Saturday, March 03, 2007


That would be my self-shadow against the clover and sour grass of our backyard today in the warmth of a spring day. Lots of basketball in only t-shirts, plus the ice cream man came by. It was also my daughter's friend's birthday party day, so she made her a card out front in the morning sun.

It was also another sleepover Friday night, pizza and movies and lots of Runescape. One son hates his photo being taken, so all I can show is his hand.

The early petals of fruit are bursting here, swelling under the sun's heat, saving up their moisture and sweetness for a later moment. Now we can kiss and make out. Later we can suck the almost unimaginably rich fruitiness out of the purple ovals these delicate white flowers will grow up into...

Walking through the warm Mission District tonight, my home, I came upon a pretty Latina, navigating her two large bags of laundry to a local Laundromat. As she rounded the corner, I noticed she had one bag balanced on a skateboard -- a truly creative solution -- and that her long black hair was streaked with blond. We exchanged pleasantries.

Our lives are so layered. Earlier, during a phone call with one of my oldest and closest friends, we both were shocked by how many overlaps we share. This person and that person, here and then there. In the old days, this used to be called "community," but in our time, growing up as we did in the revolutionary '60s and '70s, everything has fallen fragmented like so many spring blossoms to the moist soil below, waiting to recycle us all.

As you walk around, remember you are stepping on the compressed remains of all who ever have dwelt on this planet. It's funny that we snap our photos so earnestly, as if our physical forms matter one whit in this cruel ecology. No, the best we can hope for is to be a mere shadow, as we pass over these lands.

My own was still here, as of today, in a brilliant sun, and as I shot him, he looked okay to me, a lot better than that old guy in my bathroom mirror.

Meanwhile, I continue to puzzle over the various requests I get for help. This one needs a recommendation letter; that one needs an introduction; this one seeks advice about her breakup; this one hopes I might introduce him to an agent; that one needs an edit; but this one presents me with an unusual request: to help her edit a flyer that advertises, among other attractions, "heart ass for women."

Now, in my long, checkered career, I have occasionally been described as a "hard ass," though hardly as hard an ass as my old buddy Paul Avery was, he who is the star character in a new movie released this weekend, "Zodiac." Quite a few of my journalistic colleagues over the years have been portrayed in film; sadly, I have to say I hardly recognized any of ye, boys.

I will admit to having had one girlfriend, however, who claimed she had a "heart-shaped ass," and I happen to have a photo that could illustrate her case, but I will not post that, because that should be her choice, and she is far, far away, and very much remote from me now, though recently, during a breakup, she reached out to me briefly, only to quickly again retreat into the shadows.

My suggestion is that we all henceforth present our self-portraits, not in the flesh, but as the shadows we truly are, visitors here on earth...


Friday, March 02, 2007

Pity the poor blogger

As we all know, it's a new media world out there. Web 2.0, which sounds like a phrase invented by the vulture capitalists, is attracting the kind of money Web 1.0 did, but we all know how that ended. Greed plays a critical role in every boom; followed by fear, which characterizes every bust.

Boom and bust, that is the economic cycle we San Franciscans have experienced every decade since 1849. A colleague from my Wired days, and an amateur historian, Todd Lapin, wrote one of my favorite pieces in all my years as an editor, commissioning hundreds of articles to hundreds of writers.

The original version was for a new city magazine that we launched in 2001. Later, we published a similar version in a special issue of another magazine, an art publication called Big, run by corrupt greedsters who never paid any of us for our substantial work on an issue devoted to San Francisco.

Nevertheless, Big facilitated a great party in the fall of 2004, as our San Francisco issue appeared on the newsstands. I'm not much for parties, but I'll never forget that one.

Anyway, Todd's story dealt with the life of Sam Brannan, a Mormon scout who was eventually rejected by the church's hierarchy, which chose Salt Lake City over our city for their headquarters. Probably a good decision for both of us. Brannan, however, felt abandoned by his overlords, which ended his faith but not his instincts for how to make a profit.

Once he had cornered the market on picks, axes, and triggered a press hysteria back east about the gold in our Sierra foothills, he became the very first millionaire in California history. He became a successful politician, and then a notorious drunk and womanizer.

(Our current mayor, Gavin Newsom, thus fits into a rich historical tradition, which is why we all embrace and forgive him for what elsewhere would be considered his transgressions.)

Back to Sam Brannan, for whom Brannan Street in SOMA is named for, and with no small irony served as the center of the Web 1.0 boom in the late '90s. As his disease progressed, he drunkenly mispronounced the name of a new town established north of here. He meant to say the "Saratoga of California," but what came out was the "Calistoga of Sarifornia."

Brannon lost everything, and died drunk and penniless in a gutter in San Diego. But Calistoga is the brand name of the state's favorite carbonated water, and that's not a minor legacy, is it?

In case this seems a long way from blogging, it is.

But a recent story on the business side of blogging in the Toronto Star claimed that only the top 100 blogs make any money.

Well, I have news for our friends in Canada. My modest little blog has yielded $201.78 to me in the past ten months, and that is real American cash. On the other hand, that translates into a per blog earning of $0.54, or a per word earning of less than $0.001, proving words are indeed cheap; and an hourly wage of ~$0.36.

So, if this is a business, I had better see whether they take reservations in that San Diego gutter where old Sam Brannan ended up, right?

Boom and Bust.

Thesis and antithesis.

Greed and sharing.

Alone or together.

It all comes down to the same decision: to write or not to write.

Now, there's a question I can answer.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Full Moon, Crazy Voices

Tonight is not a night when any of us with weirdness in our souls can sleep. We feel agitated; many contradictory voices compete for attention inside our heads. The dreams that will come, fitfully, on this night, amount to nothing more than story fragments, no more revealing than the lovely shards of polished sea glass I have collected for decades from dozens of beaches.

They are slices of our memories and our dilemmas -- a cognitive display of art vs. science, or trash vs. value. They're of us but not us. Today, as I walked along a familiar route near work, here's what my eyes saw: waters gently rippling from wind; geese congregating and squawking; a staid line of leafless plain trees guarding a solitary route to the...


Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A different you*

Lots of times, the best part of life can be when we are not thinking about what we are doing too hard. And that, of course, is why intellectuals are often quite unhappy. Living in the moment is not a cerebral experience, but physical and emotional.

It's pretty much just "going for it." Were I to write a completely candid account of my life, without worrying who might be offended or shocked, I could probably document 100 moments when I simply "went for it." Much of my career as an investigative journalist, for example, was based on a kind of reckless impulse that still defines me today.

One example stands out. After my best friend, Howard Kohn, and I, wrote the first part of our three-part series of stories about Patty Hearst and the SLA in 1975, we found ourselves at the center of media hysteria. The series of negative proofs at the top of this post date from a celebration we had in Jann Wenner's office at 625 Third Street in San Francisco on the first or second night of mass media coverage of our initial scoop.

(Hint: If you click on this or any photo on my site, you will get an enlarged version; and then, if you wish, you can select "zoom" under "view" on the pull-down menu on your preview function's header, and make it larger, larger, and fuzzier, fuzzier. Some previews let you keep going to an absurd point, where you have a pixilated version that is the computer age's best impression of abstract expressionism. This is the kind of thing only an acid-head would have done in the '60s (trust me) but we all can experience virtual psychedelic trips these days, without the danger that we will try to fly out of an upper story window...)

I fear I've lost my thread.

Oh yes, the reckless David Weir. So, in the weeks following our big scoop, with constant media attention and harassment from the "left," which decided we had betrayed the politically correct standards of the time, I got my first death threat. Yep, and it was delivered by a small, slender, beautiful, dark-haired girl who was actually part of the crowd who ran with my boss (Jann Wenner)'s lovely wife, Jane.

You couldn't be at Rolling Stone in that era and not have had a crush on Jane, regardless of whether you were a man or a woman. Um, also, you couldn't have been there and, again regardless of gender, not have had Jann have a crush on you.

But I digress. This post is not about the bisexuality that was Rolling Stone in the 70s, but about me, me, me!

Yes, so back to that death threat. The pretty but deadly girl who phoned it in to me was no less than the current girlfriend of one of the SLA "soldiers" then imprisoned for assassinating Oakland School Superintendent, Marcus Foster. (The motive for this murder of the first black superintendent in Oakland history was such a twisted mess that no one of rational mind could possibly explain why these SLA idiots knocked this decent man off.)

By the time, this little girl's threat to me came in, I was some four and a half years out from my near-death experience in India, where typhoid fever/salmonella did their level best to remove me from the ranks of the living. But they failed, and thus was born a new David Weir -- the reckless one who has caused so much trouble in his 36 (and counting) years since.

You see, all of this -- being alive -- is a bonus to me, sort of like sudden-death overtime in a sports contest. God, India, germs, and I all know I cheated death big-time on February 10, 1971. And to be completely honest with you, dear reader, the reason I didn't give in to death was simple -- I wanted to move to California and have more sex than I had had up to that point in time.

Hopefully, this is not shocking or disappointing news to anyone because it is the gospel truth.

And, I must say, all these years later, I have accomplished my goals, way beyond what I could have imagined on what was supposed to be my deathbed.

I am a Yogi. I can slow down my heart rate. That is why I have lived as long as I have.

Anyway, back to the story. Besides the death threat, Howard and I were getting all sorts of interesting phone calls. (Note to younger readers: this was 20 years before email. So the main communication systems we used were the U.S mail (first-class stamps for letters were -- what?-- about 8 cents; and telephone calls were similarly affordable, even in an era where our salaries as "associate editors" at RS were $16,000.)

The worst call was a conference call from Bill Kunstler and Lenny Weinglass, leftist attorneys and heroes of mine, who told us we would "never publish again" if we went ahead with publishing our stories. The death threat followed soon after.

Then, a much more intriguing call came -- from people who revealed they were those who had eluded the police and the FBI when Patty and her three closest companions (Bill and Emily Harris and Wendy Yoshimira) were captured. Without divulging details that still must be kept confidential. Howard, Jann and I knew these guys were the people they claimed to be.

But, their call dictated the terms of how we would get the information they wanted to push to us. It was to be found in an envelope taped under the pay-telephone on a corner under the Central Freeway in downtown San Francisco.

We all looked at one another in Jann's office and agreed I would be the one to fetch this potentially valuable package. Jann's secretary drove me in a van to the appointed place, and I then walked across the street in the open to retrieve the package. Anyone from any number of hidden vantages could have easily blown me away, and these guys had all the weaponry to do so.

I remember being vaguely surprised at the lack of any gunfire when I reached the booth and located the manila envelope. The hard part, for me, was walking back to the van.

After all, the sharpshooters, if they were there, would have logically held their fire until they determined that I was the guy who they wanted to kill. Their package in my hand, I was totally exposed.

That walk across Fifth Street to the van and Jann's secretary was one of the longest of my still-then-tender life. No shots rang out, no bullets ripped into my flesh. We high-tailed it out of there, and back to Third Street. Sadly, the "communication" turned out to be worthless rhetorical bullshit; and I don't remember whether Howard and I even used it in Part Two of our series that October.

But, in a strange way, after India, I knew I wouldn't die that day in that way. That's why I was willing to be the one to go and expose myself as a possible target to people who had already proved, on multiple occasions, that they were willing to kill people.

All of them, in fact, were misguided cowards, the petit bourgeoisie "driven to frenzy," as V.I.Lenin had predicted 60 years earlier. I was such a well-read Marxist/Leninist/MaoTseTung politico at that point in my life that I didn't even realize what a fool I was, wrapped in an ideology combined with a near-death experience that combined to convince me I was indestructible.

In fact, I was only another young man -- slender, with long black hair, blue eyes, and (I now can see) quite nice-looking.

Reckless, in those years, meant ignoring death threats. Later on, it would be much more about women, wine, whiskey and writing. But that, alas, is another story altogether...


* "Must be a different you,
To be a me with you...
Of course I'll be all right.
I just had a bad night.
I had a bad night."
-- Nada Surf


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Wind in the leaves, geese overhead

Most of our memories can be triggered simply by the physical senses -- if we put ourselves somewhere that our brains recognize as familiar, up pops the memory. Thus, that odd sensation of deja vu when we least expect it.

Today, I took a mid-day walk. My resolution of sorts was to walk an hour a day, but recently I've settled on a compromise, which would be a half-hour a day. I just don't want to ascend one more waist size, you know? Going back a couple years, I was at 38, a tad above average for a man of my height (6') and build.

A little over 15 months ago, when I turned my car east on 20th and south on Potrero, heading to my office, I glimpsed the one I thought was my true love as she drove away in the opposite direction. She didn't see me, but her driver's window was down, and a cigarette was dangling carelessly from her lips.

We'd made love earlier that day, and my idea was that our impending two-month separation (which later grew to three) was only a blip on our journey to spending the rest of our lives together.

But I admit it gave me serious pause to see her heading in the opposite direction on Potrero, toward the Bay Bridge and her trek southeasterly. The woman I spied as we passed was a stranger, clearly savoring her freedom, the freedom of the road. Not a woman who would yearn to be back by my side, here in the Mission District of San Francisco. Nor one who would understand the tears in my sentimental eyes.

I very probably should have trusted my instincts at that moment, and let her go. But I didn't; instead I followed her there, twice, and for that I am grateful if only because I got to witness what every American ought to see, and that is the terrible gaping wound in our collective body which is the Gulf Coast post-Katrina.

Nevertheless, I had already lost this woman, as a friend of mine accurately predicted a few days later as we walked around Bernal Heights.” You need," he said, "a backup plan."

Long story short, I didn't have one, and I suppose anyone who has ever delved into my archives knows what happened to me subsequently. Which is where weight again enters this tale. After she left me I lost over 20 lbs. that winter. When she saw me on my second visit to Biloxi, even she said, "You look good, but you've lost enough already."

When she finally came back here, only to tell me we had to break up, and she left again, this time permanently, I lost another 15 or so. Along with the weight loss, I now realize, went muscle mass. No wonder last summer, at what turns out to be the last season of my softball "career" with my beloved Michigan Mafia, I was hitless (0 for 5) for the only time in my 29 playing years.

But by summertime I was rebounding, making new friends, including the female variety, and I started once again regaining my man-sized appetite. So, from my low point (167), I have gained something like 40 lbs the past 8 months, thus advancing from a boyish 34 waist to, well, pretty soon, that old 38.

Damn! What a roller coaster!

Anyway, back to my main point, the sensory basis of memory. Today on my attenuated daily walk, at noon, I encountered a black sky in formation. The weather forecast was for thunderstorms, even hail. Last night, a chunk of Telegraph Hill slid away under similar conditions. The weather here really is quite weird these days and nights, and very, very cold.

So, as I was nearing the destination I had chosen for this particular walk, I felt the first drops of wetness from above, and a wind-chill surge that urged me to turn around, pronto. Which I did.

As I was walking back to my office, a flood of memories suddenly overtook me. It was the last day, always...the last day at Ludington, the last day at Rolling Hills. Always we were one of the last to leave, probably because Dad wanted to fish a bit longer.

As his only son and companion, I was always there with him, along the river or out on the lake, but my mind was elsewhere. It was a melancholy feeling -- that sensation of the last to leave. The winds were urging us home. The Canadian Geese flew overhead, as they did today, no doubt setting off this particular set of memories.

I was in dreamland. Savoring the last few moments of a time already gone. Everyone else had left, soon we too would be departing.

Very much, I now realize, how it feels to have reached your ending years.


Monday, February 26, 2007

The emotional lives of boys and girls

As any parent other than the hopelessly myopic eventually discovers, trying to raise children is a tortuous process of re-navigating through his/her own childhood. It's perhaps the only way, finally, to develop any real empathy for your own parents.

Lacking this experience of replicating the parental role, we may be doomed to harbor an extremely harmful illusion all of our adult lives -- that our mother or father somehow "did" something to us, that they "screwed us up."

Certainly, there are extreme cases of abuse, neglect, incest, exploitation, violence, and unimaginable horrors -- human history is littered with these. But most of us, I dare say, suffered a far subtler fate -- feeling overlooked, ignored, overwhelmed, abandoned, undervalued, and heartbroken.

All very real feelings, and valid at the time. What is so hard to grasp is how our own immature stages of growth dictated how we internalized these feelings at different "tipping points" in our youth.

It takes being a "grown-up," never a desirable state to achieve in this youth-focused culture, to begin to appreciate or even imagine what our parents might have been going through when they "did" these things to us.

As I write this, my own heart is breaking, because I know that no matter how hard I may have tried, I have repeated too many mistakes with my own children to ever deserve any kind of reprieve from what I will call the child's revenge.

You see, I have reached an age where I finally grasp that indeed there is, for every experience, its own season; for every leaf, the breeze that brings it spiraling down to earth.

Tonight, in the skies over San Francisco, was one of those weird spring storms that dump rain in buckets, flashing lightning with only the most distant rolls of thunder. There were predictions of hail and snow at low altitudes.

You know the kind of night -- a weird night -- though for me, a nice one, as I had dinner with old friends in Noe Valley and then drove through familiar streets back here to the Mission, enjoying the light show overhead, listening to music that helped my mind roam far, far away from this place and this time.

But, earlier, I watched my dear little boy-man, at the tender age of 12, play in his team's basketball game. His team won against an inferior team, 38-14, including a 15-0 fourth quarter run.

But my guy, who hadn't played in a month, due to schedule quirks and an ill-timed illness, had what he considered to be a bad game. He scored no points, missing two jumpers and two free throws, plus he committed five painful turnovers. But, he is so self-critical that he did not apparently remember that he had two rebounds, two blocks, an assist, and eight steals, all in less than half a game's playing time.

In other words, he played an astonishingly brilliant defensive game but he did kind of suck on offense. When I hugged him after the game, he was close to tears, even though the win meant his little team gets to go to the playoffs next month.

And, trust me, this is not a kid who focuses on his own accomplishments to the exclusion of his teammates'. The opposite is true of him; he is a true team player. But he just was down on himself, in a way I suspect only males can truly understand.

As we were hugging, the kid who was the true star tonight, probably scoring half the team's points, came running over to congratulate my son. "Amazing, I just saw the stats! You had eight steals! Awesome!"

I saw my son's eyes brighten as he joined his teammates in the general celebratory mood sweeping the gym. As I waved goodbye, I took his mood swings with me to my car.

Back home, I downloaded some photos from last night, including one above of my 8-year-old daughter, brushing her hair after a bath and pretending to talk on the phone.

Sometimes, she complains to me,” Daddy I am fat." Or,” I’m having some troubles with my friends." Or, "the boys always leave me out." She is a fierce little girl, and when she gets mad, the three of us males in my house all shudder, because we know from experience what will follow. She either kicks or hits someone hard where it hurts, or she stamps her feet, races away, slamming doors, and burying herself under covers, crying hard and loud.

Slowly, one or all of us coax her back out to the kitchen, so we can eat, or to the living room, so we can unpause the movie or change the TV channel.

I'm not sure there is any wisdom whatsoever contained in this post but after all, this is meant only as a contemporaneous life journal, sharing life as it happens. I do not know what it all means or whether it means anything at all.

But I'll say this much. I'm glad for the privilege to be around children. It's allowed me to forgive my parents for all the wrongs I'd imagined they'd done to me. After all, how can I blame them when I've done the same, in my own way, only trying to live my life, witnessed all along, by these sensitive little creatures yearning and preparing for their run at adulthood.

May theirs be more successful than mine has been! For time waits on none of us, nor does time suffer fools.


Sunday, February 25, 2007

As you can see...

It rained last night and then it rained a bit again tonight. The delicate, perky white blossoms on our plum tree suddenly popped out from the flat branches heretofore naked and reaching slimly toward the sky.

Down below, the rich clover fields proliferated in an almost unimaginable optimism, given the sorry state of our physical planet, thanks to you, me, and the rest of homo sapiens. One of my kids held up a 12-inch straw of sour grass and suggested to me this might be a "world record."

My ten-year-old son has never excelled at athletics, but he has a dream to make next year's JV basketball team. He's fast and he can shoot the ball accurately, but to play basketball there are some other skills, which I fear he may find difficult to master. Regardless, in our family, we all try to support each other's drive to success, so his 12-year-old brother, a certifiable basketball star, and I, have been trying to teach him a few moves.

Regardless of how that turns out, his true dream is to be a movie director. So tonight, like millions of others, we watched the Oscars on TV. The award he most cared about was the director Oscar. Martin Scorsese!

I couldn't have chosen a better role model for my little boy.

Finally, I am one parent who was cheered by the sight of Ellen DeGeneres, this year's host, when she said: "What a wonderful night. Such diversity in the room in a year when there's been so many negative things said about people's race, religion and sexual orientation.

"And I want to put this out there: If there weren't blacks, Jews and gays, there would be no Oscars," she said, adding: "Or anyone named Oscar, when you think about that."


Congratulations, Al Gore. It's about time we all get to work doing what the man who legitimately should be our President advocates in his Academy Award winning documentary!