volume 3 of the golden west:1995 august-november  work & days: a lifetime journal project  






Part 1 intense times in the neighbourhood. Traveling in part 2. San Diego and first excursions with Tom in part 3.

Mentioned: Janet Atkinson-Grosjean, Bobby Wong. Carlos Castenada, Fumiko Kiyooka.

17 September

I went to talk to David. Sunday morning. It was one of the between times, sober, not romancing. He sat opposite and I watched him in his wonderful strange face, his true barenaked little face below the tower of his forehead. I said it gets real and then both of us fall into hope and then it goes wrong. He said, Sometimes I feel you so small I want to put you in my pocket, look after you.

I said, Tell it like a fairytale. He said, She's a fairy. When I get her home I put her on the mantle. She flies up and writes on the ceiling. I said, S'elf: one's own elf. He carried out a shelf he'd made. He had written on one of the boards, shelfreda. An elf shelf.


Write down Bobby Wong's name because he was what happened this afternoon. He likes notes in origin. "You were naked in that film, I could see you completely." A small man, very small, like a kid, but could have been thirty. Baseball cap backwards. Holding his heart. "One more thing I want to ask you, what is the relation between your work and your physical?" "What?" He said it again. I still didn't understand. "Your foot - I have something too."

Bobby's dream. It was as if he was sucked out of his body suddenly. He was in a vast darkness without sight, hearing, touch. No senses. But there was knowledge. There were layers as if mountain behind mountain, and in the folds of the layers there were sounds, people. He could hear them all at once or he could hear only one. It was the best. Better than anything. Suddenly he was sucked back into his body. He went back there several times that night but never since.

10th October

I see that where I slept last night is called the Sweetwater Mountains. It was pink fading fast, I had to make my bed and didn't see much, but there were white boulders, a fast green and white stream, pink-brown slopes with pine and what is that little hard-leaf tree. (Aiee, it's time for the grasshoppers to start little rattles.)

I put my bed on powdery sand near the stream. It was only seven but too dark to write. I sat looking. The stream filled its pass with complicated clashing sound that I realized contained an almost constant boom of jets whose flashing triangles I could see crossing the stars always northwest to southeast. Much later the moon rose in a small notch on the other side of the stream. The spot got itself ready, very bright, but then nothing but the god itself, whose appearance was so commanding I sat up straight to take its force. A fantastic arrival. Now I could see the sand under my nearest tree worked back and forth with animal footprints. I could see the red of my shoes.

San Diego 19

Look at this beautiful lamp. I have a perfect lamp. Today I bought a hotplate, a little Silex, chrome, a smooth round thing the size of a saucepan floor. And in the same store a teapot I don't know why I like - cream-colored, a handle on the lid like a little pike, and a squared spout. These three things, lamp, hotplate, and teapot, are beautiful adaptations to living in this 8x10 room. Library books: Lopez Field notes, Lessing The real thing. A phone. This fresh hot cup of tea. A couple of people in the lobby who say hello.

The antique store in Ocean Beach was like an anthropology museum, aisles with furniture arranged into bays that held small things like the teapot and the lamp. Jewelry, books, baby shoes, dishes, sometimes clothes. Nothing that hadn't belonged to a life - a museum of American abundance, spill and overspill of shapes of personal love: you made it intact through some original life, now come and be in mine. I was walking around addressing the pieces the way I do plants. Liking this teapot is David in me - his feeling for the love in things. I take the objects for their shapes, for the way they satisfy me from many angles. See - there - my plaid jacket black and white with just a line of turquoise blue. That jacket - and the shirt next to it - was in a life before me too. What I'm saying is a commonplace, the mystery of objects and so on, but I haven't said it yet. Something about their coherence, each little thing, and the larger pieces like the kitchen chair, the love, and the kind of love, that made them, in their different times and styles, is also a love of seeing and touching, both in the maker and in those who wanted to live with it.


Last night I lay falling asleep at eight hearing the building around me. The quality of the sound is very beautiful. It has a grey furry quality, which may be given by the standing panels of concrete walls. Not like the sharp sound in my house at home. This sound is like grey velvet. Its sources are distinct, radios, televisions, taped music, telephones, voices, nose-blowing and coughing that come from the light well. Voices, rarely, through the door; the sounds of other doors. Annie on the other side of the wall talking about praying for this and that, or when she is alone shifting into a nasal southern voice that is like a cartoon person who may be an alter to the pious soul she otherwise affects. There is a young black woman with midriff bulk and thin pointed legs who walks everywhere speaking aloud, being a radio keeping herself safely in the company of her choice.

I lay sinking very sweetly into this velvet texture of the building's presence and the street's, where there are car alarms and shouts. Ironed white sheets with light blankets make me a child in the hospital, a girl in the dorm at Ban Righ. There is a reason I could feel that sinking-in as bliss. But then my phone rang and it was Tom inviting me to dinner, as if he had been there at the desk feeling me open my edges to the building with him in it.


It was Saturday night in La Jolla. A double-stretched limo is at the curb waiting for a dozen little girls capering on the grass. "Let's go, come on now let's go," shouts a bearded man in shirt sleeves. They ignore him. They ignore him. He stands beside the open back seat door. I don't know whether he is father or chauffeur. They come running. "Wipe your feet, wipe your feet" they shout to each other.

In a roofed shelter beside the path a family is collecting paper plates by light of a Coleman lantern they have hung from the ceiling. There are many date couples walking, kids standing kissing. What I liked best was a group of Hispanic kids of different ages standing on the sidewalk so we had to walk around them, seriously and skillfully, quietly, singing, in Spanish, something with intricate harmony lines.

And back through all the miles, roads that come to junctions and become other roads, a very unrectangular net laid to pass between humpy hills and piecemeal shore.

1st November

I was in a field in the mist. It was falling dark. I stood looking at cropped yellow grass, blond and grey tufts of sage, grey earth. There were contours nearby, some trees, the slope, a mission wall with a yardlight shining down it. I would hear a bird slice down through the thick air. A small round animal tumbled into its burrow just ahead of my foot.

I was in the sheep pasture. The old lame ewe was outside it. Tom was somewhere smoking a cigarette out of sight in the mist. I was looking at the simple field with love and wonder. It was as if pushing on my heart.


A beautiful man, brown, dressed in faded black, has been lying on the sidewalk trying to put a condom on his unhard penis. His eyes are showing a lot of white. He is a small lovely body. A white policewoman, tall blond with plucked eyebrows and a tight uniform, arrives. "Turn around with your hands behind your back." She is walking along the street with him, strolling toward jail with her left hand loosely draped over his two hands cuffed behind his back. It's Thursday morning. There is sun on the street again.

It was raining yesterday morning. I merged onto the freeway where every car was surrounded by a spitting cloud of white spray that moved with it and in which its two red tail lights were almost the whole weight of danger shooting forward in ranks between dotted white lines. It was a muffled dreamy scene so automated I had to push myself to remember to take care.

Oh poor people, poor wrongly made things, so many of you, each gone wrong in so visible and individual a way.

There's a tree across the street that's like a tree in Giotto, bitty small leaves light green and dark green, a small tree lit in bits and shaded in bits, little and mythical.

I'm feeling a kind of immensity of creative freedom. Look, there, across the street, the way a white curtain is hanging in purple folds inside the geometry of a double window, a classical sight to go with the classical tree. It is as if when I say hell I am saying heaven, not because these millions of wrong people are alright as they are - they are not - but because one touch of a bare sheep field - at that moment Charles McDaniel presents himself. "You still here? You some kind of a writer? What you writin' about? I love people. I'm a heart man - everything." A very clean light green teeshirt and gold-rimmed glasses.

The way Paul Churchland yesterday sat down and rested when a girl with a quiet voice and large breasts asked a question that supported him. She grew bolder and told something she knew. He went on resting, encouraging her. At that the other young woman in the room said something too. The young men had looks on their faces - and I did too - that said, How did she do that?


Beatles Anthology on the lobby TV. Tom's on the desk and has charge of the remote. There's this tall fifty year old notching up the volume, blasting the lobby like it or not.

And here Charles McDaniel reappears. Admires himself in the window as he reels me his line. "Could you love and respect an old black man like me? 'Telligent, traveled a lot?" "Leave the girls alone," Joe mutters, strolling past. "Hey Joe, how you doin'. You know him? Ex-boxer?"

A man in a wheelchair comes along, not a fat man but a man with a deep sack of fat under his chin. "Can I give you a chuckle? Why was the snake disheartened? He didn't have a pit to hiss in." He tells me a story. This happened in backcountry Tennessee. He had a lot to do with church work at the time, singing in choirs. There was a young man, a Vietnam vet, who approached him one day. He had spiritual problems and thought he saw something in Bob. Bob said, "I don't know much about the Bible but let's just kneel down and say the Lord's Prayer together and I'll take it from there." So they kneeled down, each beside his chair. They said the Lord's Prayer together. Then Bob said, "O Lord if it is possible could you give us some sign of your presence?" He was suddenly filled with an amazing sensation. Men have sensation in sex and women can have it all the time, but this was more than that. It was like water, water flowing. It went on for a couple of minutes, very pleasurable. Afterwards he asked the other man whether he'd felt anything. He said he was overwhelmed.


All of these people wouldn't budge, they'd got as far as they were willing to go, I'd have been stuck with them in their limit. Keep moving and there'll always be a burst of freedom before we stall, a burst of joy. And then this sadness when judgment says to love, Oh honey you are dreaming, dreaming, dreaming. Love says - I'm the animal that saves your life. Judgment says - I'm the animal who makes your living. Tom says, intelligence that's beautiful. Beauty that's intelligent, Tom - more of that, or I'll be ashamed. I am today. I'm crying with shame.