Saturday, August 25, 2007


Pretty amazing, huh? This old place is suddenly looking better, as my special friend asserts her design aesthetic, and reorganizes the chaos of a bachelor pad into a home that is clean and welcoming.

This afternoon, we went down to Willie Mays Plaza to claim our "761" buttons.

The ballpark was already buzzing as the early birds were arriving for the second of three games against the Brewers. (Bonds hit two RBI singles and the Giants won again, 6-2.)

Late-season baseball, even when your favorite team is in last place, is the most pleasant of distractions from a world of war, violence, religious extremism, and hate.

The numbers roll in, day after day. Our fantasy team, Mud Lake Mafia, have secured tenth place at this point late in the season, and have an outside shot at overtaking the 9th and possibly even the 8th place teams ahead of us.


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Annual Exodus

Goodbye to the Mission, and many other neighborhoods.

The post-modern faithful are in motion tonight. From all over California, artists, dreamers, idealists, innovators, old hippies and young visionaries are on the move toward Burning Man in Nevada.

I am touched by many departures. My buddy Tom hits the road tomorrow. My son Peter passes through here Saturday night and on to Nevada on Sunday. My house mate Elizabeth just dropped off some plants for me to water. She's driving east tonight.

This year's theme is "green." It is completely thrilling to see ecological consciousness pervade our culture, from the center to the edges, before my time on earth is through.

Let me explain.

As a child, I was attuned to birds, trees, plants, fish, water, soil, and air in ways that might be best labeled obsessive-compulsive disorder. Yes, it was pathological, but luckily, I was not alone in my illness.

All over the world, people were growing up in the '50ss and '60s who perceived a vulnerability in the environment around us. I cannot explain it any other way than this: As I walked through fields and woods, sometimes with my dog and my shotgun, sometimes alone and unarmed, what tended to catch my attention were the degradations that were clearly observable even half a century ago.

Eroding hillsides, dying trees, pest explosions, lakes smothered by weeds fueled by agricultural runoff, dying frogs, disappearing birds -- all of these were apparent by the time I was a teenager.

As soon as I found my writing voice, at age 19, I started writing about these subjects. It seems so, so long ago now. It took over twenty years for these stories to rise to the level of the front page of the New York Times.

Over the past two decades, there has been a slow escalation of awareness. Someday soon, perhaps a majority of my countrymen will comprehend what a HUGE footprint we impose on this, our common earth. Maybe then, we will begin to scale back and adopt a more modest existence, one with a better chance of accommodating the continuing presence of all of us, whatever color or nationality we might represent, on this planet.


Used Ladies, Doggy Style, etc.

Today's images come courtesy of .

It's difficult, of course, for Japanese speakers to pronounce this difficult language of ours, partly the Japanese language because makes no distinction between the sounds we make with the letters "l" and "r."

So, when the famous British rock guitarist comes on the radio, it is perfectly understandable if your companion squeals, "I love Elic Crapton!"

At least she got "love" right, as opposed to saying "rove, light," which in turn sounds like a new beer called Rove Lite that might well be roving through the various Republican Presidential campaigns these days.

That's because Karl himself may be departing politics, "to spend more time with his family," but his deputies have all landed inside the campaigns of the next set of GOP hopefuls. Thus will the man known as Bush's Brain continue to influence the future of this country.

To me, they are like a bag of bad pennies, which will keep turning up far into the future.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Red Light

photo by Dylan

Philosophers have speculated forever whether something that occurs without a witness, like a tree falling in a forest, actually "happens." In that sense, what experiences in our lives are real, and which can safely be forgotten?

I wonder about these things. Today, in the news, I read about two hit-and-run accidents, where victims were killed by drivers who didn't stop to check on the person they hit, but who ran, as fast as they could, to a place they consider safe.

What do they do next? Clean up their car? Cover up their crime? Ask a trusted friend to take care of these technicalities, either explicitly or with no hard questions asked?

I've always wondered about these events, mostly from the perspective of a driver. What about the harried executive, just trying to get home, where his depressed wife is frantic, and away from his job, where his demanding staff holds onto him until the very last possible moment of his departure?

It is my guess, but not my knowledge, that this is the context within which most inadvertent killings by drivers occur. After the deed is done, and they decide to flee the scene, how do they feel?

How do they feel the next morning when they read the newspaper and discover that the person they killed was a foreign soldier on leave in this town; or a father trying to change his tire?

How do they live with themselves, these murderers? Are they haunted by guilt, knowing they always may be one slip away from being discovered?

Or, do they comfort themselves that it really was the victim's fault -- he who was in the wrong place at the moment?

I can't help wondering what the answers to these questions are, every day as I read the police reports and the obits in my local paper. So many stories never seem to have an ending.

That is what creates investigative reporters. We can never accept these non-solutions.


Monday, August 20, 2007

What Matters

This photo was a mistake, but because it has a certain kind of beauty, I've decided to post it. Lots of times, I've noticed, the photos I've snapped inadvertently are more evocative than the ones I shot with intent.

Which brings me to wonder whether we accomplish worthwhile things more often when we intend to, i.e., in a direct way, and through established channels; or whether, by serendipity, we do so almost accidentally, just because our motives are pure and our values are settled.

It can take time, of course, for each of us to discover, let alone articulate, our fundamental values. Where would you choose to be, if you could, when a devastating nuclear bomb hit your city? Who would you first wish to connect with after a killer earthquake? Who would you call on your cellphone if you knew the plane on which you were traveling was soon going to crash?

These are the essential questions -- the ones you must know how to answer before the question smashes you straight between the eyes.


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Going Up the Country*

As long as I've lived in San Francisco, I've been aware of the urge to get away, to go up country, and this weekend, we did.

California is such a huge land, and from here, if you drive in any direction except west (for which you need a serious watercraft), you'll soon encounter hills, fields, rivers, lakes, forests, and valleys only partially settled by humans.

That is one of the things I love about this area. Up and down this coast, in a relatively narrow ecological zone, redwood trees thrive.

You cannot get up close to one of these creatures without feeling appropriately young and small. These massive trees reduce all human beings to our monkey state -- hyperactive omnivores who come and go ever so quickly while these gracious giants tower over our world, silent, observant, perhaps sympathetic as we go about our trivial business of living and dying, as if any of it mattered...

The vineyards snake ever more obviously through the valleys of Sonoma and Mendocino. Wine is the great cash crop of this generation of landowners, who hope that the artistry of their label, and the apparent smallness of their venture, will find a market.

Given how much most Californians drink wine each week, most of these entrepreneurs see their gamble pay off. And then there is everyone else -- the export market, which provides returns that any Midwestern corn farmer could only dream of...

Up in the country, I feel free.

Maybe not exactly a free bird, but a sort of free man.

As I look upwards along the trunk of these ancient trees, I feel modest and small, inconsequential.

Nothing big can grow on the floor of a redwood forest, but clover can thrive.

My dear friends have built houses way back up in these hills, where it is possible to sit quietly, contemplating the inconsequential and the all-too consequential impacts that we, you and me, have had in our brief time on this, our common earth.


* I'm going, I'm going where the water tastes like wine
I'm going where the water tastes like wine
We can jump in the water, stay drunk all the time

--Canned Heat