Saturday, May 26, 2007

Question conventional wisdom (which condones authority)

Given that this is Carnaval weekend here in The Mission, there have been loudspeakers booming over on Harrison Street all day. It's a cold, windy, foggy day, so the sounds of the partying race here on the prevailing westerly wind, so much so that it seems like the bands are in our backyard.

The parade isn't until tomorrow, and at this hour, the revelers are traipsing home, little groups of nomads in colorful dress, with balloons and banners. No half-naked girls so far this year, no doubt due to the weather, but I'll let you know if, as usually is the case, any appear.


Dylan's Medieval history project is finally underway, as one of the books arrived that the great Norman Birnbaum led us to: 1066:The Year of the Conquest. From the minute he cracked it open, Dylan was hooked, reading out facts to me about the sparsely settled England of a millennium ago, where London had only a few thousand citizens and everyone else lived in villages where (as Dylan explained to me) "a man knew every other person, every animal, and even every tree!"

It was the concept of knowing every tree that fascinated my youngest son, who, of course, has grown up in a fairly big city, by our standards. Most people do not appreciate how small San Francisco actually is, compared to the massive metropoli of our time. Only around 750,000 people, max, live here, and that total hasn't changed much, because we don't have anywhere to expand into.


I am watching (on TV) the San Francisco Giants play baseball again tonight. The great slugger Barry Bonds has been in a long slump, and columnists have been speculating that maybe he is finally done. Old sluggers tend to fade suddenly, and Bonds is old. After a terrific start, that catapulted him to the Nation al League lead in homeruns (11), Bonds has stayed frozen at that number for oh so long now.

As you probably know, if your heart has been beating these past few years, Barry Bonds is the one baseball star people in America love to hate. There are lots of purported reasons: He's been perceived as aloof, arrogant, and unavailable by the corps of sportswriters who regard their access as an entitlement that any star must honor.

But Bonds is a complicated case. His father, Bobby Bonds, was a fantastic baseball player, also with the Giants. He came up in the early years of the color line being breached, so he endured many insults and perceived insults, in the tradition of American-style racism.

When his career ended, he became an alcoholic, bitter and angry.

His son Barry has effected his father's revenge. No one in history has ever been a better hitter than Bonds. But, just has been always the case, athletes use whatever boost might be available to gain a competitive advantage.

In Bonds' era, it is steroids -- horrible drugs that will probably doom all the athletes who used them to an early death.

The evidence is that many, many players used steroids, including Bonds. But the anger of a culture is directed only at Bonds. This particular culture is one composed of old white men, the only people who really care about the supposed statistical purity of the game.

Forget purity. Baseball players of all eras have done whatever they could to be great. The history of the game is replete with scandals.

The problem with blaming Bonds is that he has been such a fearsome hitter for so long that those who hate him overlook a factor that changes the equation: Bonds has been walked more often than any player in history, even Babe Ruth. No one has ever been so fearsome that opposing teams walk him intentionally at the rate Bonds is walked.

Thus, all those walks have neutralized whatever supposed advantage he has gained through drugs. That is how historians of the game will evaluate Bonds' performance. When he finally hits his 22nd HR this season (he is halfway there already), he'll own the most famous record in sports, the all time homerun record.

I hope I am at the park when Bonds does it.


Friday, May 25, 2007


First off, at the end of this post, I want to republish some of the recent amazing comments contributed by my new friend, Mesmacat, in Australia. Regular visitors know I very rarely do this, because what the webheads like to call the "real estate" herein is mainly devoted to my memoir-in-progress.

But, every now and again, a new person shows up with such remarkable insights, firing off of what I have posted that he or she elevates what I am trying to do here to another level.

That is how it is with Mesmacet. His reflections add much more heft and literary sensibility to my posts, so my other readers deserve to see his writings. If you click back through recent posts, you will see many such comments, each as wonderful as its predecessor.

I wish I could figure out how to juxtapose my posts with his comments, as a sort of dialogue that reveals new layers of meaning beyond what I could ever accomplish on my own.

I am truly grateful to Mesmacet, for participating in this way. And I will anew encourage anyone else who feels like it to join the conversation here. Forget the memoir; I would be thrilled if this blog turned into a community of people discussing themes of mutual interest.

In other words, in '60s lingo, "let's do this altogether."

To inspire your inner artist, here is "an old Lamborghini" by Dylan. I think he was nine when he drew this.

I've been caring for my housemate's plants while she frolics on the beaches of Mexico, celebrating her 40th birthday. This one seems to enjoy my care.

Here we are, back to Dylan's car series. What I love about this van is its relationship with the stoplight.

A new haiku:

For every car
A stop light

By David-San, 2007

Here in the region with the richest agricultural bounty on earth, all kinds of good things are flowing into our markets.

Ever think you can't write? Have nothing to say?

I've taught writing in various venues since I was 22. I still have not met the person with nothing to say, no story to tell. But I have met many who lack confidence in their ability to write.

Much of this, I fear, is the natural result of a society that alternatively ignores and over-values its writers. Sure, some have more pure writing "talent" than others. But, everybody can write, whether they realize it or not.

I can't wait to locate, scan and publish my grandmother's partial memoir here; and perhaps parts of my father's hand-written, unfinished novel. Neither would have ever considered themselves "writers," yet both were capable of weaving a story with words that were uniquely their own.

We all have our "voice." In fact, we have at least two voices. Our speaking voice, which can grow weak with age. Our writing voice, which transcends age.

Those who know sign language, or are able to convey stories with their bodies, through dance and other forms, have the gift of a physical voice, not reliant on words.

Actually, there are many other voices residing within us. The various media forms -- drawing, painting, photography, film-making, jewelry-making, sculpture, performance pieces, standup comedy, and (to my mind) the most powerful of all -- music -- all convey separate channels for releasing the individual voice.

(At this point, I have to explain the above photo was a mistake, the result of my finger pressing the shoot button when I meant to press the off button. Something about the result is strangely compelling, to me. My point is that we all can create some form of "art" almost by accident, or even entirely by accident, if we just recognize it when it happens.)

The other night, on YouTube, I was indulging one of my favorite passions -- gathering clips of live performances from musicians I adore. On this occasion, I was seeking great renditions of Amazing Grace, the ultimate gospel composed, ironically, by a man who participated in the slave trade until he saw the light, and grasped the power of a force that could "save a wretch like me."

I am not so unreligious that I do not appreciate the power of this message. At my father's burial, at Rolling Hills in summer, 1999, I held my daughter Sarah, a beautiful singer, as we all sang the song of loss, faith, salvation, and redemption in honor of my father's life.

I found one version, by Mahalia Jackson, but failed to locate another, by Marion Brown, that is my all-time favorite.

It occurred to me last night that I have been looking at this ceiling fan for nearly four years now, but never captured it on film.

Mesmacat has left a new comment on your post "The Hearts of Men":

David, I was looking at another post, where you mentioned the idea of a generation able to see its own demise. I wrote a little off line, in response to that, at first, but the thoughts have not yet found their mark. They may not, these are big questions and I do not expect necessarily always to find some satisfying responses to them, as I grapple with the ideas they inspire.

Nevertheless, I am glad for the opportunity to engage with these notions. It is something I enjoy about the time I spend here; I encounter an idea or feeling you have opened out in your own way, through your own curiosity, and I can build on that. It is in my own way of course, but by and large with some sense of shared sentiment or hopefully shared respect for the core of the issue.

It creates the potential that an online body of writing, joined with the commentary of others, can merge into a form of interactive creativity very different from simply writing in your own space for yourself. It also certainly helps that you cover so much ground, with so many poignant sensibilities therein, planted and cultivated with care.

Unlike my own journal, which is a vast collection of drafts and sometimes half finished thoughts – a writer’s journal, complete with ink spots and ramblings - this is a space where I feel better for only posting what I am ready to post, with a sense of the best refined thoughts of a time. They may not be complete, but they are not tumbled on to the page for the sake of releasing a writer’s creative tensions. Your posts are are polished, self-realized and elegant to a point I would like to respond to in kind, rather than according to the dictates of my own blog project.

Somehow, writing in response to this post, it was easier to make a proper beginning on a path to examining what I feel about questions of that generation that sees its own end.

The following is what this post made me feel, while still considering my response to the other post:

I battle with this too. I suspect many thinking, sensitive people do, and I hope at least to be one of those, or at least scrape in somewhere among them, after my many fits and starts of action and reaction, grand visions and humbled discoveries. And boy, have there been a few of those. And probably many more to come, no matter how often I think I have found the answer, and can coast on rosy wheels, only to falter on the bumps and pot holes I little see along the road, in my eagerness for enjoying a path that is great for my latest brand of skates to roll on.

David, I guess you have worn more skates, in more styles, and learnt from more knocks that I have. But I have had a good few in my time.

The question sometimes seems to me to be: how do we get to love, if we think too much, want too much or fear not little enough? How do we grow towards love? Some just feel it; some are there already. Children are in some ways, but they have not yet discovered how to find it when it is not given to them without question or perseverance, or indeed, only lies after a journey through a landscape of disappointment.

Yes, there are grown ups who love as innocently and fully sometimes as children. But they are but some among many that make up the world; not all are as evolved in their sensitivity or the scope of their hearts from the starting line or not a long way past it.

A great number of us have to find love, and find it through struggle, difficulty and encounters with the limitations of our less than admirable greeds and misguided passions.

The dog eat dog world of literal survival, the egg breaking, the lessons learned from dangerous over confidence or too much self doubt, the hurt, pain, depression and mania. They are part of the world, no doubt. They are dynamics of creativity and discovery in a growing consciousness, perhaps more for young men, than young women, but probably in parallel ways, are equivalent maturity processes within different modes of feeling and perception. No one wants them at the time, but working through them certainly makes love mean something, makes love real, not imagined or too closely associated with wants, not needs - with covetousness, not generosity.

Taking advantage of the good fortune we are sometimes showered with before we recognize it – the young in our society seldom seem to do this unless they are lucky, or precociously gifted or spectacularly well trained by the wise, and receptive to\o them. Can we expect from our collective adult selves, so young really in the scope of what it means to be a global society, with so many new toys, and so much new power, to do any better?

If we are to survive, we are going to have to succeed, however, in finding a way to maturity, to moving on from our egoistical fascinations. We have to grow up as a civilization. Our survival depends on it, as does in many ways the survival of a young person depend on finding maturity after the experiments of youth.

It is a bit more complicated with a global society with vast and intricate forces and temptations, than with a single individual, no doubt. Especially given that society is young in many ways, but also quite old in others. We blind ourselves to the consequences of our actions as well, as we blind ourselves to the lessons of history.

As a civilization we are both old and young at once. We can err in both directions. As a civilization we do not ever confront death and the gradual change of our body leading to it, at least not yet. We keep on moving on, learning some things, but also in a kind of eternal youth of the optimism of our own grand plans for a future we have not yet had to come to terms with.

It is this question of forward motion without true apprehension of the consequences, coupled with a constant effort to erase the troubling lesions of history that leads me on to further thoughts about the generation that can see its own demise. Hopefully they will settle into place.


Mesmacat has left a new comment on your post "Attachments\":

I think the coin is safe in your hands. The person who might tell you a story worth you parting with it, I suspect might also be a person who has no desire or need for it.

Greed seems a poor inspiration for true tales that move us. I certainly like the look of it too much to make an attempt :)

I guess it might be a story about finding treasure, and a coin seen in the light of its journey is something more than its face value. Stories as treasures, and treasures as stories, what a web you have woven there, David LOL.

When I read your post I was reminded of a story I read a long time ago, I can hardly remember what or by who, about a coin that was one of those used to pay Judas to betray Christ. It caused unsettling fortunes for those whose hands it passed into. I guess that Pirates of the Caribbean films probably play on a similar idea.

I can quite relate to your pondering on how many hands it’s passed through. But I also wonder how long before coins themselves vanish from the lives of some nations.

I guess coins derived originally from the value of certain units of precious metals. And even when coins no longer reflected their value in material, it still makes sense to hold something that is equivalent in value to another thing.

How many things so vital to survival are moving towards being so abstract.

On another note, a memory from my own life. Coins as a child were obviously a means to desired things. But also they were objects of fun.

I can recall playing at the seaside on a game that paid you more coins if you rolled your first down a shoot in such a way that the coin fell exactly between the edges of a stripped surface.

Another machine was an ever-moving contraption of shifting ledges, a waterfall awaiting the signal to flow, that showered coppers and sometimes silvers if you dropped it in the right spot.

Some of these machines still exist. They are among the best indications of dicey, risk-laden investment I can think of. But the potential thrill of clatter of won coins is difficult to ignore.


Mesmacat has left a new comment on your post "Traveler's Tales":

Beautiful artifacts. I am sorry to hear about the loss of your own collection from your travels.

I have always been entranced by the way that the artifacts a civilization produces, resonate with its character:
Style like a wavelength of experience, like a pattern you can almost taste. I had an experience once that suggested to me almost as though the elements of language, style and shaping of the land express some kind of hidden coefficient. How it would I have no idea, but there is something so compelling about the way that so many aspects of a time and place fit together.

The artifacts can be quite different, they can have many different functions, but they belong together. In a sense they are also dots you can join together with your imagination to apprehend something of people either a long way away, or far back in time.

I don't know if you know the Borges story Tlon Uqbar Orbis Tertius - about a secret society that invent a civilization, and create the impression of its former existence through creating an encyclopedia to describe its cultural facets and history, and also fashioning false artifacts.

I guess if you found a group of artifacts that express a particular era and sense of design you might well conclude that a community once used them, that they lived their lives using them.

It is that sense of things that were handled and were a focus for human energy that makes a former culture so much more real than just stories about them, to my mind at least. Certainly how different would the myth of Atlantis be, if we had objects that were, or could have been Atlantean?

I can identify with the knife fascination. I was given an Indian ceremonial knife with a wooden sheath at a young age by a relative. I poured over it, frustrated by the fact I could only do so when closely watched by adults.

Something sharp that hides in darkness, and gleams when drawn. Well, that was going to appeal to a young boy I guess.

However, I don't think it was the destructive potential of it, it was that the knife was somehow so complete in itself, so impossible to hedge your bets around, so real. A bit like the edge of a cliff, you know it is supposed to be dangerous, but it marks a boundary between things you just get used to and things you can never afford to let out of your attention.


Thank you.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Looking and Seeing

My little girl found a flower "falling apart" in the backyard this evening, and gathered these petals, placed them in a bowl of water, and set it on our table.

I don't know how long this fetish about colors in bottles at different lights will last. My obsessions, serial in nature, usually go on until I figure out the problem is I feel compelled to solve. These various photos probably seem identical to my readers; but they all represent different arrangements and different combinations of colors through time.

This set tonight was backlit as the sun fell toward Twin Peaks in the west.

I did something similar a couple years ago, before I was a Blogger*. Maybe I'll dig out those photos one of these long summer evenings. In that experiment, I filled water balloons of various hues with water, then arranged them in what (to me) seemed to be color patterns.

I've always loved colors, they seem magic to me. I don't have a particularly sophisticated color sense; many years around designers has led to this piece of self-knowledge, but I somewhat make up for this deficiency with my passion.

During my brief career as an art dealer, selling Rauschenberg paintings for hundreds of thousands of dollars per piece, I began to appreciate Rauschenberg's various obsessions, including the color palette that he employed over and over again. Even so, when it came to color, he often made me mad. For example, the subtle greens and browns he used for an Earth Day painting, a signed print of which my second wife and I received as one of our most special wedding gifts (it now hangs in her home), riles me up every time I look at it.

You could say I'm more of a Primary Colors kind of guy.

Still, Rauschenberg did produce one richly colorful piece during the period I was representing the owners of his works -- a deep red rendition with an image of an egret -- way back somewhere on this blog, I posted a photo off that piece, which is no longer available for purchase, sadly.

I believe I could still wrangle a piece free if anyone had about a million U.S. dollars they wanted to drop. Last time I checked, it could be had. It is a huge piece; you'd need the walls of a mansion to properly display it (or a museum). But, as it is essentially an ode to his favorite first assistant, himself now a successful artist on his own, the story behind the painting would make this kind of price a bargain once the last of our great American artists from the post-war abstract expressionism/pop art phases passes on.

Prices are always about relative value. That's what makes art such a strange commodity to trade. The death of an artist automatically results in an uptick in his market valuation, simply because (s)he, finally, is done, and the finite number of works (s)he has produced now stands as her/his legacy.


Looking up into the weekend sky last Saturday night, I saw Jupiter juxtaposed with a slender slice of the Moon. Did you know that when you look at the sky, you are looking back through time? This is a sample of the kind of knowledge contained in a new book by Natalie Angier, called "The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science."


Today, a slender Siamese cat I have often noticed several yards away was on my housemate's back stairs. My housemate, meanwhile, is in Mexico, working on her tan lines. I do not know whether this cat is young or old, but I do know she was in some sort of quandary this morning.

She kept trying to figure out how to navigate a narrow rail of the steps past some heavy vegetation that hangs over it. She would start to try and circumvent the blockage, then lose her nerve, and retreat. Then she would slink into a narrow space between two planks that caused her to stretch out narrowly like a ballet dancer imitating a snake.

She wanted something; what, I am not quite sure. But, given where her eyes kept roaming, I think she wanted to get back home. Home happens to be where that Asian family lives, an old man, an old woman, and a beautiful young woman who often smokes on their back porch.

I watched this cat for what seemed to be hours, but must not have been, because I was not late for work. Eventually, she gave up on her quest to solve the mystery of how to circumvent the vegetative block on the rail to descend the stairs and run across our yard, hop the fence, and return home to her family.

Much later, after an absence of many days, the young Asian woman appeared on her back stoop. The cat looked happy. The woman looked sexy.

I looked on peacefully, knowing all was once again right here in this little secret corner of our universe.

* This blog started in April 2006 and has been updated on a daily basis, with a few interruptions, and often multiple times a day ever since.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

One Prayer

"Hey, Dad, why doesn't our family name follow the i-before-e rule?" asked wily Dylan, aged 11.

"I don't really know," I stumbled.

"Because we are awesome!" interjected Dylan. "We break the rules."

My own Dad used to enjoy pointing out that a "weir" is a dam in old English, as well as modern British English (we never use the term over here in the colonies.) Dad loved to say that it was fine for people to say "those damn Weirs," because they were just being descriptive (or more precisely, redundant.)

I'm thinking of my father tonight for a number of reasons. None more immediate than the fact that my sole surviving blood relative from my parents' generation, Uncle George Anderson, underwent a risky surgery today, and I'm thinking about him, Aunt Reta, Dan, George and Betty, especially because they all are still recovering from losing the youngest boy in the family, Gordie, earlier this year.

If I could pray without being a hypocrite, I'd pray for Uncle George to have a safe recovery, and remain in the world with us. As it is, I'll just say that. You are in my mind tonight. May you recover, and have a healthier future than otherwise would have been likely.

I respect my uncle -- a lot. I know he had to travel across state lines to get this operation, which is not necessarily recommended for a person of his age and in his shape. But his quest is to live more fully, or not to live at all.

My mother, his sister, made the same choice four and a half years ago. In her case, technology did not present an acceptable (to her) option. In her little brother's case, technology, albeit risky, does.

So he's going for it. I love my extended family, with so many courageous people, each in his or her own way. They've all fed my spirit these 60 years; if I can give anything of value back, may it be this: Us Andersons and Weirs are first-generation immigrants in this strange world. We are tough; we know how to survive.

Let's continue to do so, and show others that the only hope you need to have is your own. Stay hopeful; there's so much to live for, at any age.


Meanwhile, I got the invitation at the top of this post from my youngest today. Her animal? A Siberian Tiger. I'll be there.


Madam Speaker

Photo by Megan Kung

My MyWire colleague Megan, who's a talented photographer, captured Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, and therefore holder of the highest post in the Presidential Line of Succession of any woman in the history of this country, at an event here in the Bay Area.

Though still early in her term, Pelosi has already had a major effect on U.S. foreign policy, by visiting with various leaders in the Middle East, and forging new communication channels in the region. She's succeeded in pressuring the Bush administration to renew diplomatic efforts that had been languishing.

Ultimately, if the chaos in the Middle East eventually diminishes, and the warring parties sit down to negotiate the issues that they currently are fighting over, we may have Nancy Pelosi (who happens to represent my district in Congress) to thank.

She's also been leading the effort to get Bush to establish an exit strategy for U.S. forces in Iraq, and so far, she has been less successful in that. The difference is that under the Constitution, the President is Commander in Chief, with greater war powers; but Congress has a central role in conducting foreign policy.

The overall framework for next year's Presidential elections will likely be primarily determined by two people not on the ballot: George W. Bush and Nancy Pelosi.


Traveler's Tales

If you devote a portion of your life to visiting distant parts of the globe, you'll often end up bringing back some exotic mementos. That certainly happened to me, although those pictured above are not mine, but a friend's.

These antiques come from Tibet, China, Nepal -- mostly from the Himalayan regions. There are antique daggers, religious artifacts, gems, carved ivory, hand-painted containers, and ancient coins.

A friend brought them by recently to show the kids and me. Of course, the large dagger from China caught their imagination, as they all crowded in to slide it out of its sheathe and admire its possibilities.

We lost most of our Afghan and Indian antiques when our van was burglarized in the alley next to our SunDance office at 1913 Fillmore Street in late 1971.

I filed a police report but nothing ever was recovered. The cops said I should cruise the many pawn shops then in San Francisco, and I did so for months, but to no avail. What we lost was priceless, not so much in monetary terms (we'd never had them evaluated), but as memories of two years in a distant land that all too soon was going to be essentially obliterated by unending decades of war.

I still have a few tiny things from Afghanistan and Kashmir hidden away so thoroughly than not even I can find them easily. But my friend's collection inspired me to look for them. Someday soon. Each and every item has its stories, of course, packed away inside itself. How and when and where I obtained these things is the only part of their stories I can tell --the rest have to be imagined.

I like it that way.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Coming and Going

You're up, then down; back, then forth; sad, then happy; bright, then dull; your boss likes you, then hates you; you win the game, you lose the game: you're a hero, you're the goat; she loves me, she loves me not; you're young and smooth, then, all of a sudden, you are old and wrinkled; you feel brilliant, then stupid; you're in a car on a dark night. I touch you there, you touch me here. We lift up this, and pull down that.

The sun comes up, the sun goes down. The tide comes in, the tide goes out. If you pay close attention, you can spot the tide line, the place where opposites meet, with lots of stuff floating along the crooked line it etches across the top of the bay.

Friends come and go. Kids grow. Some of your former students disappear; others stay in touch, add you to their Facebook "friends" list, etc.

The flowers open up to the sun and close down to the night, precisely as a woman welcomes you and then rejects you, in the natural order of things, from a man's point-of-view. Your eyes struggle to see without squinting in the brightness; your pupils expand to help you find your way through the night.

Your pupils also expand when you stare into the eyes of someone you find attractive. You are helpless in this. You can't regulate attraction. It's the sparkle in the eye, the smell, barely perceptible, the voice, the hair, the lips, and the connection no less intense than electricity.

We live, we die. At birth, the baby struggles into this world with an intensity of purpose that is almost freakish. (S)he will not be denied. At our final moments, it is a struggle also to die. The body does not let go easily. Finally, after a period of quiet, there is restlessness, some shudders, a final physical goodbye.

The sun shines, the rains fall. Your luck seems good. You win at the slots. You find a $20 bill on the street. You're luck deserts you. The credit card debt feels overwhelming.

The words come easily; the words don't come at all. You do everything you can imagine to get them moving. You make some coffee, you water the plants, read the paper, clean up the kitchen, maybe, and finally, you masturbate, just to get it out of your system.

Then, after all this and more, you write. First the words inch into your fingertips; soon they flow like a waterfall in Yosemite. Yes! Now, you are on a roll. The story is coming, much as a lover is cuming. The intensity is volcanic.

Finally, your story can be told.


I tried to post several pictures but somehow this interface failed me. What worked was a collection of my favorite baseball cards. Heroes of mine, every one.


Monday, May 21, 2007


Here's the backside of a silver dollar that was minted in 1884. Where were you that year? The answer, for all of us, is nowhere, because we would have to be 123 years old to have been on earth when this coin was minted, and there simply is no one in North America that old tonight.

Here is what was happening when this coin was born: The Democratic convention was held in Chicago in July 1884. Grover Cleveland was the front-runner from the opening of the convention. The only major opposition to Cleveland was from the New York Tammany organization. Cleveland received the nomination on the second ballot with 683 votes. Cleveland's opponent in the election was James Blaine of Maine. President Arthur attempted to receive the Republican nomination, but had little support. The only individual at the convention who had a chance to receive nomination other than Blaine was General Sherman. He ended speculation that he would run by making what has become known as a Sherman statement: "If nominated, I will not accept, and if elected I will not serve." Blaine won the nomination on the fourth ballot.

The major issue in the election was the integrity of the candidates themselves. Blaine was attacked for his close relations with the railroad interests, from which it was claimed that he received financial benefits. Blaine's opponents published what were called the "Mulligan Letters", which purported to show that Blaine received bribes. Cleveland, on the other hand, was attacked for being immoral for his affair before his marriage with Maria Halpin, which produced a son. The Republicans would chant, "Ma Ma Where's my Papa". Cleveland was able to defuse the story by telling the truth. Cleveland received the support of many reformers including several leading Republicans. Cleveland won the election in a close vote.

(courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Just imagine if this coin could talk, what she could tell us. How many hands have held her, felt her sensual thickness, rubbed her sweet spots. On her front side, the date of her issue is almost imperceptible; thus I asked her to turn over before photographing her.

Lady Liberty graces her front. For almost a century and a half, she has been passed, from hand to hand, much like some women are treated by men. Finally, now, she has found a safe home with me and mine. We don't treat the women we love like objects.

Still, a dollar is a dollar, right?

I suspect this one is worth a great deal more than that. Are there takers? After all, we all have a price, as do our attachments, right? If somebody wants to bid on this particular Lady Liberty, tell me.

But be prewarned, the markup may be great. After all, I don't give anything away cheaply, unless, of course, it is in exchange for a great story.

Because stories, unlike coins, save lives.

Oops. She has turned over. Here is her front!


Sunday, May 20, 2007

Bygone: The Age of Romance

These stunning images came to me today courtesy of my relative Mike Dormer, who's visiting San Francisco for a few days. His father, Bob (I knew him as Uncle Buck) Dormer, was in naval intelligence inside China in WW2, when the U.S. and China were allied in repelling Japanese aggression in Asia and the Pacific Theatre.

Besides his old B&W images from inside China (some of which I'll publish in time), Uncle Buck saved these amazing hotel cards from the great colonial hotels throughout Asia, where he traveled during and after the war.

Mike and his brothers grew up for their formative years in Japan, just like his cousins, my first ex-wife, her sister and brother. I first met Mike and his older brother Bob on Sanibel Island in the late '60s.

We were aged as a group from 16-21 or so, and we were infected with the idealistic mood of our generation, not yet cynical about our chances to change the world. Naively, we plotted revolution, just like cells of kids did all over the country in that era of the civil rights struggles and the anti-Vietnam War movement.

One idyllic night, there in a true paradise, in the Dormers' house on San Carlos Bay, the five of us were having one of our 'heavy' conversations when Aunt Ellie Dormer cheerfully broke in on us, "Would you kids like some popcorn?"


Decades have passed, as they always do. The WW2 generation, our parents, have passed on, all but the last few. Our generation, the Baby Boomers, may be renamed in retrospect the Seekers, for all our wandering, our restlessness, our sense that what we have known can't be all their is.

To a man or a woman or any other of our genders, we Baby Boomers remain oddly optimistic at one moment, plunged into hopelessness the next. Jimmy Thompson captures our essence as certainly as anyone right now. Rather than pathologize any one of us, for our depressions, our addictions, our breakups, our odd discontinuous lives, it is time that social-psychological-anthropologists start analyzing the way this first post-modern generation has adapted to a world of continuous, massive change.

(Here, a note: I'm not ignorant of history, so I am not arguing that this is the first such generation. There will be time for historical analogies later; or my favorite Australian reader may contribute his ideas, always fresh, in "Comments." But my sense is that ours is the first generation to attempt to come to grips with our documented ability to end life on earth.)

The ethical dilemmas that soon will confront humanity dwarf any in our collective memory. But not, apparently, from the history written in the layers beneath our feet. What's this I read in this weekend's news? That there is evidence that the northern hemisphere was ignited in a giant fireball when a meteor exploded too close as it passed earth in space some thousands of years ago, extinguishing cavemen in the process?

Who knows what calamities preceded us here. Almost every culture has stories, myths, traditions that have emerged from the oral traditions that are layered beneath our written eras. These ancient tales came down father to son and mother to daughter from times so distant that no one can say whether they are "real" or imaginary.

All we know is that, as stories, they have the capacity to make us shudder, even today.

Many times, as a youth preoccupied with the threat of nuclear war, which would have obliterated all human life, and the first post-war plague (polio), which though horrible and immediate in my youth, was but a weak precursor to the terror of AIDS, I wondered why I should be here, in such a violent place?

Inside my own mind, I was a gentle, soft person, sensitive to the movements of clouds, the songs of birds and frogs, the patterns of numbers, the compositions of classic pianists. I felt out of synch with this world. Eventually, as I grew to my full height, six feet, and my shoulders broadened, a line of muscles formed across my upper back, my legs became iron-strong, and my sexual drive coursed through me, demanding pursuit of potential mating partners, I stopped thinking of myself as gentle and sensitive.

In sports, no one considered me a softie. I hit, and took hits, bouncing up laughing every time -- in hockey, football, baseball, basketball. For a career, I chose investigative reporting, or it chose me.

But that's another story. The cinema may romanticize muckrakers, like it does detectives, as tough guys, and sometimes, some of us are, or were. But it didn't take long for me to recognize that my chosen work was actually much more intellectual than macho.

That can be another story. The waves of time bring nostalgic times alive that I never knew. These images of Mike's, of Uncle Buck's life, conjure a world that was effectively ended by the time my cohort came on the scene.