes on and widespread firecrackers and gunshots volley into the distance for a half an hour. Signs of life erupt all over the otherwise ghostly town.
Earlier I'd eaten half of a cannabis caramel, and as twelve neared I refreshed with a few puffs and more stout. I would describe my state of being as a perfect buzz, far from over-indulgenge, as the year ran out. Overhead the about full moon is evanescent in the racing high clouds of a warmer air mass. In a clear view of San Francisco I can see the fireworks off of the Embarcadero. Red and blue predominate in the pyrotechnical blooms. helicopters can be seen flying above them, filming no doubt.
It is really a joyful moment so often scarce in these days of plentiful woe.
Just then a romp of slightly intoxicated chines student girls comes out into the backyard next door. "The full moon, the full moon..." they enthuse. We are invisible to each other behind the intervening avocado tree. They giggle awhile then go back inside.
I head back into my fleeting house myself. There follows a light midnight meal and yet another film-- undersea and outer space with Werner Herzog. The film unspools, the DVD spins, and the stars revolve into the as yet unknown.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Feverish Dreams of November

In which the Flaneur opens his unconscious toy-chest for the exploration of the over-soul.



Amid a tide of challenge and loss, there occurred to me this month not the least of them--a bout with the swine flu. I remained active despite a Dante-like tour of successive ailments and one of the side-effects was that I began to experience and remember lucid dreams. Here are a few I wrote down.




Dream #1
A group of ape-men ranging a a hillside with dim sunlight. They become confused, fearful and angry when Jesus of Nazareth walks nearby. One gets agitated enough to attempt to bite the arm of Jesus. But he is either impenetrable like superman or he is incorporeal as the Risen Christ. The ape-man is unable to sink his teeth in our Savior's arm, instantaneously my arm.


Commentary: This dream may show an over-active self-association with Jesus. I never see his face and he goes from observed to observer. This dream may be related to a recent nightmarish encounter with some ant-abortion extremists on the University campus. The lesson of this parable is that even if one attempts to conduct oneself in a saintly manner there are bestial individuals who may still attack.


Dream #2
Returning from the Elmwood neighborhood along Benvenue avenue. Families coming home are on the sidewalks. Dusk is descending.
Then I am on the far side of Oakland crossing from the east past lake Merritt toward downtown. As i walk I realize that I am wearing women's clothing--even low-healed light brown pumps. It dawns on me that my route will take me past tough guys loitering on International boulevard. dressed as I am in drag. But they don't notice me among the many the crowd walking in the same direction. The sidewalk takes a diversion toward the entrance to a tunnel.

Commentary: I have never worn, nor do I ever wish to wear women's clothes. I had watched Kubrick's film "A Clockwork Orange" the previous night with similar tunnels and similar urban dysphoria and threats of gender-related violence.

Dream #3
Speeding downhill toward the East bay from mountains and foothills. The driver is a wild young man, possibly irresponsible. Trees whip past close to my open window.
At a gallery behind Zellerbach auditorium--an art exhibit, objects set up on a hardwood floor. There is a large tableaux of little men and other toys set up on the floor. But most notable is an animatronic pig the grey white color of computer terminals. It is free-standing on pointy hooves and it is giving a talk whether anyone listens or not. It is like a cartoon that has entered actuality but at the same time very palpable and "real."
As I walk past it the pig is saying, "...whether or not the CIA released this information intentionally, we can never know for certain..." is apparently a conspiracy theorist.

Dream #4
I'm giving a lecture on Edgar Poe. It seems to be taking place in the same gallery as the previous art exhibit. A silent attentive class takes notes. Then I conclude and make ready to go. At this point I notice many in the class were wearing headphones and watching a screen to my right, the notes that they were writing were based on that. Of those who did listen to me none respond to me or indicate whether they appreciated what I said or not. When I look toward someone I was thinking was an old friend--I see it was merely someone who looked like him.


Commentary: Reflects perhaps my unease as a write and artist about a diffuse and unresponsive on-line audience and on friends one rarely sees.

Dream #5

I arrive early for a stage performance that I am to take part in. Nevertheless I am asked to pay the fifteen-dollar admission. I resist but they insist so I do. The impresario of the event is Joseph Spencer, aloof and authoritarian. Then I am naked and as the show begins i am informed by him that there won't be time to include me in the show. I get very steamed especially in light of having paid admission to get in. As I rant I try to get dressed. As I begin to don my boxer shorts, I notice that I have a worn and torn pair. I try to put them on without anyone noticing. But, as is human nature, everyone sneaks a peak when someone is putting on underclothes.

Commentary: The emotions involved and the circumstances of this dream make it apparent that it relates to an Over the Edge radio program I was part of last August. I lost my temper as it was beginning, due to unrelated reasons. Joseph is clearly a stand-in for Don Joyce whose program it is.

Dream #6

A horizontal commode--the kind of toilet you see in modern buildings. It juts straight out from the wall. Marie the cat slowly lowers herself into the basin, submerging even her head (which cats are extremely loathe to do). She settles down to the bottom of the basin and remains there sphinx-like while I grow increasingly alarmed by this. She is apparently holding her breath, at least she is not drowning. After a few long seconds I know I must reach in and pick her up. This I proceed to do and I notice that the water is quite yellow.

Commentary: While taking care of this my neighbor's cat I would occasionally see her poised on the toilet seat and leaning in to have a drink. This behavior alarmed me and I discouraged it. Marie recently moved away with her owner.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Passing Parade

How I love to sit inconspicuously in a public place and observe people passing by, especially children and young people...

Today I slipped out into the cool sunshine in the late afternoon around 4:30. I looked for a likely perch where the sunshine was still present and decided on one of the new metal benches on the corner of Telegraph Avenue and Durant. Telegraph Avenue on Saturdays is as it has long been, a magnet for young folks for miles around who mingle with the University students situated throughout the South side of campus. It's not the Mecca it once was, but a few of the over-size record stores survived the down turn in that business and they still attract the kids as do the clothes stores and the other life-style suppliers.
I see deeply into people even at a glance. I have always had the knack and it has only deepened with the passing years. Given a mild cannabis cookie as I was today, this pass-time can be utterly fascinating for me. It has been said that the charm of young people is that they smile even when there is no particular reason to smile. It's their default mode as it were. Particularly when they are walking around a busy youth scene and styling the current look.
They make me smile and they see me smiling and smile back. It is a heart-sustaining loop for a loner like the Flaneur. Oh, of course some are sad. These I look at with acceptance and, dare I say, love too. Most dazzling are the little kids, their eyes so brilliant and content. And sometime they are too tired and want to go home, and that's adorable as well.
I enjoy noting the outfits people wear--young and wanting to be sexy and au courant. No matter that many of the styles are laughably ungainly--like the ones who try to get the new tight jeans to hang low on the derriere like the fading baggy hip-hop look. Rebellion is no doubt served as their parents try to get them to listen to reason and "dress nice."

The population of genuine street people has diminished these days. These are full-time denizens, usually distinctive as such in some way, not the younger summer run-aways. The reasons are many and of course an civic effort persists to run them off. One guy goes by with gray beard, thermal leggings and a skirt or dress flapping. This clearly a genre and one I don't fully understand. I have heard of radical fairies bearded old hippies who cross dress somewhat theatrically but this guy seems more understated and survival oriented-- not a show-off but someone who wants to set himself off from the squares right away. He looked lonesome. Then the loneliest loony in town bounded past my green metal vantage point. He is quite tall with a wild shock of dark hair, with sun-worn skin. He always wears a sport coat and, under his high-water fitting pants, he has his long feet jammed into too small shoes. Today the shoes achieve his absurd extreme. They are open-back sneakers meant for a small child that cover a small part of his foot. He races all over town and the shoes stay on by his momentum. With his craggy profile he resembles Disney's animated Ichabod Crane gone to advanced seed. His eyes are frantic and haunted but his activity seems to keep him preoccupied, to shield him from the fear that may catch up if he ever stopped to rest. May God have mercy on him.

I note that the new Asian majority has its own idiosyncrasies of attire. Whereas I often spot girls who are somewhat obvious in their intent to bring the sexy, the Asian girls occasionally go way over the top. I don't mean the girl with a sweep of thick hennaed hair, T-shirt torn to hang off her shoulder, hot pants, and fetish-evoking tapered wooded platform high-heels with hobnails so much as some of the really nutty stuff. Two girls bounce past in tiny flouncy skirts, lace leggings, silver high heels and scores of other tarty tat, the kind you see on manikins in store windows in seedy urban ethnic shopping districts.
I wonder if they spotted the stylish turquoise leg-warmers worn by the homeless black lady asleep on the bench I'm sharing as they skirt by her shopping cart. I was chuckling as they went and I noticed that a guy on the next bench was watching them and chuckling too.
A wholly different type of Asian went by in a flock wearing some distinctly codified out-landish gear. Several have big yarn-like wigs of pastel pig-tails. They resembled the die-hard trendies one sees in photographs of the Ginzu district in Tokyo.
A cafe-au-lait rasta with four-foot dreads put up cards for capoeira. People with clipboards asked for signatures. I conceal myself behind my ear-plugs. People came and went from the ATM windows of credit doom. And I very rarely recognized a soul even after thirty years in this town. Where does everyone go? Elsewhere, I suppose.

A chilly fog sent tendrils in this direction. As the sun faded my observation point got a little tiresome and I must push off. I bless all I see the young and old, rich and poor, disabled and able-bodied alike. May they all be given friendship and sustenance, and myself as well. And as the poet Bob Kaufman once wrote, let us give places to the homeless and kindness to the forlorn.
Amen.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Scary Monsters

In which the Flaneur examines two recent stories in the news that extend close to home...

In a town in New Jersey, a police officer, a young woman, approached an unfashionably dressed individual who was walking in the rain. He wore a raincoat with his hood up and black sweat pants tucked into rubber boots.
Someone had phoned in suspicions about an individual who seemed to be prowling. He had entered the yard of a house-for-sale and looked in its window. The man who turned out to be sixty-eight years of age was asked for his name and identification.
He lacked an ID but he gave his name as Bob Dylan. The police officer later said that she had heard of this well-known name. Although she was not particularly familiar with what he looked like, she was pretty sure that this weather-beaten fellow was not him. She assumed that he was playing cute or was delusional, or both.
He told her he was in the area to play a concert. He said he was just walking around. This neighborhood was where Bruce Springsteen had been living when he wrote his first two albums of songs. It is not known whether he offered this as an explanation at the time.
The officer disregarded his claims and demanded that the police accompany him back to the concert venue where his identification would have to be produced.
This was done with no objection from the rainy night-walker. Back in his own environment Bob Dylan's passport was shown to them. The police accepted that they had been told the truth and departed. Mr. Dylan said he harbored no resentment over the incident.
He apparently had been making an effort during his down-time while touring, to visit the homes of fellow song-writers he admired. He had gone to see the childhood home of Neil Young in Ontario. In Liverpool he had joined a regular tour bus group to visit the old home of John Lennon.
Perhaps this supplies evidence of Mr Dylan's eccentricity. Some people enjoy having their smug assumptions confirmed. The sight of celebrities who have lost it is very popular--look no further than the hilarity surrounding celebrity mug-shots. Just think, there was nearly a new one of Bob Dylan. Everyone looks like such a loser in a mug-shot.
To me it says more about the bizarre conditions prevalent today in these united police states. Cops think their primary duty is to menace anyone who looks poor or alone in the world. To subject them to floating check-points, to make them feel unwelcome wherever they are, and to prevent them from finding peace and rest. Most of all to target those who complain, who don't have their ID, who exhibit any contempt for these bullies in their squad cars, those who don't bow down to "His majesty, the Policeman."

Berkeley likes to think it is different from the other more intolerant reaches of the country. That's why the slippery eel of a mayor and his cohort piped-up loudly when a study identified Berkeley as one of the ten meanest cities to the homeless. He actually defended laws targeting the homeless by unintentionally paraphrasing the old French tongue-in-cheek canard. The one that says that the State in its justice enforces the law against sleeping under bridges equally to both the rich and the poor. Meanwhile you see multiple police cars roll up to disgorge burly cops scowling at one malnourished guy sitting on a sidewalk.
On campus, they have a plaque commemorating the Free Speech Movement, but there's scant free speech these days. If you attempt to voice anything anti-establishment you will be observed by agents and cops who will slyly videotape you for future use. That is unless you are at an "Israel wants Peace" table or at a demonstration demanding regime change in Iran. If you want to demonstrate against, oh say, John Yoo's presence on campus you will be strictly monitored and regulated. And videotaped.

But cranks and crack-pots continue to turn out on Sproul plaza nevertheless. Most are paranoid enough to assume that they already are under constant surveillance anyway. I live nearby and I walk there often so I sometimes see them, and on occasion I encounter them.
So it was on a recent Summer afternoon.

I recall the cartoons of Basil Wolverton in the old Mad magazine. He specialized in drawing portraits of the ugliest gals and goofiest guys in minutely cross-hatched pen and ink. He was really a modern master of the Boschean grotesque.*
On one late afternoon as I crossed busy Sproul plaza, an individual walked toward me extending some printed matter. If Basil Wolverton was given an assignment to render his most devastating portrait of a "super-creep," it could easily look precisely like this creature.
He approached under a shadow of his own malodorous tidings, staring with a needy, beseeching look as if at a target, as if at prey. He rapidly tried to get me to take a copy his screed. I gave him my Irish cop look, fixing him in a scrutinizing glare. "What the hell do you think you are doing here?" read my unmistakable thought balloon as I ignored his gesture.
I was stirred to smite this demonic thing, like any saintly knight would do.
He pivoted away after another easier-going passerby. I watched him a little then went on in my intended direction, disturbed to a real but fading degree.

Was it two weeks later in August when word that a girl taken eighteen years ago had been recovered in the hands of her kidnapper? She had borne him two daughters while confined to a semi-concealed backyard compound in Antioch, California. Not far away.
Another cruel story of the bizarre that at least resulted in continued life and in triage for the years of psychological trauma. Yet as the story unfolded, how utterly bizarre it evidently all was. Subject to grandiose delusions, the perpetrator, Philip Garrido, was a cut-and-dried sexual criminal of long-standing well-known to the authorities. The police and probation officers had visited his home while on-duty a number of times. Yet somehow they never had been troubled to actually look around to the back of the house. To the squalid shacks and tents where the girl lived with her two daughters by the lord of the manner.
"Repeat sex-offender with a secret backyard compound, that sort of thing doesn't interest us."
The police were informed by a neighbor of his that a "psychotic with sexual addictions" lived there and had children living in tents. Even then he received only a front-door courtesy call concerning laws about inadequate housing.

Then lo and behold! The on-line version of the old Oakland-based local news ran the in-court photographs of this maestro of hill-billy grand guignol. That skull the way the upper-jaw looks balanced on a severed spine and then reanimated. That protuberant artery snaking down his temple...
Then the camera caught his eyes! It was the demoniac from Sproul!
"Phil the Creep" as he was known to his neighborhood kids. He'd been nabbed when he showed up to ask the UC cops for a permit to hold a religious recruitment event. He had apparently arrived with two little blonde home-schooled stepford children. Obviously unstable, he nonetheless agreed to come to another meeting. In the meantime they at last connected his horrendous record as a sex-offender to the reality of his current daily routine life. The next time he came in he brought his "older daughter" along too. She was in fact the twenty-nine year old mother of the two young girls. She had taken by him outside of her home near Lake Tahoe, on her way to school when she herself was an eleven-year old girl.
The children are said to have cried when they learned Garrido had been arrested.

A miscreant named Carpenter who they called the Trailside Killer, made taunting phone calls from a Telegraph avenue public phone. The Unabomber once lived on a nearby street behind the supermarket. And of course the infamous Charles Manson visited Telegraph avenue in its hey day. They all seem to come here and sometimes you pass them on the street. You are usually unaware of it when it happens. Or perhaps you may be momentarily put on guard as instinct tells you that you are in the presence of one who has given himself or herself over to evil.



*Wolverton's work evolved into a visceral, Hans Bellmer-like pop surrealism with figures said to look like atomic radiation casualties. He prefigured Zap comics in going over the top whenever possible.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

15 haiku poems Summer 2009

The Flaneur returns to his seemingly inexhaustible trove of three line poems of enigma and epiphany, of mystery and mirth.




...






Crow in a furrow
on the vacant playing field
a drink and a bath






Three police squad cars
with elaborate roof lights
on prowl for lodgers






Little cautious cat
hides on the vacant plaza
vague lightning tonight






A place in the grass
long shadows move up the hill
bells fall through the trees







That yellow hornet
looks like a catamaran
resting on water






Kites swim in place
a helicopter tours the coast
the climax species






The bottle-picker
rattles his carriage under
a pendulous moon






Angelic sunset
all those violet wings
outlined in gold






In the vast twilight
a hawk drops from a high rise
summer remains cool






The eucalyptus
at the edge of the graveyard
are like old white bones






A hummingbird drinks
from the morning glory gate
on my way outdoors






Out over the Bay
ships sit on the horizon
the terns parliament






The students moved on
left this victory garden
green onions won't wait






Geologic clouds
one stratum across the sky
jewel-bird on a wire






Over the golf course
comes a far cry from Saturn
an erratic bat





...

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Scanned Cat, a Postscript

The Flaneur concludes the science-fiction tale he began in the earlier blog entitled, "The Shiver of Original Sin." In a pulsing saga ripped from today's headlines, he survived storms of radioactivity to allow his heart to be imagined in a kind of virtual reality. In this concluding chapter he lives to see the actual virtual artifact itself.

After I was lowered from the particle laboratory again, I left without an appointment for a follow-up. When I called Cardiology the next week, they spent a good many of my phone minutes before telling me to call the general appointment number. This led to ten minutes in voice-mail limbo and a hang-up before my phone service cut-out.
So when I saw my regular doctor and she heard my dilemma, she gave me an office with it's own outside line where I could call and wait as long as it took to follow through. When the hospital appointment operator suggested a late October date, I was mildly astonished.
The CAT scan had been such a radical experience for me that to be kept so long in suspense afterward was comparable to going to the moon and being asked to wait four months to see the film clip.
The operator sensed that I sounded less like the average county hospital patient and more like staff. She switched me over to cardiology again. There followed a strange moment with the nurse saying that there was no record I had received any treatment at radiology. Again one pleads nolo contendere in such matters. One can't speak about what the records say with any authority, but one maintains one's belief in something one really thinks did take place.
She suggested that they call me back. I told her to take her time, that I was at my primary care clinic. This seems to do the trick quite well as the actual cardiologist called back. He is a big beaming avuncular fellow, German maybe Jewish, in his sixties. I certainly didn't expect himself to call.
"Your arteries are fantastic!" he declared, "really in fantastic shape." It was delightful to hear this. We talked good-naturedly a moment then he suggested I come to see him in one week for the follow-up.

I finally decided to reach the hospital by taking BART to Lake Merritt where a free shuttle zips you up the hill. Even with a walk downtown to BART station it was really quick for a change after all my previous trips by bus. An afternoon appointment, despite the glacial slowness of the wait, meant I could just mosey-in--no early-hour stress. In the waiting room, my earplugs in place, I finished an Elmore Leonard novel that I found on campus. It was the source material for a Tarantino film and many of my present company looked like they might have stepped out of it.
Then at last my name was called. I went from the crowded room into the sparsely populated precincts to wait on in quietude. A preliminary interview with a different doctor awaited me, this time an Indian lady. They take their time with you here and I had never been more thoroughly listened to via stethoscope. Talking about myself I eventually mentioned that my elderly mother passed away this year. In our reverie on mothers, I wondered rhetorically if anyone else on earth would ever really care about me. She agreed and said even though she was married and had family she sometimes asked herself the same question. It was the human condition we concluded.
This visit I was better prepared for the moment when the patriarch himself arrived. Last time I was spaced from a long wait and a lack of refreshment. So this time I jotted-down notes ahead of time and I ate a banana at the last moment.
He immediately announced that there was nothing physically wrong with my heart, that you could drive a truck through, that you could sail a boat through my arteries. There were no signs of disease present or prior. No tobacco, very moderate drinking, exercise, and a low-salt, low-fat diet--there's no secret to it. He said I have a large and slow heart, which is good. The old notion is still true--that we are only given so many heart beats in a lifetime.
"Like a humming-bird," I riffed. I also mentioned that I'm a Leo and known to be big-hearted. General amusement at this--the first doctor hangs-out for the chat with the big doc. I ran through my questions then I finished with, "Can I see the CAT scan?"
Well, it isn't the policy...
I said that was alright, I had just thought maybe he could twiddle a few keys and it would come-up on the computer screen next to us. And what do you know? He agreed. After expressing regrets that this station didn't have all the colors of own set-up, he brought up the screens. And there was my big art pay-off.
At first the image was of my ribs swathed in red-purple muscle. "That's my breastplate," said I. "Hang on a minute," quoth the snowy-haired physician.
Then he clicked on the "remove bone" option, and the naked, sacred heart itself is revealed. The colors are all deep, intense and jewel-like. There indeed were my fantastic arteries looking like massive rivers seen from space. Then, mind-blowingly, he turned my heart in virtual space. Like a magnifying satellite we sail around the south pole of my heart and note more of my arterial splendor. I feel like I am in some meta-world sitting in front of a visionary simulacrum of my heart and mind. Both of which are encompassed by my soul which itself emanates from a universe of love.

"OK, I'm going to restore your bone. Do you want you bone back?"
"I still have to get home."

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Climax Mime Troupe

Berkeley lends itself to advanced people-watching on yet another mild summer afternoon. The San Francisco Mime Troupe is in Ho Chi Minh park which is now renamed Willard park after someone no one remembers. The Flaneur is there providing his eyes to a readership worldwide.

After 1 this afternoon. Wasn't there a reason to get up? The day's vague plan materialized in front of me like the room I left last night to venture off in the dream time. Just time for a bagel with almond butter and a coffee before I dash off outdoors. I'm bound for the park where today the SF Mime Troupe is putting on its yearly free show in the parks, this one entitled "Too Big to Fail." You wouldn't call it agit-prop any more. In these days of melting glaciers and an even slower thaw from Dark Side of the previous eight years--more like liberal persuasion.

Have you wondered why the investment banker crooks are getting all the money with no comprehensive work programs in sight and only a watery health bill coming down the pike? Have you asked yourself why the president doesn't want to hear about the serious crimes recently and still committed by this nation, why Cheney is still affecting US foreign policy instead of being on his way to prison, and why the corporate media continues to manufacture consent and suppress dissent?
Why is all the self-righteous anger still only on the right? The right never compromises; liberals always do.

Anyway, back to the pleasant afternoon.
Or first to last evening and my first encounter with the troupe this year. For whatever reason they didn't schedule the usual two afternoon shows at 2 PM that they always do. They were doing a Friday evening performance instead. So I was pleasurably surprised when I stumbled on the scene on the way to my post office box in the Elmwood. I was enjoyably entertained during my customary rest stop at a Willard park bench. There was the stage and there was a rehearsal with the live band. The stage is not a transformer this year but it's nevertheless a charming representation of a village presumably in North Africa. I watched for a while as a few early birds took up positions in front of the stage. To the south two young women and a guy were in a circle doing yoga asanas in the grass.
Beyond them was a more hyper-active zone where dozens of little kids were playing games. They were all running around like frolicsome gazelles amid day-glow traffic cones. I love to see them and I certainly wish them well but the situation does claim a large portion of the park for a day-care operation. This is on top of the generous fenced-off playground by the tennis-courts. It seems to me that a more suitable place with a schoolyard of it's own is located nearby right behind the Willard school. But again oddly the city seems to have leased that out to a Chinese Christian group. At the same time, yahoos play over-aggressive sports and the area of the park open to any peaceful use continues to shrink. This is the only park for miles around in a fairly densely-populated town. Add to this the arrogant cops on bikes who demand identification from anyone who lingers too long looking poor. One simply has to face the fact that the old warm-hearted Berkeley is gone.

Off in the distance over the Bay, an ominous gray mass of marine influence was heading this way. Onward. I passed the yogis picking up a move from the obvious initiate who led the others. My route takes me past the front gate of an amusingly festooned property on Hillegas.
The owner adorned his mailbox and gate with first a wooden apple and snake (gone now to vandals), photos on wood of jazz singer Anita O'Day, and numerous bendable white poles with messages attached. Lots of other kookie objects and signs--Pebbles Flintstone, a ceramic jack-o-lantern, various indicia of European origin--enamel plagues with French writing etc. Looking down the driveway gives one the sense that the whole place is decked-out with fun in mind.
I took care of matters in the Elmwood including a stop for DVDs at the Claremont library on Benvenue, then by my post office box. Next I stroll College avenue to look at all the different businesses that have come in--a wine store notably. The travel place that typically features great window displays doesn't disappoint with its current offering. On the wall behind a selection of globes is a giant hand-painted banner for the 40s film, "Now Voyager." It features an iconic portrait of Bette Davis in a nautical travel outfit. Painted on heavy canvas, it could be a reproduction but it certainly looks like an original item.

Two sweet little boys come out of the toy shop with Mom. I turn down Russell and land on a bench for a moment. The mother and kids come by that way too. She stops near me for some reason and I say hi to the two little boys when we find ourselves on eye level. One--he's holding a glossy box of Star Wars toys, is so dear. He says to me "I saw you before." Oh yeah? ... I had to have a rest. I feel like the wee ones instinctively love me now that I have snow on the roof, maybe I look like their grand dad. They know that oldsters are often gentle and kind, and not the task-masters and disciplinarians parents must be.
The mother ignores me and herds them away. I cross the street to a shadier bench this one made from a redwood burl. A Chinese elder and his daughter come by soon afterward walking their little boy. They stop right by me to load the kid on Grandpa's back--he's like four years-old I'd say. He sees me smiling and says a strong "hi". Hiya...you're getting a ride now. "Yeah!" he laughs loudly, "...Bye!" So aware and full of life unlike his dour, dutiful guardians who, once again, don't acknowledge me. They seem instead to be silently reciting warnings to themselves to drill into the kid later. Talking to strangers and all.

So I follow my own bliss, revivified by the clarity and brilliance of the kids. I note all the splendid flowers evident in the moist cool summer we're having. Back at Willard park, I sit on the hula-hoop rack occasionally still used as a bench. The stage is far away but the sound is still good . The musicians are often the best part of the show and I savor the live music in such a casual atmosphere. Considerably more people have arrived. Earlier Ed Holmes and the tall black lady who can actually sing were on stage running through moves and musical notes. Now it's overture section.
A table representing a satellite installation of Food-Not-Bombs has been set-up. I am heading home for tofu vegetables and rice in black bean sauce, and I'm peckish. A snack would help me linger a moment longer, so I beat it over to the table. A nice couple of young folks man it and have pizza-bread, punch and great pickled squash available to everyone at no charge. I chat a bit then go over to the bench ring-side to back-stage and refresh. A silent gal in a mime troupe t-shirt sitting next to me reads intently over her kindle.
A fairly large tortoise is walking around near us. Ed Holmes walks past and I ask him if he saw the turtle. "Don't know what kind of crowd you people attract..." I quip. It's a great vibe and nice sunlight for the moment, but it's getting cool and I have other plans.
Just as the play begins I can be seen leaving the lower park for home. I give me best serves-you-right smile to the dog-slobs. They are forced to look on from the margins as the park they usually take-over has, for this night at least, been taken-over from them.

So it is that I find myself approaching the same scene today in somewhat warmer sunshine. Before I reach the park I pass the baseball diamond behind the school. No games there this summer as the whole place is torn up for a refurbish. I think of the strange midnight last October when I passed by and the moist earth of the field was covered in big geese.
Today clouds of dry dirt rise up around a bulldozer and several manual shovellers. This marvelous city with all it's highly-paid planners and bureaucratic aparatchiks evidently couldn't arrange for the work to stop when the adjacent park was filled with local citizens. The entire time I was there they were kicking up a lot of dirt just on the windward side of all those unprotected lungs.
I circle around back of the stage to my trusty bench. Can I squeeze-in here without making things awkward? The same kindle-reading girl from yesterday is back and gets to share the bench with me again. Then I hastily dig into my coffee and cannabis cookie, a shortbread with a blackberry jelly pool on top. Then I turn my attention to a sidelong view of the stage and the lively amplified sounds emanating from it. The high comes on like going up in a hot-air balloon as opposed to the jet-like take-off of smoking.
There's a view of a lot of the process from where I'm sitting--you see the costume changes and the characters before they enter, including actors crawling under the stage to emerge from a trap door. I spend as much time watching the audience as the stage play. Living as I do in a district of adults and young adults, I find children, so rarely sighted, completely charming to observe. The ones here with their mild and educated parents are so very sweet. Wearing hats with big sun-visors they pay rapt attention to the often slapstick antics on-stage, even the ones too young to fully understand the words. One little guy lying on his stomach with his chin resting on his fist looks so thoughtful as he rests his bare feet over a pair of rubber shoes made to look like toy cars.
Dragonflies criss-cross the air-space over the crowd seated on the lawn. A great yellow butterfly appears and almost seems to ride the music. Later, just as the play reaches its anti-capitalist crescendo, the sputtering engine of a plane dragging a Geico banner pollutes itself in circles overhead. Think you can sit in a public park and listen to free speech without being advertised to? Well, think again.
Before long I have removed my shoes, pulled-up my pants, and half-unbuttoned my shirt. Then I can no longer resist joining the others in the grass in front of the stage. At this point there is only the very front of the stage available. You really can't attend half-way from that vantage.
The play is a parable or allegory of how profit insinuates itself into human life and makes slaves of all. How people become consumers on credit and lose their freedom and prosperity.
It takes place in an ancient Middle-eastern land in a time immemorial with the profuse inclusion of tell-tale anachronisms should anyone be uncertain exactly what society it is talking about.
I depart from the stage-front to stand a while in the shade of a tree still watching, then I return to my favorite bench for the conclusion. It has a cool scene where Holmes dressed as a demon in a business suit lays-out the whole royal scam for the innocents in the play and as a sermon to the choir. Then a little mad dancing and singing and it's over for another year. The hard-working actors grab buckets and, without a pause to catch their breathe, are out among the crowd collecting donations. Clearly they like meeting this crowd too. The mutual admiration is also reflected in the rip-snorting business at the t-shirt booth. These shirts, black with a red star, are seen around the world. Young and old snatch them up.

The dirt is still billowing amid the green belt of trees below the park. I don't linger long after the show is over and the crowd slowly disperses. I take Hillegass and experience a sidewalk garden profuse with July violets in a state of suspension of ontological fixity.
On Dana I watch a young man skateboard slalom, zig-zaging along the street while holding a bouquet of flowers. I am in a smiley frame of mind and can't help but watch this big lug in a t-shirt with his incongruous nose-gay. He looks tired, bags under his eyes, and he's frowning. He notices me watching and maybe is a little embarrassed that another guy sees him with flowers. He only wants his girlfriend to see how sweet he is.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Poetry Now

Inspired by an friend's poetry blog, the Flaneur shakes more lines from his notebook. Apology where it apply.



...



"Antaeus who speaks and wears no chains
He will take us to the bottom of sin"
Dante, Hell


...







my wind-up clock's broken
the second hand can't make it
to midnight
makes a slight noise
a moth on a window screen




...




the shade of a venetian horse
crosses my window shade

a young boy asleep on the waves
clinging to a carved wooden figure

some mahogany crayfish effigy
marine in his lower extremes

the part of the world now under sea
the boy feeding on his carapace of wood




...





we are the pure white people
white of hair white of skin
saint peter will wave us in
where we will all be restored
as colored people as negroes
and walk on streets of gold




...




morning glories send
tendrils over everything
the sun gets up too early
birds crank up the merry-go-round




...





dime-store on mercury
a roman noir

I contacted every known planet
looking for something legit
ended-up covering a crossword puzzle
another sad sack in scrabble town

I received periodic balloon payments
until that blew up in my face
had to dummy up and take the battery
until my shins splintered under me

I gave them all the names I had




...




little hamlet

envenom with his envy
a prison of poison
dies in his own too much




...




in dante's hell
the sinful know who they are




...




martin luther
appeared before the diet of worms
as sort of an appetizer




...





the case of the open and shut bookcase


faraway nowadays

the post-mammalian review

ash wednesday the anti-hallowe'en

code breakers of sumatra

lunar vacuity




...




1912-2009

mom by the heater late at night
thinking in the dark
mom sitting on her porch
surrounded by trees smiling




...




ghost natural

vinegaroon
the spider's missing link

baboon metaphysics
a spill on the causeway




...





Bromides

My skull holes feel like an old bowling ball.

People stretch their faces over their emotions.

Light bulbs turn my fingertips into paper.


I can see my hand with my eyes closed.


We slip into the unworld slowly.






...




2009

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Shiver of Original Sin

In which the Flaneur suggests his age by telling of himself as a 20th Century man in a 21st Century scenario in medical technology.

Like most days in general I began by walking away from my abode. As on the two days previous, I was bound for the nearby stop for the #1 Rapid bus for a long ride-- to the Fruitvale section of Oakland.
This early morning like the others, I was proceeding to an appointment at Highland Hospital. What I thought would be a one-day affair had stretched to three. Today was to be the Fourth-of-July fireworks finale--a CAT scan of my heart.
The Rapid makes fairly good time, at times exceeding comfortable speeds for the unforgiving seats. But no one complains--we're making time. The longest stretch is the ride nearly the full length of Telegraph Avenue. I am hypnotized easily when roused at this hour and the familiar decaying landmarks and other newer developments put me into a right trance.

There are the curios, a little windmill and a tiny log cabin, remnants of the roadside stands of quainter times. There's the liquor store with its art brute "Okla-hickory" mural. The 'Lectric Washhouse laundromat sails past... Roots Hobby Hut's old oblique sign is now draws a blank. Nails, skin, and beauty are serviced and supplied regularly hereabouts. Casper's hot-dog island is long defunct as is the huge old spaghetti barn across the way. But there are similar anachronisms still around, hold-outs kept alive by sugar-teeth-- Hooper's chocolates, Neldam's bakery. Other more stately buildings of a gone culture serve new purposes. Some are like the ornate wooden church painted the color of wine--obviously a valuable historic building but who comes around here to attend this church these days?
Then there are the Afro-centric Ethiopian blocks where business looks rather thin. Following this, one travels past cafes and ramshackle galleries, the kind of scenes I used to make back in the youthful day. The bus turns at the old Emporium now half-lit as a Sears, then turns again on Broadway. There, as the buildings climb toward the dead center of town, I note Oaksterdam University with a warm feeling of a change is gonna come. Named for this section of Oakland which was one of the leaders in the struggle to have medical marijuana become a normal part of life. I joined the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Club at a place near here when I first received a doctor's letter of recommendation back in 2005.

Next, the bus heads out around Lake Merritt which is actually a salt water estuary of the San Francisco bay. The bus is really traveling here as it plunges into a tunnel near the Oakland museum's Babylonian gardens. There's the Oakland auditorium where I went to see shows by the Patti Smith Group, Bunny Wailer and Blondie way back when. Don't think it is used as a concert venue often these days.
Years ago my ex-wife and I came out of an event there--a Catholic event with music --and walked smack into the Bishop and two other members of the ecclesiastic elite in full ceremonial attire. They held onto their mitres as their impressive chasibules snapped in the gusty wind from the harbor while a Mariachi band played full throttle behind them. As we giggled at this scene almost second-hand from a Bunuel film, it was apparent that they wanted us to talk. First question, what parish are you from? I was still lapsed at the time and Lucy was a Catholic-admirer but not a baptized Christian. "Saint Augustine's" we fibbed--after all, it was the closest church to us, the parish we lived in. Naturally it was also the parish that Bishop had led for years, did we know? You really can only dig yourself in deeper in these sort of situations. Yet, it concluded with smiles all around as the sombrero-wearing musicians cranked it up a notch.
Today I craned out the other way across the lake to see the sweeping lines of the new Cathedral. It was built at the opposite end of the lake and finished within the last year. The Cathedral looks silvery in the distance with arcs converging at the high point. I haven't been to it yet, but if I do run into the Bishop again I'll be charming and all ears.

Next, International avenue which I was introduced to when it was called East Fourteenth. It begins in a little Vietnam district then gradually becomes more and more Mexican in character. I notice a small place whose large sign reads:
El Gato
Negro Bar
It looks like its a time-traveling segregated bar at first glance.
There are always children on the bus through here and many more on the sidewalks. A lot of the medical places we pass are geared toward maternity. It's a fast breeding populace many of whom live on small incomes. The Mexican kids seem particularly obedient and affectionate toward their silent Mothers. They remind me of a way of life from what seems like long-ago.
With every time I take the trip, it seems not quite as distant and remote. At Fruitvale I dash down through a little shopping center to hop another bus which winds up though the hilly neighborhoods to the hospital. Before it heads up, the bus passes blocks where Mexican day workers loiter in hope of jobs. Later in the morning I respectfully note their resignation as the day's chances grow thinner. I try to feel encouraged by people's struggles to get over another day. I find my mild amusement looking at the kids on a grassy ball field, some Victorian houses, and some bee-flower trees in bloom lining side streets in my slow summer time passage.


Then the bus stops on a steep hill top and it's all go. Down the ramp where smokers, often in hospital gowns, ignore signs warning of stiff penalties for violations. They must know how the enforcement, if any, works and roll the dice on but one more risk of smoking.
I headed straight for radiology and resumed sitting as soon as the reception staff got over the scantness of my paper-work and other undone administrative matters behind-the-scenes.

In a waiting room yesterday I endured a brief exposure to a popular television show on which disagreeable women raise their voices at each other between even louder commercials. Today it's considerable more time in a different crowded waiting room while a program on which audience members were encouraged to applaud or jeer at a young couple "dealing with commitment issues." The volume made it impossible to escape despite my earplugs. At other local clinics I have encountered TVs playing health advice between incessant pharmaceutical promotions. My regular clinic used to play low-brow movies which can help pass the time. But this is the most obtrusive I've ever seen TVs in a hospital setting-- playing hyped-up TV shows between ads for food products. They have an interesting therapeutic rationale no doubt.

Eventually, all things must pass and I hear my name called. A jovial black lady with a flowery cap leads me into a prep-room. Yolanda, I'll use her name, got me in a gown and stuck a number foam disks on my chest. Each bore a red heart symbol and that's what we were aiming to make, a high-definition, three dimensional color digital image of--my still beating heart.
Next came the IV stent in my arm. She voiced concern that I hadn't taken my regular beta blocker since midnight--that my heartbeat might be too fast for optimal imaging. She thought she would have to give me additional medication. Then a machine began to read my beat and soon beeped to indicate that, on its own, my heart beat was below 50 bpm.
"I'm a yogi, baby" I had to confess. Left alone in a comfortable setting I am a very calm being. I was also not letting the possible hospital anxieties get a grip on me there that day.

Next I climbed down into a wheel chair, my jacket and boots were bagged-up on my lap, and we started out to another location. Before I knew what was happening I was outside in the sunshine in my gown being wheeled past all sorts of people. Some seemed to sneak little morbidly curious glances at the sick cat--here but for fortune go all you who are able-bodied and free. I remark on a beautiful headscarf worn by a Muslim girl playing.
We go up a ramp parallel to the entrance and stop on an elevator platform under a canopy. She talks to Rueben inside the trailer over a speaker phone. The whole structure seems metallic and radio-active as we vibrate upwards. Up we go to the time tunnel tube. I am laid on a movable bed and given last minute instructions. At some point I will be injected with iodine and will feel heat from it immediately. Otherwise pay attention to breathing instructions you will hear as you are moved back and forth in a series of scans.
The process begins. If you have ever wondered what it might feel like to be "beamed-up", molecularly scrambled and reassembled, or just generally tele-ported I think I now have an analog in my experience. A spiral whirring noise envelopes you as you travel short distances in and out of the tube--another analog springs to mind for this movement. In and out like fiddler's elbow? Um, something slower, more overwhelming than music, that leaves you wiped-out and exhausted.
Meanwhile the staff hides behind a lead wall and watches it on computer screens as the charged particles ping around the space I'm in. The robotic female control voice, familiar from tawdry science fiction utopias, comes from no discernible direction and says, "Take a breathe and hold it now .................................................you may breath normally." I recall a woman's voice but I also seem to recall a male voice giving instructions too. I don't mean the old Chinese technician, whiskered and thin, who came up behind me at one point and asked how much I weighed. He was like someone from Through the Looking Glass. I glimpsed him in my peripheral vision; I don't believe I was hallucinating, but freely admit that I had entered an altered state of consciousness.
Then just when I wondered what happened to the threatened injection, Rueben was back askant with it. I felt the aforementioned heat, mainly in my groin and nether regions. When he came back I told him it felt like I wet the bed."...Hey, maybe I did wet the bed, " I added to scare him.

Afterwards, it's over. Yolanda reappears when I start to writhe--the urge to urinate is an imperative I can't ignore. She says I did very well the images look fantastic. There is a poster nearby showing spooky organs like realistic sci-fi animation digital images. I ask if they look like that. "Pretty close." Kind of scary is all I can say.

There is the unmistakable frisson of being on the cusp of what is human and natural and what is super-human and preternatural. Mankind demands ever more powers once thought to be god-like, in this case to see so vividly inside a living body. Another small technological miracle in a march to decipher the genome of the tree of knowledge. Yet so rarely do we demand that wisdom and benefit for all be the guiding philosophy when we expend vast amounts of the energy and the other resources of the one and only living world.

This time I get to don shades and shirt and boots for the return trip outdoors. By this point we're old friends and she's telling me about her kid. After a respectful hush on the elevator I get up from the chair to dive into the first men's room we come to. She leaves and I have to wander through the featureless corridors of radiology until I find her room again.
After a brief recovery, I finish getting dressed and get gone.



Postscript
The Scanned Cat

After I was lowered from the particle laboratory again, I left without an appointment for a follow-up. When I called Cardiology the next week, they spent a good many of my phone minutes before telling me to call the general appointment number. This led to ten minutes in voice-mail limbo and a hang-up before my phone service cut-out.
So when I saw my regular doctor and she heard my dilemma, she gave me an office with it's own outside line where I could call and wait as long as it took to follow through. When the hospital appointment operator suggested a late October date, I was mildly astonished.
The CAT scan had been such a radical experience for me that to be kept so long in suspense afterward was comparable to going to the moon and being asked to wait four months to see the film clip.
The operator sensed that I sounded less like the average county hospital patient and more like staff. She switched me over to cardiology again. There followed a strange moment with the nurse saying that there was no record I had received any treatment at radiology. Again one pleads nolo contendere in such matters. One can't speak about what the records say with any authority, but one maintains one's belief in something one really thinks did take place.
She suggested that they call me back. I told her to take her time, that I was at my primary care clinic. This seems to do the trick quite well as the actual cardiologist called back. He is a big beaming avuncular fellow, German maybe Jewish, in his sixties. I certainly didn't expect himself to call.
"Your arteries are fantastic!" he declared, "really in fantastic shape." It was delightful to hear this. We talked good-naturedly a moment then he suggested I come to see him in one week for the follow-up.

I finally decided to reach the hospital by taking BART to Lake Merritt where a free shuttle zips you up the hill. Even with a walk downtown to BART station it was really quick for a change after all my previous trips by bus. An afternoon appointment, despite the glacial slowness of the wait, meant I could just mosey-in--no early-hour stress. In the waiting room, my earplugs in place, I finished an Elmore Leonard novel that I found on campus. It was the source material for a Tarantino film and many of my present company looked like they might have stepped out of it.
Then at last my name was called. I went from the crowded room into the sparsely populated precincts to wait on in quietude. A preliminary interview with a different doctor awaited me, this time an Indian lady. They take their time with you here and I had never been more thoroughly listened to via stethoscope. Talking about myself I eventually mentioned that my elderly mother passed away this year. In our reverie on mothers, I wondered rhetorically if anyone else on earth would ever really care about me. She agreed and said even though she was married and had family she sometimes asked herself the same question. It was the human condition we concluded.
This visit I was better prepared for the moment when the patriarch himself arrived. Last time I was spaced from a long wait and a lack of refreshment. So this time I jotted-down notes ahead of time and I ate a banana at the last moment.
He immediately announced that there was nothing physically wrong with my heart, that you could drive a truck through, that you could sail a boat through my arteries. There were no signs of disease present or prior. No tobacco, very moderate drinking, exercise, and a low-salt, low-fat diet--there's no secret to it. He said I have a large and slow heart, which is good. The old notion is still true--that we are only given so many heart beats in a lifetime.
"Like a humming-bird," I riffed. I also mentioned that I'm a Leo and known to be big-hearted. General amusement at this--the first doctor hangs-out for the chat with the big doc. I ran through my questions then I finished with, "Can I see the CAT scan?"
Well, it isn't the policy...
I said that was alright, I had just thought maybe he could twiddle a few keys and it would come-up on the computer screen next to us. And what do you know? He agreed. After expressing regrets that this station didn't have all the colors of own set-up, he brought up the screens. And there was my big art pay-off.
At first the image was of my ribs swathed in red-purple muscle. "That's my breastplate," said I. "Hang on a minute," quoth the snowy-haired physician.
Then he clicked on the "remove bone" option, and the naked, sacred heart itself is revealed. The colors are all deep, intense and jewel-like. There indeed were my fantastic arteries looking like massive rivers seen from space. Then, mind-blowingly, he turned my heart in virtual space. Like a magnifying satellite we sail around the south pole of my heart and note more of my arterial splendor. I feel like I am in some meta-world sitting in front of a visionary simulacrum of my heart and mind. Both of which are encompassed by my soul which itself emanates from a universe of love.

"OK, I'm going to restore your bone. Do you want you bone back?"
"I still have to get home."

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Requiem and Reckoning

The Flaneur strays from his usual localized musings to comment on a recent passing...


"Jacko Lantern" mail art, postmark August 2009


When I look at a photo of the so-called King of Pop dangling with one arm a little baby over a balcony, I believe I am looking at an image of one of the most decadent individuals on earth.
His face had been bleached and carved into a severe mask-- an androgynous, Caucasian Disney cartoon. And it's obvious now that the three children are seen without the suffocating disguises, that they show no outward sign of sharing any of his African-American genes. Apparently he snatched the middle-child out of the hospital where she was born, before the hired surrogate wife could even see her. A bombed-out superstar and his muscle rushing off with a still unwashed new-born its placenta still attached--it's quite a picture.
An employee of his who was present during the baby-dangling has since stated that Michael was completely "doped-out" at the time. This was "Blanket" a baby to whom he neither contributed genes, nor as much as met his Mother, nor even ever legally adopted.
Like all corporations, he had long been permitted to function above the laws that apply to those less wealthy. He made his decadence a normal way of life. In paranoiac seclusion he consistently asked his public to sympathize with him for having had a cruel father and a childhood lost to fame. He asked them to buy into a fantasy that he was more than harmless, a saint and a free spirit regressed back to the pre-sexual state of a twelve-year-old.
So when the keeping of other people's children became a problem for him, he simply procured some of his own. He proceeded to share bed and bedroom with them subject to no-one's prying questions. This private life was perhaps made easier by living in a place like Bahrain where a very wealthy person in modest women's attire is very rarely a source of any concern--even if he did make them nervous when he used a restroom for women.
Then the children got to grow up in seclusion and close intimacy with a heavy-drug-using parent. They joined him in his paranoid evasion of private scrutiny while he maintained his publicity as a commodity in the marketplace. The children are said to have have been allowed no long term relations with other kids. They do and say as told with the great sense of importance and remoteness that narcissistic pop-stars with bodyguards bathe in. Moreover in recent years he seems to have been enveloped in a relation with the Nation of Islam. Secrecy self-importance, and a quick-draw on the race card seem to come with that territory.
And so despite all those years of suspicion, evidence, pay-offs, charges, acquittal and admitted addiction, he never seems to have had to face his pedophilia or drug abuse. Certainly he didn't in any clinical psychiatric setting. Otherwise he wouldn't still have talked such fairytale-innocence nonsense while holding hands and nuzzling with a dreamy little bed-mate on TV. This was the one who later charged him with sexual improprieties. Was this a surprise to anyone coming as did from the man who had built an entire amusement park to groom and select children for sleep-overs in the magic bunkhouse in Neverland?

As those huge Disney-esque eyes began to sag with age and with an inevitable pharmaceutical toll, they became as much a mask as the rest of his face. He was rarely seen without the dark glasses of the opiate eater. At the last press conference he finally given up the breathy drag queen whisper and he looked like an animatronic skeleton version of himself. He had cast a lingering look at his chances for a last lucrative spectacle and agreed to some wildly implausible number of concerts. "This is It" was presented as a closing gesture to his grandiose career.
Yet, fifty is fifty after all. Some may be able to dance feverishly after fifty, and some may be able to survive as heavy-drug users after fifty, but few are able to do both. Within a week of his death a film of his last rehearsal was available all over. It almost appears to be a posthumous marketing campaign--like he knew that they would film the best he had left in him.
Then he would be free to inject some ending to himself after which he could be packaged and sold. The sub-conscious death-wish attached to his use of what were apparently very heavy drugs is inarguable. The one that may have snuffed him is a sedative so powerful it can only safely be used with an anesthesiologist and oxygen. Called "Milk of Amnesia" it vacuums away all psychic and physical pain and induces a deep sleep with pronounced sexual dreams in males.
Sounds made to order for someone in certain imagined outer realms.
Deepak Chopra, an acquaintance of Mr. Jackson, has said since his death that it was reckless to have stockpiled opiates without having the obvious drugs for opiate over-dose on hand.

From the corny but cute Jackson Five, with their version of familiar Motown showmanship to the heavily-produced hits and the glittery, morphed-but-still-attractive character that dominated the Reagan eighties, I have generally enjoyed his music and performance. He was never a lot more than that for me. James Brown worked his wonders for me, or Sly and the Family Stone when I saw them as a teen-ager. Jackson's hey-days didn't coincide with my interest in either teen-pop or sexy dating music.
Even though they may have turned into trade-mark tics and gimmicks to some extent, his talents were impressive. At one moment in time he had it, the glittering zeitgeist. Even so, he was ultimately a performer and singer, a musician of limited invention, a pasticheur. Increasingly the music itself stalled out while the creepy show-biz royalty recluse took over the whole story. In all his contrived artificiality, the mask the actor wore became his face and eventually his facade. Recall the cover of his "Dangerous" album: his eyes peer out from a sickly ornate facade over fun-house tunnel from which a little boy in underpants emerges. What could he have had in mind? The thrilling suggestion of molestation to polymorphously perverse under-age fans?

If I note some of the mountains of evidence of his decadence it is in part to counter the usual refusal of the corporate press to call a spade, a spade. (Forgive the usage viz a viz Jackson's whitened negritude.) I refer to reports of Jackson camp excuses that are so incredible as to be insulting. I refer to the right-wing radio host notorious for his own opiate addiction. This radio blow-hard came to Jackson's defense on the issue of over-lavish medication, luxury drugs provided by personal physicians.
If I see the burden and wages of sin in his life, the apparent lostness, it's hopefully in order to have sympathy and kindness for Mr. Jackson. "As you judge others so shall you be judged." This I do believe, I and try not to judge. Yet I do think there is a lesson there for any of us with an unmoored desire to be rich and famous and to have the world at our bidding.

Friday, June 19, 2009

"I'm Not There (1956)" Meta-Bootleg Series

video

from God Nose Runs Again
on Over the Edge KPFA radio

Saturday, June 6, 2009

June in a Twilight Region

The weather has been cool for weeks. Chilly marine fog envelopes the mornings and the early evenings. The sunset is late this time of year and it is often occluded for the hours before dark, gray ambiguous hours. Certainty disappears like the horizon in a painting by Tanguy, the vague horizon between night and day.
The streets are newly deserted by the departing student hoards. The hills light up in a strangely prominent way when the sun is low and often dramatically re-emergent from the clouds.
Flowers dominate sidewalks and yards, looming hydrangeas and squadrons of fragrant roses. I stand transfixed by some mauve crocus-like flowers near a wet spider web fantasy. Jasmine drifts down the block.
Today's almond shortbread cannabis cookie is fully circulating after I have just been dancing in People's Park. The starring act was closing the Telegraph Avenue World Music festival there today at 4:30. I remembered just in time to make the show. They were Thomas Mapfumo and the Blacks Unlimited from Zimbabwe. Their music is called chimurenga meaning struggle. Deep reggae-style grooves with Afro-pop guitar filigrees had everyone dancing happily. They finished with a long discursive tune that had an unmistakable feeling of protest and woe. It is after all a fitting place to bring this universal panacea, one that calls you to "forget your troubles and dance." Then abruptly it was over for the day at 5:30.

The clouds lately in the clear plein air have been like paintings. At times they are like zen abstract brush-strokes and at other times, like the monumental orchestrations of epic skies in 18th century French art. In general there has been greater apparent complexity in them. Great seasonal shifting air-masses have produced odd thunder storms.
There are fewer lights at night from the tower blocks, and there's less traffic from the blockheads. The moon has been bright and crisp. It shines in from the back deck though the security screen-door amid nocturnal morning glories. And afternoons red-finches sing assertively on phone cables in this new quiet country life.
It's a time of abandoned furniture and curbside boxes of belongings that no longer belong to anyone. Along Benvenue last evening, I rested in a curbside reclining chair and lit my after-Mass shorty. Across the street hummingbirds threaded through some red flowers as intense as Xmas lights. I shoved-off again on a slow walk home. When I commented on a bed of succulents to a guy gardening, he wanted to talk about them in a cordial way. It was as if people had time for each other again.
I was carrying two artichokes I foraged on Chabot. Someone planted them along the sidewalk and suddenly there were dozens, not quite best quality perhaps but not bad either.
At St Albert's there were boxes of strange oranges. There was even a sheet to explain their origin. They were from a tree in St Albert's grounds, one I noticed many times--small with abundant fruit. It had been brought from Rome and moved to several Dominican houses by a priest who also wound up here, planted like his tree. Someone recently brought a sample of it to an arborist who marveled at it. He said that it was a very ancient type of orange-- it even grows thorns on its branches. It had never been cross-bred with more recent types--it was essentially a hold-over from the very old world. They taste like sour tangerines, like marmalade, far from the orange as we know it.

This was the second of two extraordinary plant varieties I had recently encountered at St. Albert the Great. The other was a Mr. Lincoln rose bush. Its flowers are classically formed and of the deepest velvety red. Most astonishing of all, its scent is as full and deep as any rose I have sniffed in my long life of always stopping to smell the roses. There is something almost epi-phenomenal, or miraculous, about them.

Meanwhile across town, the turn-around point of my nightly walks is currently surrounded by fencing. Overhead, Sather Tower, more popularly known as the Campanile, is wearing an elaborate ziggurat head and neck brace. It seems that even marble wears away in the wet winds and unforgiving sunlight at that altitude. The ghostly Flaneur, who walks through it's plaza late at night, who meditates on a sun dial pedestal by starlight, or who dreams mysteriously on its benches during carillon concerts, will not be seen there again until September of this year.

And when I walk down Bancroft, returning from the mail box after midnight, there are no cars in sight, no one walks the streets, and the distant trains say it's late, it's time to sleep. The world bids me peace and I reflect the same aspiration.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Pussy Willows: 18 haiku poems


O the last day in May
It soon comes our way

Spring fever compels the Flaneur to a voluptuary's pursuit of poetry.

...





Alone in a courtyard
a hummingbird drinks rain drops
on the fly





Alongside the creek
light reflects on shady trees
so real so unreal





Hot wind in the firs
that red amid the green brush
golf ball bumble bee





A loop of birdsong
rhododendron round-about
all the leaves have eyes





2007


...





Purple chalk powder
accumulates to the west
illusory sky





Louder than the sea
wild wind in the tall pines
everything moves





Huge clouds billow
over the welling green hills
'danger falling cones'





A fallen flower
dangling in a spider's web
interests the cat





Two bright lady bugs
revolve on blue balustrade
vacant lot smells fennel





Stoned alone in church
like a wonder-cabinet
deep silent prayer





Morning glories bob
birds hurdy-gurdy the trees
forget I'm outdoors





A heat-wave in May
magenta arabesque clouds
lone bat passes by





The leaky faucet
a wee bird knows to drink from
all for survival





A crow flies over
with a bird bone in its beak
business is business





2008


...





Cats listen to birds
and hear the carillon bells
but not as music





Bench under the bells
a panoply of teardrops
valley in the clouds





The bat cat out back
hunts bugs in semi-darkness
friday night traffic





Behind our chapel
the deepest scent of roses
in a deep red whorl






2009



...

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Springtime Notebook outtakes: 18 short poems

...

In Tenebrous Time

Faces in the trees
every cloud every sky
reveals my mind to me





Floating purple clouds
of rhododendron
In a barkless red hollow
the tree associated with Mary
Showed me her apparition
then became something else





The price of every disaster is renewal





The Moon knows three words:
seen, reflected, hidden.





The Lord is life and lamp unto me.
Early Easter AM





Stone walls bridge the air
Bells come down the creeky

Leafy mazes map the buildings
Pow wow on the third story

Postcard view of a re-enacted forest
In tall windows over the drum circles





Bulky evening star
vertiginous balcony
O the discus moon





Despite heavy rain
hummingbirds bounce in trees
flowers are forthright





Sign nailed to a tree
says danger falling acorns
wooden bench nearby





Tilden Park Easter Sunday

Crows in the Oaks
The twisty old Oaks

Always a peak reached
When you follow thoughts

Slow glides the owl
Over the sunny meadow

Over the heads of children
No one looks up

A path--trillium and mossy roots
A patch--serrated clouds blue sky

Pitch black crows in the Oaks
The twisty old Oaks





A cat is wary when it's drinking.





A dream of a bear wearing a black leather sport coat in my apartment.

Occasioned by a BBC TV news bit about "Krishna," a black sloth bear
adopted by a village in India. When they had tried to chase off his
mother and cubs, he was left behind.





birdsong/flowers/the stoned boat





A deuce of moons this May
silent fir trees in mist
fairy folk fold their cards





Marbled red and green
that deeply-colored glass vase
is a soft flower




Roadside stand in Sunderland

The farmer taps
on the car window of memory
The ghost of a sycamore
moves through the dust




At the heart of things
red dots in the conifers
the last of the moon





undersea egypt pours into the vacuum left by an hour glass




...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Festival Days: Earth Day

April is like a clock ticking. The student celebrations get frantic as that scene winds down. Meanwhile greater Berkeley had a few Spring events in the parks including Earth day deferred to Saturday and People's Park's 4oth anniversary on Sunday. As ever the Flaneur is there and herewith reports on what went down.

Saturday morning and the lone pathetic taiko drummer on lower Sproul blams out bursts of uninspired rhythm every so often. There seems to be a sporting event or some other chauvinist pageant for them to say they are drumming about. Actually the increasing nuisance of the taiko idiots is more about Asian triumphalism and about individuals calling attention to themselves than anything else. Here it is eight hours later as I write, the drums drag on with utter disregard to the peaceful enjoyment of others.
"Boom boom da-boom boom, boom boom boom"
It's the same dumb marshal tattoo over and over, again and again, no music, no expression except, "here I am I have a drum and I make loud noises"--strictly low chakra stuff. Then they slow it down to just "boom-boom-boom..."-- our army is approaching, fear us and surrender.
The taiko drums along with the increased alcohol-driven mayhem late at night--the screaming drunk girl at 2AM this morning for example-- are the two most sickening developments in social behavior in the area. Both are tied to the onslaught of the new student majority.

I get to my feet around noon and make ready for a minor excursion. Celtic songs concerning the love of the natural world waft from the radio as I roll me a shorty with the latest blend. Then it's off, not in a hurry but rushing nonetheless. A beautiful, cool and windy but sunny day--the temperature doesn't break 60 degrees. I drop by the library to return DVDs and divert past the post office to drop another one in the mail. I'm headed for the Civic Center park where the Earth day program is in full swing. I pull up a bench and sit down for one of the most charming parades of passing humans you can find. Lots of sweet children in states of enjoyment, little ones look at me seriously from strollers and I give them all a smile. Older kids and adults also wear their springtime finery. Two lovely girls walk by with a guitar, tiny flowers in their hair, wearing wispy dresses that look like slips. I'm beaming and in general I get a good return on the vibration.
Background music is provided by an anonymous band on a stage way down at the far end of the park. The lawn is loosely filled with folks camped-out in the grass. Young men exhibit lion-like manes of chestnut dreadlocks. Near me is the hemp clothes booth, and I can see the sign for the Cannabis Action Network from where I sit. I also spy some old acquaintances of mine at a table hawking their new book. A husband and wife team, they had already done a book on eccentrics, and one on loners. The new one was a scavengers handbook with a market eye on the new trend in poverty. "Another holiday in someone else's misery," as the old Situationist shibboleth sung by the Sex Pistols put it. I am tempted to go over and say hello, but I don't want to break up the tranquility of their signing table.

I notice that some anticipation seemed to be collecting over on Alston way. The street is cordoned off and a swelling cluster of cops is in evidence. I read a large hand-made banner in the wind from behind--what, "Berkeley Welcomes the Dalmatian"?...wait, "the Dalai Lama"? Who knew?
I learn from two lovely young women that he is in town for his speech on campus and apparently he is putting in an appearance at an unpublicized event at the Berkeley Community Theater. He'll be arriving across the street at the stage entrance so I find a little grassy knoll directly across from it with a nice sight-line.
More cops show up, more than twenty-five in all. In the type of grossly unconstitutional invasion of of privacy that people have resigned themselves to in America, one lard-ass cop starts panning over us with a video camera. I very much want the Dalai Lama to be protected from his vicious detractors but there is no sign of protest or even any Chinese people who might turn hostile. Well, maybe there is one annoying couple. The diminutive male comes and holds his camera directly in front of my face a few times until I tell him to fuck-off in a decidedly un-Buddhistic manner. More gently, I have to tell a little boy to stop what he was doing too--methodical pounding a rock on exposed tree roots to strip away the bark. His Earth day-attending dad ignores or apparently sees nothing wrong in the activity. "That hurts the tree," I tell him.
There's mainly just parents and kids around and a few Buddhists, all Earth day types. But of course, as a lone male in sunglasses and black beret, I can soon sense these armed and mustachioed officers mildly directing their scrutiny at me. What else to they have to do, really? And I do have the logistical sweet spot. It's between me and the little girl in the tree branch overhead.
Then a fire truck blocking the street is moved and motorcycle cops roar up with sirens on. A black SUV arrives followed by a limo. Ceremonial items including a bread basket stupa are in position and a troupe of snow leopard dancers kick into their act. A half-dozen men-in-black hit their marks and the limo door opens. I recognize the Dalai Lama first, the shape of his head, the unmistakable color of his robe, and I hold up my arms in a pranam greeting. Everyone cheers and applauds--maybe a hundred people in all scattered around watching. Certainly, many in the park don't even investigate what's going on. The old school R&B group just grooves on without notice.
The Dalai Lama turns to onlookers and gives us all a warm, smiling pranam turning in three directions. A final round of applause and cheers after he stops at the little altar. He waves and then proceeds inside escorted by city-councilman Worthington. Then it's just a battery of easy-paycheck cops and secret-service guys with frozen hard looks behind shades. We get to leave them to their duties and mosey away to nibble on free Clif bars.
I am reminded of the time I caught a glimpse of the Queen of England in Newport, Rhode Island for the Bicentennial. As that happened Ford and Kissinger flew over in a helicopter adding to everyone's anxiety-level. The Queen came out of the rear door of Trinity church and slightly waved. My glimpse of her was at around same distance for about the same length of time as my glimpse of the Dalai Lama. Only this is better by far, and unexpected, uncrowded, and painless. This is a blessing for us all. Everyone feels it, it is plain to see.

"We gonna pitch a wang-dang-doodle," sings a big gospel lady on stage projecting sort of a mellowed-down, middle-aged notion of what a wang-dang-doodle consists of.
Some more people-watching from my bench. A westerner walks past wearing the robes of a Buddhist monk. He is escorting a glitzy lady in a golden spangled skirt who looks more like a Thai prostitute than a Tibetan nun. Two kids go by in camouflage fatigues, one with an army helmet. Were they out to embarrass their liberal-looking dad?
Two teen-aged guys in amusing costumes ride up on scooters. The shorter blond kid has a long cape, and a plastic Roman breast plate, other kooky stuff. The taller kid wore things like a loose-knit tunic and a cowl over his head that gave him teddy bear ears. They chat with the straight arrow at the solar-panel table across from me. I love how young people can be so casually non-conformist in these times, in these parts. They obviously don't fear being made fun of, but believe in having fun regardless of what squares may think.
As I leave the taller one is crossing Milvia at the same time I am. He stops at a vehicle-- driven by a parental unit I'd say, and removes his mad gear, tossing it into the hatch. As he comes round to get in next to the driver, he faces me a second and we smile. I say to him, "How Berkeley can you be, baby?"
"Yee-ah" he laughs.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Festival Days: 40th Anniversary of People's Park

Sunday rolls around peacefully. KPFA is also having a round birthday--their 60th. Mary Tilson spins "America's Back Forty" one of my favorite programs. She reminisces about migrating to Berkeley from Michigan during another hard scrabble period in the USA--the early 90s.
I don't have time for a louche brunch today--festivities await out of doors.
It's cool again, less windy though. The park is very pleasantly full of people. On the east side of the lawn, there's a large gold-lame "god's eye" on a pole with dry reeds radiating out from the central orb. I go on up to the Southeast corner near the peace pole, a white column printed with messages of peace in several languages. Some slices of tree trunk arranged in a peace-sign next to it make good seats. Remarkable flowers abound here--big, upthrust, purple-blossomed flowers.

I think back to my first encounter with People's Park in 1979. I was on my way to see an apartment for rent on Benvenue. After a few months staying with my brother's family in a suburb, I was eager to get closer to where the action was and to have my own place to partake in it. As I made my way there, along with the impressive architecture of the Julia Morgan church across the street and a red brick school of divinity on Dwight, I noted the absence of architecture and the humanist divinity in a bordering park. Music was in progress on a small stage in front of a crowd of hippies, real hippies in those days.
My own days of enjoying such outdoor rock boogies were decidedly behind me at the time. I was intent on more thoughtful and avant-garde a pose than in the frivolous rut this represented to me. I remember sitting in the grass briefly and thinking such things.

Over the years, though, I have forgiven myself and others for our hippie ways. In the process I've gained some affection for good old People's Park. It was only ten years old back in 1979, and this weekend it is forty years old. I applauded its foundation in 1969 and it was a cause celebre in underground newspaper everywhere. Many communities with youth populations across the country saw similar attempts to create "liberated zones" where free music and food, pot-smoking and free speech, replacement of the smothering concrete with democratic seedlings could take place. Police were decidedly not invited or welcome.
The Provos in Amsterdam, the Diggers in San Francisco, and the Yippies in New York, all tried to organize something Utopian that could last a while. For the most part the communes, the free food, and the idealistic ideology faded out. Yet somehow People's Park, a prize morsel in every university vulture's eye, remained in the hands of the populace. This alone is reason to cherish it and to celebrate.
The marginal and the down-trodden that make up its more constant residents and visitors, can also provide a useful social barometer of how hard the haves have made it for the have-nots. The battle to discourage these people being waged by the UC and Berkeley police includes continual removal of the free box where clothes are donated for those who need them. They insist that foliage and shrubbery always be cut to a minimum so they can enforce a Draconian no-visitors-after-dark policy. And they try to disrupt or ban the feeding of the poor by groups like Food Not Bombs and the Catholic Worker.

Today the feeling is so bright it is hard to recall such issues. It came easier on all the recent overcast wintry days I walked through and just the usual alcoholics and monochromatic down-and-outers were here.
On this brilliant afternoon, a guy strums out songs of freedom away on the stage. Once again, I'm listening to it but I'm more interested in people-watching.
The sheer preponderance of colorful weirdos ain't what it once was. It is really mostly young people in their twenties and younger who are sympathetic with the hippie ethos and can use some free entertainment. There are also quite a few families with small children, which I like. Happily all are being fed regularly today with yet more free Clif bars. But whereas yesterday you went to a booth where generous pieces were available, today several strapping young guys go around giving away as many as people will accept. They are even dumping piles of the various whole-grain-and-fruit energy bars in the grass. I remember someone doing that with joints one year. So far I haven't seen that happen today, but the pot smoke is delightfully steady.

I decide to take note of remarkable freak-flag-fliers as they pass me by. The guy I notice straight off and want to award People's Park man of the day, is about 60-65 dressed plain to shabby, sunglasses, and with a sloppy but radical black-dyed "Mohawk" haircut. There are several other more flamboyant panache-style haircuts around but this guy is punk.
Dying one's hair jet black is back it seems, as seen on the next guy I spy. I'll call him, in his dark renaissance fobbery, "Brian Jones noir."
Another apparent mat-black member of the court shows up just then. Wearing a purple and gold monarch's crown, a black ballet dress and fish-net stockings, he provides his own high contrast with very blond hair and fair skin. He walks past me to rest out of the sunshine, sitting cross-legged on a rail in some nearby shade. Quite refined really.
Then there's a young hipster girl with tawny sylvan braids and a large cookie basket. I guessing it's cookies rich in cannabis-butter, there little red riding hood.
Assorted others add local flavor to the scene--there's the old gray woolly hippie wearing an American flag jacket over a priest's chasuble bearing a full-length Easter cross. There's another younger bearded guy who has a furry animal-ears get-up on top of his straw hat. He may be from the same tribe as the teddy-bear headdress youngster from yesterday .
A lonely guy with enormous hair, whom I couldn't help but notice yesterday as well, asks me if I have a bottle-opener. I would attempt to describe his hair as a farah-fawcet hairdo needing a trim caught in the wind after a shower. I regret that I don't have an opener. As with matches or rolling papers, I enjoy supplying such things. I have been many times in a similar position.

Next a young cat handing-out the local anarchist tabloid Slingshot comes by. One of their loose collective was nearly-killed by an IDF-fired high-velocity tear gas cannister at the apartheid wall in Palestine very recently. Tristan Anderson was a brave Berkeley tree-sitter last year and is now in a vegetative state in a hospital overseas. The table they operate offers massage for donations to his fund. May God bless him.
This group the Long Haul Collective also had a grossly unconstitutional police raid on its premises and computers in the last year. It was stated to be in connection with recent animal rights activity, but it was a fishing-expedition for information on such things as grassroots protest plans for last summer's GOP convention.
Then, on page 2 of Slingshot there's an obituary for an old colleague of mine, Franklin Rosemont, Chicago's lion of labor history and surrealism. We were in touch for quite a long time beginning around 1975. I admired his example of surrealist subversion and we collaborated on a few projects.

An obese rainbow clown is inclining down toward the stage. I figure this is Wavy Gravy. It's him alright and before long he is on the mic from a seat stage-side. I don't understand what he says but I do recognize the voice following his. It's Jonathan Richman strumming an acoustic guitar with a drummer backing him up. I make the proverbial bee-line to this nectar, right to stage front. Only a few people are dancing so it's easy to join without jostling. Naturally, considering where we are, a few of the dancers are quite smelly or somewhat lacking in self-control, or both. One bearded porker is fairly omnipresent at such hippie remnant events. He seems to be vying to be elected bull-goose hippie when Wavy departs. A very eager dancer, he franticly moves to the other side when he can't get the ground that others and I occupy. And a lot of the body odor seemed to go with him. I later see him getting shoddy-looking body paint with other flabby exhibitionists.
But it's all in hand and it would take a great deal more to spoil the good feeling Jonathan Richmond puts out without fail. He runs through a short set with his arabesque grooves, his witty lyrics and warm voice. His stage moves are really good too--a very seasoned performer. He keeps acting as if he only had been given a brief amount of time. Wavy keeps him from cutting out too fast though. He requests a song, a poor choice for dancing but one that goes over very well with the infants. Several parents are holding them aloft near me. (I think I represented a safe dance zone). It's a children's song about a dinosaur. A mom standing next to me signs the song for her baby who pays avid attention. Another tot sitting on her dad's shoulders behind me is really into the music, entranced by it. The way Jonathan sells his lyrics with facial expressions and schtick really puts him over with the kids.
Richman has always had a child-like demeanor himself and seems born to perform. He looks incredibly young and healthy. He's a year older than I am too. Staying happy has carried him a long way. He is a subtly swank dresser to boot in his cool rock-a-billy jacket. Too soon he calls it a set and waves bye-bye. He justly gets a sizable cheer from the mob.
A carpet is rolled-out next and a rather amateurish troupe of belly-dancers go to work to canned music. They have a slow hip-hop section but it seems to me to defeat the whole idea. While I'm watching this, Jonathan walks by for the second time, this time by himself. I can't resist and reach out to say hello. He's from Natick, North shore of Boston. I tell him he's a hero to me.
"I'm from Massachusetts and I remember when Roadrunner first came on 'BCN in the mid-70s...music hasn't been the same since." He smiles graciously and wants to know where I'm from. When I tell him Fall River, he says he's playing there soon.
I mention that I was just checking out Josh Ritter on YouTube and he had a video that was made in Fall River. I said, oh, Fall River's hip now. More laughter. Actually it always was, I add, but nobody knew it.
As we say goodbye I tell him, "You're like a beacon to me...like a buoy...you buoy us up...you're like a life jacket, that's it." Thinking out loud I'd hit on the right simile. A big smile and sincere thanks from a real sweetheart. He has lovely eyes.

After this I find an incline that's fit to recline on and have some more of a Clif bar. A Belgian girl takes the stage for one French song in a nice voice. Others are not as easy on the ears when they get the stage for their statements. Rarely do they seem to realize that they needn't yell into a microphone. Often they adopt a tone of such nervous urgency that they render their spiel ridiculous.

There's half an acre of people of similar age who all seem like they know each other. Seated close together they are charming to me the way a flock of birds or a family of lowland gorillas can be. Recent studies have proven that young people who smoke cannabis have better social skills than those who do not.

The next act is a blues band modeled on the Hendrix experience with the effects-laden guitar in the hands of Shelly Doty. The prominent bass resonates especially well with the assembled stoners. Acid flashback music still rocks a lot of souls, it must be said, who stand up and dance.
There's that old white hippie in a dashiki from years gone by. While dancing he walks back and forth portentously while playing psychedelic charades. There's a fat gal with a rat's head hat--she's available and her standards are easily met, I'm guessing.
There's the huge guy with a long white beard, leather vest, and pirate's hat, handing-out flyers of some sort--for the Biker-Pirate-Burner Ball perchance? There's an aging black queen with a flaming red hat and the brightest clashing colors of anyone here. There's that pale retired rock-star guy with dyed-black hair of course and today some flowery out-door pajamas. There's an authentic-looking railroad hobo.
And these are the people of People's Park.

Another one of these rocking souls made himself known just then. He is my selection for first runner-up People's Park man-of-the-day. A dready and beaded black man he wore a huge rainbow flag-winged cape with an Obama family portrait on a velvet rug attached to the front. Each color stripe was separate like feathers. There was also a "No on Prop 8" gay marriage-ban election poster attached somewhere in his spreading penumbra. Frolicking around with a huge grin, he was chanting, "Freedom at last." I only wish the first black president could actually be the super-hero of this guy's vision.

Younger folk are out in regalia as well---there's the guy on stilts in black silk chinese pajamas, or the girl with pink fairy wings. A cute young girl with fuchsia hair alights on a group sitting around a "911 Truth" placard. She has classic body painting and a wild paisley hippie-dress. And of course there's the very hip little kids who always take to the Aquarian vibe without hesitation. They don't even seem to be alarmed at all by a few saggy nudes around them. And the free food thing is their expectation. I watched with amusement as one little boy walked up to a Mexican ice cream-vendor's cart and opened the cooler. The sharp-eyed ice cream man sitting close by on a bench shooed him away firmly.

A black girl lying next to me was snoring away under her coat--I moved away a little. There, a line was forming a short distance away. From it all sorts of people emerged with paper plates of free cooked food. I had eaten several energy snacks and decided to leave the food for others. This is not to mention my fussiness. I'd actually had some lentils and vegetables from this group recently, hardy but gloppy. But it is a blessing for the hungry and for those who serve them.

Diamond Dave next seizes the mic to deliver his mummified rap. He was an early friend of Bob Dylan and may well have been Bob's first source for works by Woody Guthrie, Jack Kerouac, and others integral to his trip. Bob also kidnapped Dave's actual carnival experiences to fold into his own early fictional bio-notes. When Dave is motoring away like this, it leaves little doubt that he was in fact the one who left home and found work as a carnival barker.
After yet another impassioned plea follows, that this crowd personally stop the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory's dangerous expansion in Strawberry canyon. That left only one more performer on today's bill. I moved down behind the stage to listen better.
Country Joe MacDonald, internationally known for cheer-leading at Woodstock, came on with his fascist-killing acoustic guitar. When I first moved here thirty years ago, his dad used to set up a table on Telegraph to sell a book called "An Old Guy Who Feels Good." Joe, who I first saw as the radical-edgy young front-man of Country Joe and the Fish in the late 60s, is now the age his dad was then. He mainly performs the old songs that feel good by Woody Guthrie these days. Today he plays "This Land is Your Land" as one of a fairly brief handful of tunes. He also performed the Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth", demanding and getting a sing-along out of the crowd. One can't help but wonder why he doesn't do any of the more lyrical stuff from the first Fish LP. Instead we get the most obvious choice and the best-known of their songs, "Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die Rag." Yeah, let's stop this Viet Nam.

That happens and it's getting past my bed-time for this affair. I bid fond farewell for another year and start home. In front of the empty carapace of the old Cody's, the same tropicalia jam band that was here last year is playing again. A little lady sings and shakes her maracas and seems to be good at getting the party started. I linger on the opposite corner and listen a while. They launch into an Amazon-inspired number replete with vocal impressions of birds and monkeys.
As I wonder why this scene can't be at least this funky and fun all the time, the singer asks, "How many of you want music to be here every week? Raise your hands!"
Everybody put their hands in the air and wave 'em like they just don't care.





Postscript:
Yes, it was bedtime for the park that Bonzo built and that in turn built Bonzo. By Bonzo I of course mean the late Ronald Reagan, c0-star of "Bedtime for Bonzo" and former Governor of California. He built the park by rallying its supporters after his initial brutal repression of it. He called in the National Guard, many were injured, and James Rector was killed.
People's Park in return built Reagan by making him a national reactionary hero. This led to critical mass for his presidential ambition. He was then able to spearhead through congress his "trickle-down" economic policies that vastly widened the gap between rich and poor. This insured that there would be a sizable permanent underclass for whom such a place is a haven of last resort. Without a doubt, the casualties of Reagan's whole crack-for-Contras thing sure beat a path to this place.
Today, while the merchants and neighbors may rail against the "nuisance" of People's Park, the police make regular use of it, telling unfortunate people to get off the street and go there.
"Go sleep it off in People's Park," I heard a cop instruct a guy passed-out on a Berkeley sidewalk near Peet's coffee shop. That kind of society leaves everyone with an ashtray heart.





(Note: Each part was written and originally posted the evening of that day's events. I'm re-posting them separately to make them into columns that are easier to read.)