Friday, May 19, 2006

Teachers and Students

Today, I attended a memorial service in Stanford's Memorial Church for my former colleague and friend, Bill Woo, a journalist and professor, who died last month at the age of 69. Among the eulogies were eloquent testimonies from several students. In the audience were a number of other students, including some I taught as well, during our three overlapping years on The Farm.

Not all that many people probably equate Stanford with journalism. After all, an elite private university does not really match up all that well with the messy world of the journalist. It is remarkable, actually, that a truly great journalist like Bill got the opportunity to teach there at all.

The future of that particular program is at risk. Beyond that, the future of journalism education generally is very much in question. What gives those of us hope who care about these things is that the next generation of young reporters and writers, now in their 20's and early 30's, appear to know what is at stake.

Thanks to great teachers like Bill Woo, there is reason to think that the battle to challenge the status quo through journalism has not yet been lost. That is one of his greatest legacies.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


Inside this apartment, now emptied of any sign you ever lived here, the floors and walls echo as I slowly walk room to room. Here is where your couch was, and there, your chair. We sat in this room, night after night, talking for hours--just as friends. Until, finally, one night, you came over from your chair to sit beside me on the couch.

In this other room, your office, with all of the wires in and out of computer equipment, and your design tools, neatly arranged. Your office chair and the little wooden chair near it, where I sat for hours, as we researched places to go together -- New York, Mexico, Hawaii, Gold Country, places north and other locations we never got around to seeing. Here, too, is where you would scribble down a list of movie titles, theatres, and times, whenever we were getting ready to go downtown and see a film.

In there, the kitchen, were the stack of menus, from which you'd order -- Indian, Chinese, Cambodian, Japanese. Here's where the ice cream and chocolate-covered bananas you loved were stashed; and there is the door where we first let the cat go outside from. He was so skittish, for so long, that cat. I worked hard to gain his trust. In the end, it was me who convinced you to let him out, after his six long months indoors. I think he knew that and he always rubbed up against me after that.

This wall is where you hung one bit of artwork, that wall is where you put another piece. Over here, a TV, mainly used for movie rentals; there a sound system that might play The Flaming Lips or Al Green, among others. I could always tell your mood from the music. Over there was the box of toys and jewelry the kids loved to dig into.

Down this hall you strung a clothesline. And in there was the bedroom.


Once a place like this has been vacated, is all memory of its previous inhabitants lost?

The walls cannot talk, nor the floors or ceilings. Maybe this particular space still yearns for your return -- and mine. Maybe even the cat's.

After all, such a place has witnessed the unique life and love only we could provide. It knows more than anyone outside of the two of us about what transpired here.

Worlds within a world, private chaos amidst a big city's swirling dreams.

As I walk down these stairs for the last time, I think I hear a soft tune playing on the wind, a tune kissing me good-bye. "Freebird." I zip my jacket up against the chill, and walk through the city alone.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


It's always compelling to witness a human being struggling to escape the demons of her past and emerge whole into this confusing world of ours, somewhere around what we call "middle age." Seeking a new freedom and identity, testing boundaries.

Those who show up in her life at these times include both exploiters and those who can truly love her. It's up to her to figure out the difference. Whom can you trust? Great love is possible at this moment. Great disaster is similarly possible.

Why do people love birds? I was listening to guests on Michael Krasny's show "Forum" (KQED-FM) yesterday who suggesed that it is because birds can fly and we can't, plus, birds are not confined by the boundaries that restrict us. They can go anywhere, wherever they choose.

We, by contrast, will always hit against boundaries of many kinds.

But knowing that that doesn't stop the irrepressible human spirit from trying; nor does it prevent those of us with beautiful freebirds in our lives to love them even as they make their attempt to escape.

Monday, May 15, 2006


It's hot outside. I took a walk today. Also drove to a nearby town, so I could deposit some checks for a traveling friend at her bank branch. Drove to another town, looking for a specialty store for a certain gift, but failed to find one. Withdrew some money from my account at an ATM. Bought a liquid lunch, in this case a healthy smoothie.

Restless in this heat. These are good nights for eating at outside tables, for going to movies or ice cream shops, or best of all, for love. Warm San Francisco nights.

When a tree falls in a distant forest and no one is there to see it, did it really happen? An old philosophy problem.

If you continue to love somebody from afar, without any contact and with no return of affection, can it be said to be real?

Which feelings can you trust, and which are to be "held in check" or shunted aside? What does it mean, exactly, to "get over" somebody? To "move on?"

I hear all of these phrases, but they hold no emotional meaning for me. Lots of people offer advice; none of it resonates. What about the pleasure one derives from loving another person? Is that supposed to just vanish into thin air, when your love is no longer welcome?

Where, precisely, do all of these strange and powerful feelings go if they do go away? Why do others try to censor them, as if some are appropriate and some no longer so. They were all apppropriate a moment ago. Why not now?

Maybe somewhere far away soon a giant tree will fall to its death, slowly, inexorably. Maybe when it finally hits the ground, there will be a huge shudder, shaking an entire region. But, if no one is there to see it or feel it, will it ever have mattered, or even be able to be said to have happened?

Far away from the scene of the fall, lives will continue to be lived as if nothing is the matter, nothing has been lost. All will continue on as if this is a normal state of being.

The heat rises here. A breeze also blows, offering relief. But there is no relief for the restless, nor for the broken-hearted.

Just utter silence, waiting, but no one can say for what.