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.