7 March 2014
I was driving home after the museum - it was dark, there was slow traffic
because of the street fair. I suddenly wanted cake, chocolate cake for my
birthday. I drove back up Indian Canyon looking for somewhere that might
have it, then south again on Palm Canyon Drive. I was almost home. There
was a last restaurant before the motel, a Lyons English Grille behind a
large parking lot just where Palm Canyon makes an elbow. I don't like that
sort of tacky baronial barn but I'll try it. Walked in, man behind the bar
chatting up a tourist couple. "Can I help you?" "Maybe."
He had to go call the waitress to tell me what they had for dessert. She
was a small thin elderly person with a harried look. I said I'd have the
crème brulée and vanilla ice cream. She hesitated when I asked
could I have them outside, but yes. I said I'd be no trouble.
On one side of the door there had been two women at a table with drinks.
On the other was a brown man with headphones on, singing quietly by an empty
glass on a pink table cloth. He had a quiet potato face, was maybe in his
late fifties? Sixties? I stood deciding where I'd sit, at the one empty
table by the middle-aged women or on the right side of the door at the one
empty pink-tablecloth table beyond the singing man. I liked something about
him and went to sit by him.
When he began to look up a bit later I said hello. I'm still carrying
the look he gave me then. So soft a face.
The parking lot was not pretty, old asphalt to the edge of the street,
where lights were passing intermittently, but I liked sitting there gazing
into a pool of warm peaceful dark air.
That was when I opened the journal and wrote the beginning of a sentence.
The man said isn't it a beautiful evening. I said it was. Asked who he was
listening to. Nat King Cole.
Then how did it go. The waitress brought my two desserts. I had been
telling everyone it was my birthday and told her too. The man looked up.
Asked, If it's your birthday, where are your friends? All over the world,
and my kids too. He said it was like that for him as well. He has six kids.
He said marriages don't work out when people aren't in synch with their
higher purpose. Then a story about a vision that came to him when he was
in his twenties, a being that had instructed him.
The waitress came back to bring me my check. She stood for a moment looking
out at the night with us. She was feeling its charm. I asked had it been
colder. She said yes, this night was the first warm night. A spring night,
I suggested. Yes, a spring night.
The man got up and stood in front of me, said he would sing me a song
for my birthday, the one he had been given by the being of light. He was
looking into space above my head so I could watch his face.
- There was a boy
- A very strange enchanted boy
He sang earnestly. He was singing me his story, I thought. A boy in British
Guyana, Dutch grandfather, Ethiopian African mother, father Carib Indian
and something else. He has a 6-month contract at Lyons this year, is friends
with the owner. It's where Nat King Cole used to sing. Sometimes it's Vegas.
He's thinking Atlantic City next. What's hard is going back to his studio
apartment alone after he has been singing all evening, making people happy,
When he had sung for me I said sit down with me. He said he would for
a moment, he had to go in and sing at seven. I asked about his vision. He
was in a Greyhound bus traveling to Venezuela. A light entered the bus at
the door and came down the aisle to him, and then resolved into a being
in front of him. He couldn't tell what color the being was, because of the
amber light, and he thought that was part of the message. The being told
him how to live. He talks to it still, and it leads him.
He stood up to go in, said he wished I'd come hear him sing. I said I
already had and it had been perfect. I held out my hand. His was quite soft,
a fine narrow-fingered long hand. He walked away beautifully, taller than
I thought, in his evening clothes, lightly straight-backed.
When I was driving away I saw that above Lyons on the lighted
panel it says established since 1945, when I was born.
And then came back here and saw the pool lit up like turquoise glass
and got into my bathing suit to go lie under Orion in the black sky with
high tiki torch flames reflected on the water.
Yesterday there was Moortens too, twisty tangles of snake cactus and
a fossil tree in chunks on the ground, and Thai for lunch, and Deborah Butterfield's
horse in the art gallery, and Terry Masters' gallery with good desert paintings,
and Terry himself coming after me on the street to give me an invitation
to his event on Saturday.
- They say he wandered very far, very far, over
land and sea.
- A little shy, and sad of eye, but very wise was
- And then one day he passed my way,
- And while we spoke of many things, fools and
- This he said to me:
- The greatest thing you ever learn
- Is just to love
- And be loved in return.
So yes it has been a happy day, since such things can still happen.
Sunday morning. Do I want to say more about Palm Springs. The motel room
was just right - I chose it online for the color of the beds -
light on the mountain - at night the pool transilluminated like an uncut
aquamarine, something about that light-holding color, so I felt stepping
into it had high powers of restoration.
Friday morning driving the streets looking at houses, stepping out with
my camera. The moment I looked up from the camera and saw across the intersection
verde in full bloom surrounded by open space and plastered walls. The
perfect shape of it and its perfect flourishing where it was standing alone
after its buildings had been hauled away. An arched doorway behind it leading
to more vacant land. Three arched doorways in three directions but the northern
wall gone so its plaza could seem a stage where the tree was making its
solo appearance. Two empty bottles lying on their sides where homeless drinkers
had been. Old bare concrete. This in the midst of prosperous streets where
the street name plates say The movie colony.
There I post a whole Palm Springs tumblr page.
I think it's correct, as a page, the ruby-steeped palms, then the brilliant
white house with palms too. Then the blazing tree called a solo performer,
far and close, then the title Being of light. It has the relation
of tree and angel-man I felt. The beyondness of the doorway too. Is it as
good as I can make it? Don't know yet.
I looked out the back door at the sky and there was a black kite soaring
and swerving above the house next door. I walked out onto the road and found
its string tied to a creosote stem just off the verge. The Mexican next
door was standing on his wall watching it. I went back and sat on the wall
next to him, Providencio, who came from, I think he said Guanajuato in 1980
and works as a landscaper for the county. Cometa.
Yesterday I was thinking I should write what I remember of the hospital
when I was a child. When I recall it I start with a particular room that
I must have been in at least twice because I remember myself in two of the
I was coming from such a crude little house. What's strongest in my memory
is the building itself, its large strong coherent finished institutional
quality, which seemed magnificence and intelligence to me. I loved those
qualities without knowing I loved them.
There were tall windows reaching up to high ceilings, wide corridors,
large heavy doors that sighed shut on brass springs. There was electric
light and the room I was in had a bathroom with running water. The floors
were made of a smooth speckled material I didn't know the name of, that
curved up onto the walls at its edges, a beige terrazzo. Window sills were
broad clean ledges in pale varnished wood.
My room had two windows facing east over a parking lot, that is, a large open
space on the far side of which was a street where trolleys ran and in winter
sometimes gave off blue sparks. Above the windows or between them was a
big stencil of Mickey Mouse. I would lie in my bed in the dark listening
through those windows to a distant train whistle somewhere toward the northeast
in a city I didn't know. The distance I could hear in the train's voice
was my way then of feeling the distance to my home far away somewhere else.
Is that what I mean? I think hearing it was the only time in a day I thought
of home or my family. I was interested by where I was. The hospital itself
was like a town, with many unknown spaces and functions in parts I hadn't
seen yet. I'll come back to them -
[Mewburn Pavilion of University Hospital of Alberta]
[University Hospital and trolley lines in the '50s or '60s]
The room I was in had two sets of two high beds, each set with a divider
glassed above the level of the beds. Each bed had a bedside cabinet with
a drawer above and a small cupboard below, which would contain a stainless
steel wash bowl and kidney basin. There would be a bedside lamp wired to
the wall and a push button bell to call a nurse. On the cabinet there'd
be a water jug and glass.
I don't remember any of the children I was with in that room, only the
Further north in the corridor outside the room I think there was a larger
girls' ward with six or eight beds - but that may have been a room I saw
in a dream. I do know that the last room before the tall heavy glassed doors
into an atrium where corridors crossed and a rank of elevators clanged open
and shut was a premie nursery. I would stand gazing through a window at
nurses wearing masks and holding tiny babies.
I don't remember what was across the corridor on its west side [I do
now - it was a room with toddlers in high cribs] but I do remember that
where it turned west at its far, south end was a windowless utility closet
that had boxes of crossword puzzles and some children's books.
The east-west leg of the corridor first had the nursing station and then
what was called the sunroom. Across from the nursing station were the boys'
wards. In the center of that wide corridor was a long low table with children's
chairs, where we'd eat together off our trays that had been lifted out of
tall aluminum food carts that had been pushed in rattling and would have
columns of shelves for the brown [bakelite?] trays.
[University of Alberta pediatric wing of the era]
Mid-morning and mid-afternoon a nurses' aide would push a little two-shelf
cart rattling through the corridors with juice - orange, apple, pineapple,
tomato and grapefruit. Juice was a marvel; we never bought juice at home.
In the evenings - I've just remembered this - there would be cocoa and graham
I only remember a few things about the meals. One was that when there
was a chunk of head lettuce with a dressing poured over it I took it to
the sink and washed off the dressing. It was an unfamiliar thing that tasted
too strong. At home we ate lettuce with sugar and cream. The other thing
I remember is a lemon dessert that had cake and pudding layers somehow sorted
in the baking process. I didn't understand how that could happen.
There'd always be a slice of white bakery bread with a little rectangle
of butter, and a glass of milk.
The food would have struck me as civilized in a way our food at home
was not, the way the building and even the city people in it were civilized.
The sunroom was in fact very sunny, with a rank of high windows facing
south over another parking lot. There were large stuffed armchairs, leatherette
I think. During afternoon and evening visiting hours visitors might sit
there with the child they were visiting, but in the mornings I would push
one of the armchairs nearer the window and pull the ends of the long heavy
cretonne drapes over its back to make a little tent behind it, where I'd
play on the floor.
There was also a beautiful ceremoniousness about the nurses'
uniforms. Beginning nursing students would wear a pink blouse with their
white aprons. Further along they'd wear blue, and when they were graduate
RNs they'd wear all white. When I saw them on the street they'd be wearing
a dark blue cape. I knew they'd have to earn their white caps. Graduate
nurses would have a black stripe on their caps. There were name tags too,
on the front of their left shoulder. The young nurses were often pretty,
and some of them would be personally nice. An older nurse who was a supervisor
would sometimes appear; she'd have an unusual and daunting quality of authority
I would think of as ugly. Doctors would wear an open white coat over their
suit pants and white shirts and ties and they'd smell of cigarettes. They
carried themselves casually, would appear briefly in mid morning, in small
groups, often, have a few friendly words and disappear for the rest of the
Nurses who had graduated in other hospitals would wear the caps or uniforms
they'd earned where they trained, so there would be a piquancy of foreignness
There were nurses' aides too, the lowest rank above housekeeping staff,
who I think wore grey blouses.
When was I in the hospital. At three, at five?, at seven just before
grade two, at ten?, at fourteen.
The first two times I was in an earlier children's wing, that had a long
narrow wire-mesh-enclosed outside play area a couple of storeys off the
ground, like a balcony or verandah. The room I was in then had windows onto
this play area where I'd hear children running and shrieking. This wasn't
a big room, four beds I think, two high enclosed cribs and opposite them
two lower beds for older girls. I was in the crib nearest the door. There
are just a couple of things I remember. One is a morning when I urgently
needed to pee and couldn't get out of bed to go to the toilet. I think I
tried to pee in my water glass and dropped it on the floor. Another is some
kind of hostile exchange with the older girl in the bed kitty-corner from
me, who I watched having visitors who brought her presents, I remember a
radio and probably fruit. Another moment I have remembered before and don't
quite remember now is when a visitor came through the door for me, a man
I didn't know well, a relative of my mother's who'd been going to the city
and had been sent by her to see how I was.
[children's polio ward of the era]
The second time I was in that wing, when I was five?, I was in a long
ward near the first room, in a bed (not a crib) halfway along the east wall.
What I remember from that room is that there were Brownie meetings for which
a large papier mâché mushroom was brought from a cupboard.
I think we held onto the ends of crepe paper streamers attached to it and
jiggled them chanting to-whit, to-whit, to-whoo. The other moment
I remember is an evening when my dad suddenly appeared to take me home.
There suddenly were my outside clothes. I was anxious to make sure to take
some salted peanuts and raisins I had been hoarding in my bedside drawer.
I remember him carrying me through an exit foyer, not the one I knew later
but a narrow room with dim orange light. Then maybe a hotel room? Then nothing
until a night stop in a long bus ride. He took me to the door of an outhouse
but didn't come in with me and I accidentally dropped my mitten down the
outhouse hole in the dark.
I wasn't glad to see him, I wasn't glad to go home. There's a neutrality
of feeling about all of these scenes, a stoicism, I was just where I was
(except for distress about spilling the pee and losing the mitten). It's
interesting that architecture was so strong an experience in this.
It's a good thing I'm writing these down now because I'm likely going
to start forgetting them. The hospital was my completely private experience,
no one I knew had been there; when I was there I was nothing but myself.
The fifth time was in a small room at the end of a long corridor on a
high floor - just under the roof - in an old wing. There was a long adult
women's ward at 90 degrees to my corridor so I could look across into its
windows from my bed against a west-facing window. One night I saw a woman's
naked breasts in lamplight when she was being examined by a doctor with
curtains closed around her bed.
It was winter. From that bed I looked down onto the hospital's laundry,
where columns of white steam would rise as I was eating early breakfast
off my tray. I liked those breakfasts. I'd cut open a fresh crusty roll,
butter it and fill it with my mashed up hard-boiled egg. By this time I
was old enough to order off the menu.
I remember more about this time. I remember two of the other girls, Helen
in the center bed that stood out into the room from the window wall and
Dorothy in the bed near the door kitty-corner from mine. Neither of those
older girls could get out of bed. Dorothy would sleep with a respirator
strapped onto her chest. I had a cast on my right leg below the knee but
I bopped around in a wheel chair or on crutches. I'd go to a linen closet
up the hall in a nightie tied with strings behind my back and pick out clean
panties and an ironed dress from a small pile. The dresses would often be
too short or too tight. I'd rip them when I jumped along on crutches. No
I would sometimes entertain my roommates by roaring out songs after lights
were out - I knew all the words to This old house. Remember someone
coming in to tell me to pipe down.
Up a few steps at the nearest end of the corridor was a small room, I
think windowless, that was used by staff on breaks. Med students maybe.
Near it was a locked gate onto the roof. I would sit there and read the
magazines. Below it in the room just past ours was a teaching room that
had a John Doe dummy on a stretcher. The room sometimes wasn't locked so
I could go in and look at the seeming corpse.
I had bits of money visitors gave me and would take the creaking elevator
down into the basement where a tuck shop had chocolate bars and comic books.
Ice cream drumsticks in paper cones. If I were in a wheelchair I'd have
to struggle with the criss-crossed folding elevator gate. The elevator didn't
always stop level with the floor.
Down on the tuck shop level were labs with white mice in cages. A strong
Further down our corridor, past the entrance to the long womens' ward,
was a newer wing with private or semiprivate rooms. At the end of that corridor
was a sunroom that most of the time was empty. I was always interested in
its late-50s American magazines - Life, Look, The Reader's Digest, Good
Housekeeping. A washroom in the corridor of that newer wing is where
I found interesting bandages in the waste paper basket, some with blood
on them. When I was going home I wanted to take some of them to play nurse
with, along with empty penicillin bottles still rubber-sealed, their seals
held on by silver metal rings. Uncle Walter was at the dental college then
and would visit me once in a while, handsome and urbane. When I was due
to go home and he was fetching me I showed him the the bag with what I didn't
know were menstrual pads in it and he was unaccountably flustered.
That wing had sleek new elevators I could take down to the 4th floor,
which was Maternity, with new babies in their bassinets beyond a window.
The elevator opened onto grand foyers on every floor - I found them grand,
with patterns inlaid in the terrazzo. The sleek heavy sound of elevators
opening was grand too.
Our trays came with a sheet of white newsprint on them to make a clean
surface for our plates. I would ask the immigrant woman who worked in the
little kitchen next to our room for sheets of the paper to draw on. I'd
draw horses and ball gowns for paper dolls, like those in Katy Keene comics.
I was in that ward over Christmas. We had a tree in our room with presents
under it. A parcel arrived for me in the mail, brown paper tied with string,
and was put under the tree. I opened one end of it surreptitiously and felt
into a cardboard box that had a doll in it. Did I pull it out or just feel
it, I don't remember. It turned out to be a walking doll with brown hair,
large blue eyes that closed, a pale blue dress and red Mary Jane shoes.
The card said it was from my classmates, who used money raised in their
Junior Red Cross activities. I didn't assume it was their idea to send it
to me but I loved the doll as if she were my child self. It was obscurely
significant that she was a walking doll.
I remember myself as cheerful, even boisterous, in this time, excited
by the complexity of the place, interested especially in the immigrant working
people rather than the professionals - the janitor, the tuck shop man, the
In all of these memories I have a confident sense of the orientation
of rooms and corridors. I always knew where I was in the layout of the place.
It might have been a country kid's native awareness of the morning, mid-day
and evening sun. It was also that I was always interested in buildings.
I'm seeing now how this is related to the way when I invented stories with
Judy I would always begin by describing houses and furnishings.
- Is that it? I haven't said anything about the surgeries I was there
for. I'd be prepped the afternoon before, my leg would be shaved by a nurse
with soapy water in a kidney basin. In the morning an orderly with a stretcher
would come for me. I'd be strapped in and trundled into an elevator and
along unknown corridors to the operating room. I remember once being taken
through a sloping concrete-sided tunnel with large wrapped steam pipes running
along them near the ceiling. I'd be interested to see the operating room
but never had time to look around because the anesthetist would set an ether
mask over my nose and mouth and tell me to count. I'd be out almost instantly
and then wake on a stretcher in a recovery area. My ankle would be hurting
and there'd be the weight of a plaster cast holding me down. It would still
be drying, there'd be a smell of damp plaster. Or sometimes I'd wake in
my bed in what I remember as a darkness of red pain. It would be extreme
pain but I don't think I cried. It was just more of being where I was. For
the first hours I'd be nauseated by the anaesthetic - I'd forgotten that.
There'd be a couple of days of that red pain. They'd give me penicillin
shots to prevent infection and they must have given me painkillers too.
Then I'd be better and allowed up in the wheelchair and then later on
crutches. I'd always be held to recover for quite a long time, a couple
of months I think, until the day I'd be sent down to a basement room where
a man with an electric saw would cut a line first down one side of the cast
and then the other, so its two halves could be lifted off my leg one at
a time. The saw was worrying, would it cut too deep? I'd feel the line of
the cut as a hot little tickle. Then there would be my poor thin leg thinner
than ever, painted red with mercurochrome, with dark sloppily-made stitches
still present and large flakes of dead skin peeling. Smell of scorched plaster.
The cast would be put back on, a little sarcophagus, and buckled in place
with beige canvas straps. The cast would be quite grimy by now.
After the stitches had been plucked out I could take the cast off to
get into a bath again, which was wonderful, but I'd have to put it back
on again afterward for a while. My leg would have to get stronger again.
One time, out of the 4-bed room, a nurse prepped me with a different
sort of anaesthetic, a creamy fluid she injected into my bum hole with a
large hypodermic that had a rubber tube. I was interested in the way I was
already beginning to fade out as I was being wheeled through the wide door.
I was trying to stay awake to see where they were taking me but I couldn't.
Something else I'm noticing in this story is how trained in passivity
I was by these events and probably before them. Though I was intelligent,
curious and lively I accepted everything done to me without protest or question.
I was sent away and sent home, I was inspected by strangers and cut open
by them, I was separated from everything I knew and given great pain. I
don't remember being affronted or distressed by any of it. In a subliminal
way I was greatly interested by it. There was a scope for my brightness
in it, that my narrow steady life at home didn't have. My brightness coped
with it. None of it happened in language, none of it was contaminated by
language. I was not instructed in it. It was true adventure.
Back in my family I was never only at home; I had another life that was
only my own. I had been away living in a city, in a vast complex wealthy
institutional order, secular, clean, more modern, more rational, run by
more educated more intelligent people, a community on a much wider scale.
When I went away to university it was a return to the hospital. I loved
it in the same way.
From the windows of the 4-bed room I could look down toward the front
entrance, that I had only passed through a couple of times. Entering, there
were several concrete steps and then big double doors, then a small foyer
with radiators on both sides and more shallow steps, and then the main double
doors into the reception area with its desk for visitor enquiries. That
small anteroom or foyer impressed me so that I've often remembered it. What
was it about it. I think it seemed beautiful to me, with its tall glass-paned
doors on both sides and terrazzo steps probably brass-edged. It was a bright
room that had no function but passage between entries on two levels. Is
that it? I think the floor was green.
When I was passing through Edmonton with Louie in 1992 that wing with
its lovely front entrance had just been demolished, was lying behind wire
hoardings a rubble of broken bricks and plaster and even some smashed furnishings
no one had thought worth saving.
Wrote those five pages fast yesterday, slopped them down. As I typed
them just now was seeing the simplicity of my child mind in the way I was
writing it and yet my spatial-sensory take on where I was was completely
clear and solid. I was it not I. What was unremarkable then seems
remarkable now. Not just how I saw it but the seeing built into how it was
made. It seems better architecture. Its era was late '40s?
It reached 102 degrees a couple of afternoons ago. Warm enough to sit
outside at night but there were little biters. Have had to put away even
the lighter duvet though it's cool in the early morning.
I give whole days to Sketchup. Yesterday it was a version of the old
Point Loma studio I used for the doc. Today it was seeing what I could do
with a 44x16x9 house. It's the best of my small narrow houses, I solved
how to have an open plan and a central fireplace and my bed in the
main room and still have a bathroom by putting kitchen, bathroom and work room up
a couple of wide low steps. That plan even gives me a guest room. 704 square
[journal] [breakfast] [back door at noon] [back strip] [Rowen visiting on my birthday]
Eclipse of the moon from my bed in Glorietta Canyon last night. Blue
Spica leading it and that was Mars running ahead. Jupiter below the Twins
as they sank behind a ridge in the northwest, following Orion the butterfly.
Bright moonlight on the rocks above me to the north. I held my palm up
into it thinking whether to call it colorless. Fell asleep and woke when
the shadow was a quarter across. It moved fast but then totality went on
and on. It was pretty through the binocs, a soft effulgent pink. I was thinking
the cone of earth's shadow must be much wider than the moon.
When the moon's light was fading it felt like the world was dying a little.
I had dragged my bed to a platform the flood left last summer, a 3' layer
of sand with a straight edge down, wide as a stage and angled just right
to face due south. As usual had made a very cozy camping bed deeply padded
underneath with lots of covers and a hot water bottle at the foot end. Was
in it by eight. Lay feeling the soft air on my face. A perfect temperature.
Very still. Once a bat zipped past overhead, just once a far-away cry, just
once a faint ticking that might have been a distant cricket. Continuous
faint hiss in my left ear.
I tried to watch the faint black and white smudges of optical cortex
noise. Sometimes they would jump into focus as if a photo of a sharply faceted
rock face, but I'd jump into attention and it would be instantly gone. What
had I realized about that - oh, that I've been trying to look at them with
my eyes. Maybe I'll be able to hold them steady if I feel it more as seeing
with my brain.
Paul sent two scans this morning, One must have been taken by Uncle John
Toews when Luke and I went down to Russell Square to see him and Aunt Lill
in April of 1973. The two of us are side by side in deck chairs, an astonishingly
beautiful young woman in a purple peasant blouse, long dark skirt and leather
jacket is sitting straight-backed gazing with love at a little creature
in duffle coat and striped pullover who is holding the sole of one shoe
and looking tickled to be so adored.
Have finished laying out In English far enough to send for proofreading
- posted a call for proofers and layout crit on FB, see whether anyone's
willing. Jpg takes of cover layout too - now what? It turns out to have
been nearly ready before.
When I lie down and feel into myself I find panic dread of publishing
In English. I will do it, and I will have to experience indifference
and dislike. I experience them all the time anyway, how is this different?
I'm making what I feel is a large claim. It will be denied.
There's weather. When I went to bed a racket of wind so strong I got
up in the dark to look at it. At 3 definitely the sound of water falling
off the eaves.
Two days all day on Sketchup. I sit down I expect briefly at 7 in the
morning after I've made tea, made my bed, swept, assembled orange juice
and put it in the freezer for later. Sometime in the afternoon I notice
blasts of oven air from the open door. Don't want to stop to eat - will
go get a little bowl of peanuts to stave my wolf. Forget to drink. By evening
my crotch has been sweating all day and I begin to notice the smell. I may
hear birds 8' away at the feeder hung on the porch rail. Three times a large
squirrel came trying to get into its small hatches. I jumped up each time
to bang the screen door and scare it away. Doves crooned. There was a small
seismic jolt. It was Sunday, the monitor said. Judy walked past in a hat
though it was five in the afternoon. There were blasts of wind. The screen
door jittered. Once the side window's venetians flew out and crashed back.
* came with a chainsaw to trim back the broken lemon trunk. Sometimes there
were voices. Providencio's roosters crowed in the afternoon. I didn't get
tired. It's constant action and decision. Sometimes I reconsider and back
up 20 steps or more. I'm working on the Point Loma house and garden. It
was partly remembering and partly inventing. Such a fluid tool. Where to
put the staircase has been the hardest decision. One thing will suggest
another so I'll try it. My very lovely 16x44 house fits in the SW corner
of that garden. I'm getting better technically, got the first floor / ceiling
/ 2nd floor / roof layers relation almost right this time. Am remembering
wall allowances mostly. Know to zoom in and check line origins when the
tape measure won't work or when wall surfaces disappear. Realized the tool
is always right. Have figured out how to use push-pull to make window glass.
It's a way of learning architecture - I mean learning what decisions to
[library early] [upstairs
I'm always wanting symmetry but there are questions about how to integrate
symmetrical elements with non-symmetrical elements. I was trying out an
8' grid, though there were bits I winged that have ended up off grid.
A really long pool. [tulips and olives]
A citrus orchard. A public entrance and a private. A very big studio
but not as big as it was. [studio January noon] [studio
with cat and olives]
The long E-W corridor is the most important structure in this design.
It's as if the studio is an extension of the R hand.
Along with the studio the space that has been most important to me in
my years with this house has been the little winter sun spot that juts forward
a bit in front of the fireplace room, ie the spine room, which makes it
the chest or heart space. [heartnook and cat] [heartnook
and Krasner and flowers]
So there's the grid and there are symmetries, and there's its psychology,
and there are things I like in a garden, for instance a pool a bit raised
with an edge for sitting, and long wide shallow steps, and platforms overlooking,
and rampart corridors [cat bridge and late breakfast], and trees on sight lines
as well as here and there, and trees in colonnades, and high walls with
shadows thrown, and a kitchen garden separately. I have the kitchen and
manager's office as mirror images on either side of the library. [kitchen]
[kitchen June early] [kettle
I like a big bathroom with space for beautiful color. [bathroom
Drawing these models and maybe especially this one there's a strong sensation
of actually making something and making it I suppose with magical speed.
The wind. Comes blasting from the west. It's inconstant, comes in bursts
that strike the house hard. For the last couple of days there was a time
around noon with hard wind for an hour. Often it's late afternoon. This
morning unusually before dawn, rattling the windows and making the roof
creak. It's stringy not a broad front, I could see it on a farther tree
but not in the near palm. Listening to it I feel the house unsheltered on
an open plain with large forces bearing down.
It's a dark morning, clouds moving fast toward the east.
14 May San Diego
Tom's place in the early morning light. Soft venetian shadows on the
wall. Sweet air through the screen. Tom in the kitchen ironing a teeshirt.
All the years.
He's gone predictably into sweet talk and I like it. My gloom lifts.
I look younger. I liked his strong hands on my spine. I liked hearing his
sleeping breath. I fell asleep instantly last night and slept well. I liked
his haircut - the right haircut again finally. His place looked nice when
I arrived alone after the freeway miles.
"I can't believe you don't love me." "I do love you but
I want to love somebody who loves me more." "Good luck with that."
Driving the city feeling how comfortable I am in it, how well I know
its ways and byways, the tracks I've made down 4th, up 5th, along Mission
Bay to Robert's, up Washington from Pacific Highway, along Robinson to the
right turn after Park Ave, even up 163 to Friar's Road and then west to
the mall with the Apple store, along past the airport and across the bridge
on the way to Charles Street in Point Loma.
Anguish about leaving Tom gone because I'm with him now and it's natural
as if it will never end. [Tom in May 2014]
"If the reward comes randomly - sometimes after 50 presses and sometimes
after 150 - the pigeon will press with much more vigor, even after the rewards
are removed entirely." Skinner random reinforcement.
- 1. how to focus sand
- 2. how to stabilize
- 3. edge with slight wave
- 4. overcast so no glitter
- 5. how to frame accurately
- 6. what distance?
It's a drama of pattern then sudden wipeout then pattern slowly forming then wipeout
then slow forming that may be suddenly interrupted then slow forming, as
if we are seeing lifetimes coming into existence and demolished again and
again. We wait in suspense for the pattern to clear. [from OB pier]
- o illimitable sea
- pushing, pushing
The pier zones. At the far end it's deep slow silent green.
zone near the café.
Rolling surface constantly changing its angle to the light.
As if a heavy roller is advancing under the wrinkling skin.
In my head I'm talking to Tom about how to think of being left. It will
scare up his mom. All these years (he says) he hasn't believed we're finally
separated. When he has me he holds back. When he thinks he might be losing
me he tries hard. For both of us loss is the ineluctable structure. It just
goes on. [Tom at 16] [Tom in the Mission Beach house]
Another way to see it is bands of pale gold shimmer advancing, advancing,
advancing directly toward me.
A sea of metaphor.
June 7, Borrego
He praised Last light wonderfully. Watching it with him I felt
it more than I had. He remembered Bede's bird, which I then remembered him
telling me about in the tent.
In our last morning in his flat he was sitting next to me on the bed
with a look on his face. I said, Are you having solemn thoughts? He cried
for a moment. I liked that he minded.
We drove here peacefully on Wednesday after his old-person class. Cesar,
Rosa, Fanny, Tom being an enthusiastic host gazing into people's rooms.
Thursday we read separately and together and after it cooled sat talking
on the front porch ledge with our bare feet on the sand. There was a high
half moon. I said, Where's the sun? He understood for the first time that
it's always full moon somewhere.
The last night at his house standing outside looking at his mass of plants
against his lit wide window. He had been grateful for two things I'd done
for him, repotted his tree and got him started on his family history tumblr.
He always feels me in his house. Yes I've loved him in action though not
sentimentally. He has loved me too, in persistence and touch and in more
emotional watchfulness than I have credited.
The book keeps saying we'll never see each other again after I leave.
My beautiful Sketchup bathroom has white marble, a skylight, a banana
tree, orchids, a Turkish carpet, a cayenne-colored loveseat. The guestroom
across the corridor has two doors out and a tea tray on the floor next to
an armchair. And now a blue suitcase.
Then I acquired paintings, for the guestroom a Krasner and a Bontecou,
for the upstairs bedroom a Riley and an Agnes Martin. An O'Keeffe for the
I put an apple on a plate. There's a thrilling gift economy of models.
Someone made a white plate. Someone else made a red apple. Someone else
made the table. I copied a red cushion from a loveseat and put it on a white
plaster ledge. There was a white teapot I colored red and set next to the
Is the moon up?
Refining the 16x44 house, shadows, textures. Setting longitude and latitude,
trying the sun on different dates, framing photos, lot of time placing little
things: bar of soap in a white dish, bread on a plate, Peter's painting
in the guestroom, glass of rosé on the guestroom bedside table, journal
on the dining table, pot on the cooktop, toaster and bowls on the counter,
Buddha with a plant in his lap facing the entry door, teacup with tea in
it on the terrace floor next to a chair, sandals at the front door, towels
on the tub's edge, Turkish carpet in the bathroom, blue suitcase at the
foot of the guestroom steps, small white cream jug and red teapot, a thrilling
effect when I hung venetians in the workroom.
Last night in bed I was seeing a lot of blue lines, bright indigo selection
It's hot. Sitting at the computer all day when it's 95 inside and 105
out. I swelter but don't mind, ignore it. Am not hungry, don't want to cook.
Wake from the night, or in the afternoon too, with the pillow soaked. White
salt stains on the waistband of the pyjama pants I wear all day. Rinse my
day clothes before I sleep, hang them on the porch rail, they're dry in
the morning. Once a day hose down the porch plants. Store all my drinking
glasses in the freezer. Usually don't turn on the AC or even the fan; they're
In the last few days have learned to make and copy components, apply
downloaded surface textures, set location and time, cut temporary sections,
locate tiny misalignments and repair them, drag from R or L to select more
than one thing, paste components almost where I want them, rotate accurately
- is that it? V-ray dongle has arrived but I haven't loaded it yet.
- All of this with guilty avidity.
It's like dollhouses, it goes back to the moment of the birdhouse and
the afternoon of playing store with the Kroeker girls. Tireless focus yesterday
from 7am to 9pm. I love the way there's constant consideration and action.
I figure out how to do things. Offside there's a vast treasure ground of
components and whole models to learn from.
Tom had a plan, he'd give notice and move up with me and live in Bellingham.
"There's just one thing I'd want. I'd like you to be a little more
into me." At the same time he was all sails set in plans at the Seniors'
Center. He counts on me to say no? Or invents plans to keep from feeling
We had a just-right visit. Sat on the concrete edge eating in the dark.
He liked the wind. The stars came on strong. In the morning he kissed my
arm all up and down. Sometimes he seems actually to be thinking about what
would be good for me to the end of my life. "We're family."
These nights before I go to sleep I lie on the concrete in front of the
house feeling the new warp in my back, cooling, in company with the Milky
Way which is arching almost at apex, showing the broad dust lanes of Scorpio's
tail. Its head looks to me like a posy, Antares where its stems join.
Working on Mac's house. Found a rock someone had made and stretched and
rotated versions of it to mush together to make the ridge it's
on, planted cottonwoods in crevices and pushed some of their trunks
down into the rock to make shrubs. Then saw I could cantilever the bathhouse
out over its edge. Most of the day yesterday refining that little white
building winged with many casements. It's not all the way right
It's hottest in the house toward the end of the afternoon. Surfaces are
surprisingly hot, walls, even the glass on the desk. I swelter - that word
I like - and don't mind, but then turn on the AC about 7 to cool the house
down to 85 for sleeping, now that the night air is still into the 90s. Now,
at 6:30am, it's perfect, bright, fresh, Providencio's rooster crowing, cold
tea. I'll go on with the Sketchup book from the library. I've figured out
enough on my own so I can glom onto new bits with energy. I guess I won't
argue with this drivenness though nothing can come of it but interest and
What I meant to look at was not the incidents so much, though I got into
them, as why I remembered them. What a child registers, why a snapshot is
taken rather than not, even those that seem general are actually moments,
though I mixed in some knowledge from later. They are moments of whole take,
scenes that would be better written as such, unpacked.
Yesterday I learned the fog tool, took photos of Mac's washhouse
on its rocks in sunlit white mist. At night after hours trying again to
gut the wrong internal structure of the 824 house, meticulous tiny work
mending edges, I wandered into video taken from game worlds, where young
men have taken what I'm doing to technological extremes in the service of
zooming around killing things or watching women with big breasts run. What
would be better. For instance drawing and animating one of those memory
moments, just the length and breadth it is, not a plot or even a character,
just an accurate moment of being.
I've realized that I'm drawing.
Reading McPhee The control of nature on the hydrology of Mississippi
containment in Louisiana. I so like men in their physical expertise: that
they've cared to understand how a river moves, the forces on its banks at
various points, and McPhee's love for those kinds of guys and their intelligent
skill. And oh his own skill that holds me in fond admiration page after
page. - That kind of writing, documentary writing about how things work,
perceptual precision, spatial visualization that projects sideways into
apt metaphor, so formed an intelligence working comprehensively. I love
the way he lives. He gives himself access to these people who do and know
things, and then he goes off by himself and focuses and sorts and forms.
I love that he uses techical words I've never seen and doesn't explain
them. "To hope to see an ivorybill, to hear a prothonotary warbler."
"This swamp of the anhinga, swamp of the nocturnal bear." He contradicts
what I used to say about writing, that it has to be fresh off immediate
consciousness and that the work is to make that consciousness worth writing
from. McPhee confects from notes, reworks, and his confection makes a reading
consciousness worth making. I believed what I did because it seemed to support
the best kind of ambition I could have for myself. When I went back to school
I did what McPhee does, compiled and sorted - tho', no, I didn't revise
much once I'd written - a work of time - which I suppose is the way quality
of consciousness is actually built in a body, across and across and across.
I like the word distributory which balances tributary.
The fish alone can average a thousand pounds
If he doesn't know them, he knows where they
live, because each town has its accent.
tupelo and cypress rising from the water, and
pollen on the water like pale green silk.
Bourque called it a gros
bec. Soileau called it a yellow-crowned night heron.
As lava moves under the air, it develops a skin
of glass that is broken and rebroken by the motion of the liquid below,
so that it clinks and tinkles, and crackles like a campfire .... They found
that a crust as thin as two inches was enough to support a person ... just
a couple of inches of hard rock resting like pond ice upon the molten fathoms.
The land just calls them and they go into geophysics.
There simply are no women in McPhee.
The town seemed covered by deep black snow.
Many houses were discernible only as dunes in the [?]. If they burned, they
left kettle-shaped pits. Eventually some of the ash-covered houses filled
with steam and were cooked until their frames came loose like bones of stewing
They were like touches of pallesthesia, nothing
more: little shivers in the bones.
Dora looked down into the water. She saw red
lava there. Salt water fell on their heads, and fine fragments of dark-brown
glass. In daylight, sailors who have fallen overboard have been found by
shipmates who steered toward hovering birds.
The gas came over the lip of the crater, flowed
downhill, and went through the town like a river. It suffocated cats. It
stalled cars. People's heads were generally above it ... a sailor who tried
to loot a pharmacy died in a pool of carbon dioxide.
I love about California that it is so written-about.
As the two sides of the San Andreas slide by
each other, they compress the landscape at the kink. The San Andreas has
folded its flanking country, much as a moving boat crossing calm waters
will send off lateral waves. The great compression at the kink is withal
the most intense. The Coast Ranges and the Peninsular Ranges are generally
smaller than the Transverse Ranges. The San Gabriels are being compressed
about a tenth of an inch a year, .... Between the Geology-Department roof
and the San Gabriels, the city gradually rose. A very long, ramplike, and
remarkably consistent incline ended in the sheerness of the mountain wall.
This broad uniform slope is where the seven tons an acre had emerged from
the mountains, year upon year for a number of millions of years .... Broad
at the bottom, narrow at the top, the fans were like spilled grain piling
up at the edge of a bin. There were so many of them, coming down from stream
after stream, that they had long since coalesced, forming a tilted platform,
which the Spaniards called a bajada.
I once came across a solid block of citrus trees
surrounded by residential streets. In all directions from this dark-green
stamp sprawled the vast groves of houses .... From the block of citrus the
houses continued west unremittingly, east and south indefinitely, and north
about eight hundred yards, where they were stopped by the mountain front.
- He interlards, when I copy passages I see how he keeps switching from
this sort of spatial description to talk with persons.
"We're living on a floodplain. To look at it, you'd think it was flat,
but there's nine hundred feet of difference from Glendora to the ocean.
The alluvial fans are that deep. The types of flows that built them go on
trying to build them, where we are trying to live."
Before the citrus, there were ranches, before
the ranches, Indians, before the Indians, the primal scene: huge unencumbered
alluvial fans leaning into the fast-rising mountains beside the hazy plain.
In the eighteen seventies, to connect agricultural towns, local railways
had begun to climb the bajada. Long straight avenues are there now, steadily
rising three and four miles.
Big slow trucks went around full of oranges.
Homemaking. A lot of time today making a feast at Mac's house.
I wanted him to make curry. Big bowl of green salad. Had to make and remake
plates and bowls. Set things out on the white marble surface. Find a ladle
for the curry. Couple of bottles of wine, white and a red. 6 glasses. Then
I thought we should have a cake and made one myself with the circle tool,
the edge smoother, and a cropped photo of coconut frosting. Silver platter
to put it on. Flowers for on top of it, make them red. A knife to cut it
with rested on a pile of smaller plates. Line up the sun for a photo. -
Need a better sink, go find one and find a faucet for it. In the end there's
my screengrab, that I dote on the way I've doted on photos and paragraphs
It was 100 degrees in the house this afternoon. I didn't turn on the
AC, it was surprisingly alright - needed it when the humidity was higher.
Maybe the way to tell how hot it is, is if the pillows are hot to the touch.
I like it when they are but if I fall asleep briefly I wake looking hollow-eyed.
The desk glass gets hot. The other day when I drove to the store three quarters
that had been lying on the seat next to me were too hot to hold.
It can take all day doing small things in a model. I was fixing the underside
of the boat-shaped roof, sorting things onto separate layers so I could
vanish them to work on other things. Last night I was hours combing bed
and lamp models, pulling some of them into my files. The happy thing I did
today was devise Mac's outside bed. I'd thought a bed on rails that can
slide forward onto the decking, but yesterday after I'd shut down the computer
I realized I could make a nook off the end of the deck for a permanent outside
bed. I liked the bed itself because I'd found a rumpled one with a blanket
I could turn dark green. It was a nice bed, and I set it down three shallow
steps between boulders. There it was fitted into a little platform its size
with just enough of a rim next to it to keep from rolling onto the rocks.
Up on the ridge it's next to the Milky Way, open sky pivoting on the polar
star. I made a breakfast tray too, with French bread and butter and red
jam - sour cherry jam. Telescope is parked with the bed on its sky-hung
Mac's study square that I invented years ago, here fitted
out in detail with long library table, red sofa, computer table, massive
screen, Turkish carpet in front of the fire, a Constable,
a big Riley, a lot of storage, one lamp over the sofa at night, he reads
till late, walks across to look things up online, stops at the long table
to lay out printed sheets and images, turns off all but the smallest of
step lighting, walks out to the washhouse, showers in the dark, goes naked
to his outside bed, lies looking up, feeling the air. Wakes early, down to the
washhouse to pee and put on jeans. The kitchen is streaked with sidelight.
Cats at his ankles, makes tea, sits with it at the outside table for phone
[bedroom evening shadow] [night washhouse
lights] [summer morning] [two cats in the yard]
I wrote to Tom: Is it dishonorable I wonder to take so much pleasure
in imaginary circumstances. He replied: My [seniors' centre business] emails
give me the same pleasure as your realization of imaginary circumstances
and I think I come from the same mindset with a soupcon of putting on the
dog class-consciously ... they are from an imaginary Tom, a courtly kinda
guy, maybe a last-of-the-'20s generation executive writing at the end of
the mid-'50s pragmatic luminosity.
I sent one of the images of the outside bed with Milky Way and he wrote
"If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would
men believe and adore: and preserve for many generations the remembrance
of the city of God which had been shown? But every night come out these
envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile."
Turned out to be Emerson remembered from probably Harlan Ellison.
Okay Thomas - if you're capable of giving me this why have you mostly
given worse? Long puzzle. Is it parsimony? It says circumstance, his stars
are lined up at the moment.
I've loved working all day long with driven focus. Want to say I'd like
to be doing that with something that matters, except that if I have driven
focus for it, it matters. What is it it doesn't matter toward, that something
else might. - The interest and pleasure of the best, it's always that. Being
in the company of the best, adding to the life of the best, making the moments
of pained joy that have been made for me by the best.
Gordimer died yesterday. 1923-2014.
Spider hanging shin-height just inside the bathroom door. Black, biggish,
long-legged. I was suspicious, got the flashlight. Yes, red hourglass.
Small bird on the porch rail yesterday at noon with its beak open panting
in the heat. It got to 117.
I like having the screen door open before it's hot enough to mobilize
flies, to be able to see the birds directly. Whole dozen doves suddenly
flapping up and landing on the wires across the road, where they sit facing
this way to keep an eye on their feeding station.
DH Lawrence 1885-1930.
He's so visual. His characters are aware of other's bodies the way I
am and most characters in novels are not, and other real people may or may
not be, usually I don't know which.
He describes the flux of feeling with someone and alien to them I think
as no one else does, the watchfulness in that pain and relief. A lot of
social pain in his people. The way I am with Tom, now it's like this, now
On the phone this morning when I'd told him I'm leaving early so we won't
see each other again, the moment after we'd said goodbye, when I could still
hear his voice, the hard pang of loss.
I said Friday August 15. He said it's the day of the assumption of the
Days making and placing the windows and doors for the studio house -
meticulous labour - finally today I could turn on shadows and take photos
- it's a house of art - Bontecou in the guestroom,
Mary Pratt in the downstairs bathroom, Riley in the stairwell, O'Keeffe
in the upstairs bathroom, an Emily Carr watercolor in the library, Krasner
and Joan Mitchell in the corridor, Agnes Martin in the upstairs
I love the Buddha of the stairwell and the little Emily
Carr over a bookcase next to a casement window, with April midmorning
sun coming in sideways through windows 10' high. The upstairs
bedroom took my breath, a well of light. Windows on all four sides.
The flooring isn't pink - I had a good pink terrazzo but there was too
much of it. Oatmeal coloured now. Good carpets in the bathrooms. The studio's
like a gym. Empty. Maybe a string quartet could rehearse there.
- It wasn't hot today, few big drops of rain from a sky completely lidded.
I was at the monitor most of the day - lot of chores looming but - it's
a form of drawing assisted in ways so I can spend many days carefully running
lines and erasing them - months later I'm so better at it. I had to patiently
remake the Point Loma house, which now is the studio house - this house
has always been mine, it was Being about's house. The studio is laid
out differently now, though, because I didn't like the way it loomed so
far forward into the rest of the house's southwest. This one has more north
and an arm straight across to the eastern door. - My nook in the sun is
the heart space. It has an armchair. I could put a cat in it.
- But nothing is happening in the studio. First it was for the diss and
then it was going to put the journal online. After that there wasn't a plan.
Book making at the table by the fireplace, small screenings
in the northwest corner, music. [studio reading
- What I started to say was that it wasn't hot and I was happy working,
after the windows and doors were in, satisfied, pleased with it.
It rained. Water was sheeting off Judy's roof, sluicing down the road
8 inches deep, cascading over the brick walks in the front yard, coursing
past the jeep on the back yard track. There was a faint scent of mustard.
I didn't want it to stop.
[Notes on routes and mileage]
Will I think of all I'm leaving - Buena Creek Gardens, Mission Hills,
daily California, the green sea, Mexican men like Jose Luis and Mario, the
chocolate croissants and eucalyptus trees at UCSD, Nora and Eliz and their
houses, jacaranda trees, honeysuckle, Santa Ana dawns, wildfires, mockingbirds,
palms, doves, flowering pears, Whole Foods expensive salads, Bread &
Cie slices, the tea twins at Pannikins, the farmers' market, Pacific Highway,
Walter Andersons'. I'm not thinking of Mesa Grande now, or Borrego, it's
San Diego on the sea, my city. The beautiful library, the beautiful post
office. Orange trees.
As if teaching has vanished, and Tom has vanished maybe too, and what
remains is the steady loving interest I had in where I lived. The scent
in the air when I'd come back from [the college] in February. The easy confidence
of Americans. The postal service. Having it all to learn, like a young person.
My sick neighbour who held so excellent a wake for himself before he died.
The homeless man under the next door porch, Michael. Direct sun onto my
couch in the afternoon. - San Diego is already three years since but it
has the glamour of background, is that it? Dependable like mother love.
A fresh fine pretty mother.
Full moon last night. I was done for the day at nine and lay quietly
on the hot cement feeling gentle air from the east as it climbed unseen
behind Judy's palm. The heat on my back was nice and as I was drifting contented
I thought of the man in Palm Springs, his innocent dignity, his realness
in the moment, his being led, and I felt this parting could take me back
to being that, what my birthday adventure asked for and was given.
Vanessa the hitch-wiring girl
Bin to Indio, had the hitch finished, got the 5x8 because the 4x8 was
missing, had a lovely moment sitting on the U-haul company cement yard with
Vanessa on her back soldering a clip to hold the wires and a young man hanging
with her asking me questions like where were you in the '70s and what's
the best place you've been. They calmed me down.
Vanessa was a moon-faced maybe 20-year-old, plump, forthright, who said
yes jeeps have a lot of torque and called up on her phone footage of a Wrangler
climbing a rock nearly 90 degrees up to show me. I told the young man my
first car was a Studebaker Lark and he googled a picture of it. I told him
every young person should live in a foreign country for a while. Meanwhile
another young woman was having her 23rd birthday and came to say goodbye
because she was going off shift. They were all Latino there, the manager
The trailer is a stiff thing yanking at the jeep's back end. I'll get
used to it, am more used to it already.
Drove through date farms on a back-road detour. At this season the trees
are hung with weighted sacks like old nylon stockings. The air was thick
everywhere, mountains whited out.
sky] [jeep and trailer]
Thursday 7:30, last day of doves on the wire and powder hill beyond.
Last day of my bed - and my desk - this absolutely peaceful work room.
Morongo Valley on 62 - Leo's Automotive - I pressed, was pressed, on
10, waiting for the turnoff - it was hot, lots of trucks, and when the turnoff
came, after the Valley of monster wind turbines, I saw the left corner warning
light was on - being startled by it made me miss a red light just on its
turn - the guy at the intersection just starting up saw me coming. I jumped
on the brakes. The trailer fishtailed a bit, not a lot. Then I had to stop
and read the manual, first, what is that light? And then what to
do. Yes it's an overheating warning. I shouldn't have stopped the engine
- should have put it in park and revved the engine a bit.
I sit in the hot jeep confusedly deciding. I'll drive on slowly. The
red light's off, but then goes on again. There's a hill. I'll climb it slowly,
don't think this will be a long climb. Morongo Valley, valley means downhill
soon. The red light flickers off, that's a good sign isn't it. Then a climb,
not a hard climb. The light comes on. Gas station man, East Indian, says
ask at the Chevron station. Woman at Chevron says there's a little town
mechanic, half a mile. Steady-looking Mexican man comes out of the back.
I think he's okay. If rad cap, water pump and thermostat don't do it, he
says, maybe the head gasket got smoked.
What's this place, flat and dry.
I remembered a trip with Ed - maybe more than one - where he had to handle
an engine overheating on the climb across the Rockies, his stress in that
responsibility, frantic, frothing.
Tom and I this morning sat on the concrete edge and saw the day come
in. I'll say more when I'm not frightened.
I got into his bed at 5. Last night had been honest but lonely. I wanted
him to be fond and he was reciting the places he'd seen since he's known
me. This morning I reminded him of the first time I left, when I kissed
him all up and down front and back and he sobbed for an hour. "Your
sins were all washed away" I said. I hadn't exactly known it until
I said it, but that was it. He said "I didn't know my sins were forgiven."
He had forgotten the crying, that surprised me, wasn't it the deep heart
of our whole time.
He was careful and rational, didn't promise wildly, asked me things,
This morning I said "In the early days you used to say 'I'm your
man.' I was scandalized by that, scandalized." "Why?" "It's
so blatantly seductive, it goes straight to the unconcious." And then
he said what I was going to say, "But as it happened - ."
I'm in the acre of cacti next to the autoshop, there are chickens wandering
and scratching with fluffy legs. Scent of trees in breezy shade. Swing bench
under a tamarisk big as a pine.
Pink began on the mountains. We were drinking tea I made yesterday and
kept in the fridge, thick subtle delicious tea in our blue cups. Birds began
to arrive, doves on the ground where Judy had scattered seed, hummingbirds.
The doves lined up on the wire in sun that hadn't touched the ground yet,
we saw it pink on the tops of the palms. It was time to pack up fast to
get to Tom's bus at 7:46. He swept and carried. I rushed around.
I haven't the energy to walk around looking at all the plants in the
He had two gifts. One was my London espresso coffee pot brassoed to perfect
cleanness. The other was silver too. He'd had the inspiration and rooted
through his boxes to find his mother's jewellry box. It's a pin of two horses
gallopping together. They're short-legged horses, Irish ponies maybe. We'll
never know the story of how they came to be where they were. They'll ride
in the little notch in my console. Well done, Fengler, I said.
- [email to Tom Fri, Aug 15, 2014 at 6:10 PM
- only made it to 29 palms tonight
- engine overheat light came on just as i was turning off 10 onto 62.
- dodgy mechanic in morango valley. stress.
- hours waiting in a dirty office.
- don't have the energy to tell it but tonight i'm in a motel i like
- lot - oldstyle - mr and mrs from a novel about colonial india -
- turquoise pool in an enclosed patio surrounded by pink units -
- enormous pine at either end - wasp-things zipping around on the
- surface of the water - frank sent me - he was the second mechanic i
- found after the first didn't fix it - i phoned bob at robert's
- automotive and said there's a mechanic here who's young and smart,
- you willing to talk to him? they conferred. they decided i just have
- to gear down uphill and stop and let it cool when the red light comes
- on and don't run the AC. maybe not drive when it's over 100. the two
- of them were birds of a feather i could tell. sweet-hearted about
- vehicles. so then i asked the young 29 palms man if he knew of a cheap
- motel. interesting, i added. interesting, he said: go right after the
- pizza hut. tell them frank sent you. the circle c.
- i'll try to get an early start while it's cool.
- it was a nice visit. i liked you this morning.
- happy you made your bus.
- happy for the help. and the friend. and the whole dawn.
Saturday morning, Circle C Motel. 4:15. Was it enough of a night? I think
so. I'll drive while it's cool. My travel stuff is better organized now.
Write this down: 119, 670. That was Christmas Circle approximately.
Responsibility for two bodies. Life or death decisions.
How far do I need to go today.
Jeep body, I have to watch the red light - should start even earlier,
Me - teeth, eyes, right leg weakness, jitter, bad sleep constantly broken
up with the fiery pain esp in hands and arms but forehead, etc, too.
I'm in a MacDonald's letting the jeep cool, red light flickering on just
as I got to this Nevada gambling oasis.
Truck stop where 93 branches off 15.
Place called Alamo - Strawberry Hill - some state parks - mountains -
then Ely - more mountains.
I saw the odometer turn over from 119,999.9 to 120,000.0 like a shelf
- [FB: alamo inn motel, alamo NV
- 93 and 95 up through eastern nevada and sometime around 2 am tomorrow
connecting with the I-84 west across the corner of oregon to the columbia
- [email to Tom Sat, Aug 16, 2014 at 4:25 PM
- alamo, NV
- very hot.
- going slow.
- starting in the dark.
- watching for the red light on all hills.
- turning on the heater full blast when it threatens.
- manual 3rd whenever the road rises.
- today has made it seem doable if strenuous.
- good thing i'm going north.
- eating ice cream in a $49 motel, not the good kind of motel, but look,
- it does have wifi.
- lot of scars on the wood paneling, imagining midnight brawls.
- the AC vibrates the whole room. the carpet is dog fur brown.
- don't care tho, so glad to stop for the day.
- it's near that waterfowl park we saw online. surprised how delightful
- it was to see green trees. pahranagat.
- only about 470 miles out at the end of two days, lost a lot of time
- you likely won't see these till monday but reporting helps me.in the
- ordeal of it.]
Wells NV. It's 9am and I have already been on the road almost 8 hours.
Wide black sky, waning half moon, meteor shower of insects zooming to
meet me in the headlights. Sometimes a scent like damp hay.
First light showed mountains.
Daylight showed juniper sagebrush country, later on another scent that
was probably rabbitbush blooming on the verge.
My left foot thinks 55 is too slow. 65. Long straight roads. Wide flat
valleys, basin and range, ranges pulling apart. Mountains far away, barbwire
fencing for miles.
I keep gassing up.
Yesterday 6 men in front of my unit drinking beer after their work in
BLM archeology did not find me interesting.
- [FB: oregon trail motel, buhl idaho]
I did get my 400 miles today, just. 870 left.
Slept 6:30-10:30 and at 5:30 am in Baker City, truck stop, something
like 260 miles down the road. Boise was a little nightmare of glaring lights
and roadwork, westbound squeezed into one of the eastbound lanes, gravel
truck on my tail for many miles.
Daylight coming up, ridge of mountains pastel blue.
[In Buhl] Watched hours of Mountain men.
The Dalles - 470 miles since midnight.
4am, motel room with the door open. What was I dreaming, something I
liked, first a sort of broadsheet? The old copied typewritten page? Like
Io pages, that sort of riff, a good riff, fluent, abundant, then drawings
in fine black pen, a travel notebook. I was thinking, feeling, that would
be good to do, to touch into a place more.
Tom did not reply tho' yesterday was a computer room day. Now I'm annoyed,
master of gesture followup none. I'm berating him. Maybe I'll mail back
the horses. Was he just wanting a last win. Etc.
Meantime Cheryl and Mafalda following the journey commenting, filling
in where he should have been.
I slept! Woke at 3:30. Right! Just right. Microwave tea. I'll get through
Portland before the rush.
Thinking that I should do flood writing to get my voice back, I'm such
a pondered teacher now, I know it's a dull considered voice.
- [FB: oregon motel in the dalles OR
- woke at midnight near twin falls ID and drove 470 miles by noon. boise
at 2 am was a little hell of glaring lights and freeway lanes funneled
down into one tight chute for miles on account of roadwork. then dawn and
breakfast in a truckstop in such a pretty american town, baker city.]
Attributed to Song Dynasty painter Zhang Zeduan 1085-1145. Along the
river during the Qing Ming festival.
Anchor Motel Blaine. Was I in this one?
Almost 400 by about noon, left the Dalles about 4:30.
- [FB: anchor motel in blaine WA.
- it's only 30 miles to vancouver but want to get there clean and frisky.
- maybe wasn't a good idea to run the last of the columbia gorge in the
dark, it's very curvy.
- missed rush hour in portland but crept through seattle.
- look at all this monotonous green.]
21470 - 19670 = 1800 miles, 5 days.
7:30 Starbucks on Fraser.
Waiting for Rowen to be awake at 9.
Is it the first time in a year needing to wear socks and a sweater? Overcast,
dark. Not used to that.
So here it is 20 years since I migrated. That very pretty customs officer,
Mr Liu, was a baby. I had to declare the value of my goods. "Returning
resident. Why are you returning?" "I retired." "What
did you do?" "I was a professor."
5 in the dark, alone in the customs lane. I got to keep my plants. He
said I couldn't bring in the soil but I kept finding new things to say.
He wore down, was a reasonable man. I was offering to go into a bathroom
and wash soil off the roots. "Forget about it."
It was a labour of peril and attention. Massive trucks blasting past
my flanks, hours threading narrowly between reflectors curving, rising,
falling in the dark. The trailer a burden of awareness always, rough roads,
abrupt edges, tight lanes, and o the hills both up and down.
I didn't see much. I put in time. I didn't stop in places I could like.
I pressed on and rested and pressed on. Monitored. Sampled radio stupidity
everywhere, young men whining and wailing horrible unskilled tunes, or fatuous
Christians. The first best thing on the radio was someone singing Delibes.
It was CBC. - Oh and somewhere a British architect on NPR talking about
his garden bridge project for London. It was on a desert road going east
on 95 toward Needles out of 29 Palms I think.
In Baker City, truck stop parking lot, standing in the dawn looking at
a puddle under my jeep. I put up the hood. A man drove up in a pickup and
parked. "Can I ask you a question?" Suspenders and jeans, a friendly
look. It turned out he was a mechanic.
Kindness of strangers. Three people in a North Las Vegas service station
helping me figure out how to get onto 93 after I missed my exit. Yesterday
the lovely woman in the Chinese restaurant next to the motel who wrote down
the name of the painting on the back of a check. She had a smooth smart
roundness that comforted me. The archeologists who offered me a beer.
I liked the pale dawn after the Blue Mountains - that's their name. Saw
a mountain goat on a ledge above the eastbound lane looking down on the
road. There was a high altitude passage I think that same morning where
the air had a scent of noble firs.
Yesterday was the first I could relax about the red warning light.
I was about to post the last of my motel names on FB yesterday aft when
Tom showed up onscreen liking the last two motel entries so I knew he was
there. Blaine! He said. Good timing like he sometimes has.
Circle C in 29 Palms
Alamo Inn in NV
Oregon Trail Motel in Buhl near Twin Falls ID
Oregon Motel in the Dalles OR
Anchor Motel in Blaine WA
- 5 states.
Should I add up the gas: $481. Motels $346. Trailer $473. Evil mechanic
$418. Total $1718.
- [email to Tom Wed, Aug 20, 2014 at 6:48 PM
- wondering whether now the hard part begins
- parked at canadian customs by 5 in the dark, lot of paperwork with
- officer liu, only one there, about importing the jeep. he let me get
- away with the two plants.
- then starbucks waiting for rowen to be awake.
- then there he was, more manly, almost burly.
- wonderful help unloading and stowing. nervous with me but affectionate.
- his girl's a cuddlebunny. he dotes.
- then returning the u-haul.
- then more driving to new westminster to get keys for david's basement
- then the inner key doesn't work. no electricity. no water. oh well.
- suddenly hits me i'm homeless. living out of a car. without a plan.
- old friend paul is leaving me his flat near granville island while
- he's out of town for a couple of days.
- meantime, library computer.
- bed made on the cement floor.
- one foot after the other. stay between the lines.
Vancouver 3 September
3:05am. I was driving somewhere at night. Up ahead
a red light was blinking by the lit-up façade of a colonnaded white
house. When I parked nearby I saw my old father by the front door talking
to a police officer. I looked away for a moment. When I looked back my father
was turned away from the officer collapsing against the door frame. I was
turning off the key in the ignition wondering whether to lock the car door,
thinking I should go to him. He looked felled by grief. I said "Mary
has died" and woke. Found my hert cloven by unsourced personal fear.
Not of Mary's death, I don't think.
662: [sketch]. Two windows like good eyes. Casements, deep white sills.
Dinesh said "You can have it." He'd seen my bank statement.
Calabria, grey morning, at the window seeing replacement people, people
who look like people I used to see, but the new crop of them, many years
Formating In America - which it has become in retrospect - American
years - in what way, particularly - Tom and Tom's story, I lived in Tom's
life, made my own inside his - belonged to an American union, paid American
taxes, had a social security number and a California driver's license, was
a para-citizen, and at the same time was looking about me with traveler's
interest in foreign ways. Was nation as such more real to me than
at home? Maybe yes, in the way it is more real to Americans, who are so
avowed to themselves as that. And the sense of consequence about US politics,
naturally. The elections. The mad right wing, a concentrated extreme of
elaborated stupidity. More of them, a more developed subculture.
I haven't wanted to say anything here, these weeks, haven't seemed worth
keeping. Haven't wanted to be frightened, as I am now, thinking of money
and aloneness. Blanked out instead, whacked through so-far 21 vols of In
America reformatting, renaming students, eliding mentions of [the college],
catching typos, being comforted by past pleasures, waiting to move into
my little expensive room and have my desk again.
It's raining the worst kind of rain, dull seep from a low sky.
I'm back but I'm not really back - I'm as if stuck onto the surface -
reluctantly - miserably -